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The biggest pop culture events of 2012 See gallery

Jeremy Shu-How Lin, the undrafted Harvard graduate who was demoted to the NBA Development League (D-League) three times, captured New York's (and the world's) heart when he magnificently led a New York Knicks winning streak in February. On Feb. 4, against the New Jersey Nets and All-Star guard Deron Williams, Lin scored 25 points, had five rebounds, and seven assists — all career-highs — in a 99–92 Knicks victory. The New York media dubbed the time and his come-from-behind story "Linsanity." As one of the few Asian Americans in NBA history, Lin, a devout Christian who credits God for his success, became a media darling and a symbol of perseverance and the underdog on the bench who just needed a shot to shine.

Read more:

Linsanity: Nicks benchwarmer becomes a star

Jeremy Lin lands with Houston Rockets

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Facebook and Instagram join forces

Facebook snapped up the hugely popular photo sharing app Instagram in April, for roughly $1 billion in a combination of cash and stock. Before that, the app was only available for the iPhone. Shortly after the Facebook acquisition, Instagram made its long-awaited debut on the Android platform and the beloved photo filter was now in the hands of millions more users who snapped shots of their babies, their dinners and their street corner with filters that transform the images into urban and vintage-looking masterpieces. Launched back in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the now-famous app has become one of the most successful ever created. A recent war with Twitter only shows how mighty the Instagram social media bona fides is. On Thanksgiving, Instagram users posted over 10 million images to the site.


Why Facebook is buying Instagram

MSN on Instagram

AP Photo: Thao Nguyen
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The fall of Lance Armstrong

He was a sports hero, athletic wunderkind, cancer survivor and, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a performance enhancing drug user. In October, 2012, Lance Armstrong was stripped of all of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from professional cycling for life, marking an epic downfall for the cyclist once lauded as the greatest of all time. He has maintained he never cheated. Armstrong stepped down as the chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the cancer charity commonly known as Livestrong that he founded in 1997, a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 25. Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek Bicycles and Oakley all severed ties with the cycling superstar this year as well. His dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport's popularity in the U.S. to unprecedented levels. His cancer survival story also seemed to inspire the world. And his epic fall from grace shocked the country.


University rescinds Armstrong's honorary degree

Lance Armstrong book recategorized as 'fiction' at bookstore

AP Photo: John Bazemore
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Honey Boo Boo Child

Her real name is Alana Thompson but we all know the outlandish reality TV star as Honey Boo Boo. In January a video from the TLC reality TV show "Toddlers and Tiaras" featuring Honey Boo Boo went viral and a sensation was born. Now, she's the star of her own reality show called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." The Hollywood Reporter pronounced the show "horrifying," adding, "You know this show is exploitation. TLC knows it. Maybe even Mama and HBB know it." But all this popularity, like watching the aftermath of a crash on the side of the road, has earned her a spot on Barbara Walters list of top 10 most fascinating people.


2012: The Year in Reality TV

You'll never guess how much Honey Boo Boo is earning now

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Gangnam Style!

Bow-legged dancing, MC Hammer shorts, and “Heyyy, sexy lady!” All three of the aforementioned components make up South Korean rap star PSY’s “Gangnam Style” music video. The video was first posted on PSY’s official YouTube channel in July and has since gone viral, overtaking Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (which was uploaded in February 2010) as the most-watched video on YouTube, hitting the 1 billion view mark before the end of the year. PSY’s parents sent him to business school in the U.S., but the rapper admitted buying musical instruments with his tuition money instead. He first won fame in his native South Korea with his 2001 debut album. But “Gangnam Style” has inspired break-out dancing around the world and the rapper has famously taught singer Britney Spears the dance on “The Ellen Show." In December, it came out that PSY performed a song in 2004 with lyrics about killing "Yankees" who have been torturing Iraqi captives, and that during a 2002 concert, he smashed a model of a U.S. tank on stage. PSY apologized for using what he called "inflammatory and inappropriate" language, and the flak from his remarks didn't seem to dampen “Gangnam Style,” when he performed at a holiday concert attended by President Barack Obama and his family.

More: 'Gangnam Style' changes the money in music

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'Call Me Maybe'

“Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so…” You know how to finish that line. Last year, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber tweeted his enthusiasm over a song he heard on the radio while he was in his home country. “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepson [sic] is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol,” the Biebs first tweeted a year ago in December. Bieber would later post two homemade videos on Twitter and Facebook in January and February, featuring himself, Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, Ashley Benson, and other friends lip syncing to Jepsen’s tune. Bieber was onto something with his subliminal videography and in February 2012, Jepsen, 26, signed with Interscope and Bieber’s label, School Boy Records. “Call me Maybe” is yet another video to add to 2012’s list of top viral videos, and it inspired groups from the Southern Methodist University women’s crew team to the Harvard men’s baseball team to create their own rhythmic videos. Just as Bieber’s own career began, the virality of Jepsen on social media has paid off for her musical career— Jepsen snagged a nomination for “Best Pop Solo Performance” and “Song of the Year” in the upcoming 2013 Grammys.

More: The 10 best 'Call Me Maybe' covers

Find:'Call Me Maybe'

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The royal nude photo scandal

French gossip magazine Closer published topless photos of Prince Williams’s wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge, while the royal couple was sunbathing at a private house in southern France in September. While some immediate response was that the royal family should know that to step outside of the home is to expect paparazzi, the magazine’s actions prompted strong condemnation. The five-page spread in the publication reignited the debate over the privacy of Britain’s royal family and the freedom of the press, just weeks after American celebrity website TMZ published photos of Prince Harry naked in a Las Vegas hotel room. Buckingham Palace called the photo spread of the duchess a “grotesque” invasion of privacy, and the pictures invoked memories in Britain of the media pursuit of William's mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.

Find: Kate Middleton


Duchess Kate pregnant, palace says

Coroner: Nurse in royal hoax call found hanging in her room


AP Photo: Victoria Will
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Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo

2012 is the year that Elmo lost his voice. After 28 years of bringing to life the fuzzy red puppet on “Sesame Street,” puppeteer Kevin Clash quit the children’s program after allegations in November that he had sex with an under-aged youth. While this first accuser recanted the accusation, soon after another man in his 20s came forth, saying that Clash had engaged in sexual behavior with him when he was 15. This second accusation led Clash to his resignation. “I am deeply sorry to be leaving,” Clash said in a personal statement, “and am looking forward to resolving these matters privately.” Despite his resignation, taping of season No. 44 of “Sesame Street” had wrapped in mid-December, although it isn’t scheduled to air until next September. This means that new episodes with Clash voicing Elmo can continue well into 2014. In the meantime, Sesame workshop said other puppeteers on the show are already being trained to serve as Clash’s replacements.


Third man sues ex-Elmo puppeteer, claims abuse

Questions about Elmo young fans won't be asking

AP Photo: Carlo Allegri
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Paula Deen's alleged racist comments

Paula Deen, the butter-loving cook and Food Network television personality, was faced with racism charges from a former manager at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, the restaurant Deen co-owns with her brother in Savannah. The woman, Lisa Jackson, claimed in her lawsuit that she was sexually harassed and was subject to a work environment where sexual innuendo, physical intimidation, and inappropriate racial remarks were used frequently. Jackson said that Bubba Hiers, Deen’s brother, was the routine culprit of harassment, but she also said Deen made racial slurs. Some of the things Jackson claimed Hiers did included using the n-word, watching porn in the office space he shared with her, and requesting “young” photos of Jackson for him to view. The Deen family denied the claims and in October, a federal judge denied moving the discrimination case to state court, calling Jackson’s lawyer’s arguments absurd.

Find: Paula Deen

Twitter: Barack Obama
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The most re-tweeted image

As the votes trickled in on Nov. 6, re-election victory for President Barack Obama and his team became evident. Around 11:15 p.m. EST, an exhausted staff member on Obama’s campaign team uploaded a photo of the president hugging First Lady Michelle along with the post’s three simple words: “Four more years.” Although the photo of the couple wasn’t taken on the day of the election, but earlier on the campaign trail, the tight embrace, background sky, and the president with his eyes shut, a soft smile on his lips, proved to strongly represent social media users’ feelings on election night as the photo became a viral sensation. The “Four more years” photo currently has over 800,000 retweets on Twitter and nearly 4 million “likes” on Facebook. On her personal Twitter account, photojournalist Scout Tufankjian, who took the picture and was never affiliated with the Obama campaign, said, “The pic’s popularity has everything to do with the Obamas and nothing to do with the pic itself, but it’s still a huge honor.”


President Obama's tweeted photo goes viral

2012: The Year in Politics - Election

AP Photo: Jeffrey M. Boan
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'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Was the whole world in a sexual slump? Were the PG-13-rated antics of teenage vampires beginning to lose their bite? Whatever the reason, what began as one woman’s online “Twilight” fan fiction taken to the next level became the summer’s must-read “mommy porn,” an erotic trilogy so wildly popular that everyone from female coworkers to mothers and daughters were exchanging copies. E. L. James’ tale of college student Anastasia Steele’s epic sexual awakening at the hands of dirty-birdie business magnate Christian Grey was re-released for mass distribution by Vintage Books in March, becoming the fastest-selling paperback of all time and opening the door for a taboo genre’s titillating entrée into the mainstream.

More:'Fifty Shades' publisher gives $5K bonuses

Find: 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
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Pulitzer Prize for Fiction awarded to... no one

It seemed a sad commentary on the state of the literary arts when the Pulitzer board announced April 16 that not a single work of American fiction had been deemed good enough to win distinction. Three finalists, “Train Dreams” by Denis Johnson, “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell and “The Pale King” by the late David Foster Wallace were considered. But their collective shortfall marked the first time since 1977, and the 11th time in history, that no prize was awarded. The board offered no further explanation, while the three jurors who plowed through 300 books to submit their finalist selections to the board expressed shock and outrage. Jury member Maureen Corrigan spoke out against a “flawed” selection process. She wrote in the Washington Post, “The Pulitzer is too prestigious an award to book lovers, authors and the publishing industry to be sporadically – and unaccountably – withheld.”

Find: 2012 Pulitzer Prize

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Encyclopedia Britannica discontinues print edition

It was a staple on the bookshelves of studious people and school libraries for more than 200 years. But in March, Encyclopaedia Britannica moved its heavy volumes of knowledge exclusively into the digital realm. To many it may have been one of the loudest bell tolls yet sounding the end of the era of printed information, but in multiple media interviews Britannica president Jorge Cauz downplayed the significance of the move. “This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google,” Cauz told The Telegraph. “A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it. Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.”

Related: Bing introduces new Britannica Online Encyclopedia Answers

Find: Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Pastel version of Munch’s ‘The Scream’ sells for record sum

For one of the most captivating and iconic pieces of high art in existence, and one that also occupies a rare spot in pop culture consciousness, the price was appropriately scream-worthy. The pastel version of ‘The Scream,’ widely considered to be the best of the four versions painted by Norwegian Impressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910, set a record for a piece of art sold at auction: nearly $120 million, reached after 12 minutes of bidding. The deep-pocketed collector was later revealed to be New York financier Leon Black, a board member of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Museum of Modern Art, where the painting is now on display until April 2013.

Find: Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'

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Felix Baumgartner's record freefall jump

Imagine falling at a maximum speed of 833.9 miles per hour for more than four minutes in a 24-mile freefall – that’s what seven million viewers did on October 14th as they watched daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner careen to earth from a capsule thousands of feet above the New Mexico dessert. Trusting his life to a pressurized spacesuit and a paper-thin plastic helium balloon, the Austrian ex-military parachutist took his Red Bull-sponsored, adrenaline-charged leap from the edge of space on Oct. 14. He not only succeeded in breaking the 19.5-mile record for the world’s highest skydive, previously held by Joe Kittinger since 1960, but he also broke the sound barrier while doing it.

Watch: Felix Baumgartner's record freefall jump

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Adele’s '21' album

While British singer Adele’s latest album, “21,” was released worldwide in 2011, the vocal powerhouse climbed the music charts, making and breaking records this year. With belt-out hits like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone like You,” the 24-year-old became the first female artist to have three singles from the same album simultaneously in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. In February, at 21 weeks in the top spot of the Billboard 200 album chart, “21” knocked off the late Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” as the longest running No. 1 album by a woman. The Grammy darling reached the 10 million sales mark in the U.S. in November, and she became the first British woman to reach such a milestone—she did this in less than two years. “What an incredible honor,” Adele said in a statement. “A huge, huge thank you to my American fans for embracing this record on such a massive level.” Adele is currently enjoying the success of her latest single "Skyfall," the official theme song for the latest James Bond film. The singer also gave birth to her first child earlier this year.

More: Daniel Craig cried after listening to Adele's 'Skyfall' theme

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'Downton Abbey'

In the same year that Kim Kardashian was the most searched-for name in the world, the phenomenal popularity of a British period drama with an often-mispronounced name stood out in stark contrast to what seemed to be a viewing public obsessed with reality TV stars and celebrity feuds. Entering its second season in January, "Downton Abbey," which follows the aristocratic Crawley family through events of the early 20th century, garnered PBS its highest ratings since 2009. It was also nominated for 16 Primetime Emmy Awards, making it the most-nominated non-U.S. show in Emmy history. By this time it was also deemed popular enough for Saturday Night Live to take its shot at it, with a parody of “Downton Abbey” reimagined as a testosterone-fueled show for jock audiences – and everyone knew better than to call it “Downtown Abbey.” 

Find: 'Downton Abbey'

Related: 'Downton Abbey' creator to produce new drama with NBC, Universal TV

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HBO shuts down production of 'Luck' after horse deaths

The short-lived HBO series “Luck” focused on the world of horse racing and gambling, and starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. In March, HBO canceled the series after a third thoroughbred horse died during production for a second season. The first two horse deaths occurred in 2010 and 2011. With the announcement of the show's end, the American Humane Association released a statement saying canceling “Luck” was the best decision HBO could have made. "Following the death of a horse that reared up and fell while walking to its stall on Monday, we demanded that all production involving animals be shut down and insisted that the stoppage remain in force pending an investigation, in which we will continue so that we might learn how, if possible, to prevent such incidents in the future and protect more animals,” the AHA statement read. In each death, the horses’ severe fractures were deemed inoperable by veterinarians and the horses were euthanized. The network said it canceled the show because it could not guarantee against future accidents. The ethical treatment of animals on production sets has also been called into question more recently, when wranglers on “The Hobbit” trilogy say the film was responsible for the deaths of 27 animals, including several horses, during production in New Zealand. Director Peter Jackson has said some animals died on a farm where they were housed, but none had been hurt during filming.

More: Series overview: HBO's 'Luck'

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Keith Olbermann fired from Current TV

It seemed like the perfect match: Feisty broadcaster Keith Olbermann had signed on as the marquee talent for the fledgling liberal network, Current TV, founded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt. But in March, just short of one year into his rich contract, it all blew up. He was fired by his bosses amid acrimonious charges and counter charges concerning his support for the network, his behavior and his absences. For fans of Olbermann, once a central attraction at MSNBC cable before a rift with his bosses there, it all seemed familiar. 

More: Olbermann reportedly whined about smelly drivers

Find: Keith Olbermann

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Botched restoration of Ecce Homo painting

A 19th-century fresco painting of Jesus by artist Elias Garcia Martinez didn’t have much importance, as far as the art world was concerned, when it was donated to a church in the Spanish town of Borja. It was an elderly woman who catapulted the work to global infamy. Cecilia Gimenez’s attempted restoration transformed the depiction of Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, into a barely-recognizable figure that has been compared to Rowlf the Dog, and was nicknamed “Potato Jesus” in reference to the controversial “I Can Count to Potato” meme that often made fun of people with disabilities. Spanish media reported that Gimenez was so overwhelmed with all the unwanted attention to her painting skills, she became bed-ridden and was suffering anxiety attacks. She later demanded royalties from the fees her church charged to see the painting, once it became a major tourist attraction. 

Find:Botched ecce homo painting

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'Good Morning America' bests the 'Today' show's ratings

For roughly the last two decades, more Americans woke up to NBC’s “Today” show than any other morning television program. But 2012 brought more bad days than good for “Today.” After several months of declining ratings, Ann Curry bid a tearful goodbye to viewers in June, unleashing a fan backlash and a further drop in viewership. In November, Executive Producer Jim Bell (who had orchestrated Curry’s ouster) was himself replaced. That was the same month that ABC’s “Good Morning America” won its first sweeps-month victory over “Today” in 20 years. Now the battle for morning-show supremacy continues at a furious pace. Will viewers ultimately prefer their coffee with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie or George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts? For now, neither show has much to worry about from “CBS This Morning,” which remains in a sleepy third place.


Good Morning America: Series overview

'The Today Show': Series overview


AP Photo: Bill Wippert
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The NFL referee strike

The NFL locked out its referees in June and started the season with replacement referees. Most of the replacements were high school or non-Division I college refs. Some had experience in the Arena and Lingerie leagues. Despite criticism from fans, players and coaches, the replacements took the field for the first three weeks of the season. The Sept. 24 Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers was the tipping point when the game ended on a controversial call. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings both caught a ball in the end zone as time expired. Possession was awarded to Tate, giving the Seahawks a touchdown and a 14-12 win, despite many people feeling the Packers should have been awarded an interception. A deal was struck two days later and regular refs were on the field for the following Thursday game.

More: Full-time refs, more crews disputed

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The Summer Olympics

It started with the Queen skydiving into Olympic Stadium and finished with a tribute to England’s rich music history. And in between, we saw the highs of Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time, and the lows of eight women’s doubles badminton players disqualified for “not using their best effort.” But for 17 days in July and August, all eyes were on London for the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The United States finished with 104 total medals, highlights include: Four golds and two silvers by swimmer Phelps, giving him 22 career medals; the ‘Fierce Five’ gymnastics team edging out Russia for the team all-around gold and Gabby Douglas winning the individual all-around gold; and the men’s and women’s teams sweeping gold in basketball. Despite the “McKayla Maroney is not impressed” internet meme that spawned from the Games, the rest of the world was very impressed. 

Read more: The 2012 Summer Olympics