Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vote Now! The 2015 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

Here are the candidates for day two of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2015.

Lilly for Target
Do you know a way to get a bunch of bored housewives mad? First, you get them all excited about a product line that is supposed to be hip but is really just the rehashed commercialization of modern middle-class kitsch. Then, you announce the day it's going to be released. Then it sells out in days so most of them can't get their hands on it. Then it turns out a bunch of people bought all the stock and resold it on eBay for higher prices. Then you make these customers realize that their irrational demand for mediocre products makes them no better than the rubes at Wal-Mart they think they are superior than. 

Exchange Rate Fixing Scandal
The Forex scandal--Forex standing for "Economic Term No One Understands"--hit the international markets this past year. Forex deals with the exchange rates between banks. As should come as a surprise to no one, there was a scandal of manipulating these rates for their own gain, using loopholes to set rates before the actual rates were revealed. This year, the banks themselves pleaded guilty and paid heavy fines for their role in the matter. 

Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
The German automobile maker, heretofore as having a reliable if mildly expensive reputation, took a huge hit when it was revealed that the emission sensors on their vehicles were rigged, claiming they created significantly less pollution than they actually did. The head of VW was sacked and a settlement was reached but not before they took a huge hit to their standing in the industry. 

THERANOS! sounds like a futuristic company, the sort of thing Lex Luthor heads. And for many, it was sold like that. A medical company that does...something with blood testing managed to net millions of investor money and billions in worth and snags former Secretaries of State and Senators on their board. Except that it turns out their devices have not only not been scrutinized by any agencies or peer reviews, but, it appears that absolutely zero data has been released showing that the thing actually works. 

Radio Shack Files For Bankruptcy
Remember the 80's? Radio Shack sure does, because they've been there ever since...well, even since the 80's ended. It's always been an enigma how the place managed to stay open so long; in a world with massive leaps in technology and huge cuts in the cost of manufacturing such things, Radio Shack remained wedded to selling overpriced audio equipment, cheaply made remote control cars, and weirdly pushy sales clerks. About the only thing they were successful at in the last two decades was monopolizing the zip code gathering industry. Finally, after decades of question marks, they finally filed for bankruptcy this year, hoping to reorganize into something resembling Best Buy right before Best Buy goes out of business. 

Differently Colored Dress
Moving swiftly across the internet, the popular image of a dress showed up in everyone's feed. Why a dress? The dress was either blue and black or white and gold, depending on...well, no one knows. Heated debates broke out about the color of the dress, and disagreements still linger to this day for people who dare to repost the image. The real winners, of course, were science-based web sites, who got all excited because they could post an article people would actually read.

Man Buns
It's the new hairstyle--for men! After years of hipsters keeping their hair short, they've liberated themselves and grow out their hair. Except with a combination of EXPERIMENTING WITH APPEARANCES AS STATEMENTS, SMASHING SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS, and NOT WANTING TO SPEND TIME ON THEIR HAIR, they've popularized the man bun. Man Bun: For when you don't want people to respect you because you're dressed like a unemployed lumberjack, you want them to not respect you because of your choice in hairstyle. 

Llama Escape
Nothing breaks up a workday then sitting in the break room watching the television and following a bunch of llamas escape and run through an Arizona retirement community. Where were they going? Who knows? Probably back to Australia or wherever llamas are from. 

Confederate Flag
After a racist asshole opened fire in a church in South Carolina, there was a renewed push to remove the confederate flag from official state emblems and flags across the deep south. For most of the nation who has decided to move on past 1865, this was both a no-brainer and a non-issue. Sadly, for many in the south, and a surprising number of northern folks, the Stars and Bars was suddenly held up with a high level of esteem and pride, as if they had them themselves just walked off the battlefield of Chancellorsville. Most people just can't understand why waving around the flag of racists and, yes, official, recorded-in-the-history-books losers was something they'd want to do in the first place. There are plenty of awesome Southern things that can be pointed to with pride, like Coke and the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Go Set A Watchman
After decades, the long-awaited sequel to one of the most iconic books of American history, To Kill A Mockingbird was finally released. Well, maybe not long-awaited since no one really knew it existed. And really not a sequel as much as it is a first draft. And maybe it wasn't really ready to go because the author didn't really seem like it was something that should have been published. And maybe it was published only because the estate pushed for it to be published against her wishes--or her wishes are unknown because she is elderly and senile. In any case, have fun writing that book report.

Paris Attacks
The year started off poorly for the residents of Paris, France. An attack on a popular satirical media house—Charlie Hebdo—sparked international outrage and a focus on the world stage of preventing further attacks by militant Islamists. Almost a year later, a coordinated attack by ISIS on a Paris concert hall and other venues left over a hundred dead. The attack highlighted several issues, from appropriate response to security concerns to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. 

Mass Shootings
2015 saw a significant increase in the number of high-profile mass shootings, from the racially charged shootings at a church in South Carolina, an assault at a military center in Tennessee, an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, and a religion-based attack in California. These attacks brought attention to a variety of issues ranging from gun control to mental health. 

The worst fears of most airline travelers were realized earlier this year, as one of the pilots on a plane with the Germanwings airline intentionally crashed the plane into the Alps, carrying around 150 passengers and crew. All of those on board perished. The co-pilot had a history of severe depression and thoughts of suicide, and the parent company Lufthansa was left trying to answer questions as to how something like this could slip through all off the operational protocols. 

Refugee Crisis
After years of civil war, millions of Syrians fled their war-torn country as refugees, traveling the globe and attempting to settle in faraway lands to escape the violence. This influx brought with it logistical nightmares—but also a significant amount of political and cultural strife, as European nations began balking at accepting Muslim immigrants at a time when both Muslims and immigration were hot topics. Most (though not all) of the leaders in Europe opened the borders as the right thing to do, although not without opposition; after the Paris attacks, the issue spilled over to the United States, where opinions were sharp, varied, and vocal. 

Nepal Earthquake
Earthquakes are rotten disasters to deal with; they are impossible to prevent, they create unique structural challenges, and the cleanup after the fact is monumentally difficult and expensive. When it hits one of the few nations on earth that is notoriously difficult to access, it makes it all the worse. Tens of thousands were injured, and half that number dead, while most of the world offered help that it was practically impossible for Nepal to take.

[Voting is now closed.]

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