#BREAKING: ALS challenge melts icy heart


I’m not into fads.

I don’t like too many popular TV shows. I rarely follow celebrity gossip or news. Virality in social media usually makes me want to barf.

I’ve occasionally been accused of being hipster-ish. I find that offensive. Hipsters are a fake counter-culture dressed in the flannel checkered grunge shirts of my youth.

Genuine cultural disruption? Safety pins pierced through lips and the Sex Pistols playing “God Save the Queen” on the Thames.

I’ve always loved the thought of rebellion and going against the grain, even if I am the plainest of flavors you will ever meet.

The latest grousing about fads started popping up on my Facebook account in late July.

Since then, I’ve felt this uncomfortable tension about the #IceBucketChallenge for the ALS Foundation.

It’s been completely invasive and unavoidable.

The woman I’m dating has been challenged. She’s planning on recording herself in her backyard while watering her garden.

In the past week, I’ve been challenged twice.

From what I understand, there is a time limitation to do the challenge or pay a hundred bucks. I think the statute of limitations for the challenge might have actually passed. I might give to the organization, or not.

If I do, I’ll never tell anyone.

I’m torn about everyone sharing their acceptance of the challenge. The nature of the public displays that everyone is doing screams “look at me, look at the good I’m doing.”

Still, I hesitantly admit the good being accomplished by the #IceBucketChallenge cannot be ignored at this point though.

I cannot deny the effectiveness of the campaign and how well it is serving the ALS cause. Last week I learned the ALS Foundation raised about $28 million more than the $1.9 million they raised last year to-date. That donation amount has grown exponentially since then.

Still, it wasn’t that astounding number that stilled my grumbling about #IceBucketChallenge videos clogging my Facebook page, or people nominating me for the challenge though.

I have watched a grand total of two #IceBucketChallenge video responses.

The first video was from this guy who starts out by going through the roof with the silly look-at-me antics that are characteristic of some of the challenges. Then Anthony Carbajal delivers a punch straight to the gut in his 6 minute 50 second video.

Watch (if you already have not):

I won’t say I cried by the end of the video, but I understood. The means sometimes do justify the end. People suffer horribly and die from this disease. If a social media stunt raises the profile of the ALS Foundation, well OK then.

I still believe the world would be a better place if we were all quiet DIY givers, spreading our few meager charitable donations around to all those in need. But really, that’s not most people. And there are many Anthony Carbajals in the world who deserve to live and have the deadly diseases that destroy them dealt with in a serious and scientific fashion. That costs real money.

I get it. I do. I just needed to be reminded. Thanks Anthony.

The other video I watched was from Neil Gaiman. I’ve never met Neil, but his work, as a book and comic book author, has stuck with me over the years. His wife’s brother died from ALS in his 20s. And there something about a paste-colored Brit walking half-naked on a beach, drenched in icy saltwater that made me chuckle. In the end, I respect Neil, therefore I respect his challenge.

Does that mean I’ll be posting my challenge video any time soon? Probably not. I’m glad to chat about it and my change of heart about seeing so many “challenges.” Public spectacles are not me though. I may over-share here and on social media sometime, but I will probably never be a public spokesperson or the face of some cause.

Instead, I hope researchers can use all that money to find a cure, or comfort of those afflicted. And finally I understand, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, well done.

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Per the Pixies, ‘Where is my mind?’


confusionMy brain is mush. I have the attention span of a gnat.

That phrase, the attention span of a gnat, how do scientists even measure what the attention span of an insect is? Let me google that . . .

See? Complete lack of focus. My thinking is a series of side notes, Internet searches, and unrelated tangents.

Anyway, my brain. I recently concluded I irreparably damaged it.

Each morning my routine is the same.

“Where is my wallet!”

“I can’t find my truck keys!”

“Shit, I know I laid my security badge down here last night.”

Every. damn. morning.

My maternal grandmother died of complications from dementia. Scarring of the brain, as her doctor described it. I’m 37. I worry.

Sometimes I will wait in long lunch lines and forget what I want by the time I get to the counter. And grocery stores? God, help me if I don’t have a list. Using paper towels, even in the privacy of your own home, is embarrassing when you forgot the one thing you went to the store to actually buy.

My reading has gone to pot as well. Once upon a time I could pick up a new book and read it rather I liked it or not. Lately, I can’t even concentrate long enough to read a bathroom sign. I almost walked into a women’s restroom the other day.

I keep buying and checking out books, and hoping.

The pile of novels began over the past three months now gathering dust include: 7 Habits for Highly Successful People; The Golden Finch; The Price of Salt; Dissident Gardens; and Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs.

readingI live in a house of half-read books.

I actually kind of blame my career and the modern digital world for some of this absent-mindedness.

Considering, writing, reading and living used to be a slow and deliberate thing. A lot of thinking, copy editing, printing, delivering, weighing options, waiting and then deciding what to spend my hard-earned cash on to read. Radio was a bit more passive (and free), but still, I had to choose specific times and places to sit still and listen. The voices and music engaged my imagination when I did. Same with TV, to a lesser extent. But now the Internet – a constant stream of information on mobile devices that are always on, that I always feel the need to quietly check or intrude with alerts screaming for attention . . .

That bathroom I almost walked into? I’m pretty sure an iPhone was involved. And it’s so easy to skim, flip, switch, all for free! And if suddenly not free, well, people are free  to move on somewhere else. (For the record, I like subscription content online. If I’m buying it, then I’m really enjoying it, more likely actively engaged with the it, and it in turn is usually of a higher quality.)

I’ve informed the world of many things on Twitter without actually reading what I promoted in my feed.

And,the irony, oh the irony. I work in the medium, pushing out content to try to engage and get your attention. I at least hope you re-tweet my tweet even if you haven’t read, just for the off-chance someone else does. Sometimes though I get the sneaking suspicions that I’m contributing to a cycle that saps our ability to focus. And sadder yet, a lot of what I send out probably gets lost in the ether.

I think we have the attention span of a gnat. You know, with cell phones and Twitter.

~ Jeff Daniels

Perhaps the only brain save in my life now is my running. At least I do that without the Internet in my face. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I got lost on a route or forgot where I was while running. And I didn’t need Google maps to tell me where to go our how to get back either.

No, instead, I had my iPhone strapped to my arm with the Internet tracking and recording my every move so I could dissect and distract later.