I like to think of 2016 as being bookended by two Star Wars movies. The Force Awakens brought 2015 to a close with a hopeful message. But 2016 showed that the evil empire can fight back.
We should have known what kind of year it was going to be back in January when the First Order of business of the new year were the deaths of Alan Rickman and David Bowie. Bowie died days after his latest album Blackstar was released, which would be a great name for the next Star Wars battlestation. Talking of evil empires, the Turkish president Erdogan declared his admiration for Hitler’s Germany as an effective form of government. Absurdity in government was not limited to Turkey as Delhi decided to ban diesel cars to lower pollution. Naturally pollution levels rose on the news. Elsewhere the Mumbai police were kept busy feeding over 40 bananas to a suspect to help him poop out some jewelry he had allegedly swallowed. On the border NDTV came under fire in Pathankot for trying to exercise its rights under Article 19 of the constitution. On a more uplifting news front, the Playboy Mansion was put up for sale with one minor condition: Hef would stay on until he died. Given that this was 2016 Hef could be sure to be around for a long time.
While everyone was focused on the economic crisis in China in February, the Daily Telegraph noted that the black market for female corpses continued to flourish there. Further afield a Swedish girl who had been rescued after she joined jihadists said that she discovered that life with ISIS was ‘really hard.’ The future of the free world was further put at risk with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court. This could result in the death of democracy as the court would have only eight members and a clean democratic verdict of 5 to 4 in favour of Bush could not be ensured as in 2000. Harper Lee died of shock when she discovered that she had written a best-selling sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. This month also saw the death of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who as it turns out was not Jar Jar Binks’ uncle, but was the former Secretary General of the UN – someone every school child remembers because they had to mug-up the name in case it came up in the exam. Talking of Jar Jar and Star Wars, NASA was forced to clarify that a meteorite did not, in fact, kill a bus driver in India.
In March, we discovered that Flint Michigan was not the sidekick of Rey as we had all assumed but a place in the US that had lead in its plumbing. Talking of plumbing, the US state of North Carolina passed a law saying that men and women should use segregated bathrooms, something which apparently was controversial enough in the US to drown out all other news. A Chinese couple were introduced to the concept of law when they were arrested after they sold their baby daughter to pay for an iPhone.
Canada did not want to be left out of the absurd law department and in April it was revealed that a disabled war veteran had to certify every year for the last 10 years that his legs remained missing so that he could collect his pension. Filed further in the groundhog-day department archives was the report that Sepp Blatter would lead the effort to root out corruption in FIFA. The department of who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea reported that a Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court was bombed when a constable opted to do a live demo of by pulling out the pin when asked if he knew how grenades worked. Not to be one-upped in the explosives game, a town in India decided to set off a bunch of fireworks all at once at a temple killing over a 100 people. Talking of deaths, Prince … ehm, funky symbol guy … ehm, TAFKAP … ehm whatever, died. As someone who could not get the world to call him by his preferred name he would have sympathized with the Czech Republic which tried to change its name and failed. Most people probably thought that Czechia was the name of a cantina on Mos Eisley or something.
On a more positive note in May, Dr. Henrich Heimlich used the Heimlich manoeuvre for only the second time in his life. 2016 got is revenge and the good doctor died later in the year. This method is used to save people choking on foods. Talking of food, China banned erotic banana eating videos this month after having solved all other problems. Not to be outdone, Indian police attempted to take down a facebook video mocking Sachin Tendulkar. Indonesian police decided to join the party by confiscating a sex toy from a remote village which was being worshipped as an angel. The gods must be crazy. On the subject of gods, the New York Times was forced to apologize on May 10th: “Because of an editing error, an article on Monday [May 9th] about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.”
Pimpin 4 Paradise was a recurrent theme, and in June an Israeli Rabbi banned girls over five years old from riding bicycles because it was provocative. God must have been busy as a Chicago man called Gambles won the lottery for the second time playing the same set of numbers. Luck ran out for Muhammad Ali this month though. Star Trek felt a bit left out after all the Star Wars news and announced that Anton Yelchin had died after his car ran him over. It appeared he had not locked down the docking latches along with the parking lever. Meanwhile the residents of a small island in the North Sea became obsessed with something called Brexit which led to fears of Marmite shortages. Police in India were kept busy after arresting a 17-year old girl for cheating in exams: “Authorities became suspicious after the [exam topping] girl, when questioned by a TV reporter this month, failed to correctly spell ‘political science,’ which she had been studying. She added that she thought the subject involved cooking.”
As summer rolled in in the Northern hemisphere, US President Obama announced in July that he intended to open a T-Shirt shack in Hawaii after retirement. The race to replace him as president led to the Republican Party debating which of its candidates had the largest appendage. A Slovenian-born former model got into difficulty with her speech, which some claimed had been plagiarized. The giveaway was probably in the first few words: “I have a dream.” Many Star Wars fans were disappointed when they learned that Melanija Knauss was not a princess and leader of the rebellion. Summer in a US election year can only mean one thing: yes, it was time for the Olympics. The organizers this month told swimmers to close their mouths to avoid contaminated water. Many newspapers in Kashmir were similarly told to close their mouths as police protected their Article 19 rights.
On the subject of keeping one’s mouth closed we know that R2D2 was silent for most of TFA. We learnt why in August when we found that Kenny Baker died and he was in the mourning period. (For those who don’t know, Baker was the guy inside R2 in the original movies.) Gene Wilder too passed on this month. The Rio Olympic officials could have done with a golden ticket entry to the stadium, as they lost the keys and had to break the lock. What a cock-up. A Japanese pole vaulter failed to qualify after a cock-up of a different sort. Turning genders for a bit, the French Prime Minister said that naked breasts better represented France compared to a headscarf. Which is quite ironic, as in Liberty Leading the People, the most often cited image of Marianne, she is indeed wearing a headscarf or cap of some sort. To even out the genders a bit, a couple of constables from India who claimed to be the first Indian married couple to climb Everest had their claim shot down and they were banned from Nepal for 10 years. Tourism news did not end there and in a bid to encourage Independence Day related travel the Tourism Ministry declared selfies at national monuments illegal. Police in central India tried to redeem the profession by pasting glow-in-the-dark stickers on cows’ horns to prevent motorists from crashing into them.
In further headscarf news ISIS declared in September that veils were banned after their chiefs were attacked by veiled assassins. Dialing the irony meter to 11, North Korea banned sarcasm because Kim Jong-un feared people only agree with him ‘ironically’. Meanwhile in England a man was arrested for trying to go back to the future after being caught driving his DeLorean at 88mph. Across the pond, a woman was arrested after she married her daughter (they ‘hit it off,’ she said). This was a second similar offence as she had previously fallen afoul of the law by marrying her son. Closer home, Haryana police were busy inspecting biryanis for forbidden beef. This month, JK Rowling was forced to deny that Harmbe the gorilla was a Patronus. A Patronus is a ghostly figure that can carry messages such as, “Help me Obi-Wan. You are my only hope.”
In the you-can’t-cover-headscarves department files, an Indian shooter said in October that she would not travel to Iran for a competition as she refused to wear a hijab. Having run out of all other possibilities, the Nobel prize in literature was awarded to Bob Dylan. The committee could not find him to give him his award – presumably he was off revisiting Highway 61. He was known to be a rolling stone after all. A pair of pigeons did not have such an easy escape after being arrested in Punjab on suspicion of being Pakistani spies. Police were probably happy they caught them before the planned coo.
Speaking of animals, in November Shilpa Shetty said that she thought Animal Farm can teach children how to take care of animals; while the People’s Daily of China reported U.S.-born panda twins struggle in China as they know only English. On the subject of English, the Oxford English Dictionary declared “post-truth” as the word of the year. Apple took that seriously by releasing its latest Mac Book: a $300 book that has pictures of Apple computers. In other fiction news, the man with the DeLorean may actually have been up to something as the Chicago Cubs won the World Series just one year out from the original prediction. Elsewhere in sports a stray dog interrupted an England-India test at Vizag and pooped on the pitch. A bit afield in Korea, President Park Geun-hye’s office confirmed that it purchased 360 Viagra pills. She was later impeached. This was not the only presidential news in November, when it was revealed that the winner of the US election was … Fidel Castro, who had made good on his promise to “destroy America.” After this lifetime achievement award, Castro promptly died. Back home after making sure that the wedding season, rabi sowing season and the Christmas/New Years’ travel season was behind us, the government announced the demonetization of high value currency. The government announced that the intention was to make India a cashless society. It achieved this objective with amazing alacrity. Going forward the country would standardize on Galactic Credits.
Talking of currencies, in December we found out that Venezuela’s currency value depended on the website maintained by one Home Depot worker in Alabama. When we say value, we mean embarrassment. Pakistan’s national airline was embarrassed when it found that a Lahore to Karachi flight overshot a bit and landed in Muscat, Oman instead. Not to be outdone, John Bolton’s candidacy for US Secretary of State was rejected because of his moustache. Police in Chennai announced that they were protecting peoples’ Article 19 rights by arresting 12 moviegoers accused of failing to stand during the playing of the national anthem: “We have to see whether they did it intentionally or not.” Having balanced the state’s budget and having solved all other problems, the government of Maharashtra announced that it would construct a statue of Shivaji at a cost of only eight times what ISRO spent on the Mars orbiter mission. On the topic of orbits, John Glenn – the first US man in space – died this month. Spacing out a bit, Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack but the force is with her and she is with the force. The movie Rogue One had a CGI Carrie Fisher, and set a high standard for what Star Wars prequels should be. Maybe someday we will get Episodes 1 to 3 too. With that we come to the end of this. Wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year. Unfortunately for George Michael, it seems he has celebrated his Last Christmas this year.