2013 in Review - News, Business, Science, Technology, Culture, Entertainment, Sports, and More

Every year I sit down and type up a summary of the events of the year that was.  I pull the information from some 50-60 different sites, including The Washington Post, Time Magazine, The New York Times, Science Daily, Wall Street Journal, and other primary sources.  Figure others may find it as handy as I do to have all the information in one place, so I've formed the habit of posting my final product here on this blog. 

NOTE: Much of the content here is NOT generated by me!  While in most cases I've merely paraphrased these sources (and, yes, sometimes interjected my own bias in the course of doing so), other times I've used their original text almost unchanged.  Usually I try not to do this, but in this case - dragging info from so many different sources - it was just too hard to cite everything.  I apologize to the sources I have plagiarized, but then again, this blog isn't monetized, so no one's making any illicit profit here ...!

Top News Stories of 2013
  1. Sequestration & Government Shutdown.  Remember back in 2012, when Congress – unable to agree on a budget & deficit reduction plan – agreed to a compromise bill that kicked the can into 2013, with caveat that if decisions weren’t absolutely, positively made by then, draconian fiscal measures – such as cutting 10% from every agency’s funding, gutting Pentagon funding, and laying off fed workers – would absolutely, positively happen?  Big surprise, Congress proved unable to make decisions and so said draconian measures were implemented under the label “sequestration”.  Except, of course, that most agencies – after months of issuing dire warnings – somehow found ways to continue to provide essential services.  Fast forward to October and Congress, still unable to forge a compromise, decided to shut down the federal government for a total of 16 days.  Pundits seem resolved to blame the Tea Party for driving the Republicans to brinkmanship and then – well, abandoning them at the brink.  (If I never hear the term “fiscal cliff” again, it will be too soon!)
  2. Boston Marathon Bombing.  A total of two bombs struck near the finish line of one of the United States’ most fabled races in April, killing 3 people, injuring dozens and leading to a week-long manhunt that finally identified two Chechen brothers as the culprits.
  3. President Obama was sworn in for a second term, and – in wake of government gridlock mostly blamed on Republicans – mid-term elections in November were generally favorable to Democratic candidates.
  4. Federal spying.  In a series of “revelations” – initially triggered by a massive leak of government documents by CIA computer specialist Edward Snowdon via the website WikiLeaks - various agencies of the U.S. government were forced to admit that, yes, they have been collecting information on U.S. phone and internet communications; and that, no, warrants for these actions were not always vetted by the most scrupulous possible legal means.
  5. Obamacare was rarely out of the headlines, thanks at first to Republicans (who tried at least 40 times – unsuccessfully – to vote against implementation); then to Senator Ted Cruz, a Tea Party darling who launched a much-lampooned filibuster on the eve of implementation; and finally to flaws in the electronic launch of the signup process.
  6. Syria Brinkmanship.  Over the course of the year, Syrian protests devolved into a brutal civil war with more than 2 million refugees and 120,000 others killed in a country of 21.1 million. Still, Syria was hardly a blip on the U.S.’s radar until Syrian pres Bashar al-Assad made the mistake of using chemical weapons (saran) on Syrian citizens, defying all sorts of international conventions. Citing the urgency of the situation, the administration prepared to launch an attack without congressional approval. But then, in a surprise move, the president announced that he would accept Russia’s offer to help broker a deal.  The deal, by the way, appears to be that Assad gets to stay in power and kill as many people as he wants – just not with chemical weapons.
  7. Oklahoma tornadoes.  Horrific tornadoes swept through Oklahoma (as, admittedly, they are wont to do), hammering the town of Moore: flattening homes, toppling trees, and collapsing an elementary school.  By the time it was over, 24 people were dead, including 9 children.  
  8. Detroit Files for Bankruptcy. After years of population losses and mounting debt, Detroit officially filed for bankruptcy, becoming the largest city in U.S. history to default on their debts.  State employee pensions were hammered.  All that money the fed government spent saving the auto industry: wasn’t that supposed to rescue Detroit too?
  9. A mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and the first anniversary of the Newtown massacre made clear – if clarification was required – that Congress has no intention of passing new gun laws, no matter how many atrocities are committed.
World News Stories of 2013
  1. Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in February, the first time a pope has resigned (rather than died in office) in something like 600 years. He was replaced by Pope Francis of Buenos Aires, the first non-European pope in the modern era.  (More about him under “People Who Had a Good Year”.)
  2. Spain, Portugal and Greece continue to flirt with bankruptcy, destabilizing European financial and political community.  Unemployment remained a source of social and political unrest throughout Europe.
  3. Unrest in Egypt.  A year after his election, the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, replacing him with Egyptian Army chief Abdul Fatah el-Sisi.  The move was welcomed by millions of Egyptians who had taken to the streets to protest the divisive, one-year rule of the Islamist president, who, critics said, exploited his position to consolidate the power of his Muslim Brotherhood allies. But the ouster was followed by mass protests from Morsi’s backers that led to ongoing clashes between supporters of the two camps, polarizing Egyptian society. The military-backed interim government ultimately cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their supporters in the streets, culminating in a raid on two camps of demonstrators Aug. 14 that left hundreds of people dead. As the dust settles, Sisi and the new technocratic regime have solidified their grip on power. While ostensibly preparing for the return of democracy, they have cracked down on dissent so harshly that many say the Egyptian revolution has come full circle since the dramatic, euphoric ousting of long-ruling dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
  4. A door opening in Iran?  President Hassan Rouhani replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ushering in a new atmosphere of compromise.  After years of bellicose rhetoric, the country reached a tentative agreement in Nov to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the waiving of billions of dollars worth of sanctions.
  5. North Korea continued its desperate attempts to attract the attention of the grown-ups in the region by detonating a small nuclear device and putting to death Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who apparently had the temerity to suggest a policy of reapproachment with the rest of the civilized world.
  6. England’s Prince William and new wife Kate Middleton gave birth to their first child, a son dubbed Prince George.
  7. Monster Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.  Weather forecasters were all agog at the size and ferocity of the storm – a sign of global warming-spawned storms to come?
  8. India’s rape epidemic. The furor over a shocking Delhi gang rape in at the end of 2012 overflowed into 2013. Mass protests at the time demanded greater protection for women and swift justice. The uproar has shone a necessary spotlight on the state of women’s rights in India specifically and the developing world in general.
  9. China’s Naval Tensions. Apparently unsatisfied with flexing their financial might, China spent the year flexing its naval might, sniping with the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, and others over “contested” bits of the South China Sea (and likely the lucrative gas reserves beneath its waters) and the East China Sea. The quarrel came to a head in November when China declared an “East China Sea air-defense identification zone” over a string of mostly bare islands, which the Japanese Foreign Minister said could “trigger unpredictable events.” The situation remains unresolved.
  10. Bangladesh’s Factory Disaster. The collapse of a factory building on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka was the worst industrial disaster in recent memory, killing over 1,100 workers. It served as a horrific reminder of the poor conditions that define an essential industry, which employs about four million people in Bangladesh. The disaster forced discussions, domestically and internationally, of reform in factories that supply major retailers across Europe and America.
  11. Africa’s Ring of Terror. France’s January intervention in Mali to push back advancing Islamist forces was supposed to be a quick blow against a separatist insurgency. Instead, French involvement, though largely successful, has lasted through the year—and 2013 has seen a rise of Islamist extremist-fueled terrorism across Africa, including a hostage crisis at an Algerian oil field that left 39 foreigners dead; repeated ruthless attacks by the Boko Haram terror group  in Nigeria; and the assault on an upscale Nairobi mall by al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, that killed at least 68 people. The violence has drawn the attention of Western powers.
People Who Had a Good 2013
  1. Hilary Rodham Clinton.  She wrapped up her term as Secretary of State with generally good reviews and is now said to be considering a presidential run in 2016.
  2. Chris Cristie.  The governor of New Jersey handily won reelection, partially coasting on the good opinions of people who remember his handling of Superstorm Sandy; Republicans are keeping their fingers crossed that his popularity will trump concerns over his relatively moderate stances on homosexuality and immigration and allow him to emerge as a future party leader.
  3. Pope Francis, whose humility (the first pope to eschew living in the papal palace in favor of a small suite of rooms in a nearby residence) and social activism (he has focused on relieving poverty rather than decrying homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion) continue to make waves not just among Christians, but in the international community.
  4. Wendy Davis.  For more than 11 hours Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a controversial bill that she and other critics insisted would close all but five of the state’s abortion clinics. Though her action only managed to stall the inevitable, her efforts won national attention.  In November, Davis filed paperwork to run for governor.
  5. Malala Yousafzai, the 15yr old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head in October by the Pakistani Taliban after speaking out for women’s education.  Not only did she survive, but the international media has shone a spotlight on her bravery, and her cause, that she never would have enjoyed had the Taliban not interceded.
People Who Had a Bad 2013
  1. Paula Deen. Paula Deen's jovial Southern charm and partiality to butter earned her a lot of good will, which good will promptly evaporated when allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment were filed by a former employee against Deen and her brother. They case was eventually settled, but not before Food Network dropped her like a pan of hot brownies.
  2. Carnival Cruise Lines.  After a fire left one of their ships drifting powerless in the Gulf of Mexico for days, networks vied to air the most pitiful images of passengers wading through sewage, cuing for toilet paper, and surviving on left-over canapés.
  3. Edward Snowden.  Opinions differ on whether his decision to release 1000s of classified U.S. documents was an act of courage or treason, but I think one thing we can all agree on is that being forced to seek temporary asylum in Russia qualifies Snowden to appear on this list.
Notable Deaths (SOURCE: Washington Post)
  1. Nelson Mandela, the former political prisoner who became the first president of a post-apartheid South Africa and whose heroic life and towering moral stature made him one of history’s most influential statesmen, died Dec. 5, the government announced. He was 95.
  2. Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, the first woman to lead a major Western power. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century
  3. Janet Dailey, author of over 100 romance novels.
  4. Pat Summerall, the NFL player-turned-broadcaster whose deep, resonant voice called games for more than 40 years, died April 16 at the age of 82. Summerall was part of network television broadcasts for 16 Super Bowls. His last championship game was for Fox on Feb. 3, 2002, also his last game with longtime partner John Madden, right. The popular duo worked together for 21 years, moving to Fox in 1994 after years as the lead team for CBS. Summerall played 10 NFL seasons (1952-61) with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants.
  5. Paul Walker, the star of the “Fast & Furious” movie series, died Nov. 30 in a car crash that killed two people north of Los Angeles, his publicist said. He was 40. Ray Price
  6. Ray Price, one of country music’s most popular and influential singers and bandleaders who had more than 100 hits and was one of the last living connections to Hank Williams. Joan Fontaine
  7. Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine, whose delicate beauty made her a movie star in the 1940s, excelled at portraying romantic vulnerability in such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” and “Rebecca.”
  8. Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer, who popularized American movie reviewing with fellow Chicago movie critics Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper
  9. Actor Peter O’Toole, best known for his starring role in “Lawrence of Arabia” and nominated for an Academy Award eight times.
  10. Annette Funicello, who became a child star as a Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s, then teamed up with Frankie Avalon on a string of ’60s fun-in-the-sun movies with names like “Beach Party Bingo” and “Bikini Beach”.
  11. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who went from a young conspiratorial soldier who dreamed of revolution to the fiery anti-U.S. leader of one of the world’s great oil powers.
  12. Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning, often-polarizing author of "The Golden Notebook" and dozens of other novels
  13. Lou Reed, Punk-poet and rock legend who led the Velvet Underground in the 1960s and ’70s before launching a decades-long solo career
  14. Bum Phillips, the folksy Texas football icon who coached the Houston Oilers during their Luv Ya Blue heyday and later led the New Orleans Saints
  15. Thomas S. Foley, a former congressman who served as speaker of the House from 1989 to 1995
  16. Edward I. Koch, the former congressman and New York mayor
  17. Astronaut Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth and one of the last surviving original Mercury 7 astronauts
  18. Tom Clancy, best-selling novelist, whose dashing CIA protagonist Jack Ryan saved leaders and the world in books such as “Patriot Games” and “The Hunt for Red October.”
  19. David Frost, British journalist and broadcaster, famous for his interviews with Richard Nixon
  20. Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, essayist, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature
  21. Elmore Leonard, best-selling novelist
  22. Helen Thomas, pioneering journalist and an irrepressible White House correspondent
  23. Esther Williams, the championship swimmer who became one of the world’s most popular movie stars in the 1940s and ’50s by appearing in aquatic musicals.
  24. Joyce Brothers, pop psychologist who pioneered the television advice show in the 1950s
Sports News
  1. Boston Marathon Bombings.  While athletes and Americans have demonstrated their determination and fortitude in the wake of the bombs that disrupted this year’s marathon (see Top News Stories of 2013), it’s clear that future outdoor events will operate under much more secure conditions in future.  
  2. Lance Armstrong.  After years of defiant denials, Armstrong finally admitted on the Oprah Winfrey show that, yes, indeed, the steroids did it.
  3. Basketball player Jason Collins became the first athlete in a major U.S. professional sport to openly declare that he is gay.  While his declaration wasn’t exactly followed by a flood of similar outings, it at least stands as a significant milestone.
  4. NFL admits that football causes head injuries.  The NFL finally settled a lawsuit with former athletes over long-term consequences of head injuries.  Predictably, the NFL didn’t admit any culpability, but they did agree to pay $765 million to former players affected by head injuries, and the episode has shed much-needed light on the issue.
  5. Baseball steroid allegations continue.  Alex Rodriguez's 211-game suspension was the longest of the 13 announced in August for players connected to a clinic accused of distributing banned performance enhancing drugs.  In July, Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, accepted a 65-game suspension.
  6. Red Sox Win World Series.  2012 ended with a last-place finish and 93 losses, but new manager John Farrell and his bearded sluggers tied for the best record in the majors in a turnaround few predicted. With timely hits up and down the lineup throughout the playoffs, the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in six games for their third World Series title in a decade.
  7. Ravens Win Superbowl.  Despite a 34 min delay due to a power failure at the Superdome (did a Beyonce roadie pull the wrong plug?), Ravens coach John Harbaugh beat younger brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the Super Bowl in an unprecedented sibling showdown.
  8. Miami Head wins NBA finals. One more free throw or one more defensive rebound, and the San Antonio Spurs prevent Miami from repeating as champion. Instead, Ray Allen made one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history, knocking down a second-chance 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to send Game 6 to overtime. The Heat won in the extra period and again in Game 7 to give LeBron James another title.
  9. The Chicago Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup in an outstanding series against the Boston Bruins that lasted six games.
  10. The Greatest Finish in College Football History.  In what is now being called the greatest finish in college football history, Auburn topped Alabama in Southeastern Conference title game.  Auburn player Chris Davis returned a potential game-winning field goal attempt 109 yards against then-No. 1 Alabama to give Auburn the thrilling 34-28 victory.
  11. International Olympic Committee leaders announced that they had decided to drop wresting from the upcoming 2020 games, a surprise decision that puts an end to one of the most traditional and ancient Olympic sports.
  1. Television News
    1. Jimmy Fallon was named to replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.  The hope was that Fallon would be able to complete with Jimmy Kimmel for younger viewers.
    2. Barbara Walters announced her retirement
    3. Network television tried to bring back “event TV” with a live performance of The Sound of Music Live! featuring Kelly Clarkson.  The event, though not a critical success, was a huge ratings victory for NBC 
    4. Netflix began competing directly with television by producing its own original programming.  Both Orange is the New Black and House of Cards received favorable reviews.  
    5. The networks seemed to fight over who could air the most grotesque murders, led by shows such as Hannibal, The Following, The Killing, Criminal Minds, and The Walking Dead.  Ugh!
    6. Game of Thrones taught us all that no character is so popular that they’re immune from being killed off!
    7. A new doctor debuted at the end of the year, as Peter Capaldi replaced Matt Smith on the long-running Dr. Who series.
  2. Best TV shows of 2013, according to critics:
    1. Breaking Bad
    2. Orange is the New Black
    3. Masters of Sex
    4. Red Wedding
    5. Time of Death
    6. Broadchurch
    7. The Americans
    8. Vikings
    9. The Returned
    10. Veep
  3. Most watched TV shows, according to viewing logs (2012-2013 TV seasons)
    1. NCIS
    2. Sunday Night Football
    3. Big Bang Theory
    4. NCIS: Los Angeles
    5. Person of Interest
    6. American Idol
    7. Dancing with the Stars
    8. The Voice
    9. The Walking Dead
    10. Two and a Half Men
    11. Blue Bloods
    12. Elementary
    13. Monday Night Football
    14. Modern Family
    15. Criminal Minds
    16. The OT
    17. Castle
    18. Duck Dynasty
    19. 60 Minutes
    20. Vegas
    21. The Following
    22. Survivor: Philippines
    23. CSI
  4. Shows that ended their run in 2013:
    1. Breaking Bad
    2. 30 Rock
    3. Bridezillas
    4. Burn Notice
    5. Californication
    6. How I Met Your Mother
    7. True Blood
    8. Dexter
    9. Fringe
    10. The Office
    11. Southland
  5. Waxing (shows that were hot in 2013):
    1. Duck Dynasty
    2. Sleepy Hollow
    3. The Blacklist
    4. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
    5. The Goldbergs
    6. The Crazy Ones
    7. The Millers
    8. The Originals
  6. Waning (shows that were on the decline in 2013):
    1. Mad Men. Will it survive the transition from the ultra-cool ‘50s to the messy and psychedelic ‘60s?
    2. Glee.  Probably jumped the shark a while ago, but this year’s death of co-star Corey Monteith officially seals the shows fate … if only someone would just tell the show’s producers.
    3. House.  Faced with running out of cool medical mysteries, the show’s writers seem to think they can substitute soap opera … bad move. (PS: It’s *never* sarcoidosis!)
    4. Bones.  See “House”
    5. Criminal Minds.  Running out of new ways to kill people.
    6. One and a Half Men. 
    7. Grey’s Anatomy
    8. Desperate Housewives
  1. Movie news
    1. Forbes named Robert Downey Jr. their top Hollywood moneymaker for 2013
    2. Ironman 3 had the second largest opening weekend of all times.  (No. 1? The Avengers – another Marvel product.)
    3. World War Z was a critical bomb, but that didn’t stop it from becoming Brad Pitt’s biggest box office earner to date.
    4. Hollywood has announced what has the potential to be the most epic of all superhero movies in 2014: Superman vs. Batman.  Ben Affleck has been tentatively cast as Batman.
  2. 85th Annual Academy Awards:
    1. Best Picture: Argo
      1. Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
      2. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
      3. Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
      4. Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  3. Best movies of the year, according to critics (SOURCE: Washington Post)
    1. 12 Years a Slave. Steve McQueen’s stately, searing drama invited viewers to inhabit a chapter of American history by way of galvanizing performances, visual poetry and unforgettable moments.
    2. The Act of Killing. Lake Bell’s smart comedy about an L.A. voice-over artist tackled sexism, show business, self-confidence and romance with sharply observant elan
    3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Texas noir received both a jolt and much-needed touch of lyricism thanks to filmmaker David Lowery and a trio of terrific performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster
    4. All Is Lost. Robert Redford delivered a nearly wordless performance in writer-director J.C. Chandor’s tour de force of pure cinematic storytelling.
    5. American Hustle. David O. Russell’s anarchic ode to the 1970s that uses the FBI Abscam case as a backdrop to examine striving, conniving and self-deception
    6. The Butler. Part historical pageant, part domestic drama, this occasionally unwieldy tour through American history was enormously entertaining – and confirmed that, no, there’s nothing Oprah can’t do.
    7. Captain Phillips. You’ve already heard that the last 15 minutes redefine screen acting, but they also redefine all that’s gone before
    8. Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto transformed themselves from the inside out in the service of a funny, touching drama set at the height of the AIDS epidemic
    9. Enough Said. In one of his final roles, James Gandolfini was the sweet-natured anchor to Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a bittersweet, consistently hilarious romantic comedy for grown-ups.
    10. Frances Ha. Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner embodied the passions and pitfalls of female friendship in Noah Baumbach’s kicky urban comedy-drama about young adulthood in modern-day New York
    11. Fruitvale Station. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler made the year’s most smashing debut in this wrenching fact-based drama, featuring a breakout lead performance from Michael B. Jordan
    12. Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron‘s sci-fi ride brought vigor and unmatched technical virtuosity to the humble popcorn movie
    13. Her. Spike Jonze’s brilliant futuristic love story starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson captures the zeitgeist with flawless wry humor, pathos and visual brio
    14. In a World …. Lake Bell’s smart comedy about an L.A. voice-over artist tackled sexism, show business, self-confidence and romance with sharply observant elan
    15. Inside Llewyn Davis. This sepia-toned evocation of 1960s New York perfectly captures an era, its music and the nearly forgotten artists who made it all possible
    16. Medora. The nonfiction flip side to “Nebraska,” this riveting documentary about an Indiana high school basketball team perfectly captures the American Dream at its most tattered
    17. Mother of George. Andrew Dosunmu’s rapturous melodrama, set in the African diaspora in Brooklyn, featured gorgeous images captured by cinematographer Bradford Young
    18. Mud. What could have been a Southern gothic curio became a touching coming-of-age story, thanks to star Matthew McConaughey and writer-director Jeff Nichols
    19. Museum Hours. Jem Cohen sent viewers on an intoxicating tour of Vienna in this immersive tour through the riches of the Kunsthistoriches and beyond
    20. Nebraska. Alexander Payne’s father-son drama featured a career making performance from Bruce Dern, and a melancholy glimpse of Recession-era casualties in the Corn Belt
    21. Stories We Tell. Sarah Polley’s ingenious documentary fused fact and fictional techniques to create a fascinating meditation on family, memory and meaning
  4. Most popular movies of the year, according to ticket sales
    1. Iron Man 3
    2. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    3. Despicable Me 2
    4. Man of Steel
    5. Monsters University
    6. Gravity
    7. Fast & Furious 6
    8. Oz The Great and Powerful
    9. Frozen
    10. Star Trek Into Darkness
    11. World War Z
    12. Thor: The Dark World
    13. The Croods
    14. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
    15. The Heat
    16. We’re the Millers
    17. The Great Gatsby
  5. Worst movies of the year
    1. The Lone Ranger. With the noblest intentions, Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski mix slapstick hijinks with the massacre of Native Americans and come up with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: The Disney Ride.
    2. Oz the Great and Powerful. Oz the Bloated and Lackadaisical is more like it. Sam Raimi’s fantasy is surprisingly joyless, and James Franco might be the least convincing actor you’ve ever seen in addressing Creatures to Be Computer-Generated Later.
    3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.  ‘Nuff said.
    4. Saving Mr. Banks. The making of Mary Poppins mixed with the sad memories of Mary’s prim creator. Both naked Oscar bait and tedious corporate (Disney) propaganda.
    5. Carrie. Kimberly Peirce’s beat-for-beat rehash of Brian De Palma’s classic — plus a fat dose of sentimentality, minus wit or style.
    6. Elysium. The worst dystopian space film in a year that included After Earth and Oblivion (both of those which have defenders, but no one’s been rushing to defend Elysium).
    7. Olympus has Fallen.  A piece of jingoist vigilante crud — and far less entertaining than the piece of liberal vigilante crud with the same premise, White House Down.
    8. The Hangover 3.  Time for this franchise to stagger to an end!
    9. Grownups 2.  What’s more repulsive than listening to teenage boys talk endlessly about defecation, balls, farting and homophobia? Listening to four grown men at it.  How on earth did they talk women into appearing in this movie?
    10. RIPD.  A Ghostbusters/Men in Black ripoff with twice the explosions and none of the charm/humor of the originals.
Entertainment (Music, plays, books, etc.)
  1. Major Grammy winners
    1. Album of the Year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
    2. Song of the Year: We Are Young, fun
    3. New Artist: fun
    4. Pop Solo Performance: Set Fire to the Rain, Adele
    5. Pop Vocal Album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
    6. Pop/Duo Group Performance: Somebody that I Used to Know, Gotye featuring Kimbra
  2. Top 10 plays/musicals:
    1. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
    2. Macbeth (Alan Cummings)
    3. Saint Joan
    4. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
    5. Domesticated
    6. The Flick
    7. Belleville
    8. The Model Apartment
    9. Here Lies Love
    10. Matilda
  3. Winners at the 67th Annual Tony Awards, held in June (so, technically, most of these shows were 2012 hits, but still ….)
    1. Best Play: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (also nominated: The Assembled Parties, Lucky Guy, The Testament of Mary)
    2. Best Musical: Kinky Boots (also nominated: Bring It On, A Christmas Story, Matilda the Musical)
    3. Best Revival of a Play: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (also nominated: Golden Boy, Orphans, The Trip to Bountiful)
    4. Best Revival of a Musical: Pippin  (also nominated: Annie, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella)
    5. Other shows that received nominations (not mentioned above): The Nance, Motown the Musical, The Assembled Parties, Hands on a Hardbody, The Heiress
  4. Groups nominated for induction into R&R Hall of Fame: Kiss, Nirvana, Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, Linda Rondstadt, Cat Stevens
  5. Top video games: The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto 5, Simcity, Fire Emblem:Awakening, Pikmin 3, Gone Home, Animal Crossing:New Leaf, Assassin’s Creed 4:Black Flag, Bioshock Infinite, Tearaway.
  6. Top books of the year:
    1. Top Fiction of the Year (nominating list is indicated in parenthesis):
      1. The Allegiant (Divergent Series), Veronica Roth (Amazon)
      2. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (NYT)
      3. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini (B&N, Amazon)
      4. Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon (B&N)
      5. The Circle, Dave Eggers (B&N)
      6. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (Amazon)
      7. Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Isabel Greenberg (Time)
      8. The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner (Time, NYT)
      9. The Goldfinch (B&N, NYT, Amazon)
      10. The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Amazon)
      11. The Good Lord Bird, James McBride (B&N)
      12. How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny (B&N)
      13. Inferno, Dan Brown (B&N)
      14. The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer (Time, B&N, Amazon)
      15. Lexicon, Max Barry (Time)
      16. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (Time, B&N, NYT, Amazon)
      17. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri (Time, B&N, Amazon)
      18. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (B&N)
      19. NOS4A2, Joe Hill (Time)
      20. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Time, B&N, Amazon)
      21. The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (Time, B&N)
      22. Someone, Alice McDermott (B&N)
      23. The Son, Philipp Meyer (Amazon)
      24. The Sound of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Anne McLean (Amazon)
      25. Tenth of December, George Saunders (Time, NYT, Amazon)
      26. Transatlantic, Colum McCann (B&N)
      27. The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Bob Shacochis (Amazon)
    2. Top Nonfiction of the Year (nominating list is indicated in parenthesis):
      1. After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead, Alan Blinder (NYT)
      2. Book of Ages: The Life & Opinions of Jane Franklin, Jill Lepore (Time, B&N)
      3. The Book of My Lives, Aleksandar Hemon (Time)
      4. The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin (Time, B&N)
      5. Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Max Hastings (B&N)
      6. Command and Control, Erik Schlosser (Time)
      7. David & Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell (B&N)
      8. Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, Peter Baker (B&N)
      9. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, Jung Chang (B&N, NYT)
      10. Empty Mansions, Bill Dedman (B&N)
      11. Falling Upwards, Richard Holmes (Time)
      12. Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink (Time, NYT)
      13. Forty-One False Starts, Janet Malcolm (Time)
      14. Going Clear, Lawrence Wright (Time)
      15. Guns at Last Light, Rick Atkinson (B&N)
      16. A House in the Sky: A Memoir, Amanda Lindhout, Sara Corbett (Amazon)
      17. Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (B&N)
      18. Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson (B&N, Amazon)
      19. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg (B&N)
      20. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, Tom Kizzia (Amazon)
      21. The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida (B&N)
      22. Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward (Time)
      23. Selected Letters of Willa Cather, Andrew Jewell & Janis Stout (ed) (Time)
      24. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, Sheri Fink (NYT)
      25. Thank You for Your Service, David Finkel (B&N, Amazon)
      26. The Unwinding: Inner History of the New America, George Packer (B&N, Amazon)
      27. Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala (NYT, Amazon)
      28. Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier (Amazon)
      29. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan (B&N)
  1. The Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, and New Jersey became the 14th state to approve gay marriage
  2. Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana
  3. George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, sparking widespread outrage in both the white and black communities.
  4. The Rise of Bitcoin.  Virtual currency Bitcoin has been around since 2009, but this year it picked up serious steam.  It rocketed in price and popularity while fighting for mainstream acceptance and against regulation.  Can you say “bubble”?
  5. With Help from the Make a Wish Foundation, “Batkid” helped save San Francisco from evil plots by a range of dastardly villains.  Easily one of the top 10 “feel good” stories of a year that often didn’t feel very good.
  6. Sharknado. So long Shark Week! This awesomely bad B-movie, which starred '90s stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, featured wretched dialog, cheesy special effects, outrageous plot twists and – yes – a tornado filled with sharks. It also spawned 100s of awesome tweets, scores of painful puns, and a host of Halloween costumes.  
  7. Fashion trends: wedge sneakers, neon tennis shoes, infinity scarves, legging jeans, matched bangle bracelets, earflap hats, hoodies
  8. Oh, and something called "thigh gap" became a thing, after it was revealed that magazines were photoshopping supermodels to add more space between their thighs. 
  9. Current price of postage stamp: 46 cents (rumored to be going up to 49 cents in early 2014)
  10. According to Pew Research, 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
  11. Yahoo says these topics were the most searched in 2013: Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, Minecraft, Selena Gomez, Obamacare, Amanda Bynes, Jodi Arias, iPhone 5, Justin Bieber.  Oh, dear.
Memes of the Year
  1. Doge — the dog that “speaks” bad English.  The Doge meme easily takes top spot to be the meme of 2013. Doge is a misspelt version of dog — and the meme is typically made up of a Shiba Inu dog with Comic Sans text in broken English dotting the picture.
  2.  Twerking — the very provocative butt dance. Twerking has existed since the nineties, but in 2013 singer Miley Cyrus made it smokin’ hot — with an extremely sexually provocative twerking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards
  3. Harlem Shake — the crazy dance that somehow looks cool. The Harlem Shake exploded in early 2013 when a series of dance videos surfaced using a short excerpt of the song with the same name, which was released by American music producer Harry Rodrigues (Baauer) in August 2012. Wikipedia notes that thousands of Harlem Shake videos were made and uploaded to YouTube every day when its popularity peaked
  4. I Quit — the coolest way ever to quit a job.  Next Media Animation producer Marina Shifrin had enough of her job — and she decided to quit in style, airing her complaints in a hilarious dance routine set to Kanye West’s Gone, which went viral after being posted to Reddit
  5. What Does The Fox Say? — a senseless song that is so addictive. Brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker of Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis were genuinely curious about what sound a fox makes, and the viral song (along with the video) was born. The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) took top billing as YouTube’s top trending video of 2013, and has surpassed three million views as of now
  6. Grumpy Cat — the cat that disapproves of everything. Grumpy Cat surfaced in September 2012 via a picture posted to Reddit, but 2013 was the year when it graced the covers of mainstream news publications such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine. It also won BuzzFeed’s Meme of the Year award - and there’s even an official Grumpy Cat book published in July this year
  7. Marco Rubio’s Water Break. Rarely does such a monotonous action gain so much viral traction, but then again, rarely does someone lunge so awkwardly for a sip of water. When a parched Marco Rubio paused his State of the Union rebuttal to grab a drink from a tiny Poland Spring water bottle, it was quickly labeled the new “Watergate". Cue the parody one-liners like “Stay thirsty, my friends” and jokes about his “drinking problem.”
  8. Unflattering Beyonce — one word: fierce. Even celebrities have their bad days. A couple of unflattering images of Beyonce from her Superbowl performance this year went viral. BuzzFeed highlighted the particular images instead, and the Internet world went crazy lapping them up. Photoshopped images started spreading like wildfire, making the Unflattering Beyonce a meme that made people chuckle but likely made Beyonce cringe a thousand times over
  9. Obama Skeet Shooting — the President goes shooting.  The original photo was issued by the White House on Flickr to show that President Barack Obama enjoys skeet shooting, with an advisory message asking viewers not to alter the image. Of course nobody obeyed. It rapidly became a meme when users took to Photoshop to come up with images and GIFs that poked fun at Obama
Business News
  1. U.S. stocks rocketed to new heights, and markets in Japan and Europe jumped, too. The gains enriched investors and defied a still-subpar economic rebound from the Great Recession
  2. JPMorgan Chase paid a record $13 billion for its role in the housing bust.
  3. General Motors flashed signs of its old horsepower.
  4. A colossal merger for American Airlines and US Airways took flight.
  5. Twitter's IPO recalled the dizzy dot.com era.
  6. Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post
  7. Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon is considering delivering packages by drone
  8. PS4 and Xbox One battled it out for holiday consumer dollars.  So far unclear which one will emerge the victor.
Technology News
  1. Microsoft Windows 8 – an interface intended to “bridge the gap” between laptop and tablet operating systems - did such a poor job of both that by end of year, most new computers being automatically equipped with Windows 7.
  2. Apple introduced iPhone 5 … in case anyone’s still counting.
  3. Wearable tech went mainstream, led by Google Glass, a cross between a mobile computer and eyeglasses that can record video and surf the internet.  Meanwhile, other companies launched various smartwatches and fitness tracker.
  4. The world’s first wireless brain-computer interface.  Brown University has created a device that feeds your brain activity into a computer, which can then process and act upon the data. The device is implanted under the skin, and communicates with a nearby computer wirelessly. Once we can equip humans with wireless BCIs, we’re the only one step away from bionic, robotic, prosthetic limbs that can be naturally controlled by thoughts. Wireless BCIs would also for truly revolutionary applications in gaming, smart homes, driving, commerce - and, well, just about everything.
  5. Western Digital releases the world’s first helium-filled hard drive.  Up until now, hard drives have been filled with normal air - 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% other gases. We have known for a long, long time (30+ years) that, if we could somehow fill hard drives with a lighter, thinner gas, it would be possible to make hard drives that, due to reduced air resistance, spin faster and consume less power. Somehow, WD (or more accurately its recently acquired Hitachi Global Storage (HGST) subsidiary) has succeeded in hermetically sealing mass-produced hard drives that are filled with helium.
  6. The world’s first flying car makes a public test drive/flight.  After dominating the global consciousness for more than 50 years, and occupying more than its fair share of Popular Mechanics covers, 2013 will go down in history as the first year that a legitimate, road-and-sky-worthy flying car was publicly tested: The Terrafugia Transition.  The Transition is basically a plane with wings that fold up, so that it’s narrow enough to use on conventional roads. It also uses conventional unleaded fuel, so you can fill up at the gas station. Its 23-gallon tank is good for around four hours of flight, at a cruising speed of 93 knots (105 mph). It only needs around 30 meters (100 feet) of runway to take off, which is rather cool.  Terrafugia has pushed back the commercial release of the Transition a few times. The expected release date now sometime in 2015 or 2016, with an expected list price of around $280,000
  7. 3D-printed human stem cells.  Much like 2012, 2013 was very much The Year of the 3D Printer. If we were so inclined, we could quite easily dedicate an entire top 10 list to exciting 3D printing breakthroughs.  One of the most exciting: researchers in Scotland, land of Dolly, the first cloned mammal, demonstrated the ability to print human embryonic stem cells.  It should be recognized that printing something that looks like an organ does not mean it will actually be an organ. In the short term at least, the main goal of the startup is to produce some tissues which may be able to serve as a testbed for pharmaceuticals. However, this tech breakthrough suggests that printable organs may one day be feasible.
  8. The first road-powered electric vehicle network.  South Korea has rolled out the world’s first road-powered electric vehicle network. In the large city of Gumi, there are now electric buses that are powered by power lines under the road, which wirelessly transmit power to the buses via magnetic resonance.
  9. Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” measured.  As you may have heard before, there is such thing as a “universal speed limit” - a speed that, given our current theory of how the universe came to be and continues to exist, cannot be exceeded under any circumstances. The other name for this speed limit is the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 299,792,458 meters –or 186,000 miles - per second. In theory, according special relativity, this is the maximum speed that matter, energy, and information can travel. This is why scientists are so perturbed by quantum entanglement, which seems to allow two particles to communicate instantly, over an infinite distance.  This year, some Chinese physicists finally measured the speed at which entangled particles communicate (or “spooky action at a distance” as Einstein called it), and found it to be at least four orders of magnitude faster than light.  Now we just need to find a way of actually transferring information via quantum entanglement, so that we can reduce network latency to zero - useful for online gaming, but also for communicating between planets, when we eventually colonize space…
  10. The first thorium nuclear reactor turns on. Unlike current reactors, thorium reactors are much cleaner and don’t produce plutonium - rather, they actually consume plutonium, reducing the world’s (very large) supply of the nasty stuff. The world has a very large supply of thorium, too, and it’s more evenly distributed than uranium. Thorium-MOX is an all-round excellent choice for future nuclear reactors.
Science/Environmental News
  1. An asteroid plunged into Earth's atmosphere and exploded high over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.  More than 1,500 people were hurt, mostly by flying glass from blown-out windows across the region. It was the biggest cosmic intrusion since the 1908 Tunguska explosion over Siberia.  Scientists determined the meteor was about 60 feet (17 meters) across and packed the punch of about 30 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs when it blew up
  2. Throughout 2013, scientists announced results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, revealing new secrets of the Red Planet's history. Clay formations in Mars' Yellowknife Bay indicate an environment that was once favorable to microbial life. The soil contains about 2% water by weight. We also know more about the composition of the planet's atmosphere, which is only 1% as thick as our own.
  3. One of the biggest space milestones of the year was the crossing of Voyager 1 out of the solar system. The probe, which launched with its twin, Voyager 2, in 1977, made history as the first human-made object to leave the heliosphere, the magnetic boundary separating the solar system's sun, planets and solar wind from the rest of the galaxy.
  4. Scientists put together a picture of the universe as a baby, in greater detail than ever before. Thanks to the new data from the European Space Agency's Planck space telescope, which studies light left over from the Big Bang, scientists now believe that the universe is about 100 million years older than they thought
  5. The olinguito, described by the Smithsonian as a "a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear," became the first mammalian carnivore species to be newly identified in the Americas in 35 years
  6. Archicebus achilles was the name of the species represented by the oldest primate skeleton found, as described in the journal Nature in June. It is considered to be a missing link between two groups: the anthropoids and the tarsiers. The 2.8-inch-long cutie lived about 55 million years ago.
  7. By 2100, the Earth will be warmer than ever, authors of a Science study said in March.  A key symbolic moment was when the average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit 400 parts per million in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in May. Such levels haven't been seen in about 3 million years.  The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in September, found increasing evidence that ice sheets are losing mass, glaciers are shrinking, Arctic sea ice and global snow cover is decreasing, and permafrost is thawing in the Northern Hemisphere. And the researchers said they were more certain than ever that humans are responsible for at least half the increases in global average temperatures seen since the 1950s.  Global emissions were on track to top a record 39 billion tons, though the United States and Europe managed to cut their carbon dioxide releases.
Food News
  1. Juicing.  Fueled by sales of $800 blenders, juicing was all the rage in 2013, with emphasis on non-traditional ingredients such as kale, seaweed, beets, and chia seeds.
  2. Blended pastries.  What’s better than one sweet? Blending two or more sweets into one product, apparently: think donut-croissants, donut-éclairs, and cookie-donuts.
  3. Tea.  Americans seem to be going gaga over tea, to judge by the increasing number of varieties available at grocery stores and outlets like Starbucks.
  4. Artisanal Breads.  So many new varieties!
  5. Sriracha (Korean chili paste) and other Korean-inspired dishes.  I thought pickled food was tacky, but turns out I just wasn’t hip enough.
  6. Crazy burger buns.  Would you like that burger with a pretzel bun? A brioche bun?
  7. Food trucks.  This has been a phenomenon for a while now, but options/varieties just keep growing.
  8. Chipotle.  Not only is the ingredient hot; so is the restaurant chain.
  9. Make Your Own Beverage.  Gizmos for making your own fizzy soda drinks vied with sales of water additives (Mio, etc.) for the “make your own flavor water” market.
  10. Apple ale.  I bet European peasants back in the 1500s would find it funny that after all this time, we seem to be back to the same fermented cider that used to be their staple beverage.
Words of the year
  1. Hashtag
  2. Derp
  3. Thanksgivukkah (necessitated by the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on the 2013 calendar)
  4. Bitcoin
  5. Snapchat
  6. Selfie
  7. binge-watch
Quote of the year. “Who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis, speaking about gay priests while returning from his first papal trip to World Youth Day in Brazil.