Monday, December 10, 2012

Vote Now! The 2012 Miserable Crank Awards: Day One

It's time for the 3rd annual Miserable Crank awards, where we determine the worst events of the year! It was a pretty rough year, for a variety of reasons, so there was a buyer's market for bad decisions and horrible events. I had to leave out some truly awful stuff--the poor face-eating methhead from Florida didn't make the cut, sadly. But that's okay--that is a true and shining testament to the horrible nature of mankind. 

As last year, there are nine categories with five candidates each. Unlike last year, though, we'll be splitting up the voting over four days: three questions a day (here is he vote for Day Two), and on the fourth day will be the final "Worst Event" question. This makes it a little more manageable to read through all the entries now that we are up to 45 total candidates. The categories are:

  • Who Is The Most Miserable Person We Permit To Contribute To Our Society? [Personalities]
  • What Is The Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision? [Business]
  • What Is The Weirdest Nonsense We Continue To Allow Ourselves To Be Entertained By? [Entertainment]
  • What Is The Most Ridiculous Government Decision Everyone Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About? [Government]
  • What Is The Most Embarrassing Reason To Be A Member of the Human Race? [Embarrassment]
  • What Is The Most Unsportsmanlike Conduct Perpetuated By A Bunch Of People Running Around And Hitting Things With Other Things For Money? [Sports]
  • What Is The Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle? [Inconveniences]
  • What Is The Worst Thing Everyone Else For Some Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled? [Popular Things]
  • What Is The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea of 2012? [News Event]
Simply vote for one candidate in each category. Then, you can vote again for any one event as the "Worst Event of 2012" on day four. You can vote for the same candidate 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 off the candidates are appropriate.

Voting will end on Thursday, December 20th. The results will be posted sometime that weekend, probably on Friday. 

The Most Miserable Person We Permit To Contribute To Our Society

Donald Trump
The resident loudmouth of New York City, Donald Trump once again proves that while the freedom to be an asshole is inherent in our republic, but it's significantly easier for someone with loads of cold cash. While his obnoxious personality is endearing to some--and accusations to the contrary, he's quite the successful businessman--his latching on to the birther movement seems wacky even by crazy rich millionaire standards. And his last-minute election pitch to throw up a good bit of serious dough for some unspecified dirt on Obama was a particularly embarrassing failure of his otherwise faux-optimistic personality. Sadly, he's the sort of person who also has too much money to simply shut up and disappear.

Kim Jong Un
After the death of fearless leader Kim Jong Il, his son promptly took over the reins of his father's cult of personality (and, incidentally, the nation of North Korea). While he has engaged in some much-needed social and economic reforms for the otherwise failed state, he's still up to the old man's tricks. Whether it's doing public executions, sending off dissidents to political camps, or launching aggressive, treaty-breaking rockets, his priorities appear to be keeping all outsiders away from the atrocities visited upon the people by his father...and possibly by himself.

Chris Brown
Not much has changed for singer Chris Brown: he still seems remarkably unrepentant about beating the shit out of singer and (apparently, for some unknown reason, current) girlfriend Rihanna; Rihanna still seems to be dating him; and millions of people still buy his records and invite him to awards shows. Of course, continuing to allow Brown near social media was probably a bad idea. When comedienne Jenny Johnson engaged him on Twitter, he proceeded to use some quite unfortunate terms in response, the exact sort of thing a known woman abuser shouldn't really be saying if he actually cared about his transgressions. His management wisely shut his account down, but not before reinforcing to everyone that he is still a horrible, horrible excuse for a human being.

Bashar Al-Assad
He's never been the #1 Villain in the Middle East Review--top billing having gone to Osama bin Laden, co-starring one Mr. Saddam Hussein--and he's always been more of an inconvenient sideshow. But with all the stars in retirement (ahem), Al-Assad's newest role in Syria as Evil Douchebag With Smarmy Mustache has made him a breakout star. Trying to wage a civil war against civilians, stomping the bootheel on protestors, and contemplating using chemical weapons (wonder where that came from), he's become a poster boy for everything that is wrong in the Middle East.

Rick Santorum
Long residing on the punchline end of the Republican Party, for a brief time he became precariously close to becoming less of a joke and more of a front-runner. In his short time in the limelight (it was only a month but seemed like about eight hundred years) he somehow managed to screw up everything from the birth control non-issue-that-suddenly-was to upending what normally was going to be a smooth primary campaign. In the end, his simplistic and Neandertholic stances on issues ended up being more of an embarrassment than any sort of reflection of the voters as a whole and he ended up becoming a non-factor. Except for all of those poor clueless people who tried to look him up on the internet.

The Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision

Apple Patent Wars
Apple prides itself in being a company that is perfect in everything, including its near-flawless ability to make Chinese factory workers want to kill themselves. So it wasn't too much of a shock when Apple and Samsung clashed in a patent war over their phones. Patents being what they are--a nearly inscrutable resource for lawyers and engineers to befuddle consumers and corporations--it eventually created a situation where Apple ended up winning but looking incredibly petty in the process, effectively defending its main innovation of being able to power an iPhone with their owner's own smug sense of self-importance.
Chik-Fil-A Controversy
It is generally never a good idea for corporations to wade into the realm of public policy. Most of the time, any vocal support for a non-core-business-related issue will have the primary goal of enraging your customers. So it was with Chik-Fil-A. After its owner made remarks concerning their opposition to gay marriage--not exactly something that a fast-food chicken-based restaurant has a whole lot of influence over--it caused a backlash and a PR nightmare. While there were defenders for both sides (and it arguably generated more business, at least temporarily) it was seen more like a needless distraction than any sort of progress on the fried chicken/gay marriage dichotomy our founding fathers envisions for our nation.

AMC/Dish Dispute
The world of cable and satellite television is murky and complicated. Channels and providers routinely battle it out in a never-ending cycle of deals, compromises, and threats, all of which basically end up making everyone else subsidize access to ESPN. So it was with Dish Network and AMC this year. While it wasn't the only dispute between satellite and channels, it was one of the more high-profile ones; with critically acclaimed, highly-anticipated programs such as Mad Men and The Walking Dead gone from the airwaves, both sides risked losing subscribers and/or their core audience. While it was eventually resolved, it reminded everyone that unemployment, food security, and Middle East violence isn't nearly as important as missing the season premiere of Breaking Bad.

Facebook Goes Public
Facebook has revolutionized modern society. That's not a bold claim; that's a verifiable fact. Social media has transformed how we communicate, how we organize our lives, how we find love, and even how we look for jobs. So when the biggest force of change since the first Internet-based companies almost a decade and a half ago decides they are going to form a publicly traded company, one would expect it to be a pretty good deal. Sadly, once the congratulations and parties were over, no one realized exactly how this game-changing company was going to actually make any, you know, money. It turns out: no one really knows, including the people running the company. Oh, sure, they said it was a lot of data mining, but many forecasters weren't sure exactly what the potential was for that. And thus the true game changer in our modern economy was revealed: in order to make money, the money has to be made in a secret formula and with creepy, intangible things, like a company that knows how much you spend on vintage scarves this year and how much time you spend on growing virtual peaches.  Good luck selling that to your 401(k) provider.

Disney Acquires Star Wars
Intellectual property is a fragile thing. Once out of the hands of its creator and into the hands of a faceless profit-hungry corporation, you risk alienating fans at the expense of monetizing a legacy. Of course, it helps when the faceless corporation actually has a face and isn't much of a corporation; for decades, this was the case with George Lucas's Star Wars franchise. However, after the announcement by Lucas that he was selling the entire IP rights to Disney--the same amoral libertines that have no problem shoving Cinderella 4: Teatime for Princesses with zero regard for the Brothers Grimm in your face (or, more accurately, your child's face when watching the commercials in cartoons)--there was a distinct fear that the era of Star Wars was over. Then everyone remembers that it was Lucas himself that shit all over that era with Episode One: The Phantom Menace, so everyone more or less figured that it couldn't get possibly worse.

The Weirdest Nonsense We Continue To Allow Ourselves To Be Entertained By

Gangnam Style
America has always been accused of being egocentric--blissfully, almost violently proud of not knowing about anything outside of our borders. This is a rather bold claim, not unwarranted but often exaggerated. Still, you can't deny that when we find some ridiculous way to make ourselves feel culturally superior, we catapult it into our national entertainment consciousness to the point of it being immensely popular with absolutely no hint of self-awareness. It's like voting the horse prom queen and then realizing that she doesn't look so bad after all. Anyway, enter Korean (the good one) anti-American pop star sensation Psy and his gimmick-laden, freakishly Asian YouTube video for "Gangnam Style," a catchy if off-putting song that has taken America by (as they say) storm. The goofy video and empty-calorie lyrics (I guess?) aside, his biggest crime is encouraging flab middle-aged men to dance that horse-riding dance at every wedding (or...prom?) from now until it is long past its ironic sell-by date.

Honey Boo Boo
Reality TV--long the Schneider of television programming--is still a rockbed for the bottom line for networks everywhere, both culturally and financial-report-wise. Still, there are times in which some of us just want to turn out the lights with a glass of wine for some right proper self-reflection. A unfortunate spinoff from the even more unfortunate reality program Toddlers & Tiaras, the star--one Miss Honey Boo Boo, Esq.--reaches down to the depths of depravity much deeper than any of us want to go. We often watch reality television as a reflection of ourselves, but Here Comes Honey Boo Boo shovels down a few feet deeper and actually wants us to start taking the back off and trying to stick a bent paper clip in mankind's reset button. While there are glimmers of hope on this atrocity of a show--they genuinely seem to care for each other, and there's a surprising amount of creative responsibility displayed by the parents--there's still a certain level of exploitation that is unmistakably present. Much like Hota Kotb on The Today Show.

Twilight Comes to an End
The oft-mocked Twilight Saga, a whitewashed rekindling of the vampire mythos, reached its final sparkly conclusion this year. After four poorly-written books and five poorly-received movies, fans who were too lazy to read bad fiction at least got to see it displayed in screen. Even beautiful cinematography and a futile attempt to do something exciting besides watching pale 60-year-old teenagers brood over each other couldn't paper over what was essentially the product of a Mormon cosplayer's truth-or-dare fanfiction.
Lana Del Ray
The poster girl for manufactured fame, this quote-unquote independent sensation became the bane of the internet long before her much-criticized performance on SNL. When her musical career failed to take off under her previous persona--Lizzie Grant--she hired some lawyers and businessmen and PR hacks and reinvented herself, changing her name to the exotic "Lana Del Ray" and proceeded to crank out the exact sort of pop-culture laden music right from a marketer's survey, fortified with a healthy dose of blatant musical cock-teasing--and still had the brass ones to convince everyone she was a "gangster Nancy Sinatra." While her talent is shallow and her critics very vocal, she has still managed to stick around to completely disabuse the "indie" label until it has no practical meaning, the only final contribution to our culture is leaving hipsters with something to argue about over fair trade coffee at the Amish bookstore.

Ted Nugent
Around a decade ago, it was in vogue to tell singers and entertainers to "shut up and sing"--and that is still, generally, good policy. When celebrities such as the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the Iraq War, they found themselves losing fans (and, more importantly, sales). That said, everyone has a right to free speech so long as they're willing to accept the criticism of the fans that pay them money. Old-school rocker Ted Nugent (aka Sweaty Teddy, aka washed-up classic rock musician), long known for his conservative opinions, found himself on the other side of the battle. Alas, he lost more than just money--an ill-worded statement sloppily advocating the assassination of President Obama found him losing tour dates and an interrogation from the Secret Service, a group not exactly known for their subtlety. Much like Ted's lyrics.

[Voting is now closed.]

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