Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Eight seconds into the future
So yesterday I was reading a little article about the life of the professional bull rider. Which seems to involve a lot of aspirin, nasal reconstruction (from when you get "dashboarded" by the bull), Copenhagen, and U.S. Border Patrol endorsements.
I have been interested in bull riding ever since I randomly discovered the shark-jumping reality show Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge, in which the diminutive Texan champ (assisted by his girlfriend the Alaskan singing poetess, Jewel) teaches a crew of has-been celebrities, including actor Stephen Baldwin, Leif Garrett (who wimps out on the first day), Nitro from American Gladiators, Vanilla Ice, Rocket Ismail, Jonny Fairplay (yes, a reality show star appearing as such on other reality shows — we live in the age of meta-*non*fiction), an ultimate fighting guy, a motocross guy, and the direct-to-video son of Anthony Quinn.
(Yes, you are in luck, all six episodes of this masterpiece are available free online at Country Music Television:)
Having third-tier celebrities (for whom your brain still uses one individual neuron each, no matter how obscure!) makes total sense, since the real stars of the Professional Bull Riding league are the bulls. Maybe because the naming of the bulls is so etymologically inspired, like a burly Nascar variation on race horse names, as in these big boys that have made the list of bulls producing 90+ point rides:
Scene of the Crash
Cheeseburger Island Style
Chicken on a Chain
Say I Won't Gunner
Little White Soldier
Crown of Thorns
Smokeless War Dance
Johnny Walker Happy Hour
Lil Yellow Whale
Freak on a Leash
Blender Head Snuff
Lock & Load
You may recall my mention a couple months back of how Technovelgy and others picked up on the background idea from my story "The Sun Also Explodes," included in Lou Anders' acclaimed anthology Fast Forward 2, of a football league without restrictions on human modification:
Crile scratched his silvery buzzcut, flexing a biceps that pulsed with the texture of manufactured tendons and polymerically enhanced blood vessels. He was one of the alpha generation of real celebrity cyborgs, a Texas star college quarterback who was among the first to go straight to the UFL.
The Ultimate Football League was the first to abandon professional athletics' anachronistic insistence on the prohibition of performance enhancements, be they pharmaceutical, biomechanical, or genetically engineered. It was a genius stroke by the founders. The audience was far more interested in superhuman performances than fidelity to nature, and the athletes were addicted to the potential of even greater power.
In related posts, I have talked about the Freeman Dyson vision of an imminent world where genetic modification technology ends up democratically distributed just like personal computing technology was beginning twenty-five years ago.
So you put all this together, and you quickly end up realizing that a much more likely imminent kind of rogue science-enabled extreme psycho-sport for the 21st century is something like ultimate bull riding, in which the supreme test of post-cowboy manhood is how many seconds you can stay on that genetically modified monster bull. You know, the one that's got all of his innate bullness turned up to 11, a few cyborg enhancements, and some other species strands spliced in, like the rogue fruits in fine wines — a little bit of pit bull, a little bit of bison, maybe a little bit of vintage triceratops? *
Tell me you wouldn't pay to watch that rodeo.
*Special prize: We'll send a free copy of Fast Forward 2 to whoever can come up with the most worthy name for that bull (just add a comment below).