It's hard to believe that an entire year has passed since we introduced the Dontmindme.com Wilhelm Awards. A lot has happened in the last 12 months, and there are a lot of things and people which are, if not very, at least moderately deserving of a Wilhelm Award. Some of the winners were formally nominated during the last year, while others are now for the first time being mentioned in association with this prestigous prize.
If you'd like to learn more about the Wilhelms, visit the Wilhelm Awards Page. There you can find out the explanation behind the name, listen to the actual Wilhelm scream, and see the 2005 winners and nominees. But for now, on with the awards.
Most Pathetic Public Official: While very-soon-to-be-former Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin was nominated for this award last spring, and at the time looked to be a lock on this award, that was before Hurricane Katrina, and before we all knew the name Mike Brown. The former head of FEMA, "Brownie," as the Prez called him, did do a heck of a job. He did a heck of a job of sucking at running an emergency measures organization. He ignored requests for help from his single staffer in New Orleans, and spent most of his effort on trying to look good for the media. Seriously, the only way he could have done a worse job would have been to arrange for The Tragically Hip to play a benefit concert while the flooding was still going on. Mike Brown wins the Wilhelm for Most Pathetic Public Official hands down.
Best Generic Food Product: All major grocery chains have their own unique store brands. Usually these are a cheaper — yet more profitable for the store — alternative to the major national brands. Sometimes these generic products are very similar in quality to the brand name goods, occasionally even exactly the same products in different packaging. In general, though, store brands are usually perceived as inferior to brand name products. Sometimes, however, the opposite is true, and a generic item is far superior to the brand name equivalent. Compliments Lickety Fudge Cookies, available at Sobeys supermarkets, is at a glance a knock off of a Nabisco Fudgee-O (basically an Oreo with chocolate cream filling, for those outside of Canada). Now while the Fudgee-O is a much better cookie than the Oreo, the Lickety Fudge cookie is far, far better. It's almost impossibly good for a store bought cookie. It is superior to the Oreo by several orders of magnitude, easily as superior as Sophia Loren is to Courtney Love. It wins the Wilhelm for Best Generic Food Product.
Biggest Decline in Quality: Fawlty Towers. Firefly. Freaks and Geeks. These shows have something in common, apart from their first letter. All had less than twenty episodes produced, and therefore they never had time for the quality to take a nosedive. Had they remained on the air longer, that would have been almost inevitable. And so it was inevitable with The Amazing Race.
The Amazing Race (or A-Race for short) has been the cream of the crop among reality series for several years. Granted, that's somewhat like being the tallest smurf, but the show had remained a cut above the rest. They stuck with a tried and true format and made only mild tweaks from season to season. Then someone got the bright idea to do a family edition. Not only did this entail increasing the teams from two members to four, it also involved spending most of the time within the continental US, lame challenges, and visits to exotic locales such as the world's largest office chair. Hopefully the next edition of A-Race, scheduled to start after the Olympics end, will be better. In the mean time, The Amazing Race: Family Edition wins the Wilhelm for Biggest Decline in Quality.
Most Shameless Plug: Quid pro quo is a wonderful thing. One of the contributing editors of this site has recently launched her own photography web site, Nancy Thomas Photography. So of course we're shamelessly plugging that site here. You should go and check out her site, and see all the very nice pictures. There is online ordering available on the site, so maybe buy a picture or three. Nancy Thomas Photography wins the Wilhelm for Most Shameless Plug.
Best New Web Service: Mapping websites have been around for years. Between MapQuest and Yahoo Maps and others, there really didn't seem to be much need for innovation on the map front. Then Google released Google Maps, which was fast and pretty and had a better interface than the other mapping services, but no one really noticed. At least, not until they included satellite imagery. All of a sudden you could actually see the world (well, just North America at first) as it was. If you lived in an urban area, where the satellite imagery was combined with aerial photography to give high resolution results, you could find your own house. Of course, the satellite imagery was really cool, but it wasn't the easiest thing for actually finding places, since it can be hard to tell one road from another without labels. Google addressed that with a hybrid mode, which overlaid street information on the satellite maps. It goes without saying that Google Maps is a strong contender for the Wilhelm for Best New Web Service.
Most Disturbing Technology Trend: Earlier this year I got a new computer. As wonderful as that is for a nerd such as myself, there is also a lot of work involved — the transfer of data files, the installation of major software packages, and configuring everything so it's just right. Then there are the extra items and plugins that you don't think about until you need to use them — items like Adobe Acrobat Reader, Macromedia Flash Player, that sort of thing. Now if you go to download either of those items, low and behold it also installs the Yahoo toolbar unless you specifically select not to. This is becoming increasingly common with a lot of software vendors as the big search companies strive to hold on to as much of their market share as possible. MSN, Yahoo, and Google are all guilty of this to a certain extent. There is an emerging term for this practice — bundleware. A piece of software that you want is bundled with a piece of software that isn't necessarily harmful or dangerous, but is probably unwanted. It might succeed in getting toolbar software on people's computers, but in doing so it damages the reputation of all the companies involved. After all, if a toolbar was good enough, why should it need to be bundled with a popular software package? Bundleware is a strong contender for Most Disturbing Technology Trend.
Best Made Up Word: Sometimes there just isn't a word to describe what you want to express. When that happens, there are only two choices available to you: either stumble over woefully inadequate existing words, or just invent an entirely new word. Scrumtrilescent is an example of the latter. From a SNL sketch (featuring Will Farrell as James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio) several years ago and meaning "indescribably wonderful," this word has quietly slipped, perhaps not into the mainstream, but definitely into online lingo. A quick search on Google will reveal more than 1000 results for this word. That's enough to earn Scrumtrilescent the Wilhelm Award for Best Made Up Word.