I have never compiled an end of the year Top 10 list, mainly because no one ever asked me. Nothing has changed in that regard, but since I wrote about this wretched 365 days past, I feel qualified to enumerate my ten most annoying people/events of the year. Since this was an election cycle, I could have filled the list with nothing but goofy senatorial candidates like Sharron Angle or the world's worst loser, Alaska's Joe Miller, but I tried to spread the scorn around a little. There were many deserving and hideous annoyances, but I've attempted to incorporate a wide range of the aggravating, beginning with:
10. Dick Clark. Although he only shows up once annually, it's enough horror to last all year long. When he first appeared several years ago on "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve" after a debilitating stroke, it seemed shocking but courageous for him to go on the air in a semi-incapacitated state. Now, after several years, it's purely for self-aggrandizement. Only there's no one around him to tell him to hang it up. Clark increasingly looks like the Cryptkeeper and speaks in brief, indecipherable mutterings that only Ryan Seacrest can understand. Seacrest calls him "The Master," while eyeballing that cozy, indoor desk-set he will inherit one day, maybe even on the air. It's a shame that Dick Clark began his career entertaining children and ends it by frightening them.
9. Willie Herenton. The former Memphis mayor did not go silently into that good night, but mounted one more vanity run for representative of the 9th Congressional district with the slogan "Just One." Had that meant there's just one Willie Herenton, it might have been effective, but the slogan and the Herenton campaign drew national media attention by consistently stating that the district could only be fairly represented by a black man. This racist strategy drew a rare congressional endorsement from President Obama for Herenton's opponent, Rep. Steve Cohen. Herenton cancelled a debate because he didn't approve of the questioners and even after Cohen beat him like a dusty floor rug, Herenton railed at the media, County Mayor A C Wharton, white voters, the president, and anyone else he considered responsible for his last hurrah. At least we can hope it was.
8. BP CEO Tony Hayward. After the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Hayward began a campaign of serial lying to stall for time. He intentionally misrepresented the size of the spill, the estimated damage to the Gulf, the mechanical safeguards that failed, and BP's grotesque record for safety. When appearing before Congress, Hayward said "I don't remember," more times than John Gotti at trial. His treatment of the victims of the spill was reminiscent of an English Viceroy in India during the days of the Raj, and his famous remark, "I want my life back," drew enough anger for BP to recall him to Great Britain. His replacement tried to tamp down the public relations damage while Hayward rushed off to the yacht races.
7. Cialis Commercials. Cialis is an erectile dysfunction medication made by GlaxoSmithKline, a public corporation. Since the Supreme Court determined in the Citizens United decision that corporations are now considered people, Cialis is one annoying sumbitch. Two aging yuppies are gardening or painting a house and exchange a randy glance, and suddenly waterfalls appear and thick plots of green grass grow where the horny couple appropriately pitch a tent. Next thing you know, they're reclining naked in the woods or on the beach in separate, antique bathtubs, implying that they did their dirty business thanks to Cialis. When's the last time you hit on someone and ended up nude, lying outside in a dry tub? I thought only tequila could do that.
6. Snooki. I allowed my wife to talk me into watching The Jersey Shore, with its cast of hedonists, and it happened to be the episode where Snooki gets cold-cocked by some beefy drunk in a bar. Intrigued, I watched for a couple of weeks until I realized that this show is about a group of aimless, clueless, functioning morons whose sole purpose in life is getting drunk, fighting, boasting of their "hotness" or manliness, and picking up strangers with whom to "hook up." I used to have a redneck friend who would get mean drunk and say, "I want to fuck or fight, and I don't much care which." This sums up the entire premise of Jersey Shore, and the result is that Snooki and her "poof" are international celebrities. Lord knows why.
5. Bank of America. The second largest non-oil company in the nation (after WalMart), BOA received $45 billion in government money through TARP, with the instructions to ease credit restrictions and work through their mortgage division to assist financially troubled homeowners in restructuring their loans. They responded by raising interest rates on credit cards by 28%. Only last week, the bank was accused of institutional fraud, where people applying for loan modifications found their paperwork "lost" within the system, until default. The bank's employees advised some homeowners to intentionally miss payments to illustrate the urgency of their need, only to have BOA speed up foreclosure on those in arrears. When the foreclosure horror stories emerged, BOA suspended, then resumed foreclosures in 23 states. The institution is so steeped in fraud, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said the next batch of leaks will succeed in taking down the bank and its officers.
4. Mel Gibson. It was bad enough to read Gibson's anti-Semitic screeds second-hand, but to actually hear his insane ravings on his former girlfriend's phone tapes proved that he's a regular, foaming-at-the-mouth, psychopath. His vile, name-calling obscenities and threats of violence were enough to make the worst misogynist wince. I, for one, am no longer capable of watching a Mel Gibson movie. And here I thought it was just the Jews that he hated.
3. The Republican Congressional Leadership. They devised a strategy of depriving the president of a single legislative victory through the tyranny of the minority, then pointed at him at election time and accused him of accomplishing nothing. And it worked. That is, until Obama steamrolled them during the lame duck session. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has admitted that the Senate Republicans' top priority is to deprive Obama of a second term, and new House Speaker John Boehner aims to "repeal and replace" the Obama health insurance reforms. It's not just that I think these men are working against the best interests of the country, and it may be superficial, but how do you take someone seriously when one of them looks like Mr. Toad from Alice in Wonderland, and the other looks like an Oompa Loompa?
2. My Neighbor. I make a point of knowing my next-door neighbors, but this is a family across the back fence and it's probably just as well I don't know their name. The wife and four kids have spent the last eight years in their back yard screaming. The children were infants when we moved in, and although I wondered aloud whether they shouldn't be in college by now, they're all still back there screaming. The husband owns every gas powered lawn device on the market, including a riding mower with a headlight so he can cut his postage-stamp sized yard at night. Between the leaf blower and the weed wacker, some deafening motor is always running. I had to wake Melody early one morning, however, to tell her that the neighbors now had chickens. She gazed in disbelief at the grown birds clucking away across the fence. Now, our dogs have gone insane and we've inquired about the legality of keeping barnyard animals in east Memphis. But the wife found a way to grandfather in the chickens before some new ordinance takes effect. They say strong fences make good neighbors, but, in this case, only when they're soundproofed.
1. Sarah Palin. I try to ignore her, but they won't let me. From the book deals, the speaking engagements, the Fox News commentary gig, and her inane "tweets," Palin has made a vast fortune from non-public service, or, as we used to call it, "self-service." And yet, a large segment of the population just loves her and can't get enough of her cruel sarcasm. The final outrage came during the reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, when she traveled to some remote hunting area and murdered a young, female elk. Sure, she justified it by claiming they planned to eat the animal, but I'll bet the response to the dining experience won't match the orgasmic breathlessness exhibited by the bystanders when she killed that majestic creature. If this weekly Palin infomercial is intended to boost her chances for higher office, it has, so far, only exhibited her vapidity. I'm convinced that this woman is a complete idiot, and if you think she's qualified to be the president, then so are you. And that's deeply annoying.