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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Results Are In! The Winners of the 2016 Miserable Crank Awards Are...

What is the Worst Government Decision?
Brexit

What is the Worst Technological Advance?
Wikileaks

What is the Worst Sporting Event?
Ryan Lochte

What is the Most Embarrassing Thing? 
Militia Takeover in Oregon

What is the Worst Business Decision? 
Dakota Access Pipeline

What is the Worst Popular Trend? 
Clown Killings

What is the Worst Incident? 
Brussels Attacks

What is the Worst Entertainment? 
Oscars So White

Who is the Worst Person? 
Brock Turner

What is the Worst Inconvenience? 
Social Media Fake News


And finally...

 
 The 2016 Election

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vote Now! The 2016 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Four

Today is the last post for voting for the 2016 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 2016, 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 Thursday, December 15th, 2016, so the polls will be open for a full week after today.

[Voting is now closed.] 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vote Now! The 2016 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!


Oscars So White
After another roster of Academy Award nominations ended up being lily white, advocates began to raise frustrations at the lack of minorities in the nomination process--and Hollywood in general. Reactions ranged from annoyance at roles that were overlooked, the demographic composition of the nominating committees, and decrying the lack of roles to begin with. Hollywood, to its credit, continued to do what it always does, which is address the situation via a flashy song and dance and then continue to hypocritically do the same thing they have always done.

Gawker Media
 Gawker Media--the owner of a huge number of tabloid-esque web sites--ran afoul with a huge lawsuit with none other than Mr. Hulk Hogan himself. After Hogan's sex tape was leaked by the web site he sued, and the smarmy behavior of the editors of the site so appalled the court that they effectively reduced the once-great media empire to be completely worthless. To repeat--somehow, Hulk Hogan took down a media empire with his penis.

Sean Penn Interviews El Chapo
 Sean Penn, never one to back down from a cause that everyone pretty much hates, managed to snag an interview with the notorious drug kingpin El Chapo in Mexico--even though Mexican authorities were having difficulty finding him. Of course, they decided to meet in a jungle, where El Chapo was immediately captured after using cell phone and other information to figure out where he was. Penn, for his part, was silent except for those parts in which he could confirm that he, Sean Penn, was an asshole. 

Ghostbusters Reboot
 Reboots are always chancy, but Hollywood has done a relatively decent job of not embarrassing themselves. Bu the new Ghostbusters movie--cast with an all-female group--was particularly divisive. While the original was character-driven by the amazing skills of comedians like Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, it was hard to see anyone--of either gender--filling those roles. After a particularly awful trailer that confirmed most detractors' worst fears, the movie did an OK but not spectacular run, precluding any talk of a sequel.

The Walking Dead
 If you want something that is just as routine as a new season of The Walking Dead, it's people complaining about The Walking Dead. Every year, as is tradition, people complained about the writing, the pacing, the acting, the...well, everything, even though they still tuned in. Except this year, it seems that people finally stopped doing that last part, as audience numbers dwindled drastically. Time will tell whether the series will become a victim of the zombies itself. 


Donald Trump
 Is this what it has come down to? Our choice for arguably the most important position in the world has been narrowed down to an individual who has such a historically low reputation with the public, is dogged by decades of scandal--some warranted, some not--seems to be unable to connect with important, core constituencies, and defies nearly all of the political conventional wisdom that we know of. One this is for sure--one way or another, a lot of people are going to be upset. 

Hillary Clinton
 Is this what it has come down to? Our choice for arguably the most important position in the world has been narrowed down to an individual who has such a historically low reputation with the public, is dogged by decades of scandal--some warranted, some not--seems to be unable to connect with important, core constituencies, and defies nearly all of the political conventional wisdom that we know of. One this is for sure--one way or another, a lot of people are going to be upset.

Martin Shkreli
 It's one thing to take on the unpopular job of a health care CEO--even if you make all the right decisions, there's a huge segment of the population that's going to hate you with a passion unparalleled. It's another thing to accept that unpopularity as a challenge, and when you find yourself hauled before a congressional committee about your company's behavior, your mocking tone and comic-book-villain smirk doesn't win you any favors. Shkreli's dismissive tone about his company's pricing of badly needed pharmaceuticals quickly became a lightning rod for all that is wrong with modern corporate America. 

Brock Turner
 What do you get when you mix in one measure of rich kid entitlement, one measure of daddy's lawyer money, and one measure of a clueless judge? You get Brock Turner, the young college kid on a swimming scholarship, who was convicted of felony sexual assault--and with a potential of fourteen years in prison and with officers recommending six years, he got six months which turned into three months. Any more, you see, and the poor kid's future may be ruined, even though he is not poor nor a kid

Rodrigo Duterte 
The world doesn't have a shortage of tinpot dictators, but not many are as...colorful as the current President of the Philippines. Aside from his questionable anti-drug tactics, which devolved into rampant vigilante groups while officials turned a blind eye, he's called Obama a "son of a whore," told him to go to hell, likened killing drug addicts to the Holocaust, and openly bragged about his (and I quote) "his Viagra-fuelled serial adultery." His trust amongst the Filipino people is north of 90%, so he's probably going to be creating quotes like that for a while. 


iPhone Port
Every year, a new iPhone (or functional equivalent) comes out, and every year it seems like everyone complains right up until the point where they buy billions and billions of dollars worth of blood phones. The complaints were in full force this year, as a standard headphone jack was removed from the production line, theoretically so they could make things simpler and cooler but really so they can sell wireless headphones for about $160 a pop. Knowing iPhone users, this mostly means that they will have a slightly harder time trying to listen to other people complain about the iPhone through their iPhone. 

Delta Outage
 It's one thing to have a grounded flight. It's another to have connection issues that require taking additional flights. It's unprecedented to have all the flights grounded for half a day unless a declaration of war is imminent or a snowstorm has invaded. Thanks to a computer glitch, Delta had to ground all of their flights for around six hours (plus days of delays and reroutes to make up for it). No malicious intent was found, so it looks like a good ol' fashioned computer screw up that cost the company about $150 million. 

When Animals Attack
 This hasn't been a kind year...well, for a lot of things, but wildlife being where they shouldn't seemed to bear the brunt of it. Two very similar incidents occurred in short succession this summer; first, a small child somehow got into a zoo display with Harambe the gorilla, and officials had to shoot the gorilla dead as a matter of protocol. And in Florida, a small child was eaten by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort. Since both involved wild animals in a human setting, it highlighted the dangers and need to have animals in these situations in the first place. 

Your Favorite Celebrity Just Died
 It's like an overly long, badly metered verse in We Didn't Start The Fire. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, Gary Shandling, Prince, Morley Safer, Mohammed Ali, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Janet Reno, Florence Henderson...and this can continue for a while depending on your comfort level with the term "celebrity." Also, we have the last half of December yet, so I expect this to expand a little. Or a lot. 

Social Media Fake News
 The outcome of the election was a bit of a shock, but it didn't take long for people to start pointing fingers. One particularly hypocritical crooked finger was pointed towards fake news sites, often shared on social media. These range anywhere from hyperbolic sensationalist partisan sites to straight-up fiction passed off at news. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, targeted the sites, making some people happy but alarming others, worried about who gets to decide what gets shared. 

[Voting is now closed.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Vote Now! The 2016 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

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

 


Epipen
 EpiPens--the medical delivery system commonly used by people with severe allergies--have been around for a few decades and manufactured largely by a corporation named Mylan. In the past few years, the price of the device jumped by nearly 500%, despite no material reason as to why. Well, yeah, there was one--they had a virtual monopoly on the thing, and people weren't going to not get a life-saving device. Congressional hearings were held, accusations of Medicare fraud were made, and the company paid some money and signed some meaningless papers. So things went about as expected.

Dakota Access Pipeline
 The Dakota Access Pipeline, a planned construction project stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, was met with protests as the pipeline encroached on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Concerns over water safety and destroying scared grounds fueled much of the protests--and like most protests, fed in itself as local authorities used more and more aggressive tactics at dealing with the situation. To date, there has not been an effective resolution.

No Man's Sky
 No Man's Sky was a highly anticipated release this summer; the sandbox sci-fi game promised an almost infinite number of planets that one could explore and nearly infinite people to interact with, all while under the aegis of pulp science fiction novels of the 70s and 80s. Throwing around a lot of phrases like "procedurally generated" and "quintillions" of possibilities, plenty of people pre-ordered the game with real, non-procedurally generated money. The end result was...highly unsatisfying. The game was so disappointing, and missing so many promised features, that the FTC got involved for false advertising. 

Oil Email Scandal
 Shocker! An oil company based in Morocco, Unaoil, was accused of running a wide-spread bribery and corruption scheme to operate in oil-rich nations, largely in the Middle East. Earlier this year a cache of incriminating emails were leaked, providing authorities with evidence and leads to a lot of the transgressions. Given that it is incorporated in a notorious tax haven and operates almost exclusively in nations known to willingly accept bribes, the fact that a joint investigation involving the United States, the UK, and Australia is not surprising. 

 Hasbro Phishing Scam
 People seem to be wary of internet scams these days--that is, unless you're a top-level executive at Hasbro. The email was sent to an executive, who took the extremely simple email at face value. No flashy tricks, no calls to the prince of Nigeria, just a standard link that goes to a bank account that is not the vendor in question. Another executive had to sign off, which they did, and three million bucks made its way to a shady bank somewhere in China. Thankfully, an offhand comment alerted the CEO of the danger, and they managed to halt the money transfer in time. Still, though, someone in IT needs to fix their spam filter.



Clown Killings
 Everything old is new again. Thanks to a combination of factors--mostly related to the remake of Stephen King's It, no doubt--the long-dead urban legend of killer clowns started making the rounds again. Instead of it being an underground word-of-mouth legend about Bozos riding around in grey vans with diamond-shaped windows and a box full of those weird fruity Tootsie Rolls as we old people enjoyed decades ago, this spread like wildfire thanks to social media--so much so that actual police departments with actual police officers were writing actual press releases advising people not to dress like clowns lest they be shot. 

Ken Bone
 Politics is serious business, as long as something slightly weird happening doesn't distract anyone. Poor Ken Bone--whose absurd name, bright red camera-challenging sweater, and otherwise reasonable demeanor during one of the Presidential debates catapulted him to flash-in-the-pan status. Being a reasonable sort, he used his short moment of fame to sell T-shirts for charity, do a quick media tour, and took his brief time in the limelight in stride. 

David S. Pumpkins
 Saturday Night Live has always been funny for everyone right up until they become an adult, where it stops being funny and then people wistfully talk about how funny it used to be. But even the most cynical of us were surprised at the endurance of one David S. Pumpkins, a (at best) mediocre Halloween sketch propped up perhaps a little bit too much with the star power of Tom Hanks in the titular role. If you're wondering what made the sketch so weirdly popular, I couldn't tell you, because as far as I can tell I've already explained as much of the joke as makes sense. 

Be Like Bill
 If social media couldn't be any more condescending, we got Bill. Instead of airing our grievances out like adults, or even learning how to handle minor irritations of our fellow man, we reduced all of our problems into passive-aggressive little stick figure cartoons, projecting our absurdly minor rages onto posts that everyone will swear up and down aren't about them. 

The Mannequin Challenge
  Harlem Shake got you too wound up? Do the exact opposite with the Mannequin Challenge, where everyone stands still for a while. That's, uh, it. The more professional time-wasters made a go of it, putting people in deliberately awkward situations. I, myself, practice the Mannequin Challenge every single day at my computer, so I don't get what the big deal is.


Zika Virus
  While the Zika virus has been around for a while, it blew up to (literally) epidemic proportions this year. The virus, which in and of itself is only mildly dangerous to most adults, can cause major issues for women during pregnancy. Transmitted mostly by mosquitoes but can be spread by other means, there is no known cure or vaccine for it, and many South American nations have issues travel warnings and precautions--especially since the Olympics were held in the epicenter of the outbreak and a large number of international visitors would be entering the infected region. 

 Brussels Attacks
 Europe suffered a major terrorist attack in Belgium, as a coordinated bombing hit metro stations and airports. Most likely a reaction to recent police raids against ISIS in the country, it ended up with several dozen dead and increased security. Many nations around the world indicated solidarity with the international city. 

2016 Election
  This year's United States election was historic in many ways, even before it was held. With the first woman nominee, Hillary Clinton, involved, things were always going to be interesting, but the entrance and eventual winner of the GOP nomination businessman Donald Trump was also, uh, interesting. And despite trailing for most of the campaign, he managed to get within striking distance by the end of it all, and (amongst a million other reasons) a strong rural turnout and a lighter than expected turnout from much of Obama's base propelled Trump to the victory. The election was relatively unique in the historically low popularity of both candidates, along with plenty of unprecedented behavior almost entirely acted upon by Trump. Whatever one thinks of the eventual outcome, it is something we'll all have to deal with in our own way for at least four years. 

Orlando Shooting
 When a mass shooting by an American-born ISIS sympathizer with Afghan heritage occurred at the Orlando nightclub Pulse, which catered to a gay clientele, it intersected four distinct political issues--terrorism, violence against gays, gun control, and immigration. One of the worse domestic tragedies on American soil for quite some time, it brought to the forefront a whole array of issues and concerns that many people are still working through. 

Hurricane Matthew
 A particularly nasty hurricane swept through the Caribbean in late September, one of the largest in the Atlantic for almost ten years. It was one of the deadliest in recent memory, largely hitting Haiti but a host of other islands and caused almost ten billion dollars in damages. It eventually wound its way up to the Canadian Maritimes, leaving a path of destruction.

[Voting is now closed.]