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Gambit's 2013 Year in Review

A look at the strangest, most interesting and in some cases, most alarming stories of the year.

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1. TOURIST OF THE YEAR
The Dalai Lama

Forget Super Bowl quarterbacks — the year's most high-profile visitor to New Orleans was the Dalai Lama, whose May trip to the city saw colorful Tibetan prayer flags fluttering from balconies all over town.

2. SCARIEST NEW LOCAL OF THE YEAR
Pierre the Pelican

When the newly rebranded New Orleans Pelicans unveiled their new mascot, Pierre the Pelican, at a game in late October, reviews were not good:

  "The Pelicans unveiled 'Pierre' to fans on Wednesday, and he is completely and utterly terrifying. Seriously. Don't try to stare into his eyes for more than a few seconds." — Sean Highkin, USA Today

  "The thing is nightmare-inducing, and if I didn't know better, I'd say it was simply a cruel Halloween costume  meant to scare small children at New Orleans Arena." — Sam Gardner, Fox Sports

  "From a distance, it's cute and cuddly enough to make you think you shouldn't be afraid, but then you get up close and catch a glimpse of that gaping, 'smiling' maw, which is the portal for your soul's devourment." — Deadspin

  Meanwhile, busy fans set to work Photoshopping Pierre into a number of disturbing images: as the creature from both Alien and The Ring movies, as the twins from The Shining and even into both Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper and the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The hapless pelican was even the butt of jokes on Comedy Central's late-night series @Midnight. Pity poor Pierre — he just wants to be loved, and to shoot you with a T-shirt cannon.

3. DANCE OF THE YEAR
Twerking

If you grew up in New Orleans, you likely called it "p-poppin'" when you first saw it (though DJ Jubilee was using the word "twerk" as early as 1993). As the bounce scene became popular elsewhere, Americans got their first look at New Orleans-style twerking. But it was an instantly infamous performance by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the August MTV Video Music Awards that brought "twerk" to the mainstream and launched a national debate about New Orleans' booty popping.

  Big Freedia told the press that Cyrus "didn't really twerk properly" ("Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons"). The Queen Diva then asserted her own dominance in the genre by attempting to set a Guinness World Record for twerking in New York's Herald Square in October. Just last week, Cyrus tried to twerk up trouble again by grinding on Santa Claus at a holiday concert in Los Angeles. Are you shocked yet? Neither are we.

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4. TRIM OF THE YEAR
City Park/Ty Park fiasco

Have you ever asked someone to do something — then realized you should have been more specific? In October, New Orleans City Park officials hired a contractor to do some trim work, only to have him cut down two of the letters in the iconic topiary CITY PARK sign. By the time horrified neighbors intervened, the damage was done, and CITY PARK was now TY PARK. New boxwoods were planted within the week.

5. ALTERCATION OF THE YEAR
Jim Letten vs. James O'Keefe

In July, muckraker James O'Keefe of the website Project Veritas was removed from the campus of Tulane University after he and a camera crew attempted to interview former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. In 2010, Letten recused himself from a federal case that followed an incident in which O'Keefe and his crew posed as telephone repairmen and gained access to Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office. (The recusal, presumably, was due to the fact that one of O'Keefe's crew was the son of William Flanagan, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana — Letten's then-counterpart in the western half of the state.) Later that year, O'Keefe and his partners pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that case and received probation, community service and minor fines. But when O'Keefe attempted to give Letten a copy of his book Breakthrough, Letten gave O'Keefe a piece of his mind in return, calling him a "hobbit," "spud," "scum" and "asshole." The video of their encounter was posted promptly on Project Veritas' website.

6. ENDLESS DEBATE OF THE YEAR
Hipsters and gentrifiers

Forget "the N word" — this year we were suffused with "the G word" (gentrification) and the dreaded "H word" (hipster). If you open a business, are you a gentrifier? What if it's in a formerly blighted building? If you like to ride your bike to the Hi-Ho or Euclid Records, are you automatically a hipster? What if you moved to Bywater from Portland, Ore. in 2012? (OK, then probably you are a hipster.) There's no concrete definition of either of these terms, but it didn't stop New Orleans from passionately arguing about it all year — after all, someone or something must be making the rents rise so quickly, and it can't be us, so it must be them ... whoever they are.

7. UNFORTUNATE AD PLACEMENT OF THE YEAR
The Talk

French Quarter residents who were already unhappy over CBS Sports turning much of the Upper Quarter into a TV backlot during Super Bowl XLVII finally hit the roof when officials promoting the CBS daytime yap show The Talk hung a promotional sign on the statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square. After a day of social media outrage, the sign was taken down and CBS issued a terse apology: "The sign, which was placed due to a light reflection issue, has been removed."

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