A toy-train company bidding to run the west coast mainline. The rise of dinosaur erotica. Cameron and Obama taking a selfie at Mandela’s funeral. And Miley. Dear, sweet, bizarrely ridiculous Miley. It really has been the most absurd year – so how better to end 2013 than to look back at its most ludicrous moments…
50. Web: That loving filling
In September, one loving girlfriend in America acceded to her man's request that she make him 300 sandwiches – in return for a possible wedding ring. She blogged about it. The world retched, and a #300feminist sandwiches hashtag was born. "What a crock, monsieur," said one wag.
49. Politics: Poker face
The war in Syria is complex, with different factions holding different cards. Senator John McCain – a long-time advocate of arming the rebels – would approve this metaphor; he was caught playing poker on his phone during a three-hour Congressional debate on whether to bomb the Assad regime.
48. Fashion: Swing your pants!
Fundawear was launched in April: it's vibrating sex underwear (read again carefully, and shake head). Specifically, it's bra and pants for her, pants for him, each with built-in buzzers – add a couple of smartphones with the proprietary app uploaded, and wahey, you've got a revolting night of passion at your fingertips. Thanks for this, Durex.
47. News: Ding Jinhao was here!
Where? In Luxor, at the temple complex. How do we know? Because the 15-year-old only went and signed his name on a 3,500-year-old wall, posted a picture of his tag on the Sina Weibo microblogging site, and was promptly berated by 100,000 commenters. He has been grounded until the Pyramids crumble.
46. Celebrity: Fashion faithful
Perhaps it was a bit daft of Rihanna to stage an impromptu photoshoot at a major mosque in Abu Dhabi, but once all the fuss died down, it became apparent just how amazing she looks with a few clothes on.
45. Politics: Funking for justice
There's the English Defence League. And there's English Disco Lovers – the charming movement established by four friends with the motto "One World, One Race, One Disco" – to reclaim, as they saw it, the acronym EDL. "By subverting [the English Defence League's] hatred with humour, we aim to promote equality, respect and the Eutopian vision of disco!" Result? English Defence League Facebook likes: fewer than 25,000; English Disco League: more than 60,000!
44. Culture: We are not amused!
It must have been quite a shock for the busking samba band when Helen Mirren, in full tiara'n'twinset mode from playing HRH in 'The Audience' at the Gielgud theatre, stormed on to the street and told them in a stream of rude words to shut up. The very loud drummers had positioned themselves outside the theatre, interrupting the performance – until Mirren confronted them mid-show. She later apologised for using 'thespian words' and giving them a 'very stern royal ticking off'.
43. Fashion: Delevingne's dodgy digit
In modelling, your body is your biggest asset. So the decision of Cara Delevingne, fashion's current favourite face, to very visibly ink one of her fingers with a snarling lion feels slightly foolish. I imagine she'll be regretting that in 20 years. Or maybe just wearing lots of cocktail rings.
42. News: Ice capades
How much for four ice-creams at the Antica Roma gelateria near Rome's Spanish Steps? That'll be £54, per favore. Worse, said Roger Bannister, the hapless British tourist left with the bill, "When we paid up they didn't even say thank you." Esorbitante!
41. Web: The bird's the word
When life takes one of your legs, put on a pink neon morphsuit, dress your remaining foot in a flamingo-head sock, and rotate your body over a pair of crutches to create the most magnificent flamingo Halloween costume in modern history. Bravo, former Paralympian Josh Sundquist.
40. Fashion: Hell for leather
Despite the popularity of said style with late-1980s rapperatti, the often-overblown Kanye West asserted this year that the leather jogging trouser was his invention, rejected by the Italian luxury house Fendi six years ago. Unless he also mastered time-travel in between his recording career, his catwalk debut and inventing these questionable trews, West's pants may be on fire.
39. Culture: Hubba hubba Hiddleston!
At an event in Seoul promoting the film Thor: The Dark World, Tom Hiddleston happened to mention he loves dancing… a clever spark put on some music and he had to get his groove on. Happily, it turns out that the very game Hiddleston can throw some serious shapes. He's since cut some rug with Alan Carr on his Chatty Man talk show, and engaged in a red-carpet dance-off with co-star Zachary Levi.
38. Politics: That syncing feeling
He's done it before so we'd got over all that first black president thing. But Obama's second inauguration was still a big deal. Precautions were taken. Beyoncé was given the gig. Mismatches were detected. Synthetic outrage was manufactured. "Next up on Fox News: what did Obama know about Beyoncé lip-syncing, and when did he know it?"
37. Sport: Less of your lip
Images of the Zaha Hadid-designed Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar, built for the 2022 World Cup, went viral in November after the sinuous folds of its curved roof were likened to female genitalia. The Daily Show in the US described Hadid as "the Georgia O'Keeffe of things you can walk inside". Hadid insisted it was inspired by the sails of a dhow. Judge for yourself.
36. Web: Goodbye and farewell
It was the year of the elaborate resignation. Chris Holmes did it with a cake bearing a beautifully iced and magnanimous letter to his UK Border Agency bosses (which cleverly included an iced link to his new enterprise – a cake-baking business). Marina Shifrin, an employee at a Taiwanese animation studio, did it by way of over-dubbing a Kanye West song with a video shot inside her deserted offices – and was less charitable to her bosses. Her old boss got the last laugh with a spoof, no-hard-feelings riposte by way of his own version of West's song delivered as an invitation to new applicants. So long, Marina.
35. News: Literal minded
The Daily Telegraph noticed belatedly that the Oxford English Dictionary had – two years earlier – let in a definition of "literally" as: "Informally, used for emphasis rather than being actually true." Pedants literally went into meltdown and were turned into candles.
34. Politics: Lord Byron
"Look at me, a straightforward, burger-eating chap." This was the message that George Osborne intended to send with a tweeted picture of a meat-patty by his side, the night before he was due to give the June Spending Review. More fool he, as journalists spotted the burger was from Byron, where a takeaway rarely comes in under ten guineas. Eric Pickles showed remarkable agility with his own tweeted snap in response – a salad.
33. Culture: Please do try this at home
Thanks to the author Amy Tan for some moments of exquisite silliness on Twitter, after she revealed the fun that can be had with the cover of her new novel, The Valley of Amazement. It turns out that the half-face on the cover of the book fits perfectly over the lower half of the reader's face.
32. News: The wooden train arriving at platform seven…
In January, Bigjigs Toys published details of its toy trains division's bid to run the west coast mainline. It highlighted its k 100 per cent punctuality and safety record since 2005; seeing the silly side, a Department of Transport official responded sincerely, writing that: "Wooden carriages are unlikely to meet modern crashworthiness standards for operation on the heavy rail network."
31. Celebrity: Mais ou est Gérard?
How much did the sybaritic actor want to avoid a tax bill in his native France? First, he moved to Belgium. And then we learnt in February that he had earnt Russian citizenship by personal decree of his "friend" President Putin, and taken up residency in Saransk, in the central Russian province of Mordovia (famed for its Stalin-era gulags!).
30. Culture: And now for something completely different
New editor Ian "Lol" Katz injected hitherto rarely seen humour into Newsnight. A whimsical final item swiftly became Katz's trademark, perhaps best represented by the first appearance on a current- affairs programme of Sesame Street's Cookie Monster.
29. Politics: Cuddling up to Kim
In September, the colourful former US basketball star Dennis Rodman paid his second visit to North Korea to see the "good-hearted kid" he calls his friend, Kim Jong-un. He visited the leader's private island: "It's like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he's the only one that lives there." North Korea's record on human rights gave him little pause for thought. "I don't care what the fuck he does over there," said Rodman. "Between me and him, we're friends. I don't care."
28. Sport: The tooth will out!
At the Honda Classic in Palm Beach in February and March, the then-world number-one golfer Rory McIlroy quit by walking off the course during the second round while seven over par. The reason, he said, was toothache – although just before leaving, he was photographed demolishing a massive sandwich. Cue much embarrassment for McIlroy, who did subsequently apologise.
27. Fashion: The Theresa and Cara Show
The Daily Mail asked, "Is Theresa May Turning Into Cara Delevingne?" on the basis of some ingenious picture research turning up photos of the Home Secretary and the model sometimes wearing clothes that looked a bit similar if you shut your eyes or used Google Search for "similar images".
26. Web: Smoke and mirrors
In March, the world watched a chimney no grander than a prison's ventilation pipe for news of a decision about a new Pope. Yet, for hour after hour, no white smoke appeared. The Metro newspaper live-blogged the boredom, and drew a huge online audience to nothing but its wry satire on rolling news culture. "BREAKING: no smoke… Update: still no smoke," and, much later… "Still no smoke. Awkward." When a seagull landed on the chimney, Metro's site nearly buckled under the weight of excitement.
25. Sport: He's behind you!
In September on the steps of Downing Street, the rugby Lions centre Manu Tuilagi was standing behind David Cameron for a photo. He gave the prime minister a pair of bunny ears, as you would. He apologised on Twitter, and though former Lion and commentator Brian Moore described him 'a complete and utter prat', the PM said no apology was necessary.
24. Culture: All's fair in love…
This was the year that erotic fiction got silly, with publishers apparently competing to offer the weirdest erotica "with a twist". If Hedging His Bets – an erotic novel whose hero is a werehedgehog – is just too vanilla for your beloved's literary taste , try Taken by the T-Rex – part of a new genre known as "dinosaur erotica". "Warning: This is a tale of beast sex" cautions the blurb. Grr!
23. Fashion: Shaggy shoes
Phoebe Philo and Fendi covered high heels in mink, while Rochas' Marco Zanini smothered them in feathers. Footwear looked to Fraggle Rock for inspiration for 2013. Approach with caution. It's easy to end up looking like Lily Savage lost down Sesame Street.
22. Sport: Farah-away look
After he'd won the New Orleans half-marathon in February, double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah was interviewed on the local WDSU news channel by LaTonya Norton – who clearly had no idea who he was. "Now, haven't you run before?" she inquired. He played along with the idea that he was a fun runner made good. In his autobiography Mo was forgiving. "It's not her job to keep up to date with who's who in British athletics," he wrote. "Besides, in America no one knows who I am."
21. Celebrity: Straight outta Preston
The American rapper Coolio chummed up with some local students at his after-party following a gig in Preston. He promised he'd come round to their student digs the next night and cook them dinner – and he ACTUALLY DID. After serving them Caprese salad, his signature dish "Chicken à la Daaaamn" and peach crumble, Coolio and the kids had a jamming session in which they rapped – what else? – his 1995 hit "Gangsta's Paradise".
20. News: That royal birth in full…
Private Eye was typically gushing in its appraisal of the birth of Prince George.
19. Culture: Chicken coop for the soul
The Bookseller magazine's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year 2013 went to Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop – a "practical" guide on how to "clear your home and garden of goblins and banish them forever". But the silliest title of the year was Don't Flush: Lifting the Lid on the Science of Poo and Wee, by Mary and Richard Platt – a contender for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. Alas, it did not win.
18. News: The car-park king
Obviously, finding the remains of the hump-backed king is an exciting and serious discovery for archaeologists… but for the rest of us, the news that the remains of Richard III were found under a car park in Leicester was slightly amusing. Cue endless jokes about expired parking tickets/his kingdom for a Porsche.
17. Culture: All shook up
It began as just one part of a skit on YouTube, but the video dance craze was soon being copied round the world. The formulaic freak-out went viral, inspiring an estimated 100,000 imitations. While commentators keep calling the meme "dead", new versions kept on coming, notably from the Norwegian Army, Fulham FC, models Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn, the Simpsons… even the English National Ballet.
16. Web: The selfie
A portrait, typically taken with one's own smartphone, came of age this year to such an extent that the Oxford Dictionaries chose it as the word of 2013. We deplored the indulgence of "funeral selfies" and the oversharing of the "rich kids of Instagram" until, at the Memorial for Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and David Cameron outdid us all when they were caught in the act of posing for a selfie with the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The Sun's headline: No Selfie Respect.
15. Culture: I know you don't want it…
For better or worse, Robin Thicke made one of the songs of the year with "Blurred Lines", described variously as a "bubbly bit of disco-shuffling R&B" and "eye-poppingly misogynist". The video didn't help. Then Students in New Zealand made "Defined Lines" with a video featuring objectified men in place of women, wearing comparably few clothes. The unblurred irony: YouTube pulled it for "inappropriate content".
14. Technology: The last post for posties?
Amazon, DHL, even Yo! Sushi – this was the year that delivery by remote unmanned drone got marketing departments excited. But can a flying robot post a "While you were out" note through your letterbox? We'd love to see it try.
13. Web: Miley wrecked
A bearded, nude, slightly overweight man threatened to out-viral Miley Cyrus with an alarming parody of the formerly child-friendly singer's song, "Wrecking Ball". Steve Kardynal used Chatroulette, the forum that randomly connects users with live webcams, to horrify viewers with his naked take on Miley's salacious original. The clip scored nine million hits in one day.
12. Celebrity: Hairprehension (n)
That feeling when you walk into the office after a new haircut and nervously await the verdict of your colleagues. Jeremy Paxman must have experienced it to the power of 10 when he returned to Newsnight after his summer hols sporting a bold new chin-warmer. Twitter was immediately ablaze. "Very louche and distinguished," remarked one viewer. "He looks like a vagrant," offered another. Within a few hours Paxman's beard had its very own Twitter account, @PaxmanBeard.
11. Celebrity: Cher? Not her as well!
The death of Margaret Thatcher prompted much gnashing of teeth over political legacy and funeral bills. And a Twitter storm in a skinny latte cup when the hashtag #nowthatchersdead (read it out syllable by syllable) went viral and was taken as news that it was Cher who had gone to the great gig in the sky.
10. Web: Zoo TV
Few have better demonstrated the democratic powers of YouTube than MisterEpicMann. His slapstick representation of the way animals would eat if they could sit at a dinner table has earned him almost 100 million views – all for a 90-second clip that would have cost nothing to make. Even his blooper reel has scored more than six million hits.
9. Web: #penisbeaker
"Do you dunk your penis?" Sara Crewe quietly posted on the Mumsnet parenting website. "We have a dedicated post-sex cleanup area on the bedside table. A box of tissues, a small bin, and a beaker of clean water for temporary cleaning/dunking while the bathroom is occupied by me." Cue instant viral notoriety.
8. Culture: Virgil, Chaucer, Morrissey…
The decision by Penguin to publish Morrissey's k autobiography in its first edition as a Penguin Classic – ranking it alongside The Aeneid and The Canterbury Tales – is officially the silliest publishing decision of the year.
7. Politics: Crack team
This is exciting: Paul Flowers, the former chairman of Co-op Bank and a Methodist minister; Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto – if we can find just one more portly authority figure allegedly dabbling in crack, we can get a Tumblr page up and running.
6. Technology: Slip into something a little more digital
This is the year that wearable technology got serious. And then again, not so much… The speccy computer Google Glass was daft enough, as was Samsung's computer watch. Then came news that Google had also developed a talking shoe. Sony, feeling left out, filed a patent for something called a SmartWig. Don't wear them all at once…
5. Celebrity: The rule of J-Law
It's every Hollywood star's nightmare: she tripped while climbing the steps to collect that best actress gong – though looking at the enormous meringue-style Dior dress she was wearing, it's little wonder. But her klutziness, her mortification, and her flip-the-bird response to questions about it at the press conference… it just intensified the universal Jennifer Lawrence crush
4. News: Financial armageddon
In a bad year all round for the City of London came news that one of its spanky new skyscrapers, 20 Fenchurch Street, didn't just look like a 37-storey tall walkie- talkie, it also had a death ray! Or rather, at a certain time on a clear day, the sun's beams were briefly reflected and concentrated on one spot below – in the case of Martin Lindsay in September, on to his Jaguar, melting its wing mirror and a panel.
3. Politics: Herr Farage
The Ukip leader Nigel Farage was on the BBC busy defending himself against all sorts of allegations about off-colour goings-on as a young man, when, alas!, a transmission glitch appeared to endow Farage with a moustache last seen on a political leader who liked Europe so much he decided to invade most of it 70 years ago.
2. Culture: Mutant food!
It was a year of mad cross-breeding in the bakery: the cronut (croissant and doughnut); the townie (tartlette and brownie); the brookie (brownie and cookie); the muffle (muffin plus waffle); the macanut (macaroon and doughnut); the peanoche (peanut butter-infused brioche); the duffin (doughnut and muffin). One of these is completely made up by the way…
1. Celebrity: Foaming at the mouth
When confronted by the sight of Miley Cyrus's gyrating backside at the MTV awards, many of us felt a deep confusion. Was this just terrible dancing? An example of racist appropriation? Or a major setback for feminism? Oh no. According to Steve Chmelar, inventor of the giant foam finger, this was much, much worse: "She took an honourable icon that is seen in sporting venues everywhere and degraded it. Fortunately, the foam finger has been around long enough that it will survive this incident."