LONDON (Reuters) - Presidential preening, golden Olympic gaffes, a royal windfall for a skydiving British queen on her diamond jubilee and the endless end of days marked the odd stories in 2012 which pranced across the news in Gangnam Style.
The year opened with a tale that flocks of magpies and bears had been spotted in mourning for North Korea’s “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong-il who died in December 2011 and was succeeded by his 20-something son Kim Jong-un.
Winter weather was so cold in Brussels that the Manneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a young boy urinating had to stop peeing because of sub-zero temperatures.
There was slightly warming news about Mondays in Germany, where crematoriums are struggling to adapt to an increasingly obese population and a boom in extra-large coffins.
“We burn particularly large coffins on Monday mornings when the ovens are cold,” one crematorium said.
In March Polish media reported that kite surfer Jan Lisewski fought off repeated shark attacks and overcame thirst and exhaustion in a two-day battle of survival on the Red Sea with just his trusty knife as protection.
“I was stabbing them in the eyes, the nose and gills.”
In other animal news, dairy cows across the world mourned the loss of “Jocko”, the world’s third most-potent breeding bull and Yvonne the German cow who evaded helicopter searches and dodged hunters landed a film deal: “Cow on the Run”.
A Nepali man who was bitten by a cobra snake bit it back and killed the reptile after it attacked him in his rice paddy.
“I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry,” Mohamed Salmo Miya said.
A scathing resignation letter of a Goldman Sachs executive published in the New York Times inspired a sheaf of online spoofs, including Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
“The Empire today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about remote strangulation. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore,” Vader wrote in a published letter.
Austerity in Europe saw a once-thriving Greek sex industry become the latest victim of the country’s debt crisis with Greeks spending less on erotic toys, pornography and lingerie.
But lust appeared to be in the rudest of health elsewhere.
Turkish emergency workers rescued an inflatable sex doll floating in the Black Sea and a German disc jockey vowed to press charges against a woman who locked him in her apartment and ravaged him for hours until he rang the police.
“She was sex mad and there was no way out of the flat,” Dieter S. told police.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 60th year on the throne with Diamond Jubilee celebrations that saw a 1,000-ship rain-sodden flotilla sail down the River Thames, a massive party in front of Buckingham Palace, street parties across the country and a spoof incarnation of her majesty on Twitter.
“OK, fire up the Bentley. Let’s rock,” tweeted “Elizabeth Windsor”, the comic online alter ego of the British monarch in a typical tweet from the spoof Twitter account @Queen_UK, a virtual monarch with a razor-sharp wit and a penchant for gin.
And Twitter positively exploded with spoof royal accounts later in the year when Elizabeth’s grandson William and his wife Kate announced she was pregnant with a future monarch.
“I may not have bones yet, but I‘m already more important than everyone reading this,” was the tweet from @RoyalFetus.
Leadership and change was a theme which ran through a year in which socialist Francois Hollande defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Mimi the clown to become French president, Vladimir Putin was elected Russian president again and U.S. President Barack Obama won re-election over Republican Mitt Romney.
Amid the tight election race, Obama met a gaffe-prone Romney for an exchange at a charity dinner ahead of the November poll, where America’s first black president poked fun at Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood for lecturing an empty chair as if it were Obama during the Republican convention.
“Please take your seats,” Obama told the crowd, “or else Clint Eastwood will yell at them.”
Sporting news was dominated by the London Olympics during the summer, where the opening ceremony included a vignette of Queen Elizabeth being escorted by James Bond before apparently skydiving into the Olympic stadium for her arrival.
“Good evening Mr. Bond,” was her only line.
Olympic embarrassments were few, but they began early with organizers forced into apologies for displaying the South Korean flag on a video screen for North Korea’s women’s soccer team.
British cycling sensation Bradley “the Modfather” Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France, sparking a craze among fans for cutout cardboard sideburns modeled on his own and shouting “here Wiggo” as he raced to Olympic gold.
London’s eccentric and loquacious Mayor Boris Johnson fell rather awkwardly silent when he got stuck dangling from a zip wire, waving two Union flags in drizzling rain.
Olympic chiefs urged youthful athletes to drink “sensibly”.
But there was anything but restraint for Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who declared an early night at one point only to be photographed later with three members of the Swedish women’s handball team. Early one Sunday morning Bolt also dazzled dancers at a London night club with a turn in the DJ booth.
“I am a legend,” Bolt shouted out to a packed dance floor from the decks with his arms raised in the air.
Towards the close of the year, tens of thousands of mystics, hippies and tourists celebrated in the shadow of ancient Maya pyramids in southeastern Mexico as the Earth survived a day billed by doomsday theorists as the end of the world.
“It’s pure Hollywood,” said Luis Mis Rodriguez, 45, a Maya selling obsidian figurines and souvenirs.
Finally, a chubby, rapping singer with slicked-back hair and a tacky suit became the latest musical sensation to burst upon the world from South Korea, via a YouTube music video that has been seen more than a billion times.
Decked out in a bow tie and suit jackets varying from pink to baby blue, as well as a towel for one sequence set in a sauna, Psy busts funky moves based on horse-riding in venues ranging from playgrounds to subways.
The video by Psy has been emulated by everyone from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei to students at Britain’s elite Eton College, gurning politicians, spotty teens and embarrassing dads worldwide.
“My goal in this music video was to look uncool until the end. I achieved it,” Psy told Reuters.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Mike Collett-White