Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vote Now! The 2012 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Three

It's day three of voting for the 2012 Miserable Crank Awards. You have until Thursday, December 20th, 2012 to vote. If you haven't already, vote on the previous two posts (here is Day One and here is Day Two), and the final vote post is going up tomorrow. 

The Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us  To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle
Chicago Teacher Strike
Errybody's gots to get paid. Yet there's a certain expectation that when fall comes around, you get to drop your kids off somewhere where they do a lot of stuff that involves them not being in your house any more. There are entire religions based solely on this sweet, sweet relief. So when that ritual is disrupted, it can cause huge waves of panic to reverberate throughout a community. In Chicago, as teachers went out to the picket lines, parents had to scramble to renew Y memberships, suddenly get interested in that neighbor lady who is always sweet on the kids, and lower the bar on how creepy you think your uncle with a lot of free time is. Thankfully, the strike was eventually called off just in time for parents to start bitching about school property taxes again.
Encyclopedia Britannica Ends
Everybody grew up with access to a set of encyclopedias. Maybe they were the slim, embarrassing volumes parents got on the cheap through some guilt-trip-laden sales pitch by overzealous primary school organizations. Maybe they were the higher-end sets that starry-eyed parents bought for their Harvard University Graduate State School Student Wheatgrass Community College Attendee Copper Smelting Correspondence Course Certificate Recipient. Or maybe it was simply a trip to the trusty library. And maybe they were used less for looking up the occupation of Clement Atlee previous to his becoming Prime Minister and more for getting things off of a high shelf. Still, the inevitable finally happened: the iconic dead-forest Encyclopedia Britannica announced the end to its print edition this year, citing the rather obvious fact that selling something for a few hundred dollars for something you could easily look up in seconds for free on your phone was not, in fact, a particularly sustainable business model.

Apple Maps
What kind of year would it be without Apple making some smug, ill-conceived business decision, papering over the massive mistake without including some glossy feint about how superior their overall product is? After kicking the vastly superior Google Maps off of their system and installing an embarrassingly inferior Apple Maps application in its place, the iPhone suddenly became (slightly) less indispensible. While it obviously wasn't a horrible product, it was clearly not as good, and the childish power-play of the competing Google operating system  at the expense of the consumer seemed like something Steve Jobs would never do. OK, I tried really, really hard to not laugh while writing that. Jobs would have been all over that shit.

Hostess Goes Bankrupt
Everyone knew about Hostess. Everyone has had a Twinkie, or a Ding Dong, or a Hostess Cupcake or ten, or any of the other well-known snack cakes made by the long-established baked goods company. Sadly, time finally caught up with the company; after declaring bankruptcy a few years ago, a reorganization failed to make any headway. An ill-conceived baker's union decision to reject a deal, the company folded for good. Thankfully, the actual Hostess brand--along with their popular products--will no doubt be sold off during the liquidation process, but there's going to be a sad delay when the Twinkie is not going to be part of a nutritional breakfast. used to be, right?

Sure, when one thinks of droughts they think of it in terms of how awful it is for farmers (and, if we are feeling particularly cosmopolitan, Africa). Farmers have it tough enough as it is, what with getting up at four in the morning in the searing heat and being forced to carry those huge sacks of cash from their government subsidy checks all the way to the bank in enough time to make it back to the homestead to bitch about Uncle Sam getting off their backs. But it's easy to forget that the drought hurts everyone; food that used to cost small amounts suddenly become more expensive, since most of it has turned into dried-up husks out on the prairie. It sucks about the farmers and everything, but would someone please think of the Hot Pockets and beef burritos?

The Worst Thing Everyone Else For Some  Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled
Nate Silver
Nate Silver became the darling of punditry in 2008 because he accurately predicted 49 of the 50 states in the Presidential election that year. Somehow charming himself into the New York media elite, he managed to snag his own entire section of the New York Times online website and kept tabs in the much less predictable 2012 election. While he's certainly a good numbers and a capable stats guy, his feats are not exactly all that impressive--plenty of people besides himself also got 49 of 50 right in 2008, after all. While he did make some bold (and what turned out to be accurate) predictions in 2012, his other predictions (namely Senate seats) were much less impressive. His importance has been enhanced less by his abilities and more of his media savvy, which makes him out to be more lucky than skillful.
Magic Mike
It's not exactly a trade secret that sex sells. Regardless of whether you are trying to sell clothes, jewelry, taco-shaped ice cream, or donations to the United Way, you can get people to pony up more cash if you routinely show a little cleave. Up until recently, however, this tactic has purely been in the domain of attracting men, saturating the ad world and the television screen with hot women to move money from wallets. Not anymore! Magic Mike's secret--a movie about male strippers (or about drugs and friendship and Remembering Where You Came From; I don't really know)--was the hit of the summer, getting droves of women to see the movie, with the unspoken chant of "Now it's finally our turn" and the men adding "to clean the theater seats before you leave."

Fifty Shades of Gray
Reading is fun, kids, and there isn't much justification for not encouraging everyone--of all ages!--to read. However, one can certainly draw an unseemly line at what amounts to librarian-endorsed smut. Sure, literacy has a long and glorious history of fighting against censorship and pushing the boundaries of creativity, but there's still something unseemly about the bodice-ripping trash that many people appear to enjoy. Books such as Fifty Shades of Gray--a "book" whose "plot" centers primarily around BDSM fantasies and women with low self-esteem hot enough to justify two (I hate to add the sadly accurate "best selling") sequels--certainly get people to read. But it is also a reminder that just like movies, television, art, culture, and politics, there's always a base-level percentage that is always just trash.

Call Me Maybe
This year's ear-invading pop anthem, "Call Me Maybe" isn't, really, that bad of a song. Sure, it's trite and corny, but it's quite catchy and you could do a lot worse in this world of synthesized emotions and factory-farmed teen stars. What does irritate me, however, is the perpetual insistence that every cultural reference needs to be framed in this manner. Simply stating "[verb] me, maybe?" has replaced wit as an acceptable form of humor.

Royal Baby
The usual rumblings over the uselessness of the royal family aside--last year's wedding fed into the usual plaints of sucking the news away from war-torn countries and famine to cover a bunch of rich unemployed folks wearing comically outdated uniforms--the announcement of Kate Middleton's pregnancy, as usual, vaulted to the top of the tabloids. While there's a tiny justification for the news--it's the next baby to pop out in a long line of monarchs that did, in fact, affect history, after all--the royal family has (quite rightly) been relegated to the celebrity depths of the news. Although it's tempting to simply ignore the royals, it's worth it for the entertainment value alone; you'd be hard-pressed to see the likes of Katy Perry dress up like an SS officer at a customer party.

The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea the Year

Italian Cruise Ship Disaster
Cruise ships are supposed to be pleasant experiences, but tell that to the poor folks on the Costa Concordia. With an itinerary of stopping at several Italian ports, the captain decided to treat the passengers to a closer look at the coast, but instead hit a reef and forced the evacuation of all 4000+ people on board. It ended up partially capsizing and causing the death of over 30 individuals. Hardly a proper way to spend your vacation, but it's the only way i can think of that makes the stomach flu the more appealing choice to ruin a trip. 
Aurora Shootings
During the premier of the hotly anticipated Batman movie, a man in Aurora, Colorado decided to show up and start shooting people. One could go into the psychological reasons as to why this might happen, but all you really need to know is that he dyed his hair Crayola-level red-orange for the trial, apparently in a bid to garner the batshit crazy faction's support from the jury. Sadly, this incident led off a series of various shootings in other states around the nation, presenting an unfortunate cocktail of hatred, violence, and mental issues in one unexplainable mess.

Hurricane Sandy
Another year, another geographical disaster. This time, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, including New York City and New Jersey. It caused billions of dollars of damage in the world's financial capital, and--we can all pretend it doesn't matter if you want, but it does--it hit a week before the Presidential election. You have several things to consider: Obama's role in the disaster cleanup, New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie's assistance in that effort, Mitt Romney's no-win tepid response, Mayor Bloomberg's originally effective response followed by a series of very bad decisions, and finally the actual destruction of New York and New Jersey's infrastructure, including the subway system that holds the Big Apple together. While the response of the nation was pretty charitable, it doesn't stop the fact that there was massive disruption in a large swath of the United States population in a region that's starting to get sick of disruption. 

The Benghazi Attack
The September 11th attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi ended up with a dead ambassador and a huge embarrassment for the Obama administration. When the attack was first announced, the administration attributed the cause to the release of an American-produced anti-Muslim video. However, it was also alleged that this was a planned attack that the administration had ignored the warning signs of. In either case, the destruction of the embassy, the death of the diplomat, and the allegations on both sides (especially being so close to the Presidential election) made this a saddening event on each side.

Treyvon Martin Shooting
A case that manages to combine all sorts of social issues into one very awkward package: you have gun control, race relations, police procedures, social media, prosecutorial misconduct, and a high dose of symbolic emotional responses, the Martin case--where Hispanic George Zimmerman, in his duties as a neighborhood watch patrolman, shot and killed African-American Treyvon Martin in what he claims was self-defense--has the high probability of coming out with zero winners regardless of the outcome.

[Voting is now closed.]

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