Darwin’s Law for a Younger Generation

For the uninitiated, Darwin’s Law is simple.  Basically, it revolves around survival of the fittest, or in this case, the smartest.  Those who don’t succeed in smart choices are doomed to fade away.  Or, you know, grow up and vote.

I would love to say I was immune to these challenges.  I’d like to say it, but that would be a lie.   Take the cinnamon challenge from a few years back.  You remember this one?  Kids would chug large mouthfuls of straight cinnamon while their supposed friends recorded the whole thing rather than offer to help.  Hilarity ensued as the victim choked and burned in agony, their pain forever recorded on YouTube or Facebook.  Good times were had by all.

I was maybe six when I did this myself.  To be clear, it wasn’t on purpose.  It was an accident.  You see, I loved cinnamon toast. Being the typical six-year-old, I figured there were only two ingredients: toast and cinnamon.  But who needs toast anyway?  The toast in cinnamon toast is sort of an unessential element if you ask me – kinda like the water in whiskey and water. Let me at that yummy box of cinnamon and let’s get right to the good stuff!

So there I was at the precocious age of 6…my poor mother. I climbed up the tall shelf that held all of the forbidden goodies, grabbed that box and upended it over my mouth.  Yummy…no…wait…yikes!  There was an immediate reaction.  I couldn’t breathe, the powder coated my throat and puffed into my sinuses. My mother had to practically drown me to get it washed out because water simply does not do much to clear the cinnamon invasion (if you notice, when you pour water on it, cinnamon separates and stays dry). My Mom said it was one of the scariest moments when I was a kid. So even though it sounds like it’s nothing, swallowing straight cinnamon is really very dangerous and stupid. Kids are doing this as a game.  It’s insane.

As a side note, I still love cinnamon toast, but I now know Mom had a few additional ingredients other than just cinnamon and toast in her delicious treat. I do learn. In case you were wondering.

It was actually my mother’s fault that I took part in what might have been the first trial ever of the cinnamon challenge.   You see kids, in the days that cinnamon actually came in boxes or tins, there was also a thing we used to call a wall phone.  Imagine, a phone tethered to the wall by a long cord.  These cords came in various lengths, allowing parents much more freedom to sneak up and catch their kids doing stupid things.  For the longest time, we had a short cord. However, after having lived with me for a while, my Mom secretly traded out the short cord for a long phone cord so that she could spy on my antics while talking to Aunt Margaret, Uncle Joe, or that gossipy lady down the street.  Moms have a weird sixth sense about when their kids are getting into mischief, or, in this case, blatant stupidity.  She also knew that a phone call was just enough time for her wayward child to partake in various shenanigans such as breaking a lamp, sneaking a cookie, or in this case, chugging a box of cinnamon.  I believe that I would have escaped unscathed had she not popped up around the corner, phone clenched in her hand, and caught me with the box.  She scared me so much that I choked on the cinnamon.  Hey, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Then there were the challenges involving innocent school supplies.  Ah, yes, the sissy test.  For reasons still unclear to psychologists everywhere, the kids in this one take a pencil top eraser and rub a spot on the top of their hand until the skin is raw. Because this is not nearly painful or satisfying enough, the kids continue to rub the spot until it becomes a painful sore.  I guess the idea was to be able to prove you can take the pain or perhaps to erase elementary school tattoos.  Of course had I known I’d be going through the excruciating agony pleasures of childbirth twice later in life, I would’ve scoffed at whoever created this challenge with a self-satisfied smirk and a wise nod.  “Ahhh, little grasshopper.  You’ve got nothing!”  At any rate, I still have the scar. I never said I was a brilliant child. In my defense, this was elementary school and not high school. Does that help?  No? Oh well.

Other challenges I remember included how high one could swing while STANDING on the swing; emergency room doctors and dentists were fond of this one. As we got older, we tempted fate by knocking down Old Lady Lloyd’s mailbox.  Sounds innocent, but you would be amazed at how fast a ninety year old woman can run down a sidewalk brandishing a cane.

There is a trend now in these challenges that seems to be more serious, with a risk of permanent injury and even in some cases life threatening.  When did challenges go from sticking your tongue to a metal pole in the winter to more ominous and dangerous risks?   Can we blame social media hysteria?  Attention seeking compulsions and a desire to be a part of something no matter how stupid? Unbelievable peer pressure?  A feeling of invincibility from watching too much violent TV?   I mean, there has to be something.

Activities like the “condom” challenge where you inhale a condom and pull it through your mouth just makes absolutely zero sense to me.  Then, there is “Sack Tapping” which, to me is just crazy.  Boys trying to dash their mothers’ dreams of grandchildren all in the name of “manning up.”  Do they not realize they can do permanent damage or do they not care? These parents more than any others deserve to have grandchildren if for no other reason than to say “HA! You now have kids that act exactly like you did!”

Duct taping a friend to a pole or some other object seems to be a thing. I know, right? I thought it was a fake challenge myself, but apparently it happens. The goal of course is to duct tape the so-called friend as tightly as possible and then the friend tries their best to break free. With friends like these, who needs enemies?  I understand one girl partaking in the challenge broke her teeth and several bones in her face because she fell over onto concrete and couldn’t catch herself. Because of course, her hands were duct taped to her sides. I’m sure she wasn’t alone. I’m sure others have endured similar challenge-related injuries. This challenge, among all the others, can sometimes include a glorious one night’s vacation stay in a hospital.

Believe it or not, setting your friends or yourself on fire is a game. A game. Yes. you read that right. A. Game. The rules here are simple.  You douse yourself in flammable liquid and set yourself on fire while friends operate the video equipment (aka cell phone), the results of which are then posted on social media. Marshmallows are optional, and the fun abounds as the winners get to discover the joys of second and third degree burns.

My immediate reaction to all of this of course is to say, WTF?  My second reaction is to question the parenting involved in these young people’s lives. As a parent myself, I know kids can get into trouble. I’ve had my fair share of worries, concerns, and downright “what the hell were you thinking” moments. I’m happy to report though that neither of my kids have set themselves on fire. Perhaps judging the parents is unfair…but if not the home-life, then what?  What drives kids to do these ridiculously stupid things? And more importantly, how do we get them to stop?

The one thing all of these stupid challenges share is attention seeking behavior from the participants and the “hey are these really your friends??” individuals egging them on.  If we could convince our kids and teens to unsubscribe and unfollow these people, their fame may be over and the challenges would stop.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your kids.  Explain that Wally McFlame may seem funny today, but that he is placing his life in very real danger.  I would not be averse to showing a few real pictures of burn victims to drive the point home.  Our kids are tech savvy beyond belief, and smarter than we give them credit for.  But they are also naïve in so many ways. We need to step in and keep our kids firmly planted in reality.

My kids have tested my sanity (still intact, thank you very much), stressed me (nothing a little wine won’t fix!), and have generally made life interesting through their ongoing antics, that is for sure.  But thankfully, my kids have thus far survived without having participated in any of the challenges that are apparently intended to weed them out of society.  I personally will keep the cinnamon far out of reach, and carefully monitor all school supplies to ensure they are being used properly.  I don’t want to admit to my kids that I may, or may not, have done a few silly things myself.

Future Plans

So.  I was having a conversation with my daughter as we drove around doing errands, mainly about her dislike for unruly children and especially the bad parents that seem to run rampant not just in our town, but in the world. Don’t ask me why we were having this conversation…I can’t remember why it came up but I’m sure it had to do with some far-flung memory or observation of an ill-behaved child in action. But at any rate, we were talking about the world in general as it pertains to unruly children and the parents who allow them to continue their disruptive and troublesome behavior and that all told, life would be better if there were changes made in some respects. Yes, these are the sorts of in-depth, mind-boggling discussions that tend to take place on our road trips.

At any rate, my lovely, intelligent, and oh-so-tolerant daughter said: “I have some ideas, but that’s how dystopias start.”

I didn’t ask her any questions about her ideas on how to mold the future. Quite frankly, I just didn’t have the nerve.

Be afraid people. Be very afraid.

don't be fooled people. she's not all innocence and feather boas.

don’t be fooled people. she’s not all innocence and feather boas.

Trolls, Sadists, and The Olympics – Oh My

The Olympics have drawn to a close and it seems as though it was filled with just as much scandal as it was exciting competition. Sadly, it was not without heartbreak or injury either.

If any of you have been following the games, you may have heard about the injury suffered by French Olympian, Samir Ait Said. In the midst of his vault routine landing, Said suffered a broken leg. Not his first. But still devastating and horrific. First, let me say my heart immediately went out to him as images of Joe Thiesmann flashed in my head. And I’m glad to say Said seems to be recovering well, as well as one can after such a terrible event.

But all of that is beside the point, how did I discover this piece of news? Luckily I didn’t witness it like I did Theismann’s injury – that one is still rattling around in my head I’m very sorry to report. No, it was a normal day pretty much like any other day and as I so often do, I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed when lo and behold a news article popped up detailing Said’s botched landing, his subsequent insult to injury when the paramedics dropped him while he was strapped onto a gurney, and an update on his recovery (as much as was known then).  Believe it or not, the story of this awful incident was not the most disturbing thing about the Facebook post in question. Not by a long shot.

You see, apparently the media outlet posting this article had decided to show some respect (gasp!  I know, right!?) to both the athlete and presumably its audience and opted NOT to show the stomach-churning video of the gruesome injury. In fact, from what I understand, numerous news sites and even the Olympic committee had removed various versions of the video due to its grisly nature, not to mention, once again, respect.  And frankly, what purpose does it serve to air such a thing?  But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

As I mentioned, the news story was not the worst thing about this Facebook post and that’s saying something. No. The worst thing was the slew of comments from the bloodthirsty…well, let’s see…trolls? No, that’s not right. Sadists? Horror-mongers? I could come up with some better names, but my mother reads this blog. I digress. Back to the comments.

The story alone was quite detailed and the author talented enough to paint a word picture for his audience — a word picture that was more than adequate to conjure a mind’s eye view of what occurred to this poor gymnast.

And yet. There it began. The vocal outcry of the offended masses culled from the cream of our society. “Where’s the video!?” asked one. “Why’d you guys take it down?” whined another. “Someone needs to re-post on YouTube or something, man!” decried one technologically clever soul. “Really, you’re not going to show it!?” demanded one particularly impatient individual.  As you might imagine the comments and discussion only went downhill from there.

The conversation kind of devolved into the equivalent of an incessantly whining toddler throwing an ever-growing tantrum because you turned off his beloved Teletubbies. Yet it wasn’t their whining or incredibly childish gore-filled demand for the video that bothered me, although that was bad enough, it was the “why” behind their communal outrage.

In fact, I dare you to look around on YouTube at what some of these like-minded…people…are watching these days. Live fights between young pregnant women, people getting hit by cars, animals being tortured, and a number of less than “innocent” sadistic pranks. Oh, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It continues to beg the question, what the hell is wrong with our society? Why are we obsessed with violence and inundated with the demand to see other living, breathing beings suffer? Is it funny for some people, or is it just some sick urge even they don’t understand? Either way I really do worry for the future sometimes. We seem to be barreling towards the extreme southern district of the afterlife a lot faster than originally forecast with no hand-basket in sight.

Dark Musings

On May 14, 1998, the Seinfeld show aired its last episode.

This was seventeen years ago, but the plot of the show was incredibly perceptive, both of the characters and society as a whole. And as it turns out – prophetic.

In this episode the four main characters of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George are spending a few hours in a tiny town in Massachusetts. They witness a mugging from an opposite street corner. Instead of trying to stop it, they simply watch and make jokes because the victim is extremely overweight. In addition, Kramer starts to film the mugging with a camcorder. Then they simply turn and walk away from the scene, completely unconcerned with the fate of the victim.

I have to say that when I watched this episode, my feelings for the foursome changed drastically from like to dislike. I’ve never felt the same about the show since. I mean they were always self-absorbed, one and all, but good grief.

So in the finale (should I say spoiler alert for a show that aired 17 years ago??), the four of them are arrested for violating a “duty to rescue” law (which I don’t think actually exists because really, if it did, our jails would be overflowing even more than they are now) and the rest of the two-part show consists of clips from past episodes showing the utter lack of compassion and empathy that these four friends have shown to the people they’ve interacted with during the ten years of the Seinfeld series’ run. Spoiler alert (ha!). They were found guilty and the karma they had been racking up for the past nine seasons came back to bite them in the ass and they wound up in jail.

Fast forward to today.

There are people today who actually do this – witness a crime or a tragedy and not only do nothing about it but actually whip out their cellphones to record it! Or in the case of the recent fire in Dubai, take a selfie in front of said tragedy (before possibly being able to know if deaths are involved or not).

Go to YouTube and you’ll see thousands of videos like this. Someone getting beat up in a fast food restaurant or on a bus or something of that nature (usually in a big city) and instead of trying to stop it, a bystander films it and uploads it to YouTube. It would be one thing if they filmed it in order to help in the prosecution of the criminal involved, but I think their main reason to film it is to put it on YouTube or their Facebook account! Take this guy for example. He saw a car crash, and since helping is for suckers, he naturally just broke into the smashed up vehicle to record the two dying kids to post on his Facebook page instead and oh, hey, wait…maybe there’s some money to be made here… so according to police, he tried to peddle the recording to news stations.

Seinfeld had an uncanny knack for mirroring society right back at you through the t.v. screen, they just made it funny. In real life it’s not quite so amusing.

We wonder why some people, especially young people, have no empathy or why situations such as rape or bullying might get videotaped but not reported (or god forbid, stopped) as its taking place. I mean, it’s no exaggeration to say the first thought of the majority of the crowd is not, “let’s stop this,” but rather, “hey, did you get that!?” or “whoa, are you getting this!?”  Of course meaning on one’s phone.

I think it’s because our society has created – and is constantly creating – voyeurs and people who are just completely immune to or simply don’t care about tragedy or violence, even when it’s right in front of them. There seems to be little respect for, well…anything anymore. People are taking playful selfies at Auschwitz these days for goodness sake. I hear it’s a “thing.”

I don’t know what the solution is. Stronger laws and more repercussions for heinous acts such as, oh, I don’t know, squeezing into a mangled car to film dying children up-close just to make a buck, would be a good start. It’s easy to say better parenting is the key, but is that it? Is that all it will take? Life is never that simple. As a society shouldn’t we do something? But really, are we even capable of pulling together as a group to create change? Or should we all just resign ourselves to the fact that the world is destined for that long trip waayy south in a hand basket when all is said and done?

Bullies Forever

When I was very young—I won’t say exactly when, thereby aging myself—the first books I read were mysteries with kids my age as the protagonists. I started with The Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden, eventually moving up to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as I got a little bit older.

They were great and I liked the fun mysteries the plucky little kids were tasked with cracking. But one thing about them always annoyed me: the bully. There was always some terrible bully who would make things difficult for the main characters, even the teenage characters like Frank and Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew.

I brushed them off thinking that these were clichés the author used to move the plot along and give us a reason to root for the heroes a little bit more. Then, once I got into middle school, I found out the truth. There were not clichés. Bullies actually existed! I don’t think there was one grade from middle school on where I didn’t run into at least one archetypical bully. Contrary to popular belief, the girls were quite vicious. Any new girl in the class was fair game for their terrible verbal abuse. There was always at least one boy bully, too. While the girls were poetic in their nastiness, the boy bullies tended to use physical means to get their rocks off.

When I was in school, teachers rarely did anything about it. Times are changing. But back then, they’d shrug their shoulder or look away thinking, “Kids would be kids.” No real punishment or attempt at conflict resolution. Maybe the teachers just assumed that once these kids got older and graduated (or dropped out) they’d see the error of their ways and stop their bullying.

Well, anyone who watches reality TV knows that just isn’t true.

Kids who were bullies in school often stay bullies and the kids who stood by and watched generally tend to continue getting their jollies like that today.

Take the popular shows like Tosh.0 or Smoking Gun Presents World’s Dumbest. The format is similar. A group of D-list celebrities sit around and watch videos of accidents. Some of them are innocuous, like a husband and wife who fall into a pool at a wedding. No injury, no big deal. But then they watch other videos where people are actually getting hurt. Badly. They’ll show a clip of a skateboarder who lands on his head after falling down. The kid could have a concussion, or worse, and these people on the show are sitting in the studio taking delight in the moment. And people at home must be eating it up too, otherwise the shows wouldn’t keep airing.

Fox News has had a grand ol’ time denigrating the First Lady’s weight of late.  I’m not speaking to the politics of it – but the fact that anyone’s weight and the mocking thereof should make the “news” is just amazing to me. This is bullying, plain and simple.

And of course there are a myriad of shows and so-called celebrities whose sole purpose seems to be coming up with vile insults that pick apart the supposedly horrible way people look. No wonder our society has so many issues today.  This is popular entertainment. This is what we’ve become…millions of people sitting on their couches laughing at others and feeling superior.

Observing this behavior has forced me to come to the following conclusion: People have no empathy and no pride. Mocking others isn’t exactly a prideful moment. The lack of respect for our fellow human beings is shocking.

Need proof? Here’s the latest and greatest in human nature:  Yahoo Article on “People of the Iowa State Fair.”

This isn’t the official page of the Iowa State Fair, but it’s a page someone created to share photos of people attending the fair. Roughly 90% of these photos seem to have been taken by a bully–yes, a bully–looking for overweight people or people dressed in a unique and different way. The photos have captions that ridicule the innocent people who were just being themselves trying to have a fun day.

Of course, not everybody enjoys these photos.

According to the article:   Several visitors who find the site offensive have asked the administrator to take down (or at least take responsibility for) the page’s hurtful content, but to no avail. The administrator posted this response on Tuesday: “People watching is one of the great traditions of the Iowa State Fair, and this site was made to allow people worldwide to enjoy that… The internet is full of offensive and disgusting things, and if I stumble across a website that offends me, I re-direct my browser elsewhere immediately and do not go back.”

The italics are part of the article, but I’d italicize them if they hadn’t been, because that’s a common excuse.

“If you don’t like it, don’t watch.”

Well, the problem is, what about the people who do like these degrading photos and captions?  They are society’s problem…because those adults are going to teach their kids that “fat-shaming” and “different-from-us-shaming” is okay.

Is normal.

Is funny.

And that’s so sad.

FB Cleavage (Or with friends like these, who needs enemies)

Riddle me this: What would you do if you were clowning around on the internet, maybe visiting the very popular site Reddit, and saw a picture of yourself posted with lewd comments about you from strangers across the country? The picture itself may not be lewd. It might be a shot of when you were at a baseball game wearing a t-shirt of your favorite team. All that you know is that you did not put that picture on the site and you do not know any of the people who have leered at it. Spoilers: this site gets all of its material from so-called “friends” on Facebook.

Sounds like make-believe, right? You shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that happening because, c’mon, has our society really sunk that low? Oh wait, yes, yes it has. The Huffington Post wrote a report a while back (but I just happened about it recently) about a new page on Reddit called “Facebook Cleavage.”  Its creepiness is very simple. As the name implies it’s a page where anyone with Internet access can view women – most of whom are sporting  various degrees of cleavage or have on short shorts, are maybe just have pigtails, or possibly wearing roller skates, all of the strange and sometimes incomprehensible tropes that men supposedly find desirable – at their leisure and sans consequence. Oh, but it gets better.

These women are not models. Or at least that appears to be the primary goal of the site. I’d venture to say that most of them (upwards of 99.9% of them) don’t even have a clue that their picture is even on this page. How gross is that? What makes it even worse is that if you go to the site you won’t be inundated by images of models laying seductively on the beach in string bikinis or bending over the hood of a car with garden hoses in their hands. No, these are just regular pictures of women on vacation, taking selfies, partying with friends, in a restaurant, wherever. Yes, they’re sexy.  That’s the point.

In short, this page only exists to objectify women who, in all likelihood, don’t even know their photos are on the site. And before you even go there — no, it’s not the woman’s fault for posting a photo of herself in a bikini or taking a selfie shot that exposes her cleavage or god forbid that photo of her and her friends at a party.  It’s one thing when a woman decides to post a photo to her Facebook wall. That’s her choice.  It certainly doesn’t mean anyone and everyone should be able to then steal it and post it willy-nilly wherever they want. But that’s exactly what’s happening.  What I can only assume are mostly guys are now stealing those photos and plastering them on a page meant only to soothe voyeuristic tendencies.

Obviously the pictures can only be posted by friends of the girls (or whoever might be privy to their Facebook timeline), but what kind of “friend” does this? Okay, so did I mention the creepy factor behind this whole venture? If not, now is a good time to bring up the “ick” factor of having these kinds of friends.

The page, in a terribly transparent attempt at decency, has a set of five rules but even that goes down in flames pretty quickly. They are as follows:

1. Find sexy pictures of your hot Facebook friends. Upload the pictures to imgur.com, and submit them here.

2. Doesn’t have to be cleavage. Any sexy pic will do.

3. Don’t post pics that don’t come from Facebook. You will be banned.

4. Only post people of age. Underage posts will be removed. And user banned. Report underage posts to the mods.

5. Please don’t mention real names.

Notice that none of these rules have anything whatsoever to do with getting permission from the girl before you post. Apparently, that’s not anything to be concerned about. I mean really, why would it be?

I have no idea how much traffic this page gets (I’m sure it’s a lot), but just the mere fact that it exists is enough to make me shake my head.  And again, it really makes me wonder just what kind of person would look at their friend’s Facebook photos and decide, “Hey, I know! I’ll steal this private photo of my friend and post it for everyone on the internet to see and ogle!”  With friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?