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Water Bored: The Ice Bucket Challenge

Wine Consumer Magazine, Chris Kassel
08/20/2014

Wine writer, Chris Kassel, offers perspective on the Ice Bucket Challenge.


You know how, when Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett, it just sort of ‘felt right’?  For that matter, ever reminisce about the warm, gushy, non-sexual feeling of utter contentment that poured over you when Gary Cherone started singing with Van Halen?  Or, remember how cool it was when Fonzie finally jumped that shark?

No?  Well, then you probably won’t like this idea either.

Somehow, I have thus far resisted the temptation to enter the currently popular state of cheapskate hypothermia and instead have made a dull, distinctly non-viral Facebook video of myself not getting a bucket of ice water dumped over my head. 

This must not be construed as my support for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which I would be opposed to even if I could pronounce it.  Nor should it be read as opposition to charity as a general concept—except for that awful, annual MDA Show of Strength, which actually got worse without Jerry Lewis singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to kids that, by the nature of their disease, will never walk at all.  (As if the idea of rich people asking poor people for money is not sufficiently anathematic, it sounds more like a Ponzi shake-down when you consider that over $2.4 billion has been donated to MDA since the 1950s… and they still haven’t cured the goddamned thing…)

To the nine people left on earth (mostly in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut) who don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a recent social media fad making the rounds called ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge’.  It involves filming yourself getting a bucket of ice water dumped over your head, then then ‘challenging’ friends (without viral pneumonia) to either dump a bucket of ice water over their own heads or donate a hundred dollars to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

Apparently, the key lure in this nonsense is that your friends (1.2 million have nibbled the hook so far) will want to showcase their physical prowess in the face ice water yet not look like dingledork penny-pinchers afterward, so they dump the water and subsequently announce that they donated the C-note to ALS anyway—even if it seems more logical to donate it to The Viral Pneumonia Association.

What’s wrong with this picture?  For starters, charity is a wonderful thing, and as the man says, it not only begins at home but should stay at home.  Otherwise, you tend to look like an opportunistic douchebag, like corporations who donate $15 k to Jerry’s Kids, then receive two hundred thousand dollars worth of free advertising when they hand over the check on national television. 

Nothing seems quite so cynical as braggadocio-style giving, and yet, the idea of donating to the ALS Association and not filming it may be evident by the charity’s own figures: Since the challenge began, donations are up by approximately eight hundred percent.

What’s the solution?

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that another video ‘craze’ currently going around is the ‘Fire Challenge’.  This one involves teenagers lighting themselves on fire with some arsonist accelerant like nail polish or Everclear and posting the video to YouTube.  For this stunt, you are expected neither donate or not donate anything to anybody; the thrill, apparently, is the third-degree burns and/or reconstructive surgery that invariably result, which will cost more than you would have donated anyway. 

So, like love and marriage, horse and carriage, the next inevitable step is to combine these two lunatic-fringe dares into a single double dare—the  ‘Fire, Then Douse The Flames With Ice Water Challenge’.

Your dauntless, charity-driven and mentally-incompetent friends will saturate themselves with lighter fluid, light themselves up like Joan of Arc or Margaret Hamilton, and just as they become Roman Candles, somebody behind them will pour a bucket of ice water over them.

Clever, right? Safer, huh?

Yeah?  Well then, you probably won’t like this idea either:

Since I invented the game, I get to pick the charity, and I pick The Macular Degeneration Association, with the specific stipulation that the dude with the ice water bucket be suffering from it, and thus, is totally blind.  That way, nine out ten times, he misses the conflagrating imbecile with the water entirely. It’s a Darwin-win, and we all get on with life.

Because, do you know what?  Like love and marriage, some things are simply not compatible, and burning yourself up on cue or self-inducing core-body-temperature-drops for any cause, charitable or otherwise, are among them.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask the local gentry: They’ll say that that much, anyway, is elementary.

Check out Chris Kassel's Blog at IntoxReport.com

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