In honor of our commitment to awkwardness in all things, I decided to create a very special list for 2010: the most awkward news events of the year. Why 8 instead of 10? Because 8’s a more awkward number.
So here, in my humble opinion, are 8 of the most awkward things that happened in 2010. In chronological order.
1. January: the tallest man-made structure ever built, the Burj Kalifa in Dubai, opens. This is awkward for two reasons: one, this tower is so much taller than absolutely every other building anywhere near it that it simply looks ridiculous; two, Dubai ran out of money while building it and had to turn to its neighboring Arab Emirate, Abu Dhabi, for finishing funds. As a result, it was renamed “Burj Kalifa” at the behest of the Abu Dhabi government. This is a little bit like building the tallest building in the world in New York and having to name it after the Canadian prime minister.
2. April: Volcanic ash from the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull interrupts air traffic across Europe for over a week. This is awkward both because it’s almost inconceivable that a word could have as confusing a spelling as “Eyjafjallajökull,” and also because it reminds us that Nature can still kick Man in the ass whenever it wants.
3. May: A youtube video of an Indonesian baby with a 2-pack-a-day cigarette habit causes worldwide controversy. If you haven’t seen this video, it is undeniably awkward. You can watch it here.
4. May: Joran Van Sloot admits that he has just recently murdered a Peruvian woman, approximately five years after he’s accused of murdering Natalie Holloway in Aruba. Odds are this guy’s a homicidal lunatic—I mean, how many times is an innocent person a suspect in two brutal murders? What’s awkward about this case is that it appears Van Sloot was paid $15,000 by the FBI as part of a sting operation against him. It looks like this is the money he used to pay his way to Peru, where he found his next victim. A macabre (and for the FBI, very embarrassing) irony.
5. June: In Kyrgyzstan, ethnic riots between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks resulted in hundreds dying. I rate this as awkward not just because Kyrgyzstan gives Eyjafjallajökull a run for its money in the spelling department, but also because most people outside of Kyrgyzstan have no idea what the difference is between a Kyrgyz and an Uzbek. Nor do most people outside this former Soviet republic know that either ethnic group even exists. It’s a fitting reminder, I think, that many problems look very small from afar. A good lesson to remember both in politics and in life.
6. November: UK’s Independent newspaper identified the wrong guy as a Nazi war criminal. The paper published an article with the headline “Wanted for the deaths of 430,000 Jews. Evaded justice for 67 years. Died a free man.” Somehow — they’ve been unable to explain how this happened — it turned out that the photograph that accompanied this article did not actually depict Nazi war criminal Samuel Kunz. It was in fact a Croatian actor named Ljubomir Jurkovic.
7. December: In a speech about the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” President Obama refers to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell—one of his most avid opponents—as “Mike.” Also awkward: the name of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.” Watch the video here.
8. December: about a thousand dead blackbirds fell from the sky onto Beebe, Arkansas on New Year’s Eve. These deaths are as yet completely unexplained. I don’t know if this is actually awkward, or just bizarre, but dammit I’m ending the list with it.