Market missteps, big openings, zombie apocalypse (May 2012 buzz)

Vera H-C Chan

May confirmed many things: the latest "American Idol" winner, the GOP presumptive nominee, a war criminal's sentence, even the sun's partial eclipse. Some sure things, though, faltered badly, while others performed beyond expectations. And while May proved to be a crammed news month with domestic politicking and international conflict, a story too gruesome to be true turned out to be just that. Here now, the buzz that grabbed readers and fueled plenty of hysteria.

Market missteps: Facebook IPO and JPMorgan Chase
Wall Street, not one to afford any more black eyes, got a double knockout this month with two things that shouldn't have gone wrong. Facebook, despite grumblings over privacy and its Timeline, was to debut one of the most anticipated offerings in months, and—despite warnings against hyperaised its initial price offering. JPMorgan Chase, with its much-admired CEO, Jamie Dimon, was among the rare institutions to emerge from the economic debacle with most of their reputation. Then the double-whammy: Facebook stock stuttered, then stumbled. Outrage emerged over underwriter Morgan Stanley's murmurings to institutional investors while Main Street buyers remained oblivious. Meanwhile, a sense of deja vu returned as the banking institution apologized repeatedly for a certain "London Whale's" delving into risky credit derivatives, resulting in the loss of billions. There were two positive notes amid all the lawsuits and accusations: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got hitched (and all eyes were on Priscilla Chan's ruby ring) and Dimon got to keep his raise.

(Related: Facebook IPO latest blow to investors)

(Related: JPMORGAN PROVES IT: Wall Street is just kids playing with dynamite)

Big Openings: "Avengers," "Men in Black 3," "Hatfields & McCoys"
Theater owners have been a lonely bunch. Despite Harry Potter and the "Twilight" swooners, 2011 was the "least attended box-office year since 1995." What a difference a first quarter makes: "The Hunger Games" and "21 Jump Street" had already lured the couch potatoes, but this month records melted with "The Avengers." The superhero-stuffed action film did most of the heavy lifting for the 13% bounce over last year's numbers and 18% higher in domestic summer season tickets—and summer hasn't even started yet. That's superheroism. "MIB3" didn't sell as well as its predecessors, but it brings star Will Smith's $100 mil box-office streak to 13 films. Movies weren't the only wins: The History Channel's miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys" made cable ratings history with 13.9 million viewers over the Memorial Day weekend, the best performance for a non-sports-related show. The star-packed series has spurred tons of searches, from the actors (e.g., "Lindsay Pulsipher") to the literal real McCoy (e.g., "Battle of grapevine," "Roseanne McCoy").

(Related: Secret 'Avengers' cameo: Lou Ferrigno helped voice the Hulk)

(Related: 'Men in Black 3' takes down 'Avengers' with $55M)

(Related: The Supreme Court in the Hatfield-McCoy feud)

Zombie apocalypse
By no means was it the biggest news story of the month, but the May 26 story about a naked man chewing on the face of another was an urban legend come horrifically true. Right outside the headquarters of the Miami Herald and before its cameras, 31-year-old Rudy Eugene attacked 65-year-old homeless man Ronald Poppo for 18 minutes. Both were naked. Policeman Jose Rivera shot and killed Eugene, who is suspected of being on the designer drug bath salts, but toxicology reports will take weeks. Eugene's unidentified girlfriend told the Miami Herald that he had never done anything worse than pot, and she couldn't think of an explanation beyond a Vodou curse, saying, "I don't know how else to explain this." Poppo remains in critical condition, as stories about his high-achieving teen years emerge. Police have deemed him an accidental victim, someone who "just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." The story went viral for days, and spurred searches on Yahoo! for sickening terms like "Miami cannibal attack," "Miami man chews face off," "homeless man cannibal," "Ronald Poppo," "man eats face," "Florida cannibal," "Causeway cannibal," "zombie apocalypse," and "bath salts."
Bath salts have been banned in 38 states.

(Related: Face-eating attack possibly prompted by 'bath salts' street drug)

(Related: How do 'bath salts' drive people crazy?)

May 2012 Buzz
Popular Front Page stories Fastest-moving search terms Search leaders
U.S. Olympic hero's big weight loss—Shawn Johnson lost 25 pounds after 'hurtful' fat talk. Metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma (off the charts). Diagnosis of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who is reportedly at the "end stage" of his cancer. Hatfield & McCoy Feud
Former teen star's drastically different look—7 Drastic TV Star Transformations. Doc Watson (off the charts). The lauded folk singer died at age 89. Facebook stock
Teen star's forbidden question for Obama—'Men in Black' moment: Will Smith and son Jaden get real with Pres. Obama. Mary-Kate Olsen (+149,245%). Dating a Sarkozy. Zombie attack in Miami
Fit 74-year-old upstages younger stars—2012 Cannes Film slideshow. Hugo Chavez (+5,980%). Diagnosed with cancer, he may not survive to October elections. Man eating face shot
Mom arrested for taking 5-year-old tanning—Tanning booth mom calls arrest for taking daughter, 5, a misunderstanding; 'It was a sunburn,' dad says. Bar Rafaeli (+4,873%). The busy supermodel will play a spy, scored No. 1 on Maxim's 2012 hot list, and may have canoodled with Olympian Shaun White. Florida zombie attack
Student's haircut could lead to suspension—Shaving a picture of Matt Bonner in his head could net a young Spurs fan an in-school suspension. BMI chart (+4,669%). Stories about diabetes and obesity boosting its lookup. Emilie de Ravin
Seniors' hilarious yearbook prank—Eight Girls Pull Best Yearbook Prank Ever. Emilie de Ravin (+2,934%). The actress finished her season finale for "Once Upon a Time." Ashley Judd
Kristen Stewart's risky 'skeleton' gown—'Snow White and the Huntsman' U.K. Premiere. James Lee Crummel (+2,403%). San Quentin death-row inmate found hanging in cell. Zombie attack in Miami
Lamborghini driver gets too aggressive—Lamborghini Gallardo crash wrecks driver's reputation in suburban Chicago intersection. Financial aid (+1,946%). Students applying, amid changes and fees. Hatfield & McCoys History Channel
Nicki Minaj's revealing two-piece—Daytime in No Time. Student loans (+1,946%): Acceptance letters come in, loan papers go out—and more students keep applying. All the Single Ladies