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Today's word on journalism

Friday, September 1, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Walking the Line: USU students 'slackline' in spare time

By Amanda Wouden

May 3, 2006 | While studying, Utah State University students, Jon Knott and Whit Lund take a break to "slack, while slacking off," Lund said.

"We set up the line while doing homework, but we usually just end up slacking the whole time," Lund, a junior in business administration said.

A type of portable tight rope walking, slacklinning, is "the act of having an unbelievable amount of fun walking and doing tricks on a piece of webbing pulled tight between two points, also used as a form of meditation, physical and mental training," according to slacklineexpress.com.

"It's like who invented bread? Did one person invent it or did multiple people at different times," Lund said.

The ancestry of current slacklining is generally credited to two rockclimbers from California who started walking on loose chains and cables in the early 1980s. After time they started to string up ther climbing gear to test their balancing skills and the term slacklining was born.

HOW ITS'S DONE: A USU student demonstrates
slacklining. / Photo by Amanda Wouden

"Setting up a slackline is the process of gaining a mechanical advantage through friction and a simple pulley system. The more times we wrap, the less we have to pull to make it tight. As it tightens the webbing holds itself," Knott, a junior in biology said.

We want it as tight as we can get it. We walk it a couple of times and then we have to retighten it, Knott said.

Knott and Lund consider themselves beginners. "We are just starting," Knott said.

"You gotta get in the mood a little bit -- because you have to be relaxed and calm to do it," Knott said.

"If you are too tense it doesn't work," Lund said.

While attempting a 180 Knott fell off the line into a pushup positon. "Wow that could have been dangerous," onlooker Rebekah Royce said.

I haven't been hurt too bad. You can fall off with one foot on the other side of the line than your body, and sometimes you get scrapes but nothing too serious, Lund said.

"One time I missed the line went down and hit my stomach on it, grabbed it and flipped around to the ground," Lund said.

One way slackers can get hurt is by surfing the line. "It's when you get out there and the line starts swaying back and forth," Knott said.

"Not a little wobble but a big one," Lund said.

"When you walk across really fast, we call that 'sprinting the line', it's not a technical term, we just made it up," Lund said.

Sprinting the line was not a problem for first-timer Rebekah Royce, a junior in geology. Just relax was the main point as Lund and Knott gave advice and tips to Royce.

"Don't think of it as you have to concentrate, you just do it. The times when I do best is when I am just confident and walk," Lund said.

"If you think too much you start to screw up," Knott said.

We started with the webbing low, around 2 feet off the ground but once you get in the middle the line hits the ground, he said.

"We started out having someone walk next to us, so that we could put our hands on their heads if we needed, but really it was just for the first two or three walks," Lund said.

While setting up the slackers put cardboard on the trees to protect them and their webbing, Lund said.

"Different tree's bark is fine, but on these trees this webbing would tear the bark off, so you have to be careful," Knott said.

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