& the Far Side of 2013
In many quarters of the globe, the departing year had its fair share of kooky dishes, strange brews and no small amounts of heart burn. Just like the number that hitched the millennium over 300 days ago. Much of it is forgettable, but some are worth revisiting.
In no particular order, and little if any sense, we’ve collected some of these gems for your consideration. You may come out nurturing the feeling that somehow you’ve missed a lot, but not to worry: just enjoy it like it’s your second and very last chance.
A mechanic’s invention to help safely suck babies into this world. A presidential party favor that the host, a former spymaster himself, graced his powerful guests. From brew to brick, to bricks made of blood, beer has certainly had a grip over the year.
From Bowie in space to cats on a subway track, 2013 was also a year of tearful animal goodbyes, and the two leading the bunch out of this world were unquestionably a special breed: a polar bear with a severe case of neurosis and a pig, with a weakness for booze.
But what on Earth, you may ask, have these far out events to do with anything or even each other? All we can invoke in defense of stringing together such insane chain of recollections is that each and every one of them was a rare gift, squeezed among the terrible headlines inflicted on us throughout the year.
After all, we’re sure that you’re being bombarded everywhere by that kind of recollection, and how we’ve reached yet another notch downwards, for all we’ve done to the planet and to each other, and for the lot we didn’t even consider doing to redeem ourselves.
End-of-the-year lists have this way of making us all feel so guilty and miserable that if one checks one, all the others get checked as well. Thus, as we struggle to find ways to wrap up the proceedings, we also humbly aim at bringing some vain comfort to our sore readers who’ve been through a lot.
So has The Remains, a band with a heartbreaking story that reunited last June after a 47-year hiatus. In 1966, they went into a 14-city tour, opening for a quartet from England. But while The Beatles’ last live performances are the stuff of legend, they wound up in Gowanus, Brooklyn, recollecting. Life’s definitely not fair.
Talking about the 1960s, another legend that will fold coming Dec. 31, is the Volkswagen bus, icon of summers of yore, and if we’re calling it that now, well, we hardly ever slept in a sleeping bag back then. Known as Kombi in Brazil, it’ll be there where the last of it will come out of production. Godspeed, old Camper Van.
BABY CORK & PUTIN’S GIFT
The science of life and the science of deceit come together in this block, as they often do. While Argentine Jorge Odón dreamed of a revolutionary way of extracting a baby from the birth canal, ‘just like a cork from a wine bottle,’ Russia’s Vladimir Putin also thought of being generous with the world, or at least, its leaders.
In Sept., after much dining and wining and little action in St. Petersburg, delegates to the G20 bloc were gifted by their host with USB pen drives capable, it was discovered later, of downloading sensitive information. The old fashion Trojan horse program shouldn’t come as a shock, shock to anyone really.
Putin, after all, did step to the plate and offer the truly Man of the Year Edward Snowden temporary asylum, so enough already. As for the Odón Device, it was a no lesser contribution to the year’s highlight reels: it’s been endorsed by the World Health Organization and licensed to go into for production in the U.S.
BOWIE IN ORBIT & CATS ON TRACKS
Call us oddity but Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been, single-handedly, re-injecting fun into space exploration, Tweeting from the ISS, sending stunning pictures, and competing with Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson as the most compelling ‘space personality’ of the year. Or at least, best talk show guests.
But he literally topped himself in May by performing David Bowie’s Space Oddity in orbit, broadcast live to millions of people and effectively putting it in the short list for the best music video ever, category, Shot in Space. Given the state of the U.S.’s current space program, we take it.
Far from the faraway lands, and deep down inside the giant burrows of New York City, home of steely and fast subways, and at least a million oversized rats, two kittens got loose on the tracks in August, and made the whole system come to screeching halt. Cat haters were beside themselves, but they are minority in this city.
Trains had to absolutely stop, so the cat hunt could begin, to of course, come out empty: the kittens were found only the following day, safe and sound, horror stories abounding notwithstanding, and were promptly adopted by 8 million New Yorkers. Questions remain as to whether the same would be done for er, other animals.
BEER BRICKS, BLOOD & BUILDINGS
The world of brews was surprisingly shaken this past year, and thank goodness, it had nothing to do with intoxication or a new and annoying micro-brewery making splashes. As it turns out, the leftovers from beer making process can be used as a vital construction element, bricks, animal feed or in a landfill. Who knew?
The spent grains, barley malt and maize grits, are a form of high-fiber paste which Eduardo Ferraz turned into, voilà, bricks with which you could build your dream house. It’s highly arguable that any construction worker has ever uttered that French interjection, at least with the proper pronunciation, but still.
The point is, breweries can play an important role in the the life of an impoverished community, and not for the reasons that you’d have thought. Apparently, Freddy Heineken had a similar idea when he helped develop the Wobo, a brick-shaped bottle that can be used for eco-homes. It happened in the 1960s (yeah, them again).
Of course, someone had to go too far even with as quaint a subject as bricks and brews. Take Jack Munro, for instance. He uses cattle blood as a binding ingredient to make bricks, according to BuzzPatrol. The result is not strong as clay but, nevertheless, has useful applications, including, well, spoiling your next sip.
SO LONG, SWINO & GUS
We close with two exquisitely feisty creatures who have left our buildings this waning year, but not before making us all better just for having known them: Swino, an Australian feral pig who got drunk with beer and picked up a fight with a cow, and Gus, the hyper-psychoanalyzed polar bear of Central Park Zoo, em New York.
Swino shot to infamy last Sept., when he went into a rampage at a remote campsite in Australia, after having downed 3-six packs of beer. Like those who shouldn’t drink, his best idea was to pick a fight with an innocent bystander, in this case, fittingly, a cow. Before passing out, he managed to leave a trail of destruction on his wake.
His body was found by a road and identified for its distinctive markings, less than a month after he became known on tabloids all over the world as the Boozy Swino, or the boorish porker, depending what kind of Post you have read. Feral pigs are considered a pest in Australia and poor Swino didn’t know any better.
His cosmopolitan counterpart, Gus, held court for years as the most famous resident of a New York zoo, and as many residents of the city, had a complicated relationship with everybody, man and animal, at one point requiring around the clock care from therapists and handlers, catering to his idiosyncrasies.
His obsessive lap swimming from one side of his small tank to the other, which would occupy him for most of the day, became the stuff of legend, with books, movies, discussions and stories being traded about him. Despite or because of that, he remained extremely popular even in a place full of celebrities.
The biggest risk about this twosome, of course, is to anthropomorphize them, to equate their peculiar behavior and personality to that of any spoiled human, and tragically, to attribute to them the same notorious misconceptions and prejudices we exchange about each other on a daily basis.
But if in the end, these flesh and blood beings can humble us to empathy and tolerance about what we will never fully understand about them, then they did leave a mark on everyone who has learned about their lives and times. It’s certainly more than one can say about a lot of people we pass by everyday, isn’t it?
* Sleep With the Fishes
* The Drone, the Car & the Beat
* Space Station Stories