Monday, December 4, 2017

Vote Now! The 2017 Miserable Crank Awards: Day One

It's time for the 8th annual Miserable Crank awards, where we determine the worst events of the year!

The categories are:

    Worst Government Decision
    Worst Technological Advance
    Worst Sports Event
    Worst Embarrassment
    Worst Business Decision
    Worst Popular Trend
    Worst Incident
    Worst Entertainment
    Worst Person
    Worst Inconvenience

Simply vote for one candidate in each category over the next three days. Then, you can vote again for any one event as the "Worst Thing About 2017" on day four. On that day, you can vote for the same candidate as you had in the past or a different one; it's up to you. Whichever one wins the overall vote wins the Worst Event, and whoever the runner-up is in that category wins that category instead. I retain a little bit of judgement and discretion on this one, however, since not all of the candidates are appropriate.

(The second day of voting is for Business, Popular Trends, and Incidents. The third day of voting is for Entertainment, Person, and Inconvenience.)

Voting will end on Friday, December 15th. The results will be posted the following week.

Russian Interference
Rumors about Russia interfering in the 2016 Presidential Election were wild even then, but things were taken up a notch when official investigations into foreign influence began in earnest. While there is no evidence of any direct involvement in the campaign, which is sure to be used as the administration's main defense, there's a heap of evidence that Russian-affiliated organizations did a lot to pump stories favorable to Trump during the election. It's all a little weird, since Russia doesn't seem to get much out of the deal, but then again we ain't exactly dealing with the Bilderbergers here. Well, maybe if the Bilderbergers were adept at analyzing targeted Facebook ads...wait a second...

Spain vs Catalonia
Spain has a long tradition of separatist movements, and it all came to a head late this year as Catalonia voted for independence from Spain itself. Spain responded as all good mother countries do, by pretending that the vote never happened. Catalonians, in turn, threw massive protests in response. What comes next is almost certain to be a constitutional crisis, and Spain hasn't always dealt with those in a...non-damaging way.

Civil War Memorials
After the tumultuous events of the past year, many communities in the south have re-evaluated the desire to have monuments dedicated to the losers--excuse me, the Confederacy throughout the South. While some are dedicated to legitimate locales of history, many of the monuments are transparent attempts at intimidation. In any case, it flared up a whole new conversation about heritage, race relations, types of protest, and free speech. The South, they say, shall rise again, but the only thing that's rising there now is its heart disease rates.

In what can only be described as the most clumsy and ham-fisted way to solve a problem that doesn't really exist, the Trump administration's solution to fix the immigration problem includes revoking the DACA program, which allows immigrants who came over as children (presumably a choice they didn't make) to not be deported for a period of time.  Not only does not not really address illegal immigration at its core, its implementation was so sloppy it caused more confusion than anything else, and hit on one of the few issues that even the most ardent anti-immigration advocates didn't really have a problem with. 

Ah, the ill-fated American Health Care Act. The Republicans, after almost a decade of promising to repeal Obamacare, proceeded to do exactly not that. Like the dog that finally caught the proverbial individual mandated bone, the Republicans found it nearly impossible to repeal the piece of legislation they hated the most, due to a mix of underestimating the popular bits and not having a feasible alternative. In the end, Speaker Paul Ryan and many congressional Republicans spent a ton of political capital and time accomplishing next to nothing, which may just be what they wanted all along in the first place.

Electronic Arts has long been the punching bag for hardcore gamers, but EA's bottom line has always been its best defense--it is by far a wildly successful video game creator. Things came to a screeching halt as one of its newest hot holiday titles--Star Wars Battlefront II, a game set in the Harry Potter universe and featuring such characters as Dark Vader and Lego Indiana Jones--was revealed to have a loot box system, where players would not be able to unlock many popular features without spending even more money (or play for, what I assume to be given the uproar, a thousand years). Over $3 billion in stock value was lost in a matter of days, at least partly due to the bad press.

Ransomware Attack
Hackers are always trying to up their game, and this year was no different. The WannaCry cryptoworm (yeah, I know) spread across the global networks this spring, demanding bitcoin in exchange for not harming their data. While the infection itself was resolved relatively quickly, it still managed to hit quite a few big players, such as the UK's National Health Service and FedEx.

Twitter Goes To 280 Characters
Twitter has always been known as a micro-blogging application, and this year things got a little more macro. Sending out tweets have historically been capped at 140 characters due to its archaic limitation on text messages, and they finally decided to double its capacity. Now instead of making a dumb and vaguely problematic statement in 140 characters, you can either flesh out your opinion with a bit more space. Or make two dumb and vaguely problematic statements instead.

Net Neutrality
Like using the internet? Too bad, because things are about to get ugly. Net Neutrality, long an extremely sensitive subject in information circles, is based on the idea that all data is treated the same, regardless of where it comes from and where it is going. Ending net neutrality would mean that different ISPs and entities could charge different amounts depending on what sites to visit, essentially playing favorites with whatever you get to see. So if you hate how much cable charges for channels you don't want, you'll now hate the Internet with the same passion.

Don't know who Bixby is? Join the club! Everyone knows Siri from the iPhone, and a few sad people know Cortana from Microsoft, and we're all getting to know Alexa from Amazon, but Samsung's foray into the nightmarishly creepy commercial AI was a dud. They've promised to upgrade a new, better version of Bixby, presumably with the ability to say "Please help me I am on fire."

Adidas NCAA Scandal
The NCAA--the college wing of professional sports--has always been fraught with controversy. This year was no exception as a scandal involving bribery from footwear manufacturer Adidas to college teams was uncovered, prompting yet another round of how and when and whether players should be paid. Well, whether they should officially be paid, as opposed to the outright fraud that goes to paying them now.

Falcons Ruin The Superbowl
We were all having a nice time, weren't we? The New England Patriots had made it to the Superbowl, and we had all gathered together to enjoy some schadenfreude. And it started off so well, with the Falcons getting a commanding lead 28-9 at halftime, which in American Football is basically clean up your stuff and call your agent territory. But never underestimate the power of an underdog to dump their load. The Patriots managed to score 25 unanswered points in the second half, and most of America watched in horror as New England once again won.

NFL Anthem Protests
Following the trend last year started by Colin Kaepernick, may NFL players decided to protest the playing of the national anthem during games. Of course, this triggered a war of words amongst players, owners, commentators, fans, and of course the President because he can't keep his mouth shut about anything as everyone debated the meaning of patriotism, respect, protest, and playing on Thursday nights.

US Fails To Qualify For World Cup
Soccer has never been America's thing. It's the one concession we give the rest of the world--they can excel at soccer, and we get exports and manufacturing and science and rockets and Death Cab For Cutie. However, the US World Cup team has always been good enough to qualify, and despite America's reluctance, soccer has started to gain in popularity. So it was a little bit of a shock when the US failed to qualify for the next World Cup tournament, which was a bit of a blessing in disguise as all the players and coaches had to work that weekend at the Foot Locker anyway.

Mayweather vs McGregor
Floyd Mayweather is a well-reknowned boxer. Connor McGregor is...not. Rather, he is known primarily as a MMA fighter. Boxing purists were a little bit outraged, as they felt someone trained outside of the boxing discipline brought some baggage to a sport that is already overloaded with baggage. The fight ended up clean, with a relatively decisive victory for Mayweather, but the lead-up to the fight was a bit stressful. 

The Mooch
What a while ride this week was! After months of Sean Spicer's tumultuous term as White House Press Secretary, Anthony Scaramucci took on the job of the White House Communications Director, prompting Spicer to resign. (Well, that, and a bunch of other reasons.) The Mooch took on the job full blast, giving a profane interview with the New Yorker and made disparaging comments about Trump, he was sacked after only ten days on the job. But man, what a fun ten days that was.

Don't know who PewDiePie is? Congratulations! You are over the age of 12! PewDiePie is a popular Swedish YouTuber whose main attraction is playing video games and letting people watch him do it. (Right.) Plus a bunch of other stuff, I'm sure, that is well outside of my cultural scope. He got himself in a good bit of trouble by using a racial slur, and then following it up with an equally insensitive prank to highlight his apology.

Ted Cruz Favorites a Porn Tweet
This isn't so much a thing, I mostly wanted to remind people that this actually happened. And I don't care if it was probably an intern, I have an entire fable cooked up in my head of Ted Cruz fiddling on his phone in a committee hearing thinking "Yeah, I'd like some of that." Like!

The Orb!
In a weird situation in what can charitably be described as a weird administration, Trump provided one hell of a photo op while on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East. The heads of state for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Trump all placed their hands on a small glowing orb, creating a scene not unlike one you would find in a Bond villain character-building scene. The orb--which was actually a glowing representation of the globe--was part of the inauguration for an anti-extremist organization, but the visuals told an entirely different, and creepy, story.

Professor Does BBC Interview With Family
After a tough day of experting, don't you just want to sit down, lie back, and maybe do a little bit of good PR? So thought professor Robert Kelly when he was being interviewed by the BBC about the political crisis in South Korea. This were going perfectly normal when in walked in--nay, burst in--one child, walking confidently in, while her father droned on about presidential crises and such. Then slammed in the baby in a mobile stroller--and then a frantic wife, trying to reign in the kids with a frenzy known to many moms around the world. Only this time it was live and on tape, to be spread about the world.

[Voting is now closed.]

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