Thursday, August 1, 2013

What you can say, and what you cannot say.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper used "the N word" (nigger, OK) in a fit of rage at a concert about two months ago.  The video of the slur came out yesterday and the Internet and other forms of media area worked-up over his poor choice of words.

Opinion is divided as to his intent or the manner in which he spoke the word.  Some would say alcohol played a part and others would say that alcohol was a fuel in the fire.  Either way, he said it and that seems to be the problem.

For those of us old enough to have been alive long enough to remember a world without cell phone video or YouTube links, the  incident is amazing.  Let's say, in 1985, this incident would have either gone unreported or have been reported with "word of mouth" testimony that could have been refuted by the defendant.

The youth of today is totally wired-in with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other forms of instant media, where they can post video of whatever stupid thing they are doing that they assume we are interested in seeing. Most of us view these updates with stifled yawns, unless the person on the other end is some form of celebrity - which is where Riley Cooper comes in.

He is some form of celebrity, having been burdened with the position of playing for a professional football team.  Had it been any of us schmucks in the general public, that video would have gone into the Cloud or wherever videos of unnecessary things are stored.

The sad part (for us and Riley) is that his so-called social prominence mandates that we know about his social foibles.  Otherwise, he could have said he likes to have sex with chickens or he enjoys the company of sheep and we wouldn't bat an eye because it isn't of consequence for social media sites to exploit.

Even though we have had this technology for several years, there are still people who do not realize that almost everything they do is either recordable or being recorded.  Cross the street against a green light and try to get away with it.  Pay for something with Canadian quarters, and your face is on Yahoo News.  Feel fortunate that your indiscretions aren't valid for public consumption.  Only after celebrities embarrass themselves is the video available for mass consumption.  Otherwise, it isn't interesting to anyone.

Wake up, white people.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Price Glory?

I was listening to a local radio show this morning, and they were interviewing a guy who had just won (for what it's worth) a Smallest Penis Contest.  Logic (and good taste) would make someone wonder why a man would enter such a contest, but that didn't seem to be the focal point of the interview.

Among other things, the amount of money he won was in question. He won the princely sum of $200 for his efforts, along with a crown (of course) and a magnifying glass.

For the record (as if there is one) his unofficial measurement was two inches when flaccid, which I didn't consider a World Record-Setting number, but nevertheless ...

The thought occurred (which is dangerous, I know) that people seem more concerned with some form of fame than they do with their own personal image.  Modern television has become a showcase for embarrassing oneself, displays of scripted reality, and exposing our faults and foibles for entertainment purposes.

Witness programs like "Hoarders," which showcases people with mental illness who have allowed their homes to become repositories for everything they can lay their hands on.  There is "Intervention," in which addicts abuse their bodies and their families for our entertainment.  For an hour, these people are put on display - seemingly to make us feel better about ourselves.

MTV has a couple of programs that question my belief in human pride.  One, "16 and Pregnant" parades a pregnant teenager around, while her mother and boyfriend spar about the upbringing of the unfortunate child she is carrying.  There are others - usually having something to do with an under-aged girl battling some anti-social circumstance.  I suppose these programs are aimed at their target demographic and attempt to make responsible teenagers feel as good about themselves as "Hoarders" makes middle-aged Americans feel about themselves.  It's all about dysfunction.

My favorite (in a manner of speaking) is one called "My Strange Addiction," which spotlights people who do things like eat dryer lint, laundry detergent and collect their own sperm.  Yeah, really.

What do these people get out of exposing themselves in public?  Admittedly, the tiny penis guy is more of a social stigma than something to be concerned about.  But the "Hoarders" group and the pregnant teens are something of which I would guess people would say, "Um ... no, I don't think so"when approached to expose their problems on National television.

I do a lot of stupid things, and if a TV crew asked if they could follow me around and watch me do it, film it and show it on television they would have to offer me some form of Witness Protection Program for my efforts.  After all, I have to go to work on Monday, and the stares of my co-workers and their wonder at my disorders would last a lot longer than any four-figure amount of money that I could be given in exchange for the exposure.

But that's just me.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hi-yo, Silverware!

Lonely is as lonely does.
Lonely is an eyesore.

- Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) "Fish"

He's called The Lone Ranger, even though he has a faithful companion.  I'm not sure of the literary reference, but on its face it seems strange.  Those of us without companions in life have issues to confront that are foreign to many of you.  One is the experience of being The Lone Diner.

I don't get out much.  Either because of economics or social inertia.  Either way, the difficulty of dining alone settles in whenever I do venture out with the general public.  It is more difficult strategically than logistically.  After all, there is almost always a "table for one," and the only social awkwardness comes in when I take up a table otherwise meant for a group of four.  That's their cross to bear for being so damned popular, I suppose.

My recent trip to New York City reminded me of what goes into the experience of dining alone. I was seated at the customary table for two, out of the way of the view of most of the other diners. At least I was asked, "Will this be OK?" as though they know, in some form, it will not. If I had a tad bit more moxie I would respond, "No, I would prefer to be in the center of your dining room so that I can have the full experience." But I do not.  The Lone Diner can ill afford to be discourteous to the staff.

The strategic difficulty comes in the form of what to do with my stuff if I have to get up to use the rest room.  A certain level of trust in my fellow citizens comes in, but mainly, I don't trust them as far as I can fling my iPhone, SLR camera or keys.  As such, I generally wind up toting items to the rest room with me so that, at the very least, I know I will have them when I return.  Although (it must be said) taking a camera into a rest room carries with it a certain social awkwardness of its own.

When I returned, I found that my table had been cleared and wiped - leaving behind the moist residue of the restaurant towel and the cleaning solution that they wipe but do not dry.  So now, not only do I have to fetch another bread plate and knife/fork wrap, but I have to wait until the table dries or else be faced with the creepy wet table.  I sat with my hands in my lap.  It's all in a day's work for The Lone Diner.

The stigma of being The Lone Diner carries with it the server's anticipation that they will be automatically getting a smaller tip than they would normally get.  Nevertheless, I am taking up one of their stations, and I must be accommodated.

Without a newspaper, book, or magazine I am left to gaze around the room.  At the finer establishments, there are televisions on the wall.  With any amount of good fortune, the one nearest me is not placed directly behind another group of diners who may think that I am furtively staring at them.

As I look around, the only other Lone Diners I see are seated at the bar.  If the place is crowded, that is my first choice. I feel as though I am performing some sort of public service by not taking up a table that could otherwise be occupied by two or more people.  The Lone Diner has society in mind first and foremost.  You're welcome.

Invariably, when the server comes back to ask, "Is everything OK?" (which, it most certainly is not - but I remember that they are living in the moment) I have a mouth full of food.  Without conversation, there is nothing to do but eat and stare, so the odds of me chewing are pretty good.  I'm unsure of what I would complain about anyway.  "Could you turn the TV up?" would be a reasonable request.  I wonder if restaurants save money on televisions if they come without speakers?

As The Lone Diner departs, leaving behind his empty plate, stacked neatly with knife, fork and accoutrements, and his 20-percent gratuity, he is reminded that perhaps it is society's stigma on dining (and doing other things) alone that works on him and not his personal feelings toward it?

At work, The Lone Diner was confronted by a co-worker.  He approached me at my table (alone) and said, "Eating alone?  You look anti-social," and then went on to sit with others.  What the co-worker failed to realize was that The Lone Diner was the first one in the room, and it was the others who had bypassed him, not the other way around.

Lonely is as lonely does.