The Bleeping Game… April 13, 2012

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I decided to count.

I wasn’t trying to be priggy or self-righteous; I was just curious. While watching a very popular reality show, I began to count the number of times the performers on this particular episode were “bleeped.” You know what I mean, right? When they insert some sort of sound to replace what is considered to be a “bad word.”

It is the new way of handling foul language in our society–to cleanse our programming of nastiness for the general audience. Anyway, back to my counting…nineteen times in a one-hour show the Bleeping Game was inserted. I am sure this was an extraordinary situation and usually it wouldn’t be that many. But on this night, the repetition of the same phrase of controversial language kept coming up over and over again. I became agitated, which soon turned into aggravation–not because the language was used (I find foul communication to be more boring than actually evil). No, it was because the way of handling the situation is nothing but a game, inserted by some corporation to give the appearance propriety without actually achieving proper.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Bleeping Game is self-defeating. At least when I watch HBO I see the people on the screen speaking of their own volition and therefore responsible for the content. I can then choose to continue to watch or change the channel. But the addition of the bleep is an attempt to cover up the language, and the speaker is not responsible for the words. Instead, I become the culprit.

None of us is stupid. Everybody over six years of age can tell you exactly what word is being said underneath the bleep, and therefore WE mentally fill in the word. So rather than detaching the listener from the impropriety of the language, the Bleeping Game actually involves the listener, forcing him or her to complete the sentences. It’s impossible to stop doing it–your brain just fills things in.

It’s the typical scenario of malfeasance brought about by a corporation–inadequate, ineffective and insincere. It is inadequate because the human brain still fills in the words; ineffective due to fact that the nastiness and anger surrounding such communication is still hot, heavy and present; and insincere because it is a band-aid placed on a gaping wound of ignorance and a lack of sophistication.

This is probably one of the worst schemes we’ve ever come up with in the history of the US–and when you consider slavery, internment camps for Japanese citizens during WW II and New Coke, that’s a bold proclamation.

What do we think we’re doing? Now, I am not a prude. In my day I’ve used a variety of language in a multitude of situations to produce specific results. If I write a screenplay, I allow my characters to determine their vernacular instead of trying to purify it, using a King James-version-dehumidifier. But this new outburst of language is beyond the pale. It is the phrasing used in our society when we are unable to communicate our ideas in a clever manner or if we’re trying to impress people with how “tough” and “street” we are. And it is exemplified by the Bleeping Game.

The thing that I appreciate about HBO is that it is consistently bizarre. Once they allowed the language to come into their programming, free of bleeping, the producers, directors and actors have become more and more unusual and out-of-the-box. Sometimes I giggle because HBO is determined to do a program about every type of lifestyle and business that exists in the underbelly of our society. They seem to enjoy vampires, werewolves, midgets (or are they dwarves?), down-and-out anybodies, and folks who are in various stages of degradation through alcohol and drugs. It may not be your cup of tea, but it is honest. What is dishonest is to place programming for the general public littered with trash, which merely has to be deciphered by translating the bleeps.

It is beneath us as a country. It is total foolishness and shows me how poorly our general leadership has sunk in its mission to enrich us instead of merely enthrall us.

Considering the Bleeping Game, I would like you to keep three things in mind:

1. Lying can never become the truth, no matter how loudly you say it or how frequently it’s espoused. Simply trying to avoid the problem of a language barrier in this country by bleeping out what are considered to be “foul words,” simultaneously allowing the anger and frustration to remain, is one of the worst resolutions of a problem since I put duct tape on one of the water hoses in my car engine, thinking I had stopped my leak. We continue to lie to ourselves and think that after a certain length of time, deception becomes acceptable and therefore, honorable.

2. Prohibition causes promotion. The minute we make bad language, foul talk or questionable dialogue forbidden, it is exactly what everybody will want to do. You do not keep children from swearing by putting a sound over the top of swear words. It encourages it. So most young people spout off these words during their private times–feeling very adult–never realizing that the language is not suitable for public consumption. I learned this when I was sitting in a restaurant having a lovely dinner and heard someone a couple of tables away say the “f word.” Once again, I am not a prude. I have heard the word many times–matter of fact, I’ve even used it. But when I heard it in a public setting, it was shocking–and made me wonder if the person speaking it had lost control and was on the verge of becoming violent. As it turns out, it was just a casual conversation coming from someone with a loose tongue. But it alerted me to the fact that the language that seems acceptable on film or video tape, when placed in actual public situations, is quite volatile. But we will not generate a good dialogue about good dialogue by pretending that we are prohibiting such bad speech, while instead privately promoting it.

3. And finally, teach communication and language improves. I know this about myself–when I get the urge to swear, use foul language or pop off a nasty colloquialism, it is simply because cleverness has escaped me. I have become insecure or I’m trying to scare people away so I don’t have to talk to them. Just as we have to cease making men and women enemies with each other if we’re going to see our planet move towards reconciliation, we also need to understand that off-color language is a white flag of surrender in a world of ideas.

This is not an issue of salvation, spirituality or even puritanical values. Foul language is just dumb.

It’s time for us to stop the Bleeping Game. The language is either all right or it’s not. If it’s not, we should begin to encourage people to find better ways to use our English dialect to foster clever turns of phrase instead of blatant verbal spittle.

It’s time to do better. It’s time to tell those people who have resorted to unexplainable outbursts of nastiness during their violent fits of behavior that we would welcome more creative ways of expression. Feel free to keep HBO for those folks who like to walk on the wild side, but somewhere along the line we need to stop using the language of frustration unless we’re making it clear that the people who are using it are frustrated … and have lost their advantage.

**************

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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