There are a very few numbers that carry with them so much surplus meaning that they take on the qualities of a word: think 9/11, 24/7, 360, maybe 3.141592.

This year we have a new numerical descriptor that is sure to become part of the lingo: a four-numeral word that elegantly describes the folly of under-estimating our collective capacity to make irrational and destructive decisions. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 2016.

And hasn’t 2016 been a total 2016 of a year?

Time and time again we have been blindsided by our own stupidity, so caught up in the noise and the colour of the moving pictures that we couldn’t read the consequences of the action unfolding before our eyes.

The triumph of Donald Trump is the most obvious expression of 2016 as we delighted in Hillary Clinton’s smash-up in the debates and the constant stream of pussy grab-ees and the sheer ridiculousness of the proposition that he could be the most powerful man in the world until it was too late and he was.

But the Trump election victory was not an isolated act of 2016, more an end point, as anyone who was anyone found fresh and compelling ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

David Cameron 2016ed himself out of Number 10 and into the history books as one of the worst British prime ministers ever as he green-lighted a procession from Europe into isolationism that he thought too ridiculous to be a serious threat.

Malcolm Turnbull 2016ed marriage equality by kidding himself he could deliver a solution that would unite his conservative spear-throwers and his inner east electorate with the one deft belly-flop.

Fans of Julian Assange had a 2016 as they watched their hero diminish himself from global cyber-warrior into an inconsequential pawn in the Russian president’s plans to promote his interests by weakening America.

Everywhere you look, the spirit of 2016 converted dreams into folly.

Respondents to this week’s Essential Report agree this was a total 2016 of a year.

Thinking about the last 12 months, has it been a good or bad year for each of the following?

It was a 2016 for the Australian economy that enters Christmas with a treasurer clinging desperately to his AAA credit rating, sideswiped by a sudden realisation that you can’t reduce a budget deficit with rhetoric alone.

It was a 2016 of a year for small business too as they came to the hollow realisation that a government that doesn’t control the Senate is less than assured of delivering on a much-hyped tax cut.

It was also a 2016 of a year for the union movement which was enlisted as the prime minister’s fig leaf as he sought an excuse for the double dissolution that went within a whisker of dissolving him.

It was total a 2016 of a year for the average Australian who discovered a prime minister who uses the offshore facilities of Mossack Fonseca is hardly likely to be champion of stamping out the tax evasion endemic in big business and the uber-wealthy.

We actually thought the year was OK for us in our homes and our own workplaces but maybe that was part of what made it a 2016 of a year as well: we were looking in and taking refuge in the small picture as the bigger view become more and more appalling.

Because it was an absolute 2016 of a year for politics and the democratic idea that the people always get it right as a backlash against the system saw people latch on to crude ideas and cruder showmen playing to national pride and turning the world in on itself.

Last but in no ways least it was a complete and utter 2016 of a year for a planet crying out for international cooperation to meet the existential threat of global warming.

Instead of moving on from Paris and setting meaningful targets for lower emissions and plan for just energy transitions we now have a climate denier in the White House who ties his nation’s future to finding new ways to extract and burn carbon and an Australian government which is not a whole lot better.

If that’s not enough, the planet faces a leader in the White House with an itchy trigger finger, a suspicion of complexity and a desire to buddy up with fellow despots with expansive territorial aspirations. How very 2016.

And that’s not the end of it. This week’s poll shows we fear 2017 will be a total 2016 of a year as well – if not worse.

Thinking about the next 12 months, do you think 2017 will be a good or bad year for each of the following?

While we head to the summer break hoping to put 2016 to bed, the sad reality is that 2016 looms as an ongoing state of collective delusion.

So here’s my resolution for the year to come.

No more laughing at stupidity. No more assuming people will understand the joke’s on them. No more waving lies and untruths through to the keeper. No more naive optimism.

I won’t just shake my head and roll my eyes anymore because 2016 has proven that the stakes are too high.

I will shout out at hypocrisy from those in power and not jump onto the next outrage before I have dealt with the one in front of me.

I will search hard for new ways to shake myself out of my complacency and break through the white noise that is dulling all of our ability to tell fact from fiction, right from wrong.

And I will do my best to hold the mirror up for my fellow Guardian readers, no matter how unseemly the visage, one poll at a time.

Herein lies my credo: 2016. Never again.

A meme is currently circulating on Twitter in which people post two contrasting photos: one is “me at the beginning of 2016”; the other is “me at the end of 2016.” Popular entries have included a duckling holding a butter knife vs. a raven holding a serrated blade, a young Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic” vs. a frozen DiCaprio in “The Revenant,” and the Statue of Liberty as it stands currently vs. the decaying, beached Statue of Liberty from “Planet of the Apes.” Like all meme jokes, it stops being funny when you write it down. But you get it: the joke is that this year’s depravity has permanently embittered us. The joke is that 2016 was very, very bad.

It’s in the nature of years to feel exhausting in retrospect. The world is punishing; we have short collective memories and a cognitive bias that makes us recall bad events more vividly than good ones. The awful folkways of social media—which encourage us to call out bad things in dramatic fashion and then pretend that we’ve been helpful—have led to something of an annual conclusion. Google searches for “worst year ever” spike each December. Every year is the worst year ever, we’ve started to say.

But 2016 does seem to have earned some sort of special designation. Even before November, the year felt, to me, like a single sleepless night spent absorbing an interminable series of nightmares through my phone. There was Zika. There were terrorist attacks every few days, including the bombings in Brussels and the Bastille Day deaths in Nice. In June, fifty people were killed at a gay dance club in Orlando; in July, a single suicide bomb in Baghdad killed two hundred and ninety-two. David Bowie died, as did Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen. On July 5th, Alton Sterling was pinned to the ground and shot at close range by policemen in Baton Rouge; he had been selling CDs in a parking lot. On July 6th, Philando Castile was killed by police during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota; his last moments were caught on video by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who recorded Castile bleeding out as the hysterical officer berated her. On July 7th, during what had been a peaceful protest in Dallas against these unlawful police killings, five police officers were killed.

And then, of course—not that you’ve forgotten!—there was the election. The weeks since November 8th have resembled, in terms of collective psychology, the aftermath of a natural disaster—a demented, aberrant catastrophe that remains invisible to some and for others prompts nothing but glee. Hate crimes have increased; swastikas are blooming. Donald Trump’s election is a vindication of prejudice as a national foundation and a signal of severe global instability to come. The world is in poor shape to deal with a Trump Presidency. The North Pole, a week after the election, was thirty-six degrees hotter than normal. Venezuela has fallen; Turkey is a vortex of human-rights abuses; Aleppo is experiencing “a complete meltdown of humanity.” Power is accruing everywhere to the hard and heartless right.

But it doesn’t mean anything to say that 2016 was the worst year ever. It’s a tic, or a token—a prayer that next year will somehow be better, which it won’t. The world remains continuous; nothing changes on any particular midnight, no matter how glitzy the countdown. John Oliver blew up a giant “2016” on his HBO show, and the gesture seems about as useful as the time he took the stage in front of a large, gilded “DRUMPF.” Presumably, the driving idea here is catharsis, but the word “worst” just invites even more depressing comparisons. Although it’s telling that we have to cite asteroids and epidemics to make recent events seem less apocalyptic, there’s no shortage of candidates for objectively worse years.

In 2013—the year of the Boston Marathon bombings and George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict, as well as the year that was, amusingly, declared “the Internet’s worst year ever” by Salon—The Atlantic polled some experts about the matter. The worst year, one said, was sixty-five and a half million years ago, when the Chicxulub asteroid hit. Or 1520, when smallpox wracked the Americas; or 1914, when the First World War broke out; or 1918, when the end of that war was followed by the Spanish flu. Slate_ _asked the same question this past July, and one historian suggested 72,000 B.C., when a Sumatran volcano erupted with the force of 1.5 million atomic bombs. Another suggested 1348, the year the Black Death reached Europe; another suggested 1943, the deadliest year of the Holocaust; another suggested 2003, the year the United States invaded Iraq.

This year is not the worst ever. Steven Pinker has argued, in his 2011 book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and elsewhere, that the world is actually growing less violent with time. What hurts so badly right now, I think, is this sense of unexpected retrenchment—the fear that decades of incremental progress will be rapidly eradicated by an empty-headed demagogue who appears to be doing everything on a whim. Perhaps 2016 feels so terrible partly because so many of us felt like we’d come so far. Two days after the election, Zadie Smith spoke to a crowd in Berlin. “If the clouds have rolled in over my fiction,” she said, “it is not because what was perfect has been proved empty, but because what was becoming possible—and is still experienced as possible by millions—is now denied as if it never did and never could exist.”

Hope is elusive, but it will return eventually. What I’m afraid of, this December, are the conditions that allow hope to take hold. I’m worried that the “worst year ever” feeling is half a condition of the Internet, of the way we experience the news as delivered through social media. Everything feels too intimate, too aggressive; the interfaces that were intended to cheerfully connect us to the world have instead spawned fear and alienation. I’m worried that this sense of relentless emotional bombardment will escalate no matter what’s in the news.

In any case, someone will tweet “worst year ever” every few minutes until 2016 is over, and then people will begin tweeting “worst year ever” as soon as 2017 begins. They will type “worst year ever” because of spilled drinks and late Ubers, a new Trump story, a new dispatch—if she miraculously manages to survive until then—from Bana Alabed, the seven-year-old girl in Aleppo who’s been tweeting, with her mother’s help, her fears of imminent death. There is no limit to the amount of misfortune a person can take in via the Internet, and there’s no easy way to properly calibrate it—no guidebook for how to expand your heart to accommodate these simultaneous scales of human experience; no way to train your heart to separate the banal from the profound. Our ability to change things is not increasing at the same rate as our ability to know about them. No, 2016 is not the worst year ever, but it’s the year I started feeling like the Internet would only ever induce the sense of powerlessness that comes when the sphere of what a person can influence remains static, while the sphere of what can influence us seems to expand without limit, allowing no respite at all.

From Harambe to David Bowie: 16 reasons why 2016 was the worst year ever

It was a year that was big for portmanteaus but bad for general sanity.

If you’re struggling to comprehend everything that happened in 2016, Penguin has performed a feat of extreme publishing and quickly churned out a handy guide called F*ck You, 2016: A Look Back on the Worst Year Ever. The book aims to be “an homage to a year of unparalleled cockhattery, f**kmuppetry and s**tcombobulating world events”.

Although AD79 (Pompeii), 1520 (smallpox) and 1845 (Irish famine) might have something to say about that, 2016 is definitely up there.

We even had a signature disease thanks to Zika. Relive the horror with the top 16 terrible moments of a year we’ll all be glad to see the back of. Here’s to 2017. It can’t get any worse… can it?


The big one. After the threat of Grexit and the spectre of Frexit, Spexit and Whateverthef**kelseexit, here was something real and tangible. There was the mess of the EU referendum followed by possibly the most significant historical decision of our lifetimes, and bolstered by a chaotic Tory leadership battle. Waking up at Glastonbury it was clear that (based on overheard phone calls) no one believed the news until it had been confirmed by their mum.

Londoners react to Brexit: ‘I’m upset, disappointed and disgusted’

The casualties are yet to be determined but things aren’t looking good for Marmite or Toblerone. Great for jam, though.

Boris Johnson speech on Brexit

The Donald

Round-up of Trump’s most infamous comments in the run-up to his presidency

The second lightning strike hit with all the might of inexplicable hair and voracious misogyny. The President-elect of the most powerful country in the Western world unashamedly applied reality TV tactics to real life and got hired. The end is nigh.

The Donald’s hair

A feat of hairspray. Some have speculated that the hair is not in actual fact real because it moves on its own accord. Hopefully it will resist pressing the nuclear button.

Hair-raising: Donald Trump (John Minchillo/AP)

Nigel Farage

Celebrating 2016: Nigel Farage (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

While David Cameron will go down in history as the guy who jumped ship, Farage, confusingly, has achieved more of his political goals than almost anyone else. Short of becoming an MP, that is. He topped off the year with Ferrero Rocher celebrations at The Ritz to remind us all that Trump had suggested he should be ambassador to the US and that he remembers an old advert from 1993.

Nigel Farage is given Ferrero Rochers as a thank you for Brexit

David Bowie

David Bowie tributes in Brixton

Alan Rickman. Terry Wogan. Harper Lee. George Martin. Paul Daniels. Johan Cruyff. Ronnie Corbett. Victoria Wood. Prince. Muhammad Ali. Caroline Aherne. Gene Wilder. Leonard Cohen. And now — Zsa Zsa Gabor.

David Bowie’s iconic style – in pictures

30 show all In an embroidered short-sleeved jacket Dezo Hoffmann/Rex

2/30 June, 1964

Posing for a portrait Dezo Hoffmann/Rex

3/30 May 19, 1968

In mime at The Middle Earth Club in Covent Garden Ray Stevenson/Rex

4/30 January 5, 1969

Wearing a knitted jumper and dishevelled hair at home in Kent Ray Stevenson/Rex

5/30 1972

In a bright ensemble and red lace-up boxer boots for a performance on ITV television show Lift Off ITV/Rex

6/30 1973

In Paris without his eyebrows, which he drunkenly shaved off when glam-rock band Mott The Hoople rejected a song that he had written for them Tony Grylla/Rex

7/30 1973

Performing at Earl’s Court Ilpo Musto/Rex

8/30 1973

Performing at Earl’s Court Ilpo Musto/Rex

9/30 1973

Posing for a photo still R Bamber/Rex

10/30 June, 1973

In concert at the Hammersmith Odeon Ilpo Musto/Rex

11/30 1973

Performing Roger Bamber/Rex

12/30 1974

With his then-wife, Angie, and son Zowie Roger Bamber/Rex

13/30 1975

At Hilversum TV studios for ‘TOP POP’ Barry Schultz/Sunshine/Rex

14/30 1975

At Hilversum TV studios for ‘TOP POP’ Barry Schultz/Sunshine/Rex

15/30 April 25, 1976

In Helsinki, Finland IBL/Rex

16/30 1978

Walking through Heathrow Airport Bill Howard /Rex

17/30 March, 1983

At a ‘Serious Moonlight Tour’ press conference in Claridge’s Andre Csillag/Rex

18/30 1987

Posing for a portrait Courtesy Everett Collection/Rex

19/30 1990

With girlfriend, Iman Sipa Press/Rex

20/30 November, 1991

Performing at Brixton Academy Andre Csillag/Rex

21/30 1991

Iman and David announce their engagement Richard Young/Rex

22/30 1991

Performing in Paris Mephisto/Rex

23/30 July, 1997

Phoenix Music Festival, Stratford Upon Avon Piers Allardyce/Rex

24/30 December 9, 2002

With Iman at a film premiere in New York Matt Baron/BEI/Rex

25/30 December 15, 2003

Performing at Madison Square Garden Startraks Photo/Rex

26/30 February 23, 2004

Performing in Adelaide, Australia Brenton Edwards/Newspix/Rex

27/30 January 19, 2006

The opening of ‘Lou Reed’s New York’ exhibition Startraks Photo/Rex

28/30 May 5, 2008

With Iman at the Met Gala Richard Young/Rex

29/30 November 4, 2009

Walking through New York Startraks Photo/Rex

30/30 November 5, 2013

With Iman at MoMA’s 6th Annual Film Benefit Billy Farrell/

1/30 1960s

In an embroidered short-sleeved jacket Dezo Hoffmann/Rex Posing for a portrait Dezo Hoffmann/Rex In mime at The Middle Earth Club in Covent Garden Ray Stevenson/Rex Wearing a knitted jumper and dishevelled hair at home in Kent Ray Stevenson/Rex In a bright ensemble and red lace-up boxer boots for a performance on ITV television show Lift Off ITV/Rex In Paris without his eyebrows, which he drunkenly shaved off when glam-rock band Mott The Hoople rejected a song that he had written for them Tony Grylla/Rex Performing at Earl’s Court Ilpo Musto/Rex Performing at Earl’s Court Ilpo Musto/Rex Posing for a photo still R Bamber/Rex In concert at the Hammersmith Odeon Ilpo Musto/Rex Performing Roger Bamber/Rex With his then-wife, Angie, and son Zowie Roger Bamber/Rex At Hilversum TV studios for ‘TOP POP’ Barry Schultz/Sunshine/Rex At Hilversum TV studios for ‘TOP POP’ Barry Schultz/Sunshine/Rex In Helsinki, Finland IBL/Rex Walking through Heathrow Airport Bill Howard /Rex At a ‘Serious Moonlight Tour’ press conference in Claridge’s Andre Csillag/Rex Posing for a portrait Courtesy Everett Collection/Rex With girlfriend, Iman Sipa Press/Rex Performing at Brixton Academy Andre Csillag/Rex Iman and David announce their engagement Richard Young/Rex Performing in Paris Mephisto/Rex Phoenix Music Festival, Stratford Upon Avon Piers Allardyce/Rex With Iman at a film premiere in New York Matt Baron/BEI/Rex Performing at Madison Square Garden Startraks Photo/Rex Performing in Adelaide, Australia Brenton Edwards/Newspix/Rex The opening of ‘Lou Reed’s New York’ exhibition Startraks Photo/Rex With Iman at the Met Gala Richard Young/Rex Walking through New York Startraks Photo/Rex With Iman at MoMA’s 6th Annual Film Benefit Billy Farrell/

The Bake Off fiasco

Capitalism even ruined cakes. As Bake Off heads to Channel 4 with whatever remains of the format (from what we can tell: a tent, a Magimix and Paul Hollywood’s tangible desperation) we can at least look forward to what Mary, Mel and Sue will get up to next. Bets are on something revolving around innuendo and wry smiles.

Twitter reacts: BBC loses The Great British Bake Off

Top Gear (in its new incarnation)

Top Flop: Matt LeBlanc failed to please Top Gear fans (BBC Worldwide/Gus Gregory)

We thought it couldn’t get much worse than Jeremy Clarkson lamping a producer in the face after some lukewarm steak but it could. Chris Evans, Eddie Jordan, Matt LeBlanc and all 37 other new presenters failing to muster even a simmer of charisma between them.

Amazon launch trailer of The Grand Tour


And Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Cara Delevingne and St Vincent and Zoë Ball and Fatboy Slim. Celebrity love died this year in a hailstorm of highly conscious uncouplings which have left the red carpet full of singletons. Perhaps expect an A-List version of Take Me Out in the New Year?

Brangelina split: What you need to know

Pokémon GO

The beginning of the end for human interaction. In August we grasped the concept of augmented reality, caught a few Spearows and walked into several lampposts but the truth was we were all bored after five minutes. That, and we’d used up all our data allowance.

Pokemon Go: Gotta catch ’em all (David Mirzoeff/PA)


Named as Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year. Congratulations to women everywhere: enjoy your vaginas and your equality.

Woman of the Year: Bono (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Gary Lineker being vilified

Presenting Match of the Day in his boxers could reasonably have been what Lineker expected to be his defining moment of the year. But expressing empathy with young refugees stranded in France on Twitter proved too much for some, who trolled him mercilessly. But the silver fox hasn’t gone anywhere and is still in the studio on a Saturday night looking as bemused as the rest of us at Ian Wright’s choice of outfit.


Nobody got the justice they deserved this year, and when it all got too depressing, the easiest thing was to channel our grief towards the innocent silverback gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo who was shot and killed after a four-year-old boy crawled into his enclosure.

#JusticeForHarambe #RIPHarambe

Global outcry: Harambe (Reuters/Cincinnati Zoo)

Cecil the Lion

It should be noted that this book was produced in a hurry: this actually happened in July 2015. Still bad, though — we miss you, Cecil.


In the year we lost Brangelina, we needed a replacement. And Hiddleswift was not it. But it was a good opportunity to scrutinise the most staged set of photo opportunities since Blac Chyna accidentally included Rob Kardashian’s tattooed arm in a selfie. Tom Hiddleston will be ruing that “I heart TS” vest as he watches Idris Elba killing it as the next James Bond.

But who would have thought that we would all identify with Ryan Reynolds, who suddenly became relevant again when he embodied all our thoughts and feelings on the topic in one murderous facial expression at Hiddleswift’s saccharine Fourth of July party?

Short-lived: Hiddleswift (Broadimage/REX/)

Exploding phones

It’s bad enough that our mobiles are causing chronic social anxiety, ruining our sleep, giving us RSI and that there STILL inexplicably isn’t a fingers-crossed emoji. Now they’re literally setting us on fire too.


£350 million in cold, hard cash straight from the EU coffers and into the NHS, President Obama founded IS and the US election was rigged (until it wasn’t — although it was hacked). Who needs truth when we can have a Twitterstorm? According to the OED, “post-truth” is the word 2016 will be most remembered for. Trust no-one.

Follow Rachael Sigee on Twitter: @littlewondering

F*ck you, 2016 by Bob A N Grypants is out now, £5.99,

16 reasons why 2016 was the worst year ever

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Worst Year Ever? 16 reasons why 2016 let us down

Yes, we acknowledge that this is hyperbole – those years with the Black Plague were definitely worse, as were the ones with world wars. The point is, though, that there were a lot of people who were not having a good time this year.

Here are our 16 reasons why 2016 felt like a huge downer, and why we all deserve an extra glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve.

Don’t Edit

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Celebrity deaths

A lot of awesome famous people passed away this year – frankly, Gene Wilder’s expression in this image sums up our feelings about it. It’s gotten so bad that we had to add several more to our list since we originally published it:

  • The biggest celebrity deaths of 2016

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French President Francois Hollande, second left, speaks with the Mayor of Aleppo, Brita Hagi Hasan, left, and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, second right, during a round table meeting at an EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Political panics

Between Brexit putting the EU into a panic, China’s aggressive posturing in the Pacific, Russia’s meddling in the Syrian conflict and in our own election process, there’s no shortage of concerning political moves throughout the year. Let’s hope that the instability and tension between the world’s major powers sees a bit of a decline in the coming months. Fingers crossed.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

The presidential election

Regardless of who you voted for, this election was an ugly one. Not only did it last for the entire year, long before either the Democratic or Republican conventions, but the two main contenders were the most disliked and distrusted in recent history. There was plenty of dissent from within both parties, and a new scandal or gaffe every week.

  • PennLive’s 2016 election coverage

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FILE – In this Tuesday Aug, 16, 2005 file photo an iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland near the arctic circle. (AP Photo/John McConnico, File)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Extreme weather

Global temperatures reach record highs and Arctic ice reaches record lows. California’s drought rages on. There was massive flooding in Texas, West Virginia and across the southeast due to hurricanes. The northeast was hammered with powerful winter storms early in the year. Snow fell both in Hawaii and the Sahara Desert. Generally, everywhere is crazy everywhere.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Bigger, louder, angrier, dumber movies (and how they’re all guaranteed to get sequels)

DC Comics’ “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” are just two examples of tentpole action films that came out this year. Both did well enough financially, but they weren’t he success that Warner Bros. was hoping for and only one in four critics liked them. More and more massive blockbusters are getting released, whether they be remakes like “Ben-Hur,” adaptations like “Warcraft” or sequels like “Independence Day: Resurgence.” But even bad movies tend to make their money back if they’re big and flashy enough, especially in overseas markets like China. And forget just a sequel or trilogy: they’re all planned as part of a franchise now. Four movies, minimum.

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Wearing a homemade mosquito costume, an expectant father from Washington who asked not to be named, protests the lack of Congressional approval to fund a federal response to the Zika virus, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Everyone freaking out about “Ghostbusters”

The new “Ghostbusters” film isn’t likely to replace the original in anyone’s hearts any time soon, though it was hardly bad enough to warrant a place on our list (I’d give it a B- personally). But the outrage over the movie was abnormally high, even for 2016. Leslie Jones became the target of absurd levels of online abuse, topped off with hackers posting her personal photos. Say it with me: it’s just a movie, I should really just relax.

Don’t Edit

Sean Adams | [email protected]


We like to keep things light here in the Life & Culture side of things, but there’s really no jokes to be had here: the Syrian conflict is beyond horrible. A rebel uprising against the Assad regime has led to civilian massacres, war crimes, proxy conflicts by foreign powers and the fostering of terrorist and extremist groups. The refugee crisis across Europe and the Middle East continues and the death toll continues to climb. And the crisis in Aleppo only got worse over the past few weeks.

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Samsung on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, has delayed shipments of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in South Korea for quality control testing after reports that batteries in some of the jumbo smartphones exploded while they were being charged. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. File)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Exploding cell phones

Many people have come to rely on cell phones for just about everything in their day-to-day life. So when South Korean company Samsung released their Galaxy Note 7 phone, it was expected to be a big deal. However, the devices were soon recalled after overheating caused a few phones to burst into flames, causing damage and injury. Even after a recall, some replaced phones still overheated.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Zika and the Rio Olympics

The Rio Olympics were off to a bad start with Brazil’s political instability and infrastructure issues. Add in the rise of the Zika virus and sanitation problems, and the world was bracing for trouble. And while most of the events went off without a hitch, there was the time where American swimmer Ryan Lochte claimed he was mugged, when it turned out he and his friends may have actually caused some damage to a convenience store.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Clown threats

If there’s anything that sums up how bad 2016 was, it might be the fact that suddenly every neighborhood seemed to have a story about a creepy clown running around and attacking people. Most of them turned out to be fake, but it was enough to close schools put the police on alert. We ended up speaking to a real clown to get his take on the matter.

  • How scary clown stories affect the professionals
  • The 15 creepiest clowns ever

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Sean Adams | [email protected]


Celebrity deaths weren’t limited to humans, either. A gorilla named Harambe earned posthumous fame after a tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, when he was shot by zoo staff in order to protect a four-year-old fell into the gorilla enclosure. It was a horrible turn of events, even if the outpouring of genuine sadness was eventually replaced with ironic memes.

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Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, center, is comforted by Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, right, after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Shootings and terror attacks

The shooting at the Orlando nightclub in July was one of the worst mass shootings in American history, with 50 dead and over 50 wounded. It was one of many this year – six were killed in Wilkinsburg, Pa. in March, another in New Orleans this November killed one and injured nine. It becomes even more heartbreaking when you add in other attacks of terrorism – numerous bombings across the world, and a very recent attack in Berlin when a truck drove into a crowd, killing 12 and injuring nearly 50.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Racial tensions

Black Lives Matter protests continued throughout 2016, as did the backlash – celebrities such as Colin Kaepernick and Beyonce made waves on the football field about their stances. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag appeared after the Academy Awards acting nominees included no people of color for the second year in a row. And Donald Trump’s controversial statements about Mexican and Arab immigrants led to his endorsement by white supremacists – some of whom held a rally at our capitol building just before the election.

  • KKK flags fly on Pa. Capitol steps as Neo-Nazi group rallies and counter-protestors rage

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FILE – In this Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, file photo, Stephen Bannon, campaign CEO for President-elect Donald Trump, leaves Trump Tower in New York. Trump on Sunday named Republican Party chief Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and conservative media owner Bannon as his top presidential strategist, two men who represent opposite ends of the unsettled GOP. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Post-truth era

Stephen Colbert coined the phrase “truthiness” in 2005 – it means when something feels like it’s true, despite having no evidence to support that opinion. Eleven years later, social media has made it easier than ever to disseminate misleading, poorly-researched or even completely fabricated stories. Add to this the vocal distrust that many hold for established news media sources, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for lies and half-truths to gain traction, further polarizing political opponents and keeping everyone in a confirmation-bias bubble.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Opioid epidemic

Opioid painkillers being over-prescribed has been one factor that has helped lead to a massive rise in addiction and deaths. This issue has become a crisis, both nationally and in Pennsylvania in particular. PennLive did lengthy investigations into the crisis in our state, with reflection on the greater national picture.

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FILE – In this May 4, 2016 file photo, drinking fountains are marked “Do Not Drink Until Further Notice” at Flint Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is calling for a halt of administrative investigations into how two state agencies dealt with the Flint drinking water crisis after being warned they are hampering state and federal criminal probes. Snyder’s office released letters Thursday May 26, 2016, from the state attorney general and a federal prosecutor. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster File)

Sean Adams | [email protected]

Distrust and disfunction of institutions

In January, Flint, Michigan was finally declared a site of national emergency due to the water contamination. Armed protestors took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, and a massive protest took place at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation over the Dakota Access Pipeline. People are mad all across the country, and feel like they aren’t being heard by the organizations and government that ought to be helping them. It seems sometimes that there’s very little trust go to around these days.

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Sean Adams | [email protected]

Want to feel better about 2016?

It wasn’t all bad this year. No, really!

Keep an eye on PennLive for more end-of-year retrospectives, some of which will include good things that may have happened. Maybe. Here, why not start with the favorite stories that our reporters worked on this year? And here’s a list of the most heartwarming stories we worked on, too.

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A similar revisionism has been applied to the Vikings, who nowadays are mostly characterized as traders with a forceful negotiating manner. But I’m with the monk who, around 800, wrote, “Since tonight the wind is high, the sea’s white mane a fury, I need not fear the Hordes of Hell coursing the Irish Channel.” And there was probably little time for ambivalence in 1200 when your neighbor ran over to tell you that Genghis Khan was coming.

The truth is that people in every age find reason to believe that their best times are behind them, and all that remains is decline and despair — that note of lament Cicero hit in 63 B.C.: “O tempora, o mores!” But far from uttering a generalized moan, the orator was castigating the corruption of his age as expressed in one man, Catiline, the author of a plot to seize power in Rome. The historian Sallust described Catiline as “reckless, cunning, treacherous, capable of any form of pretense or concealment. Covetous of others’ possessions, he was prodigal of his own; he was violent in his passions. He possessed a certain amount of eloquence, but little discretion. His disordered mind ever craved the monstrous, incredible, gigantic.”

Historians can be so judgmental. I’m sure Catiline just wanted to make Rome great again.

That should remind us of the large part that forebodings play in perceptions of our present plight. Sometimes, our worst fears do not, in fact, come to pass. Catiline’s power grab, for example, was foiled by a brave lawyer: none other than Cicero. To beat off those 2016 blues, we should recall others who found themselves in seemingly desperate positions but still survived to triumph: Alfred the Great, Robert the Bruce, Washington before the Delaware. (My remorseless journalistic quest for balance, however, compels me also to mention: General Custer, the Light Brigade, and Laurel and Hardy.)

The best of times, worst of times thing also depends heavily on which side you’re on: Consider, again, 1776, and 1066, 1815, 1865, 1918, 1945 and, of course, 1492. I’ve often thought, as well, that it couldn’t have been much fun being either inside the Massachusetts Bay Colony or outside putting up with it. Which takes us to some more bad years, the Commonwealth in England under Oliver Cromwell: long on sermons, short on fun, with maypoles and general frolicking severely frowned upon. They even tried to abolish Christmas.

You know, on the whole, I think we’re probably better off with 2016. At least, there’s not much of it left. What could possibly go wrong?

If calendar years were in competition for the “Worst Year Ever” crown, 2016 would certainly be a contender—at least according to the Internet. We’ve seen terrorist attacks and mass shootings, the deaths of famous singers and actors, rising nationalism, political upheaval and horrific deaths in the Syrian conflict.

But decrying the most recent year as the worst of all is hardly a new tradition. It’s practically built into our DNA, thanks to our innate negativity bias. The constant barrage of news media only further skews our perception. Yet even the dark side of news is nothing new: in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, a writer for The New York Times reminded readers on the last day of the year, “We are too apt to give undue consequence to the immediate present. Our hopes and fears are too much regulated by the morning’s news.”

Bemoaning the year, it turns out, is almost as popular as the cherished New Year’s Resolution.

In celebration of the end of the current “Worst Year Ever,” peruse a century’s worth of headlines and introspection. While the wording has changed (#worstyearever didn’t come into vogue until recently), the sentiments remain: it’s time to move forward and put the terrible past behind us.

But before you dive in, one more bit of advice from The Boston Globe on December 30, 1917, at the height of World War I: “It is not the time to indulge either in optimism or pessimism, to chase rainbows or shadows. Assemble the facts and face them with a clear eye and a stout heart. Hindsight is useless. Foresight is impossible. Our mental vision is not equal to the task of seeing even the present in all its stupendous proportions.”

December 28, 1919, The Washington Post, “Year of Confusion Follows Victory of Allies in the War”

What happened: World War I ends, but unrest continues across Europe. The Spanish Flu pandemic that began in 1918 is ongoing, eventually killing between 20 and 40 million people.

Key quote: “This year will go down in history as the year of confusion, because in it attempts to bring about a peaceful solution of the problems caused by the Great War have failed. As a matter of fact, it has been a year of turmoil and divided councils.”

December 31, 1930, The New York Times, “Europe Thankful That 1930 Is Over”

What happened: A global economic depression, with skyrocketing unemployment.

Key quote: “To England it was a thoroughly bad year, possibly worse than any experienced in the present generation…”

December 31, 1939, The New York Times, “Farewell to the ‘30s”

What happened: Nazi Germany annexes Czeckoslovakia, invades Poland, and Europe is plunged into contintental war for the second time in three decades.

Key Quote: “The decade of the Thirties was fixed by two dates, almost exactly ten years apart and only a few months off from the end of the calendar year. One was the stock market collapse of October, 1929, ushering in our longest and deepest depression. The other was the outbreak of the new European war, in September, 1939. Between those dates, like a row of books on a partitioned shelf, lie ten troubled, eventful years, distinct from those that went before and from those that are to come after.”

December 31, 1950, Los Angeles Times, “The Year is Departing and Not a Tear Is Shed”

What happened: The Cold War escalates, with the U.S. fighting in the Korean War and Senator Joseph McCarthy launching his hearings against Communists that would come to be known as the Red Scare.

Key Quote: “If ever there was a year every American would like to forget it is 1950. The halfway mark of the 20th century was supposed to be something in the way of twelvemonths, but it has turned out to be the worst of the 1900s so far… Farewell, 1950. A fond farewell. We’re so glad you’re going. And may your little brother, 1951, bear no resemblance to you.”

Dec. 31, 1968, The Washington Post “1968 Ends With Good News and Humbler Expectations”

Dec. 31, 1968, Chicago Tribune, “Put First Things First”

What happened: The Vietnam War turns even bloodier with the Tet Offensive, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are assassinated, mass protests are held across the country, and the Nigerian government causes mass starvation of the population in Biafra, ultimately killing 2 million people.

Key Quotes: “Two themes were common to the bad news of last year. It tended to lay up trouble for the future. And it came not in little packages—but spectacular doses… No doubt there is little cause here for the rousing cheer and whooping victory parade. What is happening is an adjustment of expectations to the realities, a deflation of pride and hubris.” — Washington Post

“There is a tragic irony that a country and a people as great as the United States and the great body of energetic and resourceful Americans should find themselves in a dilemma which every day becomes more manifest. The greatest, richest, and most progressive nation in all history now stands like some ancient monument which is slowly eroding away under the action of the sands, the winds, and the weather.” — Chicago Tribune

Dec. 31, 1973, Los Angeles Times, “Thoughts on the Last Day of the Old Year”

What happened: An oil embargo imposed by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) leads to gas shortages, power outages and climbing food prices. The American public is reeling from the Watergate scandal and struggling with inflation.

Key quote: “In retrospect, 1973 has been a dismal year… It’s a bit difficult to be positive when normally jolly Danes don’t have hot water for bathing. Britons have no rail service because of the strike and Americans keep spending more for food and getting less.”

2016: The Theory Behind a Very Bad Year (and It’s Only Half Over)

Back in the fall of 1989, as the Iron Curtain was crumbling country by country, some friends and I had an idea for a new college history course. It would be called “Europe Since Last Wednesday.”

There are moments in history when time itself seems compressed, when so many shocking and important events crowd together that it becomes almost impossible to keep track of them. Lenin supposedly said “there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.” (The remark, alas, is probably apocryphal.) Long before him, the French writer Chateaubriand quipped that during the quarter-century of the French Revolution and Napoleonic regime, many centuries elapsed. In late 1989, a single three-month period saw the end of communist power in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania and the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the U.S. invasion of Panama, and the Malta summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush where the two leaders essentially announced that the Cold War had come to an end: many years’ worth of change crammed into a single season.

Are we now living in one of these periods of temporal acceleration? The past few weeks have certainly been vertigo-inducing. On June 23, the British shocked world opinion (and themselves) by voting to leave the European Union. On July 7, five police officers were shot dead in Dallas, prompting fears of widespread unrest in the United States. A week later the Islamic State took credit for the latest massacre to strike the West, a terrorist attack on France’s Bastille Day that killed scores in Nice, and before that event had even started to fade from the media, there was an attempted coup d’état in Turkey. Then came the police shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All this took place, moreover, against the background of a horrific sectarian war with no end in Syria, heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, and the greatest political upheaval in recent American history, as a populist candidate with no experience in government completed his successful insurrection against the Republican establishment and became the party’s 2016 presidential nominee. Populist authoritarianism is on the rise in many other countries around the world. To recall the famous Chinese curse (as apocryphal as Lenin’s remark), we seem to be living in “interesting times.”

To be sure, nothing in 2016 yet compares to the most truly “interesting” moments in world history. In 1940, in a span of less than three months, Nazi Germany conquered Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, while the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. A year later, another three-month period saw the invading Nazis drive hundreds of miles into the USSR, concurrently beginning the systematic mass murder of Jews and other “undesirables.” During a single two-week period in August of 1945 there took place the end of the Allies’ Potsdam Conference, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet declaration of war on Japan, and the Japanese surrender that brought World War II to an end. So far, 2016 has been less “interesting” than 1989, and, for that matter, than 1991. That year witnessed the Gulf War, the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. And then there was 2001, an altogether excessively interesting year for reasons that do not need repeating.

But 2016 is barely half-done, and it is entirely possible that the cascade of events we have been witnessing could accelerate, with unforeseeable consequences. It is worth remembering that disruptive events can trigger others in a variety of ways, even at a great distance. Sometimes the connections are clear; sometimes much less so.

Most obviously, a disruptive event can spark direct imitation. In 1848, after liberal revolutions took place in Sicily and France, a wave of uprisings at least partially inspired by them spread to Denmark, the Austrian Empire, Belgium, and several German and Italian states. In 1968, student rebellions moved across the Western world in open imitation of and cooperation with each other, with the climax reached in Paris in May, when an apparent collapse of order led French President Charles de Gaulle briefly to flee to a military base in Germany. In the late 1980s, cracks in the power structure in one part of the Soviet bloc repeatedly led reformers and dissidents in other parts to attempt the same, or to go further. In the fall of 1989, the satellite regimes fell like the proverbial dominoes, one after the other. More recently, similar patterns have been seen with the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union, and with the Arab Spring. And today, with each terrorist attack, groups like the Islamic State do their best to publicize what happened, glorify the perpetrators, and urge others to emulate these “martyrs.”

But disruption can also multiply because of the opportunities it creates. For instance, military aggression can seem particularly tempting when potential critics or adversaries are distracted by troubles elsewhere. It was hardly a coincidence that Stalin chose to start occupying the Baltic states on June 15, 1940, just one day after the German army had entered Paris. In August 1968, the fact that the United States was reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, while mired in a frustrating war in Vietnam, encouraged the Soviet Union to end the “Prague Spring” by force with its invasion of Czechoslovakia. We still do not know the full story of this year’s attempted coup in Turkey, but it is at least conceivable that the plotters were emboldened to act because of the violent events taking place elsewhere in the world. Given the recent string of terrorist attacks, it would certainly have been more difficult than in previous years for the United States and its allies to take serious political action against a Turkish military government that pledged to oppose the Islamic State and to reverse President Erdogan’s Islamist reforms.

Conversely, anxieties about decline can lead to cascading disruption as well, driving groups or whole nations to take aggressive action in response to a violent event, for fear they will lose the chance to take any effective action at all if they wait much longer. Many historians believe that in 1914, Germany behaved aggressively following the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand, driving the outbreak of a general war, due to the belief among German elites that they were losing an arms race to Britain and France. Worse, such anxieties often have very little basis in fact. It is frequently forgotten that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Soviet Union was already on life-support, a substantial portion of the American public believed that it was actually an unstoppable behemoth that would soon crush a weak, decadent West. With this diagnosis supposedly confirmed by exaggerated CIA estimates of Soviet capacities, even before Ronald Reagan’s election the U.S. began a large-scale military buildup. Today, although the American economy is in decent shape, and its military budget exceeds that of the next eight countries combined, fears of decline have returned with a vengeance, as exemplified by Donald Trump’s insistence that virtually every other country is supposedly “taking advantage of us.” It is all too easy to see how such largely spurious fears could, in the wrong circumstances, lead an American administration to take dangerously disruptive actions against supposedly ever-more-threatening adversaries.

Finally, widespread disruption, with the wild anxieties and hopes that it generates, can lead to a sense that ordinary rules of behavior are suspended, and that extreme measures must be taken. In the history of the Western world such patterns are linked to the most powerful of all Jewish and Christian prophecies: the coming of the Messiah; the Second Coming of Christ; Judgment Day. Since the beginning of the Christian era, hardly a year has gone by without some significant group of Christians insisting that the End Times have arrived. If such a conviction leads to aggressive action against supposed heretics or infidels, the resulting violence can lead others in turn to believe in Judgment Day’s nearness, in what amounts to a positive feedback loop of enormous destructive power. Some historians think that something of this sort happened during the Reformation, when Martin Luther’s break with Rome triggered widespread belief in the imminence of the Apocalypse, triggering violent conflict, triggering further apocalyptic belief, and so on. The result was years of bloody religious warfare that decimated much of Europe. Today, the fanatics of the Islamic State believe they are engaged in an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and non-Muslims for the future of the world, and with every atrocity they convince more people in the West that, on this point, they are right.

The pattern is not necessarily religious, however. There are also secular versions of the Apocalypse story. As the Marxist hymn “The Internationale” succinctly declared: “’Tis the final conflict.” A belief that a world-defining struggle has arrived can lead to a suspension of the ordinary rules just as surely as a belief that Christ has returned, and produce just as great a cascade of violent disruption from a single event. The 9/11 attacks arguably had such an effect in the United States, with the Bush administration coming to believe that it needed to provoke a major war against a state that did not attack us in order to remove what it saw as an existential threat to the world order.

It is not at all clear whether the volatile and anxious summer of 2016 will produce anything like the cascading upheavals seen in years like 2001 or 1989, and whether the current sense of accelerating time will persist. With luck, the current flood tide of bad news will in fact subside, and rest of this year will be remembered for placid dullness rather than bloody “interest.” We can hope that the year 2016 will not appear in the titles of the college history courses of the future. But as these historical examples suggest, there are all too many ways that the flames of violence and disruption can suddenly spread, and even whip up into a firestorm.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration

2016 may have been the worst year yet, but will it get better?

Celebrities die every year, reports Kidspot, but it’s almost unheard of to lose so many who were so culturally important — from musicians David Bowie, Prince and George Michael to sports great Muhammad Ali and author Harper Lee.

And on top of that so many of us have experienced personal tragedies. This year more than any other, it seems many of us have lost a loved one, or been through catastrophic personal pain such as divorce, redundancy and illness.

But surely every year has its ups and downs, right? Is 2016 really that bad?

Depends who you ask, or which data you compile.

But in short yes. It’s pretty damned bad.


According to NPR’s international desk editor William Dobson, speaking on Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast this week, you’re not imagining things. The political climate in 2016 is frigging terrifying — because we simply don’t know what’s going on. “We’re dealing with someone who’s unpredictable,” Dobson says, referring to the world’s most powerful man, President-Elect Donald Trump.

All of us have seen officials get elected into high office — in Australia or the US or elsewhere — who we mightn’t particularly like or agree with, whether it’s Tony Abbott or Kevin Rudd or George W Bush or Barack Obama.

But what is most frightening about US President-Elect Donald Trump isn’t so much what we know about him … it’s what we don’t. No one knows what he’s going to do from one minute to the next — maybe not even him. He tweets threats about nuclear war. He baits China. He antagonises the Middle East. He seems to side with dangerous authoritarian strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Even his closest aides don’t seem to be able to figure out what the hell he’s doing.

And the man has his finger on the nuclear button.

US president-elect Donald Trump shocked the world. Picture: AFP/Jim WatsonSource:AFP


Deciding who is or isn’t important when it comes to celebrity deaths is somewhat arbitrary, of course. One man’s David Bowie is another’s Bobbi Kristina Brown.

But if we break it down as dispassionately as possible, 2016 really has been a terrible year for significant celebrity deaths — those who truly changed the world in their own way — compared to 2015.

2016 deaths:


David Bowie

George Michael

Leonard Cohen

Muhammad Ali

Author Harper Lee

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

2015 deaths:

Musician BB King

Bobbi Kristina Brown

Leonard Nimoy

Director Wes Craven

Sure, Star Trek fans would have been devastated at Leonard Nimoy’s loss. But 2016 was a celebrity massacre.

The death of Prince devastated the world. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesSource:Supplied


The early half of the 2000s were a terrible time for terrorism, beginning of course with the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC in September 2001, followed by the Bali and London bombings in 2002 and 2005. But the terrorist attacks this year have taken on a new, chilling dimension. Because they’ve almost become commonplace.

This year we suffered the Orlando nightclub attack which killed 49, suicide bombs in Istanbul which killed 45, the Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice, France, which slaughtered 77, the Brussels airport and metro attacks which claimed 35 lives and most recently the Christmas market attack in Berlin.

This on top of countless attacks and ceaseless warfare in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

But what stands out isn’t the scale of the slaughter — it’s our response. We seem numb to terrorism. It’s part of life now. We barely react. If this isn’t an indication that our collective global psyche and mental health is suffering, I don’t know what is.


According to astrologer Yasmin Boland, we’re currently living through the astrology of idealistic Neptune and compassionate Pisces — which she says means we’re living in the Age of Compassion.

If this is the Age of Compassion I’d hate to see the Age of Vengeance.

But before you give in to total despondency, sell all your possessions and wander off into the forest to live in a yurt she suggests we use the ugliness of 2016 as a wake-up call.

“2016 showed us we all need to step up,” she says. “How bad do things have to get before we feel it and do something about it, even something as simple and easy as donating to a cause we believe in?”

She adds: “In the western world, where many people worry more about thigh gaps and how many ‘likes’ their social media posts get than they worry about the human race, more compassion is needed!”

This Age of Compassion, she says, is due to last all the way through to 2025. And it’s up to every single one of us to invoke it in our everyday lives.

Astrologer and author Yasmin Boland.Source:Supplied


Yes, says Yasmin, if we’re willing to put in the work.

Here’s what we can expect:

1. Awesomely talented famous people will still die

2. There will still be political decisions people disagree with and

3. There will probably still be atrocities.

And here’s what we can do:

1. Appreciate people (and not just famous people, obviously) while they are here

2. Be more tolerant of other peoples’ viewpoints when they are reached by a democratic vote, or to campaign harder for issues we believe in and

3. Look up from our phones for long enough to do something about the fact that many of us fear the planet is going to hell in a hand basket.

2017 will give us more chances to do that.

So finish your Christmas champagne and leftover ham and get a grip, people. 2016 was a shocker but we all have it in us to do better and be better in 2017. As George Michael sang, it’s hard to love when there’s so much to hate. And we’re hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of.

But what choice do we have?

If we want a better 2017 we have to make it better ourselves.

Maybe we should all just be praying for time.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and was republished with permission.

10 Not-So-Bad Things That Happened in 2016

2016 has been a proverbial dumpster fire – no doubt about it – but even among the heaping piles of scorched garbage that surrounded us, there were a few signs of hope.

Here’s an optimistic look-back at the year that was. Chin up, guys!

1. It was a phenomenal year for music

2016 brought us Kanye’s floating stage, an epic Guns ‘N Roses reunion, A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in 20 years, “Old People Coachella,” and that Chainsmokers song that we can’t stop humming. Bruce Springsteen went on tour, wrote a critically-acclaimed memoir, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (#nbd). Oh, and lest we forget that one of the biggest memes of the year, the Mannequin Challenge, was powered by the Rae Sremmurd single, “Black Beatles.”

2. Crime and bullying is down in U.S. schools

The total victimization rate fell from 181 instances per 1,000 students in 2012 to just 33 instances per 1,000 students in 2014, per newly released data from the federal government. This data reflects sexual and physical assault, robbery, and theft. Reports of bullying also fell from 28.1 percent to 21.5 percent.

3. An Internet meme actually made a difference in the real world

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” dominated the Internet in 2014, and this year we saw that all of those gallons of freezing cold water were not poured on our friends and loved ones in vain. The ALS Association announced in 2016 that a breakthrough research finding was made thanks to donations garnered from heightened awareness spurred by the viral hit.

4. Kid Cudi shattered stereotypes by opening up about his depression

In a brave move, Scott Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi) took to Facebook in October to share a refreshingly candid post on his struggles with mental health. The post garnered more than half a million Likes and an outpour of support and praise for doing his part to reduce the stigma around mental health. Kid Cudi went on to release a new album two months later.

5. In India, volunteers planted 50 million trees in one day

Volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in a single day. LEGIT. In other positive environmental news, the Paris Agreement was made official in November, and Iceland announced that they would be using energy from a live volcano to power homes in the U.K. by 2020.

6. Bears had a moment

Maybe it was just my own personal bear-dar, but everyone’s favorite furry and ferocious animals seemed to be everywhere this year. Desiigner’s “Panda” topped the charts as Pandas made their way off the endangered animal list. Then there was the thirsty black bear that drank 36 cans of beer in Washington. Speaking of bears, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar for his performance in “Revenant.”

7. We made it to Jupiter!

A journey that was five years in the making, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July and sent back some pretty incredible images. SpaceX continued do its thing with a slew of missions and experiments in 2016, following the successful return of the Falcon 9 rocket last December. Elon Musk’s reaction to the vessel’s return to Earth was priceless.

8. #SPORTS (!!!)

Holy moly. ESPN’s Mike & Mike have argued that 2016 was potentially the greatest year in sports history. They are not wrong. The year started with a tearjerking Peyton Manning pre-retirement party in the form of a Super Bowl win. Later, Lebron made good on his vow to bring a title home to Cleveland, Michael Phelps went out on top at the Olympic Games in Rio, and the perpetually-maligned Cubbies won the World Series in dramatic fashion.

9. Patagonia showed us that not all brands are evil

Patagonia donated all of its Black Friday sales to charity this year, amounting to $10 million dollars in total donations. While the PR stunt certainly captured headlines (theoretically supporting future profits), it also emphasized the need for brands to make cause-related efforts core to their missions. According to one brand marketer-turned-author, “good is the new cool.”

10. Hundreds of strangers attended the funeral of a homeless WWII vet

In a sign of respect and solidarity, more than 200 people showed up to pay respects to a 91-year-old homeless veteran named Serina Vine, who had no living family at her time of death. Feeling charitable? You can donate to the Wounded Warrior Project here.

Tell us which events made you smile by sending us a tweet @socialmediaweek.

2016 a bad year

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