Category Archives: Take Away

Cold Water and Hot Fires

I was nominated to take the Ice Bucket Challenge the other day by my brother. I was glad to be chosen because it solidified some thoughts that had been bouncing around in my head since this whole thing got started. Pull up a chair because this might be a bit of a longish post.

 

First of all, for all the people who call the ALS challenge a form of slacktivism, it’s just not true. This movement has raised about 70 million dollars. The data doesn’t match your argument. Why is it then that I found myself slightly troubled?

 

I’m ashamed to say it took a Facebook post by  someone famous to put it all together for me. It will probably be easier if you all just check out the post by Mike Rowe on the subject: https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/photos/a.151342491542569.29994.116999698310182/848469731829838/?type=1&theater

 

Reading his take made it click somewhere in the scary recesses of my head. We don’t need to jump on a social media bandwagon once every five years and donate all of our charitable givings to one place. We need to be more generous as a nation, as a people.

 

Those who know me well, know that I’m not afraid of a bit of cold water. Heck, maybe one day when I’m feeling frisky I’ll do the whole ice bucket thing just for giggles. Right now I’m going to put away the camera and try to find somewhere where the plight is immediate and the whole country isn’t already looking.

 

I was conflicted at first. Where should I donate? I thought of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation http://jdrf.org/ which supports a cause that is near and dear to me. Then I remembered a something I saw recently and my mind was made up.

 

Here is my PSA: People! Detroit is burning. All over this troubled city, the fires are raging. The firemen there do the best they can to put them out, but they are undermanned and completely overextended. Their equipment is in tatters and there isn’t the money in their budget to replace it. I am going to pledge my dollars to helping these brave men and women save lives. You can too right here: http://www.detroitpublicsafetyfoundation.org/donate/


So this whole rant hasn’t been in opposition to ALS or the amazing achievement of the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s in favor of charity as a general principle. So go ahead, if you decide to donate to a good cause you can go ahead and take a video of ice being dumped on your head, or of you making love to a grizzly bear with a check clenched in your hands (the scratches are murder), but let’s spread the joy around. Find a cause that is important to you and make a donation, volunteer your time at a nonprofit, or just give a granola bar to someone you see on the subway who seems like they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

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Facebook Guilt Posters

So you’ve all seen them before, little messages that people share on Facebook, modern versions of chain letters. They usually sound something like this:

-If you like puppies, share this-

Well no. I wish they were so benign. They usually go on to say:

-If you don’t share this, you must like kicking puppies-

Some of them even pile on further:

-Most of you won’t share this (puppy kickers) but my “real” friends will-

Stop.

Just stop.

Don’t post them.

Don’t share them.

But why? What’s wrong with puppies?

Nothing. I like puppies as much as the next guy, but you need to know when you’re being manipulated. The language in these things is extremely manipulative. The best that can come of it, is that you feel warm and fuzzy for a moment. The worst, is that you just made one of your friends feel like a callous fiend (or a puppy kicker). Worse, it groups your friends into the haves, those who get guilted too, and the have-nots, those who obviously don’t like you enough to share.

The puppy example is actually much more tame than the real thing. Most of the ones that I see, relate to things like cancer, or other real life problems that make puppy kicking look like a sport in comparison.

So now, if I decide that I don’t want to spam my friends with this stuff, I’m into cancer.

WTF? I’m really not into cancer!

But it’s just Facebook. What’s the harm?

Probably the worst thing about the whole situation, is that it gives people a false sense of doing something good. You click share, avow your hate of puppy kicking, and go on with your day as a newly minted philanthropist.

What real good was actually done? You’ve been bullied into something with no tangible result.

Do you have something against cancer? Do something real. Donate to cancer research. Say a prayer. Eat more leafy greens so you won’t get it yourself. Do something real.

Just stop with the Facebook guilt posters.

Dystopia in Science Fiction

Ash gray skies and toppled down buildings. Earth in 500 years, either under water or polluted beyond belief. Dystopia is a huge trend in science fiction these days.

I’ve heard its popularity attributed to the current economic downturn, as well as to global warming.

I don’t doubt that these have an influence on all fiction, not just the speculative kind.

Specifically, I think science fiction has turned sharply in the direction of dystopian futures for one main reason. Space is way more boring than we thought it would be.

In Ancient Greece, people used myths to explain the unexplained bits of nature. Why does the sun come up every morning? Someone must be doing it. Why not some dude in a chariot?

The trend continued through the ages, myths being largely replaced by the Bible or other religious texts.

Then in the 17th and 18th centuries, science slowly became something that wouldn’t get you thrown in a poop strewn, rat infested dungeon.

Many of the mysteries of nature quickly became mundane. Tectonic plates rubbing weren’t quite as interesting a cause of earthquakes as Poseidon’s trident striking the ground when he was pissed. Writers turned their eyes upward and imagined what could be happening up there with all those twinkly things. Science fiction was born.

Up until the 60s, you could still write a story about the scantily clad amazon women that surely inhabited the moon. Then came Martians and ice creatures, back when Pluto was still a planet, not a confused little space rock.

Now, every time Curiosity sends another crystal clear image back to earth, we know that the best we can hope for are carbon traces of alien paramecium locked in prehistoric ice. Green guys are pretty much out of the question.

Also, we could probably make personal jetpacks right now, but think about the liability issue. The manufacturer would get sued every time some dumbass sailed one into the side of a mountain.

We also had high hopes for checking out other solar systems and getting our Star Trek on. While I hate to dash anyone’s hopes, it turns out that space is freaking huge.

Bu… bu… but wormholes! Well maybe that will work, but that’s what the last five decades of books have been written about. Every time something gets either proven or disproven, it’s one less piece of fodder for the writer’s imagination.

Where does that put science fiction?

It leaves the genre pondering the future of Earth in hundreds or thousands of years. And let me tell you, it’s not looking good.

Let’s face it. It’s more interesting reading about teen eat teen battles than Jetson utopias. Government shutdowns in 3019? I think I’ll pass.

My Solution to the Internet

Should the internet be free from censorship?

Yes, kind of.

I’ve been following a bunch of recent controversies on my twitter feed, from the alleged fake book reviews, to the changes on Goodreads. They all seem to stem from the same problem: the never ending battle between free speech and civility online.

Why does the internet turn so many people into troll-haired jerk-monkeys?

Everyone knows the answer. It’s anonymity.

If every person who harassed someone else online had to look into the judging eyes of their granny the next day, I think that the internet would clean itself up in no time.

It truly is a new issue. Shame has always been what made free speech work. Before the computer era, you could say whatever you wanted, but you had to live with those words.

Not anymore. Now you can spout whatever crazy-assed thing you’d like, and unless you attract the attention of the FBI, it never comes back to roost.

I’m going to offer a controversial solution. Rather than online censorship, everyone who logs on must sign into an internet profile. It doesn’t say where you live, it just gives your name, every website you’ve visited, and every comment you’ve ever made. I should be able to see it and so should your mom and your boss. Maybe it would be a sort of online SSN that you’re given at birth. If you want to talk smack on duelinggrannys.com, that’s fine, it should just be there for everyone who knows you to see.

I’d imagine that my plan would have a bit of a negative effect on the porn industry. That’s okay. Porn has gotten OUT. OF. CONTROL. If the average internet pornoholic had to get their whole fix from movies and magazines, they’d have to back up an 18 wheeler porn truck to their house to reach a near equivalent. People would have to devote whole rooms of their house to it. I think consumption would go down if Granny had to sleep on a hide-a-bed in the porn room. It might make it a bit harder to hide from the wife and kids too.

Getting back to trolling, I’m sure there would still be people who don’t care what people think of their behavior, the same as there is in everyday life. I’m fine with that. If you believe in something unpopular, you should always be allowed to speak your mind. Own it. Rather than using the internet as cover, hold your head up high, pound your chest, and say, “I’m me, this is what I believe.”