The ALS Challenge, Water, and the Hipster Slacktivists

Stephen Hawking

The man most closely associated with ALS: Lou Gehrig.

[nobody knows how dry I am]
This year’s major viral craze is a challenge that involves donating to the ALS Association (a non-profit organization that aims to find a cure for ALS aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Basically you dump a bucket of ice water on your head, give to the ALS Association, and challenge others to do the same.  It’s a lot like the viral Harlem Shake video from 2013 but without the water, the ice, and the cash.

Predictably, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has spurred a backlash.  This is the Internet, after all, and hipster contrarians must have their say.  You’ve seen these daffy folks: they’re the ones screaming “wabbit season!” if you say “duck season!” or “duck season!” if you say “wabbit season!”

For the hipster contrarians, the important thing is to be swimming upstream because that means you must be smarter than the herd if only that wasn’t such a mixed metaphor.

It’s hard to find fault with the challenge, particularly since donations to the ALS Association have been wildly up as a result of it, but that doesn’t stop these elitist sourpusses. Their first line of attack was the usual one of narcissism.  The contrarians claim that people were only donating because they get to brag about it.  Well, donations are legal tender either way, bragging or not.   A buck is a buck no matter how you got it.  (Just ask an exotic dancer.  Or Rupert Murdoch.)   And, what’s with bullying of the little people?  Why not attack the Stanfords or the Carnegie-Mellons for putting their names on universities?  Why not attack the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?  The Rockefeller Foundation?  The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research?  (Yes, he’s that Koch.)  The contrarians, however, decide to guilt trip only the little people, the common folk who deign to comment on their own giving.


With money rolling into the ALS Association at an unprecedented rate, however, this  argument has become rather weak.  So the hipster contrarians decided to focus on the water itself.  Dang!  Spilling water!  There’s climate change!  There’s drought in California!   There’s thirsty people in Africa! (That last one was from a Ricky Gervais tweet that’s since been deleted, though he forgot to also delete his follow-up response.)

Look, I appreciate those that think about the water they will use in the challenge and either dump it into a pool or on some thirsty plant life.  It’s always good to be conscientious about all acts involving Earth’s finite resources.   And both of my faithful readers know that I’m as green as the next guy with foot fungus.  I’ve written about the environment before and before that.  But the numbers – about which the contrarians apparently know nothing – don’t support their holy-water-than-thou remarks.

This woman refused my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Must be because she's green.

This woman refused my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Must be because she’s green.

A putz recently wowed hipsters who struggled through Algebra I with an article that estimated 6 million gallons of water had been “wasted” as a result of the challenge.  Now 6 million sounds like a big number.  And it was.  In 1973.  When it took that number of dollars to turn an astronaut into a bionic man.  Today, however, that amount of scratch wouldn’t even get you onto an old Russian rocket to achieve Earth orbit.

So how big a deal is 6 million gallons of water, really?

Not as much as you might think.

The average toilet flush is 3 gallons (about half that if you’ve installed a newer, low-flow model).   Meaning that if just 2 million people save one flush in one day (stop tossing those spiders down the toilet!), we’ve wiped out the total ALS water use debt.

Or how about this?  The average shower head sprays between  4 (old models) or 2 (new models) gallons per minute.  Let’s just split the difference and say shower heads use 3 gallons per minute.  Than means if 2 million people shave just one minute off their shower once, we’ve wiped out the total ALS water use debt.

In other words, it’s almost certain that the average person (and certainly the average hipster contrarian) wastes more water in a single day (day after day!) than is used in the average bucket challenge.

The irony, of course, is that these contrarians, who like to talk about the slacktivism of others, are slacktivists themselves.  Pontificating loudly about water usage, pretending that means they actually care about water.  Because, you know, if we just cut out all these narcissistic ALS water dumping exercises, we can go back to ignoring the real water crises:

Those worried about a tenuous link between dumping ice water and donating to ALS research should recognize there’s an equally tenuous link between dumping ice water and drought.

So dump away, donators!  Dump without guilt!

And chill out, slacktivist hipster contrarians, chill out.  Sit on a block of ice if need be.  Yes, the planet can afford it.  (It can even afford the precious energy used to freeze the water into ice.)  You aren’t more aware than the rest of us.  You don’t care more than the rest of us.  Let your outrage be directed at more meaningful – and far more essential – water projects.  Besides, isn’t it getting to be about that time for your annual rants on Burning Man?

Update (August 25, 2014):  This viral “fad” has now raised $80M for the ALS Association.  To put that into perspective in all of 2013, the ALS Association had a budget of $24M and in all of 2012, it had a budget of $19.7M.

Pinocchio watches nose grow after telling lie - Disney

The Current Top 3 Lies in America

Pinocchio watches nose grow after telling lie - Disney

There are two classic signs of lying – pants on fire and nose growing.

[this statement is a lie]
Can it be we just passed the half-way point for 2012?  I’m still writing 2011 on my checks!  Nevertheless, we are now closer to 2013 than we are to 2011, the Mayans notwithstanding.  It seems, therefore, appropriate to take stock in the top lies so far this year.

Top Lie #3:
What they say:  That woman is curvy.
What the reality is: That woman is fat.

I’m a writer and words are my stock in trade. I don’t like to see them abused. Oh, I understand the occasional euphemism, we have plenty of them to describe overweight women — big and beautiful, plus-sized, great personality, pretty face, Rubenesque — when what we really mean is fat.  (And for the men, one occasionally hears husky or stocky though these terms seem to be as dated as the gender-neutral “heavyset”.)  So why do I have a problem with obese women now referring to themselves as “curvy”?

Because curvy used to mean something good!  Men love curves on women: breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States with over $1 billion spent on it in 2011.  That’s Billion with a capital “B” that stands for “Boob”.  But the curves need be concave, ladies, not convex.

Sure, these self-proclaimed “curvy” women tell us Marilyn Monroe was a size  ____ (fill in the blank with anything from 12-16), therefore justifying their word abuse. However, not only has this urban legend about Marilyn’s dress size been debunked, it doesn’t even pass the stuff-your-face-with-chocolate test.  Do people honestly think that in an era where studios forced diet pills on their stars (like Judy Garland), they would allow their bombshells to get chunky? Do people honestly think that a chunky woman would be the first centerfold in Playboy?

Hugh Hefner and his first Playboy cover: Marilyn Monroe

Methinks Hugh Hefner wouldn’t have place Marilyn Monroe on the inaugural cover of his new magazine that targeted men with its message of the “good life” if she were anything less than a perfect embodiment of male fantasies.

Shall we test our new knowledge?  Below are clips from two films.  See if you can determine to which (if any) the word “curvy” applies.

Jayne Mansfield?  Answer: Curvy!

Divine? Answer: Not curvy!
(Although, we must admit that Ms. Divine does have a pretty face and a great personality.  She is, after all, big and beautiful.)

Top Lie #2:
What they say: There’s no difference between the Republicans and the Continue Reading

Earth Day: Packaged for the Masses

Oscar the Grouch at  home in trash can.

Like us, Oscar the Grouch lives in a trash can. But at least he is green.

[we’re giving the Earth a bad wrap]
I’m feeling guilty.

Two days ago, I discovered I was running low on razors.  Just some simple razors to cut hair off.  (I won’t admit to where the offending hair is.)  I felt particularly stupid having not gotten some during my last visit to the drug store and didn’t really want to make a second trip.  I admit it.  I was too lazy to get into a machine that would take me the half mile to the drug store.  So,  I took a chance and looked at Amazon.

Lo and behold, I found the exact same razor pack my drugstore sells.  Only Amazon sells them in “superpacks”.  The superpack is a triple package, basically like buying in bulk, but each package contained the usual 12 razors plus a bonus razor which my drug store packages didn’t even have!  And here’s the kicker:  this superpack was retailing on Amazon for less than 3x the cost of the individual package in the drug store.  And that price doesn’t even include the 3 bonus razors!

I would actually be paying less – even before the bonus razors – by buying through Amazon.  Throw in that (a) I wouldn’t have to pay sales tax on the products and (b) they would be delivered right to my door and all of a sudden it became a no-brainer.  Mohammed didn’t have to go to the razors, the razors would come to him.

Lazy?  Ha!  I was a smart consumer. I was actually saving money by not going to the drug store. What a great country! Think about it:  I was having a special shipment of razors sent directly to me.  How can that be more efficient than having a bulk box of razors shipped to the drug store where they have regular deliveries anyway?

Please, don’t interrupt my euphoria about price.

Well, today, on Earth Day, I get the package.  Continue Reading