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Look Back in Anguish

Now that it's winding down, I think we can all agree: 2002 was a brutal, teeth-rattling, spleen-busting year

By Roger Naylor

IT TRULY was the best of times, the worst of times. Except without the best-of-times part. The world went haywire, as if we had entered a bizarro dimension.

Priests were horny, pilots were drunk and our shadowy government had its own shadow government. We color-coded our fear, the war on terror was expanded to include anyone who ate at Shoney's and the "Dude, you're getting a Dell" dude got canned.

Everybody in the country got obese except Liza Minnelli. Fires raged through the forests but not in the crematoriums, which could explain why Ted Williams ended up on ice. And even Michael Jackson acted a tad peculiar at times.

We just finished gobbling Cipro to fend off the anthrax, and now we're lining up for smallpox vaccinations. But before we climb back into the handbasket bound for warmer climes, maybe we can squeeze in one final glance back at that twisted bitch, 2002.

Pretzel Logic

President George W. Bush became fodder for late-night comics when he failed to read the instructions on the back of a pretzel bag. But no one was laughing after he delivered a rousing State of the Union speech. Highlights included an unprecedented 10-minute break as the president crowd-surfed up to the bleachers and back. It was also the defining moment when he labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of assholes." The phrase was later modified at the insistence of network censors.

Unfortunately, before we could go all daisy-cutter on the rogue nations, Iran was forced to withdraw from the axis of evil due to a hamstring injury.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Iranian hard-liner Kamal Tarzai. "We worked diligently to attain our current level of evilness, but when you blow a hammy that's pretty much all she wrote."

Instead of assigning AoE status to another country, the Bush administration used rotating substitutes to fill the vacancy, including Germany, Canada and Rold Gold, depending on who was choking the president or calling him a "squinty chimplike moron" at any given time.

The Winter Olympics went off without a hitch in Salt Lake City thanks to increased security precautions, including squads of Mormons wielding socks filled with dimes. The only controversy occurred when two members of the Russian curling team were disqualified for banned substances. Instead of sweeping the ice with little brooms they used Swiffer WetJets. The lemony fresh scent gave them away.

Bunker Down

By spring, a simmering sex-abuse scandal threatened to engulf the Catholic Church. It stemmed from the age-old quandary: how to protect vulnerable priests from the seduction of cunning, hunky minors.

After meeting with Pope John Paul II, American cardinals and bishops crafted a plan to begin the healing process. Critics derided the new policy as overly vague and cautious. The biggest problem the church hierarchy faced was that they were improvising doctrine.

"If only the church had some kind of authoritative source," lamented Cardinal Bernard Law. "A book perhaps, that offers guidance and spells out the differences between right and wrong. Something that can be taken as gospel. Unfortunately, no such book seems to exist."

The economy foundered for much of the year. The stock market went up and down like a whore's drawers. Companies crashed under waves of accounting irregularities. Just as we teetered on the brink of recession the White House unveiled a far-reaching jobs program. They created a shadow government. Secret bunkers up and down the Eastern seaboard were staffed with midlevel employees from the executive branch. And what else do you need really? Because nobody delivers streamlined efficiency and aggressive innovation like unsupervised civil servants who can't be fired.

Chum a Few Bars

Summer provided the welcome distraction of World Cup soccer. For several weeks the country virtually shut down, as it does for any major soccer event. Television ratings were phenomenal. Most games handily won their 3 and 4am time slots, beating out infomercials for the George Foreman Lean Mean Lard Dehydrator and pulling in the key demographics of burglars, breast-feeding mothers and Tara Reid on diet pills.

After a rise in shark attacks, experts recommended swimmers not enter the water while menstruating or immediately after having their arms gnawed to bloody stumps by farm machinery. They also discouraged the use of chum-based sunscreens and shiny jewelry, especially ankle bracelets engraved "Blow me, shark."

Five years after their deaths, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana were back in the news. Mother Teresa continued on the fast track to sainthood when the Vatican attributed a miracle to her. The only stumbling block to the beloved nun's beatification that remains is the persistent rumor she once killed a guy by locking him inside a gasoline-soaked Porta-John and toppling it into an active volcano in a Jackass-style stunt gone awry.

Following a high profile trial, Diana's former butler revealed the princess never fully recovered after being dumped without explanation by the great love of her life, George "Goober" Lindsey.

Jimmy Carter won a Nobel Prize by defeating Danny Bonaduce on Celebrity Boxing. Lisa Marie Presley married, then divorced, Nicolas Cage, saying she yearned for the stability and deliciously hot sex she had with her previous hubby, Michael Jackson.

And to no one's surprise, Jackson was named Father of the Year, beating out Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Blake. During his acceptance speech, Jackson offered sage parenting advice: Don't let younger children play with the Elephant Man's skeleton, because small bones could pose a choking hazard. Administer a Breathalyzer test to Aunt LaToya before allowing her to baby-sit. And most importantly, never let a game of Got-Your-Nose get out of control.

But like all things horrid and painful, 2002 has to end sometime. Unfortunately, 2003 doesn't look to be much better. Yet there is a ray of hope. Because of impending wars, global warming, toxic pollution levels and our own soaring obesity rates, there's an excellent chance we could all be dead by spring. Let's keep a happy thought.

Auld lang syne.

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From the January 1-8, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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