fistAs you can see by clicking the link below, a Sydney Premier Division AFL player has risked spending 20 years in jail for sucker punching an opponent during a game.

Risked 20 years in jail?

Absolutely: that’s the new available sentence for a one punch “sucker punch” – also known as “coward’s punch” – that results in the death of the victim, whether that death results from the punch itself or from a head hitting the ground.

Watch the shocking vision here:

https://au.sports.yahoo.com/afl/news/article/-/24751903/afl-player-throws-sickening-sucker-punch/

As reported, the incident occurred during the UNSW/ES Bulldogs v Western Suburbs Magpies game on Saturday afternoon.

A Magpies player can be seen chasing his opponent before throwing a left hook that instantly knocks the Bulldogs player out.

The only way you can see the very obvious and incredibly stupid assault is by clicking the link above because vision was originally posted on YouTube as part of AFL Sydney’s ‘Match of the Week’ video before it was taken down.

The disgraceful act is gaining worldwide attention, with US website The Bleacher Report posting: “Australian Rules Football is a physical game, but there is no room in the sport for a cheap shot like this.”

The incident has also been condemned on social media:

It is not clear who the players involved are, but the victim is reportedly okay. We find it simply astonishing that any young man would engage in this behaviour after all the recent publicity over the dangers of this kind of behaviour.

One thing’s for sure, he should be kicked out of his club, and banned by the AFL for a very, very long time.

 

In a development that will shock Australians already anxious about the possibility of home-grown jihadists launching terror attacks on home soil, explosives similar to those used in the 7/7 London tube bombings and maps possibly targeting two NSW locations have been uncovered in a ­suburban home.

The media are reporting that one map ­contained the words “George St’’ and “uniform’’, believed to refer to a uniform shop on the Sydney street near Central Station.

The second map had references to “brothel’’, “bridge’’ and “grave’’, believed to be a site in Newcastle.

Australian Federal Police have joined the investigation.

Daniel Fing / Picture: Channel 9

Daniel Fing / Picture: Channel 9

Police discovered the maps while raiding property in Pullenvale, north of Brisbane, last week which was being rented by NSW man Daniel Fing, 30, who was taken into custody.

The haul of explosives included 22 litres of liquid explosive material TATP, (triacetone triperoxide peroxyacetone) which is favoured by ­terrorists for suicide attacks as it contains no nitrogen and is therefore undetectable by searches looking for nitrogen traces, and which was used in the ­London attacks because it can create a military grade explosive. Given the extreme instability of the material, the threat to the local area of accidental detonation, let alone any deliberate attempt to set off a terrorist explosion, must have been very significant.

“It’s an extreme explosive. It’s made from very common household ingredients,” explosives expert Dr James Blinco from the QUT School of Chemistry in Brisbane said.

Astonishingly – and especially given the likelihood of any old crazies and ratbags only loosely-connected to any formal terrorist group deciding to perform some unthinkable act to achieve their five minutes of infamy – the recipe for TATP is freely available on the Internet, including a YouTube video which demonstrates how to make the explosive.

We have one simple question to ask Googe, YouTube, and the rest.

Why?

Especially, as a quick Google search reveals, Mr Fing has previous, bombing a love-rivals car with the very same explosive back in 2006, a crime for which he was sentenced to four years in jail.

Surely we should be seeking to reduce the free availability of information about explosive manufacture, which no one could possibly need for legal purposes? We are normally very loathe to restrict or censor information, but this one would seem to be a no-brainer, especially in today’s troubled world.

We are also concerned about the fact that this haul seems to have been discovered by happy accident. The Brisbane Times reports that a real estate agent unwittingly stumbled across other suspicious items on Wednesday night, leading to officers discovering the explosives.

In 2011, Mr Fing survived a drive-by shooting when a gunman allegedly opened fire at his home in Belmont, NSW. The man charged with Mr Fing’s attempted murder was later found not guilty. Police have not said if they know the whereabouts of a woman who was living at the Pullenvale house with Mr Fing. He is currently facing charges dating from 2012 of wounding, assault, weapon and drug possession and is due to face a NSW court on August 27.

Sheesh.

richardWe have no idea if Cliff Richard is guilty of having assaulted a young man under the age of 16, 25 years ago, or at any other time. He vigorously denies the charge, but then so have others who have subsequently been found guilty. What is undoubtedly true is that the worldwide publicity effectively organised by the police before he has been charged with anything is deeply worrying to anyone who values due process and concepts of privacy.

Famed QC Geoffrey Robertson outlines his concerns in an article we link to below, and it is well worth reading for anyone who value concepts of liberty under the law.

As Robertson points out, “Police initially denied “leaking” the raid, but South Yorkshire Police finally confirmed yesterday afternoon that they had been “working with a media outlet” – presumably the BBC – about the investigation. They also claimed “a number of people” had come forward with more information after seeing coverage of the operation – which leads one to suspect that this was the improper purpose behind leaking the operation in the first place.  This alone calls for an independent inquiry.”

We all need to consider the implications of this very carefully. Imagine, if you will, that a police officer (or team of police officers) has a suspicion that someone – anyone, you – is guilty of having committed a serious crime. If the way this matter has been conducted is to be a template for the future, then they make no effort to contact you directly, even though they know where you are, but they do confirm their investigation to the inquisitive media and invite their co-operation.

Remember, this is without proof, or charges having been laid. It seems nothing more nor less than a deliberate tactic to stir up other people to come forward with allegations or evidence against you.

This type of “fishing” behaviour, which must inevitably result in great damage to a person’s reputation before it is even known if charges will be laid, is not how police investigations happen in a liberal democracy, and it strongly implies that some Police in the UK are either unaware of the appropriate way to behave, or no longer consider themselves restrained by concepts of liberty and privacy.

Remember, Richard may be guilty of absolutely nothing at all. But we don’t expect to see him hosting any Christmas specials anytime soon.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-way-the-police-have-treated-cliff-richard-is-completely-unacceptable-9672367.html

For the record,

In a statement on Thursday, Sir Cliff took appeared to take aim at the force’s decision, saying: “The police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press”.

He added: “For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online.

“The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.”

He also said that he will “fully cooperate” with the police.

The televised raid was also criticised by Conservative MP and Former Deputy Commons Speaker Nigel Evans, himself previously cleared of sexual assault charges by a unanimous jury vote, and currently fighting furiously to retain his Parliamentary seat following a grassroots campaign to unseat him as an MP, who told ITV:

“It appears the press knew what was happening before he did and the world’s media were camped outside his doorstep. A press helicopter was up before the police even arrived — he is quite right to be angry about that. Questions have got to be answered.”

They have indeed.

img-thingHard as it may be to believe (doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?) it is three years today since the very first article was posted on Wellthisiswhatithink.

For the stattos amongst you, in that time we have published a total of 783 articles, (about one every 33 hours or so), and received 3,631 comments from just about every corner of the planet, the vast majority of them thoughtful, educated, pertinent, and largely kind and supportive. There has been very very little trolling or hate mail.

We are most grateful for the effort you make, Dear Reader, in “keeping the conversation going”.

Our busiest ever month was April this year when a post about a customer complaint to RyanAir went viral. Only three months in the three years have had under 2000 visits and in total, we have had 252,298 visits. No, wait, 252,299 … 252,300 … oh well, you get the picture. Average daily hits are running at 1,115 so far on 2014.

By far our biggest number of posts (550) have included the category “Popular Culture et al” in their header, followed by Political Musings (359), Humour (147) and Business Management (91). We hope you will agree that our stated goal when we started, to re-report things that interest us (and always the credit them, please note) and to make our own opinions known where we feel strongly about something, has been met.

We thoroughly enjoy writing the blog, which we see as influencing world debate by one small regular drop in an ocean of opinions, (but who knows which drop is the one that causes the dam to break, eh?), but most importantly we enjoy it as a way to reach out, engender discussion between people of good will, and provide a little harmless entertainment, too. If that’s how it works for you, we’re glad. That’s how it works for us.

Science fiction author Philip Dick said it all.

Dick also famously remarked "In the middle of an irrational Universe governed by an irrational mind stands rational man." Amen.

Dick also famously remarked “In the middle of an irrational Universe governed by an irrational mind stands rational man.” Amen.

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups … So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

Well, we would not claim to make up whole universes. Just the occasional thought, perhaps.

But we sure as hell don’t want to leave all the reality-making to the powerful, the cashed-up, and the privileged.

Especially for those facing oppression and blind authority, the massive explosion of the blogosphere is hope, democracy and liberty in action.

Long may it continue.

_76955875_downton

We wish we could claim that headline as our own, but we must credit the Daily Mirror, who amongst people – well, pretty much the whole world, actually – spotted a plastic water bottle nestling incongruously in the latest set of publicity shots for the iconic British soap-opera-cum-drama.

As plastic water bottles don’t come along for another 60 years or so after the supposed era of the show, the mistake has been gleefully picked up on by the worldwide media. Well, it’s either a silly mistake, or it’s the best possible little publicity ploy they ever dreamed up.

Anyway. “Oh joy of snobbish, asparagus-fork-waving joys. Downton Abbey is back,” said the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir. “At first look, the fifth series appears to be just as glorious and gloriously silly as ever.”

The Times’s Alex Spence says viewers can expect the latest series to be “less gloomy” than the last, which featured a death, rape and the aftermath of World War One, adding: “The series premiere, screened for journalists in London yesterday, depicted a lighter, happier mood around the estate than during the last series.” That’s good news for the Wellthisiswhatithink household who were threatening rebellion the show had become so relentlessly gloomy. And let’s not forget there was a probable murder hinted at in the final episode, too.

“There are enough parties and drama to do the Roaring Twenties justice,” reckoned Express reviewer Elisa Roche. “The brilliant series opener will leave viewers dreaming of owning a luxurious wardrobe and a well-stocked pantry.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph remembers Labour leader Ed Miliband’s quip that the Tory party reminded him of Downton Abbey’s “out-of-touch” aristocrats and says “It would appear the dislike is mutual.” Anita Singh wrote: “It opens in 1924, the year Ramsay MacDonald became prime minister [in Labour's first government], and the Earl of Grantham makes plain his feelings on the matter: ‘This government,’ he warns, ‘is committed to the destruction of people like us and everything we stand for.'” Well, goodness. It was bad enough when he was pissed off at Lloyd George.

michelle

“It is the rise of socialism that threatens to destroy the world’s favourite English country house for good,” agrees the Independent’s Adam Sherwin. But he adds that despite the foray into politics, life goes on as normal: “No opportunity for plot signalling is avoided – an early-hours house fire is inevitably used to expose who has tip-toed into the wrong bedroom.”

However, nearly all papers were most fascinated by the publicity shot of the Earl and his daughter, Lady Edith – played by Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael. The Mirror takes the pun prize all round, describing it as a “real dampener”.

Anyway, be that as it may, we think the big news is that by the time Series 5 rolls onto our screens in January, Lady Mary is no longer mournfully turning down every suitor and is right back in the dating game. Good news. The ineffably beautiful Michelle Dockery would be worth watching reading the phone book in our quietly besotted view. Seeing her trip the light fantastic with a string of handsome beaus will be quite charming.

Apparently Ms Dockery is not at all posh in real life, indeed she’s an Essex girl originally and currently lives in the East End of London, and likes nothing better than a quick pint in her local pub to relax. Really, who knew? Our type of gal, dammit.

As always, to enjoy our huge list of bloopers, cock ups and downright F*** Ups from the world of media and advertising (amongst other things) just pop “F*** Up” in the Search box top left on this page, and press Enter.

dislikeOne of the biggest and most persistent criticisms of Facebook that you hear in people’s grumbles is that it has morphed from being a social networking site into nothing more than a mechanism to deliver you ads and sponsored PR content.

In a way, that’s hardly Facebook’s fault. It is, to its users, a “free” service, after all. So the business model demands that they sell ads.

Of course, as any good marketeer will explain, there is an unwritten compact between the advertisers and the advertised to that we ignore at our marketing peril.

Too much advertising, or too badly targeted, or too repetitive, and the great unwashed masses start turning away from the advertiser or advertisers who are pestering them to the point of distraction. You see the same effect with TV advertising. You’re watching a favourite movie, and the same advertiser pops up in every ad break, playing you the self-same message time after time after time.

Sure, the advertiser is getting their desired “reach and frequency figures”, but they are also very likely having afacebook-fail net negative effect on their market. How much advertising is enough is a much more complex discussion than the simple sheets of “Xs in boxes” that advertisers get from their media buying companies, whose skill set is generally focused on, well, buying more and more media. That’s how they make their money, after all.

Unfortunately, the way the website is set up now is making it increasingly user-unfriendly and sometimes downright annoying.

In case you doubt such a harsh judgement, read how Wired correspondent Mat Honan “liked” everything he saw on Facebook for two days. Here’s what it did to him.

It’s a great article – very informative and enjoyable. Enjoy.

Oh, and if you want to avoid a similar fate, there’s a simple solution – stop hitting that damn LIKE button!

Article begins:

There’s this great Andy Warhol quote you’ve probably seen before: “I think everybody should like everybody.” You can buy posters and plates with pictures of Warhol, looking like the cover of a Belle & Sebastian album, with that phrase plastered across his face in Helvetica. But the full quote, taken from a 1963 interview in Art News, is a great description of how we interact on social media today.

Warhol: Someone said that Brecht wanted everybody to think alike. I want everybody to think alike. But Brecht wanted to do it through Communism, in a way. Russia is doing it under government. It’s happening here all by itself without being under a strict government; so if it’s working without trying, why can’t it work without being Communist? Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and more that way.
I think everybody should be a machine. I think everybody should like everybody.
Art News: Is that what Pop Art is all about?
Warhol: Yes. It’s liking things.
Art News: And liking things is like being a machine?
Warhol: Yes, because you do the same thing every time. You do it over and over again.

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. A recent New York Times story on a krill oil ad campaign lays bare how much the like matters to advertisers. Liking is an economic act.

I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. I know this sounds like a stunt (and it was) but it was also genuinely just an open-ended experiment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up (48 hours was all I could stand) or what I’d learn (possibly nothing.)

See, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what shows up in your feed. It isn’t just a parade of sequential updates from your friends and the things you’ve expressed an interest in. In 2014 the News Feed is a highly-curated presentation, delivered to you by a complicated formula based on the actions you take on the site, and across the web. I wanted to see how my Facebook experience would change if I constantly rewarded the robots making these decisions for me, if I continually said, “good job, robot, I like this.” I also decided I’d only do this on Facebook itself—trying to hit every Like button I came across on the open web would just be too daunting. But even when I kept the experiment to the site itself, the results were dramatic.

THERE IS A VERY SPECIFIC FORM OF FACEBOOK MESSAGING, DESIGNED TO GET YOU TO INTERACT. AND IF YOU TAKE THE BAIT, YOU’LL BE SHOWN IT AD NAUSEAM.

The first thing I liked was Living Social — my friend Jay had liked it before me and it was sitting at the top of my feed. I liked two more updates from friends. So far, so good. But the fourth thing I encountered was something I didn’t really like. I mean, I don’t truly like Living Social either, whatever the hell that is, but who cares. But this fourth thing was something I sort of actively disliked. A bad joke — or at least a dumb one. Oh well. I liked it anyway.

One thing I had to decide right away was what to do about the related items that appear after you’ve liked something. Let’s say you like a story about cows that you see on Modern Farmer. Facebook will immediately present you with four more options to like things below that cow story, “relateds” in Facebook parlance. Probably more stories about cows or agriculture.

Relateds quickly became a problem, because as soon as you like one, Facebook replaces it with another. So as soon as I liked the four relateds below a story, it immediately gave me four more. And then four more. And then four more. And then four more. I quickly realized I’d be stuck in a related loop for eternity if I kept this up. So I settled on a new rule: I would like the first four relateds Facebook shows me, but no more.

Sometimes, liking is counterintuitive. My friend Hillary posted a picture of her toddler Pearl, with bruises on her face. It was titled “Pearl vs. the concrete.” I didn’t like it at all! It was sad. Normally, it would be the kind of News Feed item that would compel me to leave a comment, instead of hitting the little thumbs up button. Oh well. Like. The only time I declined to like something was when a friend posted about the death of a relative. I just had a death in my family last week. It was a bridge I wasn’t going to cross.

But there was still plenty more to like. I liked one of my cousin’s updates, which he had re-shared from Joe Kennedy, and was subsequently beseiged with Kennedys to like (plus a Clinton and a Shriver). I liked Hootsuite. I liked The New York Times, I liked Coupon Clipinista. I liked something from a friend I haven’t spoken to in 20 years—something about her kid, camp and a snake. I liked Amazon. I liked fucking Kohl’s. I liked Kohl’s for you.

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.

Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.

Also, as I went to bed, I remember thinking “Ah, crap. I have to like something about Gaza,” as I hit the Like button on a post with a pro-Israel message.

By the next morning, the items in my News Feed had moved very, very far to the right. I’m offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. I like them both. I like Ted Cruz. I like Rick Perry. The Conservative Tribune comes up again, and again, and again in my News Feed. I get to learn its very particular syntax. Usually it went something like this:

Screenshot_2014-08-04-10-18-01

Sound familiar?


A sentence recounting some controversial news. Good!

A sentence explaining why this is good.

A call to action, often ending with a question?

Once I see this pattern, I start noticing it everywhere. SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s web presence, uses a similar tactic.

It is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam.

I was also struck by how different my feeds were on mobile and the desktop, even when viewed at the same time. By the end of day one, I noticed that on mobile my feed was almost completely devoid of human content. I was only presented with the chance to like stories from various websites, and various other ads.

Yet on the desktop — while it’s still mostly branded content — I continue to see things from my friends. On that little bitty screen, where real-estate is so valuable, Facebook’s robots decided that the way to keep my attention is by hiding the people and only showing me the stuff that other machines have pumped out. Weird.

As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left. Rachel Maddow, Raw Story, Mother Jones, Daily Kos and all sort of other leftie stuff was interspersed with items that are so far to the right I’m nearly afraid to like them for fear of ending up on some sort of watch list.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LOOK AT THIS BABY THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE JAY-Z.

This is a problem much bigger than Facebook. It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves—the things we read and watch have become hyper-niche and cater to our specific interests. We go down rabbit holes of special interests until we’re lost in the queen’s garden, cursing everyone above ground.

But maybe worse than the fractious political tones my feed took on was how deeply stupid it became. I’m given the chance to like a Buzzfeed post of some guy dancing, and another that asks Which Titanic Character Are You? A third Buzzfeed post informs me that “Katy Perry’s Backup Dancer is the Mancandy You Deserve.” According to New York magazine, I am “officially old” because Malia Obama went to Lollapalooza (like!) and CNN tells me “Husband Explores His Man-ternal Instincts” alongside a photo of a shirtless man cupping his nipples. A cloud that looks like a penis. Stop what you’re doing and look at this baby that looks exactly like Jay-Z. My feed was showing almost only the worst kind of tripe that all of us in the media are complicit in churning out yet should also be deeply ashamed of. Sensational garbage. I liked it all.

Screen Shot

Annoying for you. Even more annoying for everyone else.

While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behaviuor would have on my friends’ feeds. I kept thinking Facebook would rate-limit me, but instead it grew increasingly ravenous. My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers.

That first night, a small little circle with a dog’s head popped up in the corner of my phone. A chat head, from Facebook’s Messenger software! The dog turned out to be my old WIRED editor, John Bradley. “Have you been hacked,” he wanted to know. The next morning, my friend Helena sent me a message. “My fb feed is literally full of articles you like, it’s kind of funny,” she says. “No friend stuff, just Honan likes.” I replied with a thumbs up. This continued throughout the experiment. When I posted a status update to Facebook just saying “I like you,” I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds. “My newsfeed is 70 percent things Mat has liked,” noted my pal Heather. Eventually, I would hear from someone who worked at Facebook, who had noticed my activity and wanted to connect me with the company’s PR department.

But I’d already put a stop to it by then anyway, because it was just too awful. I tried counting how much stuff I’d liked by looking in my activity log, but it was too overwhelming. I’d added more than a thousand things to my Likes page—most of which were loathsome or at best banal.

By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked. To be honest, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I had done.

We’re not absolutely sure if this photo is genuine.

It might be a clever photoshopped viral meme designed to make a point ahead of the Scottish independence poll. Or it might just be the perfect example of Rule #1 of outdoor advertising – see your medium before you stick the ad to the train, and don’t put any of it over (a) doors that move (b) big sticky-outey things that make it impossible to read your ad.

16298_10154447715075181_3713551417262544299_n

Either way, very funny.

For more glorious F*** Ups in advertising, packaging, social media et al just put “F*** Up” in the search box top left of this page and hit enter …

flagsMeanwhile, based on the polls, if you are remotely interested in the politics of the thing, it is still looking likely that Scotland won’t vote to become an independent country, with the “yes” side of the poll declining recently, although fervent yes campaigners point to the still large number of undecideds and the fact that a larger percentage of women seem undecided in particular.

Our guess – and we’re usually right – is that the referendum will fail, but more narrowly than the current polls indicate. Still, with a month to go, there is still time for momentum to build either way as people focus more and more on the actual event.

A wrap of the movements of the polls can be found here. In reading polls, psephologists agree that what really matters is the overall look of the trends, and the averaging of them. On that basis, it should be noted that since this poll tracker began, the “yes” side of the argument has only been in the majority, very temporarily, twice.

(With thanks to Dickie Ember for forwarding us the Alex Salmond train photo.)

 

 

Robin Williams

The world has woken up today to the loss of one of the finest comedic talents of his generation – perhaps, of any generation – and the outpouring of words will no doubt be liken unto an avalanche.

We do not propose to add to them to any great extent, if for no other reason that others will do a better job.

But not to mark Robin Williams’ passing would be to do the man a dis-service. This is a day for many in the world to pause, and to remember a great man who gave freely to all of us of his hugely generous heart. And also to contemplate sadly the persistence, the common-ness, the vile pressure of this scourge of an illness which has now stripped him from us and which ruins so many lives, and touches uncountable others.

For him to apparently take his own life – yet another high-profile victim of depression, which afflicts so many of those creative souls who truly see into the world with clear eyes – is the ultimate cruel irony. A life spent making untold millions laugh, snuffed out in a moment of existential hollowness and hopelessness. And a life capped by triumphantly fighting a battle against addiction – so often the fellow traveller with depression – that was lost when he was determinedly sober. This is a bitter, bitter day.

For a man who gave the world so much, he will, like many others, be tragically defined to some degree by the nature of his death. His wife has already pleaded that it not be so, but it is inevitable. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

For the rest of us, whether battling depression or not, we are today surely reminded of the most powerful call to celebrate life – to seize life by the lapels and give it a great shake – that he ever delivered in his multi-faceted and endlessly inspiring career. He is delivering the lines of a writer, to be sure, but he was surely also speaking for himself. See it in his eyes.

Carpe Diem.

 

Amen.

 

Russian SU25s are in action in Iraq. Who is flying them or telling them what to attack is less clear.

Russian SU25s are in action in Iraq. Who is flying them or telling them what to attack is less clear.

The current emergence of the ISIS (Islamic State) insurgency in Syria and Iraq reveals the curious nature of the background diplomacy that goes on all the time, invisible to the man in the street, because you have to read the news stories BEHIND the news stories to work out what is really going on.

The ritualistic condemnation of Russia over the shooting down (most likely by separatist pro-Russian rebels) of MH17 near Donetsk (and the previous less violent kerfuffle over the Crimea) has led to mild sanctions being employed by the West, and a lot of publicly-expressed anger, at least some of which was undoubtedly sincere.

In return, Putin and his cronies have placed bans on certain imports from the West, such as Australian wheat, which are going to be virtually ineffective as we can’t produce enough wheat for world demand as it is, and the Russian business will be quickly replaced by delivering the wheat to countries like Indonesia, instead. Nevertheless, there has been a general chilling of the relationship between the West and Russia, or at least it appears so on the surface.

And as usual, the relationship between America and Iran seems pretty well stuck in deep freeze, although some very minor steps towards a rapprochement have taken place recently, and especially since the departure of the conservative idealogue Ahmadinejad and his replacement with the much more pragmatic and moderate Hassan Rouhani.

Ironically, though, America, the West in general, and Russia and Iran find themselves on the same side against the Sunni insurgents now slicing off the heads of those they disagree with – including, according to some sources, beheading children and putting their heads on display in a public park in Mosul – stoning so-called adulterous women, perpetrating the most horrific massacres, driving out religious minorities including Christians, and generally proving themselves to be the worst of the world’s current crop of uncivilised, idiotic savages.

In a shocking revelation, it has emerged that in the week-long Islamic State offensive in Sinjar, which began last Sunday, the militants killed at least 500 Christian Yazidis, according to Iraq’s human rights minister.

Several residents, including children, were buried alive, while around 300 women (believed to be from those Buried_aliveChristians who chose to pay a fine rather than leave the area or convert to Islam) have been kidnapped as slaves. The revelation was made by Iraq’s human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. In an interview al-Sudani alleged that the ISIS buried some of their victims alive, including women and children.

“We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Sudani pointed out.

“Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar,” Sudani said.

In response to the Yazidi crisis, President Obama has authorised air drops of relief food to fleeing refugees and air strikes against the murderous ISIS, but interestingly recent air strikes have been claimed not to be by US jets. In which case, who is doing the bombing?

The most likely answer is almost certainly a mixture of Iraqi planes, flown and maintained by Russian and Iranian pilots and engineers, as the nascent Iraqi Shia government hasn’t got around to training its air force yet, and Iran has definitely bombed ISIS previously as their fighters neared the iranian border. Or it may have been Iraqis themselves, although this is considered unlikely. Or even Turkish fighters, as Turkey (especially the Turkish military establishment) is alarmed in the extreme about the pressure on the Kurds in the north (who, despite their antipathy towards Turkey, provide a useful buffer against the chaos further south) and their fears that the extremist Sunni ISIS could start to destabilise their secular democracy even more than it is already being notoriously weakened by the populist and increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan who was re-elected over the weekend in a poorly-attended poll.

This interesting article seeks to make sense of the conflicting signals coming out of northern Iraq currently.

What is certain is that behind the scenes, American, Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomats and spooks are undergoing a much less antagonistic relationship than we see in public. Information sharing is the very least that’s going on – in all probability, “real time” battlefield intelligence is also being shared to make the fight against ISIS more effective.

Which is yet another modern example of the famous old adage Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This understanding has powered geo-politics since it was first expressed in Sanskrit in the 4th century BC by Kautilya, the “Indian Machiavelli”, so perhaps it’s unsurprising to see it happening again.

As the fiercely anti-Communist British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared during the Second World War, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons,” when speaking in support of British aid to Soviet forces.

So the next time you hear a politician thumping the table and weighing in against some other country, bear in mind the reality of what’s happening behind the scenes may be far different. Or to put it more simply, politicians frequently feed us bullshit.

Really, who knew?

 

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne

So. The Wellthisiswhatithink clan was driving through the rain yesterday evening to a very swanky dinner, (on behalf of departing Monash Uni Vice-Chancellor Ed Byrne and his wife Melissa – a wonderful event which we were thrilled to be asked to, although we are sad to be losing this wonderful couple to London – our loss is their very profound gain), when we came across this hilarious  sign on a building in swanky Malvern, one of Melbourne’s “better” suburbs.

Physio

We immediately cracked up.

Patient – “Well, I feel better now, can I stop coming?”

Manipulative physiotherapist – “Oh yes, I’m sure you feel better. Yeah, now worries, stop coming. I’ll find another patient to fill the gap. You go off and enjoy yourself. Knock yourself out. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

Yes, yes, we know it doesn’t say emotionally manipulative physiotherapist, but stuck in traffic at 6pm in the rain and dark we just laughed and laughed.

Guess you had to be there.

(Feel free to contribute your personal conversation snippets between patients and the manipulative physio. Let’s see if there are any more people out there with our weird sense of humour.)

Incidentally, some of the musical entertainment provided at the dinner was from the ineffably brilliant jazz musician Paul Grabowsky. It was a true privilege to hear him and a bunch of other leading musicians at close quarters. Blessings in life arrive unexpectedly, don’t they?

sunshine

Older adults who are severely deficient in vitamin D may be more than twice as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease than those who don’t have a deficiency, according to the largest study of its kind, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

“We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising — we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” noted lead researcher David Llewellyn of the University of Exeter Medical School in a news release.

Llewellyn looked at several years worth of data on 1,658 Americans ages 65 and older who had taken part in the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute’s Cardiovascular Health Study. He and his team found that adults who were just moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia — the general term for any severe decline in mental ability — while the risk jumped to 125 percent for those who had a severe deficiency. Similarly, for Alzheimer’s disease — the most common type of dementia — the moderately deficient adults were 69 percent more likely to develop it, while the severely deficient had a 122 percent increased risk.

“Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” Llewellyn said. “We need to be cautious at this early stage, and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia.”

Currently, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the USA, according to the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. “We think this study is important,” Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach with the Alzheimer’s Association (a major funder of Llewellyn’s research), told Yahoo Health in response to the findings. “It’s a relatively large study, and it looks like it does show a pretty substantial link.… It just doesn’t show us why there is a link.” One hypothesis, Fargo noted, is that the brain — including the hippocampus, which is one of the first areas to break down with Alzheimer’s — is full of vitamin D receptors.

There has been a growing body of research on the disease’s connection with vitamin D — the main sources of which are sunshine and supplements, with minor sources including egg yolks and oily fish like salmon and sardines. Earlier this year, a study out of Denmark, for example, also showed a link between Alzheimer’s disease prevalence and low levels of vitamin D, while earlier studies conducted in Australia and France found tenuous connections between taking doses of vitamin D and having an improved memory. The vitamin has also been linked, in various studies, to preventing asthma, diabetes, and cancer.

“People tend to not believe vitamin D news, because it seems too good to be true,” John Cannell, MD, executive director of the California-based nonprofit Vitamin D Council, told Yahoo Health. “But vitamin D has a profound mechanism of action, as it’s really a steroid hormone that turns genes on and off, and no other vitamin works that way. There are at least 1,000 different genes directly influenced by vitamin D.” The council recommends a combination of cautious sun exposure combined with supplements in winter months.

Cannell called the new study’s findings “pretty exciting,” mainly because of its size and structure. “It’s important because it’s the first cohort study of a large population — meaning that it’s forward-looking, having followed people over several years,” he said. “The next step is a randomised controlled trial, but this is as close as you can get without that.”

(Yahoo Health)

Of course, Aussies and others who enjoy frolicking in the sunshine need to be careful of the other effect of drinking up Vitamin D through their skin – which is skin cancer, of course. As we all make sure we get some sunshine, let’s also remember the advice that adequate Vitamin D levels can be achieved with just 20 minutes exposure to sunshine a day.

poem

 

You came to me unexpectedly
happening on a glade, as if
gliding over me like crystal in the early morning
cool like the fever in my life breaking
refreshing as the splash of a wave
murmuring like a gentle stream until I drowned.

And then you left as if you had never been
and all my world was dust and air and sand again
but I remember you to this day
when the sun beats down, cruel
when the sun is strong on my brow

I swim in my memories and pretend that you were real.


Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from lulu.com.

We happened across this little article by Michael Gebicki from Fairfax and it reminded us that we have been meaning for a YEAR to whinge about the temperature on planes.

Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting.Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting. Photo: Getty Images

The pilot has overall control within a range of about 20-28 degrees, but within those parameters the actual temperature control is left up to the flight crew, who will generally set is at 22 or 23 degrees.

If the temperature drops to 20 degrees passengers start to shiver and complain, but anecdotal advice from flight crew suggests that more passengers faint when the temperature rises above 24 degrees.

This is supported by a study conducted by a study published by the American Society for Testing and Materials, which concluded “There is evidence that cabin pressure and temperature may contribute to the occurrence of syncope”, the medical term for fainting.

This results from a deficient blood flow to the brain, which might happen when a passenger rises after a prolonged period of inactivity.

Fainting is more likely to occur following a sedentary spell in an aircraft than at home, sitting in front of the TV for example, because air pressure in the cabin at typical cruising altitude is equivalent to the outside air pressure at 1800–2400m above sea level.

At that altitude, less oxygen is available to be transported in the blood stream, which increases the incidence of fainting.

Flight crew also suggest that passengers sitting in the rear of an aircraft are more susceptible, along with overweight males, elderly passengers and those with cardiovascular conditions.

Hmmm. Well we had one experience recently with drove us nuts. We flew from Tokyo to Paris with Japan Airlines, specifically because we wanted to end our brief sojourn in the Land of the Rising Sun with the experience of munching sushi on the way over to France, even though by the time we got there we were actually a bit sushi-d out as we had eaten little else for four days. Well, we had one plate of German ham hock in a first floor Bavarian “BierKeller”, but that’s a long story.

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

Anyhow the cabin temperature was set to roasting overnight. It was completely impossible to sleep comfortably – or even just endure it watching TV comfortably.

Now admittedly we were sitting towards the rear of the plane (on the basis that very few planes ever reverse into mountains) and your compellingly honest correspondent will admit to being somewhat, er … well let’s just say an Indian tailor once smiled sweetly and said he thought he had something in portly short that would fit us … but it was really ridiculously hot. Even Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink agreed, and she would complain of feeling chilly sitting next to an open blast-furnace.

We pleaded with the cabin staff to turn the heating down, but they simply refused, albeit with lots of bowing and smiling. “No” still means “no”, even when accompanied by traditional Japanese deference. Eventually, one remarked that Asian passengers prefer the cabin kept warmer, or they all complain. As we were amongst very few Europeans on the flight we grumblingly acquiesced to that logic and eventually went to sleep with a tea-towel stuffed with ice behind our neck.

The sushi was pretty crap, too. And the seats were too small. Although to be fair it should be noted that in 2013 JAL was given an award for being the most punctual international carrier, so presumably you arrive at your destination drenched in sweat but on time more often.

In general, we find cabin temperatures are set too high way too often, especially on long-haul overnight flights. One such flight across the Atlantic (Chicago-London) with BA would have been more comfortable if we’d all been in bathing costumes. Admittedly it was seriously cold leaving Chicago, but it’s hard to dismiss the feeling that the cabin was set to uber-warm by the staff to greet the frozen travellers and then just left that way because no one thought to check it. Or maybe they were just having too much fun chatting to yours truly as he drank vodka after vodka in the food prep area, having given up entirely on any hope of getting any sleep.

The point is surely, if they are set at the lower end of the scale, then people who feel chilly can put on another layer, or snuggle under a blanket. Or two. Those who are overheated are limited in their ability to respond. No one wants to see a somewhat corpulent middle aged fellow in his undies fanning himself with a dog-eared in-flight magazine.

So we politely urge pursers and captains to start low and hand out lots of blankies, or at least start low and edge the temp up half a degree at a time, rather than start high and wait for people to start fainting or panting.

Unless your passenger list is mainly Asian, we guess. In which case, Caveat Emptor would seem to apply for fliers. Interestingly, though, we have also flown with South China, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysian, and not noticed the problem to anything like the same degree as we experienced with JAL.

The other hottest planes we have known have been Qantas inside Australia, which are frequently stifling. What is with that?

Apparently taking "selfies" of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling "too hot stewardesses" and see what you come up with.

Apparently taking “selfies” of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling “too hot stewardesses” and see what you come up with.

And just to throw a bunch of flowers as well as a brickbat, we flew back from Dubai to Australia with Emirates and the experience was about as magnificent as flying anywhere cattle-class could be.

Seats were comfortable, food was brilliant, staff were charming and spoke (to our count) 17 different languages – they announce them at the start of the flight – entertainment system was excellent – and above all, blessed be, the cabin was pleasantly temperate.

Still, we guess people from Dubai know a bit about air-conditioning.

The exceptionally comfortable Dubai International airport is enormous – cavernous – yet impeccably cool: quite remarkable, really, although clearing customs was ludicrously slow. That aside, we would recommend Emirates to anyone.

What’s your most recent flying experience – good, bad, indifferent? And what do you think about cabin temperatures? Let us know!

Spoons

Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from lulu.com.

hand

We have come to the realisation, Dear Reader, that fear is a bloody miserable thing, and that we suffer from it.

When the treadmill of life slows down long enough for us to actually stop and think – read: reflect, brood, ponder, worry – it is easy for fear to creep in, especially if one is on one’s own, or the blood sugar is a tad low, or it’s just been a shitty day.

In the case of your indefatigable correspondent, the fears are often about the process of growing older, and death. And then, nigh-on simultaneously, the death of loved ones. And then the disastrous state of the world, and how it’s all going to pot.

But it is the first one that can utterly paralyse us. After all: death is the one unavoidable conclusion of all lives. It’s going to happen. And with it, bang goes the achievements, the fun, the striving, the connection with everyone, the adored family. Doesn’t it? Life. What was that all about, huh? Why bother, just to die and leave it all behind?

As we get older, our faculties also decline. This isn’t a pretend fear, it’s a real fear. No amount of positive thinking or even age-appropriate exercise will totally prevent it.

Joints get less flexible. (Puhlease don’t tell us about 80 year old gymnasts on YouTube – most of us don’t keep fit enough in the early years to make that happen – I am being realistic here – and by the time we realise the body is beginning to creak it’s too late to stop all the creaking. Some ageing can be overcome, but not all. Just tell my left shoulder that you’re thinking positively about it and listen to the laughter.)

The brain unquestionably slows, too. Which is a real bugger, if one has used one’s brain to make a living since, like, forever.  And it’s very noticeable. Undeniable. It becomes harder to bring words to mind instantly. Sentence construction is more laborious, too. And when one rushes in panic to the experts worrying about early-onset Alzheimers, they reassure you with the most annoying advice imaginable: “Don’t worry, you’re just getting older, it happens to everyone.”

Well, poo to that. And this isn’t even to touch on the myriad anxieties that afflict people about their social interactions, phobias, and 1001 other things.

There is even a specific phobia for those who fear death, called thanataphobia. We don’t think we would quite describe ourselves as phobic on the issue, merely mildly obsessed. OK, make that “aware” and “thoughtful”.

So what to do about fear, and specifically fear of death?

We are sure religious faith helps with the whole death thing, at least to a degree. We remember hearing someone say once, “We are mortal beings living immortal lives” and being charmed by its simplicity. Nice thought. If it’s true. Life becomes much more bearable – death becomes much more bearable – if it is just a prelude to a sort of eternal holiday-camp shared with those we love, or perhaps a chance to come back and do better next time. But doubt is at the core of all faith – that’s why they call it faith – and on days that the awareness of death and loss bears down on us, it often seems that the nagging demon of doubt does, too.

Cancer support groups often talk about working towards a “good death”, rather than hoping against hope (and logic) to try and endlessly prolong life. A good death is one where one is resigned to the inevitability of our dying, where we have made our peace with those around us and been able to spend quality time with them, and where our affairs are as much in order as possible. Where death does not dull our mind with terror, and we can maintain dignity, calm, and acceptance of our fate. We are reminded of a dear friend, Senator Sid Spindler, taken from us a couple of years ago with liver cancer, who was discussing an article in the local paper with his wife when quite clearly only a few days from death. An indefatigable campaigner, he murmured “Perhaps I should write a letter?” Those around him rolled their eyes in disbelief and amused admiration. But was he postponing the inevitable – clinging to one last vestige of relevance – or merely accepting his imminent death but refusing to be cowed by it? Or a bit of both? Only Sid could tell us, and he isn’t here any more.

In olden times, someone would have cheerily, at this point, said something like “Make the most out of every day!” as a response to the fact that one day the days will simply run out. Indeed, there are web pages dedicated to telling you exactly how many productive hours one has left in one’s life when one has removed sleep, showering, going to the loo, travelling, etc., to encourage everybody to “make the most” of life. Fair enough. Personally, we have stopped looking at them. It looks like we’ve got enough time left to make one more decent pot of bolognese sauce before we cark it.

We also ponder the fact that until relatively recently in human existence, within the last poofteenth of human time in reality, we would almost certainly already have been dead, and many people in today’s world still have a life expectancy below the amount we have already lived. And in the moments when we remind ourselves of this, we manage to be grateful and worried simultaneously.

allenNot for nothing is our favourite celebrity quotation from Woody Allen, a man so obsessed with these matters that he wrote two theatre plays, one called God and the other Death. The quote runs thusly: “I don’t want to become immortal through my work. I want to become immortal through not dying.” Hear hear.

The Wellthisiswhatithink collective is by no means alone in this angst-ridden introspection, of course.

Existential death anxiety is the basic knowledge and awareness that natural life must end and it has fascinated writers and philosophers since humankind climbed down from the trees. It is said that existential death anxiety directly correlates to language; that is, “language has created the basis for this type of death anxiety through communicative and behavioural changes.” Or in other words, over millenia we notice that we die, learn how to describe it, and then talk about it.

There is also “an awareness of the distinction between self and others, a full sense of personal identity, and the ability to anticipate the future, which includes the certainty of death. Humans defend against this type of death anxiety through denial, which is effected through a wide range of mental mechanisms and physical actions many of which also go unrecognised. While limited use of denial tends to be adaptive, its use is usually excessive and proves to be costly emotionally.”

Or to put it more simply, it’s better to face up to it.

As Wikipedia would have it, “Awareness of human mortality arose through some 150,000 years ago. In that extremely short span of evolutionary time, humans have fashioned but a single basic mechanism with which they deal with the existential death anxieties this awareness has evoked—denial in its many forms.

Fear of - and discussion of - dying goes back to Neanderthal times. Not that it gets any easier.

Fear of – and discussion of – dying goes back to Neanderthal times. Not that it gets any easier.

Thus denial is basic to such diverse actions as breaking rules and violating frames and boundaries, manic celebrations, violence directed against others, attempts to gain extraordinary wealth and/or power — and more. These pursuits often are activated by a death-related trauma and while they may lead to constructive actions, more often than not, they lead to actions that are, in the short and long run, damaging to self and others.”

Or as we call them in Wales, “wakes”.

This is before we even tackle the concept of Existentialism proper, (as opposed to Existential anxiety), and it’s various concerns that life is inherently meaningless anyway, not to mention Absurd. That’s a topic for another day. Or days. Or lifetimes.

Anyway, this latest in a series of ramblings on this topic is coming to no great or profound conclusion, Dear Reader. We merely report that at this point in time we have decided to focus on a couple of related issues.

Firstly, we have decided to stop worrying about the fact that one cannot control death, because in reality one can only control a few outcomes in one’s life, and death surely isn’t one of them. Believing we are in charge of everything is a uniquely human conceit, and it is clearly not true.

In the Wellthisiswhatithink household we call this the “A Plane Fell On My House” syndrome, recognising that random acts can and do disrupt our neatly ordered existence.

Accepting this as a fact is a vital step towards dealing with events that catch us unawares.

kindnessSecondly, we are trying to make more of an impact on our world by being more concerned about other people than ourselves, by being kinder, by being slower to anger or frustration, by trying to see things from the other person’s perspective, by celebrating the good we see around us and building up those responsible for it.

It was Aesop (he of Fables fame) who once said “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”. There’s a big mouthful, right there. And yet more proof, if proof were needed, that things don’t change much as the centuries roll by.

Deep in the last Millenium we saw “making an impact on the world” as ending up as Prime Minister of somewhere (or at least a senior panjandrum of some description), becoming the world’s greatest writer of film scripts, the most creative businessman in town, the “next big thing” in poetry, and a bunch of other grandiloquent outcomes. It would be fair to say we have now changed our focus, and in doing so, we have become more content, and by many measurements, more successful.

We may yet do something “famous”. Or we may not.

We’re taking it all a day at a time. And that helps, too.

Tara MohrMeanwhile, Tara Sophia Mohr is a San Francisco-based women’s leadership personality. We found these comments on her website, and thank her for her thinking. There is some big “applied commonsense” here.

1. Create a character. Create a character that symbolises the voice of fear within you. Maybe she’s a frail recluse or an eight-year-old bully or a fire-breathing dragon. Maybe it’s the lion from “The Wizard of Oz” or the Wicked Witch or the Wizard himself. Pick a character that illustrates how the voice of fear feels in you, and name your character. When you hear the voice of fear, greet it: “Oh,Cruella, I see you’ve come to visit. Hello.”

Why does this work? Creating a character helps you separate the real you from the part of you that’s afraid. Your fears come from that instinctual part of the brain that seeks to avoid risk at any cost–not from your core self, your inner wisdom, or your dreams. Naming the voice of fear, visualising it as a character and observing it helps you get back in charge.

2. Follow the fear through to the end game. Fear holds us hostage, making threats that if you do X, a disastrous outcome will occur.

The remedy is to imagine how you’d handle that outcome, and evaluate just how bad it would really be.

This involves asking “so what?” again and again. If, for example, you’re afraid that your request for a raise will be turned down, ask yourself, “So if I was turned down, so what? Then what?”

You’ll probably hear yourself thinking something like, “Well, I’d be disappointed, and I’d think about whether that means I need to change jobs. I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world.” You’ve just taken a great deal of power away from your fear.

Or, you might find this outcome still feels super scary, and your answer to the question is “I’d feel horribly embarrassed around my boss every time I saw her!” Then ask the question again: “So I’d feel embarrassed and awkward, then what?” Keep following the fear through to the endgame. You’ll find your resiliency and sense of perspective as you keep asking, “So what?”

(We heartily concur with this advice in a whole host of areas of business and life generally. “So what?” is an incredible powerful tool.)

3. Ask, “Is it true?” Whatever the little voice of fear is saying, it’s probably not true.

The fearful part of us is irrational and over-True or falseprotective. It might be saying you are likely to fall flat on your face if you take a risk, or that no one will like your ideas. It might be saying that moving to a new city could ruin your children, or choosing the wrong job could wreck havoc on your life. When you hear fear-based thoughts, ask yourself, “Is what this voice is saying true?” or, in Byron Katie’s approach, “Can I be absolutely sure that this thought is true?” The answer to these questions — especially the latter one — is most often “no.”

4. Connect to love. Here’s the very cool thing about our human consciousness.

We can’t be in a state of fear and one of love at the same time. They can’t co-exist. Each one blots out the other. When we are really connected to that mysterious energy that is love, we connect to a softness, a safety, a comfort, a healing. Fear vanishes.

So when you are stuck in fear, re-connect to love. Listening to a favourite song, doing something you love, focusing on a picture of a loved one, or connecting with nature are all good ways to do this.

Many people find that a short meditation on their own breathing or reaching out to a higher power in prayer reconnects them to love. Giving — time, money, a gift or a heartfelt compliment — to another person also connects us to love.

Use whatever process works for you. You’ll know you’ve re-connected to love when you feel that sense of harmony and comfort and softness returning.

If you aren’t sure what helps you easily and swiftly reconnect to love, start experimenting. All of us need a set of strategies for connecting to love when we get fearful, anxious, resentful or off-balance.

5. Let fear be your travelling companion. Much of the time we can soften or even entirely lift our fears using the tools above, but sometimes, fear persists.

Then it’s time for this tool: let fear be your travelling companion. Let it be there, but not in control. Let it be there, but don’t take direction from it or stop moving forward because of it.

This is a skill. It’s a skill to learn to act in the face of fear, to allow it to be present but not to interfere.

You know when you are driving on the highway, and right next to you, one lane over, there’s some guy hanging out the window, keeping pace along side of you? He’s not in your way but he’s in your field of vision?

Think of fear that way: as the guy in the lane next to you. You are in the driver’s seat, in your own lane, moving forward. He’s next to you, not blocking you but just there, somewhat irritating, palpably present. The ride would feel more enjoyable and free if he wasn’t there, but you are getting to your destination just fine anyway.

Learn to walk with fear this way — as if it’s your uninvited traveling companion — intrusive, but not in the way.

(This last one is one we are personally working on. It is impossible to banish all fear. And we shouldn’t want to, anyway. After all, fear serves a purpose, too. It stops us wandering blithely into the middle of a pride of lions while we’re picking daisies. The trick is not to let fear – or, indeed, any thought – dominate one’s life to the exclusion of others. And sometimes, to accept that we actually can’t control or change everything. Much of the “self help” advice coming out of the USA (in particular) likes to pretend that we can do anything, be anything, achieve anything, overcome anything, just with an act of will. That is simply nonsensical, and dangerous, because not being able to overcome something that is insurmountable is a sure way to become depressed. If someone dies, for example, no amount of willing them back will change the fact of their death. How we DEAL with our distress and fear about the future will determine how successful our life is thereafter. That’s why “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is sometimes – sometimes – very good advice.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen? So what?)

1929 it ain't. Relax, people.

1929 it ain’t. Relax, peeps.

“Wall Street hammered, Dow closes down more than 300 points!” screamed the headlines.

And stocks did indeed get slammed on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending the day down 1.87%, at 317 points in the red. The drop wiped out all the benchmark average’s gains for 2014, and put an end to a five-month winning streak for stocks. This was the Dow’s largest point drop of the year since February 3; percentage-wise, it’s the worst plunge since April 10. At 16,563, the index is well below the all-time closing high of 17,138 hit just a couple of weeks ago.

Additionally on Thursday, the S&P 500 saw a 1.89% drop to end at 1,932, and the Nasdaq fell 1.98%, ending at 4,374.74.

So what’s going on? Well, Yahoo Finance editor Phil Pearlman says those looking for easy answers are going to be disappointed. “Over the last 25 years, stocks have their worst month in August. This is the worst time of the year, and we’re getting a preview of that on the last day of July.” Why? Your guess is as good as the experts.

Oooops.

Oooops.

Experts believe the selling was triggered by a variety of factors. To add to the long-standing laundry list of troubles in Ukraine and violence in the Middle East, Argentina failed to reach a deal with bondholders and defaulted late Wednesday. Argentina’s benchmark Mervel index dropped more than 6.5%.

The employment cost index in America also posted its fastest rise since 2008, stoking fears of inflation and chatter of an earlier-than-expected Fed rate hike. There are suggestions of interest rate rises elsewhere too. More expensive money always stokes sell-offs of companies that are highly leveraged or involved in market sectors that respond poorly to interest rate rises such as housing and building.

Though the US selling was intense, there was little evidence of the panic that typically marks the end of selloffs. After years of being rewarded for buying every dip, investors seem conditioned to treat corrections as buying opportunities, though little buying was apparent as of the close. So is this the correction that canny investors have been waiting for?

“I have no idea; my best guess is that [it is]” said Pearlman. “But if we get a 4%-5% pullback,” he continues, “the resulting “panic” could lead to a bottom, which will provide an attractive entry point for some investors with cash ready to put into the market.”

Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke commented, “If you’re too nervous to sleep tonight, you’re too long stocks. Trim a little gains if … you’re already nervous. If not, ride it out. This is the way markets are supposed to behave.”

Or to put it another way, if you expect the stock market to always go up, you should probably be investing your money on the gee gees or bingo.

Get ready to buy value. Always look for a track record, good management and good value. As always.


Kindergarnered

Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from lulu.com.

He would appreciate it if you could share this poem by linking to this blog post in any way you can.

"Who's the guy over your left shoulder?" "Can't remember, keep smiling ..."

“Who’s the guy over your left shoulder?” “Can’t remember, keep smiling …”

Good news for everyone who has missed Julia Gillard in public life – and there are some – she’s back.

The former Prime Minister has lain low since the 2013 leadership spill — but she appeared in public today to launch a former colleague’s book. Looking healthy and cheerful, (and on her pension, frankly, why the hell not?) Gillard launched former climate change and industry minister Greg Combet’s memoir, The Fights of My Life, at the NSW Trades Hall this morning.

In her address, Gillard issued a language warning to readers — joking that anyone who blushed from bad language needed to have a cold compress on hand.

Interestingly for us, Gillard also confirmed she urged Combet to run as leader when it became clear it was her time to go, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. She said: “I wanted to see the next part of his life being for the support of his colleagues to lead the Labor government into the 2013 election but it was not to be”.

Former Labor minister Combet recently told the ABC’s 7.30 that Ms Gillard had offered to stand aside for him if he wished to do battle with Mr Rudd. Instead he retired from politics at the 2013 election.

In our opinion, history will judge that this was a crucial loss of nerve. Combet is tough as nails, as seen by his principled and courageous leadership of the dockworkers in their battle with Patricks and the Howard Government, especially when battling the intransigence and bullying of Peter Reith. As the veteran of dozens of industrial negotiations, he had the sort of “real world” experience that a political junkie like Tony Abbott lacks, and although he would probably still have lost to Abbott on the principle of Buggin’s Turn (Labor was surely un-re-electable, wasn’t it?) he would have made a thoughtful, serious, incisive leader of the Opposition and #onetermtony would have very predictably been up for taking in two and a half years.

As it stands, we suspect our next Prime Minister will be Combet’s mate Bill Shorten, (although he did back Albanese in the leadership contest), so no harm done, from their perspective. But with his gnarly, bespectacled intensity and sheer intellectual clout we think Greg Combet might just have been the Prime Minister Australia never suspected he could be. We said so at the time. No-one agreed – in fact, we were were laughed out of court by everyone we advanced the theory to. Which is why we now find Ms Gillard’s and Mr Combet’s revelations interesting. Or to put it another way, nar nar nar, we told you so.

If this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ...

If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …

We’re historically pretty good at picking winners.

Despite a recent (but very temporary) bump in the poll standings for Tony Abbott over his brawny Putin-tweaking response to the downing of MH17, put your money (if you can find someone to take it) on Malcom Turnbull to replace him in a coup before Christmas, especially after the shambolic ALP in Victoria nevertheless manage to reasonably comfortably topple the incompetent but poorly-communicating Liberal-National Party Coalition in November.

In Victoria, Labor are current 3-1 “on” a victory, (hardly worth the risk, except one third of your stake for certain is better than none of it for getting it wrong, we guess) and the Coalition 2-1 against. If the Coalition suddenly lifts its game we reserve our rights to change that prediction, because if a week is a long time in politics then 122 days and 5 hours is a positive aeon, but we don’t see any real sign that is going to happen.

Considering the Napthine Government just delivered the highest spending infrastructure budget in Victoria’s history without borrowing a cent, one does actually feel rather sorry for them.

Of further interest to those who mainline psephology, (oh, look it up), we see that Labour in the UK are 5/6 to win the largest number of seats there, against Evens for the Tories. We think that’s too tight, and Labour are currently much better placed. We’d be interested, if you disagree, to know why. And in the US the Democrats are paying 1.60 to the dollar against 2.25 for the GOP. Unless Hillary is discovered doing something highly illegal between now and 2016, we reckon you should lump on, although the mid-terms later this year will be a further helpful guide, so maybe hold off for now.

Er … that’s it.

*Gabbled in a very fast high-pitched voice “All betting advice is purely speculative and should not be taken as true. Don’t rely on us. All care, no responsibility. No, nu-uh, tough shit, so sue us.”*

Many moons ago, we submitted an article to the New Yorker. They rejected it. This is not an uncommon experience for writers submitting to the august magazine, which sets an stratospheric standard for its contributors, which is why it’s such a good read, of course. Indeed, on the remaindered shelf at a bookstore many moons ago we bought a “best of” collection of the famous New Yorker cartoons which is still one of the funniest books we have ever read.

We may submit another article to them one day if we can ever think of anything worth saying. Anyhooo … Fruit of One’s Loins was sent this article which is apparently doing the rounds on the Internet from November 2013 and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s a hilarious mental ramble based on a very old joke, and it’s simultaneously both witty and a clever commentary on the modern world. It’s by Simon Rich*, who is clearly much funnier and talented than me. And younger. And better looking.

Bastard.

Guy Walks Into a Bar

So a guy walks into a bar one day and he can’t believe his eyes. There, in the corner, there’s this one-foot-tall man, in a little tuxedo, playing a tiny grand piano.

So the guy asks the bartender, “Where’d he come from?”

12 inch pianistAnd the bartender’s, like, “There’s a genie in the Mens’ room who grants wishes.”

So the guy runs into the Mens’ room and, sure enough, there’s this genie. And the genie’s, like, “Your wish is my command.”

So the guy’s, like, “O.K., I wish for world peace.” And there’s this big cloud of smoke—and then the room fills up with geese.

So the guy walks out of the Mens’ room and he’s, like, “Hey, bartender, I think your genie might be hard of hearing.”

And the bartender’s, like, “No kidding. You think I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?”

So the guy processes this. And he’s, like, “Does that mean you wished for a twelve-inch penis?”

And the bartender’s, like, “Yeah. Why, what did you wish for?”

And the guy’s, like, “World peace.”

So the bartender is understandably ashamed.

And the guy orders a beer, like everything is normal, but it’s obvious that something has changed between him and the bartender.

And the bartender’s, like, “I feel like I should explain myself further.”

And the guy’s, like, “You don’t have to.”

But the bartender continues, in a hushed tone. And he’s, like, “I have what’s known as penile dysmorphic disorder. Basically, what that means is I fixate on my size. It’s not that I’m small down there. I’m actually within the normal range. Whenever I see it, though, I feel inadequate.”

And the guy feels sorry for him. So he’s, like, “Where do you think that comes from?”

And the bartender’s, like, “I don’t know. My dad and I had a tense relationship. He used to cheat on my mom, and I knew it was going on, but I didn’t tell her. I think it’s wrapped up in that somehow.”

And the guy’s, like, “Have you ever seen anyone about this?”

And the bartender’s, like, “Oh, yeah, I started seeing a therapist four years ago. But she says we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

So, at around this point, the twelve-inch pianist finishes up his sonata. And he walks over to the bar and climbs onto one of the stools. And he’s, like, “Listen, I couldn’t help but overhear the end of your conversation. I never told anyone this before, but my dad and I didn’t speak the last ten years of his life.”

And the bartender’s, like, “Tell me more about that.” And he pours the pianist a tiny glass of whiskey.

And the twelve-inch pianist is, like, “He was a total monster. Beat us all. Told me once I was an accident.”

And the bartender’s, like, “That’s horrible.”

And the twelve-inch pianist shrugs. And he’s, like, “You know what? I’m over it. He always said I wouldn’t amount to anything, because of my height? Well, now look at me. I’m a professional musician!”

And the pianist starts to laugh, but it’s a forced kind of laughter, and you can see the pain behind it. And then he’s, like, “When he was in the hospital, he had one of the nurses call me. I was going to go see him. Bought a plane ticket and everything. But before I could make it back to Tampa . . .”

And then he starts to cry. And he’s, like, “I just wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye to my old man.”

1974 Plymouth VoyagerAnd all of a sudden there’s this big cloud of smoke — and a beat-up Plymouth Voyager appears!

And the pianist is, like, “I said ‘old man,’ not ‘old van’!”

And everybody laughs. And the pianist is, like, “Your genie’s hard of hearing.”

And the bartender says, “No kidding. You think I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?”

And as soon as the words leave his lips he regrets them. Because the pianist is, like, “Oh, my God. You didn’t really want me.”

And the bartender’s, like, “No, it’s not like that.” You know, trying to backpedal.

And the pianist smiles ruefully and says, “Once an accident, always an accident.” And he drinks all of his whiskey.

And the bartender’s, like, “Brian, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

And the pianist smashes his whiskey glass against the wall and says, “Well, I didn’t mean that.”

And the bartender’s, like, “Whoa, calm down.”

And the pianist is, like, “Fuck you!” And he’s really drunk, because he’s only one foot tall and so his tolerance for alcohol is extremely low. And he’s, like, “Fuck you, asshole! Fuck you!”

And he starts throwing punches, but he’s too small to do any real damage, and eventually he just collapses in the bartender’s arms.

And suddenly he has this revelation. And he’s, like, “My God, I’m just like him. I’m just like him.” And he starts weeping.

And the bartender’s, like, “No, you’re not. You’re better than he was.”

And the pianist is, like, “That’s not true. I’m worthless!”

And the bartender grabs the pianist by the shoulders and says, “Damn it, Brian, listen to me! My life was hell before you entered it. Now I look forward to every day. You’re so talented and kind and you light up this whole bar. Hell, you light up my whole life. If I had a second wish, you know what it would be? It would be for you to realize how beautiful you are.”

And the bartender kisses the pianist on the lips.

So the guy, who’s been watching all this, is surprised, because he didn’t know the bartender was gay. It doesn’t bother him; it just catches him off guard, you know? So he goes to the bathroom, to give them a little privacy. And there’s the genie.

So the guy’s, like, “Hey, genie, you need to get your ears fixed.”

And the genie’s, like, “Who says they’re broken?” And he opens the door, revealing the happy couple, who are kissing and gaining strength from each other.

And the guy’s, like, “Well done.”

And then the genie says, “That bartender’s tiny penis is going to seem huge from the perspective of his one-foot-tall boyfriend.”

And the graphic nature of the comment kind of kills the moment.

And the genie’s, like, “I’m sorry. I should’ve left that part unsaid. I always do that. I take things too far.”

And the guy’s, like, “Don’t worry about it. Let’s just grab a beer. It’s on me.”

 

Simon Rich*Rich was born and raised in New York City. He attended The Dalton School and then enrolled at Harvard University where he became president of the Harvard Lampoon. His older brother is novelist and essayist Nathaniel Rich, and his parents are Gail Winston and New York Times author Frank Rich. His step-mother is New York Times reporter Alex Witchel. After graduating Harvard, Rich wrote for Saturday Night Live for four years where Rich and the staff of Saturday Night Live were nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Series three times in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and twice won the Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety Series in 2009 and 2010. Rich then departed to work as a staff writer for Pixar. In 2013 and 2014, Rich was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List. We hate him. In a good way.

 

Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. His mother walked with him for weeks from Somalia after their livestock died. Doctos yesterday gave him a 50-50 chance of survival. Photo: AP

Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. His mother walked with him for weeks from Somalia after their livestock died. Doctors yesterday gave him a 50-50 chance of survival. Photo: AP

 

We were struck by a comment left by a reader of the Melbourne Age on a story there today concerning the dead children of Gaza and Israel.

“If we’re going to grow a consciousness, let’s look at the 18,000 plus children that die EVERY SINGLE DAY from starvation, worldwide.”

A sobering point, right there.

Why is the world so transfixed by the terrible toll in the Middle East yet so unmoved by the scale of the ongoing, ever-present disaster elsewhere?

In our view it is the immediacy of the relationship between a shell and those blown to pieces by its blast, and the culpability or otherwise of those who fired it. The same is true of the recent shooting down of MH17. We rage against these deaths because it’s easy to “pick a side”, and we think we know who is responsible.

The other factor is clearly wall-to-wall media coverage. Photographs of hideously wounded women and children, tumbling into our consciousness time after time, affect this writer as much as anyone else.

But the curious thing is that the ongoing starving to death of millions of the world’s children is just as much the result of human actions that are blatantly obvious, and where blame can equally be sheeted home.

Civil strife – and the puppet-masters and arms merchants who fuel it – displaces millions of people and leaves the weakest open to succumbing from the combination of fatigue, illness and hunger.

War interrupts the orderly flow of food and supplies, sometimes for years.

And when natural forces conspire to destroy crops and livestock, our response is predictably threadbare unless a campaigning journalist manages, for once, to seize our attention momentarily.

Meanwhile, all around the world, Governments restrict foreign aid budgets to play to the biases of their domestic audience, as Bob Geldof pointed out in Melbourne as recently as yesterday.

So why is this catastrophe largely ignored? It is more, we feel, than merely a world-weary exhaustion that “it was always thus”, or that the problem is intractable and therefore we choose to ignore it .

It is a combination, in our view, of a lack of media coverage – persistent child starvation is not, after all, “news ” – that does not force us to confront what is happening as a result of our inaction.

And it is the result of a tragic, identifiable, and cursed lack of moral will-power in our political classes.

One might cynically argue that there are no votes in starving children, especially starving children overseas, but we suspect the core problem is even more fundamental and depressing.

We suspect our political leadership simply don’t care or they don’t have the mental capacity to provide true leadership. They just don’t have the imagination or the skills to devise solutions, and neither do their sycophantic advisors, there are no quick sound bites for little brains in the topic, and solving the problem requires a generational effort, which can’t be accomplished by the time they next seek re-election.

But a dead child is a dead child, nevertheless. Same pain. Same grief. Same hopes, dreams and future talents lost.

Every day we lose 18,000 future doctors, leaders, farmers , ecologists, writers, scientists, administrators, artists, musicians. The people who will drag their nations and continents forward, step by painful step, to become peaceful and self-sustaining.

And we just don’t see them. The 18,000 dead children, every day. Just as dead as the children of Gaza and Israel. They have names, like Mihag Gedi Farah.

Just as outrageous, and just as preventable.

We just don’t see them.


This is what happens when...

You join clubs at Uni: Be warned!

Jenie Yolland Glass Artist

Showcasing the designs of an Australian glass artist

breakfast in bed

A topnotch WordPress.com site

vita ante acta

So when the world knocks at your front door, clutch the knob and open on up, running forward into its widespread greeting arms with your hands before you, fingertips trembling though they may be. Anis Mojgani

Well, This Is What I Think

The name of the blog says it all, really. My take on interesting stuff + useful re-posts :-)

Rosie Waterland

Rosie Waterland is a writer based in Sydney. She finds her own jokes particularly hilarious.

I make the glass

Join me on this wonderful journey exploring the gorgeous world of glass!

Miss Snarky Pants

A Humor Blog For Horrible People

SGMarinova's Blog

Randomness at its finest

Sweet Mother

The last words I'll say during the rapture, until then there's the writing...

The Blurred Line

It's the thin line between reality and fantasy. It's the thin line between sanity and madness. It's the crazy things that make us think, laugh and scream in the dark.

Manage By Walking Around

Aligning Execution With Strategy

QBG_Tilted Tiara

Philosophically Speaking the World in Motion

Fibromy-Awesome

Yes, I take 25 pills a day. Boom.

Emily L. Hauser - In My Head

Writer, social activist, a lot of Israel/Palestine, and general mental rambling

Me 2.0

If necessity is the mother of invention, then divorce is the mother of re-invention...

CUTDC.COM

A Vital Source of Unfiltered News and Information for Tea Party and Freedom Activists

Speaker7

speaks to the masses of people not reading this blog

%d bloggers like this: