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.


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.


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.


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.


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.]

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