no ifs, just butts


So you’d have to have been living in an unpowered shack on an island in the Okhotsk Sea not to know the selfie is a thing. But just how big a thing is frankly unbelievable.

One of the hottest gifts this Christmas was in essence a stick which allows people to extend their arm length to take better photos of themselves.

Retailers reported they could barely keep up the demand for selfie sticks, or as one wag dubbed it, the narcissus stick.

What archaeologists of the future will make of these telescopic aluminium poles is anyone’s guess.

While it’s unlikely this tool will be displayed alongside the stone axes and bronze arrowheads in the great timeline of human development, it could well go down as the object which defines the present decade.

Now, given that people have been taking photos of themselves since the 1830s, the selfie itself is hardly new.

It got an official lexicographical leg-up in 2013 when the Oxford English Dictionary folk named it word of the year after research showed its use had soared 17,000 per cent in 12 months.

The earliest published use is attributed to an Australian uni student called Nathan Hope who, in September 2002, posted a picture in a chat forum of himself sporting a stitched fat lip after falling over drunk at a mate’s 21st party.

Nathan wanted to know if compulsively licking his injured lip would make the stitches dissolve too soon and apologised to forum users for the quality of photo which was a “selfie”.

By rights it should have ended then and there.

But since then the world has gone selfie mad to the point where no less a personage than prime ministers, presidents and, even the pope, pose for selfies.

Personally, I don’t get it.

You go to the Louvre to gaze on the Mona Lisa and think there’s something missing here, so turn your back on the most famous painting of the world and take a photo of yourself as Beyonce did?

Now it seems the cult of self is making people sick and in some instances even killing them.

Last year an English teenager called Danny Bowman became the pin-up boy for selfie addiction after it was revealed he spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 snaps of himself on his iPhone.

Other people have fallen to their deaths off cliffs and bridges while attempting to capture the shot of themselves and a famous landmark. One boy was critically wounded when he accidentally shot himself while taking a selfie with one hand and holding a gun to his chin with the other.

So I guess if only from the perspective of public safety we should welcome the selfie stick and prepare for the onslaught of improvements including hi-definition selfies, thermal selfies, 360 degree selfies, special teeth-whitening selfie flashes and selfie-drones.

But has society reached the bottom line with the belfie?

The phrase belfie was reportedly coined by “selfie queen” Kim Kardashian after posting a photo of her rear on Instagram.

Now, some wise ass, has come up with the Belfie stick – which is basically a selfie stick which “bends in the middle so you can angle it to snap the perfect shot of your booty”.

The belfie for people who need never ask: does my ego look big in this?





giving gifts


The Christmas tree will not be the greenest item in the lounge rooms of many households this year.

Increasing numbers of people are opting out of the commercial excesses of Christmas in favour of more charitable means of gift-giving.

My friend Lucy is one of those who has redefined the family Christmas.

It started a couple of years back when she really shelled out on her younger brother by buying a certificate for him to send a giant sea turtle to rehabilitation.

The creature in question didn’t have a drug problem, but far more seriously is in grave danger of extinction.

Basically, I made a contribution on my brother’s behalf to a program trying to save the giant turtles off Indonesia through the World Wild Life Fund,” she reveals.

Lucy’s gift to her older brother was to offset one and a half tonnes of greenhouse gases, which equates to the average carbon emission for every Australian in one month including transport and home.

Her nieces and nephews all received certificates thanking them for buying school supplies for children in Bangladesh, providing safe water for communities in India, and fuel-efficient stoves in Tanzania.

On top of their usual expenditure Australians will lay out an extra $1079 each between December 1 and January 6, 2015 according to the CommBank festive forecast.

Victorians, per person, will spend $401 on Christmas gifts, $306 on Christmas holidays, $164 on Boxing Day sales, $118 entertaining friends and family and $75 on extra food and drink.

But while people are spending more year on year, there is encouraging evidence to show more thought is going into gift-giving.

That envelope under the tree could just be a receipt for a mosquito net to protect a toddler in Africa, where one child dies every second, or closer to home sponsorship of a Seeing Eye Dog Australia puppy.

With more than a week still to go Oxfam is already reporting a 20 per cent increase in purchases from its Unwrapped range this year on 2013 sales figures.

More than one million Unwrapped gifts have been purchased in Australia since the program began in 2005, raising more than $40 million for Oxfam’s life-saving development projects.

This year’s most popular Christmas gifts include a chicken for families in South Africa, clean water for families in Papua New Guinea, seeds for families in Sri Lanka, a goat for a family in Mozambique and support for a program to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders women.

World Vision also reports strong sales this year with a 25 per cent increase in gifts to benefit indigenous Australians.

This year for the first time two gifts of learning materials for indigenous Australian children have muscled their way into the top 10 items purchased from the World Vision catalogue.

With almost 70 per cent of people identifying rampant commercialisation as one of their top gripes about Christmas in a survey by McCrindle Research, it seems more of us are starting to put our money where our mouth is.

Most people I know are really aware of the contradiction of their values on a daily basis and what happens at Christmas time, “ Lucy says.

It’s a time to remember the majority of the world actually lives in need whereas we live in a society where the majority of us live in want.”