Tharp On: The End of the Year

Gugak Center

Chris Tharp recaps 2014, month by month, blow by blow.

Well here we are, about to clock out of another one. 2014 is packing its bags and preparing to jump on that train and ride into the mists of history, and it’s been a real doozy. This, quite naturally, is the time of year when we take a breath and meditate on everything that has gone down over the previous eleven months; for many, this moment of reflection is a cocktail of elation, despair and relief. The very fact that you’re reading this right now means that you’re one of the lucky ones. You’re still alive. This is something deserving of gratitude, but even a casual glance at the world around us gives us scant cause for joy.

If 2014 is any barometer of the state of humanity and its surrounding, things are going to shit, fast. It’s looking bleak out there, so this New Year’s Eve, do whatever it takes to at least temporarily forget about the brutal, unforgiving reality of the universe: drink yourself quadriplegic at one of this town’s expat bars (don’t worry, it’s impossible to get cut off); go to a karaoke room and sing Pharrell Williams “Happy” 1,000 times in a row; if that’s not your thing, shiver until dawn on a local beach to catch the first rays of 2015. As it sizzles out your retinas, the sunrise’s beauty will make you forget about the awful state of the world, as well as the onset of your hypothermia.

However you can, try to take solace in the few flakes of happiness floating in an otherwise soul-eating, black void. After all, there are still a few things to celebrate: good beer is now widely available here on the Peninsula; both Bill Murray and Neil Young are thankfully still with us; a new season of Game of Thrones is coming soon; the Korean government has yet to deport us all, and, most heartwarming, is the story of a destitute Thai orphan who turned down Kim Kardashian’s attempt at adoption. That’s right, the girl just shrugged and said, “Nope.” There is still an iota of hope left on this planet.

So let’s look back at the major stories of 2014. Yes, most of them will make you want to collapse on the floor and go fetal, but there must be a few rose petals among the rat droppings.

Nothing happened in January, unless you count the country of Latvia adopting the Euro as its currency as an ‘event.’

February started off with a bang. The Seattle Seahawks, a team this writer has been rooting for since the 1970s, ended a long tradition of Seattle sports suckage by decimating the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Superbowl. However, on that very same day, off-the-charts brilliant actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose, proving once again that everything is indeed terrible. The Sochi Winter Olympics also took place in February. They were the most expensive ever, bizarrely held in the only place in Russia that has no snow. Russia, unsurprisingly, took the lion’s share of gold, while a naked Vladimir Putin killed a polar bear with his bare hands in the games’ closing ceremonies.

March’s news was dominated by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The media was rife with speculation as to what happened (Islamic terrorists? An American missile? Aliens?). We still don’t really know, though the plane is suspected to have plunged into the deep waters of the Southern Indian Ocean, an area that scientists call “really really big.” Russia was also back in the news. Still awash in Olympic glory, they went ahead and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, since, according to the Kremlin, Ukraine “wasn’t really using it.”

Depressing events doubled down in April, with the Sewol catastrophe, in which over 300 passengers, most of them high school students, died when their ferry capsized in cold waters near Jindo Island. This tragedy laid bare a system of incompetence, negligence and corruption here in Korea, and for months afterward the whole of the nation was steeped in a kind of collective, miserable guilt. April was also the month in which the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls, making this the shittiest month for students since the invention of algebra story problems.

Nothing much happened in May except for a coup in Thailand, which overthrew the caretaker government of Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, cutting short the career of a prime minister with the world’s most unpronounceable name. Even Thais couldn’t say it, which may have been a partial impetus for the coup. Boko Haram was also at it again, killing more than 400 in two separate attacks, making them officially eviler than Satan.

June kicked off what became known as the ‘Great Summer of Fear,’ when the Islamic militant group ISIS suddenly took over most of Iraq and began beheading anyone who couldn’t recite the whole of the Quran from memory. This was also the month of the World Cup, where Germany obliterated the competition, inserting Die Mannschaft into every team that took the field against them.

Things got cooking in July with yet another lopsided mini-war between Israel and Hamas, where the body count resembled the score of the Germany-Brazil World Cup match if you just added a few zeros. 2014 was a spectacularly horrible year for Malaysian Airlines, who lost another plane when it was shot down over Ukraine, presumably by pro-Russian rebels. An Algerian Air flight also went down in Mali, killing all 116 people on board. Even if people would have survived the crash, the odds were against them, since the plane went down in an area so remote that the nearest city was Timbuktu.

August saw the continual spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, an epidemic that no one in the West cared about until a few whites started catching it, proving once and for all that people can even be racist against diseases. August was also the month where we lost Robin Williams, whose incandescent talent and funniness masked a deep sadness. He committed suicide, confirming the theory that most comedians are troubled and damaged people underneath it all.

September and October were slow news months, though the Kansas City Royals almost did the unthinkable by making it to game seven of the World Series in Major League Baseball, losing to the mighty San Francisco Giants by just one run with a man on third. Heartbreaking stuff for a small-market team whose Cinderella season was the stuff Hollywood movies are made of.

November was one of the few months where anything good happened. The Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae probe successfully landed on comet 67P, a first in human history. But all of our joy was dashed by the news out of US town Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, a white cop who emptied six bullets into Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. The nation is roiling with anger and protest as I type. November also saw the passing of bartender, friend and all-around listener, Patrick Cole, a staple of the Busan expat scene. He is already missed.

All this tumult, passion and conflagration lead us to now, December, a month that will have to write itself. Hopefully we’ll go out on a good note.

So here we are at the end … the end of the year and the end for me, here at Haps. I’ve been here since issue number one and it’s been a hell of a run, but like 2014, it’s time for me to pack my bags and move on. I’d like to thank Bobby McGill and everyone at the magazine for giving me this platform to spew and rant, as well as all the folks who have read this column and have given me kind words over the years. I’ve always felt the need to have the last word, so it’s fitting I was given the final space in each issue of this magazine, which has grown from a little pamphlet to a glossy, comprehensive work. In that way, it reflects our community here in Busan, and I am proud to have been a part of it. Cheers.

Want to read more Tharp? Check out his two book for sale here.

To see more of Michael Roy’s art, visit him on the web at


Tharp On Final



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