2014: What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

Scholars in the middle ages were superstitious about the 14th year of a century, as it was perceived wisdom that misfortunes occur more frequently in any year ending in 14. The Moors took Spain in 714, Charlemagne died in 814 (he was quite important back then), 914 saw various famines throughout medieval Europe, and the years 1014, 1114, 1214 and 1314 all saw various military and natural catastrophes that dug deep into the medieval psyche but don’t really seem bad these days (unless The Hungarian Invasion, the loss of Brittany and the Battle of Bouvines mean anything to you). The superstition hasn’t really stood the test of time, probably due to the fact that not many people have lived through two 14’s, and thus interest in the topic is muted.

More recently, 1914 saw the start of World War One, which can be said to have unleashed a three decade period of carnage and destruction that has never been seen before and hopefully will never be seen again. How does 2014 rank in this illustrious company? It was a year that saw the first real threat to the borders of a European country for almost half a century, and also one that saw the European Space Agency succeed in the greatest chase in history, as the Rosetta team managed to catch and colonise Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a decade long pursuit. It was a year when One Direction finally overcame the might of Justin Bieber to become the true kings of pre-teen pop merchandising, and ultimately it was the year that the whole world fell in love with Matthew McConnaughey. In this end of year summary I pay tribute to all those that made this year memorable, mostly through the world of entertainment and inconsequence, but always in search of truth, justice, and the American Way. Continue reading

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How Close Can Vienna Get To Brazil?

Even though Brazil is everywhere right now, with promotions running in every conceivable ad space to remind us that the FIFA World Cup is both imminent and important, here in Vienna it really is a long way to Rio. While the Coke ads show emotion, partying, and every now and again some football, the reality of a World Cup is actually quite different in a country that has not qualified for the tournament. What happens is you get all of this buildup, and then…. some football, and more promotions telling us how we are supposed to be feeling. Here in Vienna, there is genuinely a lot of interest in the World Cup, hence all the promotions and new TV’s in bars, and why we will find it difficult to find a bar stool on many match days, but the truth is that not many actually care about what happens at the World Cup. Austria is not in the competition, and Ireland isn’t either. I am very interested in the World Cup, yet I do not really care who wins, it is just for entertainment. You know, like a US election. Now, this is not another rant complaining about Vienna, for in this case, it is not her fault. It is because there is a disjoint between how we are sold the buildup (based on emotion), and what actually occurs (drinking and watching ads on TV). All the promotions are by multinational corporations who do one ad for the whole world, and don’t care who they hurt. Their biggest markets (US, Japan, UK, Germany, France, Australia etc.) have all qualified for the World Cup, so everyone else can just shut up and buy a Big Mac as if they too were at the same party as the big boys. So, the question arises: is it possible to get an actual World Cup experience here in Vienna, just like in the Coke ads, with people feeling things and everything? Continue reading