Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Beemer Awards, Part 2.

Welcome to the second and final portion of the 2011 Beemer Awards presentation. Tonight we will honor the year's best productions of all sorts, and announce the Word of the Year and the winner of the "Beemitzer Prize" for Journalism. We'll end on a solemn note with the Beemer Peace Prize.

Word of the Year

Tahrir, the Arabic word for liberation. The 2011 Egyptian Revolution centered on Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Website of the Year

Twitter, for its impact on many of the big events of the year: the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Anthony Weiner scandal, and of course the big protest movements in the Middle East, North Africa, the US, and elsewhere.

(Runners-up: Google, 4chan [a major haunt of the group Anonymous], and Facebook. I hate that my list is so conventional, but there's no doubt in my mind that these were the most significant websites of the past year.)

Book of the Year

I admit I'm completely unqualified to award this honor. While I did do a lot of reading in the past year, only one of the books I read was published in 2011 (and that was an anthology of stories originally published in 2010). Therefore, my primary criteria are critical reception, authorial reputation, and my own interest level in the book. It was a close call between books by Stephen King and Haruki Murakami (I read and enjoyed older works by both of them this year). The Beemer goes to 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I hope to read it someday!

(Runners-up: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Divergent by Veronica Roth, A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin)

Film of the Year

I'm even more lost on this one than the book award. I haven't seen any of the year's films (a result of having limited free time and limited money, and the logistics of arranging for child care). However, for the purposes of choosing a Film of the Year, I developed a meticulous process of research and contemplation that took all of a few minutes. Basically, I searched for a list of the year's movies with the best critical response, then read descriptions of each and imagined how I would react to an excellent film with that premise. The winner is A Separation, an Iranian film about family strife and cultural conflict. The film has already won a Golden Bear and is considered a contender for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It can now add a Beemer to its trophy case.*

*sorry, no actual trophy will be given.

(Runners-up: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II; and Hugo)

Short Fiction of the Year

I've read a ton of short fiction this year, but very little of it was published in 2011. Of the few stories that were, the clear winner is "The Ramshead Algorithm" by KJ Kabza, a contemporary fantasy story first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (July-August 2011).

Short Film/Video of the Year

"Cello Wars" by Steven Sharp Nelson/ThePianoGuys, a masterpiece of musicality, cinematography, and special effects. Even if it were none of those things, it's got Star Wars and cellos, so it's almost a guaranteed win in my book.

TV Shows of the Year

2 Broke Girls for Comedy, and Grimm for Drama.

Product of the Year

The Beemer goes to Prank Pack, "genuine fake gift boxes." Great idea, great execution!

(Runners-up: iPad 2, New Kindles, and iPhone 4S)

"Beemitzer Prize" for Journalism

Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual), Pakistani tweeter who unwittingly got the scoop of the year--the Bin Laden raid.

(Runners-up: Douglas Rushkoff, LZ Granderson, and Nate Silver)

2011 Beemer Peace Prize

Eman al-Obeidi, for her courage in speaking to the international press corps at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, Libya, about the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Gadhafi regime. Her actions drew international attention to the situation in Libya, gave moral support to the insurgency, and broke taboos regarding the discussion of sex crimes in Libya. Reportedly, the Gadhafi regime offered her a substantial reward if she would recant her story. Her response: "I will die rather than change my words."

After her dramatic appearance at the Rixos Hotel, al-Obeidi's ordeal was far from over. She would later be detained by the Gadhafi government, flee to Qatar, be forcibly deported back to Libya, and finally (thanks to the personal intervention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) be granted asylum by the United States. She currently lives in Colorado, and although adjusting to life in the U.S. has not been easy, I hope the new year brings her the peace and happiness she deserves. Eman has advanced the causes of peace, freedom, and human rights, and thanks to her inspirational acts against brutality and injustice, the world is a better place today.

Giving Eman a made-up award may seem inadequate or even tactless, but if it helps in some tiny way to draw attention to the state of human rights in Libya and elsewhere, I consider it a worthwhile effort. More important than the "award," she has earned my respect, sympathy, and appreciation. While I don't know of a way to support her directly, those who are motivated to help can assist others whose rights have been violated through donations to organizations such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.

(Runners-up: If you've read the rest of my list of awardees, you won't be surprised that all the finalists for this prize are from the Arab World: Asmaa Mahfouz, Mohamed El Baradei, and Tawakel Karman)

2011 Beemer Peace Prize (posthumous)

Mohamed Bouazizi, the martyr of the Tunisian Revolution. We'll never fully know the motivations behind his suicide, but there is no denying that it was an act that forever changed the face of his country, and of the world.

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