Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vote Now! The 2014 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Three

Here are the candidates for day three of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2014. (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.)

Kim Kardashian Breaks The Internet
Have you ever wanted to see Kim Kardashian's greasy ass? Well, welcome to 2005, because that's been available for everyone to see for the last decade or so. Oh, but you want a classy picture of her ass on a highbrow New York magazine cover? Well, the long national nightmare is over, because that became available the winter of 2014. Of course, the paradox that the dead-tree cover was supposed to break the internet--where there isn't enough digital Clorox in existence to scrub her off of it--was lost in the struggle to not see it pop up on every Facebook feed. 

How I Met Your Mother Finale
After nine long seasons, How I Met Your Mother finally met their mother--in the most disappointing way possible. Given that the entire premise of the sitcom was building up to the finale, expectations were really high. And the unexpectedly long run of the show made the creators stretch the story out a little bit too long for the sake of the concept. I won't spoil anything here in case future internet citizens want to catch up, but the other totally dies at the end.

Sharknado 2
OK, so maybe putting Sharknado 2 on this list is a bit of a cop-out. It is, after all, an intentionally horrible movie, and you can't fault the creators for filling it with so much cheese and ham you could make an omelet out of it. (And--I won't lie--I watched the first one and it wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen. Close, but not the worst.) And it's clear that everyone involved in this movie was just having a good time with it, and there's precious little of that anymore. Still, I feel like I should put it on here because the novelty has worn out its welcome and I don't want to encourage another installment.

Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham--the creator and writer of the series Girls--is propped up by many to be a feminist icon and a star on the rise. And yet when she released her autobiography, Not That Kind Of Girl, she freely admitted to some...strange things that happened when she was younger, including some sexual interactions with her younger sister. Defenders say it was innocent sexual curiosity and an overreaction; detractors paint her as a hypocrite, since similar actions by men would most likely be career-ending, and the light-hearted way she presented it was tasteless. Regardless, the whole thing is just creepy.

Shia Labeouf Gets Weirder
Having apparently graduated from the Joaquin Phoenix School Of Bat-Shit Craziness, Shia LaBeouf--a fairly high-profile actor these days--descended into abject madness, or, as the experts call it, "art." He ran laps wearing a marathon outfit in an Amsterdam museum--which was notable for having a lack of a marathon that day. He chased down a homeless man to take his McDonalds. He was arrested for disorderly conduct outside Studio 54, notable because you have to be actively committing a felony to get in there in the first place. He appears at his movie premier wearing a paper bag over his head that says "I am not famous anymore." And that's just some of it. It's a thin line between making a statement and being an embarrassing footnote to the entertainment world.

Donald Sterling
What do you get when you cross a rich person who's also a racist? You get Donald Sterling! Of course, it's good that he's not in a position where he has to deal with a significant number of minorities or anything. As owner of the LA Clippers, his remarks--admittedly made in private and recorded without his consent--nonetheless made his position as an owner untenable. Several punishments were suggested, such as attending sensitivity trainings, publicly apologizing, or being forced to buy the Timberwolves. In the end, he had to sell the team, and was reduced to carting all of his money to his huge house where he will have to live in luxury for the rest of his life, where hopefully he can afford to do something about those puffy eyes.

Ray Rice
The NFL has a little bit of an image problem, and the actions of Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice didn't make things easier. Early in the year both Rice and his fiance, Janay, were arrested for an altercation in a casino. Video evidence later showed that he was apparently, at one point, dragging the body of an unconscious Janay out of an elevator. Rice avoided jail time by undergoing counseling, although the Ravens terminated his contract. Commissioner Roger Goodell's actions also caused problems, as the initial punishment was a two-game ban, then extended to indefinite once the tape was released, then the exposure that the NFL had seen the tape before the public did and decided two games was enough until the public outcry was too high. In any case, it brought an unwelcome but necessary spotlight to a lot of NFL players with violent backgrounds.

Bill Cosby
One of America's top-tier comic actors, Bill Cosby has always been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct, but most of them were so old they never really got past the rumor stage. After comedian Hannibal Buress re-opened the wound in one of his sets, several women came forward stating that since Cosby's rise in 1965, he had a pattern of drugging and assaulting (and, often, raping) women. Maybe other notable people, including Janice Dickinson and Carla Ferrigno, also said they were victims of Cosby's assaults. While none of these accusations have been proven or vetted through a court of law, the pattern and stature of many of the accounts seem to demand attention. Regardless of the outcome, one has to admit that it takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude and/or reckless foolhardiness to make a pass at Lou Ferrigno's wife.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President and part-time Bond Villain Vladimir Putin has had a good year, at least from his perspective. He oversaw a successful Olympics in Sochi, he successfully parlayed internal disagreements in Crimea, and he threatened economic retaliation for those capitalizing off of falling oil prices. It's been a good year, of course, unless you're gay. Or Ukrainian. Or an importer. Or a Russian.

Justin Bieber
This is not Mr. Bieber's first appearance in this category, but it's worth nothing that 2014 introduced The Bieb's first actual, history-impacting official arrest. His crime? A DUI, of course. (Also, an expired license and resisting arrest.) More amusingly, his neighbor accused him of throwing eggs at his house and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage, prompting the question of how on earth eggs can cause thousand of dollars in damage? He was arrested again for driving dangerously and apparently fighting with the person in the vehicle that was hit. In any case, this is the year where either Justin Bieber straightens up and goes the route of Robert Downey Jr, or takes the other road, paved with the reputations of Britney Spears and every Disney sitcom star.

Polar Vortex
Winters can be rough up north, but this year mother nature decided to be a little bitch about it. The meteorological name of the phenomenon was the Polar Vortex, which sounds more like an X-Men villain than a weather-related anomaly. Record low temperatures were set across the nation, airports shut down, and schools closed. Hell, jet fuel was freezing. Places down South even got hit, with Atlanta getting shut down after the streets were lined with snow (and officially offsetting Sherman's March to the Sea to make the average historical temperature zero again).

Bendable iPhones
Now that Steve Jobs is done, it seems that Apple can do wrong. Or maybe not. The iPhone 6's release started off just like any other--a whole lot of obnoxious people waiting a long time and paying a lot of money for something that is slightly more advanced than what they've had before. After its release, though, design flaws began circulation around the media--some involved user's hair getting caught and ripped off, and some phone randomly would reboot. But the most notable was the bendable chassis--if a user stuck their phone in their pocket, for instance, and pressure was put on it, the phone would bend (and break). Given the iPhone's reputation of being engineered to perfection--and one of the reasons people were willing to pay its exorbitant price--this caused a lot of consternation. After media reports showed that the problem really wasn't that bad, their reputation seemed to be intact--until they banned one media outlet after a slightly unflattering story was aired. 

U2 Pushes Album To iTunes
Another Apple mishap, this involved their iTunes application, where nearly all Apple product users store their media (whether it be music or something else). Venerable music legend U2 released a new album, which was then sent to anyone with an iTunes account for free. While it was, you know, free, and there were conflicting reports as to whether it was forced or you had to opt-in, a lot of people were upset at this intrusion into their own private files without their consent. Also, it's U2. 

Comcast-Time Warner Merger
Comcast is not exactly one of the most popular corporations in America. Time Warner is not exactly one of the most relevant corporations. A merger between the two, though? Katy bar the door! While approval is still pending--and stiff opposition since it's announcement makes it more likely that it won't be approved--if it is finalized will represent a monopoly (of sorts) in about 30% of the nation for cable services. Given the reputation of both companies, there's a lot of folks out there not looking forward to the prospect.

Ride-Sharing Obstacles
Innovation marches on, they say, although public policy often has difficulty keeping up. One of the newest concepts in city transportation, ride sharing, saw exponential growth in 2014--well, in theory, since a lot of cities are doing everything they can to stifle it. Promoted by leaders Uber and Lyft, ride sharing involves individuals using their own cars as taxi cabs to make a little extra money. Taxi drivers in cities, of course, don't like this--most cities have a well-entrenched medallion system to keep their numbers down (and, thus, prices up) and most laws on the books reinforce that. Still, fighting the good regulatory fight is slow and expensive, and as cities work their way through the details only the consumers lose out. Oh, and I guess the taxi cabs, too.

[Voting is now closed.]

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