To Do Or Not To Do The Ice Bucket Challenge

IceBucketChallengeI have been “challenged” to take part in the ice bucket scheme to raise awareness for ALS disease. I have some issues with this. This blog post may make me unpopular with some, but it raises a few questions that I have about this method of raising funds and “awareness”, which of course is only a vehicle to coax people into donating to a particular cause.

There is a misconception on the part of many young people that the mythical “they” will donate money based on the number of videos depicting the dousing of one’s head with a bucket of really cold water (the more the better) which “they” see pop up on social media. But that’s, of course, not true. No one is donating on behalf of the millions of young people taking part in this challenge. The point is, if you are challenged and don’t do the ice water thing, then you are expected to donate and the accepted sum is $100. If you are challenged and you do neither, you are a low-life human being who doesn’t care about 12,000 Americans with this horrific disease. Hang your head, because you suck. Perhaps an exaggeration but a valid visceral response from someone who has an unlimited capacity for guilt combined with a heartfelt desire to not have to douse my head and point the finger at three other unsuspecting friends or family or acquaintances to do the same.

Celebrities are doing this and (why not?) trying to outdo one another with their ice bucket setups. Some buckets are automated, some bigger than others, some participants are in tee shirts while others sacrifice their suits and ties, etc. Kermit the Frog risked death (ice cold water could cause him to go dormant and his heart could stop) but did his naked. That sort of thing. The celebrities are also donating money in addition to the dousing of course because, well, they can afford to do both. Think what bad press any celeb would be who was challenged but chose to ignore it! The closest was Charlie Sheen who dumped a bucket of $100 bills over his head amounting to $10,000 and which he intends to donate to the ALS Foundation.

Unfortunately, most of the people doing the ice dumping are not doing the giving. They are caught up in the challenge because it’s the thing to do right now and believe they are helping by spreading the message. To be fair, sometimes that’s exactly what it does do. But mostly it’s just an exercise in ice dumping.

So what is the point of this? Yes, temporarily, everyone knows there is something called ALS disease which is horrible and getting that diagnosis is almost always fatal. And, not surprisingly, the donations to the ALS Foundation have shot up dramatically. This year to last year (for the same period of days between July 29 and August 18), over eight times as much money has been collected. This is a very good thing.

But will that continue in 2015? Not sure. I doubt it. The ice bucket challenge in 2015 won’t fly because that will be “so last year”. Will anyone be able to come up with an even more challenging challenge next year? And what about all the other charities that want to jump on the awareness/funds bandwagon? Won’t there be a half life of sympathy for these kinds of media stunts? This year, it’s cool, next year, not so much.

I think about all the other neuromuscular diseases we need to be aware of. Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, MS, Muscular Dystrophy. This is by no means a complete list. Shouldn’t we be directing our “awareness” to these diseases too? They are, in fact, much more common. But because so many people have donated to the ALS Foundation, will they consider their good deedery done and neglect donations for other diseases which are just as debilitating?

And this next part is really nit-picky. In several parts of the country, we have drought conditions. The water used may be a drop in the bucket (pun intended) of total consumption but still, it’s something. All that good tap water being spilled. I guess it will eventually end up as ground water so that’s probably not such a big deal. Remember I said it was picky.

And here’s one more picky thing. Would as many people do this in February as in August? How convenient that our awareness is increased in the summer and we don’t have to risk any more than a bad hair day.

Okay. So I was challenged and declined to do the ice dumping and issue the challenge to three others, who may or may not feel as uncomfortable about this as I do. However, I did donate to the ALS Foundation. Because I know it is a really horrible diagnosis and I’d like to see a cure found for it. So the challenge worked in my case. I had never donated to the ALS Foundation before. It hadn’t touched me personally. Like myself, many people are regular contributors to their favorite charities because they have personal experience with it and a vested interest in seeing that particular disease wiped out.

However. I wonder about this method of fund-raising. Walking For [insert disease name here] isn’t going to cut it any more, that’s clear. It will be interesting to see what the next challenge will be.

14 Ingenious {Marketable} Pinktober Products

Everyone wants to chip in for a good cause, right? So when you see those pink products with the breast cancer awareness ribbon displayed prominently, you might think: I should get this XYZ brand, because part of the price goes to cancer research.

Actually, sometimes not so much. Sometimes a little, sometimes less than that. Pinktober has become another way to make money off cancer. I’m a cancer survivor myself, so I pay attention to it. Everyone wants a cure for cancer. Individuals do anyway. Corporations, while they are made up of individuals, tend to view breast cancer as a way to increase profits.

The less-than-impressive amounts corporations give to cancer research, is offset by an increase in sales, because everyone reaches for the pink label whenever they can. If it’s pink, it must be good. Right?

It’s not so good, when you think about it.

This year, there is a campaign called “Set the tatas free” and declared October 13th “no bra” day. Take a look here at how a double-mastectomy cancer-survivor feels about it. This is a really good post, very moving, and I urge you to read it.

On with the list, in the order of least objectionable to most disgusting. It’s not just about tee shirts any more.

Chap Stick Chapstick. What’s not to like about this product? Nothing. Maybe it’s soothing for a cancer patient to use when her lips are cracked from chemo. I don’t often think much about chapstick, but when I googled it I discovered it’s possible to become addicted to it. I thought it interesting that even the most mundane of products wants more of the cancer-action.

Playing CardsBreast Cancer 15-Year Survivor Playing Cards. Do you really have to wait fifteen years? Can I have my playing cards now? This isn’t so bad really, but proof that Pinktober is everywhere, even at your euchre tournament!

Kitchenaid pink mixerKitchenaid Stand Mixer Cook for the Cure Edition. This lovely mixer “makes a statement of compassion while delivering the performance you’ve come to expect.”  Kitchenaid says they will donate a “minimum of $450,000 each year to cancer reasearch, but it doesn’t say how much per item. Still it is a generous offer, and can’t be condemned for anything other than charging $500 for a mixer which is, well, pink. But I suppose you could always cover it up.

SteamerJiffy Esteam Travel Steamer. For each product in the Awareness Pink Line, 10% of the retail price goes to support breast cancer research. This is also generous, but who would ever have thought Pinktober products would extend to clothes steamers? It gets better, read on.

Cordless DrillSKIL iXO Pink Cordless Drill. There’s a whole line of pink tools, knows as Tools for the Cure. Again, 10% of the retail price goes to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Personally, I have some problems with this foundation. First of all, there was the issue of the pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. That generated some bad press but what is worse, they have a near monopoly on the big business of breast cancer advocacy and as such, decline to let other charities use the phrase “for the cure.” Does this sound like an organization that is genuinely interested in helping women, or merely protecting the mega-cancer business that it has become?

Wilson Golf Clubs Wilson Golf Clubs. I wasn’t able to find out how much Wilson contributes, just that they do, to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This makes me wonder if perhaps Wilson is painting their drivers pink in order to get in on the profit-taking.

Avon Nail PolishAvon nail polish.  Avon slapped a pink ribbon on a bottle of pink nail polish and called it NAILWEAR PRO Nail Enamel in Pink Power. Unfortunately, the reviews weren’t good. Apparently it’s streaky, chalky, and “not pink enough.” Avon is the sponsor of many a breast cancer walk, which serves to use the disease as a platform for brand recognition, while promoting products which contain many of the toxic chemicals associated with the same cancer it seeks to eliminate. More than 140 of Avon’s products are classified as “high hazard” due to the presence of hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and possible carcinogens.

YoplaitYoplait. These are the little yogurts that have the pink lids that need to be cleaned before you can send them in for a whopping ten cents. Just think of all the yogurt you have to eat to reach even a measly $10 donation. Hardly seems worth it. Not to mention that this brand of yogurt contains added sugar (both real and fake, as in aspertame) and petroleum-based food dyes. Yoplait also contains rbGH (or recombinant bovine growth hormone), a synthetic hormone which no one seems too sure about, as to its impact on human health, including cancer.  One final note: The blueberry flavor does not list blueberries as an ingredient. Not so sure this is a healthy choice for anyone.

Campbells soupCampbell’s chicken noodle and tomato soup. Here we’re getting to the bad stuff. Is there anything in these soup products that in any way resembles real food? Maybe not but here’s what it does contain. High levels of bisphenol-A, which is an estrogen chemical linked to breast cancer. Estrogen feeds certain cancers, so breast cancer patients would be well-advised to avoid these products, as well as healthy women and children. That leaves men. Umm, umm, good, guys, eat up.

Quilted NorthernQuilted Northern bath tissue. There’s more than one way to support cancer research! This particular brand is known to be “soft and sturdy”. That is fine, but these kinds of products are clogging up our sewers and are difficult to process at the facility. Not harmful to the person, just harmful to the environment. No thumbs up on this product but it isn’t nearly as objectionable as the ones coming up.

SwifferSwiffer dusters. More junk thrown into the landfills. There’s a good alternative to using disposable dusters, and they are eCloths, which are washable and reusable and work great. I would urge others not to buy the polluting swiffers just because the manufacturer sticks a pink ribbon on the box. They, along with disposable wipes for every purpose, are deadly.

Buckets for the CureKentucky Fried Chicken. Okay, here we go. While I applaud KFC’s attempts to offer a healthier version of chicken by cooking up the breadingless kind, I don’t think it is too popular a seller. So the majority of people are purchasing these pink buckets of the original greasy trans-fat-laden chicken parts. We know these chickens were not “happy chickens” either. That is, they didn’t strut around the barnyard until some Farmer Joe decided to whack them. They lived the most miserable lives. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to be reincarnated as a KFC chicken. No really. I wouldn’t.

Mikes Hard Pink LemonadeMike’s Hard Pink Lemonade. Alcohol to promote breast cancer awareness. I can’t seem to get past the irony of this. We’ve been told that the only healthy alcohol is red wine. Whether that is true or not, the ingredients list of this particular adult beverage consists of carbs, sugar and fat. Not exactly the best sort of product to promote good health, would you say?

HandgunSmith & Wesson Awareness Pistol. And we come to this,the ultimate insult. We don’t have enough problems with violence against women in this country. Let’s use a cute little revolver to paint pink and PRETEND WE CARE ABOUT WOMEN’S HEALTH AND NOT PROFITS. Nobody will be the wiser, right?

Obamacare Made Us Do It!

What!!? No more Twinkies?

Hostess Brands recently announced its intention to go into bankruptcy, lay off over 18,000 workers and liquidate assets. The management/union disagreements focused on reducing workers’ benefits and salary cuts. The CEO got his pay tripled, but the rest of the worker bees doing the baking and packaging and distributing of the delectable little goodies were supposed to suck it up and settle for less. Among those reduced benefits is health insurance. But the union objected to this plan and now Hostess is one of those whining companies “Obamacare made us do it!!”

I guess it’s not unreasonable to assume that a company which makes its profit by delivering shit to kids and adults with Ding Dong addictions wouldn’t really be too concerned about healthy eating, let along health care for its employees.

And after all, those employees probably got a lot better perks than health insurance, like access to the Twinkie rejects and good deals on the merchandise. They should be willing to trade snack cakes for health care. It’s only fair, right?

But, really? No more Hostess Products? No more tasty cupcakes, no more gooey, spongy, chemical-laden “snack cakes”? No more Wonder bread? Whatever is to become of us? Oh wait. We stopped eating that garbage decades ago. That’s right. Now I remember, when companies had to start labeling their products with the actual crap that was in them. In addition to the usual: high fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, palm oil, sweet dairy whey and cellulose gum, there are more mysterious ingredients to be noted. Stuff like ferrous sulfate, sodium caseinate, mono and diglycerides, stearoyllactylate, sodium caseinate, agar and a few things to “retain freshness”. Oh yeah, Hostess products have a 25-day shelf life.

Pretend you made some chocolate cupcakes. Pretend you injected them with white sticky goo and wrapped them in plastic and sat them on your counter for 25 days. Do you think you’d be wanting to chomp into one on that last day? Then think of what has to go into Hostess cupcakes to keep them from getting the way yours now look after a 3 1/2 week sabbatical.

This would be their cupcake:

Photo credit: Newbirth35 / Foter / CC BY-NC

This would be your cupcake:

fungal flouce

Photo by Psybeartist

I once worked in a small town in Ohio. Kind of an everyman’s kind of town, and I’d stop in at a tiny grocery two or three times a week in the morning to get a coffee to go and a newspaper. Invariably, I’d see high school kids in there, before school, buying cigarettes, Mountain Dew and Hostess snacks. Talk about a three-way burner! Holy headspin! We’re talkin’ some major uppers here, enough to get those kids through until third period at least.

You may think, but kids can’t buy cigarettes. Well, in this place they could, because the guy behind the counter taking in the small change was related in some way to all of them. It was that kind of town, where The Extreme Tractor Pull and The September Gopher Shoot were the two major social events of the year.

I’m trying real hard not to put a label on the types of people who would buy Hostess stuff, but it is difficult not to do that. Usually, it’s people who live for today, the hell with tomorrow, if I want to eat stuff that in no way resembles real food, then I should be able to do that. So don’t take away my Dolly Madison Cakes. And I’ll have a 20-ounce Dew and a pack of Marlboros with them.

Thankfully, this segment of the population seems to be in decline as people become more and more concerned with health issues and what kinds of foods they eat. Consumers now want organic-grown vegetables and meat that hasn’t been injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. A lot of us now really care what we are putting into our bodies. To a person, we are rejecting Hostess stuff.

So finally  Hostess reluctantly admitted that well, yes, there has been a downturn in recent years, a somewhat diminished demand for their products.

You think?

It’s getting very tiring listening to these junk food places blathering on about Obamacare. It hasn’t even happened yet. To my knowledge, 2014 is the first year anyone has to do anything about it. So why all the bitching about it now?

Maybe because, you weren’t on the winning side in this latest election? Maybe because you want to get out there and let everyone know, “Well, it’s your fault, you 51% of Americans for voting for him. It’s all his fault we have to lay off people and close down our good factories.” Bullshit.

It’s your own fault, Hostess, for committing to products that no one wants anymore. You’ve mismanaged your company for years. You’re in debt you can’t get out of. This is just a good excuse to get political and obfuscate the real reasons for your failure.

Yeah, yeah, we all know how Denny’s Grand Slam is going to go up by 49 cents and Papa John’s Pizza will cost more in order to pay for Obamacare. Sniff, sniff. Get over yourselves. It won’t work. It would be a dark day I’d dine in Denny’s. (How’s that for alliteration?). One doesn’t “dine” in Denny’s, one scarfs.

And I like pizza as well as the next person, but Papa John, think I’ll be passin’ on you.

Get a life. You lost.

So, Hostess, while it is so much more convenient to complain about Obamacare and blame the death of your company on labor unions, it was going down anyway.

Komen Foundation: Race for the Consumer

Life in the Boomer Lane

For those of you who believe that Komen’s decision to pull breast cancer screening from Planned Parenthood goes against what Komen is supposed to stand for, read the following words from Ed of

I have been of two minds about how to approach this. One option is to be thorough, do some research, and make a careful, reasoned argument about why the Susan G. Komen Foundationtm is a marketing consultancy masquerading as a charity, a fact only reinforced by their recent actions regarding Planned Parenthood. The other is to put my gall bladder on the keyboard, crank the Dillinger Escape Plan, and let the bile-laced invective fly. Press A for the first option or B for the second.

That’s what I thought. No one ever picks A.

As a preface, please consult Lea Goldman’s outstanding, well-researched article “The Big Business of Breast Cancer”, which represents what may…

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