Media

Brush with celebrity

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Every once in a while, you just feel special. Not because you did anything, but because you were in the right place at the right time. Not because a person you admire has done anything extraordinary (though some times they have), but because they took time to notice you when they didn’t have to.

I have had brushes with celebrity, to varying degrees. The encounters make me smile. The celebrity likely doesn’t remember the encounter or know that they even made someone’s day. But they did, and it matters to you.

I am sure that I will have more encounters, hopefully that is. I am also sure that I have probably had brushes with celebrities that I didn’t even know I had (someone becomes famous after knowing them or maybe I didn’t recognize them). But so far, these three are the ones that stand out, so I get to tell you about it because I can.

Buck Compton

That name probably doesn’t ring a bell for you, at least not right away. But, it will once I tell you more about who he is.

Buck was a real American hero (read about him at the link). A man of extraordinary accomplishments who was as humble as they come. He was just doing his job and that’s all it was. It just had to be done. He was one of the soldiers featured in the Band of Brothers series.

As a result of my time with Buck, I also got to meet other celebrities. The actors from the Band of Brothers series showed up at his 90th birthday party. It was cool to meet them too.

Unfortunately, I met Buck late in his life and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him. He came to my classroom and talked with my students. He knew my name and appreciated that I was a history teacher. We met a couple other times since he lived here locally and was accessible. He liked to tell me his experiences. I loved to listen.

Mike Rowe

I’ve never met him, but I admire him.

I ran into Mike on social media. Facebook, to be exact. It was a chance encounter. It was the result of a little podcast (not so little any more) called, “The Way I Heard It,” which he created along the lines of the genre that made Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” iconic. I just happened to listen to episode 88, “The Missiles of December,” and loved it so much that I commented on his Facebook post regarding the podcast.

I never expected a response. He is, after all, a celebrity and doesn’t have time for me (though if you look at many of his posts he does respond to quite a few people). So, once again, my day was made and he doesn’t even know he put a smile on my face.

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Beauty Beyond Bones

Finally, there is a blogger who has captured my attention. Not in a weird way, but in a way that slightly intrigues me because someone else is paying attention to me, or at least what I write.

She is a “celebrity” of sorts, though I have a feeling she would say she isn’t. She has over 40k followers, people who take notice when she speaks, when she shares, when she tells it like it is. The gets lots of comments, likes, and her influence is growing. She has lots of things going on in her life and she is doing pretty well at making people take notice.

I have never met her either. But, I can say that it brings me great pleasure when I see the notice below in my email box. She has “Liked” one of the posts from my two blogs (this one or the other shown below). Sometimes she even likes a post from each of them in the same day! Imagine that!?!

Here’s the thing, though. It isn’t just a “like” (at least I don’t think it is) because “likes” in social media are usually turned around so that you “like” their stuff and follow them, only to get ignored or “unfollowed” shortly thereafter. I truly believe she reads what I have written and she likes what I have to say. That brings a smile to my face as well.

It is something small, but it feels good.

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So, have you had a brush with celebrity? Tell me about it in the comments. Share your story!

Fake News and Media Evaluation

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In a world where “fake news” is a thing, whether on social media or on an actual network, and lots of people are looking for ways to back up their own opinion YOU can do something to be aware of your own bias. Everyone needs a wider view of the world and being informed in a well-rounded manner could only make things better.

I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

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AllSides.com site banner

An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

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An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

Vote today, make a difference tomorrow

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

A vote cast today, means your voice will make a difference tomorrow.

Your civic duty, no, your Constitutional right is to be used.

I don’t care which “side” you are on, as long as you’re legally allowed to vote. As an American citizen you should care.

Use your voice, or hold it until the next election, because whining about the results after not having cast your vote is just plain stupidity.

So, don’t be stupid.

Vote.

 

1 year later: Branching out, er, expanding?

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It’s been a little over a year and the project keeps growing! More people have looked at the page and more people have joined me on Instagram so see what comes up next. Have you taken a look yet? Have you followed on Instagram yet? I bet you get a giggle or two if you do! Go ahead, grab a morning coffee, and go visit and take a scroll.


Just a quick note to have you take a look at the new page on the blog. You’ll find it up there in the top next two “Home,” “About,” and “Contact.” If you can’t figure it out from all the hints, try looking for “Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes.” There is an explanation about what it is and where to look as well.

Happy viewing, and I hope you will be intrigued enough to join me on Instagram as well!

School Picture Thievery

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It’s that time of year again, folks!

This school picture thing is a pretty big racket if you ask me, and if you’re a parent you know what I am talking about. If there is any place you know it and can feel yourself being ripped off but can’t do anything about it, it is definitely with school pictures and sports team photos.

I have felt this frustration in the past, but it kind of boiled to a head this year when I went to order my daughter’s school pictures. It usually isn’t a big deal trying to order them, but being the “non-custodial” parent who usually gets the information second-hand sometimes it takes a while to get it done. (Yes, I realize I could just have photographer friend take the photo and avoid all the trouble so I guess I am a glutton for punishment).

Anyway, I logged onto the website with my special code and wanted to just download the image to my computer and then go have them printed in the quantities and styles I desired. So, I selected the outrageously overpriced digital image – $22. Say what? Yeah, you read that right…let’s do some quick math…

If a school has 300 hundred students and the photographer can get 60 students through a line and photographed per hour, then the photographer would work for five hours. The photographer is, most likely, using a digital camera to take said digital images @ $22 each, therefore making $1320/hr, or $6600/day. That is of course presuming that each parent purchases just the digital image, let alone one of the other overpriced packages they offer. Now we know not all parents purchase the pictures, but you get the idea.

So, after choosing the digital image for download I get to the check out page only to see that I am going to be charged a “Shipping and Handling” fee of $7. Uh, wait, what? I am downloading a digital image. Why is there a shipping and handling fee? What’s worse is that I can’t remove the fee either. The radial button is greyed out. I either pay the fee right now, or wait until the next day to call them. So, I opted to call the company the next day since surely the fee for a digital download isn’t $7 bucks…

I called the next day and waded through their automated answering system until I got to a real person to talk to. I explained my situation and asked if there was some kind of error on their website that wouldn’t allow me to remove the shipping and handling fee. The response?

“No, that is a flat fee we charge for all late orders.” 

Late? Yes, it is true I didn’t order when the pictures were taken in the fall, but your website says they can be ordered at any time until the following fall AND there is nothing to indicate this is a “late” order on the website. I was a little dumbfounded. I said, “You’re joking right? How does downloading a digital image warrant a $7 late fee or even a shipping and handling fee?”

“Well, we do have to mail you the rights release so you can have the picture printed.”

So what you’re saying is that you are going to charge me $7 to mail me a sheet of paper and an envelope that costs, at best, a stamp or maybe two? I said, “Listen, I understand it costs money to send a piece of paper and envelope out to me but I have ordered digital images from other photographers in the past and they didn’t charge me an extra fee for the rights release, they included it with the digital image download. Surely you have the ability to do that right? So, why would I need a piece of paper mailed to me? It takes less than three minutes to compose a generic email and attach two image files to it.”

“Ok, I suppose I could waive the shipping and handling fee. What email address would you like the images sent to?”

Thank you. Now was that so hard and how about you waive all shipping and handling fees for all digital downloads from here on out? I probably speak for everyone who has encountered this ridiculous fee. There is no reason for it other than you can, and you have families over a barrel. I would venture a guess that many people just pay the fee, which is sad.

Highway robbery, I tell ya, only there was no highway and the bandit holds parents and other family members hostage every dang year around school picture time.

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Opinion | Two Reasons Why “I Am Part of the Resistance” Isn’t What It Seems

For all the headlines the article below generated and all the sensationalized media coverage it received, I believe everyone has gotten a little too zealous in their efforts to discover the author of the article. Too many people are trying to read between the lines and ferret out details to see if the writer made mistakes or offers clues about their identity.

Predictions

Two bold predictions, based on my reading of the article: 1) this article was written by John McCain to be published posthumously; or 2) this article is fiction passed off by the NYT as an authentic source within the White House.

Bold predictions? Yes. Counter to all the speculation going on? Yes.

First option: What better way for John McCain to get his last punch in at the president (whom he didn’t like) and talk up the Republicans as saviors at the same time? The letter was written to undermine the president and his authority while still providing (however thin) reassurance to the nation that there are “adults in the room.” Published from the grave, he doesn’t have to take the wrath of the president, not that he wouldn’t be unable to handle it, and he doesn’t have to deal with the repercussions of how he got the Republican party all twisted up into a patriotic “coup” against the presidential man-child. He wouldn’t have to face endless questions about why he wrote it and why now. He wouldn’t have to explain anything, just let his final words stand as a defiant last act against a president he didn’t believe in.

Second opinion: What better way to set off the presidential man-child into an unhinged, Twitter rant and create a White House witch hunt for a culprit that doesn’t exist than for someone, or group of people, to create a piece of fiction that implicates the Republicans in a “patriotic coup” while undermining the president and sending a message to the American people that no one is really in control? Thus, the White House enters into more chaos than ever and the Republicans are pointing fingers at each other in speculation and distrusting each other as the mid-term elections are nearing. Now, the president will look at everyone around him with even more distrust and, quite possibly, the irrational behavior will be even harder to counter. Whatever or whomever the real source is, they weren’t in the White House but now they are “in the White House” by virtue of causing everyone to be looking over their shoulder all the time.

Proof

What proof or evidence do I have? None. But, everyone else is speculating, so why can’t I?

I do believe that the author is not a high ranking official, probably not even someone who works in the White House. The title just makes for great headlines and copy to sell papers.

I can rationalize that opinion because on close reading of the article the author never offers any proof – everything is vague and there are no real details. This of course could be intentional so as to not reveal their identity, but it could also be because they really aren’t privy to anything substantial. Everything that is written, or offered as an “example,” could have been written from a distance and surmised from other reporting or gleaned from conversations not directly related to someone actually in the White House. Hell, I could have written the article, or any one of you, considering all the coverage on this administration and the media’s obsession with finding negativity in everything the president does. It wouldn’t be hard to write given that the pattern of behavior is well established and that the Republicans are going to try desperately hard to maintain some kind of control on both houses of Congress. By offering the American people some kind of “monitoring buffer” of the president’s behavior, they are hoping there will be enough reassurance to maintain it.

Ultimately, the information will come out. Whether the author steps forward on their own or they are “outted” by someone else, the truth will come out. It always does.

Truman and Free Speech

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“There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have. And the reason this is so fundamental to freedom is not, as many suppose, that it protects the few unorthodox from suppression by the majority. To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…But we would betray our finest traditions if we attempted…to curb the simple expression of opinion. This we should never do, no matter how distasteful the opinion may be to the vast majority of our people…We need not fear the expression of ideas—we do need to fear their suppression.”

– President Harry S. Truman

Context: fighting communism in the United States and around the world.

The emphasis above is mine. One of the most important freedoms we have is under attack and I’m afraid it will only get worse. The attacks are coming fast and furious and from every side. I doubt there will be a turn from this trend, only a charging straight into an unknown and dark future.

“We punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have”

We have sunk so low these days that we are punishing people for their opinions. I don’t mean we are legally punishing them, though I suspect we aren’t far off from this. (On second thought, maybe we are – see the baker, the florist, the photographer, the wedding venue, etc. being prosecuted because of their beliefs and opinions.)

We are now punishing people in the public arena via social media, sometimes even to the point of violence off-line. There is no crime in holding an opinion and expressing it, yet many people apparently believe it is these days. The trend to punish people for their opinions has gone to name calling, bullying, harassing, taunting, threatening, unfriending, embarrassing, humiliating, and in some cases even following through with physical violence simply because someone disagrees with another person’s opinion or disagrees with their extreme viewpoint.

Take this student photo article as an example. No harm done, to anyone, by her posting a photo she is proud of. It is easy to imagine that anyone would post a picture they have when they got it while interacting with someone famous. So, when did it become acceptable to treat someone so poorly because you disagree with them?

We teach our kids in school not to bully, harass, threaten, or otherwise make someone uncomfortable (Really? Because that’s reality…). Yet, there is no reasonable expectation among the adult world that this will carry forth into daily life. We aren’t practicing what we preach. It brings to mind that whole “Do what I say, not what I do” adage.

Now, it appears at least as adults, we celebrate people who go out of their way to bully, harass, or even attack others who have opinions that don’t line up with mainstream opinion. We are teaching our kids that it is ok to fight detestable and offensive opinions with violence and intimidation and bullying and harassment, etc. as long as we believe it to be repugnant.

The whole point of the United States and it’s foundation was to protect free speech, even the kind we find repugnant. Our Founders, who were persecuted for their beliefs and opinions, are celebrated because they fought against a society that believed their ideas were repugnant. (Back to the whole historical argument – were our Founders patriots or terrorists? It depends on your point of view.) Our Constitution is meant to protect all ideas and opinions, even the ones we don’t like, because we are supposed to have a “marketplace of ideas”. Take the ones you like and leave the ones you don’t. There is nothing in the Constitution about convincing others they are wrong by bullying and harassing them into changing their idea.

Truman understood that “To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…”  He understood that if there is a problem in society it needed to be discussed and worked on until it was fixed. If there is a belief that our country is going in the wrong direction, then there needs to be open dialogue about it not suppression and violence.

If we become a society that suppresses ideas we don’t like or find repugnant, how do we move forward? Censorship at every corner and in every facet of life? I know everyone hates the cliche “slippery slope,” but we are seeing some prime examples these days. Where does the suppression of ideas or thoughts, or opinions end? What one person finds objectionable, another finds acceptable. Who gets to decide in a open and free society?

 

 

 

The Debate: What is “Life”?

This is, apparently, life.

This is, apparently, life.

This, apparently, is not life.

This, apparently, is not life.

Science is an interesting thing. Much like math, you can pick and choose how to use it or interpret what it means.

It always amazes me that scientists can define “life” as a microscopic microbe (literally had to use an electron-microscope to see it because it is so tiny) and yet fail to see a fetus in a womb as “life”. The definition of “life” on biology-online.org seems pretty clear to me.

This article, “Critters found in Antarctic ice show how tenacious life is,” has me in a feisty mood. “Life” as they claim can apparently exist in the most inhospitable environments (including space, maybe) but “life” can’t exist in the most protective and nurturing of places, like a woman’s womb. At least, that is if you are someone that supports abortion.

Here is another one of those weird (not really, but we’ll call it that) things that seems hard to justify. If you are a criminal and happen to kill a woman who was pregnant, you can be charged with murder of the fetus in 38 states in the United States. However, if you are an abortion doctor, you apparently exempt from these laws? What gives?

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox, for now. Anyone else not understand these obvious inconsistencies?

Wanna join me on the box? Add your two cents below.

I am not an Idiot: Celebrity Endorsements

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Dear Capitol One (or any other advertiser),

I am NOT a idiot, though you keep insisting that I am.

Why do you keep running ads with a celebrity endorsement that you had to pay too much money for? Do you think I am that weak minded enough to run out and get your product just because a celebrity holds it in their hands?

Just recently I saw your ad, “Musical Chairs,” with the likes of Jennifer Garner praising the merits of your travel miles credit card. Why, oh why, do you think this would compel me to get your credit card? She isn’t going to sell it to me any better than Samuel L. Jackson, or Alec Baldwin. I didn’t get your credit card then, so what makes you think I am going to do it now? Really? Like those two are gonna sell anything to respectable adults.

How much money do you have to pay these celebrities to hock your wares? Does Jennifer’s husband, Ben Affleck, not make enough money so she is out earning a living again?

Why don’t we make a deal? How about we agree to leave each other alone? You stay off my television/computer, stop clogging up my online shows with your stupid commercials (and my mailbox for that matter) and in return, should I need a credit card, I’ll seek you out. I’m sure I know where to look if I need you. Deal?

And to you celebrities, knock it off! Has your shine worn off enough that you prostitute yourself to any company that will pay you? It doesn’t matter the product, or even if it is a charity. I DON’T CARE! Entertain me. That is all. That is what I pay for. Not your opinions or your endorsements. You only show how desperate you are to stay in the limelight that faded long ago.  Stop. Please.

Please, Capital One, if you are going to run lame commercials, don’t employ B-list (or any other list) celebrities.

Not so sincerely,

Smartus Assimus