Shucking Oysters: Looking Back

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It’s been an interesting ride this past year. Global unrest. Severe weather events. People randomly unraveling. Others lashing out. We live in a chaotic world. How to describe these times? The Terrible Twenties. The Age of Unhingement. The Assholocene. Each one captures the nuances of our lives. The tragedy of our follies. The messiness of our actions. Yet, as New Yorker writer, Kyle Chayka wrote, “There is something paradoxical about trying to pin a name on an age characterized by extreme uncertainty.” 

While we harbour concerns where Artificial Intelligence will take us, Chayka challenged ChatGPT to come up with a better term for these complicated times. Here are the offerings: The Epoch of Disarray. The Resilience Renaissance. The Algorithmic Ascendancy. The results don’t quite capture the holistic angst of this era. Chayka cautions that “a linear, finite period of historical time may be an outmoded framework for our current reality—in which case, the scariest part would be that it doesn’t require a name at all. We just have to live through it.” Is that not what already happens? Celebrate because we survived yet another year?

In the meantime, TIME magazine has named Taylor Swift person of the year. The other contenders were the Hollywood strikers (the union, not some obscure bowling team), Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (the company behind ChatGPT), Barbie, and King Charles III. Taylor is one of a rare breed of celebrity who makes all her money from her concerts, music, merchandise and films. Not only did she hit the billion dollar mark she also gave over $55 million in bonuses to her touring crew. And she’s only 34 year’s old.

Every year Google releases its top searches, which provide an interesting glimpse into the human psyche. We Canadians, as always, are interested in global stories, from what happened to Kleenex, to the Titan submersible and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. 

Operated by OceanGate, the submersible imploded in June during an expedition to view the wreck of the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. Following the Titan submersible accident, we asked, “How deep is the Titanic?” Canadians also questioned “why,” “how” and “what” on a range of topics in an effort to learn more, including “why is Israel-Hamas at war?” and “what is happening in Israel-Gaza?” 

Kleenex topped headlines after the tissue brand pulled their product from shelves across Canada in August. Many people were searching for “why” the company was leaving the country. The move makes Kleenex just the latest in a long line of well-known consumer products to pull out of Canada in one form or another in recent years, including Bugles snack chips, Skippy peanut butter and Delissio frozen pizza.

Following King Charles’ coronation in May, Canadians were curious as to “how old” he is (75). “Why Gwyneth Paltrow is in court,” “why did Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau divorce” and “why the air quality is bad,” were other top questions.

Globally, Bibimbap was the top trending recipe. In the US, many consumers spent 2023 asking why eggs, Taylor Swift tickets ($456) and sriracha bottles were so expensive.

As we wave goodbye to 2023, we really have no idea how 2024 will play out. Huge elections are pending worldwide with major repercussions. There’s little doubt about Vladimir Putin’s “planned president-for-life status in his fig-leaf re-election campaign.” And dear Donald Trump, if he is elected, we have our legitimate fears; if he is not, he’ll still wreak havoc. Biden, sorry, you’re old. Many unknowns and one can only assume that things will get worse in the climate/weather realm. 

There is always a silver lining. Pantone announced its 2024 colour of the year: Peach Fuzz, “a velvety, gentle peach whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body and soul.” For Laurie Pressman, vice-president of the Pantone Color Institute, Peach Fuzz represents, “at a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion.”

Benjamin Moore’s colour of the year, with a “depth and intrigue balanced by an undercurrent of reassurance,” is Blue Nova. Featuring an “enchanting duality,” the colour captures “the spotlight with endlessly classic appeal.” Or perhaps, Upward, a “breezy, blissful blue” that Sherwin-Williams has chosen for its 2024 colour of the year. The paint company enthuses that this palette is a “sunny-day shade for spaces brimming with positive energy, creative thinking, and total contentment.” I would recommend Peach Fuzz in the bathroom, Blue Nova in the kitchen, and Upward in the bedroom. 

Yes, Virginia, it will be a ride; just make sure to buckle up and instead of always pressing the brake, try taking your foot off the gas.