05.13.09 – Wednesday


Word: melodrama [meluh-drah-muh, -dram-uh] n. 1. a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization 2. melodramatic behavior or events 3. (in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries) a romantic dramatic composition with music interspersed

Birthday: Joe Louis (1914), Bea Arthur (1922), Jim Jones (1931), Harvey Keitel (1939), Ritchie Valens (1941), Mary Wells (1943), Stevie Wonder (1950), Dennis Rodman (1961), Stephen Colbert (1964), Darius Rucker (1966), Buckethead (1968)

Standpoint: Yesterday, I revealed the results of an experiment I conducted involving Google Image Search. The goal was to see if I could type in just about any word and eventually come across an image displaying inappropriate content. In the interest of saving you from clicking back and forth, I’ll republish how I went about this and my findings:

Here’s a list of  random words that I used – starting with items that were in front of me at the time and continuing with whatever popped into my head – and how many images I had to go through to find some inappropriate content:

  • “camera” – 95th image
  • “bottle” – 5th image
  • “key” – 24th image
  • “phone” – 37th image
  • “book” – Search Expired (Google only allows the first 1000 images to be viewed)
  • “sidewalk” – 188th image
  • “brick” – 262th image
  • “desk” – 467th image
  • “chair” – 223rd image
  • “office” – 16th image
  • “girlfriend” – 11th image
  • “boyfriend” – 42nd image
  • “wife” – 2nd image
  • “husband” – 115th image
  • “pregnant” – 11th image
  • “female” – 4th image
  • “male” – 4th image
  • “woman” – 9th image
  • “man” – 26th image
  • “bear” – 40th image
  • “arm” – 200th image
  • “leg” – 16th image
  • “foot” – 5th image
  • “hand” – 10th image
  • “breakfast” – 924th image
  • “brunch” – 461st image
  • “lunch” – Search Expired
  • “dinner” – Search Expired
  • “snack” –  Search Expired 
  • “love” – 64th image
  • “romance” – 229th image
  • “flirting” – 59th image
  • “big” – 1st image
  • “crazy” – 6th image
  • “fun” – 94th image
  • “great” – 6th image
  • “boredom” – 62nd image

As you can see, some of the words failed to produce what I was looking for. At least not in the parameters of Google Image Search, which is widely considered the industry standard. The word “book” yielded no unseemly results. Neither did the words “lunch” or “snack.”

All but one of the others (“dinner”) did produce some kind of image not suitable for the background of your desktop computer. That’s 34 of 38, or a little over 89%, of the words I used – a pretty high percentage. It would be like Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley having a batting average of .894. That means he would only fail to produce a hit in 1½ of every ten at-bats. So my original hypothesis was only just a little off but mainly right on.

But does it really mean anything? If we look at the results in that words with the lowest numbers (“big”, “female” and “male”) represent higher sex appeal and words with the highest numbers (“office”, “brick” and “romance”) represent lower sex appeal, they don’t make a lot of sense. Wouldn’t it be more feasible that “fun” would produce a quicker result than “boredom?” But it’s not the actual words that matter here. What does matter is the high likelihood of discovering adult material while conducting an otherwise innocent image search.

So exactly what did I learn? Well. Besides that it’s impossible to log all the types of fetishes out there and that pictures of the “girl next door” are apparently infinitely more popular than those taken of “professional” models, I came away with a different sense of the collective human mindset. Maybe some of the experts are right. When it comes down to it, sex could very well be the driving force behind most of how we think and act. I mean, it’s not like I could use the same set of words and eventually happen upon an image of money or mountain lions or Nascar. I tried. It only works for sex.

And is that really a bad thing? Maybe. I wouldn’t say that society is consumed with sexual thoughts, but based on my rudimentary findings, it’s well on its way. And that must be a horrifying concept for those who point a shameful finger at sex the same way the rest of us do at the slaughter of innocent animals. But it’s not scary for everyone. It could be that the internet has provided a vehicle for those, once thought of as sexual deviants, to realize they’re not alone in feeling the way that they do. And that’s got to be more of a good thing than bad. At least, I hope that last sentence is true. And for those who are truly concerned, Google offers many options that filter out most anything you don’t wish to see.  

Now, is any of this truly important? I think so. Educating yourself on the potential dangers of your society is always helpful. Some of what I found could definitely pose a serious threat, not only to young people, but to confused adults as well. Awareness of anything that could be harmful automatically decreases the risk of its pitfalls. The truth is that there’s lots of crazy sexual activity out in the world. You can run from it or embrace it. Or you can simply leave it alone and keep doing your thing. But the bottom line is that while it’s not imperative to start Congressional hearings on the matter of internet porn, it is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

And as a bonus, now we know that a key is considered way more erotic than a desk. So that debate is settled.

Quotation: Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other. Ann Landers

Tune: “Blindsided” is one of those mellow songs that won’t put you to sleep. Actually, all of For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver is the same way.

Gallimaufry: Years ago, Mike Jerrick was the offbeat co-anchor of FOX Philadelphia’s Good Day Philadelphia. Now he’s the offbeat co-anchor of  The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet. I’m not usually a fan of morning talk shows but I like this one, especially when they do “The Male Room.” ∞ President Obama is trying to find a way to trim some fat off of the federal budget. Literally. Yesterday, he “met with CEOs of companies that have found innovative ways to lower health care costs and improve employees’ health.” ∞ More so than ever, it appears that celebrities are doing more good things than bad. OK, maybe that’s not entirely true. Or maybe I’m sincerely impressed with the genorosity of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and James Cameron, who donated $30,000 to the last survivor of the the Titanic. Good stuff.  

Incoming: Tomorrow – Your entries for this week’s edition of Annoying Sayings & Misused Words. Friday – This weekend’s 3 Things To Do In Philly When You’re Dead and 7 Cover Songs That Are Better Than the Original.

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