Monday, December 23, 2013

The Results Are In! The WInners Of The 2013 Miserable Crank Awards Are...

The votes have been cast and the results are in. The winners for each category are:


What is the Worst Government Decision?
NSA Spying Scandal

What is the Worst Technological Advance?
Reddit Misnames Suspect

What is the Worst Sporting Event?
Manti Te'o's Fake Girlfriend

What is the Most Embarrassing Thing?
Anthony Weiner

What is the Worst Business Decision?
Blackberry

What is the Worst Popular Trend?
Duck Dynasty

What is the Worst Incident?
Boston Bombings

What is the Worst Entertainment?
Miley Cyrus

Who is the Worst Person?
Ariel Castro

What is the Worst Inconvenience?
Carnival Triumph Disaster

And finally...



The Government Shutdown

Thanks to everyone for participating! See you all next year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vote Now! The 2013 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Four

Today is the last post for voting for the 2013 Miserable Crank Awards. Go vote for each of the categories now!

Here is the link for Day One. [Government, Technology, Sports, Embarrassment]

Here is the link for Day Two. [Business, Popular Trend, Incident]

Here is the link for Day Three. [Entertainment, Person, 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 2013, 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 (nine categories total) and vote below.

Remember, voting ends on Thursday, December 19th, 2013, so the polls will be open for a full week after today.

[Voting is now closed.]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vote Now! The 2013 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Three

Here are the candidates for day three of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2013. (The first day of voting, for Government, Technology, Sports, and Embarrassment, can be found here. The second day of voting, for Business, Popular Trends, and Incidents, can be found here.)

 

Amanda Bynes
A graduate of the Spears-Lohan International Academy of Celebrity Meltdowns, former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes did what all good child actresses do--get in an incredibly impressive amount of trouble. A Twitter-fueled meltdown was the highlight this year, which included (but was not limited to) pot, partial nudity, pyromania, clear signs of either mental illness or drugs, and, of course, denying that there is anything wrong. She has apparently been getting the help she needs, but not before an incredibly fast and deep public breakdown, the sort of thing we all expect now that social media, and the insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip, exists.
 Blurred Lines 
Every summer has an anthem, although in the past Western Civilization has done its best to let that song not be a crass, dick-swinging setback to forty years of progressive feminism. Women who under any other circumstances have a zero-tolerance policy towards the sort of disrespectful behavior men have done against women had absolutely no problem singing, dancing, and paying good money for Robin Thicke's ode to veiled date-rape glorification called "Blurred Lines." (Even the title of the song is a pretty direct hint that getting her drunk enough is perfectly acceptable green light.) Women who boycott insensitive companies, refused to vote for candidates for President, and write hand-wringing self-reflections on Tumblr about the oppression of the patriarchy happily danced the summer away to a single whose attitude towards women would make the characters from Mad Men stop and say, "Dude, knock it off."
 

What Does The Fox Say? 
Every year seems to bring one viral novelty song that everyone loves right up until the point where it drive you insane. So it was with this year's winner of the Rebecca Black Irritatingly Popular Song Award, "What Does The Fox Say?" A catchy tune infused with just the right amount of Scandinavian weirdness, the refrain--involving the various odd and ear-covering noises that is the answer to the song's title--caught on like wildfire. While charming and innovative at first, it quickly devolved into the usual morass of commercial jingles, ring tones, and--the true harbinger that a song is officially past its cultural relevance--a parody skit on Saturday Night Live.

Miley Cyrus 
Disney rivals Nickelodeon in producing Girls Who Grow Up And Make Bad Decisions. The former Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, at least tucked away a boatload of money before going on a salvia-fueled train wreck of a career change. Instead of slinging warmed-over pop music to fill her bank account and sate her need for adulation, she decided to "push boundaries" and "create cultural innovation" or whatever excuse is used by young performers these days to publicly act like a slag. From the violently sexual "Wrecking Ball" to dressing like a teddy bear and twerking onstage at the VMAs, Miley has created a new fan base out of (I assume) horny delusional men and impressionable girl tweens with little parental direction. (Which, incidentally, describes Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus, respectively.) The only thing worse than her doing this as some sort of substance-fueled reaction is that she is doing this is a calculated (and profitable) move.

North West 
The pairing of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West isn't particularly surprising. Everyone has a type, and these two have basically made a living producing media advertising the exact sort of type they are comfortable with. (That was about as diplomatically as I could phrase "They make explicit sex videos and sexually offensive lyrics about who they want to bang.") These two very public, very un-diplomatic celebrities managed to produce an offspring. Instead of doing what normal celebrity parents do--give their child a life away from the cameras and the spotlight--they went and named him North. As in, North West, the sort of name that shows up as a pun gag on a Looney Tunes reel. Sadly, all the money and fame in the world aren't going to save that child from embarrassment at school, even if he's home schooled.


 
Paula Deen 
Paula Deen, the self-proclaimed Queen of Butter and Sugar, has long been a popular chef on television. She mixes a certain level of down-home charm, comfort food, and Type II Diabetes that is endlessly educational and entertaining to homes across the nation. But things took a rather unfortunate turn when, during a deposition against racial discrimination at her and her brother's company, she was alarmingly cavalier about her use of racial epithets. While, given her age and upbringing, there's a certain level of "What, exactly, were you expecting?" involved, her apparent coldness in trying to figure out what on earth she did wrong made her a public enemy.

Rob Ford 
The embattled (but as of this writing still in power) mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford makes Marion Berry look like a Girl Scout. He's shown up drunk in places, but (let's face it) what mayor hasn't done that? But things took a more serious turn when allegations of crack cocaine use surfaced. And when I say "allegations" I mean "They have him on camera smoking crack cocaine." This, of course, led to a large number of other accusations and incidents, resulting in a lot of his powers being stripped away. He is as of now still plugging away, trying to function as mayor and clear his name, although I assume that being the mayor of Toronto more or less boils down to coordinating snow removal and trying to be upbeat about the Maple Leaf's prospects of winning the Stanley Cup.

Ariel Castro 
The perfect nightmare fuel for a small Midwestern town (or, I suppose I should say, anywhere), Ariel Castro--who kidnapped and held hostage three women for around ten years--was discovered and arrested. The inspiring story of the three survivors didn't, however, assuage people of the horrors that were propagated; his situation pretty much hit every checkbox on the list of "There Is Someone Exactly Like Him Down My Street." The evidence eventually got him over a thousand years in jail; he at least had the good graces to hang himself in his cell a month into his sentence.

George Zimmerman 
Last year, George Zimmerman was acquitted from the killing of Treyvon Martin, a highly sensationalized trial full of racial undertones, second amendment advocates and detractors, and a litany of other causes. After his acquittal, he shied away from the spotlight, humbled from the impact his actions had caused the nation. Just kidding! In fact, he did everything possible to prove to people that we was the exact sort of reckless asshole we all thought he probably was, getting himself involved with domestic abuse, charged with aggravated assault, and generally made an embarrassing spectacle of himself.

Justin Bieber 
Oh, sure, it's easy to pick on the Biebs. He's such an easy target. But this year, he seemed to go out of his way to antagonize people above and beyond his usual crime of having immense success with mediocre music. He managed to make a visit to the Anne Frank museum awkwardly insensitive; he was caught with drugs while touring Europe; he got into an altercation with a photographer; and he eventually blamed a lot of bad behavior on simply having a "bad week." We'll know things are bad when he drags out the old "exhaustion" excuse.


 

Carnival Triumph
Cruise ships are chancy at best even under the best of circumstances--whether it's rolling the dice on stomach flu or that 45-year old that, after three days at sea, is going to look good enough--but they've become increasingly horrible as of late. Most cruisegoer's fears became realized early this year when the Carival Triumph's engines failed, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in the middle of the ocean without electricity, food, or (ironically enough) running water. People were eating ketchup packets like barbarians. They were pooping in bags like a New Jersey Devil. After an excruciating three days at sea, they finally were pulled into port, where no doubt the passengers kissed the ground and took a hot shower that lasted approximately though the rest of the spring.

Editor's Note: I accidentally initially listed the Costa Concordia (which happened in 2012 and was an entry last year) instead of the Carnival Triumph situation.Sadly, I will now not be able to make fun of the Italian Navy.

Superbowl Power Outage 
The Superbowl is literally the single most-viewed program of all year. This year, it's the legendary Baltimore Ravens against the legendary I Don't Remember Anymores. Everyone is transfixed: NFL fans who want to watch the game, siblings and spouses who want to see the commercials, and everyone else who wants an excuse to eat buffalo chicken dip and bacon-wrapped meatballs. And then--the power goes out in the Superdome. Here it is, with the eyeballs of the world on one place, and the electricity just disappears. Was it terrorism? Was it a simple malfunction? Did Ray Lewis do something untoward? (Although statistically likely, it was not the cause.) Thankfully, the power was brought back up (it was something mundane, like an overload), but not before the world became equal parts concerned and perplexed.

Post Office Ends Saturday Delivery 
The Post Office, the long-suffering government institution known for inefficiency, bureaucracy, slowness, and red ink, was finally getting its act together. After decades of being the punching bag for good-government types for its lackadaisical attitude of actually delivering the mail, a decades-long reform of the entire system, including more efficient computerized sorting and a top-dog review of employee performance, had made the Post Office look pretty good. Then, the rise of email, increased fuel costs, and increased competition from FedEx and UPS drained the USPS of most of its revenue. Bleeding money, the Post Office declared that, as part of a cost-saving measure, they were going to close a bunch of offices and stop Saturday delivery. After a public outcry--and Congress effectively forcing them to remain open--they "changed their mind" and will be delivering on Saturdays after all. Still, they're still hemorrhaging money and they're more or less back to where they were, with no doubt increased postage costs and higher contributions from our tax dollars. But at least now we can get the latest copy of Field and Stream on a Saturday.

Kevin Ware's Injury
Ha! I bet you tried to forget about this! There you are, one of the many, many college basketball fans in America, and you decide that you're going to sit down and watch the University of Louisville play Duke. It's a game for the ages, no doubt, or at least a game for the office betting pool. And star player Kevin Ware goes up to block a three-pointer and OH MY GOODNESS WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Ware, landing awkwardly, suffered a compound fracture on his leg, although at the time it appeared that his entire leg bone was torn from his muscle and exposed to everyone in the audience. Teammates vomited, coaches were visibly shaken, and the entire viewing nation barely moved for about three months.

Airline Consolidation 
Airlines are hell on earth. They are unorganized cesspools of hatred and bureaucracy, an unholy alliance between profit-seeking airlines, arcane government regulations, and ridiculously-staged security theater. There is not a single man, woman, or child who hasn't walked into an airport and immediately broke down crying. Well, now there is one less airline to deal with now that American Airlines merged with US Airways. While this may seem like a good thing--one less horrible company to work with--it means that there's less options to choose from, less competition to keep people in check, and the unnerving sense that this is somehow--somehow!--going to make everything worse. It always does.
[Voting is now closed.]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vote Now! The 2013 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

Here are the candidates for day two of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2013. (The first day of voting, for Government, Technology, Sports, and Embarrassment, can be found here.)



Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft who took over after Bill Gates retired to live on his house made out of bricks created from bundles of hundred-dollar bills, retired in a remorseful blaze of poor performance and bad decisions. True, he held his own early in his tenure, but the failure of cracking the smartphone market and losing billions of dollars eventually forced him to call it quits. A notoriously difficult manager, he clung to a horrid employee-evaluation system that seemingly rewarded ass-kissery and blind luck instead of actual talent, and showed an alarmingly myopic view of the software market. The universal judge of all things important--the church of the stock market--saw Microsoft's shres soar after the announcement, which tells you everything that you need to know about Ballmer's reign.
                             

Amy's Baking Company

Poor Amy from Amy's Baking Company. After appearing on Kitchen Nightmares, where Amy and her husband, Samy, seemingly pulled off the impossible and out-assholed Gordon Ramsey, they became very, very angry at the internet. Knowing as much about social media as they do about running a restaurant, they proceeded to make about as many bonehead mistakes as possible--threatening people who left negative comments on their Facebook page, bringing out the lawyers, and, when the blowback was too fierce, claimed that they were (ahem) "hacked." They were pretty much the poster children for How Not To Run Social Media For Your Small Business 101.



Blackberry

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Not even five years ago, Blackberry was the phone to get if you were getting a smartphone. In fact, they weren't called smartphones--they were just called Blackberries. They had captured nearly all of the business and government worlds with their secure email servers. Sadly, their dominance also left them lazy. The iPhone came out, then the Androids, and yet Blackberry still clung to their old ideas. It barely took a half of a decade to completely decimate their market share, going from the very top leader to the single digits. Now, being seen with a Blackberry is about as dated as a Friends reference or being employed.



Bitcoins

Who says you can't get something for nothing? Bitcoins, the anarcho-capitalist's wet dream as to how a currency should operate, hit its stride this year as people who weren't street criminals started to buy them. A completely virtual currency, backed by nothing except hopes, duct tape, and a copy of the works of Noam Chomsky, Bitcoins were very, very popular with the sort of people who are uninterested in people knowing how they are spending their money. But for those who aren't interested in sex trafficking, hit men, or opium, it started to garner some legitimacy in business and academic circles and caused their value to increase...and subsequently crash, then rise again, and then fluctuating wildly with no rhyme or reason, further legitimizing its place in the global market as a valid currency.



Horseburgers

Enjoying that burger? Well, hopefully it didn't come from Europe, because as it turns out that a lot of the meat that people assumed was beef turned out to be made out of--of all things--horse. Aside from the normal Ick Factor, there's also a host of other issues, such as how the supply chain of meat could break down so badly. Horse in and of itself isn't bad for you, of course--I prefer it if for no other reason than it means there are less horses around--but it may be prudent the next time someone offers you a burger to just say neigh.






Harlem Shake

A absurd--if, truth be told, charmingly unique--internet activity where seemingly bored individuals, usually a group, went about their daily lives filming themselves doing not much of anything during the opening strains of the eponymous song. At the song's break, the individuals then cut immediately to the same location and are shown dancing or gesturing or...doing something, anything, while the rest of that line in the song is sung. It's over in about a minute. It's about as stupid as it is hard to describe without actually seeing it. But at least it has one thing going for it--it's not planking.

                            

The Royal Baby

Oh, I'm sure it's important to some, and a new baby is always a joyous occasion* (*results may vary), but the standard absurdity that is the royal family acts as a force multiplier when discussing the actual birth. Naming him the rather anticlimactic name of George (to be fair, they weren't exactly going to be naming him Snoop Dogg), he was met with a mixture of fanfare, indifference, or resentment, depending on what phase of history your nation declared independence from the UK. While the birth and subsequent life of Prince George was surprisingly drama-free (well, as far as the British Tabloid version of drama-free goes), it will be a great setup for future entries on this list, I'm sure. Now if only Henry could find himself a nice ginger girl. to knock up and give us some good tabloid fodder.



Candy Crush

The video game world has been turned upside down. It's no longer dropping quarters in an arcade game (OK, that hasn't been a thing for about a decade) and it's no longer about waiting in line for the next big beautifully rendered first-person shooter. It's downloading an ad-laden free (ahem, "free") game onto your Facebook page, counting its "innovation" of begging your friends with free advertising for the game free lives to continue playing as its claim to success. Candy Crush was this year's hottest gimmick, which sadly did not involve cute animals such as , oh, I don't know, birds, that could be as easily marketable.



Duck Dynasty

Take any reality show that follows a subset of our culture--such as Jersey Shore or Bridezillas--and move it to Louisiana, only feature a clan of rednecks. but only the best kind of redneck, of course--independently rich. Sure, there's a certain novelty in this concept (they made bank on, of all things, duck calls) and it certainly has a "Beverly Hillbillies" vibe to it. Still, taking the tropes of any corner of America and playing it up for all of America is something that tends to get old pretty quick.



Google Glass

Sure, sure, sure, it's the device of the future. Every impractical, crazy invention that everyone makes fun of Google over turns out to be incredibly useful and innovative. Still, the entire concept of Google Glass is pretty creepy: it's the sort of thing that dystopian science fiction novels are built off of. (Then again, so is Google Plus. Amirite?)  While the opportunities to advance media, technology, medicine, and society are endless, the appetite to basically turn it into a way to profit from upskirt pics is even more endless.






Steubenville

What is more important than high school football? Not much, apparently, with the possible exception of college and pro football. At least so it goes in Steubenville, Ohio, where several members of the football team (Big Red, for those interested in that sort of thing) were caught up in a rape scandal that involved local authorities covering it up (surprise!) a community more or less on the side of the players (surprise!) and a very alarming amount of slut-shaming (surprise!). The entire situation was sad for everyone involved, from the victims to the reputation of the town to the national TV reporters who seemed alarmingly sympathetic to the accused.  Individuals are still being indicted over the affair, so the effects of this will linger for years to come.

                                

North Korea

With the rise of Kim Jong Un--the son of legendary basketball phenom, curer of diseases, and lifelong dictator of North Korea--Kim Jong Il, the small, brutal nation has been looking for new and creative ways to display their might and power to the rest of the world. When their missile launches failed to impress, they took to threatening the United States with a pre-emptive nuclear strike, then went and actually conducted a nuclear test, then rescinded any non-aggression treaties with South Korea, and basically escalated everyone everywhere to the brink of war between North Korea and South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Things sort of eventually settled down, not because of any sort of resolution, but probably because someone eventually told Kim Jong Un that he would probably be annihilated i any sort of war if he didn't shut up and to just go back to his room and play Counter Strike or collect fingernails in a jar or something else instead.



Boston Bombings

The Boston Marathon is usually a fun of unexciting national event every year, where people on the East Coast all gather in Boston so they can uploads pictures of themselves running while a Kenyan inevitably crosses the finish line. Sadly, this year, a bomb crafted out of a pressure cooker was set off at the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds. After a long and eventful search, and ending with a drama-filled manhunt in the middle of the night, one suspect was caught and the other was killed. Unfortunately, the incident was also the source of a lot of confusion and bad decision-making (some misidentification, the failure to read Miranda rights of the suspects, and so on) even though the conduct of the investigation overall was fairly efficient. Still, it's the source for at least two other items on this list, so it was a fairly unfortunate affair all around.



Hurricane Haiyan

Southeast Asia hasn't fared very well with recent disasters, and 2013 was no exception. While the area is generally used to discordant weather such as hurricanes, Hurricane Haiyan made landfall with unexpected force. In the end, over 5000 people died in the Phillipines alone, and weather conditions made it difficult to get aid to the people who needed it the most. Given the dense population, the massive number of homeless, and the fact that most of the people on call to help were victims themselves, and the recovery will be long and difficult. It also did not help that China--you know, right next door and one of the biggest nations on the earth--sent a face-slappingly small donation of $100,000 to the aid effort due to political differences (by contrast, the band Journey--you know, the guys that haven't had a hit song in thirty years--donated $350,000). They eventually kicked in more, but it proved to be a real dick move for the Red Dragon that only made the disaster, and its subsequent recovery, even more painful.



Syrian Civil War

Syria has been fighting what amounts to a civil war for over a year now, a casualty of the Arab Spring from a few years ago. The United States, weary from two other involvements in the Middle East, has refrained from getting tied up in the nation. However, when word leaked that chemical weapons had been used by the government against its own people, it created a bit of a crisis as to whether American should start a bombing campaign to  aid the rebellion. Significant opposition by the public more or less halted that option and created an embarrassment for the White House, who was now stuck with a public declaration that they were willing to do so but not the political will to back it up. The horribleness of the civil war itself is bad enough even without the US getting (or not getting, as it were) involved. 

[Voting is now closed.]