• Pamela Froman

Most Shocking of 2019

It's the end of 2019 and it has practically flown by. There were so many moments that defined and shaped the year. From political drama to the wide weird world of art, here are a few of the events and stories that made this past year unique!

We are used to fighting fires here in California. Unfortunately, the fire season is beginning earlier and ending later every year. This is due to climate change. There are warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt. This leads to longer and more severe dry seasons which raise moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to wildfire. The Kincade Fire in Somona was the largest fire of the year, burning 77,758 acres.

This year, Europe also got a taste of the destructive power of blazes. An uncontrolled fire in Paris almost burned down the historic Notre Dame Cathedral and caused severe damage, devastating large parts of the 850-year-old church and the losing the cathedral's iconic spire. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed France, promising Parisians that they will “rebuild this cathedral together.”

Instagram is an immense marker of success and is hugely popular all over the world. With the rise of influencers, people even make a living with their social media (or at the very least they get some free stuff). Kylie Jenner has a huge following on social media but there was an item that surpassed her this year. It egg! (Tada!) Maybe you wouldn't think that an egg would pass Kylie Jenner in popularity but it happened – with over 50 million likes. The world_record_egg account started a campaign to try and set a record for the most-liked post on Instagram, and people responded. There was a ton of speculation about who it was that was behind the egg, and as time went on the egg picture began to crack – literally. The big reveal happened during the Super Bowl when it was revealed that Hulu had partnered with the egg to raise awareness of mental health.

We have finally gotten a good look at the effusive cosmic giants – black holes. For the first time ever, a black hole was photographed, which shines a light on an exotic space-time realm that had long been beyond us scientifically. We have now seen what we thought we would never be able to see. The four photos outline the contours of the monster black hole lurking at the heart of the elliptical galaxy M87. This imagery is totally mind-blowing.

We lost some truly amazing people this year:

Karl Lagerfeld, an extremely influential and recognizable fashion designer of the 20th century, passed away at the age of 85. The German designer was best known for his work as the creative director of Chanel. He was also at the creative helm of Fendi and his eponymous label. Lagerfeld died in Paris, the city he helped grow into the fashion capital of the world. Lagerfeld was his own canvas – rarely seen without his dark glasses, silver ponytail and fingerless gloves. His reputation was as the most recognizable man in fashion, as well as one of its most outspoken.

Actor Luke Perry died tragically at the age of 52. The actor had many fans because of his wide range of acting roles. He is most well-known as Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210, where he appeared in 199 episodes beginning in 1990 and ending in 2000. But his career moved well beyond that role. Perry was in nearly 100 television shows and movies and at the time of his death, he was enjoying a starring role in the CW hit Riverdale where he played the character Fred Andrews. Perry suffered a massive stroke and his family then decided to remove him from life support.

We have also lost a furry friend. Grumpy Cat, whose sourpuss demeanor led to an internet sensation, has died at the age of 7. She was thought of as the internet's most popular cat and one of its first viral memes. Her owners stated that she experienced complications from a urinary tract infection and passed away peacefully. The cat's real name was Tardar Sauce.

Politics this year have been tumultuous and they are only getting more complicated. The impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump by the House of Representatives is a historic move with only two Presidents ever going through the process fully (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – who were both then acquitted by the Senate). President Richard Nixon resigned after his own impeachment scandal. The House Judiciary Committee is voting on two articles of impeachment accusing President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, potentially setting the stage for a House floor vote and Senate trial.

As well, complex foreign negotiations are on the rise. President Donald Trump has threatened to raise existing tariffs on Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent. President Trump also vowed that he would soon target the remaining Chinese imported goods with tariffs that were not currently covered in the trade dispute. The announcement is on the heels of reports that China reneged on commitments to change laws to resolve core complaints by the U.S. These include intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.

Art can be strange – and delicious (?)

The artwork of an overripe banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 has been eaten by a separate performance artist. The artwork, which was titled Comedian, was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and was on display at the international gallery Perrotin at Art Basel in Miami. Three buyers bought the limited-edition pieces of the banana art. But then another artist got hungry. Performance artist David Datuna pulled it from the wall, peeled it and devoured it. However, the banana was swiftly replaced and because the art comes with a certificate of authenticity, the owners can replace the banana on the piece.

Baby Yoda has conquered the world. This cute critter was introduced at the end of The Mandalorian's first episode, a Star Wars show that is currently streaming on Disney+. He has become an instant and indelible pop-culture phenomenon with an obsessive fan base, transcending age and experience. There is unanimous adoration for this tiny alien creature and the puppet is seen as a triumph of design. Now fans are beating down the door for Baby Yoda toys and merchandise.

“Avengers: Endgame” has become the fastest ever film to exceed the $2 billion mark at the box office, smashing an industry record. In theaters for only two weeks, the film grossed more than $2.2 billion globally. It took “Avatar,” the previous record-holder, 47 days to reach the same mark. The film has also surpassed the gross receipts of “Titanic,” making it the second-highest-grossing movie of all time.

The woman represented in the Pelotons Commercial has created a huge controversy. Now known as the “Peloton wife,” the actress has been revealed as Monica Ruiz. Critics call the ad sexist and argue that the 30-second commercial gives the impression that the male partner wanted the woman to lose weight. In defense of the ad, a spokesperson for Peloton said in a statement, “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey.”

A London man has no remaining detectable HIV a year and a half after undergoing a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat lymphoma. Some suggest that the case represents a second HIV cure, similar to that of Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin patient.” Brown was the first and so far only person known to have been cured of HIV – he received two stem cell transplants to treat leukemia in 2006. The donor had double copies of a rare gene mutation known as CCR5-delta-32 which results in missing CCR5 co-receptors on T cells, the gateway most types of HIV use to infect cells. He underwent intensive conditioning chemotherapy and whole-body radiation therapy to kill off his cancerous immune cells, allowing the donor stem cells to rebuild a new HIV-resistant immune system.

Tragedy was also no stranger this year. At least 50 people were killed and 50 wounded in a hate-filled terror attack targeting two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who has been charged with murder. Authorities found an 87-page manifesto filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would change the country's firearm laws in response to the attacks.

The college admissions cheating scandal implicated several famous faces. Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli pleaded not guilty to two conspiracy charges in the admissions scandal. Prosecutors allege that the “Full House” actress and the designer paid $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California and falsely designated them as crew team recruits. They were also charged with federal program bribery, which carries a five-year prison sentence; they pleaded not guilty. But Lori wasn't the only Hollywood star involved in the scandal.

Felicity Huffman took a different approach after she was named in the same college admissions cheating scam. The “Desperate Housewives” alum pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, admitting her part in the scheme to boost her daughter's SAT scores to help her get into a good college. Felicity, who broke down in tears as she apologized in court, said that her child, who has a learning disability, didn't know the actress paid $15,000 to a middleman have a shady proctor correct her test answers.

2019 was a whirlwind! So here's to the future – and the most shocking of 2020!

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