Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Gross-Out Contest

If you, like me, are of a certain age [say, 50], you probably remember an apocryphal story that did the rounds in the late-1970's. Two rock stars noted for their wild stage antics [the version I heard starred Ozzy Osbourne and Frank Zappa; I suspect there are versions with other performers] decided to settle once and for all who was the more outrageous. They went through several rounds evenly matched, following excess with excess. Finally, an evil smile came to Osbourne's face. He turned his back to those in attendance, dropped his pants, and proceeded to empty his bowels. "Beat that !", he said in wicked triumph. But Zappa was not to be denied. He calmly walked to the pile of waste matter and began to eat it. Ozzy conceded the title on the spot.
I bring this up because of the latest barbarity to grace our beloved Blogosphere, the already legendary "2Girls - 1 Cup" video. (For those not aware, I'll try to explain it as delicately as I can. If you're sensitive, or easily disturbed, or, for the love of God, underage, please skip the next few paragraphs. I never thought I'd have to say that about a posting here...)
The video begins with two very attractive women kissing, fondling and, in general, enjoying each other's company. Suddenly [and God help me, I wish I knew how; virtually every video service on the 'Net has banned it. What little of it I've really seen is from the so-called "reaction" videos, when normal people are exposed to...] one of the girls proceeds to defecate into a glass cup. The two proceed to eat the contents of the cup, smearing it over each other's faces. They continue their passionate love-making. They even exchange vomit. [In the interest of accuracy, these are the only sequences from "2G-1C" that I've seen. Or want to...]
Although I like to think of myself as, well, safe on the furniture, I did have a past. I've seen many of the popular images from our violent culture [and isn't it sad that violent images are popular in this culture?]. I grew up with most of the sensitivities of the typical American male [or lack thereof]. I even took part in a gross-out contest or two. And yet, this little show hits me [ and virtually anyone who's seen it] like a train wreck in progress; I want to turn away, to forget what I've seen, but I cannot.
A few questions come up:
1. / Are any of the special moments faked? Uncertain. Prop food [and I do mean "food"] could have been substituted, camera angles could allow for illusions, but, if that was done, it was done well.
2. / Why does this video have the power to disturb? A few possibilities: it challenges traditional values on several levels [eating waste, a lesbian relationship, beautiful young women smeared with feces. Is it that they are beautiful?
3. / Why the "reaction" and "tribute" videos? Damn good question. Anybody wanting a shot at that one is welcome to enlighten me.
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hard Times

I try to keep the tone of these entries light, for what should be an obvious reason. I don't believe people want to read about depressing topics, or, more accurately, topics presented in a depressing manner [Let's face it, one person's depressing topic is another person's laugh-fest]. Normally, I can find a cheery, or at least a non-dreary, way to discuss whatever's before the floor. This one, however, is too close to home. Last week, several employees of the radio company I work at, including some announcers, were let go.

Let's be honest here. This is not a tragedy. No one was killed, no buildings collapsed, no one drove into a lake. But I think everyone believes that their job is important, their position secure. Whenever someone loses a job, the whole fabric of Life feels shaken. Conversations around the building were a bit more quiet. Laughter was a lot harder to find.

Again, the number let go [4] was not particularly huge. But each person has a story. A single mom. A person trying to finish a college education. People with lives, desires, and most frustratingly of all, bills.

I guess what hurts the most, puts the most concern on the table, is that there doesn't seem to be an end to any of this. We went through similar "reductions" in the days before we were sold last year. Nowadays, being sold doesn't seem to lead towards security.
A few of you in the back row are no doubt thinking, "Well, this kind of thing goes on every day in America". Yes, indeed. Rather my point. Something has changed in this country, over the last ten years or so. Owners of companies were always trying to make a higher profit margin. It was expected, and considered the mark of a successful business [And, realistically, no working person could really resent it].
While we remember the 1980's as the decade when "Gordon Gekko" famously intoned the phrase "Greed is good", in the movie Wall Street, the greed didn't seem to take hold until the late part of the last decade of the last century. Now, a damn-the-worker mindset is endemic in the US. I bring all this up because today is Election Day in most of the United States. Next year's vote will really set the agenda for the next few years. But it may just be time to begin putting a framework for change together. It's time to look at the candidates, consider what views they support [and not just with lip service, either], and vote our own enlightened self-interests. Hey, there's no shame in it. Big Money has done it for years...
-Mike Riley

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Random Acts Of Kindness

I wish I knew where the term was first used - "Random Acts Of Kindness", I mean. I remember seeing it sometime in the 80's, as a play on the phrase "random acts of violence". Even then, there was a sense that the random act didn't have to be earth-shattering, or even community-shattering, for that matter. People would do things like paying the road toll for the driver behind them [at least until someone caused an accident trying to catch up to the person who'd paid the toll. I'd like to think it was to thank that person. But it probably was to find out who'd done it, and why] or shovelling a neighbor's walk clear of snow [usually an act of showing-off by the neighbor who'd just gotten a snow blower]. Still they were "well-meant" acts, and certainly a kindness to those who were on the other end of them.

That being said, it felt pretty good to be on the front end of them, too. We need to do more of this, helping people in need, or not in need, but in need of a kind act to make the day special. As you can tell by the little doo-hickey on the right-hand column of THIS VERY BLOG SITE!, Bloggers Unite! is hoping you'll take the time to do something special. There's a date of December 17th to blog about your good deed, but there's no reason to wait until the 16th, or stop at one deed. [If you don't have a blog, and want to see your effort noted, leave me a "Comment". If you have a blog, write it down to encourage others]

-Mike Riley