Was it another year you would prefer to forget – or a welcome improvement on 2020?
Either way, please settle in and enjoy the ride as Shane Budden both roasts and toasts the year that was.
2021 dawns with hope – hope of a bright future, hope of a new beginning and, most of all, hope that last year was all a dream, except for the bit about Donald Trump losing the election.
Sadly, a quick glance at the calendar confirms that it is in fact 2021. Our nation also enters the New Year with the words to our national anthem changed to ‘we are one and free’. Pauline Hanson immediately objects, noting that the change does not make sense, because “one and free are four. We are way older than four.”
Unrest in the United States continues, with allegations of stolen votes, talk of impeachment, and concerns that Joe Biden’s mind might not be in mint condition, in the same sense that China-US relations are not in mint condition. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Biden managed to fracture his foot patting his dog, and occasionally refers to his Vice President as the President (as does she, at least in private).
Donald Trump, in his continuing effort to protect American democracy, invites his supporters to the Capitol Building to have tea and cucumber sandwiches. Unfortunately, his supporters misread the words he used – “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” – as a call to arms, which, incidentally, some of them had brought along.
After some of Trump’s aids noticed things might be getting a little out of hand, inasmuch as cucumber sandwiches were being foregone in favour of a coup, they suggested he might put a stop to things, but the former President declined. “I’m pretty shy,” he explained, “and I don’t really like telling people what to do.”
Thankfully, sanity reigns, and on 20 January Americans get to hear Joe Biden utter the solemn and immortal words, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun. Has anyone seen my pants?” Trump’s lawyers quickly file an amicus brief claiming that Ronald McDonald was actually now the President of the United States (subsequent events have shown this might not have been the worst thing) but before the Supreme Court can sit, Biden is sworn in validly. Afterwards he is apologetic, noting, “I was a bit confused; it’s my first time in Wellington”.
Meanwhile, in Australia the bad news continues as India defeat the Aussies in the Test cricket series. Television commentators and cricket journalists react with the same overall calm and rationality as Malcolm Turnbull in a Q&A appearance, quickly identifying the Australian team as the most incompetent and useless human beings to have ever walked the Earth, while also calling for the death penalty to be reintroduced specifically for the team. The thought that India may have simply been better does not, apparently, ever cross their minds (possibly because of the loneliness that journey would entail).
A joint World Health Organisation-China investigation into the origins of COVID finds that it is unlikely the virus originated in a Wuhan lab, and in fact that “COVID had never even been to China”. The report also finds that there is no such place as Taiwan, and that Scott Morrison rides a girl’s bike, “with a picture of Barbie on it and everything”.
The release of the report, which was based on scientific investigation by experts in the field, does little to quash the doubts of anti-vaxxers, who note that they have done research on the internet AND discussed it with their mates. They conclude that there is no such thing as COVID or vaccines, and that China is actually a film studio in West Hollywood, and that vaccines alter your DNA to allow Disney+ to be beamed directly into your brain; teenagers everywhere demand to be vaccinated before the next season of The Mandalorian is broadcast.
It is also about this time that people start seriously protesting the idea that they should get vaccinated to stop them from dying of COVID. This becomes a popular activity, in spite of the fact that people protesting life-saving vaccines is intellectually akin to fish protesting water; naturally, Pauline Hanson embraces this movement.
Also, American radio personality and president of the tinfoil hat-wearing fruit loop brigade, Rush Limbaugh, passes away, causing a five-point jump in the average IQ of planet Earth.
The Western Australia state election is held, although incumbent Premier Mark McGowan shrewdly forces the Liberal Party into quarantine for the duration of voting, resulting in the ALP winning pretty much all the seats and possibly some in other states as well. Premier McGowan calls for a great wall to be built around the state to keep out everybody and everything.
Meanwhile, Krishnan Kanthavel, captain of the container ship Ever Given, attempts a three-point turn in the Suez Canal; because his hat blew off and he wanted to go back and get it. Unfortunately his reversing camera was broken and the ship becomes stuck, leading to the blocking of the canal, a log-jam of other ships and hundreds of millions of dollars lost. Traffic experts note that it was still better than peak-hour in Sydney.
In the US, QAnon supporters – a group who make Rush Limbaugh look like Ghandi – are disappointed that Donald Trump is not returned to power on March 4, as predicted by their view that the US is a corporation rather than a country. The prediction is based on an Act passed in 1871, the fact that those numbers add up to 17 (no, I’ve got no idea why either), and the ingestion of what one can only assume must have been a truly heroic amount of moonshine.
The failure is another setback in Trump’s ongoing efforts to overturn the previous year’s election result, which began with his infamous phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, asking him to find 11,000 votes. “Look behind the dresser,” Trump said, “I found a heap of votes behind dressers in 2016, especially dressers in Russia.” Raffensberger gently reminds Trump that he is secretary of state of Georgia, the US state, not Georgia, the country next to Russia.
The Federal Government announces that it is pulling Victoria out of the controversial ‘belt and road’ agreement Daniel Andrews had signed with China. The Chinese embassy responds angrily, pointing out that Victoria was always part of China and is simply a rogue province, and that reunification was inevitable. President Xi announces further sanctions, including that Australians may no longer use the term ‘china plate’.
Japan’s Government controversially approves the release of radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean, prompting protests from China and Taiwan. “The consequences could be terrible; have they not even seen Godzilla?” says Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The Japanese Government responds by noting that its scientists have concluded that, no matter how much radioactive water is pumped into the ocean, it will not result in a movie as bad as Godzilla.
In the United States, TV presenter and all-round doughnut Tucker Carlson, seeking to inherit Rush Limbaugh’s crown as king of the fruit loops, claims that Democrats are attempting to replace current American voters with more obedient voters from the third world. Donald Trump chimes in, noting: “It won’t work, those people aren’t obedient at all; that is why I always preferred to use Russians, they are much more reliable voters.”
Former footballer Tommy Raudonikis is sent off for one final time, to the big dressing shed in the sky (or possibly the one in the other direction). Former team-mates and opponents struggle for words, partly because of the emotion involved in the loss of a Rugby League icon, but mostly because nobody can think of anything good to say about him.
In an ongoing effort to urge Queenslanders to get a COVID vaccine, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to refrain from having one. The Premier explains that she would have been vaccinated earlier but her dog ate her flu shot (or at least that sounded like what she was saying). The Premier notes that she would be getting Pfizer, despite being eligible for AstraZeneca, because she was the Premier and AstraZeneca was really for the plebs.
Ha ha! She of course did not say that, explaining that she had to go to Tokyo to argue that Brisbane be awarded the 2032 Olympics. She noted that this was vital, because the pool of candidates (which consisted solely of Brisbane) was high quality and she did not want us to miss out.
In space news, China becomes the fourth nation to land a craft on Mars, with the successful deployment of its Zhurong Rover. An official announcement notes that Mars was always part of China and is simply a rogue province, and that reunification was inevitable.
The Eurovision song contest – an event held annually with the purpose of identifying the world’s worst song – is held in Rotterdam. The winner is Italian entry Zitti e buoni (literally, ‘There is a Pimple on my Butt’). The competition had not been held in 2020 due to the pandemic, proving that every cloud has a silver lining.
In an effort to combat the slow vaccine uptake among young people, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young points out that getting vaccinated might kill them. When advisors point out to her that people have taken this as an indication that they should not get vaccinated, Dr Young clarifies her statements. “No, really, it might,” she said.
To ensure that the virus does not spread, Queensland decides to allow 20,000 people to gather in Townsville to watch the first State of Origin match. The Queensland team follow COVID social distancing regulations by not going within 1.5 metres of the New South Wales team. Unfortunately, this makes it very hard to tackle them, and NSW runs out 50-6 winners. In the second game, Queensland greatly improves on this effort, at least in terms of social distancing, and go down 26-0 to lose the series.
In another sporting tragedy, New Zealand is crowned ICC World Test Cricket Champions, using the unusual strategy of losing 3-0 to Australia. “We had no idea losing was so important,” lamented Australian Captain Tim Paine, “but they certainly deserved it; they were the worse team on the day, and there is no way we could have lost to them. They were just too bad for us.”
Sporting news gets better, as Aussie tennis star Ash Barty shocks the world, not so much by winning Wimbledon but by doing it without smashing her racquet, yelling at the umpire or being a complete sook. Barty’s class on court is not appreciated by all, however, with Serena Williams tweeting, “It’s easy for her, she’s not a jerk; what are the rest of us supposed to do?”
Also, the Queensland Women’s State of Origin side, comforted by higher vaccination rates, has no problems tackling and defeating New South Wales 8-6 to claim the series.
The Tokyo Olympics take place, albeit that they are still called the 2020 Olympics following a decision by the UN not to count 2021 as a year because it had already sucked too much. Controversy attends the start of the swimming, as American swimmer Lilly King predicts that the US women’s swim team will win all the individual gold medals. King’s prediction proves somewhat astray, with the US winning only three of the 18 medals on offer; Donald Trump immediately hires her to count votes at the next election.
Officials fear the worst after Ariarne Titmus’ boilover victory in the 400-metre freestyle, as it appears her coach Dean Boxall was suffering from some sort of fit, or being electrocuted, after the race. Australian representatives calm their fears, saying he was always like that. “What, even the hair?” one Tokyo official exclaims.
In the worst-kept secret since Prince Charles and Lady Di’s marital problems, Brisbane is announced as the host of the 2032 Olympics. Asked what tipped the bid in Brisbane’s favour, officials note that being the only candidate was a “significant but not overwhelming” factor.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk notes that since the job is done and a pandemic is going on, she will avoid going to the opening ceremony. Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates pours water on that idea, telling the Premier she will be going, or else he’ll send her to bed without supper. When it is pointed out to Coates that his comments might be deemed misogynistic by some, he clarifies them: “she has to learn somehow, doesn’t she?”
The Olympics conclude, with Australia claiming 6th place on the table and first place on YouTube, with the antics of Coach Dean Boxall during his celebration proving popular with the sort of people who made Gangnam Style a hit, which explains a lot. Less popular with YouTube is Sky News Australia, which the channel bans for uploading misinformation about COVID. The ban is quickly lifted as YouTube realises that, without misinformation, all social media is largely videos of cats and social media influencers, which it turns out nobody watches.
Also in August the first whisperings of trouble in Australia’s deal with France to build submarines begin to be heard. Controversy surrounds the project, the cost of which has blown out by $40 billion. The blowout is blamed on translation, with the French saying when Australia said ‘subs’ they thought the order was for a large number of Subway sandwiches. “Of course the price went up,” an official said. “In France, nuclear submarines cost almost three times as much as baguettes.”
Also in August, the world of entertainment mourns the passing of Ed Asner, an actor who pioneered the technique now known as the Bryan Brown Method. This is an approach to acting in which the actor, regardless of whether they are doing Shakespeare or playing a multi-dimensional super-intelligent alien jellyfish from the planet Zorb, simply plays themselves. The method has become very popular due to its simplicity, being able to be performed by every actor on Earth except for Owen Wilson.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes it official, and cancels Australia’s orders of diesel-powered French submarines (or baguettes, depending on who you ask). At the same time, the AUKUS treaty is signed, which makes history as the worst-named treaty since the Five Eyes Alliance (seriously? Five eyes? If there are five of us, shouldn’t that be at least 10 eyes?). The treaty attracts some criticism as on closer inspection it appears simply to be an agreement that Australia, the US and the UK will release a joint statement that China is, “Like, totally uncool” and that none of them will invite Xi Jinping to their birthday, even if he gets them a bike (Joe Biden later confirms that this doesn’t apply if the bike is a 10-speed).
France reacts to the news with the rational calm one generally associates with an Extinction Rebellion protest, sending a diplomatic telegram consisting of the words, “liar, liar, pants on fire!” Scott Morrison senses an opportunity to be conciliatory and work towards a resolution, and diplomatically points out, “I know you are, but what am I?” France decides to tell on Australia to the US.
President Biden, looking vigorous after being awakened from his pre-morning nap rest, issues a stern rebuke.
“I am very disappointed that the Austrian Prime Mover, Van Morrison, has refused to allow Johnny Diesel to do a cover of Yellow Submarine. Is there pudding? Jill said there would be pudding.”
Russia holds a legislative election, which returns Vladimir Putin’s party to a supermajority, albeit with a reduced percentage of the vote compared to the previous election. Observers note this was probably due to many voters, out of force of habit, accidentally casting their ballot for Donald Trump.
In Scotland, authorities struggle to deal with an attack on a nuclear power plant – by jellyfish. This really happened. Jellyfish clogged the water intake of the power plant, causing a temporary shutdown; authorities suspect this might have been retaliatory action on the part of the jellyfish for the earlier release of radioactive water by the Japanese Government.
In a move which allows nerds everywhere the opportunity to launch a million Star Trek memes (an opportunity of which they took full advantage) William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk) becomes the oldest person to go into space. Shatner pleases everyone by not making any ‘beam me up’ jokes, instead commenting on the fragility of our globe and expressing concern for the future. “At this rate I may out-live the planet,” Shatner notes, “and Keith Richards will for sure.”
The world gets a lot less funny (and less nice) with the passing of Australian comedy legend Bert Newton. A veteran of the comedy scene, Newton was a link to the days when comedy was more than just foul-mouthed university dropouts and overly cynical Proctor columnists – that is, when it was actually funny. Newton was famous for being the long-term host of the Logies, and organisers release a statement that Newton’s death would not impact his chances of hosting the next ones, given the options, “especially if Wendy Harmer puts her hand up again”.
Republican Senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, in his tireless efforts to better represent his Texas constituents, gets into a Twitter spat – with Big Bird, a character on children’s television show Sesame Street (this really happened). Neither Big Bird’s status as a character beloved by children everywhere, nor the fact that Big Bird is not, technically, real, deter Cruz.
Responding to a tweet from Big Bird that the vaccine is a good thing, Cruz tweets that Big Bird is engaging in propaganda. Naturally, people ignore the tweet and go about their lives.
Ha ha! This is Twitter, or course they didn’t do that; anti-vaxxers chime in, helpfully pointing out that Big Bird is a communist, while Oscar the Grouch (I swear I am not making this up) tweets his disappointment that vaccines will not make you grumpy at all (a state which Oscar prefers, hence the name). Realising he has made a blunder and seeking to pour oil on troubled waters, Cruz tweets that ‘Liberals are weird’. The official Chinese news agency weighs in, tweeting that Sesame Street was always part of China and is simply a rogue province, and that reunification was inevitable.
In excellent news, Verry Elleegant wins the Melbourne Cup despite the handicap of its owners not being able to spell. This was excellent news because this writer backed it.
Of course, 2021 was not going to let November off that easily, and scientists announced the appearance of Omicron. At first nobody was worried, largely because it was thought that the Omicron was the latest new and improved car from Tesla, which would presumably come with improvements such as not requiring a computing degree to drive, and having door handles. Unfortunately, while Omicron was new and improved, it turned out to be yet another strain of COVID; anti-vaxxers quickly suggest outlawing the Greek alphabet as the best way of addressing the outbreak.
To top it all off, the world’s supply of acting talent takes a hit with the passing of Australian screen legend David Gulpilil. The passing of Gulpilil, whose talent helped make films such as Walkabout and Crocodile Dundee iconic examples of Australian film-making, is yet another good reason not to count 2021 as a real year.
The battle between Cruz and Big Bird heats up, with HBO proposing a cage match between them to decide the issue once and for all. Several million people sign up on pay-per-view before the deal is scuttled when it is discovered Big Bird is only six years old. OK, so that didn’t really happen, but would it surprise anyone if it did?
Sport again brings a rare positive moment for 2021, with the English Test cricket team arriving for the Ashes, albeit that they did not start actually playing until the last day of the second Test. Also, after almost a year in quarantine in various countries they appear to have largely forgotten most of what they knew about the game (and let’s face it, that wasn’t a high bar to start with). England loses the first two Tests, although Captain Joe Root points out that if England had simply scored more runs than Australia, the result would have been different. “Now that we’ve worked that out we’ll be much more competitive in the next match,” he confidentially predicts.
Australians wearily grab for their masks and hand sanitiser again, as Omicron proves to be much worse that a new Tesla, or even the sanctimonious lectures from those who drive them. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden hosts the ‘Summit for Democracy’, intended to “renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad”. After two days, the conference participants release a joint statement agreeing that “democracy is way cool” and that “autocracies are bad, m’kay?”. President Biden points out that this is why he drives a manual.
Finally, in Brisbane, Proctor columnist Shane Budden thanks his readers for their support, patience and lack of better things to do than read his column, and wishes them all a safe and happy Christmas, and a 2022 that is way better than the last two years; he thinks they’ve earned it.
© Shane Budden 2021