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Goodbye 2017: The Other News Awards

Marelise van der Merwe and Daily Maverick grew up together, so her past life increasingly resembles a speck in the rearview mirror. She vaguely recalls writing, editing, teaching and researching, before joining the Daily Maverick team as Production Editor. She spent a few years keeping vampire hours in order to bring you each shiny new edition (you're welcome) before venturing into the daylight to write features. She still blinks in the sunlight.

Each week, Daily Maverick brings you some of the less headline-grabbing events of the world. This week: we’re not dishing out trophies as such, but honourable mentions are due to the year’s most unlikely news makers.

The Ducknosaur Award

goes to National Geographic for their December report on the Halszkaraptor escuilliei fossil found in Mongolia. Related to the Velociraptor, this dinosaur walked like a duck, (might have) quacked like a duck, but wasn’t an actual duck. It lived in an area that at the time was more like today’s Egyptian Nile, with plenty of lakes and rivers breaking up an otherwise arid landscape. According to the report, “Like modern aquatic predators, this dinosaur’s face seems to have had an exquisite sense of touch, useful for finding prey in murky waters. Its small teeth would have helped it nab tiny fish, and its limber backbone and flipper-like forelimbs suggest that it cut through the water with ease.”

The Ravenclaw is Dead Award

goes to Harry Potter and the Portraits of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, arguably the strangest fan fiction on planet Earth. Which is saying something, considering EL James was (presumably) born here. Composed entirely of predictive text, the sample chapter titled “The Handsome One” includes sections like this: “‘Death Eaters are on top of the castle!’ Ron bleated, quivering. Ron was going to be spiders. He just was.”

“‘Locked,’ said Mr Staircase, the shabby-robed ghost. They looked at the door, screaming about how closed it was and asking it to be replaced with a small orb. The password was ‘BEEF WOMEN,’ Hermione cried.”

The People of Earth Award

This one actually passed me by at the time (lucky me?) but turns out Blink-182 co-founder Tom de Longe had an eventful February, receiving the UFO Researcher of the Year Award. I didn’t even know that existed, which just shows you we should all be a little more open-minded about accepting the existence of things we don’t know about.

Anyhow, Tom promised a major announcement about aliens within the next 60 days, which I don’t think ever came, although admittedly I don’t follow UFO news much. A quick Google revealed another announcement in October that Tom was about to make an announcement, followed by another announcement that an announcement was coming the next day, until the existence or non-existence of the announcement itself got lost in an endless announcement loop. Which all started feeling a little too post-structural for me, so I gave up.

The What’s in a Name Award

.goes to Donald Trump, whose name can be rearranged to spell Damp Old Runt. Other anagrams include Land Dump Rot, Land Mop Turd, Lard Dump Not, Mad Lord Punt, Damp Lord Nut, Pad Old Mr Nut, and Lam Pond Turd. You’re welcome.

The Living Dead Doll Award

goes to this lifelike artificial human corpse (say what?) which breathes and bleeds much like a real human, making it oddly unlike a real cadaver, but apparently very suitable for dissection. SynDaver synthetic humans are anatomically accurate medical models made by the company SynDaver Labs, described as “moist and pliable, and … closely resembl(ing) living tissue”. They even mimic what happens to the body during surgery or trauma.

The ‘Because I’m Tacky’ Award

goes to the stylists who thought this one up. Christmas eyebrows are catching on, which more than wars, climate change, the rule of Donald Trump or any of the Darwin Awards seem to prove that humans are doomed. To convert your eyebrows into a Christmas tree, separate the hairs into peaks with gel, and adorn the resulting eyebrow-tree with baubles and face-sequins of your choice. Compliments of the season to you and your face.

The Husband of the Year Award

goes to a man known only as Guenter S, whose morbidly obese wife died a slow, presumably agonising death when he abandoned her in the bathtub. Simone, who weighed some 150kg, was stuck in the bathtub for approximately 10 days while 58-year-old Guenter brought her coffee, medication and newspapers. (What a guy.) When he finally called emergency services, they ruled that she had been dead for around two days already, reportedly from pneumonia. Police arrested Guenter on a charge of “abandonment resulting in death”, with public prosecutor Ralf Hinkelmann saying the defendant “left the victim helpless, ignoring her cries for help”. Prince Charming defended his actions, saying: “She did not let herself be helped – mind your own business.” He also claimed he had brought a mobile into the bathroom, telling his wife: “If you need help, get it yourself.”

The You Can’t Buy Class Award

goes to Former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, an octogenarian ex-con New Jersey politician, who revived her identity as a burlesque dancer to raise funds for a non-profit dance company. Beldini danced as “Hope Diamond,” performing in a gown and feather boa, three years after being released from prison after a bribery conviction.

The Photo Op to Photoshop Award

goes to Kim Jong Un, for managing to take part in such bizarre photo shoots that we don’t always immediately know whether he’s posing for real or whether it’s a parody on Reddit. Well played, sir.

The Oddest Sport of 2017 Award

goes to Paris, for the next big thing in leisure: axe throwing. Described as the “hottest new trend” (really?), it costs about 19 euros to throw an axe at a target on a wall. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

Founder Thomas Morel brought the sport to France after seeing it really take off in Canada, thinking there was a market for it. “I thought, ‘This is bound to work in Paris’,” he said. It’s allegedly been a hit among corporate clients and as a team-building exercise. Strange Larry who always leers gleefully behind the photocopier? Ja, don’t bring him.

The ‘My Whole Life is a Lie’ Award

goes to National Geographic, for pointing out the little-known fact that our planet’s poles flip. We thought we knew our way around death and taxes, but folks like Mr Moyane have taken care of at least one of those. Well, it appears some other certainties aren’t that certain either. According to a fun fact feature by Nadia Drake: “We all know that north is, well, north — somewhere above Alaska — and south is down near the middle of Antarctica. That will always be true for the planet’s geographic poles, but it’s only intermittently true for the planet’s magnetic poles. Over the past 20 million years, the magnetic poles have flip-flopped every several hundred thousand years or so, which means that if you had a compass in hand about 800,000 years ago, it would tell you that north was in Antarctica.” Hmmm. DM


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