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Colleges Ban “Selfies” At Graduations

Just when I’ve reached maximum smugness in my quest to be the stodgiest, crankiest, post-luddite resister to technology, a bunch of college administrators have gone and made me look like a card-carrying member of the electronic cognoscenti–a real live, glowing tech wienie.  Go figure.

To be clear: I loathe our society’s fetish for new technology and the cult of planned obsolescence that drives it.  I have a dumb phone, not a smart phone–it supposedly takes photos as well as receives phone calls (when I happen to turn it on, which is rarely), but I couldn’t tell you how.  It costs me $84 a year via tracfone–$20 plus tax every 3 months for 60 minutes plus 60 bonus minutes, and I’ve saved up thousands of minutes. I keep the phone in my truck, so I always know where it is–but I won’t answer if I’m driving.  Clever, right?

glass-blowerThe version of windows I use is so old it’s made from blown glass.

Windows 8 makes me angry.  Really angry.  Throw glasses and kick the cat angry.  I don’t use my daughter’s laptop because it unnerves her when I shout and curse at inanimate objects, but it’s the idea of the thing as well as that incomprehensible, alien interface.  Some geeks locked in a climate-controlled cell in Redmond, Washington decided that it was time to take a perfectly good, largely intuitive system and declare it outdated.  Why?  Because they can.  Because you’ll buy it.  Because some of you rushed to buy it the minute it came out–blasted early adopters, you’re the worst of the worst.

The difference between the tech addicts and lemmings is that lemmings rush over cliffs in a harried state of semi-consciousness, the result of some strange biological imperative related to a delicate sense of the world around them.  The tech-crazed, while they may be semi-conscious due to obsession with their tiny wittle eensy weensy touchscreens, throw themselves happily on the jagged rocks below, having willingly paid for the chance to do so.  Indeed, they look forward to it.

I was appalled when,  just days ago, a good friend of mine proposed that computer coding be added to our school district’s curriculum, as advocated by some group of geeks somewhere–I followed the links, read some arguments, and shook my head: not my thing.  Should broader tech ed be available at young ages?  Absolutely–but foisting that agenda on all students is a lot like making the argument that everyone who drives, or will drive, an automobile should take 12 years of design and engineering classes.  But, that’s me–I don’t need to teach my computer to do things I don’t need it to do.  It’s purpose is to serve and entertain, equal parts herald, messenger, librarian and jester.

It should be shocking to you, then, that I’ve been appalled by the story that a handful of colleges and universities have banned the utterly obnoxious ritual of “selfies” at their graduations.  First among these was Bryant University–that’s right, Bryant is in the news again!  It is little wonder that the administration of Bryant is banning this vanity–they are constantly on the tongues of mainstream America, an assault on our senses unprecedented in our time–Bryant!  Bryant!  Bryant!  They must be fearful–understandably–that they’ve reached the saturation point of cultural and media exposure.  We’re all sick of Bryant–if we hear ONE MORE THING about Bryant!  Argggghhhh.

Or not–because, let’s be honest: this is the first and last you have or will have heard about Bryant.

Since this (non)story broke weeks ago, administrators at Bryant and South Florida University (are these places real?) have back-tracked a bit, explaining that the ban was merely to help speed along ceremonies and preserve a sense of decorum, but I’ve been unable to find a withdrawal of the threat withhold diplomas from violators, nor have I found any references to students actually facing punitive measures for violating the bans, so the point is pretty much moot.

It’s an interesting situation to consider, however, and a curious position in which I find myself in commenting upon it–no matter how derisive I feel about our cultural obsession with trendy tech, I’m far more enraged by accounts of arbitrary authoritarianism. I don’t consider myself particularly rebellious, but there is nothing worse–in a regular, day to day life–than penny-ante autocrats exerting their limited powers because they can.  Threaten to withhold a diploma at the bitter end of a student’s 4 or more year slog through academia?  That’s on par with the Deli lady at the old A & P store near where I grew up, who forced you to take a number even when you were the only person in the store.

Or is this story just a whole lot of nuthin’?

 

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An Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 1: Swimming District Championships

I don’t keep a diary or journal all that often–scrawled notes, here and there–of things I want to remember, but the majority of my life I’ve confined to the dark recesses of my increasingly lethargic memory.  Occasionally, I take an exception and inflict the journaling on you, gentle readers.

Cardiac_Hill; Michael Rosella 1953
That’s me in the skirt.

At the end of last week my kids and their team-mates traveled to Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh for the WPIAL District Swimming Championships. It’s a love-hate thing–we love our swimmers, but this event is perennially noted for sub-zero temperatures and nearly impossible parking.  The Pool is located at the top of a step hill, and the University parking lots are reserved for faculty and students, the hospital and business garages are posted “lease only”–some have even made special signs, just for us “NO SWIMMER PARKING.”  Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, but UPMC –whose garages had those signs–is another matter.  Their signs pretty much screamed “Fuck You.”  Big surprise.

trees-poolIt seemed hellacious at the time–we parked about a mile away–and half a mile vertically–in the bitter cold.  Afflicted with a nagging cold and what turned out to be bronchitis, my throat seized shut the moment I began exerting myself in those temperatures, which was scary but gave me new understanding of what it’s like to deal with asthma.  It sucks, by the way.

FFH-FullHouseFortunately, I survived, as did my friend Skip who, wearing just a thin leather jacket, stuck with my slow progress up the hill, didn’t flinch at my frequent stops for binges of disconcerting hacking-coughing-gurgling-convulsing. The guy had to be freezing his ass off–and he also dealt with navigating his Suburban through all that city traffic.  Kudos to Skip.

IMG_6573The meet went well–our girls finished high in both relays–200 Medley and 200 Freestyle, qualifying for the PIAA State Championships, with both of my daughters posting significant time drops.  One of the girls did very well in an individual event, also, nailing another spot at States.  On the boys side, the results were similar. On day two, the girls qualified a third relay and one of our other swimmers finished second overall in her premier event.  All in all it was a spectacular pair of days in what was supposed to be a “down” year with a diminished roster–the boys finished IMG_7375fourth overall, the girls fifth, and the only that lack of depth kept us from contending for the District Championships, but we won our Section handily–as we usually do–something none of the marquee teams (football, basketball, etc) can boast.

We stopped for a celebratory visit at a TGI Fridays which was fun, but not awesome.  They refused to take reservations for our party of 40 parents, coaches, and athletes, so the kids didn’t get to sit together or even get seated or served at the same time–but those of us who weren’t behind the wheel got to down a few cold Yeunglings while we waited for tables to open.  The great thing about swimming is that the parents and athletes are all pretty great–not just on our team, but in general.  I think it comes down to the fact that it’s all about quantifiable results.  If your kid makes a relay over my kid, it’s generally because your kid is faster–it’s difficult, and counter-productive, for coaches to play favorites.  We cheer for our kids as individuals, but the big accolades come from team success, which also helps.  Finally, swimming is AWFUL–it’s grueling, mind-numbing, exhausting, repetitive, and somewhat lonely.  Success requires great discipline and sacrifice, which more than anything else serves to weed out the assholes.  Even the most naturally talented kids ultimately fall short if they don’t do the work.  Those left are quality–though sometimes quirky!–individuals, an almost literal crucible.

 

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Commentary

On Dan Snyder, The Redskins, Free Speech and Flag Desecration

Wow!  That’s a lot for one little article, eh?  A few weeks ago, I posted on my support of the effort to encourage Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins NFL football team, to change it’s name. A similar post planted elsewhere on the web stirred up a dialogue with a fellow I know from our high school days back around 1798.  I like this guy a lot, have a ton of respect for him and his perspective, agree about half of what he believes while the other half, well, I don’t agree with it.  In any case, I wanted to follow up on that original article with his response to me, and then–since it’s my Blog and I’m Emperor here, my response to him.  It’s good to be an Emperor–I always get the last word.

First, in case you missed it, the link to my original post–the responses follow.

https://oldroadapples.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/an-open-letter-to-dan-snyder-time-to-rebrand/

Randy said:  Chuck–I myself do not have an issue with this, with me being part Cherokee…it’s a name and they the Redskins do not use it in a derogatory manner. Why does PC have to come into play with everything? It’s call the 1st amendment…freedom of speech…freedom of expression…why do we not see more advertisements about desecrating the US flag…why is that freedom of speech & freedom of expression. IUP and a lot of universities caved…they should have just left the NCAA and joined the NAIA. The Native Americans have no problem living in tax free reservations gambling casinos and all that….this issue to a lot of them it is about heritage and to a lot of them it’s about money…if you can step on, piss on and burn my flag well then you can say redskin because the constitution that I took a life long oath to protect and defend says you can. Just because people are offended doesn’t mean it should be stopped…if it were that way we would have to just sit in our houses and do nothing not even read a book…that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it…Semper Fi!!!

— Randy

Then I said:

Until recently, I agreed with you on this specific issue, and I’m still pretty much with you on the PC thing, but I’ve given it a lot of thought–not just because of this video, but because so many people seem to feel so passionately about it that I decided it was worth further consideration, and what I came down to was this: it’s not about being “politically correct”–a term I don’t like because it’s emotionally charged, vague and subjective.

I don’t go to church nor subscribe to a specific political philosophy–in general my conservative friends disregard me as a raving socialist and my liberal friends tend to snicker at my rough edges and bluster while, I suspect, being privately horrified by my foul language, gross insensitivity, potential fascistic bend, and questionable intellect –not necessarily a bad thing on any of those counts. I try to live my life by a simple code that I’ve yet to refine, in terms of a definition, but the gist is to conduct myself in a way that lands me somewhere in the center of the being fair, being respectful, and being good.

I think this is an issue of respect.

As for the first amendment, I agree in principle–I would not support a call to force the Dan Snyder & company to change the team name by force or law, but I do support people using their freedom of speech to call on him to do so. And yes, I think he has the right to tell ’em all to go to hell, too.

On the totally different issue of flag desecration, I’m (again) with you on principle: I love this country (though not blindly, I love it for the worst of it as well as the best) and think it’s a foolish, useless, and disrespectful act (see, there’s my “respect” thing again). I understand it’s a protected right, but I still don’t like it. Nevertheless, I enjoy the irony that when some angry yahoo burns a flag he is undermining his own anti-American statement, because in that act of destruction he is proving the greatness of the nation he’s acting against, as well as the freedom and protections that nation provides him. Still makes me sick to see, of course. Does that make sense? I wrote a better explanation elsewhere–I’ll try to find it and tack it on later.

Finally, a flag-burning missive from “the old blog.”

I’ve noted, quite after the fact, that another crop of earnest, unwashed underclass rebels took time out from their busy days to torch tiny paper copies of Old Glory in the sun-dappled comfort of my alma mater’s iconic Oak Grove. Groovy, right?

I mean, I guess you’ve got to go with whatever gets you off, but I find flag burning to be just about the least productive, most self-indulgent and ridiculous form of self-pleasuring protest possible. It accomplishes nothing beyond annoying people who neither care nor understand what you think and wouldn’t change their minds even if they did. But it feels so good! Look how angry I am! See how revolutionary I feel! It’s a ME ME ME sort of thing. Might as well jump up and down and wave a pair of pink pompoms. ME ME Gooooooooooooo ME!

Burning tiny little paper flag replicas, fresh out of the old HP printer, advances the comedy from the ridiculous to the absurd. We’re talking protest and Monty Python skit. Reminds me of the 18″ stonehenge in This Is Spinal Tap.

My comment in the university paper sums up the remainder of my sentiment (conveniently cut and pasted just ahead, mostly because it’s a pretty paragraph that I like a lot). But I’m not merely trying to add some bulk to my blog, I’m gearing up (hear the grinding?) to include some thoughts on patriotism , protest, and participation in the democratic system and this seems as good a place to begin as any.

pposted 10/16/07 @ 12:37 PM EST

My view from the hard left: flag burning is a self-aggrandizing, unproductive burlesque that ultimately undermines whatever issue the action is intended to protest. It’s the polemic equivalent of a toddler’s tantrum. The irony of flag-burning is that the act itself reinforces the very ideals our flag is intended to represent. In burning our flag, one may be voicing his or her dissatisfaction or opposition, but he or she is likewise making a very profound demonstration of the the freedoms we are supposed to enjoy. Better to target our anger at those whose actions fail to live up to those ideals, who misuse the trust and power commended to them, than the symbol these despoilers stain.

Another new feature: an accounting of sounds. It’s like having a soundtrack. An imaginary soundtrack for the Most Widely Unread Blog on the Web.

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An Open Letter To Dan Snyder & The Redskins: Time To Rebrand

Not so many years  ago, the NCAA forced my Alma Mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania–located in the town of Indiana, PA–to abandon it’s historic nickname, mascot, and iconography as “The IUP Indians.”  A lot of folks were resentful at the external pressure, a lot more were like me and just thought it was a big waste of time for something that was not patently offensive and, in the eyes of many, actually a flattering reference.

The University had dragged it’s feet, and the first change was to keep the 150px-IUP_Bear“Indians” name but switch out the Indian Chief mascot–and most Native American-themed imagery, for a Bear mascot, which made absolutely no sense except that the school was worried about blithely turning it’s back on 120+ years of history.  Next up, the school spent about a quarter of a million dollars for a consultant whose recommendation was to re-name the sports teams “The Flaming Arrows”–all of the expected jokes, and a few that were unexpected, followed, and the idea was quietly vanished one dark Appalachian night.  A few years later, a new administration spent another ton of money on research, marketing, surveys, and polls our teams became The Crimson Hawks, despite the student suggestion: The Fighting Squirrels, a reference to the population of bold, aggressive throngs of grey squirrels that makes residence in the University’s Oak-shaded campus, striking fear in the hearts of all who dare to snack within it’s confines.  The Crimson Hawks, fortunately, was humorous on a few levels, not the least of which is that there’s no such creature.

Hell3
http://danfemwrestlingfan.deviantart.com/art/Crimson-Hawk-vs-Catwoman-350152318

Well, that’s not exactly true–there is a Crimson Hawk, but she is an Internet-based adults-only comics action heroine described as “the world’s sexiest, most powerful, and most frequently defeated, humiliated and ravished superheroine.” with her own, decidedly NSFW subcription-based website.  No matter what the odds, our heroines always find themselves defeated, bound, and abused.  Opps.

I thought it was was a waste of money, a kneejerk reaction, and a shot at tradition.  When the softcore superhero business came to light I enjoyed a good laugh at the hubris behind lack of due diligence, but from the distance of a few years, it hasn’t been a big deal.  We adapted quickly.   Some people think the nickname is really, really awesome— when I think about IUP sports I think “Hawks,” not crimsonhawks“Indians,” and there is a huge upswing, owing to the marketing aspect of the change, in students wearing IUP colors in t-shirts, sweat-shirts, jackets, etc–which translates, in my eyes, as increased pride.  When I was an undergrad–back when kids carried baked potatoes in their pockets on the way to school just to warm their hands, most of the college-themed apparel one saw on campus was either for Pitt or Penn State–big, well-marketed schools to the east and west of us.  That is no longer the case. IUP is more popular than ever, and making more money than ever from it’s brand.

Now, it’s time for more change.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-nfl-would-never-let-this-ad-air-on-the-super-bowl-so-were-gonna-show-you-it-its-important?g=2&c=ufb1

I have to admit I was ambivalent to the Washington football team name and logo until half an hour ago–not indifferent, mind you, but just of the mindset that in a world of injustice this is a pretty minor thing.  This video set my mind.  The name must go, and the ownership needs to look at the process as a marketing opportunity after years of disappointment culminated with a terrible season and the overdue dismissal of an ineffective coach.

With several of the potentially most electrifying young players in the Washington_Redskins_1000_reverseleague, the future looks bright if they hire the right coach.  It seems like the perfect time for them to rebrand, as well.  They certainly can’t make the argument that it’s prohibitively expensive–nobody is buying branded items from this down-but-not-quite-out franchise right now, so there is no place to go but up–and if a rural Pennsylvania University with less than 15,000 students can find a way to rebound from the embarrassment of the S & M Superhero debacle and rebrand in a way that solidifies its image and its revenue stream, surely the big corporate geniuses in DC can do even better.  Heck, I’ll even give you one for a starter–reach out to the N.A. community, work an apology into the deal (you don’t even need to mean it, Dan), and ask ’em–we’ve always said our name is a tribute, not a slur, so we’re not content with just changing the name, tell us what we can do to go to the other extreme–how can we become the team that IS a tribute.  What should we call ourselves?  How can be change how you feel?

It’s not that hard…so let’s get on it.

***I’ve since posted a follow-up to this entry, just click this link.

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Where I Live: Indiana, PA

Image

Coming up on the beginning of the holiday season, our town kicks things off with the annual “It’s a Wonderful Night In Indiana, PA” light up festival–there will be a parade, the mayor will wave from his car, and the marching band playing Christmas songs; next up is a bonfire, hot cocoa and all sorts of fun stuff for the brats–er–kids. Oh, and Santa’s coming, too.  In honor of all that, and because I don’t feel like writing anything more thoughtful, here’s a few more things about the town I call home.

The New York Times likes our museum.

Really Famous People Were Born Here…like Edward Abbey

And This Guy, Too.  He would never have let the government shut down.

Our Football Team Rocks…and Not Just Because They Usually Win

rp_primary_Athletics_Football_92510D568

The Basketball Team is Even BETTER

We OWN tripadvisor.com!

We even pimp our “wonderful life” on the official town website!

We have our own university, but it’s name confuses people.

It’s a pretty university, too.

The IUP Journalism department has a blog.  Unlike this one, it’s good.

It’s a pretty cool place to live–something this prodigal son never thought he’d say.

You’d be hard put to find a better sandwich.

But we still need someone to open a decent micro-brewery.

It’s pretty here–I grew up in this neighborhood.