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Friday, November 22, 2013

Has Dog Bullying Gone Too Far?

It started over a decade ago when Will Ferrell, comedian and actor on Saturday Night Live, created a commercial that promoted dog bullying.  Though it was initially intended as a joke, the movement has caught fire in recent years.  Dogs are the subject of more ridicule than they have ever been, and even the most amateur bully-cum-photographers are taking jabs at their own pets in an effort to hop on the bandwagon.  Images like the one featured above are all but commonplace today as sites like Dog ShamingDog-Shame, and the Dog Shaming Tumblr site exist purely to bully the animals we claim to love.  And it doesn't stop there.  Countless lists have popped up online as well, culling the "best of" dog shaming and putting it in one convenient place so that even the most passive bullies can fuel their hate.  All this content has many folks wondering if dog bullying has gone too far.

In order to better understand the motivation behind dog bullying, we reached out to the Los Angeles chapter of the ASPCA for more information.  The ASPCA was created in 1866 to help rescue pets from abusive situations and rehabilitate them so they can reenter the world as functioning members of society.  Seeing-eye, police, fire, and bomb sniffing are just a few of the careers rehabilitated dogs can pursue to integrate themselves back into the world once they have completed their ASPCA training.  But as the dog population rises those jobs have become more competitive over the years.  Today more and more dogs are simply being adopted by families so that they can live out their years in plain fashion: loosely protecting a single-family home from mailmen, garbage men and other dogs.  So then why are they being bullied?

It stems from the fact that the dog has lost their sense of purpose. They get bored.  Their families (the ASPCA does not like the term "owners" for obvious liberal-guilt related reasons) leave them home alone all day and then are shocked to find things in disarray when they return.  So they bully them under the auspices that it will help curb that behavior.  But that's no way to get results.  

"If a child was treated this way, you can bet Oprah would have done something about it by now.  But because it's a dog, most people tend to look the other way," commented ASPCA president Melanie Starflower from her dog ranch in Topanga Canyon.  "But dogs can't speak up for themselves.  They can only make that sad face they make.  You know the one.  It's so fucking manipulative.  And really that doesn't even work on people until you play some Sarah McLachlan music over it anyway.  Plain and simple: bullying requires a group mentality.  In this case it's a different species that's the bully.  And though there is normally one leader, or alpha bully, they tend to sway the opinions of those around them until eventually everyone is bullying.  And then we're right back where we started with less people on our side."

Many of these so-called "angels" who take these dogs into their homes to provide them with a better life end up doing just the opposite.  They shame their animals for not behaving like humans, a notion that seems quite absurd if you break it down.  They chastise them for actions they have little control over, their "animal instincts" as it were, then make them the subject of public displays of bullying. Now with the advent of technology bullies are able to document and share their bullying over social media more easily than ever, sometimes garnering the attention of millions of people in the process.  It's a disturbing trend.  One that needs to stop before things go any further.

"I mean, what's next?  You know?" Melanie wondered.  "Some sort of dog internment camps where bad behavior is 'trained' out of them? Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?  Training a dog to not pee in your house or eat your shoes?  Why don't we just domesticate the elephant while we're at it?  Then we can teach spiders to drive cars and invite hammerhead sharks over for Thanksgiving dinner."

Though she flew off course quickly, Starflower has a point: we live in a progressive world today where behavior like this should not be allowed to flourish as it has.  So if you or anyone you know is a dog bully, direct them to the ASPCA commercial with all the sadness in it* and help them change their ways.  Life doesn't have to be so ruff for these loving creatures.  Together we can build a better world. 

*Literally any ASPCA commercial.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Biogenesis Rabbit Hole Goes Deeper as Players Attempt to Speed Evolution

Well, Major League Baseball, you've done it again: you've managed to rebuild your credibility only to completely obliterate it less than a decade later.  The phrase "Hulk SMASH!" comes to mind when I think of the most recent debacle to plague the already ailing professional sport, though I'm not even sure that does it justice.  And just when we thought things couldn't get any worse for the league publicity-wise, new information begins to make its way to the press today that sheds light on just how much player "enhancement" has actually occurred.  The information proves startling at best and raises many ethical questions that reach far further than the confines of the game.

Brother of Kid.  Or was it Play?
What we knew up to this point was that several players in the league were using performance enhancing drugs to improve their strength and endurance on the field.  These were provided to them by a now-defunct company called Biogenesis (or perhaps through one of their certified intermediaries).  The Florida-based clinic, initially known as an anti-aging facility for leathery-skinned grandparents, had grown into a full-scale weight loss and hormone replacement therapy center.  Naturally, as science and medicine improved, the clinic was able to develop several other products and services to support their generally vague mission statement and continue to generate revenue.  Couple that with mankind's obsession with greed and success, add in MLB's looser-than-a-two-dollar-whore drug testing policy, and you get a waiting room full of professional athletes filing anonymous paperwork so they can reverse the aging process and sign that hundred million dollar deal.  Makes enough sense, right?

Tongue numbness is a common side effect of being an idiot
Until this week it did.  On Monday, Brewers star Ryan Braun received a 3.5 million dollar fine and a 65-game suspension that effectively ends his season for his involvement with the clinic.  A-Rod is sure to follow next, and many experts agree his suspension will be even longer and could carry even greater financial penalties*.  To top that off, there's the 20-some-odd players that have yet to be named that could suffer a similar fate.  You can bet it will be as stern a ruling as those passed on to Braun and Rodriguez.  Though most fans agree that they are pleased to see the league cleaning house, some are left wondering if there isn't more work left to be done.  After all, with how rapidly science is progressing, there aren't even ways to test for new enhancements, let alone to name those who are using them.

This day and age, cheating, or "performance enhancement" scandals are all but commonplace in professional sports, from Lance Armstrong's recent colossal embarrassment to whatever the flavor of the week may be.  But what is most shocking about Biogenesis is just how much further they planned to delve into cheating as not just an enhancement, but a completely new way of life.  Given enough time and coupled with the continual loosening of the reins by Major League Baseball, you can bet that the game would have gone so far down this road that purists like myself wouldn't even recognize it anymore.  Biogenesis was a pioneer in the field of body magic, second only to the good folks behind HGH, and Great Scott was lucky enough to obtain a rendering of their final unrealized concept.  Biogenesis called it "Mechanized Human Integration," a concept that combined stem cell genetic therapy with advanced robotics (see figure 7).

Figure 7, Biogenesis' unfinished symphony
"The idea was to create a non-violent Robocop," quipped Seth Green, legal counsel for Biogenesis and no, not that Seth Green.  "A seamless integration of organic organism and robot intelligence combining the best of man's natural abilities with the calculable precision of robotics, optics, and preset programming."  When he was reminded that Robocop was not violent, rather he was programmed to his operator's preset controls, Green seemed enthusiastic.  "Even more apropos in today's world.  Take a chicken for example: some eggs are good and some are bad.  But what if there was some sort of Robot Chicken?  One that had a sensor in it's butt that could tell you if an egg would be good or bad before it was laid?  Wouldn't we be obligated, as a society, to enhance our own lives with this knowledge?  Or should we continue to live in the stone age?"

Is this what baseball will look like in 2020?
Though many progressives out there say yes and then no, fans of the sport worry that too many changes could lead to a different dynamic at the stadium.  "First we let them get Lasik, then we allowed them to take Advil for headaches.  What's next?  Some sort of needle injected drug that makes you bigger and stronger?" one fan wondered.  Plain and simple: yes.  And until the day that robotic implants become the norm^, players will have to stick with bluetooth, google glass, and needle drugs to reach the pinnacle of performance.  Or they could just work out hard and use the gifts they were naturally bestowed with, like the rest of us.

*Rumored to be something in the vicinity of infinity billion dollars.
^Predicted to be sometime around 2047.