thanks @owen and @claus, but this isn't the problem.  I know about the
different modes and use them a lot.  This is something that sometimes happens,
and I don't know if I'm accidentally pressing something.  

As to ctrl^T, that's not it, because it's not about the visibility of the
selection, it's about the selection itself.  The selection actually disappears
and is replaced by the new one, whichever mode I use, and whichever selection
tool I use.  (it's easy to tell what the selection is by pressing ctrl^comma
and seeing the extent of the fill, even when the marquee is invisible)

The funny thing is that it happens only sometimes.  Could it be a bug?

>Hi Andrew,
>Andrew wrote:
>> I have trouble sometimes modifying the selection -- the new selection
>> the old instead of modifying it.  Also, the selection marks become
>> -- using the modifier keys or the selection mode menu, and using any of
>> selection tools -- doesn't help
>> -- selection should be visible according to view menu, but it isn't
>> -- the only way I can get back to normal is save and restart gimp
>> Either I've entered some select-unfriendly mode, or there's a bug.  Help?

>inside the "Tool" options, there's the possibility to set different 
>modes for
>selections, such as 'Add', 'Subtract', etc. By checking the respective
>you can add to or subtract from the current selection. If the selection
>"disappears", just press CTRL+T. This should bring the  selection back,
>unless you accidentally  removed the selection. Sometimes  I made the
>experience that CTRL+T doesn't work for some reason. Then 'View >
>Selection' brings the selection back.

Andrew K. (via
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