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The Unapologetic Geek


Top 5 Heroes & Idiots of 2012

Presidential election years are always crazy, but 2012 strikes me as an especially nutty year. For the first time since I've started these annual accountings, I've had to trim several people out of my list of heroes and idiots, and settling on just five of each was a difficult endeavor. As always, I stress that these are personal picks, not picks that everybody would automatically agree on. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the best and worst people of 2012 in the comments below if--or, rather, when--you disagree with my list.

Felix Baumgartner about to jump
5. Felix Baumgartner

History is riddled with the names of people who were brave and/or stupid enough to do what no one has ever done before: Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, etc. In this day and age, it's difficult to imagine how anyone can join these ranks, but Felix Baumgartner found a way. On October 14, Baumgartner stepped out of a balloon that was hovering at 128,100 feet above the Earth's surface and fell for 4 minutes and 19 seconds before deploying his parachute. In the process, he set at least three records: highest manned balloon flight, highest sky dive (some go so far as to call it a "space jump"), and first man to break the sound barrier without a vehicle. That's right: he was falling so far and so fast that he broke the sound barrier. Did I mention that people all over the world were watching him, live, as it happened? Sure, it might not be as ground-breaking as setting foot on the moon, but what did you do today?

5. Todd Akin
Todd Akin

There is a large contingent within the ranks of American conservatism that is hostile to science and reason. This contingent, the "religious right," has been bringing ruin to the Republican Party for decades, with its stubborn denial of evolution, resistence to technological advancements like stem-cell research, and absolutely incorrect insistence that our founders were trying to build a Christian nation. I don't care if my elected leaders harbor insane religious beliefs and convictions, but bigoted assumptions that fly in the face of facts should never inform public policy. Enter Todd Akin, a Missouri member of the House of Representatives who decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012, a race he seemed sure to win. Then, in August, while talking about abortion, he said, "If itís a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." This ludicrous statement was blasted across the airwaves and used as an example for how the entire GOP is made up of foolish old white men who hate women, don't understand science, and cling to embarrassing beliefs that were discredited eons ago. The GOP leadership, in a rare show of tact, urged Akin to drop out of the race immediately, to keep his comment from poisoning the national discussion in a presidential election year, but Akin stood firm all the way to the finish line. Needless to say, he lost, because he is an ignorant, arrogant assclown.

Joss Whedon on the set of The Avengers
4. Joss Whedon

Let's be clear about one thing, here: I am not a Whedonite. Hardcore Joss Whedon fans are a special breed of rabid and crazy that even unapologetic geeks like myself are startled by. Still, I have enjoyed some of Whedon's previous works--Firefly and Dollhouse, for example--while continuing to curse what he did to the Alien franchise. (No, I don't care that he pushes the blame to other people; he wrote that mess, so it's his responsibility.) In 2012, though, he did what I thought was impossible: he made The Avengers a great comic book film, arguably one of the best ever made. If even a somewhat douchy, pretentious auteur like Whedon can take the reins of such an enormous franchise and put out something that is loved by tens of millions around the world, then there is still hope for the masses of unrecognized artists who struggle to get just one person's attention.

4. Captain Francesco Schettino
Francesco Schettino

It's pretty bad when a man's best defense is that he isn't "as bad as Bin Laden." No doubt, Captain Francesco Schettino is no Bin Laden, but he still has to answer for the deaths of over thirty people under his charge while he was in command of the Costa Concordia, a cruise liner that flooded and grounded off the coast of Italy. There are many things that Schettino did wrong, including allowing his vessel to deviate from its course and get perilously close to the shallows that were its undoing, failing to call for an evacuation until an hour after the ship was ripped open, and then abandoning ship before the rest of the passengers and crew had gotten off. There are still rumors and details to be ironed out in court this year, but no matter what else there is to be learned and said about the Costa Concordia disaster, it is clear that Francesco is an idiot.

3. Rand Paul

In January, a man walked through a typical body scanner in a Nashville airport, which went off. He offered to walk through the scanner again, but was told that he'd have to endure a pat-down by a TSA official instead. He refused, and was thus told to wait in a cubicle that he was not allowed to leave until well after he'd missed his flight. When the man finally got to his destination at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, he was greeted by an extremely attentive press that was more than happy to tell the world about his experience. Six months later, he presented to Congress legislation that would dissolve the TSA and establish an "airline passenger's bill of rights." Here's a pointer to TSA screeners: if you value your job, don't detain a noted libertarian superstar congressman like Rand Paul.

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-e. magill 1/15/2013


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