Tag Archives: Knowledge

Electronic Prudes On The March

I love digital photography, but the ease with which we can alter photographs does make for some sticky situations.

Case in point: Wasatch High School in Utah.

As does most every other school in the country, Wasatch High School has a yearbook. The students are required to have their picture taken for the yearbook with the expectation that those pictures would be used in the yearbook.

Since it’s a picture of an individual, it’s assumed (there’s that word.) that any alterations of the picture would be by the dude or dudette actually in the picture. Even that’s a pretty slippery slope. The purpose of a yearbook photo is to capture a likeness of the various students as they looked that year.

What’s the use of taking a photograph of yourself and then digitally altering the hair color, scrubbing the zits off your face and filling in the gap between your two front teeth? Okay, sure you might like the look better, but it’s not who you are.

The idea of the school going in and altering the pictures without the knowledge or consent of the person in the picture is abhorrent to me, a complete violation of expectations of privacy and common decency.

Which, oddly enough, is the concept that the Wasatch High School administrators are hiding behind in their failed attempt to justify their intrusiveness in the yearbook photos.

See, the folks at the high school started making changes to the photos to fit in with some sort of ill-conceived, ill-defined value of decency. V-neck sweaters were given a makeover so they were square cut and Shelby Baumexposed less bosom.

Tattoos were digitally erased. Young ladies wearing sleeveless dresses had digital sleeves clumsily attached to them.

All of which would be bad enough, but the changes were inconsistently applied. Some girls had their image modified and some didn’t, even though both might have had the same sort of dress on in their pictures.

“I feel like they’re shaming you, like you’re not enough, you’re not perfect,” sophomore Shelby Baum told the Associated Press on Thursday. Baum’s collarbone tattoo reading “I am enough the way I am” was removed from her photo. She also discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt. Baum said she wants a refund or a new book with an unaltered photo.

Good luck with that, Ms. Baum. See, the school is climbing up on its high horse and claiming the high ground of morality. It’s immoral to wear sleeveless dresses or have plunging necklines.

It’s also saying the students had ample warning not to show up looking like a harlot.

On Thursday, the school issued a statement saying a four-by-five foot sign warned students on picture day that “tank tops, low cut tops, inappropriate slogans on shirts, etc. would not be allowed” and that “photos may be edited to correct the violation.”

Which, even if the sign was there (and that’s a big if as several parents who attended said there was no sign), it doesn’t give them the right to go in without permission and alter someone’s face or body. If the school didn’t like the student’s outfit, it should have sent the student home.

Where does this end? Do we lighten someone’s skin color the so he fits in better in a group photo? Eliminate a shirt that has colors associated with her religion?

What’s important is who you are, not what you’re wearing.

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Defending The Thank You Note

Thank-you notes were the bane of my existence.

I couldn’t stand the horrible things. Just straight-up couldn’t stand them.

Even worse, to the young dude I used to be, my birthday is in late November, just about a month before Christmas. Which meant I had to write all those thank-you notes at the same time.

Mooo-oooo-oommmm! My hand hurts! Do I have to write all these? What’s the difference? No one cares? Mom! Are you listening to me?

Writing thank-you notes just went downhill from there.

The thing is, even though she’s dead, I have the feeling she’s still smiling over what I’m about to write.

The same answers she gave me when I was a young complainer who didn’t know how good I had it. . . Yeah, those are the same things I tell my three young dudes, young complainers all, who all don’t know how good they have it.

Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad . . . None of them count good penmanship among their many skills. In this way, they really take after their dad. I’ve never been able to craft a written letter with a neat hand that will allow others to read it without struggling.

(The fact that I became a reporter and didn’t get sued for writing down the wrong thing, or writing down the right thing, but not being able to read it and printing the wrong thing, is a testament to my young eyes and resilient brain that could actually remember stuff.)

So writing anything is not their favorite activity. Not even in their favorite top 100. Or top 1000. Or, well, you get the idea.

Still, I make it as easy for them as possible. I take notes during present times so we know who gave what. I’ll give each young dude a list (as well as a list for their mom), with the name and address for each person written next to it. Some years, I’ll even help write the address on the front of the envelope.

And still they complain. Zippy the College Boy, especially, keeps harping on about how no one cares about thank-you notes and how he’d never want to get one from anyone he sent a gift to. And, if he does have to write one, why can’t he type it out and e-mail it to the person?

That last one is a toughie. Personally, I’m all in favor of writing electronic thank-you notes. It saves paper. It saves energy. It gets there quicker. It’s better than sending a paper note at all levels.

The problem being that most people who are sending the young dudes gifts are older than they are. Which means they were raised in an era when a handwritten note was essential if you wanted to express a sincere emotion to someone. An e-mail is seen as the slacker’s way of doing things, as not requiring enough effort to show that you really did mean a sincere thank you.

It’s silly, but that’s the way it is. Which means we have to live with it and work within it.

Which means I get to hear the complaints again and again.

Eventually, I fell back on my mom’s best counter to my note whining.

“If you really don’t want to write a thank-you note. . . That’s fine.”

I’d celebrate, but she wasn’t done.

“I’ll just tell everyone that doesn’t get a thank-you note that you’ve decided not to receive presents any more. Receiving a gift from someone means you’ve entered into a contract. You’re end of the contract is that you will write a thank-you note. No note? No present.”

It’s mean. It’s heavy-handed. It’s autocratic.

But, darn it, people who took the time to pick out and mail a gift to you, deserve acknowledgement for trying to make your life better.

It’s a small price to pay, but one I think is well worth it.

So. . . *sigh* Yes, Mom. You were right about saying thank you in a short letter. Again.

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The Right To An Assist

My mom never asked me to kill her.

She would, she told me, spare me that. But, she also finished her thought with a reminder that should I find her dead by her own hand, it wasn’t an indictment of anyone, but merely because she wasn’t enjoying her life any more.

Mom, who died from complications of Multiple Sclerosis and meningitis in February 2011, had suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for almost as long as I can remember and she hated it. She hated the fact that she couldn’t chase after her grandchildren, or even lift them out of their cribs.

She walked with a cane and a brace, but really needed a walker there near the end. She had her friends and her house and her sports she loved to watch.

Still, no matter how happy she seemed, she made sure to tell me and my sister, Tia, that she always reserved the right to check out any time the MS got to be too much, took away too much of her enjoyment of life.

Maybe it was because I grew up with that idea hovering in the background, but I’ve always believed that people should be able to choose when to give up the fight. Folks should be able to exit the stage at their own discretion. Of course, I also believe that, in most cases, suicide is a stupidly permanent solution to a temporary problem.

But what if the problem isn’t temporary? What if it will be with you, hamper you, throughout the rest of your life?

That’s the difference, as I see it.

And I’m not alone.Dr. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Stephen Hawking, widely renowned as one of the most intelligent people in the world, recently talked to the media about the importance of being allowed to choose an assistant to help him take his own life. Not just him, Hawking said, but anyone who needs the help should have it and not worry that the helper will be pursued by the law for what they did.

Hawking, who has progressive motor neuron disease and has already lost the ability to move most of his body under his own power and can only speak through a computerized synthesizer, said assisting suicide should be legal, but there must be safeguards put in place to prevent any kind of abuse.

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurized into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent as would have been the case with me.”

Although Hawking at one point was put on a respirator and more severe life support machines, the off switch given to his wife, he has always maintained that, where there is life, there is hope. However, he recognizes that choosing to end a life filled with pain is a very personal decision and one that should only be made by the person in question.

Sir Terry PratchettIn addition to Hawking, Sir Terry Pratchett, a man I believe to be the greatest writer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is a firm believer in the right of a person with a terminal disease to take his or her own life. Pratchett, author of more than 50 books, suffers from an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. He’s one of the most vocal campaigners in Britain for the right to choose when to die.

Pratchett recently released a second documentary chronicling his quest to make the right to die one found in Britain and other countries around the world.

He counts himself lucky, despite his diagnosis.

I have to tell you that I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now. And so did my specialist. At the moment, it’s the fact that I’m well into my sixties [he is 64] that’s the problem. All the minor things that flesh is heir to. This knee is giving me a bit of gyp. That sort of thing. And I’m well into the time of life when a man knows he has a prostate. By the time you’ve reached your sixties you do know that one day you will die and knowing that is at least the beginning of wisdom.

Still, he says, no matter how well or how poorly he’s doing, he wants to be able to reserve the right to die when he believes it’s time. He will, he said, know when the pain in his life is too much to bear. When life becomes a burden to be endured, rather than a profound joy to experience.

(Pratchett) is dismayed that Tony Nicklinson, the severely disabled man (in England) who fought and last month lost an impassioned campaign to end his life, effectively had to starve himself to death. “I put his picture on the little lectern by my desk because I don’t want this guy forgotten. He was very clear about what he wanted and you cannot tell me that two doctors helping him to go to sleep [as in a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland], would constitute murder. It cannot be murder. The law says it’s murder so the law is most definitely wrong and needs to be changed. This poor guy was a prisoner of technology.”

It’s time, dudes. It’s time for us to find a way to let people like Pratchett, Hawking or my mom exit with dignity and on their own schedule. These are not people who are having a bad day, but rather begging to be allowed to make the ultimate decision as to whether their life is worth living.

My mom never asked me to kill her. But I would have.

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