Just Do Yourself

CobraBoy (tbyars@earthlink.net)
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 22:10:37 -0700

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Just Do Yourself

Masturbation has been touted as

the safest sex, and it's

undoubtedly the safest bet, but

our turn of phrase today refers

to an entirely different kind of


There's been some speculation

that plain old professional

sports are on the wane. People

are sick and tired of

stadium-sized events, featuring

stadium-sized egos, and

stadium-sized paychecks. It's as

if the collective consciousness

has just awakened to the

absurdity of paying grown men

six figures to run around in

their pajamas. On the other

hand, maybe we've begun to

realize how easy it is to put

aside the vicarious enjoyment

and actually participate - in

the words of Anthony Burgess's

A Clockwork Orange - in our own

bit of ultraviolence.

For some time, we've been inching

closer and closer to a broadband

indulgence in personal violence.

Time was when a few thousand

fictitious murders a week on

network television were enough.

Throw in some sensationalist

news reports on the hour, and we

had more than enough material to

go to bed feeling comfortably

debauched. But, as O.J. Simpson

and Susan Smith so effectively

communicated to the Body Public,

why settle for shoddy

made-for-TV movies? Why not take

matters into your own capable

hands, and cross over to the

supply side of ultraviolence?

Of course, there have been

DIYers since the dawn of time.

Cain was one of the first to hoe

his own row - and he's not

very fondly remembered.

Ted Kaczynski, David Koresh,

the Freemen, and a whole

host of others are great contemporary

examples of folks carrying the

torch of DIY violence. And they

seem to be spawning a legion of

garden-variety wannabombers,

from Atlanta to Reno.

Then, of course, there's the

ESPN-sponsored daredevilry of

extreme sports. A whole

generation of latter-day Evel

Knievels are hitting the

streets, both literally and

figuratively: a bunch of Type-A

pituitary cases showing off

their arcane athleticism. The

reason we can't sit back, relax,

and change the channel is the

same old embarrassing foible:

blood lust. Actually, like car

racing, the real reason we watch

is to see whether the players

will survive the game. Talk

about American Gladiators. From

bungee jumping to street luge

and snowboarding, these "sports"

are populist in the only way

that counts: With all the right

cross-promotions and product

placements, you can buy a pair

of event-specific Nikes.

Sure, Doc Marten has cornered the

market on footwear for the pit,

but we expect the good folks of

Beaverton to make inroads any

day now. Next to inline skating,

moshing has grown to be one of

the most popular and dangerous

activities for young adults.

This summer, reports have

circulated that injuries - and

even fatalities - are on the

rise globally as the result of

violent dance-hall antics. Kids

these days.

But youth has always been

reckless. If death is the great

equalizer, then age is the great

wussifier, giving most people

over thirty a crystal-clear

appreciation of risk and pain.

It's not clear why young adults

find it so compelling to

constantly put themselves in

harm's way, other than the fact

that they seem to have the best

chance of surviving it. And it

seems to get a rise out of their

parents. How else to explain the

spectacular and unflagging

popularity of smoking among the

barely legal? You think Congress

will move to ban candy

cigarettes as training wheels

for the real thing? Smarter to

watch for the arrival of candy

crack pipes, and wax syringes

filled with colorful sugar


Every generation has its own way

of flirting with death. The

Romans had their Colosseum, the

Mayans their Xochicalco. Last

century, the Industrial

Revolution managed to grind up

quite a few folks. We're no

different. Today's senior

citizens did idiotic things like

home birthing and nuclear

testing. Their children - the

boomers - smoked like chimneys,

drank like fish, and applied Dow

chemicals to everything in

sight. And our enlightened,

health-conscious generation?

We've got bungee jumping and


Harvard theologian Richard

Niebuhr once said that modern

literature - strangely loaded as

it is with stories of gratuitous

and extreme violence from

Faulkner to Bukowski - is

evidence of a kind of

industrial-age numbing. In a

time when we've grown far too

comfortable for our own good, we

read Cormac McCarthy, Pete Dexter,

and Irvine Welsh as a way of

pinching ourselves,

metaphorically speaking, to

remind ourselves that we're

alive. Well, Dr. Niebuhr, we've

gone well beyond pinching

ourselves. Now we're into the

kind of serious

self-flagellation that makes

sackcloth and ashes look like a

walk in the park.

courtesy of E.L. Skinner


** History 101** Hiroshima 45 - Chernobyl 86 - Windows 95 ============================================= "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is, I don't mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products."

Steve Jobs, Triumph of the Nerds, PBS Documentary

------------------------------------------------------------------------------ tbyars@earthlink.net