Annus Mirabilis

Greg Gnall
4 min readDec 14, 2020

Impeachment over abuse of power. Unarmed Black people senselessly killed by police resulting in many peaceful demonstrations but marred by rioting in our cities. An election in which 80 million voters overwhelmingly rejected the incumbent, but with the result disputed by 70 million others including a president who won’t go quietly (or perhaps at all). And, not least, Covid, which has killed 300,000 Americans and counting, many of whom would likely still be alive if the country used some common sense instead of asserting a perverse version of freedom that resists a slightly annoying form of prevention: wearing a simple cotton mask in public. That was 2020.

But for those of us who don’t immediately recall the Middle Ages, at least it wasn’t 1348, when Europe and parts of Asia and Africa were in the midst of enduring the Black Death, which killed 40% of the population of those areas. Although in those days there was no Twitter allowing the most powerful man on Earth to downplay the risk and compare it over and over to the common flu. As we try our best to celebrate the worst holiday season since Dickens wrote of workhouses and the utter misery of the poor of London, the development of effective vaccines gives us hope that 2021 will bring some sense of normalcy back, although the country is divided to a greater degree than since the Civil War and, despite Joe Biden’s inherent decency, he is no Lincoln, but still a virtually infinite improvement over his predecessor.

Okay, enough gloom. We will still put up our trees and menorahs, our holly and our lights, make grandma’s favorite cookies and connect over Zoom as we feast on our usual delights and hope that next year will bring us back to large family gatherings and a return to prosperity. But let’s not expect the impossible: the Jets again will not win the Super Bowl. Heck, odds are that they will go winless into next year, a feat that even this futile franchise has never achieved.

But none of this will stop your intrepid columnist from presenting his annual news quiz to test your aptitude on recent events. It should be easy for most, as we have spent at least 19 hours a day online, some of it actually involving working from home, but mostly updating the election results and following TikTok during the times when it was not banned by the administration as a tool of the Chinese Communist Party. Anyway, here goes.

1. In January, troubling news started trickling out of Wuhan, which is:
a. The hot new Szechuan restaurant in TriBeca
b. A form of ancient religious ritual practiced in Southeast Asia
c. A nickname for Chinese president Xi Jinping
d. The source of the “Chinese virus”

2. Murder Hornets made news this year. They are:
a. The new nickname of the Washington Football Team
b. A major threat to bee colonies
c. The Republican squad of election observers
d. The latest West Coast electro dance metal band

3. In an oddly prescient occurrence, the Oscar for Best Picture was awarded to:
a. The Day the Earth Stood Still
b. Home Alone
c. Parasite
d. There Will Be Blood

4. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18 brought a remarkably quick Senate confirmation of her successor:
a. Simon Cowell
b. Aaron Judge
c. Judge Judy
d. Amy Coney Barrett

5. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle gave up their royal duties. During their announcement, this song was heard playing in the background:
a. We Gotta Get Out of This Place by the Animals
b. Take This Job and Shove It by the Dead Kennedys
c. Career Opportunities by the Clash
d. The Job That Ate My Brain by the Ramones

6. Joe Biden was elected the 46th President of the United States. Which statement did he not make during his campaign?
a. “I’m Joe from Scranton”
b. “Here’s the deal”
c. “Would you just should shut up, man?”
d. “I promise you a chicken in every pot”

7. Tragic wildfires buffeted California and the rest of the West. What did President Trump suggest as the cause?:
a. “You gotta clean your floors”
b. “I don’t think science knows”
c. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”
d. All of the above

8. Which of these statements did Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal “lawyer,” not make:
a. “How many fingers do I got up?”
b. “Truth isn’t truth”
c. “If the president does it, it is not illegal”
d. “I’m tucking my shirt in. I assure you that’s all I was doing.”

9. Which team won the World Series?
a. Houston Astros
b. Cleveland Soon to Not Be the Indians
c. Los Angeles Dodgers
d. Boston Beaneaters

10. Ivanka Trump, in contemplating her immediate future “in the unlikely event my father is not in the White House for the next four years,” said she is considering:
a. Learning to be a real working mother by taking her kids to school on the subway
b. Working with Mother Teresa’s order among the poor in India
c. Running for the Senate in Florida
d. Starting a fashion business manufacturing MAGA gear in Bangladesh

Well, that’s it for this year. I can’t predict what next year will bring but odds are it will be better. Or not. In the meantime, Happy Holidays to All!