It’s been a long year. After what felt like 37 Democratic presidential debates, an endless news cycle about impeachment and a steady drumbeat of mass shootings, I started wearing concealer under my eyes and got really into looking at peoples’ flowers on the /r/BotanicalPorn subreddit.
In some ways, I’m glad to see 2019 go. Maybe even in most ways. Okay, in all ways. But before we move on to 2020, let’s take a look back at the last year of the decade and hopefully, the last year of people tweeting: “Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?”
First of all, I’d like to stress that the FBI named the college admissions probe “Operation Varsity Blues,” which really makes me wonder what other movie titles from 1999 the FBI has used. At least 33 parents paid some guy $25 million to bribe exam administrators and college officials to inflate scores and pretend that students were athletic recruits. One parent wanted to use Adobe Photoshop to make his son look like a football kicker.
#Lifehack: all you have to do is donate a fancy building to legally bribe a college to admit an unqualified child. The idea that Aunt Becky from “Full House,” a.k.a. Lori Loughlin, allegedly paid $500,000 to have her children accepted to the University of Southern California as members of the rowing team was shocking. Adding insult to injury, in a 1993 episode of “Full House,” Aunt Becky’s husband Jesse, played by John Stamos, lies to get their kids into preschool, and Aunt Becky confesses to the school administrator. Aunt Becky, what happened to you?
Forest fires are bad. Infringing on the land of indigenous people is bad. Destroying the Amazon is bad. Hurting biodiversity is bad. Put all of that badness together and you’ve got 2019’s fires in the Amazon.
The fires are ongoing and threaten the world’s largest terrestrial carbon dioxide sink, rare animal species and 306,000 people.
This year saw a 77 percent increase in fires from the same period in 2018, according to the New York Times, in part because Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, relaxed restrictions on slash-and-burn methods used to make way for agriculture and livestock. Did I mention that climate change has created a longer dry season, exacerbating the fires, which are creating more carbon dioxide, which causes more climate change? Turns out we will stop at nothing to ruin every cool (literally and figuratively) thing we have on this earth.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t actually see “A Star Is Born,” but why see the movie when you could see TWO PEOPLE FALLING IN LOVE BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES in REAL LIFE? Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga singing “Shallow” at the Oscars was the best thing to happen at that awards show since the 2015 Oscars gave us a gif of Meryl Streep shouting.
To say these two beautiful people had chemistry would be an understatement, even though they deny it. Lady Gaga split from her fiancé the same month as the performance, and Bradley Cooper broke up with his girlfriend a few months later, and also, COME ON. No one is that good of an actor. If Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are not officially dating by this time next year, I will eat my hat with the same voracity with which I’d eat an avocado. #Millennials, amirite?
Women’s World Cup
I joined a Facebook group devoted to Megan Rapinoe’s hair in 2011, so I feel I can personally lay claim to this year’s 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup victory in France. The way I think back on the World Cup is the way some middle-aged men think about leading their high school football teams to state championships: I just hear “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen on loop.
In the first-round match against Thailand, the Americans scored the most goals ever in a Women’s World Cup game, a victory for which they were widely criticized for, uh, winning by a lot. Rapinoe scored two goals against France after getting called out by the president for standing during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color. Alex Morgan pretended to sip tea after a goal in the semi-final against England. Not only did these women dominate the tournament, but they did it while — *chef’s kiss* — suing the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.
For years since the legalization of same-sex marriage, the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A has — *checks notes* — taken a position against marriage equality. This created a dilemma for lovers of fried chicken sandwiches who are also lovers of love.
Enter the Popeyes chicken sandwich. It features a crunchy piece of fried chicken, pickles and mayo (spicy or plain) on a brioche, just like the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, and it became beloved the moment it hit the market. It sold out within a few weeks this summer and prompted a social media tête-à-tête between the two brands. Some say the Popeyes sandwich tastes better because it has not taken a position on gay marriage. Who won the chicken sandwich wars? Well, this November, Chick-Fil-A said it would stop funding two Christian charities opposing same-sex marriage. Sounds like a ceasefire.
“Old Town Road”
Lil Nas X bought a sample of banjo notes for $30 and took a single day to record the country rap hit “Old Town Road,” which is stuck in my head as I write this and will be for the next three days. The song reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart before being disqualified for not fitting the genre, which was widely understood to be racist. Billy Ray Cyrus recorded a remix to support recognizing the song as country.
But Lil Nas X had the last laugh. One or more versions of the song have topped the charts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the U.K. In the U.S., the remix broke a record, holding the No. 1 spot for 19 consecutive weeks. If you haven’t seen a gymnasium of elementary schoolers dancing to “Old Town Road,” you haven’t lived.
Hong Kong protests
While protesters in Hong Kong took to the streets to voice opposition to a proposal that would allow mainland China to extradite accused criminals from Hong Kong, Americans took to Twitter to say basically nothing at all.
After a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, tweeted support for the protesters, the NBA’s Chinese media partner punished the league by declining to air two preseason games. LeBron James said something cryptic about how people could have been harmed “not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually” by the tweet. Then the NBA, which makes billions in China, released an even more cryptic statement about how it hopes “the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.” Then the creators of the television show "South Park" did what they do best: They trolled the NBA. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy,” they said in a statement.
I feel so bad for former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His report was the most highly anticipated government document of the last few decades. He and his team wrote 448 pages on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and then when it was released, a bunch of politicians admitted they didn’t even read it.
Mueller, a career public servant, begged Congress not to make him publicly testify. But he was subpoenaed anyway. Then, after he sat in the hearing room for seven hours, all anyone did was talk about how old he is, how confused he seemed and how short his answers were. And finally, the week after that testimony, President Donald Trump appeared to solicit help from a different country in the next election.
I beseech everyone to leave Robert Mueller alone to retire with his Purple Heart and his high school sweetheart wife.
Peter Luger Steakhouse
Waking up to a shiny new negative Pete Wells review in The New York Times is the adult version of showing up to the mess hall at summer camp and finding out it’s color war. Wells' bad Peter Luger review from October added a year to my life. In a year of absolutely nonstop bad news, this was a piece of negativity I could really get behind. This review compared Peter Luger Steakhouse, one of the most storied steak restaurants in New York — nay, the world — to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Shrimp cocktail was described as “cold latex.” Wells said he looks forward to the German potatoes the way he looks forward “to finding a new, irregularly shaped mole.”
In the aftermath of the review, it seemed like everyone in New York was huddled around a smartphone reading it and whispering. Yelp could never create this buzzing schadenfreude, a karmic kick in the pants to a restaurant that dares serve a $229.80 porterhouse for four. This review was a win for the English language, for the proletariat and for me personally, because I used to date a really rude guy who loved Peter Luger.