2014 in Review - Top Stories in News, Sports, Entertainment, and Culture

Unlike the vast majority of the posts comprising this blog, much of the content that follows is NOT original.  What I've done is survey over 100 websites to compile a summary "Year in Review" that covers not just one or two topics but a whole bunch of them, to include: Top US news, top world news, people who had a good/bad 2014, notable deaths, sports news, entertainment news (television, movies, music, books, etc.), culture news, and memes/words of the year.  The result is a patchwork of original content, content copied from other websites, and modified/moderated content. 
Hope others will find this summary to be of use.  If you notice I've missed something significant, please leave me note in comments!
  1. Ferguson.   The shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson ignited a year of racial protests, which escalated after a grand jury ruled not to indict Wilson.  Other police killings in New York and Cleveland further fanned the fires.  In addition to spawning nation-wide discussions on race, the killings spawned a particularly memorable meme – the site of crowds of people holding up their hands in submission.  Yet another result: the incident at Ferguson has spawned a discussion of just how many civilians are being killed by police officers every year, because it turns out that no one’s been keeping track.  Seriously?
  2. The Border Crisis & Immigration.  More than 60,000 unaccompanied minors, having crossed the border, were given temporary asylum in the U.S. by President Obama, igniting a ferocious political firestorm between liberals and conservatives.  The firestorm seems sure to continue into the new year thanks to a November executive order by the President curbing deportations.
  3. DĂ©tente with Cuba. After 50 years of Cold War sulking, President Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.  Some Cuban exiles are stewing, but U.S. business interests are chomping at the bit to exploit this new market.
  4.  Midterm Elections return Republicans to power.  With resounding victories in November, Republicans took over the Senate, increased their representation in the House, and claimed the majority of governor’s mansions.
  5. Economic disparity.  Thought the stock market soared over the course of the year and joblessness decreased, it became harder and harder for the media to ignore the widening economic disparity between the U.S. upper and middle class.
  6. Campaign Finance.  New laws increase the amount of money corporations and individuals can donate to campaigns.  It’s not exactly new news that candidates receive significant financial backing from extremely wealthy corporations and/or individuals.  But now these wealthy corporations can bypass the cumbersome middle-men (ex: PACs) and donate directly to candidates willing to do their bidding.
  7. Scandal in the Veterans Administration.  Allegations emerged that the VA has been falsifying records to misstate the amount of time veterans were waiting to receive care.  The head of the VA stepped down as a result of the scandal.
  8. California was hit by the worst drought in a millennium.  Low precipitation and record high temperatures have combined to make California’s ongoing drought the worst in the past 1200 years.  Drought also hit parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.  California’s no stranger to drought; what make this one stand out is that temperatures have been higher compared with past droughts.  Climate change is an obvious suspect; so too are unusual oceanic and atmospheric patterns, according to a NOAA-sponsored study.  
  9. Oil Prices.  Thanks to increasing domestic production, oil prices worldwide plummeted towards the end of the year, at times approaching prices as low as $2 gallon.  Great news for consumers; however, scientists warn that increasing emissions due to more car/plane travel may hasten climate change.
  10. Polar Vortex.  A weakening of the polar vortex, which ordinarily swirls around the Arctic and bottles up frigid air, brought near-record cold to North America.  For the first time in memory, schools in the northeast closed due to concerns about exposing students to extreme cold.

  1. Much Ado About Russia
    1.  In February, pro-Ukrainian citizens managed to oust their pro-Russian president.  Despite this, Russia maintained its death-grip on Crimea and continued to sow dissent in other parts of the country.  Even economic sanctions imposed by the west – sanctions that have, it appears gravely crippled the Russian economy – have not (yet) persuaded Vladimir Putin into adopting a more moderate stance.
    1. Ukraine and the plane.  A passenger airliner filled with 298 mostly Dutch passengers was shot down in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine.  All the evidence pointed to pro-Russian separatists, but Russian leader Vladimir Putin steadfastly continues to accept the evidence or the blame and continues vague on when/if he intends to let the Netherlands either investigate the crash site or restore the bodies to their families.
    1. Destabilization of the Russian economy.  Thanks to plummeting oil prices and sanctions (described above), the value of the Russian ruble began a mid-December plummet, the ultimate results of which remain unclear.  For now, the Russian government has adopted a plan of propping up the currency by initiating a program of massive government buy-backs, but economists believe this strategy to be unsustainable over the long-term.
  2. Boko Haram.  A radical militant group in Nigeria that no one had ever heard of before – Boko Haram – instantly earned themselves a spot on the world state by kidnapping more than 200 students from a girls school to become “soldier brides.” Despite world-wide indignation and the promise of intelligence support from a host of European nations, the girls that vanished into the wilderness that day have yet to be retrieved.
  3. Israel v. Gaza.  Seems like no yearly wrap-up would be complete without a report of sparring between Gaza and Israel.  This year’s episode erupted in July in the usual way – an indignity that was inflated by the press until it became an international episode (this time, it was the June kidnapping of three Israeli teens by Hamas operatives) - and ended only after weeks of bombings that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and even more heightened tensions between the two political entities.
  4. The Mystery of Flight MH370.  How is it possible that in a world so technologically advanced, an airliner full of passengers could just disappear?  And yet that’s what happened to a Malaysian airliner which disappeared somewhere over the Indian Ocean … or maybe not; who knows?  Months later, we’re no closer to figuring out what happened to the airliner than the weeks after it disappeared.  Is anyone else creeped out by this?  You almost can’t blame the conspiracy theorists for not letting this one go.  The whole incident reads like something out of a Clive Cussler novel. 
  5. Ebola.  Just when we’d all relegated the Ebola to quaint history, this past spring the disease erupted with a vengeance in West Africa, fueled by superstition, distrust, and a poor healthcare system.  Doctors rushed from all corners of the earth to try to stem the infection, inadvertently catapulting the issue onto the world stage by coming home infected themselves.  As the end of the year approaches, over 7000 people have succumbed to the outbreak, but current outbreaks appear to be under control and European countries are increasingly soothed by the fact that only a handful of folks have actually died of Ebola beyond the borders of the Dark Continent. 
  6. ISIS.  A new terrorist threat – the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – continued to gain power and land in the Middle East.  Just when we thought we were used to suicide bombings and IUDs, ISIS introduced the world to new levels of violence including mass child murder (gunning down a whole school full of children in revenge for some perceived outrage against themselves) and hostage beheadings.  After much dithering, the U.S. and other countries finally decided to launch a coalition bombing campaign on IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, but as the year ends, politicians are falling over each other to make sure we understand that their vows to destroy the insurgency could take years to fulfill.
  7. Scotland voted not to secede from the United Kingdom.  Going into the election it appeared the vote could go either way.  Actual election results, however, reveal that more than 50% of Scottish residents had misgivings about a permanent social and economic parting of the ways.

  1. ALS. Not strictly a person, but the disease ALS had a very good year, thanks to a marketing gimmick dubbed “The Ice Bucket Challenge.”  The idea was to either donate to ALS or dump a bucket of ice cold water over your own head – and then challenge a list of friends or co-workers to do the same.  The campaign far exceeded expectations, raising more than $100M. 
  2. Companies With a Moral Agenda.  The Supreme Court ruled that companies can refuse insurance coverage for contraceptives due to religious objections.  Not unsurprisingly, the ruling stemmed a roiling controversy – not over contraceptives, but over the legality of granting companies rights that were previously reserved to individuals.
  3. The LGBT community.  Same sex marriage became legal in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Nevada, West Virginia, and North Carolina.  Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to keep their same-sex marriage bans in place. 
  4. Banks.  Most of the regulations that were placed on banks after last decade’s financial collapse were this year abolished by Congress – not openly, mind you, but through laws furtively injected into budget resolutions and other high-priority bills.  Proving, I suppose, that they at least felt their consciences twinging.
  1. The Bush administration.  Many, many years later the panel charged with investigating allegations of torture against the U.S. government in the aftermath of 911 finally released its findings.  To no one’s shock, the panel found that techniques such as waterboarding did indeed step over the line.  
  2. The U.S. Secret Service, which was assailed by a string of embarrassments, epitomized by an incident in which a mentally unstable individual jumped the White House fence, made it into the White House, and ended up riding an elevator with the president of the United States.  I’m not sure the director of the Secret Service, forced to step down after the humiliations, received much pity from anyone.
  3. The toy company that thought Mad Men action figures – equipped with guns and bags of meth – were a suitable toy for children. Almost as soon as they hit the shelves at Toys ‘R’ Us, they were apologetically yanked.
  4. Burger King’s “Satisfries.”  Turns out people have little interest in healthy French fries.  Who saw that coming?
  5. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling became the subject of disgust and ridicule after making racist remarks to a girlfriend in a phone call that later became public.  The NBA promptly required him to step down as owner of the team
  6. Oscar Pistorius.  The media went wild over allegations that South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius (one of the first athletes to compete using prosthetic limbs) killed his beautiful live-in girlfriend by accident, mistaking her for a burglar in the middle of the night.  After seven months and countless hours of “pseudo-news” coverage, the man was eventually found guilty of culpable homicide.
  1. Maya Angelou, poet & writer
  2. Richard Attenborough, actor
  3. Lauren Bacall, actress
  4. Marion Barry, D.C. mayor, civil rights leader
  5. Ben Bradlee, Washington Post editor
  6. James Brady, anti-gun activist
  7. Sid Caesar, comedian, musician, actor, composer
  8. Oscar de la Renta, fashion designer
  9. James Garner, actor
  10. P.D. James, author
  11. Casey Kasem, radio personality
  12. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, writer
  13. Joan Rivers, comedian
  14. Harold Ramis, actor
  15. Mickey Rooney, actor
  16. Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor
  17. Ariel Sharon, former Israeli prime minister
  18. Shirley Temple, actress
  19. Robin Williams, actor and comedian
  1. Winter Olympics.  The XXII Olympic Winter Games were held in Sochi, Russia.  Technical malfunctions (for instance, only 4 of the 5 rings in the Olympic logo managed to deploy) marred a forgettable opening ceremony – fitting, since the games themselves were rather forgettable.  Americans did well but there were no especially compelling narratives or winners to remember.  Sadly, the thing most people may remember about these games is the focus they cast on Russia’s anti-gay policies.  Did anyone else relish American figure skater Johnny Weir protesting Russia’s homophobia by wearing the most fabulous outfits imaginable?
  2. Football
    1. The Seattle Seahawks defeated Peyton Manning’s Colts to win Superbowl XLVIII. 
    2. The Washington Redskins continue to receive criticism for refusing to change their racially-derisive team name
    3. Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL
    4. 2014’s scandal de jour:  player Ray Rice being was penalized by the NFL for beating his fiancĂ© unconscious, after video of the incident was leaked to the press
  3. Basketball.  The Spurs won their fifth NBA championship as a group, showing LeBron James and the Miami Heat a thing or two along the way about teamwork.
  4. Baseball.  The feisty Kansas City Royals made their first appearance in the World Series in 29 years.   Alas, they were crushed by the San Francisco Giants, but that didn’t diminish their accomplishment.  The year also marked the retirement of Derek Jeter from the NY Yankees.
  5. World Cup follies.  Initial elation over being awarded the opportunity to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup turned to despair as the Brazil team lost the final game to a superior German team.  Riots promptly erupted in the streets of Rio de Janero.  And as if that weren’t enough drama, the FIFA organization is now being investigated for corruption.  It seems some people think there’s something fishy about the organization awarding the 2022 games to Qatar, a country with broiling hot temperatures and no particular soccer tradition.  The most controversial moment of the actual games: Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was suspended from the remainder of the 2014 World Cup after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a match. 
  6. NASCAR driver Tony Stewart voluntarily stepped away from racing after causing the death of another driver in an accident.
  1. Television News
    1. Steven Colbert ended his hugely successful career as the anchor of the Colbert Report.  He is scheduled to fill David Letterman’s shoes when the latter retires from CBS’s Late Night.
    2. Over the summer, Jon Stewart took a hiatus from The Daily Show to produce a movie (Rosewater).  In his absence, John Oliver did such a good job of filling the anchor desk, he was promptly given his own vehicle, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has proved a provocative and welcome addition to the “mock news” genre
    3. Starz scored thousands of new subscribers by having the smarts to turn the hugely popular (and satisfyingly smutty) Outlander into a miniseries.
    4. Sharknado 2 caused almost as much stir as its predecessor, flooding the twitterverse with snark and sending media analysts scrambling to explain how “interactive viewing” will be the future of television.
  2. Best Television shows of 2014, according to critics
    1. The Americans.  The 2nd season of this show about married KGB operatives who are “deep agents” here in the U.S. continued strong.
    2. Cosmos.  Neil deGrasse Tyson stepped into Carl Sagan’s shoes to update us on science and astrophysics
    3. Fargo.  Skeptics didn’t think the quirkiness of the movie would transfer to television, but the 10-episode series was a delight.
    4. Game of Thrones. The show is so consistently brilliant at what it’s doing (chronicling the end of an epoch on a make-believe, medieval continent) that it’s entered the realm of permanence on the list of great TV shows of the early 21st century.
    5. The Good Wife. Two reasons this show stands out: the writing (every word serves a purpose), and the show’s ability to remain relevant without seeming cheaply topical, especially in its story lines involving the unsettled legal ethics of our newly digital world.
    6. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.  A fabulous new satirical-news show that often provided more illumination than mockery
    7. The Missing.  A father mounts a desperate search for his missing son
    8. Olive Kitteridge.  Another book adaptation; a satire on our American obsession with success
    9. Orange is the New Black.  This Netflix comedy about life in a woman’s prison just keeps getting better
    10. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.  Terrific, as are all of Ken Burns’ docu-epics.
    11. Transparent.  An elderly gentleman comes out to his family as transgendered
    12. True Detective.  An ambitious attempt to reinvigorate the southern pulp, neo-noir police procedural
  3. Worst Television shows of 2014, according to critics
    1. Anger Management.  How does Charlie Sheen keep convincing people to cast him in comedies?
    2. Back Box.  A bipolar neuroscientist … really?
    3. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.  Enough said.
    4. I Want to Marry Harry.  Women competed for the chance to date a guy who kind of, sort of looked like Prince Harry.
    5.  Jonah from Tonga.  An entire season of Chris Lilley pretending to be a Pacific Islander while wearing blackface.  Just repeat that to yourself a few times – blackface.
    6. Mixology.  Because what’s not to like about obnoxious characters, insulting stereotypes, and rape jokes all melded together in a show that glorifies alcohol?
    7. Stalker.  Nauseating and exploitive.
    8. Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.  Sadly, the show has become little more than vehicle for fawning interviews, awkward sketches, and silly audience games.
  4. Most watched TV shows, according to viewing logs
    1. The Big Bang Theory
    2. NCIS
    3. Sunday Night Football
    4. The Walking Dead
    5. NCIS: Los Angeles
    6. The Blacklist
    7. Person of Interest
    8. Dancing With the Stars
    9. Blue Bloods
    10. The Voice
    11. Criminal Minds
    12. Castle
    13. Modern Family
    14. Monday Night Football
    15. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
    16. Elementary
    17. Downton Abbey
    18. Scandal
    19. Resurrection
  5. Shows that ended their run in 2014
    1. Boardwalk Empire
    2. The Colbert Report
    3. Community
    4. CNN’s Crossfire
    5. Cougar Town
    6. Glee
    7. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
    8. How I Met Your Mother (thank god!)
    9. The League
    10. The Mentalist
    11. The Millers
    12. Nurse Jackie
    13. The Newsroom
    14. Parks and Recreation
    15. Psych
    16. Raising Hope
    17. Sons of Anarchy
    18. True Blood
    19.  Two and a Half Men (thank god again!)
    20. Utopia
    21. White Collar
  6. Waxing (shows that were hot in 2014)
    1. American Horror Story.   Compelling in a “that’s so grotesque I can’t even look away” kind of way.
    2. Dr. Who.  Every time a new doctor joins the cast, the Whoniverse erupts.
    3. Gotham.  A dark, moody Batman origin story.
    4. Outlander.  Given the huge fan base of the novel, it was perhaps predictable that the miniseries version would be wildly popular.
    5. Sherlock.  Another show boosted by a huge fan base of Sherlockians, the audience was further swelled by swooning Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls.
    6. Sleepy Hollow.  Viewers seem not just okay with the show’s increasingly bizarre diversions, but appear to be welcoming them.
  7. Waning (shows that were on the decline in 2014)
    1. Big Bang Theory.  To be fair, the show has lasted longer than any one-joke sitcom has a right to
    2. Orphan Black.  Used to be edgy; now the show is just self-consciously coy
    3. Project Runway.  The show inexplicably decided to team with restaurant franchise Red Robin this past year – because fashion and greasy burgers have so much in common!
    4. The Following.  TWO death cults? There’s only so much disbelief you can suspend.
    5. Homeland.  The show has a good heart, but the plots have become increasingly incomprehensible
    6. Walking Dead.  Zombies.  We get it, already.
  1. Movie News
    1. Frozen, though released last year, continued its cultural domination of the world.  It was impossible to enter any store in the U.S. – toy stores, drug stores, fabric stores, even grocery stores – without encountering Frozen merchandise.
    2. For a few brief weeks, the movie Interstellar actually had people talking about topics like wormholes, spacetime, and gravity waves, as name-list physicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson weighed in on the truth behind the science depicted in the movie.
    3. Meanwhile, the film adaptation of the novel Gone Girl provoked a flurry of commentary about what constitutes feminism:  was the lead character to be applauded for her strength, or disdained for implying that all strong women must be flawed?
    4. The Interview, an otherwise inane comedy about the attempted assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong-Un was catapulted into the headlines when North Korea, taking offense at the plotline, hacked Sony’s website, exposing huge amounts of confidential information, including draft scripts of upcoming movies, celebrity salaries, and employee social security numbers.
    5. Benedict Cumberbatch was everywhere this year – as Sherlock on BBC, as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and as Smaug in the Hobbit franchise, among other appearances.
  2. 86th annual Academy Awards
    1. Best picture: 12 Years a Slave
    2. Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
    3. Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
    4. Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
    5. Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
  3. Best movies of the year, according to critics
    1. Beyond the Lights
    2. Birdman
    3. Boyhood
    4. Citizenfour
    5. Edge of Tomorrow
    6. Force Majeur
    7. Foxcatcher
    8. Locke
    9. Selma
    10. Under the Skin
    11. whiplash
  4. Most popular movies of the year, according to ticket sales
    1. Guardians of the Galaxy
    2. Hunger Games: Mockingjay
    3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    4. The LEGO Movie
    5. Transformers: Age of Extinction
    6. Maleficent
    7. X-Men: Days of Future Past
    8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
    10. Godzilla
    11. Big Hero 6
  5. Movies that made waves but didn’t crack the top 10 list:
    1. Interstellar
    2. Gone Girl
    3. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
    4. The Fault in Our Stars
    5. Noah
    6. The Monuments Men
    7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    8. Jersey Boys
    9. The Giver
    10. Exodus: Gods and Kings
    11. The Theory of Everything
  6. Worst movies of the year
    1. Blended
    2. Grown Ups 2
    3. Legend of Hercules
    4. The Other Woman
    5. I, Frankenstein
    6. Left Behind
    7. A Million Ways to Die in the West
    8. Pompeii
    9. Sex Tape
    10. That Awkward Moment
    11. Transcendance
    12. Transformers: Age of Extinction
    13. Walk of Shame
    14. Winter’s Tale
ENTERTAINMENT (music, plays, books, etc.)
  1. Entertainment news
    1. Taylor Swift somehow became the biggest entertainment news of the year – not by doing anything scandalous (there’s a novelty) – but apparently by virtue of releasing a good album and availing herself of a monstrous marketing campaign
    2. In a show in Philadelphia, comedian Hannibal Buress criticized Bill Cosby, saying: "Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches."  Over the next two months, more than 20 women came forward claiming that they had been sexually assaulted by Cosby
    3. 2014 was a little happier thanks to Pharrell William's infectious hit of the same name
  2. Music.  Grammy winners:
    1. Record of the year: “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
    2. Album of the Year – “Random Access Memories” – Daft Punk
    3. Song of the Year – “Royals” – Lorde
    4. Best New Artist – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  3. Theater.  87th annual Tony award winners.  Technically, most of the shows were 2013 hits, but still ….
    1. Best Play – All the Way (also nominated: Act One, Casa Valentina, Mothers & Sons, Outside Mullingar)
    2. Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (also nominated: After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)
  4. Groups nominated for induction into the R&R Hall of Fame: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band; the “5” Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bill Withers
  5. Video Games
    1. 2014 marked the release of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 
    2. Top-Selling Video Games (according to CNBC): Titanfall, Call of Duty Ghosts, NBA 2K14, The Lego Movie Videogame, Battlefield, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, infamous Second Son, Lego Marvel Superheroes
    3. Best Video Games (according to Time Magazine): Velocity 2X, Sunset Overdrive, Shovel Knight, Monument Valley, Middle Earth:Shadow of Mordor, Mario Cart 8, Hearthstones:Heroes of Warcraft, Dark Souls II, Alien:Isolation, 80 Days
  6. Top books of the year
    1. Fiction
      1. Bark, Lorrie Moore (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      2. A Brief History of 7 Killings, Marlon James (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      3. All the Lights We Cannot See, Anthony Doeer (National Book Award finalist, NY Times Top Book of 2014, Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      4. The Department of Speculation, Jenny Offill (NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      5. The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      6. Euphoria, Lily King (NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      7. Faithful & Virtuous Night, Louise Gluck (National Book Award winner for poetry)
      8. Family Life, Akhil Sharma (NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      9. Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson (Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      10. Lila, Maryilynn Robinson (National book award finalist)
      11. The Narrow Road to the Deep South, Richard Flanagan (Man Booker Prize winner, Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      12. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters (Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      13. Redeployment, Phil Klay (National Book Award winner, NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      14. Station 11, Emily St. John Mandel (National Book Award finalist, Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      15. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      16. Unnecessary Woman (National Book Award finalist)
    2. Nonfiction
      1. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth & Faith in New China, Evan Osnos (National Book Award winner)
      2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande (Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      3. Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries, Rory MacLean (Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      4. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast (National Book Award finalist, NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      5. The Corpse Exhibition, Hassan Blasim (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      6. Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, Hector Tobar (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      7. The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      8. Empire of Sin: Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, Gary Krist (Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      9. Limonov, Emmanuel Carrere (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014)
      10. The Meaning of Human Existence (National Book Award finalist)
      11. No Good Men Among the Living, Anand Gopal (National Book Award finalist)
      12. On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014, NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      13. Penelope Fitgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee (NY Times Top Book of 2014)
      14. Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert (NY Times Top Book of 2014, Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      15. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrim of the Flesh, John Lahr (National Book Award finalist, Washington Post Top Book of 2014)
      16. 13 Days in September: Carter, Begin & Sadat at Camp David, Lawrence Wright (Publishers Weekly Top Book of 2014, NY Times Top Book of 2014)
  1. Not that “Selfies” weren’t already a thing, but in 2014 they hit the big time when Ellen Degeneres’ Oscar selfie posted a record for most “shares”.
  2.  It’s been 40 years since the 1960s, but marijuana is finally going mainstream.  In the November elections, four states plus D.C. decriminalized its use.  Predictably, Congress promptly overturned the D.C. decriminalization initiative, but a hearty debate continues in other states throughout the nation.
  3. Hard to pin-point a single incident that triggered the focus, but violence towards women definitely became a major target of media and social attention in 2014 as men were “reminded” that being too drunk to speak doesn’t actually mean a woman is consenting.
  4. Coca cola caused a stir by temporarily printing first names on their products.  People flocked to stores in search of cans bearing their names.
  5. Top Google searches of 2014: Robin Williams suicide, World Cup, Ebola outbreak, disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Ice Bucket Challenge, Flappy Bird (smartphone game), Ferguson, ISIS, the Disney movie “Frozen”, and the Russia/Ukraine conflict. 
  6. All over the U.S., little girls drove their parents crazy by incessantly singing the indecently addictive song “Let It Go” from Frozen. 
  7. People began using their mobile phones for pretty much everything – paying for items, couponing, speeding through airline checkouts, etc.
  1. ALS’s Ice Bucket Challenge nearly overwhelmed the internet before finally fading into obscurity by summer
  2. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian tried to make “breaking the internet” an actual thing by posting a nude photo of herself online
  3. Soshi problems.  One outcome of the Winter Olympic Games in Soshi, Russia was a slew of posts from athletes and press documenting insalubrious living conditions in the barely-finished Olympic village – especially yellow water, broken/missing doors, and bathrooms with twin toilets (think about it ….)
  4. Ashley Wagner angry face.  Speaking of Soshi, American figure skater Ashley Wagner didn’t win a medal at the Sochi Olympics, but she did inspire a memorable meme. 
  5. Alex From Target.  A cute checker at Target gets his 15mins of fame.
  6. Sexy Mugshot boy.  Jeremy Mekes broke both laws and hearts after the Stockton Police Department posted his Abercrombie & Fitch photoshoot-ready mugshot on Facebook.
  7. Tim Howard Saves Things.  Goalie Tim Howard made an indisputably awesome save in the FIFA World Cup; perhaps inevitable that the internet would run with it, staging him making all sorts of gloriously improbably “impossible saves” thereafter.
  8. Sad Kanya.  A picture of Kanya West clearly NOT enjoying his honeymoon with Kim Kardashian soon began popping up in all sorts of internet photos.
  9. “But That’s None of My Business.”  Kermit the Frog sipping tea became 2014’s best way to passively insult something.
  10. Star wars trailer lightsaber.  After a trailer for the upcoming Star Wars movie depicted a snazzy “tricked out” light saber, interneticans flooded the internet with their own versions of pimped out Jedi weapons.
  11. “Apparently” Kid.  Give a kid a microphone and enjoy the adorable results … especially if the kid has an affection for the word “apparently”
  12. The shmoney dance
  13. Surfbort
  14. Mail kimp
  15. Awkward seal moments
  16. “Thiscouldbeusbutyouplayin”
  17. “21”. 

  1. U.S. GROWS AS WORLD SLOWS.  The U.S. economy posted its best 6 months since 2003.  But the rest of the world hasn't been so lucky.  Japan has fallen back into recession.  The 18 countries that make up the Eurozone are barely growing and fear a dangerous drop in prices.  Major developing nations aren't faring much better.  China's growth has dropped to a five-year low of 7.3 percent.  Western sanctions and dropping oil prices have decimated Russia's currency.  Brazil just edged out of recession.  What's helped the U.S. is its relative insulation.  American consumers, not exports, are the main drivers of the world's largest economy.
  2. JOBS ARE BACK: Millions of Americans still struggle with low pay and fewer hours of work than they want, and millions have given up looking for a job entirely. But five years after the recession ended, the U.S. job market is looking healthy. The unemployment rate is below 6 percent. Employers added nearly 3 million jobs, the most since 1999, as shoppers and businesses spend more. As a result, the Federal Reserve ended its recession-era stimulus program in October and is edging closer to lifting interest rates. The Fed has kept rates near zero since 2008 to spur lending and investment.
  3. SECURITY BREACHES: The theft of 40 million credit and debit cards and 70 million personal records from Target last fall turned out to be just the beginning. Home Depot Inc. hackers nabbed 56 million cards and 53 million email addresses. There were breaches at Kmart, Dairy Queen, and Albertsons. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said hackers stole information covering 76 million households and 7 million small businesses. Sony employees' private information and emails were posted online. The consequences? Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled the mass release of "The Interview," a comedy about assassinating the North Korean leader, after hackers threatened to attack movie theaters. Target Corp. replaced top executives. Shops, card companies and banks sped up card security improvements.
  4. OIL PLUNGE: Global crude prices have fallen to around $56 per barrel from this year's high of $115 because of more production, especially in the U.S., while slowing economies in Europe and Asia crimp demand. A rapid decline in the second half of the year pushed gasoline to about $2.30 a gallon in the U.S., the lowest price in nearly five years. Americans are pocketing $15.4 billion more a month than when gas was at its 2014 high of $3.70. Cheaper crude is also pumping up auto sales and saving airlines money on jet fuel. But drilling could slow in North Dakota's new boomtowns and other regions, hurting businesses that have cropped up. And governments in energy producers Russia, Venezuela and Iran are being squeezed, increasing the likelihood of political upheaval.
  5. AUTO RECALLS: In the U.S. alone, automakers recalled more than 60 million cars and trucks. That far surpasses the previous record of 30.8 million in 2004. The bulk of those come from two problems that have led to nearly 50 deaths and dozens of injuries. Japanese air bag supplier Takata, whose air bags can inflate too fast and spew shrapnel, has fought regulators' demands to expand recalls. And GM was fined the maximum $35 million by U.S. safety regulators for dragging its feet ? for a decade ? over replacing faulty switches that can shut down car engines. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating both companies.
  6. MOBILE MOMENTUM: PC sales are slumping, but mobile phone subscriptions are expected to reach 7 billion this year - the same as the world's population. Phone makers are launching cheaper smartphones aimed at developing countries, which could get billions more people online. Already, more than a billion people check Facebook on their phones and tablets. The social media giant spent $22 billion on a phone messaging app, WhatsApp. Uber, a hail-a-cab app, is valued at $40 billion. Apple Inc., the iPhone and iPad maker, launched a payment system that sidesteps cash and plastic.
  7. STOCK MARKETS SOAR: Another year, another record. The end of the Federal Reserve's bond-buying stimulus program stressed investors this fall, but U.S. stocks kept rising, extending the bull market run to nearly six years. More companies acquired each other and big companies bought up more than $400 billion of their own stock, helping to put the Standard & Poor's 500 index on pace for a 13 percent gain in 2014. And despite the end of the Fed's bond purchases, which was expected to weigh on markets, bond prices rallied and rates dropped.
  8. MINIMUM WAGE GROWTH: Inequality has been rising, and median household incomes have fallen since the recession began in late 2007. But the federal minimum hourly wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009. Labor organizers, fast-food workers and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employees have campaigned for higher pay across the country. Congress hasn't acted, but cities and states ? and President Barack Obama ? have. Obama raised pay by executive order for government contractors, to $10.10 an hour. By Jan. 1, 29 states and Washington, D.C. will have a higher minimum wage than $7.25. Seattle approved an increase to $15 an hour, the highest rate in the country.
  9. JANET YELLEN: The Federal Reserve had been led exclusively by men for a century.  Then Janet Yellen, a 68-year-old former economics professor and the No. 2 at the Fed, became the first woman to lead the central bank.  Plainspoken, Yellen criticizes inequality, focuses on jobs growth, and has tried to demystify the moves of the notoriously opaque Fed. 
  1. Wearable technology was the big trend in 2014, with gadgets capable of tracking everything from seizures to how much sunlight you soak up.  Device makers large and small attempted to make wearables that are both functional and fashionable.  Entries into the market included Fitbit, Google glasses, and smart watches
  2. Mobile and cloud computing are converging to create a new platform - one that has the potential to provide unlimited computing resources.  Mobile devices are constrained by their memory, processing power, and battery life.  But combined with cloud computing, data processing and storage can happen outside of mobile devices.  This allows for better synchronization of data, improved reliability and scalability, increased ease of integration, anytime/anywhere access to business applications and collaborative services, richer user experiences, and an explosion of new services
  3. The Internet of Things. As they get more connected and smarter thanks to embedded and networked sensors combined with other technologies such as GPS, devices will join networked sensors, creating a rapidly growing "internet of things".  These devices will be able to share real-time data, perform diagnostics, and make virtual repairs without human intervention.  By 2020, estimates are that there will be over a billion machines talking to each other, using artificial intelligence to perform tasks and make decisions
  4. Mobile banking and playments using smartphones as an eWallet is already being used in other countries and began taking off in the U.S. this year.  Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook are two applications already cueing up to steal this highly-profitable business from banks and credit card companies
  5. Digital Identity Management.  As the "internet of things" becomes a thing, it will become increasingly important that both organizations and individuals become better able to better manage and protect their identities across business and personal networks.  Next generation biometrics such as facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and voice recognition are already showing up on Apple tablets and devices, a trend which is sure to expand over the coming years. 
  6. Intelligent Electronic Agents using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple’s Siri, which was rapidly followed by Android, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your smart devices, including your phone, tablet, and television. Soon retailers will have a Siri-like sales assistant, and maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. The possibilities are endless.
  7. Make all the things 3D!  New 3D printing tools and techniques are empowering everyone from global corporations to do-it-yourselfers to create new devices and realize new concepts more quickly, cheaply, and easily than ever—from car parts, batteries, prosthetics, and computer chips to jewelry, clothing, firearms, and even pizza. A future where digital functionality can be "printed into" a physical object will continue to be built on in 2014, driven by new toolkits, services, and platforms and innovative business models and processes, such as online 3D printing bureaus and crowdfunding sites. Digital fabrication is revolutionizing the way that hardware is designed, prototyped, and produced. Advances in additive processes like 3D printing, and subtractive processes like laser cutting have increased the quality, speed, and ease of physical prototyping while simultaneously bringing down costs.
  8. Online Education.  These days, students from all corners of the world can sign up for online classes to study everything from computer science, digital signal processing, and machine learning to European history, psychology, and astronomy–and all for free. As interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) continues to explode, there will be a corresponding need for technology to support these new learning systems and styles. Platforms such as Coursera, with more than 3 million users and 107 partners; and edX, a partnership between Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University with 1.7 million users; are hosting classes with thousands of online enrollees each. And although lectures are still the mainstay of MOOCs, the classes require web forums, online meetups, and keystroke loggers to check identities, as well as powerful servers to handle the volumes. MOOCs and other new online classes are creating a demand for learning that is seamless—happening continuously via different technologies; ubiquitous—drawing from pervasive and embedded technologies; and contextual—drawing awareness from location-based and other sensor-based technologies.
  9. Gameification of Training and Education. Will accelerate a fast-moving hard trend of using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3D interface. Some will develop software using these gaming techniques to work on existing hardware systems such as both old and new versions of Xbox and PlayStation. A social component that includes sharing will drive success.
  10. Balancing Identity and Privacy.  Social networks have quickly become the key organizing principle of Internet communication and collaboration. Although Internet-enabled social networks offer tremendous opportunities, widespread interest in and growth of these systems raises new risks and growing concerns. For instance, social network users can be bullied, their pictures can be stolen, or their status posts can reach unwanted audiences. Even when profiles don't list any information, social graphs can be analyzed to infer personal information. Risks are also related to identity management because, in these social scenarios, an individual's online identity, which is strictly related to reputation and trust, is less and less virtual and has more and more impact on real, offline life. A battle now exists between individual privacy and the interests of the system at large.
  11. Smart Healthcare. Computing plays an important role in many facets of our lives, increasingly so in aspects of individual and social well-being. Individual health is encouraged with the development of intelligent systems, apps, gadgets, and mobile systems that focus on diet, exercise, and information provision. Medication, surgery, and assistive devices rely on intelligent systems to analyze data and human responses, guiding the implementation and management of therapies and interventions. In addition to work that focuses on individuals, there is a proliferation in use of intelligent systems for large-scale analysis of biomedical data, socially relevant data, and metadata, such as the spread of disease or certain health-habits in populations.
  12. E-Government. Electronic government, e-government, or digital government refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to provide and improve government services, transactions, and interactions with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. Interoperability is essential to broad success in e-government. Challenges emerging in this area focus on e-government interoperability in cloud computing, open government, and smart city initiatives.
  13. Scientific Cloud Computing. Scientific computing has already begun to change how science is done, enabling scientific breakthroughs through new kinds of experiments that would have been impossible only a decade ago. It is the key to solving "grand challenges" in many domains and providing breakthroughs in new knowledge, and it comes in many shapes and forms: high-performance computing (HPC), high-throughput computing (HTC), many-task computing (MTC), and data-intensive computing. Big data is generating datasets that are increasing exponentially in both complexity and volume, making their analysis, archival, and sharing one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Not surprisingly, it becomes increasingly difficult to design and operate large scale systems capable of addressing these grand challenges.
  14. Drones for Everything. Drones have already proven to be of high value and this hard trend will rapidly grow. Agricultural applications for checking crops, fences, and cattle are also important given the more remote nature of the industry. Amazon made big news this year by announcing that they were investigating using drones to make deliveries.  Expect, however, that the U.S. government will limit the use of drones for businesses such as delivery services due to privacy and environmental issues.
  15. Visual Communications.  Video conferencing has reached a new level of ubiquitiousness with apps such as SKYPE, FaceTime, and others giving us video communication on phones, tablets, and home televisions. Visual Communications will be integrated with current video conferencing systems, fueling this as a main relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes. This is the year we will see sales organizations using this to enhance communication and collaboration, gaining new competitive advantages.
  1. Climate Change.  The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pulled no punches in its 2014 report, confidently asserting that climate change is real and that countries must move quickly and firmly to cap carbon emissions worldwide lest we reach a tipping point beyond which global warming spirals out of control.  Related news:
    1. California experienced record droughts (see Top U.S. News Stories); as if that wasn’t bad enough, when it did rain, the precipitation triggers killer mudslides.
    2. 2014’s average world temperatures appear likely to be the hottest on record, making 2013 the 38th consecutive year with “anomalously high” readings, according to a World Meteorological Organization report
    3. Multiple studies indicate that glaciers are melting faster than anticipated
    4. Yet other students suggested that ocean acidification (caused by high levels of carbon dioxide in seawater) is also accelerating
    5. China and the U.S. reached agreement on an epic accord, with China agreeing to halt growth in its greenhouse gas pollution around 2030 as well as source 20% of its power from alternative energy sources, and the U.S. pledging g to cut greenhouse gas pollution at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.  The countries of the European Union also agreed to various concessions.  Hey, it’s a step in the right direction, if not the bold step climate scientists had been hoping (and advocating) for
    6. Estimates suggest that by 2016, Gaza will be without clean drinking water.  With no perennial streams and low rainfall, Gaza relies on a single aquifer for all its fresh water, which is now contaminated with sewage, chemicals, and seawater.  Is anyone else shuddering over the potential consequences that are sure to ensue?
  2. We landed a rocket on a comet … sort of.  After a 10-year journey around the solar system, the EU’s Rosetta space probe caught up with Comet 61P in August.  The rocket then attempted to land a refrigerator-sized lander on the comet.  The lander hit the target but unexpectedly bounced twice in the extremely low gravity and ended up in the shadow of an ice cliff.  Still, the lander was able to turn on all of its 10 instruments during the two days before its batteries ran down, allowing it to collect some fascinating data, and there’s hope that when the comet next swings by the sun the lander may reawaken.
  3. Private space companies also had a bad year: first, an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket heading for the International Space Station exploded a few seconds after launch; then Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two disintegrated during a test flight, killing one of the pilots.  NASA, which has fatefully decided to trust in private industry to lead space technology innovation (due to budget rather than ideological considerations), must be quaking in its boots.
  4. Genetic analysis rewrites the story of early human evolution.  DNA studies suggest that our human ancestors freely interbred with each other over the course of human history. Oh, and a zigzag pattern carved into a seashell sent archaeologists and anthropologists into a tizzy, as it suggested that “modern human behaviour” emerged much, much earlier (about 75,000 years ago, in fact) than previously suspected.
  5. Cloning a mammoth.  She wasn’t the first woolly mammoth to be pulled from the permafrost of Siberia, but Buttercup is one of the best preserved, complete with red meat and blood. Scientists believe it may be possible to extract DNA from the 12,000- year-old blood cells, then insert them into the egg of an elephant that would become the surrogate mother of a cloned mammoth. Scientifically, it would be an interesting experiment, but many have raised ethical questions about the future of bringing back animals from extinction
  6. Life on Mars!  Well, not quite.  But data from NASA’s Curiosity rover suggested that a lake that existed billions of years ago on Mars might have had life-supporting conditions: a probe found spikes in methane concentrations on the Red Planet. “It is a very, very puzzling result,” Joel Levine of the College of William and Mary told National Geographic. “Either Mars is geologically alive, which would be surprising, or Mars is biologically alive, which would have profound implications.”
  7. Scientists create the first synthetic chromosome.  Actually, to be clear, the feat was accomplished by science STUDNTS at Johns Hopkins University, who first synthesized the bases (ACTG) and then inserted the chromosome into the yeast.  The yeast’s own DNA repair system then knit the DNA into an existing genome.  The hope is that such manipulation will lead to tests of specific genes and a better understanding of “junk” DNA, cell division, and evolution. 
  8. Big Bang Gravitational Waves – or not.  In March, scientists announced that they had found evidence of “gravitational waves” – evidence that the universe ballooned exponentially just after it was born, as predicted by so-called “inflation” theory.  The report was hailed as one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science … until doubts began to emerge.   Could it be that BICEP2 might have mistaken boring old space dust for gravitational waves?  The scientific kerfuffle seems likely to extend well into the new year.
  9. Dinosaurs!  There were a lot of BIG dinosaur discoveries this year, including the largest land animal to ever walk the Earth – Dreadnoughtus – and the largest carnivore ever (yes, bigger than T. rex!): Spinosaurus.
  1. Nutella all the things!  Suddenly people are putting nutella in everything, from milk to lasagna
  2. Frankenfoods. Donut pie, dessert pizzas, ramen grilled cheese sandwiches … mutant foods were all the rage this year.
  3. Locally sourced everything.  Proponents continued to site the advantages of locally sourced foods, to include supporting local businesses, reducing transportation costs & limiting unintended consequences (ex: CO2 created by trucking harms atmosphere, necessity of genetically engineering food to remain fresh).
  4. 1/3rd of all restaurants now offer vegan alternatives
  5. Gluten free refuses to go away, even though new studies suggest that many people are not as intolerant as they suppose.
  6. Paleo diet.  This diet espoused returning to the menu of our caveman forefathers, the logic being that humans evolved nutritional needs specific to the foods available at that time, and that the nutritional needs of modern humans remain best adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors. Proponents also claim that human metabolism has been unable to adapt fast enough to handle many of the foods that have become available since the advent of agriculture.
WORDS OF THE YEAR.  Words that didn’t necessarily debut in 2014, but that achieved critical mass over the course of the year.  Not unexpectedly, many of these (clickbait, hate watching) arise from the sphere of social media.
  1. Amazeballs (aka “I Can’t").  When something is so amazing you can’t find any actual words in the dictionary to describe it.
  2. Adorkable.  Something that is adorably geeky
  3. Clickbait.  Posting a juicy tweet or Facebook message solely to entice people to click on the link and increase a site's overall hits.  Example: "10 Reasons Your Next Trip to Walmart May Kill You!"
  4. Cosplay.  Short for "costume play"; dressing up like a favorite superhero or fictional character. 
  5. Cray-cray.  Short for "crazy."  Example: "You'd have to be cray-cray not to want to hit that"
  6. Crowdfunding/crowdsources.  Using the internet to link disparate contributors
  7. Digital native.  A person who has learned to use computers as a child
  8. Dubstep.  A type of electronic dance music having prominent bass lines and syncopated drum patterns
  9. Fanboy/fangirl.  A person who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something.  (See "cosplay")
  10. Freegan.  An activist who scavenges for free food as a means of reducing consumption of resources
  11. Gamification.  The process of adding game or gameliek elements to a task (commonly education or training) so as to incentivize participation
  12. Hate-watching.  Watching a show or video with the specific objective of mocking or loathing it.  Example: "I hate-watch FOX News just to see what outrageous thing they'll say next"
  13. Hipster.  A member of the generation born in the 80s-90s who look down on their native middle-class culture and self-consciously adopt a bohemian lifestyle and mode of dress
  14. Hit that.  Slang for "to have sex with."  Example: "He's a little short for me but, yeah, I'd hit that."
  15. Listicle.  A website or blog post in list form. Example: anything posted by Mentalfloss
  16. Mansplaining.  When men condescend to explain complex things to women.  Example: "Let me mansplain why some women practically ask to be raped."
  17. Sideboob.  A glimpse of boob through the side of a poorly hung dress.  Example: "Did you see Jennifer Lopez's dress at the Grammys? Serious sideboob!"
  18. YOLO.  You only live once