The 2011 Crank Crank Revolution
Miserable Crank Awards
It's that time of year again: it's time for everyone to vote for the worst people, events, and items of the past year. Thankfully, life in general is just getting worse and worse, which means we had a surplus of horrible things happen to us this year. It was hard to choose and I had to leave some stuff off this year. So if your favorite candidate didn't make it...well, have terrible things keep happening, and maybe it will be eligible next year!
The voting process is the same as last year. I have divided the candidates up into nine categories: I've added one new category this year. The categories are:
- The Most Miserable Person We Permit to Contribute to Our Society
- The Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision
- The Weirdest Nonsense We Continue To Allow Ourselves To Be Entertained By
- The Most Ridiculous Government Decision Everyone Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About
- The Most Embarrassing Thing About Being A Member of the Human Race
- The Most Unsportsmanlike Conduct Perpetuated By A Bunch Of People Running Around And Hitting Things With Other Things For Money (NEW)
- The Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle
- Things Everyone Else For Some Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled
- The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea of 2010
As last year, simply vote for one candidate in each category. Then, you can vote again for any one candidate as the Worst Event of 2011. You can vote for a different candidate or the same one; it doesn't matter. Whatever category the candidate is from will be pulled from consideration, and the runner-up will win that category. As with last year, I reserve a little bit of discretion for this award, but generally speaking the candidate with the most votes will win.
By all means, if anyone has any new candidates, questions, or comments, please let us know. While I did have to leave some things off the list (I guess this just isn't your year, Gabby Giffords) I am sure there is plenty I haven't thought of, so please let me know.
I will also be badgering people to vote on Facebook and Twitter.
Edit: I forgot to mention: the deadline for voting will be this coming Sunday (December 18th, 2011) at 11:59pm EST. The results will probably be up early the next week.
Edit: I forgot to mention: the deadline for voting will be this coming Sunday (December 18th, 2011) at 11:59pm EST. The results will probably be up early the next week.
The Most Miserable Person We Permit to Contribute to Our Society
Real estate tycoon turned shitty reality television star Donald Trump timidly announced (for Trump, this means plastering his face on every camera available) that he was interested in entering the Presidential race. He first thought about running as a Reform candidate way back in 2000, but ultimately never went through with it. While he generally avoided politics during the Bush years, he did publicly change parties from Republican to Independent after disillusionment with that administration. Of course, Trump, never one to shy away when there is blood in the water, went after the unpopular Obama. He had true policy differences with the President, of course, but he was mainly concerned with the long-dead issue of his birth certificate. A frustrated Obama then produced the thing, then, for an extra bonus SCREW YOU, went and found Osama bin Laden and killed him a week or two later. While it scared Trump off, it didn't scare him quite enough, since he's still offering his opinion and hosting debates for the candidates. That's the problem with rich egomaniacs: you can't bribe them to shut up.
The first rule of owning a cell phone: Don't send a picture of your penis to anyone. The first rule of being a public servant: Don't take a picture of your penis. For any reason. The first rule of having the last name Weiner: Don't get caught up in a scandal involving your penis. The first rule of existing in this world: Just...no. Don't.
Anthony Weiner, learn the rules.
Sometimes, one has to think that there should be a better jury selection system in this country. Be that as it may, in the eyes of the law, Casey Anthony--accused (and found not guilty) of killing her two-year-old daughter, despite the fact that the evidence would have made O.J. take a deal, is a free woman. We use the phrase "free" quite loosely, of course, since it's doubtful she will be able to walk into the Dollar General or the check-cashing place without being greeted by a lynch mob. Hope you like living in Belarus!
While celebrity meltdowns aren’t exactly rare—there seem to be some pretty spectacular ones once or twice a year--very few happen with such a huge force and volume as the one Charlie Sheen did. After work on Two and A Half Men was halted so Sheen could get some substance abuse treatment, he instead went on the offensive: he insulted the staff of the show, Warner Brothers, and an entire litany of powerhouses in the film and television industry, all the while coining such unique and colorful phrases such as "rock star from Mars" and "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA" (don't ask) and trotting around with his porn star "goddesses." Meanwhile, friends and family, at first, publicly pleaded with him to get help, but as time drug on everyone just let him destroy himself. While a comedy (question mark) tour largely fizzled, he more or less dropped out of sight and eventually uttered a half-apology to fans and industry at the Emmy awards later in the year. The whole ordeal seemed to me a mixture of drugs, hubris, and psychological problems, and most viewers eagerly watched with an awkward blend of fascination and sorrow. The worst thing Charlie did to all of us was that not only did Two And A Half Men stay on the air, but they added Ashton Kutcher. Winning?
Dr. Conrad Murray
Normally, when you hire someone to provide you with illicitly-attained heavy narcotics, we call that person a "drug dealer." When the person procuring said drugs is a rich, eccentric, out-of-touch has-been chimp enthusiast creepy enough to coach college football, we call that person a "doctor." Despite pleas to the contrary, Dr. Conrad Murray, personal physician--sorry, "physician"--to Michael Jackson was found guilty of--well, finishing what his patient started about a decade ago when the non-synthetic parts of him finally expired. In the end, Dr. Murray is the only person aside from Joe Jackson that makes us feel bad for the late King of Pop.
The Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision
Netflix is one of the modern success stories. It more or less transformed how Americans view entertainment, quickly became the largest user of internet traffic (up to 40% of all transmission at times) and pretty much single-handedly shoved an established retail chain out of business in a matter of years. So what do you do when you have a hugely profitable and innovative company such as Netflix? You find the most effective way to confuse and irritate your customers. Combine a price hike with the illogical notion of splitting your company into two parts and rebranding one of those companies after years of building up positive name recognition, and then backhandedly shuttling off the old mail-based services as some ancient dinosaur offended customers who still prefer using it that way. A quick reversal as an attempt to save face didn't quell the customers that quickly bled away, leaving in the boardroom a pool of blood as red as their trademark envelope.
The year didn't start off so well for the leading deal-of-the-day company. They began by airing a culturally sensitive commercial of questionable taste during the Superbowl. This was, of course, a massive misjudgment on two levels: Not only do you manage to insult a large portion of the world that is exactly the sort of place that generates sympathy in bulk, but you paid over a million dollars for the privilege of doing so. After that, Groupon was set to offer a lucrative IPO, only to have to re-evaluate (i.e., tell the truth) about their accounting practices, which went from Mind-Bogglingly Amazing to Hemorrhaging Money. Needless to say, Groupon went from a corporate darling to a massive flake in a matter of months.
Competition is always good, so when Facebook--having grown to astronomical size--was getting battered for its lack of concern for privacy rights and the blatant monetizing of their users, Google announced their own social network to compete, creatively titled Google+. As invites trickled in and people caught on to using the system, users became enamored of fresh new features such as Circles (lumping groups of folks into different parts of your life) and significantly easier privacy options, they also realized that--well, no one was home. The rush to join the network was slow--everyone was on Facebook, after all, so what's the hurry?--and Google's insistence of not only retarding the new user growth but forbidding business pages made it clear that there was no compelling reason to sign up if no one else was going to join the party. Even Google's own executives stopped posting on their pages for a while, seemingly bored by the whole thing. And then Facebook pretty much took everything Google+ did and incorporated it into their own system. Yeah, Facebook might be the party that has the cool kids but also the creepers and mouthbreathers and the duckface orange-colored girls, but at least it's better than the three kids standing around an embarrassingly empty room at the Google+ party, listening to Pandora, drinking weakly spiked punch, and checking Facebook on their smartphones.
Phone Hacking Scandal
The tabloids have always had a bad reputation: spinning sensational stories on the barest of facts and using "unconventional" (read: blatantly creepy, occasionally illegal) tactics to get those few morsels of information. In America, decades of lawsuits have made the big-name tabloids wary and cautious. That particular lesson doesn't appear to have translated across the Atlantic, where the UK tabloids got caught in a swarm of controversy. A few reporters--which turned out to be waaay too many reporters--were accused of hacking into the voice mail accounts of various celebrities and--even worse--victims of various horrible crimes, all in the hopes of publishing a hot story. Needless to say, grabbing on to clueless executives (such as the usually-sharp Rupert Murdoch, the opportunity of which no politician will pass up to make amazingly uncomfortable) and hectoring them to get more details has consumed media ethicists. Murdoch's News Corporation has suffered greatly--one major newspaper has already closed up shop--and wasn't exactly on the "nice" list to begin with.
Personal computing hasn't had a great year. Even though our world is more computerized than ever, the costs of procuring computers has dropped dramatically as companies move to nations with, ah, less stringent environmental and labor controls. Hewlitt-Packard in particular has had a series of missteps. First, their offering for the burgeoning and lucrative tablet market, the TouchPad, bombing mightily, and they resorted to a fire sale to clear out their inventory. The CEO, Mark Hurd, resigned after allegations of sexual harassment got too large to ignore. His replacement, Leo Apotheker, was criticized for plundering Oracle's intellectual property. The company then moved to spin off its PC division--the part of the company where they made their mark--and concentrate simply of "services," apparently a mass-scale version of those businesses that rent buildings that used to have bankrupt bakeries or skateboard shops that have names like "The BUG Zapper: When Computer Problems Really BYTE." Finally, eBay executive and former California governor candidate Meg Whitman took helm to try and save the company from a downward spiral of PR missteps and controversy.
The Weirdest Nonsense We Continue To Allow Ourselves To Be Entertained By
Franco/Hathaway Academy Awards Hosting
There is a saying in the acting industry that “the show must go on,” which, unfortunately, everyone involved adhered to for this year’s Academy Awards broadcast. Co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway were an unconventional choice to begin with, to be sure, but the Oscars sometimes like to inject a little experimentation (read: David Letterman) after every decade or so of mind-numbingly mediocre routine (read: Billy Crystal). Have you ever gotten to the second question of an interview knowing full well you’re not getting the job? And you still have to sit through the excruciating torture of live, unbridled failure? So it was with Franco and Hathaway, where Franco phoned it in and looked high most of the time, barely registering any energy. Hathaway fared a little better but wasn’t able to hold up the weak material she was given. Still, it was a massively failed attempt to hook younger viewers, with everyone assuming that the reason 20-to-30-year-olds avoid the Oscars was because they don’t like Steve Martin; in reality, it’s because people can bypass four hours of bad jokes and references to movies no one has seen by spending ten seconds on Twitter.
Kim Kardashian Wedding/Divorce
You know things are going to go bad when you license your wedding rights to the highest bidder. After a whirlwind [really? –ed.] romance, one Kim Kardashian and Kris Humpries got married, and a mere 72 days later filed for divorce. I can’t possibly imagine what could have caused such a rift in the sanctity of their marriage, but thankfully the marriage was still within warranty. The best thing to keep you up at night is that at least this wedding lasted longer than the amount of time that O.J. Simpson was in jail for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.
It's tempting to brand LiLo a perennial candidate for failure, but at least she has the good graces to stay out of the limelight for long stretches of time (which, alas, also includes not being insurable enough to show up to a movie shoot.) But things went back to crazy this year, as she was charged with first degree Winona Ryder by stealing a necklace. Her following actions, which included the original sentencing, failure to appear for various forms of community service, painting her nails in protest (?), and then repeating the whole process as necessary, made certain that she would stay in the headlines. Also: Playboy.
The Green Lantern
Another summer, and another blockbuster featuring superheroes. But it seems like the well of good heroes is running a little dry. The Incredible Hulk already got a reboot after less than a decade, and the X-Men have been rehashed and prequeled and retconned into high school (note: this may or may not be accurate, but…c’mon.) With all of the low-hanging fruit plucked, eaten, digested, and re-ingested, Hollywood scraped around for some IP to dress up and put on a show with, and they came up with the Green Lantern. I am sure that producers figured all they needed to do was convince the World’s Sexiest Man to dress up in tights and blow shit up and they money would just pour in, which, alas, it didn’t. Hey, it’s the movies, and everyone knows that for every Batman or Superman there are a lot of Daredevils and Catwomen. Still…the Green Lantern? I don’t even know what he’s supposed to do, help the world’s pre-industrial darkness get lightened? What else do you use lanterns for aside from junior high productions of the Hound of the Baskervilles? I know one thing that green doesn’t stand for, and that is Warner Brother’s bank account after this movie got released.
Christina Aguilera Singing The National Anthem
Singing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl has to be a fairly frightening opportunity. Sure, it is something I am certain millions of young aspiring vocal artists would love to do with their lives and would give anything just to have the opportunity. And yet singing an extremely difficult song in any situation and then singing that song in front of what is probably the most heavily watched American program of all time is probably enough to cause a brain fart. Which is exactly what Pittsburgh native Christina Aguilera did. Skipping some lyrics, and then repeating others, she was clearly flustered. It didn’t help that a few weeks after the game she was charged with public intoxication. Redeeming herself with the smash TV hit The Voice, she can certainly be forgiven—after all, when she screwed up the lyrics to our National Anthem, very few Americans seemed to notice.
The Most Ridiculous Government Decision Everyone Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About
Ending the Space Program
Nearly 50 years ago, everyone across the nation woke up and crawled out of bed to watch people walk on the moon. This was an awe-inspiring, world-changing event--mankind (and when I say "mankind," I mean "specifically not communists") had left our planet and landed somewhere else. The amount of technological, economic, and political willpower required to pull this off was a flagship moment for democracy. Alas, in 2011, it comes down to this: the last shuttle flight will fly. Part of this is scientific--each successive trip was garnering less and less information, so the justification was getting harder to attain with each trip into orbit. But the main reason was mind-numbingly embarrassing: America no longer had the cash to fund space trips, and no longer held the political willpower to keep it going anyway. If there is a silver lining to this dark day of the shining house on the hill, it's that the commies are all dead or homeless, and we're still here buying iPods and eating Chicken McNuggets for breakfast.
European Debt Crisis
The European Debt Crisis seems like it has been going on...forever. But, of course, it hasn't, even though everyone knows this is important but no one really wants to think about it, least of all the EU leadership. All of the European nations under the euro had to follow very specific rules about their spending and debt levels, and of course the same nations approving new members were also bending the rules, so when the new, poor members bent the rules the old, poor members weren't really in a position to say too much. The whole thing turned out to be like a college prank gone horribly wrong: It turns out Greece was That Guy that screwed everything up, and now he, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy get to ride in the cop car. France and Germany will have to make bail, and everyone is going to have to pretend it never happened if they're ever going to get their charter back. It shouldn't be too hard, though, because as we all know Europe is very good at letting bygones be bygones.
Pizza Is A Vegetable
A few decades ago, a rather enthusiastic member of the Reagan administration decided that, to save money, states could choose to classify ketchup or relish as a "vegetable." The government employees in charge of this thought they were doing everyone a favor: kids routinely didn't eat vegetables (shocker!), so rather than waste food, it would be better to allow schools to use the new nutritional guidelines to be more flexible in the sort of food they could offer. Understandably, parents, nutritionists, and pretty much everyone else on the planet just read "Ketchup is a Vegetable" and when batshit crazy. This year, something similar happened when the guidelines changed again, where tomato paste could be classified as the required vegetable in a meal--which just so happens to be one of the ingredients in a slice of grade-school pizza. (Also: cardboard and rubber painted to look like cheese.) Again, even though the intention was to offer flexibility and face the reality that without being able to punish kids who don't eat their veggies, school lunch menu creators are kind of limited in what they can offer. Both the clueless, PR-impaired government and, to be fair, lazy voters were blind to all this and just saw "Pizza is a vegetable."
One of the few segments of the working population that fared fairly well during the early years of the recession were public sector unions. Their jobs were secure by contract and, of course, the government was by definition shielded by the forces of the free market. After the elections of 2010, however, several governors—no doubt sensing an easy target and heartened by the limited successes in places like New Jersey—decided to try and change that. States such as Wisconsin and Ohio tried to chip away at the various benefits that public sector unions had when dealing with their budgets. Such drives, as expected, faced steep opposition, from recall elections to judicial decision. With 50 states, of course, don’t expect this to stop any time soon.
While there are plenty of unfortunate things to say about the Obama Administration (fill in the blank here), one is that it has been relatively scandal-free. Solyndra may end up breaking that particular trend. As the flagship "green job" creator that Obama touted endlessly during the economic crisis, Solyndra actually ended up being a complete and colossal failure. While pretending to be the future of energy, they ended up producing warehouses full of unsellable solar panels while vacuuming up all of the money (in the form of low-interest--ten years ago, this would have been called "sweetheart"--loans) from the Energy Department. The scandal, of course, isn't one of backroom deals or getting friends rich--it's pure, unadulterated incompetence, as money was gladly forked over with little to no oversight as to the actual management of the company. The only energy ever generated by this company will be by Obama’s opponent in 2012.
The Most Embarrassing Thing About Being A Member of the Human Race
The Great Zanesville Escape
During the natural evolution of mankind, we have developed a large range of institutions that serve specific needs. One of thesescreations is that of the zoo. People require pleasure-seeking activities, and one such activity is to observe large animals that could kill us, but don't, because some kind soul that we have paid money to has taken the appropriate precautions to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen. As with all things, someone somewhere doesn't think that's good enough, and the end result is someone keeps a collection of lethally large animals in their back yard. So it came to Zanesville, when an unstable man (probably the exact sort that shouldn't have tigers as pets) unlocked the cages and promptly committed suicide. An alarmingly large section of the Buckeye state was under full alert, and local authorities had no choice but to hunt down and kill most of the escapees. On the bright side, schoolchildren in Ohio ate great for a week.
Harold Camping Opens His Mouth
Tales of the imminent Rapture are hardly new; scores of cults, sects, and breakaway clergymen have been doing so for centuries. So when Harold Camping set a specific date for the end times, most people took it with a grain of salt: we’ve been down this road before. It didn’t help that the messenger, the quite elderly pastor, wasn’t really convincing. His case seemed to be the sort of thing cooked up on the back of a napkin after a particularly large breakfast at Denny’s. And, when the time came and went with nary a peep, he simply changed the date, as if there were simply technical difficulties and everyone just needs to be patient. It's entirely possible he could be forgiven, and that he turned on the reality TV shows on basic cable any weeknight and just assumed the worst.
Poor Serene Branson. A general reporter for legendary KCBS in Los Angeles, she was assigned to cover the Grammy awards. In a reasonably routine segment, she appeared to have a...well, no one knows exactly. It's the sort of thing that stroke victims have, but she clearly wasn't having a stroke. Her short report started off innocently enough, but soon the words started to make no sense. The Grammys were having a "very heavy burtation" along with a "darist darrison" and a "terets taysan." It was very strange--you could tell the words were supposed to mean something and her delivery never faltered, but it was all just nonsense. Her doctor claimed that she had a "complex migraine," in which, had my doctor told me that, I would say that I came down with a case of the "get a new doctor." Either way, she ended up winning two Grammys on account of being more lucid than most of the acts inside the Staples Center.
Michelle Bachmann's Crazy Eyes
Being the editor of a major newsmagazine certainly isn't easy. It normally shouldn't matter that the newsmagazine in question--in this case, Newsweek--was sold for a buck to some rich guy because its decades-old legacy was in tatters. So when the surprise early winner in the polls, Michelle Bachmann, levels up to newsworthy, you probably don't want to go out of your way to piss that person off. And yet that's exactly what happened--while vaulting her to the cover story, they picked the one picture taken of her that made her out to be the wild-eyed caricature every opponent of hers was painting her to be. While many called it sexist and unfair, others simply stated that since the picture wasn't doctored in any way, it's hardly Newsweek's fault. Then again, these are the same people who claim that pretty much every sentence that comes out of Joe Biden's mouth shouldn't be quoted because they are all, by default, "taken out of context."
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn Affair
Make no mistake: Dominique Strauss-Kahn is kind of a dick. Even before this year, he was known as a lady slayer, or, in French, "French." (How that could be, I have no idea; the guy kind of looked like a squashed garden gnome, but to each their own.) So there weren't a whole lot of people surprised when he was accused of rape while staying in a New York hotel. Since this involved a powerful politician who was already known as a ladies' man and the target was a poor immigrant, he was rightfully tried and sentenced within a week by anyone with access to four minutes of popular media. When the actual judicial system and law enforcement divisions actually got around to investigating the case, it turns out the victim habitually lied and the case fell apart, and he was released from house arrest in about a month and a half. Although he admitted that the relationship was inappropriate, he still ended up more or less being falsely accused of rape. However, the important thing to remember is that all we did was ruin a powerful person's life forever. No big.
The Most Unsportsmanlike Conduct Perpetuated By A Bunch Of People Running Around And Hitting Things With Other Things For Money
Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots
TRUE FACT: Canada invented hockey. And pretty much every hockey player is either Canadian or from some cold Eastern European country; the remainder come from places that might as well be a de facto province of Canada (read: Boston, Minnesota, Quebec). So the fact that there are so many American teams—and those teams tend to be the ones that win most often—must be infuriating. (The fact that Nashville has a hockey team should have caused riots long ago. In Nashville.) Cue this past spring’s Stanley Cup Final, where the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in a hotly contested seven game final series. The thought of being so close and losing was enough to push Canadians over the edge, which for most of the world we assumed meant they were going to drink two extra beers and only tip 15% that night. Instead, they went on an impressive display of burning buildings, overturning cards, openly having sex in the middle of the street, and tearing up the infrastructure, finally proving that hockey has, indeed, become an American sport.
Contrary to popular belief, basketball does, in fact, have a professional league. This fact is known in the five cities that actually have competitive teams, such as Dallas and Boston (and not, say, Portland or Memphis. Just sayin'.) Still, the NBA Players thought they had a case to make that the salary cap and contract issues were being used against them; the league itself noted, quite correctly, that over two-thirds of the franchises in the league were bleeding money. Unlike the NFL strike (see below), the lockout lasted long enough to cause game cancellations, while those sympathetic to the players repeatedly likened the situation to slavery, what with all of those millionaires being kept from running around a gymnasium tossing a rubber pumpkin into a plastic ring. As of this writing, it looks like there will be a partial season, so there may be hope yet for those starving young rich people.
If you thought rampant corruption and money were merely the domain of professional basketball, think again. Everyone knew that a strike was more or less imminent. Football players prepared for a season cancellation; the union drew everything up to decertify so they could officially go on strike; heck, entire new football leagues were started to fill the anticipated demand (some--the United Football League--were not so successful, while others--the Lingerie Football League--fared, for some reason, slightly better.) Of course, even though the players had some reasonable complaints, and the league itself had some reasonable demands, the entire drama was painted as millionaires fighting with billionaires. It got to a point where a lockout was instated, and NFL players spent their time complaining on Twitter that the league was akin to legalized slavery for owners preventing them from kicking a leather bladder around a field three hours every Sunday in exchange for huge crates of cash. In the heady Great Recession times, such hubris is almost--almost!--enough to get people to watch soccer instead. In the end, those crazy kids worked out their differences, but not before everyone got a chance to see exactly how much modern football is focused on cold, hard cash instead of ol' fashioned smashmouth football.
2004 BCS National Championship
If you thought rampant corruption and money were merely the domain of the National Football League, think again. Over six years after the BCS National Championship between University of Southern California and the Oklahoma Sooners was decided, the NCAA retroactively decided that the actions of star Reggie Bush, who generated over $200,000 in income despite being an unpaid student athlete (cough, cough), violated the rules. USC was forced to vacate its victory and Bush, who had won the coveted Heisman trophy, was forced to forfeit this as well. It all works out in the end, because Bush was properly punished for tarnishing the legacy of hundreds of classmates and crushing the dreams of thousands of aspiring football players by making millions upon millions of dollars playing in a professional league.
OSU NCAA Violations
If you thought rampant corruption and money were merely the domain of past winners of the college football national championships, think again. The legendary football program at Ohio State University, headed by Jim Tressel, brought national titles and a solid bowl record to the school, but things soon deteriorated. Being suspended for two games after failing to report NCAA violations, more and more information leaked out. Players selling OSU memorabilia and trading free tattoos for autographs were apparently commonplace, and Tressel knowingly let otherwise ineligible players play games. It all eventually caused most of these victories to be vacated and ended his term as coach. Thankfully, he will be properly punished by still getting paid by the university and not having to pay the fines levied against him while the hundreds of players under him no longer have their title championship, so the story does have a happy ending.
The Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle
Closing of Borders
It wasn't so long ago that we were all mourning the death of the corner locally-owned bookshop. Now, of course, the big box bookshops are also dying. While not the first casualty in the War Against Literacy, the bankruptcy and liquidation of Borders is certainly the biggest. Unable to catch up with online retailers, used book stores, and the e-reader revolution--for those who like to electrocute themselves in the bathtub, of which there appear to be many--they had to make a rather lame attempt to reorganize, but eventually had to close. Good news, though--if you were patient enough, you could get A Shore Thing for like 70% off. Hardback, even!
Bank of America Debit Card Fees
While it is probably an understatement to say that the financial industry has suffered lately, few people really feel sorry for them. They were the ones that got us into the mess, after all, and while it's sad that the low-level folks on the shitstorm pyramid were the ones that got the pink slips, no one was complaining about them during the good times. One way to not fix your PR problems, of course, is to slap yet another consumer fee--and, of course, tack it on one of the most common transactions that your customers use. While the government had its meaty, disgusting hand in the mess--they passed a law making it more difficult for banks to justify using debit cards with merchants--it didn't help that Bank of America did this all with the panache of a clumsy, overweight drunk uncle at Thanksgiving convinced you are his college roommate and that you have always loved the Rams. Bad press and a mass exodus of customers caused BoA to reverse their decision, but the damage was already done.
Hackers are an unfortunate but hardly rare occurrence in modern computing, and most major corporations have reasonable security to combat it, as most hackers are up for disruption and mayhem and vandalism but little more than that. But sometimes it gets much worse, as it did with the Sony/Playstation outage. Not only did the hackers manage to steal the personal information for 77 million individuals, but it managed to bring the entire network down for about a month. Not only did it cost the company countless revenue and damaged its reputation, but the Germans nearly defeated the US on account of the amount of Call of Duty that went unplayed.
Criminal Flash Mobs
Flash mobs were one of the cuter (read: stupider) side effects of the social media revolution: someone picks a time and a place and something to do: a dance, say, or a song, or some sort of live, coordinated performance. Then everyone gathers at that time and place and does their thing and walk away. It is pure, unadulterated fun serving no purpose except to brighten people's days, which is why it is surprising that it took criminals all of about two years to convert it into something violent and insidious. Scattered reports across the nation of huge throngs of people gathering in one place and instead of, say, singing Don't Stop Believin', they loot a liquor store or destroy a gas station. As such, the police are forced to monitor Facebook and Twitter and impose curfews to help stem the tide. Thanks for shitting on the rainbows, dicknuggets!
This summer, there was an outbreak of tainted cantaloupe, with around 30 deaths and many more sicknesses. Of course, this begs the question as to why people were voluntarily eating cantaloupe in the first place.
Things Everyone Else For Some Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled
There's always one. One of the features--which is also one of the bugs--of our democracy is that we let any damn fool run for president. Usually, every election cycle, there is a candidate or two we let run even though they have no chance of winning (read: Gary Bauer, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain). Sure, they're entertaining and are great at debating but...running the country? Please. This year's choice candidate is Herman Cain, a somewhat respectable former regional Federal Reserve chairman, rocket scientist (no joke), and Godfather's Pizza CEO (alas, no joke, either). He burst up the polls with a gimmicky tax plan--"9-9-9," then followed up with a series of sexual harassment claims and charges of adultery. While he eventually suspended his campaign, he single-handedly sucked all the air out of the race while we determined if the amount of sexual escapades was outbalanced by his wacky policy proposals, because that's how we pick our leaders now.
The Royal Wedding
It has been a while since there has been a proper royal wedding to remind about a third of the world that they technically still had a monarchy. (Sure, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles got hitched, but, oddly, that was a rather down-played affair. So to speak.) So when Prince William wed Kate Middleton it was a pretty big deal. It helped wash the stain of the sordid Princess Diana scandal, at least until these two newlyweds find some way to embarrass everyone. I suspect a dodgy inappropriate Twitpic, myself.
Promoted as an "online pinboard," it's a new web site that lets women post pictures of the stuff they baked and ponytails. Also: stock photos with banal sayings superimposed on them that make women cry when they are premenstrual.
Or so I think. I don't quite understand it, but I'm pretty sure that this is a fairly accurate description.
Everything from our childhood is violent--cartoons, sports, breakfast cereals--so it should come as no surprise that in those fields that can do it--say, video games--the drive to make things even more realistically violent than before is understandable. For whatever reason, though the trappings depicted in the Modern Warfare series of games--specifically, MW3 that came out this year--has become wildly, hugely successful. Fans and supporters will go out of their way to claim that it's really all about teamwork and learning history and a ridiculous list of similar assorted BS, when we all really know that it's about blowing up a bunch of German shit in the most spectacular method possible.
Only in America can we make lying down a national sensation.
The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea of 2011
Occupy Wall Street
The anti-wealthy protest, with their slogan "We Are the 99%," quickly captured the media--and America's--attention, showing that large, active members of our youth (and, it should be pointed out, unemployed middle-class folks) were disenchanted and outright angry about how the rich and poor are treated in this country. Of course, it more or less stopped there: unlike the Tea Party, which translated this rage into electoral success, the Occupy movement seemed little interested in coming up with policies or ideas or, well, pretty much anything except sleeping in tents and playing Angry Birds on their iPads and quickly grabbing poorly-executed hand-painted signs when a camera got close so they can feel like those vanguards of the 60's. Unless these folks somehow get organized to do something aside from provoking the cops into using force by doing illegal things and then crying foul when the cops use force on them after they do illegal things, all they will be able to tell their grandchildren is that, yes, they were there when they slept in the same North Face jacket for two weeks straight in the middle of a mild New York fall and then the new semester stared and they had to go back to school.
Sure, it's bad enough that a massive earthquake hits a country that is more or less a bunch of tectonic plates stitched together by the ocean. The fact that said nation is powered almost exclusively by nuclear power plants sets one's teeth on edge. To then find out that most of the information coming out of the post-earthquake situation was not true--hey, we can trust these guys! They used to shove a blade in their stomachs if they busted by hitting on 13!--makes the disaster not only a natural one, but a man-made one as well. Has Godzilla taught us nothing?
Arab Protest Crackdown
It started in Tunisia--an unlikely place for a revolution. Soon, around a dozen Middle Eastern nations had experienced civil resistance and outright revolution, with mixed success. Some, such as Libya and Egypt, had their governments overthrown and their leaders killed or put on trial. Alas, in most other nations, the protests were met with violent crackdowns by government troops. Of course, such tactics worked wonders before the days of social media and 24-hour cable television, but today those stories have changed. The future of the middle east may be years of bloodshed or quiet revolutions, but one thing is for sure: oil.
The Rise And Fall of the Supercommittee
It's one thing for our politicians to face a crisis. It's another when the crisis is of the politicians' own making. The Republicans, by converting the debt ceiling renewal--usually a routine matter--into a life-or-death issue over the fiscal future of our nation, they unwittingly (or, maybe, not) opened a Pandora's box of political hostage-taking. Of course, the end result--a "supercommittee" of Representatives and Senators that was supposed to fix everything--did exactly the opposite by not agreeing on anything, causing a tailspin in the markets (and, as always, leaving the problem unsolved). Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit outlook for the federal government, not only embarrassing the country but forcing countless contractual agreements that assumed a perpetual perfect rating for the government. As happens far more often than it should, the nation would have been better off had our politicians done nothing at all in the first place.
Penn State University Scandal
It is THE nightmare scenario for most parents--entrust your kids with one of the most respected men in the community, who is affiliated with one of the most respected institutions in your state, and the one thing you DON'T want to happen, happens, while everyone else looks away for decades. There are a lot of things woefully wrong with the Jerry Sandusky scandal out of Penn State, not least of all how the entire thing was handled after the news broke, but it's unlikely that any amount of hand-wringing or wrong-righting will fix the hell all those kids went through. However, through the misty awfulness that is the PSU scandal, it's never too late to forget the important thing, which is that the wholesale bribing of poor kids into passing sham college courses so they can make money for the university and, perhaps, play some football. Because that's perfectly fine.[Voting is now closed.]