Thursday, December 7, 2017

Vote Now! The 2017 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Four

Today is the last post for voting for the 2017 Miserable Crank Awards. Go vote for each of the categories now!

Voting for day one includes Government, Technology, Sports, and Embarrassment.

Voting for day two includes Business, Popular Trends, and Incident.

Voting for day three includes Entertainment, Person, and Inconvenience.

Vote in each of the categories above, and then the final vote is below. Remember, this vote is for the absolute worst thing of 2017, regardless of category. You can vote for something different or re-vote for something you voted on an earlier post; it doesn't matter. Whichever gets the most votes below wins the overall award, and whoever the runner up for whatever category it was out of will win that category instead. Remember: you need to vote in the previous three posts (ten categories total) and vote below.

Remember, voting ends on Friday, December 15th, 2017, so the polls will be open for a full week after today.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Vote Now! The 2017 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Three

Here are the candidates for day three of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2016. Don't forget to vote on the Day One Categories and the Day Two Categories!


Emoji Movie
It's a fun movie for the kids, I'm sure they will say. It ain't hurting anyone, others will claim. But just as previous badly-conceived movies that kids absolutely adore and as such will confirm their continued existence and expansion, the Emoji Movie--the plot of which involves...well, hell, no one cares--was enough of a success that the characters will be sure to grace the walls of your older relative's Facebook pages for years to come.

Fyre Festival
A music festival held in the Bahamas by rapper Ja Rule, the Fyre Festival quickly became an unmitigated catastrophe. Poor planning and a failure to address serious logistical issues led to a flurry of social media disasters. Tents replaced luxury hotel rooms. Prepackaged sandwiches replaced gourmet meals. For an expensive destination event--tickets started at $1500 for one day of the four-day festival--people were greeted to wet mattresses and bare-bones staff. The entire thing was cancelled after the initial wave of attendees, and the founders are currently undergoing multiple lawsuits and criminal proceedings.

Oscar Best Picture Announcement
One of the more awkward things to come out of Hollywood (actually, on second thought, scratch that), the 2017 Best Picture announcement during the Academy Awards show fell apart. The presenters--Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway--went to read the announcement, only to realize much too late that they were given the wrong envelope. In the confusion (we're being charitable, here) the wrong nominee--La La Land--was announced, instead of the actual winner, Moonlight.

Mariah Carey's New Years' Performance
Ringing in the new year is always a stressful time for many--it's a situation that must be done live and relies on a lot of good timing. Unfortunately, problems happen, and one big problem was Mariah Carey. When the music began she quickly motions that the sound wasn't working, but as the music continued and the dancers never stopped, she simply gave up, not even bothering to mouth along with the lip sync. While it's almost certainly not her fault--the sound engineering was clearly off--it was an awkward performance to say the least.

Look What You Made Me Do
Taylor Swift is one of the hottest stars right now, so it's usually notable when there's a misfire. While fans will certainly be very forgiving, and even the critics, it's hard to work up a lot of love for her latest single, Look What You Made Me Do. The clumsy lyrics, meta-references, and stylistic change turned a lot of people off, and while some of it is a well-deserved break from her standard formula, most simply see it as a letdown. 


Harvey Weinstein
It's sort of difficult to pick exactly who we want to represent the monsters who are in Hollywood. The big secret everyone already knows--that most people in Tinseltown are amoral, soulless monsters--finally came to light when accusations against high-powered producer Harvey Weinstein finally stuck. Afterwards, when everyone in Hollywood pretended to be shocked, shocked at his behavior, a cascade of sexual predation started to be released, exposing a lot of things people really pretended to not know.

Donald Trump
Sure, it's an easy target, but it's not like Trump seems to care. There's an entire list of garbage we could list here--and even if you approach it from a cold nonpartisan lens, there's still plenty of material. Whether it be his handling of his twitter account, or calling foreign heads of state, or his dealings with the day-to-day operations of running the office, he's found an alarmingly public way of doing everything in the worst way possible. (Or the most refreshing way possible, depending on how many Cracker Barrels are in your county.)

Roy Moore
Most people outside of Alabama either don't know Moore, or vaguely know him as the Guy Who Really Loves Stone Depictions Of The Ten Commandments. Now, everyone knows him for something else--liking little girls. Since he is running for Senate, the immediate defense of his approaching 14 year old girls by his base--which in Alabama is embarrassingly large--is nothing short of sickening. While the general wave of allegations have hit more than Moore (notably Senator Al Franken) not are at the same level of hypocritical depravity.

Steve Bannon
The senior counselor and mastermind behind the Trump White House, Bannon, whose existence has been dogged with white supremacy, misogyny, and tone-deafness, acted as a lightning rod for criticism in the presidency. While he tended to keep quiet and make few public statements, his influence behind the scenes could be felt everywhere--right up to the point where he was dismissed.

Ajit Pai
The current chairman of the FCC, Pai is spearheading the assault on Net Neutrality. While it's been a hot topic for years, for the first time it appears as if the repeal may go through. He's also fostered a lot of ocntroversy surrounding the issue, since a lot of the public comments appear to be illegitimate, and his agency is coming off very tone-deaf to the criticism. 


Travel Ban
President Trump, looking to fulfill one of his many promises during the campaign, announced a travel ban from about a dozen countries very early in his administration. However, he had apparently failed to notify...well, anyone who should know, to the point where cabinet departments were discussing the pros and cons only to look at the TV and see that it was decided. The ban itself was also implemented poorly, with individuals having no idea if they could return to the US on temporary visas.

Chris Christie Bans The Beach
When the Governor of New Jersey and the state legislature were unable to come to a budget agreement, the state shut down. The nonessential services, anyway. Nonessential services include things like beaches--well, unless you are the governor himself, who was photographed on a near-empty beach, enjoying the things that the taxpayers explicitly couldn't. It would have been literally the worst optics ever for a politician, except for that one time Christie stood behind Trump, endorsing him, with a face like he just sold his soul, which he did.

Hollyweed
Residents of a certain southern California community were a little shocked to wake up and find that the iconic "Hollywood" sign had a different kind of message. Changing the name to "Hollyweed" on New Year's Day, possibly as a dedication to the new marijuana laws that had taken effect in California. Or possibly some stoners got high and were somehow coordinated enough to pull it off.

Solar Eclipse
For the first time in nearly a century, a total eclipse of the sun was visible throughout a large portion of the United States. While partial ones are relatively common, this one ran the length of the nation. Millions of people prepared for the day, buying special please-don't-go-blind glasses, making their own out of cereal boxes and (one assumes) crossed fingers, and scheduled convenient lunch breaks at work.

A Million Little Streaming Services
For a few years now it has been apparent that streaming services will be the future of media consumption, in one way or another. And for years that market has been dominated by a few players--Netflix, Amazon, and if you squint really hard on a warm summer day, Hulu. The trend, however, has turned into each media conglomerate to break off and form their own streaming service, meaning that the average individual will have to subscribe to not one or two but dozens of different services to get the same content. While it is somewhat understandable from the owner of the product, for the end user it's looking a lot like the cable services they just ditched. 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Vote Now! The 2017 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

Here are the candidates for day two of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2017. Don't forget to vote on the Day One categories or the Day Three categories!


United Airlines Beats Up A Doctor
Taking airplanes is already a dead-eyed, miserable experience. So you kind of half expect airlines to at least put in some effort to not be complete monsters. Well, imagine the surprise of one doctor, who was being booted off of the flight due to United's overbooking policies, explained that he had patients to see and should probably stay. The security forces disagreed in the form of beating him up and dragging him from the flight. Thankfully, the entire situation was recorded, so United Airlines was held accountable in the form of not being fined.

Equifax Leak
People trust big financial companies with their sensitive data--that's how most of the modern economy works. Of particular sensitivity are credit review companies, who have pretty much every little example of financial transaction we have, good or bad. Equifax took that trust and dumped all over it, leaking millions of people's very, very personal data out into the open; their immediate response was something a second-year Computer Science major may have pulled off.

Pepsi Solves All Social Issues Through Pepsi
There's nothing worse than a tone-deaf ad campaign, and Pepsi's attempt to capitalize on the social protests of 2017 backfired spectacularly. The ad, which basically boils down to Kendall Jenner handing out cans of Pepsi to both protestors and law enforcement officers, solving all the world's problems in the meantime, was seen as condescending at best and insulting at worst. Pepsi quickly pulled the ad.

Juicero
It's the dawning of a new age, and age filled with fancy new startups that are designed to make our world a better and more convenient place. Enter Juicero, a high-profile startup that promised to make a state-of-the-art juice machine for the modern Millennial. Over a hundred million dollars and five years of planning later, the machine was introduced--where it was quickly found that the juicer required proprietary juice packets paid for by subscription, and at the end the juice was basically pre-made in the packets, so one could literally cut open the package and just drink the juice, making the machine itself superfluous. The company quickly shut down.

Retail Bankruptcy
2017 was the year that all the retail stores you love but haven't actually shopped at for ten years filed for bankruptcy. From Toys R Us, HH Gregg, and Payless ShoeSource to mall staples Rue21, Perfumania, and Vitamin World, things don't look good for brick-and-mortar retail. Most of these stores aren't quite dead yet, but at least some of them won't be graced at your local shopping complex in the near future. 


Cofveve
The President's preferred method of communication--besides prenuptial agreements-is Twitter, and every time he takes to the app people take notice. This was especially the case when Trump tweeted a very cryptic message shortly after midnight--" Despite the constant negative press covfefe." That's it. And began a flurry of speculation as to what "covfefe" was--or, more likely, what texting disaster occurred, and what sort of state the President was in that late to butt-tweet such a thing. To his credit, Trump ran with it.

Keurig Destruction
When TV pundit Sean Hannity started to advocate for Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, many thought he had taken things a bit too far--handwaving away the allegations of sexual assault on minors was something most people didn't like. And many sponsors felt the same way, as many of them pulled their support for the show. One company was Keurig, the maker of coffee machines, and thus started a trend of Hannity supporters throwing their coffee machines from their rooftops. Keurig, no doubt, was upset at all the new coffee machines they will have to sell to replace the broken ones that people we all know will eventually replace.

Dilly, Dilly
A catchphrase that took off after being featured in a beer commercial, it's become popular in sports communities due to IT DOESN'T MATTER YOU PEOPLE ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

Szechuan Sauce
What do you get when you get a bunch of nerds angry? A PR disaster. (Or the prequels.) When popular cartoon Rick and Morty had a B plot involving a McDonald's sauce from decades ago, nerds went crazy about it, even buying up old unopened packets of fast food drippings for stupid prices. McDonalds then brought it back as a promotion, but they didn't make nearly enough, causing fans to shower their outrage in that way only millennials can--trying to shame Ronald McDonald. He's a grease clown who slings puck-shaped meat-type things. He can't be shamed.

Giraffe Birth
When it was announced that April the Giraffe was pregnant, someone at the Animal Adventure Park in New York decided it would be fun to put up a live stream. And thus started a sensation, as animal lovers flocked to the site to watch April stand around and be pregnant. And stand. And stand. Giraffes have a long gestation period, and it was seemingly months before anything happened, but eventually out popped a baby giraffe. And millions of people suddenly realized that giraffe births involve a lot of awkward hooves and giraffe fluids. Welcome to nature, kids!


Hurricanes
It's been a banner year for hurricanes in North America. While we've had some outlier seasons in the past, this year the United States, Mexico, and even Canada were hit with a slew of major storms. There were six major storms, with Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Puerto Rico was hit particularly hard, with a lot of infrastructure completely destroyed.

Mass Shootings
It wouldn't be a year in America without a wave of mass shootings. Most notable was at a Las Vegas concert, where 59 people died, and a shooting at a church in rural Texas, where 27 people died. Reactions, of course, tended towards the horrified, but as always policies regarding gun use and security dominated a lot of the conversation afterwards for each one.

Charlottesville
A gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis took an ugly turn--well, uglier--when marches and speeches that went on throughout the day were met with protests, and one individual countered this protest by ramming into a crowd with his vehicle. Not to be outdone, President Trump added fuel to the fire by blaming both sides, an alarmingly tone-deaf pronouncement that left most people disgusted with the entire ordeal.

Everyone You Know Is A Sex Criminal
Never meet your heroes, they say, but the current state of Hollywood and politics--and the business world in general--takes this to its logical extreme. Starting with Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, an entire litany of stars, former and current, have had sexual misconduct and rape charged against them. Some have admitted as much; some fought back; but most simply faded from public view for a while. In the end, the momentum appears to have let up not the least little bit, and more allegations are certain to come to light.

Manchester Concert Bombing
During an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, a more-or-less lone terrorist threw a shrapnel-laden bomb into the crowd, killing 23 people (mostly young and even teenagers) and injuring over 500 more. The juxtaposition of a concert filled with young, enthusiastic people met with the raw, abject violence of terrorism shook a lot of people.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Vote Now! The 2017 Miserable Crank Awards: Day One

It's time for the 8th annual Miserable Crank awards, where we determine the worst events of the year!

The categories are:

    Worst Government Decision
    Worst Technological Advance
    Worst Sports Event
    Worst Embarrassment
    Worst Business Decision
    Worst Popular Trend
    Worst Incident
    Worst Entertainment
    Worst Person
    Worst Inconvenience

Simply vote for one candidate in each category over the next three days. Then, you can vote again for any one event as the "Worst Thing About 2017" on day four. On that day, you can vote for the same candidate as you had in the past or a different one; it's up to you. Whichever one wins the overall vote wins the Worst Event, and whoever the runner-up is in that category wins that category instead. I retain a little bit of judgement and discretion on this one, however, since not all of the candidates are appropriate.

(The second day of voting is for Business, Popular Trends, and Incidents. The third day of voting is for Entertainment, Person, and Inconvenience.)

Voting will end on Friday, December 15th. The results will be posted the following week.


Russian Interference
Rumors about Russia interfering in the 2016 Presidential Election were wild even then, but things were taken up a notch when official investigations into foreign influence began in earnest. While there is no evidence of any direct involvement in the campaign, which is sure to be used as the administration's main defense, there's a heap of evidence that Russian-affiliated organizations did a lot to pump stories favorable to Trump during the election. It's all a little weird, since Russia doesn't seem to get much out of the deal, but then again we ain't exactly dealing with the Bilderbergers here. Well, maybe if the Bilderbergers were adept at analyzing targeted Facebook ads...wait a second...

Spain vs Catalonia
Spain has a long tradition of separatist movements, and it all came to a head late this year as Catalonia voted for independence from Spain itself. Spain responded as all good mother countries do, by pretending that the vote never happened. Catalonians, in turn, threw massive protests in response. What comes next is almost certain to be a constitutional crisis, and Spain hasn't always dealt with those in a...non-damaging way.

Civil War Memorials
After the tumultuous events of the past year, many communities in the south have re-evaluated the desire to have monuments dedicated to the losers--excuse me, the Confederacy throughout the South. While some are dedicated to legitimate locales of history, many of the monuments are transparent attempts at intimidation. In any case, it flared up a whole new conversation about heritage, race relations, types of protest, and free speech. The South, they say, shall rise again, but the only thing that's rising there now is its heart disease rates.

DACA
In what can only be described as the most clumsy and ham-fisted way to solve a problem that doesn't really exist, the Trump administration's solution to fix the immigration problem includes revoking the DACA program, which allows immigrants who came over as children (presumably a choice they didn't make) to not be deported for a period of time.  Not only does not not really address illegal immigration at its core, its implementation was so sloppy it caused more confusion than anything else, and hit on one of the few issues that even the most ardent anti-immigration advocates didn't really have a problem with. 

AHCA
Ah, the ill-fated American Health Care Act. The Republicans, after almost a decade of promising to repeal Obamacare, proceeded to do exactly not that. Like the dog that finally caught the proverbial individual mandated bone, the Republicans found it nearly impossible to repeal the piece of legislation they hated the most, due to a mix of underestimating the popular bits and not having a feasible alternative. In the end, Speaker Paul Ryan and many congressional Republicans spent a ton of political capital and time accomplishing next to nothing, which may just be what they wanted all along in the first place.


EA
Electronic Arts has long been the punching bag for hardcore gamers, but EA's bottom line has always been its best defense--it is by far a wildly successful video game creator. Things came to a screeching halt as one of its newest hot holiday titles--Star Wars Battlefront II, a game set in the Harry Potter universe and featuring such characters as Dark Vader and Lego Indiana Jones--was revealed to have a loot box system, where players would not be able to unlock many popular features without spending even more money (or play for, what I assume to be given the uproar, a thousand years). Over $3 billion in stock value was lost in a matter of days, at least partly due to the bad press.

Ransomware Attack
Hackers are always trying to up their game, and this year was no different. The WannaCry cryptoworm (yeah, I know) spread across the global networks this spring, demanding bitcoin in exchange for not harming their data. While the infection itself was resolved relatively quickly, it still managed to hit quite a few big players, such as the UK's National Health Service and FedEx.

Twitter Goes To 280 Characters
Twitter has always been known as a micro-blogging application, and this year things got a little more macro. Sending out tweets have historically been capped at 140 characters due to its archaic limitation on text messages, and they finally decided to double its capacity. Now instead of making a dumb and vaguely problematic statement in 140 characters, you can either flesh out your opinion with a bit more space. Or make two dumb and vaguely problematic statements instead.

Net Neutrality
Like using the internet? Too bad, because things are about to get ugly. Net Neutrality, long an extremely sensitive subject in information circles, is based on the idea that all data is treated the same, regardless of where it comes from and where it is going. Ending net neutrality would mean that different ISPs and entities could charge different amounts depending on what sites to visit, essentially playing favorites with whatever you get to see. So if you hate how much cable charges for channels you don't want, you'll now hate the Internet with the same passion.

Bixby
Don't know who Bixby is? Join the club! Everyone knows Siri from the iPhone, and a few sad people know Cortana from Microsoft, and we're all getting to know Alexa from Amazon, but Samsung's foray into the nightmarishly creepy commercial AI was a dud. They've promised to upgrade a new, better version of Bixby, presumably with the ability to say "Please help me I am on fire."


Adidas NCAA Scandal
The NCAA--the college wing of professional sports--has always been fraught with controversy. This year was no exception as a scandal involving bribery from footwear manufacturer Adidas to college teams was uncovered, prompting yet another round of how and when and whether players should be paid. Well, whether they should officially be paid, as opposed to the outright fraud that goes to paying them now.

Falcons Ruin The Superbowl
We were all having a nice time, weren't we? The New England Patriots had made it to the Superbowl, and we had all gathered together to enjoy some schadenfreude. And it started off so well, with the Falcons getting a commanding lead 28-9 at halftime, which in American Football is basically clean up your stuff and call your agent territory. But never underestimate the power of an underdog to dump their load. The Patriots managed to score 25 unanswered points in the second half, and most of America watched in horror as New England once again won.

NFL Anthem Protests
Following the trend last year started by Colin Kaepernick, may NFL players decided to protest the playing of the national anthem during games. Of course, this triggered a war of words amongst players, owners, commentators, fans, and of course the President because he can't keep his mouth shut about anything as everyone debated the meaning of patriotism, respect, protest, and playing on Thursday nights.

US Fails To Qualify For World Cup
Soccer has never been America's thing. It's the one concession we give the rest of the world--they can excel at soccer, and we get exports and manufacturing and science and rockets and Death Cab For Cutie. However, the US World Cup team has always been good enough to qualify, and despite America's reluctance, soccer has started to gain in popularity. So it was a little bit of a shock when the US failed to qualify for the next World Cup tournament, which was a bit of a blessing in disguise as all the players and coaches had to work that weekend at the Foot Locker anyway.

Mayweather vs McGregor
Floyd Mayweather is a well-reknowned boxer. Connor McGregor is...not. Rather, he is known primarily as a MMA fighter. Boxing purists were a little bit outraged, as they felt someone trained outside of the boxing discipline brought some baggage to a sport that is already overloaded with baggage. The fight ended up clean, with a relatively decisive victory for Mayweather, but the lead-up to the fight was a bit stressful. 


The Mooch
What a while ride this week was! After months of Sean Spicer's tumultuous term as White House Press Secretary, Anthony Scaramucci took on the job of the White House Communications Director, prompting Spicer to resign. (Well, that, and a bunch of other reasons.) The Mooch took on the job full blast, giving a profane interview with the New Yorker and made disparaging comments about Trump, he was sacked after only ten days on the job. But man, what a fun ten days that was.

PewDiePie
Don't know who PewDiePie is? Congratulations! You are over the age of 12! PewDiePie is a popular Swedish YouTuber whose main attraction is playing video games and letting people watch him do it. (Right.) Plus a bunch of other stuff, I'm sure, that is well outside of my cultural scope. He got himself in a good bit of trouble by using a racial slur, and then following it up with an equally insensitive prank to highlight his apology.

Ted Cruz Favorites a Porn Tweet
This isn't so much a thing, I mostly wanted to remind people that this actually happened. And I don't care if it was probably an intern, I have an entire fable cooked up in my head of Ted Cruz fiddling on his phone in a committee hearing thinking "Yeah, I'd like some of that." Like!

The Orb!
In a weird situation in what can charitably be described as a weird administration, Trump provided one hell of a photo op while on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East. The heads of state for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Trump all placed their hands on a small glowing orb, creating a scene not unlike one you would find in a Bond villain character-building scene. The orb--which was actually a glowing representation of the globe--was part of the inauguration for an anti-extremist organization, but the visuals told an entirely different, and creepy, story.

Professor Does BBC Interview With Family
After a tough day of experting, don't you just want to sit down, lie back, and maybe do a little bit of good PR? So thought professor Robert Kelly when he was being interviewed by the BBC about the political crisis in South Korea. This were going perfectly normal when in walked in--nay, burst in--one child, walking confidently in, while her father droned on about presidential crises and such. Then slammed in the baby in a mobile stroller--and then a frantic wife, trying to reign in the kids with a frenzy known to many moms around the world. Only this time it was live and on tape, to be spread about the world.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Snore

Hi! I fully realize that I haven't written in almost a month. That's by design.

I am going on a short-maybe-maybe-not hiatus for a bit. Nothing remarkable, but it boils down to two things: there's a few different projects that's going to be a time suck for me over the next few months, and I also feel like I need to recharge my creative batteries. No doubt I'll actually find the occasional post here and there, so I'm not going away, but the frequency of posts will absolutely be going down for a bit.

Quite frankly, part of it is current events; I used to love writing about politics and economics and current events, and that used to make up a bulk of my writing, but current events have been exhausting and (to be honest) uninteresting. And I feel like no matter what position I take I'm not going to present anything that is going to be of interest to anyone, so my motivation to do so is rather low.

I'm not a huge fan of posts that are basically "herp a derp derp I haven't posted so here's a post!" post, but since this may be an ongoing thing for a bit, I figured it's worth it.