Original “selfie stick” provides view of a bigger picture

This is my second weekly column for the Portage County Gazette, whose new web site is almost ready. — Steve


loren & yami overlooking boquillas

The best pictures of nature show less of the people and more of the scenery, like these native grinding holes in a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande and Mexico (Big Bend National Park, 2000) .

Selfie sticks are getting whacked a lot lately.

For those still living in the world of talking to others, selfie sticks are the devices that allow one to avoid all human contact while holding a camera at more than arm’s length and blessing everyone with yet another shot of one’s beaming mug.

Banned from some Disney World rides because of the danger they can cause, they also are forbidden at many concerts and festivals because they block people’s views. Coachella’s web site called them “narsisstics.”

For obvious reasons, the secret service didn’t want them near the Pope on his U.S. visit. Reuters News Service  and Mashable recently told us that more people have died taking selfies in 2015 than have been killed in shark attacks.  Search “selfies” in the New York Times and you’ll get all sorts of cogent, thoughtful, and recriminating pieces about the meaning of selfies in our culture.

This is the story of my selfie stick.

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Fight preposterosity. Make up a word!

Lately, when I read about hate-driven, bigoted and utterly stupid political acts by tiny-minded cretins with venom sacs for brains, I immediately feel like writing a blog post. Then I remind myself: not enough hours in the day.

Preposterosity: so many good, fake National Geo covers, so little time.

Preposterosity: So many good fake National Geographic covers, so little time. Click link to see more!

I can’t write about every hate-driven, bigoted and utterly stupid idea that drives cretinous imaginations, so I’m laying off the specific legislation that inspired this post.  While there’s something cathartic about putting my opinion out there, it doesn’t take long to realize that the old saw “pick your battles” does encourage me to leave time to grade papers, hike in the woods, brush teeth, and scan the position descriptions on both HigherEdJobs.com and non-academic sites.

Nevertheless, I’m a true believer that both actions and words can make a difference, and any individual can use both of those to spur change.  It’s really the intersection of those ideas that this post is about.

Want to change something?  Change the language.  Make up a word, then go out and use it.

We do it all the time.  Among the Oxford English Dictionary’s list of hundreds of new words for June 2015 is “carnapping.”  In use for some time, the word is now official — along with the like of “e-cig,” “eliminationism,” and “wuss,” to name just a few.

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Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

A week that started with floods in Texas and ended with a near-drowning of higher education in Wisconsin needs a good blues version of a classic song.

One of my favorites is “Funny How Time Slips Away” by B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland.  It’s particularly relevant because King, as the New York Times put it, came home for the last time Friday.  The Times story and its accompanying slide show are worth spending a few minutes on.

I love King’s version of the song (written by Willie Nelson) because it has a sweetness not present in the original recording. That feeling is brought on primarily by the interpretation and interplay of King and Bland. Incidentally, the first recording, by Jimmie Walker, and Nelson’s early version are good listens themselves, and the Nelson version on YouTube is also fun just because of the picture of a young Willie on its album cover.

The words on all these versions are primarily about the ebb and flow of love in our lives, but the meanings of lyrics always have a way of transcending literal topics. All three versions end with the reminder that in time, we all have to pay.

That seems appropriate for those of us in Wisconsin. But no more so than for anyone else, and regardless of where we are, we strive to make the best of what time we have left.

Words count, even on Facebook

The just-announced entry by the New York Times and other major media into Facebook should put to rest any doubt about the importance of social media for communication.

I finally got on the Facebook bandwagon a little more than four years ago, when Wisconsin’s political attacks on education and the middle and lower classes began. Since then, I’ve mostly followed Facebook news and groups, rarely posting except to reply to friends as an occasional method for conversing in the virtual world.

There are a number of reasons for stepping up my Facebook and other social media activity.  Among them is my disappointment with more conventional local means of governance — especially after UW-Stevens Point’s baffling decision to disempower its faculty senate.

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