Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

surprised_horseAh, sub editors.

They do love to just slip one in now and then.

Just to see, you know, if the Editor is actually awake and paying attention.

We love this:

Needs help

Holding the milk crate steady? Lifting the pony’s tail up? The mind doth boggleth.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/man-who-had-sex-with-a-horse-needs-help-says-ballarat-judge-20150225-13p34t.html

It’s good to know our judiciary are so thoughtful.

You really should click on the link for the full story.

rape victim_b60e1Australians are already tossing up whether to avoid Bali as a holiday destination in light of the Indonesian government’s apparent intransigence over the upcoming execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for trying to import heroin to Australia, despite their obvious rehabilitation during ten years in prison.

News that Indonesian President Widodo did not even consider the facts of the mens’ case before rejecting their appeal for clemency – including urgings from their prison governor that they not be executed as they are so useful in the prison – has created considerable anger in Australia, and lawyers for the pair – the so-called “Bali2″ – are seeking to use the unseemly rush to shoot them as cause for appeal in Bali today.

Now news emerges that Indonesian police identified but let go a man accused of brutally raping a teenage Perth woman in Bali on Christmas Day, allowing him to escape the island.

The man allegedly assaulted the 19-year-old in a sustained attack that began in a villa and continued during a traumatic 30-minute taxi ride after she tried to escape.

When the woman reported the assault the next morning, she was subjected to a “virginity test”, watched on by medical students in Bali’s Sanglah Hospital. As if whether or not she was a virgin determined whether or not she had been raped.

She has been in hospital twice since her return to Perth for an aggressive sexually transmitted disease – “a revolting, painful reminder” – and must wait four months on an HIV test.

Her parents have now appealed for help to find her attacker.

Hours after the alleged assault, the woman named the man she said had raped her as Henry Alafu, identified him and led Bali police to the Jimbaran villa where the incident took place.

But police did not arrest the 25-year-old and told the woman they wanted to follow him to Jakarta so he would lead them to a “bigger network of criminals”.

The man is now believed to be on Java with a fresh warrant out for his arrest. “As the days and weeks go by we lose hope that there will be any justice,” the woman’s mother said yesterday.

The teenager said she was still fragile. She felt violated twice after getting no choice but to have the invasive virginity test she was told was necessary to report a rape to police.

“The hospital report confirmed I had been raped and assaulted,” she said.

“The police issued a warrant for his arrest. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been arrested.

“This man raped, threatened and humiliated me. He laughed in my face at my fear and helplessness.

“I was terrified. I have had my fair share of nightmares since the incident. Sleep is still difficult.”

In the days after the assault, the family employed a Balinese law firm to help. It billed them $US13,500 ($17,300) for six days work, including $US400 for replying to an email from the mother.

Her mother, who was holidaying in Bali with the 19-year-old and her younger sister, said the whole family had been traumatised by the rape and aftermath.

Young women, in particular, might consider that there are safer and equally inexpensive places to holiday in Asia than the island which combines a great sense of fun – as well as serene beauty in its hinterland, and the kindness of most of its people – with a very poor record for holidaymaker safety.

The White Rose

Sophie Scholl and members of White Rose

One of the most disturbing, heart-rending and thought-provoking films we have ever seen was “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days”.

The movie covers the efforts of a resistance group fighting the Nazis called “White Rose” Although the White Rose is well known in Germany, it is not well known overseas.

Der Weissen Rose was a group of mostly students at the University of Munich in Bavaria. Some were studying philosophy. Most, but not all, were religious in some way. Some of the boys had done military service but were allowed to do stints at university between stints on the Eastern Front. This experience provided them with more knowledge of what was actually going on than the average person living in Germany at the time, and it appalled them, but in their courageous resistance they still come across as young and somewhat naïve. It is this naivety that has made the White Rose so appealing. The operated from “pure” theological and philosophical intellectual opposition to National Socialism, to fascism, to dictatorship, to the war, and to the slaughter of Europe’s Jews.

To believe that there was very little resistance to Hitler inside Germany is a serious misunderstanding. Resistance to the Nazis began, of course, before they even came to power, and continued during the thirties and throughout the war.

Serving members of White Rose

Serving members of White Rose

Resistance came from political groups of the left, centre and even conservatives, from unions, from churches and religious people, from within the government and branches of the military. Several attempts were made to assassinate Hitler both by groups and individuals. Although it did not succeed in overthrowing Hitler or ending the Nazi tyranny, the resistance did have an impact on the war and the ultimate defeat of the fascist regime.

Why does it seem otherwise? Well, the Nazi regime set out systematically and ruthlessly to destroy all opposition. Thousands of the people who would have been part of an even more effective resistance movement fled into exile soon after Hitler came to power. Many more were perfectly understandably frightened by the danger and sank into silence and inaction.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl's father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl’s father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Yet many did not and paid the price. At least 5,000 were executed and many more spent time in prison. Some were simply murdered.

There was a feeling within Germany that people really shouldn’t undermine the government during wartime

Many ordinary Germans saw members of the resistance as traitors because that was what almost every source of information available to them told them they were.

Unlike in the countries Germany tried to conquer, the resistance had to assume that much of the population actually supported the government and would report their activities from a sense of duty or from totally justified fear, thus making their actions even braver. Nevertheless, their writings struck a chord with many in the community.

The nations fighting Germany during World War II also decided not to publicise the German resistance to Hitler during or after the war. The insistence on unconditional surrender and the strategic bombing raids which caused so many civilian casualties made it necessary to see Germany as guilty as a nation rather than as itself a victim of Nazi tyranny. The allied armies knew about the resistance and benefited from it but did not want to praise it, at least initially.

MovieSophieSchollSo the story of Sophie Scholl and her family and friends remained almost un-talked about until about the 1970s, when the German community started to discuss the war years more openly, and then again in 2005 when the remarkable film about the events was released.

You can watch the entire film, in its original German, with subtitles, below.

If you haven’t seen it, we cannot recommend it highly enough, but we warn you that it is gut wrenching.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it, find a couple of hours, pour yourself a strong drink, and watch it. Those that died deserve to be remembered.


When people discuss the White Rose it has been suggested they were a brave but ineffective resistance movement. That is, in fact, not true. When they were active they caused the regime considerable annoyance. Although many who received the leaflets in the mail handed them in to police, many did not, and the regime had to deal with the fact that those who handed them in may have read them.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl - devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl – devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

They managed to establish branches in Berlin and particularly Hamburg where sadly many of Hamburg White Rose met the same fate.

The White Rose also had a role in a student uprising in Munich— which was quickly suppressed.

After their execution graffiti appeared on walls in Munich: “Ihr Geist lebt wieter” “Their Spirit Lives On”.

Others carried on the fight. Copies of the leaflets were smuggled out to the Allies and later dropped in their tens of thousands by bombers over German cities.

An example of the leaflets (there were a total of five) is produced below. The courage of young people who could make these arguments against the might of the Nazi Reich simply beggars belief. Especially as they operated in the sure and certain knowledge that one day they must be caught, with their horrifying deaths as the inevitable result.

Many brave people died during the Second World War. These young Germans were amongst the bravest.

THE THIRD LEAFLET

Salus publica suprema lex (Public safety is the supreme law)

All ideal forms of government are Utopias. A state cannot be constructed on a purely theoretical basis; instead, it must grow and develop in the same way an individual human being matures. But we must not forget that at the beginning of every civilization the state already existed in a rudimentary form. The family is as old as man himself, and out of this initial bond man, endowed with reason, created for himself a state founded on justice, whose highest law was the common good. The state should reflect the divine order, and the highest of all utopias, the Civitas dei, is the model it should ultimately resemble. We will not compare the many possible states here—democracy, constitutional monarchy, monarchy, and so on, but one issue needs to be made clear and unambiguous; every human being has the right to a just state, a state that safeguards the freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole. For according to God’s will, man should be free and independent, while fulfilling his natural duty of living and working together with his fellow citizens, and strive to achieve earthly happiness through self-reliance and self-motivation.

But the present “state” is the dictatorship of evil. “Oh, we’ve known that for a long time,” I hear you object, “and it isn’t necessary to bring that to our attention again.” But, as I ask you, if you know that, why do you not rouse yourselves, why do you allow these men in power to rob you step by step, both openly and in secret, of one of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunkards? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right—or rather, your moral duty—to eradicate this system? But if a man can no longer summon the strength to demand his right, then he will definitely perish. We would deservedly be scattered over the earth like dust in the wind if we do not marshal our powers at this late hour and finally find the courage we have lacked up to now. Do not hide your cowardice behind a cloak of expedience, for with every new day that you hesitate, failing to oppose this offspringof Hell, your guilt, like a parabolic curve, grows higher and higher.

Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets cannot see clearly how they can mount an effective opposition. They cannot see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system. Solitary withdrawal, like embittered hermits, cannot prepare the ground for the overthrow of this “government” or bring about the revolution at the earliest possible moment. No, it can only be done through the cooperation of many convinced energetic people—people who agree on the means they must use to attain their goal. We have few choices as to these means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and the goal of passive resistance is to bring down National Socialism, and in this struggle we can’t shrink from any means, any act, wherever it is open to attack. We must bring this monster of a state to an end soon. A victory for fascist Germany in this war would have inconceivable and terrible consequences. The first concern of every German is not the military victory of Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism. This must be the first order of business; its greater imperative will be discussed in one of our forthcoming leaflets.

And now every resolute opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can most effectively fight against the present “state”, how he can inflict the most damaging blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. We can provide each man with a blueprint for his acts; we can only make general suggestions, and he alone will find the best way to achieve them.

Sabotage armament industries, sabotage every assembly, rally, ceremony, and organisation sponsored by the National Socialist Party. Obstruct the smooth functioning of the war machine (a machine designed for war that is then used solely to shore up and perpetuate the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship.) Sabotage in every scientific and intellectual field involved in continuing this war—whether it be universities, technical colleges, laboratories, research stations, or technical agencies. Sabotage all cultural institutions that could enhance the “prestige” of the fascists among he people. Sabotage all branches of the arts that have even the slightest dependence on National Socialism or serve it in any way. Sabotage all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the “government” and that defend its ideology and help disseminate the brown lie. Do not give a penny to public fund-raising drives (even when they are conducted under the guise of charity), for this is only a cover. In reality the proceeds help neither the Red Cross nor the needy. The government does not need this money; it is not financially interested in these fund-raising drives. After all, the presses run nonstop, printing as much paper currency as is needed. But the people must never be allowed to slacken! Do not contribute to the collection of metal, textiles and the like. Try to convince all your acquaintances, including those in the lower social classes, of the senselessness of continuing, of the hopelessness of this war; of our spiritual and economic enslavement at the hands of the National Socialists, of the destruction of all moral and religious values; and urge them to adopt passive resistance.

Aristotle, Politics: “Further….[a tyrant] should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says, or does, and should employ spies everywhere…and further, to create disunity and division in the population: to set friend against friend, the common people against the notables, and the wealthy among themselves. Also he should impoverish his subjects; the maintenance of guards and soldiers is thus paid for by the people, who are forced to work hard and have neither the time nor the opportunity to conspire against him…Another practice of tyrants is to increase taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that his subjects paid all their wealth into the treasury within five years. The tyrant is also inclined to engage in constant warfare in order to occupy and distract his subjects.

Please make as many copies of this leaflet as possible and pass them on!

Further comment superfluous.

Further comment superfluous.

The internet was left well and truly broken last weekend with the news that the entirely delightful Emma Watson was possibly dating Britain’s most eligible bachelor Prince Harry. The idea that Watson – who has just announced she will take on the role of Disney Princess Belle in a live action Beauty and the Beast remake – might become an actual, real-life Princess was the stuff of fandom dreams.

Also, there was a portion of the internet (to wit, the Harry Potter-reading portion) who were vindicated in the knowledge that Hermione really was going to end up with Harry, after all.

But alas, those hopes and dreams had barely taken flight before they were crushed cruelly today.

Watson took to Twitter to deny the rumours early this morning. “World,” Watson said, “remember that little talk we had about not believing everything written in the media?!” This was a reference to a 2013 tweet from Watson, who responded to (false) rumours that she was going to star in Fifty Shades of Grey.

But Watson wasn’t finished yet. The actress tweeted again, sharing a clip from beloved film A Little Princess with the caption “marrying a Prince not a prerequisite for being a Princess.”

We could have told everyone it wasn’t true. Watson is cerebral, intelligent and thoughtful. Neither of those characteristics are requirements for dating Harry. Nor is she blonde.

None of which, of course, means we can’t post a completely egregious and unnecessary glamour shot of Ms Watson for no apparent reason without even pretending it has any relevance to the story. We are only human. *Sigh*

Neil-Patrick-Harris-2015-Oscars-Host

On Wellthisiswhatithink we are fairly consistent in two things.

1. We celebrate talent, and hard work.

2. We love creativity.

The opening of today’s Oscars starring their host Neil Patrick Harris (amongst others) was simply superb. Frankly, we wonder if the rest of the show could possibly live up to it.

Harris was consistently the best thing about the gloriously funny and touching show “How I Met Your Mother” and has also been awarded for his onstage work on Broadway. We stand in awe of his talent. Frankly, we’d be hard pressed to even remember our lines in a song as long and complex as this. His timing is superb, his performance faultless. Big ups too for Anna Kendrick who is wonderful, and Jack Black, in supporting roles.

Phew. And a word, please, for whoever wrote it. As a writer, we fear we are always the forgotten ones, or nearly always. The writer here has earned his or her money a dozen times over. “We are here tonight with our Xanax and Dior.” Glorious stuff.

The technical quality of the staging is brilliant too. Just look at the Sharon Stone moment to see what we mean. So clever.

This is American popular culture at his best. When they’re good, my word, they’re good. The YouTube page we watched it on was running a bit wonky and has now been removed for copyright issues, but if it’s not on YouTube watch it on the tele later. Or find, you know, a proper website. You could try this one:

Watch here

We’re TRYING, OK?

Can’t wait to see the rest of the show.

Tony-Abbott-WinkOK, it’s Friday, we have a headache, we have to go stand around in 90+ degree sunshine, and we simply can’t be arsed to rattle on about how wrong it is to execute Australians in Indonesia (or anywhere for that matter), how horrid IS are (and more interestingly, why), or how stooooopid Australia’s Prime minister is. (Answer: staggeringly.)

So we just thought we’d have a larf with these inspired alterations to public signs. Have a great weekend, Dear Reader.

 

I really wish we were as funny as this. Really. We strive to be. We just ain't. You could call that a chip on our shoulder. Ha! See what we did there? Maybe we are funny.

I really wish we were as funny as this. Really. We strive to be. We just ain’t. You could call that a chip on our shoulder. Ha! See what we did there? Maybe we are funny after all.

 

Leveraging America's obsession with Bacon, which we completely get.

Leveraging America’s obsession with Bacon, which we completely get.

 

Gorgeous. Even like the drawing.

Gorgeous. Even like the drawing.

 

They do, too. Always knew it.

They do, too. Always knew it.

 

This would make us laugh no matter how many times we walked past it. Whoever drew this has done the world a kindness.

This would make us laugh no matter how many times we walked past it. Whoever drew this has done the world a kindness.

 

Oh, the humanity of it.

Oh, the humanity.

 

We have highlighted this one before as a reminder not to put advertising material where it can be reached, but it's very funny.

We have highlighted this one before as a reminder not to put advertising material where it can be reached, but it’s very funny.

 

Yup.

Yup.

 

Funny and a comment on society all in one. Clever people around.

Funny and a comment on society all in one. Clever people around, huh?

 

The effort people will go to is amazing - we hope the killjoy idiots in the local Council will leave this one up. Brilliant.

The effort people will go to is amazing – we hope the killjoy idiots in the local Council will leave this one up. Brilliant.

 

Yet more social comment. Reminds us of when billboards for cigarettes all over Australia were spontaneously inscribed with "Cough! Cough!" before they were banned.

Yet more social comment. Reminds us of when billboards for cigarettes all over Australia were spontaneously inscribed with “Cough! Cough!” before they were banned.

 

But this is our total favourite. We swear we are going to carry a pen with us from now on in hope of seeing a "Bill Stickers" sign. Bravo.

But this is our total favourite. We swear we are going to carry a pen with us from now on in hope of seeing a “Bill Stickers” sign to add this to. Bravo. Encore!

 

Any more great examples muchly appreciated. Email them to yolly@decisionsdecisions.com.au.

Her

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) takes his artificial intelligence lover on holiday with him. In his pocket.

Recently, Dear Reader, we were much taken with a movie called “Her”, a thought-provoking, rather touching, well-crafted and occasionally funny fantasy comedy-drama about a man who falls in love with the “Artificial Intelligence” character inside his computer.

Written and directed by Spike Jonze (his first full-length screenplay), at the 86th Academy Awards, “Her” received five nominations, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay. Jonze also won awards for the screenplay at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, the 66th Writers Guild of America Awards, the 19th Critics’ Choice Awards, and the 40th Saturn Awards. The movie was both a critical and financial success.

Given the burgeoning growth of online relationships and megamultiplayer online environments it had the smack of a reality that could well arrive reasonably soon. Of course, the idea of an iterative pseudo-intelligence that grows and learns as it goes along is a regular in science fiction – think Data from “Star Trek, Next Generation”, or even the on-board computer in “2001 A Space Odyssey” – and “Her” took that to its logical conclusion, including a very clever ending which we are far too kind to spoil.

Anyhow, although it is still essentially driven by human brainpower, now a man from the United States has created a mobile phone app that gives users a ‘relationship’ at the touch of a button.

For just $30 – a lot less than your drinks tab for an evening hanging around in a singles bar – you can buy a significant other through the new Invisible Boyfriend/Girlfriend app.

You can even choose the specific details and characteristics to make up your dream partner.

Every customer is promised at least 100 texts, 10 voicemails and a collection of handwritten notes.

“Recovering lawyer” and co-founder Matthew Homann says the app enables people to convince others that they are in a relationship and save themselves from awkward questions.

He says there’s a wide range of reasons why people sign up.

“They might be getting tired of getting hit on at the office. Or they might have grown weary of people asking if they are single.”

The ‘relationships’ are managed by a team of 500 employees in the US.

Mr Homann says they hope to expand the service to include deliveries, so people can get gifts brought to their workplace to impress their colleagues.

It would be easy to scoff at such an idea, but we view it sympathetically. There are a lot of lonely people on this planet, and there is great social pressure to be considered desirable. If people choose to engage in a small subterfuge to relieve them of that stigma, well, so be it.

It might be a bit embarrassing, though, when their friends beg to be allowed to meet the gorgeous person who sends them flowers to the office.

And we do wonder what level of self-delusion might develop as the text messages ping into their inbox. Might they imagine they are actually in a real relationship with whoever is sending the text, even when, simultaneously, they know logically that they are not? The mind is perfectly capable of such mental gymnastics.

scarlettPart of the attraction of the movie “Her” was that the voice of the artificial intelligence was played by Scarlett Johannson. Regular readers will understand when we say that we think we’d fall in love if she was the voice of our computer, too.

Mr Wellthisiswhatithink is only human, when all’s said and done.

If Mr Homann can arrange for voicemails from Scarlett to be delivered to our phone, we’re in.

Delightful blog from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink – enjoy!

Glass sgraffito drawing challenge that lasts 30 days.

Chan and sukumaran

 

In a cell, or wandering the yard, the two wait.

Soon, they will be taken to a field.

Their choice. Blind or clear eyed:

one last look at the moon?

Stand, sit, or kneel? A thoughtful touch.

Tense as they hear the barked command

the three bullets will tear through the night sky

like eager dogs let off the leash.

Into their heart

or near it.

If lucky, they die instantly

if not, they will bleed

until revolver bang just above the ear

cup of tea home to wife.

High above, the seagulls will whirl,

squawkingly, suddenly, disturbed.

A child stirs down the road in a hut.

Then all is silent, ambulances

remove the bodies. No need for sirens.

No need for more fuss than is

absolutely necessary.

Whenever there is a terrorist outrage, we often hear a call in the West for “Muslims to condemn the terrorists”.

This faux anger at the worldwide Muslim community (once has to wonder at the motivation for it) ignores the very obvious fact that hundreds of thousands of Muslims are actively involved in the fight against IS, (and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well), and also the oft-ignored fact that opinion in the Muslim world is as diverse as in any other multi-faceted community.

One of my favourite saying is “put two Jews in a room and get three opinions.” Exactly the same could be said of Muslims. The idea that Islam is one great monolithic set of beliefs or attitudes is simply nonsensical.

The West and Islam are often shown to be in conflict, largely because of the vitriolic propaganda and appalling actions of small but effective numbers of people allied to IS, Al Qaeda and others. But the fact is that an existential conflict is actually underway for the soul of Islam throughout the Middle East and beyond and we forget that the vast majority of violence in the area is Muslim versus Muslim.

Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar University

Anyway, it would be hard to imagine a more trenchant response from the Muslim community to the latest outrage from IS than that which we have seen from Jordan in the last 24 hours, including what seems to have been a very effective air raid against extremist positions, and then this AFP report from Cairo: Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious centre of learning, has expressed outrage at the (Sunni) Islamic State group for burning to death a captive Jordanian pilot, saying its militants deserve to be killed or crucified.

Ahmed al Tayeb

Ahmed al Tayeb

After a video was released showing the caged fighter pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, dying engulfed in flames, the Cairo-based authority’s head, Ahmed al-Tayib, expressed his “strong dismay at this cowardly act”.

This “requires the punishment mentioned in the Koran for these corrupt oppressors who fight against God and his prophet: killing, crucifixion or chopping of the limbs.”

“Islam forbids killing of the innocent human soul … It forbids mutilating the human soul by burning or in any other way even during wars against an enemy that attacks you,” Tayib added in a statement.

US "spy" crucified in Yemen

US “spy” crucified in Yemen

Ironically, IS itself has implemented such punishments against its own members for robbery at checkpoints or stealing funds from religious endowments in territories controlled by the group in Iraq and Syria. Jihadist group Ansar al-Shariah have also crucified “US sympathisers” in Yemen.

Despite the efforts of some to paint it otherwise, IS and other groups are regarded as deluded, mad and evil by millions of Muslims.

To say otherwise is, quite simply, to lie.

OK. This is enough reason to have Pay TV. But only just.

Over the years, those so-obliging and ever-so-clever clever cable people have gradually got me to add more and more channels to my box, until now I have a vast incoming feed of every possible type of TV programme imaginable.

I have been talked into every money-saving pack on offer. My monthly Foxtel subscription now rivals the Greek debt.

I can now watch re-runs of Iron Chef America on three different channels. (Bobby Flay, if you make that chipotle sauce one more time I have you taken out, I swear. And what the fuck is chipotle anyway?)

I have seen every episode of “Extreme Fishing”  at least three times. (Admittedly Robson Green does make me laugh a lot.)

And watching early episodes of Midsomer Murders before John Nettles’ face became so rigidly, brilliantly expressive that he could convey the guts of an entire scene with just the tweak of one facial muscle and an exhalation of a long-held breath does give one an interesting insight into the growth of an actor’s craft.

But in general, what is served up is total crap. Last night, at 10.03 pm, I had to concede that there wasn’t a single programme on I wanted to watch, on any channel. Furtively, my eyes even travelled across the room to the bookshelf. I couldn’t, could I?

This is the bread and circuses of today. Mindless, brain numbing, threatening to drag one down into a morass, a pit, an abyss, filled with mental confetti and candy floss, drizzled with sticky engine oil, in which we become stuck, never to escape. Cloying, suffocating, deadly.

You can almost hear the executives and politicians chanting their mantra quietly as they watch us sitting in traffic jams on the freeway, gazing affectionately at us from their gleaming glass and steel eyries. Work hard, spend up big, go home, switch your brain off. Work hard, spend up big, go home, switch your brain off.

You know why they don’t need troops on the barricades to keep us quiet any more. They have pay TV.

Emilia Clarke as the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones

Turn it off. Go outside. You know it makes sense.

And its not even good crap. For every Game of Thrones (“Oh! Khaleesi! Be still my beating heart!”) we have to endure a “Restoration Nightmare”, “Vanished”, “Jersey Shore”, “Teen Mom”, “16 and Pregnant”, even some unbelievable pap called “Entertainment Tonight” – surely that show should be done under the Trades Descriptions Act?

And, of course, those fucking Kardashians – a cipher for our modern age if ever there was one – in any one of 17 universally brain numbing, over-made-up but subtly different incarnations. ” Where are we doing this series, Hun? I know, let’s do Paris!”

Anyway. (Deep breath.) So when I saw the artwork below, I am afraid I could not resist reproducing it.

Feel free to do the same, on WordPress, Facebook, wherever. And well done to whoever is behind Ryotiras.com, who dreamed it up, I guess. One image can make all the difference.

Who knows, we could start a small revolution. Or a big one. I am even going to positively discriminate against advertisers who allow their ads to be run – ad nauseam, as if that helps – in the middle of TV shows with no redeeeming social, artistic, news or dramatic content, merely because the shows “deliver” an audience. The fact that the audience is half-sitting, half-lying, in a catatonic near-brain-dead state incapable of taking in information because their alpha and beta waves have been driven inexorably downwards to a negligible level is all the more reason to boycott those who support such nonsense.

Yes, I know it’s all a matter of opinion. But you know what? I’ve spent a lifetime honing my opinions, and they count.

A scientific survey will not be required. I will make my own mind up. If millions of us switched brands because we resent advertisers wasting their margin (which is passed onto us as consumers as increased prices, of course) by advertising in the middle of shows that merely pollute our lives then sooner or later they’d actually look at the schedules provided by their media buying agencies and express an opinion. Starved of funds, the worst shows would struggle. And eventually close.

Every act of resistance has meaning. This is mine. Join me?

You know it.

american_sniperOver the last couple of weeks a number of people have been pushing us to go and see American Sniper and then to tell everyone what we think.

The film – which enjoyed the largest-grossing weekend for a movie ever when it launched in the USA – has divided opinion. Basically the left intelligentsia and many of those watching the film overseas have condemned it as at best simplistic and at worst American triumphalism, while some on the right have trumpeted it as a return to good ol’ USA values in movie making and a celebration of a folk hero.

We suspect the assumption is that, given our well-understood political preferences, we will immediately lapse into an anti-American rant full of left-wing certainty that the project is little more than an exercise in gung ho Tea Party patriotism and yet another example of director Clint Eastwood’s rightwards drift in his old age, epitomised by his dreadful Republican Convention discussion with an empty chair.

Actually, our reaction was much different.

As both its Oscar-nominated maker and Bradley Cooper have argued, the piece is above all a closely observed discussion of the effect of war on an individual who measures his life by some fairly simple yardsticks – love of country, love of family, and distaste for bullies. Some will be put off from seeing the film because of its subject matter. That would be a mistake.

Chris Kyle and his wife

Chris Kyle and his wife

Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat.

Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and placed a series of ever increasing bounties on his head, purported to have eventually reached the low six figures.

Kyle was honourably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in January 2012. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas, by a fellow veteran he was seeking to aid, along with friend Chad Littlefield. Their killer is awaiting trial.

We suspect that much of the criticism of the film is based on the shock that it is presented in very spare tones. It is brutal. Elemental. Nowhere to hide from the subject matter. For those who prefer their war neatly packaged on the nightly news and with the blood and guts removed, this movie will be confronting, indeed.

mother boy

There is no attempt to gloss over the utter nastiness of war for the ordinary soldier. Indeed, quite the opposite. War is not presented as a cheery exercise for America or Americans, or anyone. It is shown in all its bloody reality. When Kyle shoots a young boy carrying a grenade, and then his mother (or sister, it isn’t clear), the horrific nature of the moment is presented with stark realism. The fact that it is his first “kill”  is explored in a few simple sentences when he later returns to barracks. His regret at the incident is expressed exactly as a working soldier would express it – he hadn’t wanted his first engagement with the enemy to be like that. His colleague closes down discussion with the ultimate justification. Kyle had saved his colleagues’ lives. That was his job. Job done. Move on.

The film makes no attempt to consider why a young woman and a young boy would be running up a street holding a hand grenade to try and slaughter American soldiers. It neither justifies nor condemns their action. The reason is clear: that’s not what Eastwood is examining. On the other hand, it is also a simple and effective way to encapsulate that the war in Iraq was also about a war with the local population, not just hardened Jihadist fighters.

If this movie is about anything it is about the horror of war and the stoic determination to endure it in support of principles. One can question the principles – one can argue that America should never have been in Iraq, or even that Al-Zarquari and his hoodlum army were justified in fighting the invaders. That is to entirely miss the point. The movie is a character study, and it is engagingly effective in that study. Yes, naturally, it is viewing that study from the American perspective, but it makes no attempt to sanitise the reality of American actions, which were bloody. Because war is.

The movie also unflinchingly reveals the reality of the opposition the Americans faced – at times well organised, determined to the point of fanatical, but also frequently very cruel towards its own population. To reveal one of the film’s more gut wrenching scenes would be an unreasonable spoiler for those who have yet to see it, but it makes grim viewing. That it is likely to be entirely true is merely emphasised by the current barbarity of ISIS burning people alive, beheading, mass murder, raping and kidnapping, reducing populations to slavery and so forth.

Above all, despite lifting Chris Kyle up as a figure to be exemplified, (and the final scene sent everyone in this one Australian cinema out in to the streets in near silence), the film is an anti-war monologue. It would be hard to imagine a more immersive experience that could lead one to understand the reality of being in a fire fight in a dense urban area – in other words, what the fighters on both sides endured day after day for years.

One many occasions in the film one finds oneself gripping the arms of the cinema chair and wondering how any halfway sane person could ever return home and be able to pick up everyday life with any degree of equanimity. In that sense, Kyle’s own story is also an appeal for the United States to improve its treatment of its own vets – a disgraceful number of whom linger with untreated mental illness or languish in jails around the country.

Much has been made of the fact that it is somehow wrong to create a movie celebrating the life of a man who took 160 lives (at least 160 – that’s his “confirmed” total) in his role as a sniper. And to be sure, the publicity surrounding the movie trumpeting his role as the most lethal sniper in American history doesn’t sit at all easily with those who regret the loss of human life in conflicts.

But then again, what do people expect soldiers to do?

Apart from the very obvious fact that Kyle saved many more of his fellow soldier’s lives than he took – a point demonstrated clearly in the film – soldiers are employed to kill the enemy in combat. The operator of a drone or fighter-bomber will frequently “take out” many more people than Kyle did in four tours of duty.

american-sniper-is-not-an-army-recruitment-video

If we don’t want to deal squarely with what we ask men like Kyle to do, then we need to campaign against war, not individuals. Kyle is exemplified as a decent man who did what he felt his duty demanded of him, at great personal risk and cost to his family. He is shown warts and all – a tad simplistic, as capable of reducing the war to a slogan as anyone, an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances – which is a treatment that will be appreciated by all those who have served in a hot war zone. But throughout, his essential decency shines though, which is remarkable given that he is killing people for most of the film. His deep affection for his family is especially moving, and let it be said that Sienna Miller is excellent as his long-suffering and loyal wife.

American Sniper is anything but a recruitment video for the American armed forces, although sadly some will seek to ride its coat-tails and present it as such. In one particularly telling moment, while Stateside, Kyle is called a hero by a younger man. “That’s not a title anyone would want” he mutters in embarrassment, almost inaudibly.

And that, surely, is the real point of this remarkable film.

Other critical reaction

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “A taut, vivid and sad account of the brief life of the most accomplished marksman in American military annals, American Sniper feels very much like a companion piece — in subject, theme and quality — to The Hurt Locker.” Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying “Hard-wiring the viewer into Kyle’s battle-scarred psyche thanks to an excellent performance from a bulked-up Bradley Cooper, this harrowing and intimate character study offers fairly blunt insights into the physical and psychological toll exacted on the front lines, yet strikes even its familiar notes with a sobering clarity that finds the 84-year-old filmmaker in very fine form.” David Denby of The New Yorker gave the film a positive review, saying “Both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie, a subdued celebration of a warrior’s skill and a sorrowful lament over his alienation and misery.” Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+, saying “The film’s just a repetition of context-free combat missions and one-dimensional targets.” Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News gave the film four out of five stars, saying “The best movies are ever-shifting, intelligent and open-hearted enough to expand alongside an audience. American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s harrowing meditation on war, is built on this foundation of uncommon compassion.” Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly gave the film a C-, saying “Cautiously, Eastwood has chosen to omit Kyle’s self-mythologizing altogether, which is itself a distortion of his character. We’re not watching a biopic.” Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film four out of five stars, saying “After 40 years of Hollywood counter-propaganda telling us war is necessarily corrupting and malign, its ablest practitioners thugs, loons or victims,American Sniper nobly presents the case for the other side.”

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying “Bradley Cooper, as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and director Eastwood salute Kyle’s patriotism best by not denying its toll. Their targets are clearly in sight, and their aim is true.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a B, saying “American Sniper is imperfect and at times a little corny, but also ambivalent and complicated in ways that are uniquely Eastwoodian.” James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying “American Sniper lifts director Clint Eastwood out of the doldrums that have plagued his last few films.” Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying “Cooper nails the role of an American killing machine in Clint Eastwood’s clear-eyed look at the Iraq War.” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, saying “Eastwood’s impeccably crafted action sequences so catch us up in the chaos of combat we are almost not aware that we’re watching a film at all.” Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three out of four stars, saying “It’s clearly Cooper’s show. Substantially bulked up and affecting a believable Texas drawl, Cooper embodies Kyle’s confidence, intensity and vulnerability.” Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York gave the film four out of five stars, saying “Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Clint Eastwood could make a movie about an Iraq War veteran and infuse it with doubts, mission anxiety and ruination.” Inkoo Kang of The Wrap gave the film a negative review, saying “Director Clint Eastwood‘s focus on Kyle is so tight that no other character, including wife Taya (Sienna Miller), comes through as a person, and the scope so narrow that the film engages only superficially with the many moral issues surrounding the Iraq War.”

Eastwood himself has commented that the movie is intended to be anti-war. 

Responding to critics that considered the film as excessively violent, as celebrating war, killing, and as jingoistic, Eastwood said that it is a stupid analysis and that the film has nothing to do with political parties. He stated: “I was a child growing up during World War II. That was supposed to be the one to end all wars. And four years later, I was standing at the draft board being drafted during the Korean conflict, and then after that there was Vietnam, and it goes on and on forever … I just wonder … does this ever stop? And no, it doesn’t. So each time we get in these conflicts, it deserves a lot of thought before we go wading in or wading out. Going in or coming out. It needs a better thought process, I think.” Eastwood called American Sniper “the biggest anti-war statement any film can make,” and said that “the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did” and “what it (war) does to the people left behind.” 

 

I am indebted to Pat’s Mum (*Waves! Hi*) for finding this delightful photo on her travels.

kunt

OK, so is that Chinese? Japanese? Korean? We apologise for not knowing, and anyway, whatever it is, what the hell? Is English so poorly known in this neck of the woods that no one thought to, um, call it something else? And with an exclamation mark, no less!

Which set us off searching for the word, of course. We did discover that it’s an Acronymn for the Kuwait Union for New Teachers, described as a Professional and Social organisation for expat teachers.

Also has the Saudi Arabian Department (SAD KUNTs) and The Dubai Association for Teaching (DAFT KUNTs)

As the Urban Dictionary reports, “I’m a kard karrying Kunt in Dubai so I’m a Daft Kunt”.

We could not possibly comment. For other F*** Ups just put “F*** Up” in the search box top left of this page, and enjoy.

Gabby Finlayson wearing the Audrey Hepburn-style dress

Yes, according to Lone Peak High School in Utah.

Gabi Finlayson was excited to attend a dance at Lone Peak High School. The 15-year-old girl and her mom were recently in Paris and they picked out “the perfect dress”, one that was reminiscent of iconic fashion idol Audrey Hepburn.Her happiness soon turned to shame and embarrassment. Shortly after arriving at the school dance, she was approached by school officials who said her dress was too risqué. Why? Her shoulders were showing.

Finlayson says she was angry after she was forced to wear her winter coat over her dress the entire dance, she says she felt as though the school was shaming her for what some of the boys might think.

“Somehow my shoulders are sexualised,” Finlayson said. “Like it’s my responsibility to make sure the boys’ thoughts are not unclean.”

Her mom was just as incensed:

“How have we gotten to the point that we look at shoulders as if they’re somehow pornographic? As if they are this shameful thing,” Kimball said.

Right on, Mum! Seriously, are shoulders pornographic? This dress style was popularized by Audrey Hepburn in the late 1950s and early 1960s and somehow in 2015 it is considered too risqué? Yes, some people should be embarrassed by this debacle. But, be it sure isn’t Gabby Finlayson or her mom.

(Daily Kos and others)

Another triumph for the American Taliban? Or reasonable dress restriction? What do you think, Dear Reader?

childs-white-oblong-casket

We despair at the gullibility, the laziness, and the downright stupidity of “internet generation parents” who continue to think their children are more at risk from being vaccinated than they are from catching horrible – and 100% avoidable – childhood diseases.

As a result, anti-vaccine parents throughout the world, but recently noteworthily in America and Australia, are taking decisions that are killing their children – not to mention infecting other persons via their un-protected children.

Los Angeles resident Derek Bartholomaus, who runs an excellent fact-based website called “The anti-vaccine body count” is keeping count of preventable illnesses (144,886), preventable deaths (6,312), and number of autism diagnoses scientifically linked to vaccinations (0) since June 3, 2007. He admits it is hard to convince the anti-vaccination crowd, despite research that vaccination leads to autism being totally and comprehensively debunked.

“It’s really hard because it gets into the conspiracy theorist mentality,” he said. “If it were just a rational and logical discussion, there’s no debate. Vaccines are safe and effective.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Jasjit Singh, associate director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, says she has seen her share of children die from a preventable infectious diseases.

“There is nothing more heartbreaking,” she said.

Key facts

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour. By no means all of these were in developing countries.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide.
  • In 2013, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.
  • During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Parents need to know this.

Chickenpox can leave your child scarred for life.

Measles can kill them.

Whooping cough can kill them.

Most children are infected with whooping cough by their own unvaccinated parents.

Stories that kids can be hurt by vaccines are LIES. A proportion of all children will develop autism whether they are vaccinated or not. It’s sad, but there it is. We just want everyone to consider these statistics from the World Health Organisation.

Immunization averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. Global vaccination coverage—the proportion of the world’s children who receive recommended vaccines—has remained steady for the past few years.

During 2013, about 84% (112 million) of infants worldwide received 3 doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, protecting them against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness and disability or be fatal. By 2013, 129 countries had reached at least 90% coverage of DTP3 vaccine.

IF THESE VACCINES WERE HARMFUL AND CAUSING AUTISM, WHY IS THE WORLD NOT DROWNING IN AUTISTIC CHILDREN?

Yet as anyone with Google and three minutes to spare can read here, autism is NOT increasing.

If you know anyone NOT vaccinating their children (especially against Measles and Whooping Cough) we urge you to ask them to do so. Be prepared to back up your opinion with facts. Because it’s this simple: children’s lives are at stake.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, we are old enough to have lost relatives to preventable disease within our lifetime. Forgive us, therefore, being so blunt. We’re over it. Yes, it is conceivable that there is a tiny – TINY – risk in vaccination simply because anything that is done to the human body can cause a reaction. But simply being alive is dangerous. Breathing is dangerous. The point is that we KNOW the risk from preventable diseases and it exceeds the risk from vaccination by such a large factor that we should ignore any miniscule risk and protect our children.

Did I hold my breath for an hour or two when my daughter was given her various vaccinations? Yes I did. Would I make the same decision again? Yes, 100 times out of 100.

The Abbott government - looking very tired, very quickly.

The Abbott government – looking very tired, very quickly.

We are deeply disappointed that Head Boy Tony Abbott chose to make Sir Prince Phil the Greek an “Australian Knight” for his “contribution to charity in Australia”, made during the 60 years or so since he was plucked from minor European faux-royalty obscurity to enjoy a lifetime of shooting defenceless fauna and insulting people by marrying Her Maj.

Not, we hasten to add, because such an obviously ludicrous decision reduces still further Mr Abbott’s likelihood of holding onto the top job, which is already vanishingly unlikely in our view.

Rather, because if we’re going to hand out Imperial knighthoods – in itself a daft idea for a modern country on the other side of the planet, and supposedly no longer aping England in the 1950s – then there are so many other deserving candidates. We have limited ourselves to the obvious English candidates. Sort of.

Admiral Sir John-Luc Picard of Wagga Wagga? Make it so.

Admiral Sir John-Luc Picard of Wagga Wagga? Make it so. Engage!

Sir Captain John-Luc Picard

It is far too easily forgotten that if the Captain of the Enterprise had not leapt back in time at great risk to himself, Will Riker’s stay-pressed hairdo and Deanna Troi’s lop-sided top-heavy jumpsuit, then we would not be celebrating Australia Day at all. We would, in fact, not even be Australia. Rather we would be Colony 6 Adjunct 5 of Unimatrix 7 with Borg nannites for red blood cells and one of those weird eyes that shines out beams of green light for no apparent reason. Saving Earth from the Borg? That’s a hell of lot more impressive than teaching wayward teenagers to climb trees, or whatever it is that the Dook of Edinberg’s scheme actually does. PS Yes, we know John-Luc is French, but he’s a sort of Yorkshirefied version of French, and that’s OK.

Sir Phillip “Butterfingers” Tufnell

Phil-TufnellIn the not too distant past, England’s cricket team employed a decent slow bowler (and not half bad batsman, except when playing against Shane Warne) called Phil Tufnell, who has gone on to make himself popular as a TV and radio personality in the UK. His most dramatic career moments were when as a fielder for England in Australia he dropped more catches, racked up more misfields and generally made a doofus of himself so often that he endeared himself to Aussies countrywide. Retreating to the boundary after a bowling spell, Tufnell’s mood was scarcely lightened by an inspired sledge from somewhere among the braggarts, brawlers and boozers in the MCG crowd, although he can laugh about it now. “Oi, Tufnell! Lend us your brain, we’re building an idiot,” bellowed his latest admirer. We witnessed with our own eyes at the MCG a banner being unfurled that read “Hey Phil, chuck it to us, we’ll throw it back for you”, a commentary on his less than stellar long throws back to the wicket-keeper. And when he announced his retirement from Test cricket the Australian Tuffnell Academy of Fielding announced a national day of mourning. It seems only reasonable, if we’re handing out knighthoods for Poms, that this Phil rather than Phil Windsor belatedly gets his for keeping us more entertained than most of the rest of the cricketing world put together.

divaSir Makybe Diva

Makybe Diva is a British-bred, Australian-trained thoroughbred that became the first racehorse to win the famed Melbourne Cup on three occasions: 2003, 2004, and 2005. In 2005, she also won the Cox Plate. Makybe Diva is the highest stakes-earner in Australasian horse racing history, with winnings of more than A$14 million when she retired on 1 November 2005, and is one of only five horses to have won the Cup more than once in the long history of the event, which was first run in 1861, and the only mare among the list of multiple winners, and is one of only 14 female horses (11 mares and three fillies) to have won the Cup. Yes, of course, we know that this should really mean she should be Dame Makybe Diva, not Sir Makybe Diva, but we are stretching a point. We can’t think of anything more Australian than to make a horse a Knight, especially one that made plenty of punters a sizeable packet over the years, so there it is.

Sir Edward John “Eddie” Izzard of the Death Star

Eddie Izzard is an stand-up comedian, actor and writer. His comedy style takes the form of rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime. He is also, in our opinion, responsible for the single funniest three minutes of stand up ever written,Eddie-Izzard to wit, “There must have been a canteen on the Death Star”, a bizarre envisioning of Darth Vader heading to the Death Star canteen for lunch between blowing up planets here and there on behalf of the Evil Empire.

It was brought brilliantly to life using Lego characters as seen in the following video, which has caused more joyous weeping around computer screens than just about anything else we can think of, and thus deserves a knighthood in and of itself. Interestingly, Izzard was actually born in Aden, so although he’s of English descent (and has also resided in Northern Ireland and Wales) he’s also sort of vaguely connected to the Middle East, making him spozzingly current and topical and wow. He also likes dressing up in women’s clothing, which would just be so annoying for our current cretinous Prime Minister that it makes him a perfect choice.

And last but not least:

skippySir Skippy

For a generation, Australians have been understood by the rest of the world as a fun-loving bunch of larrikins who can talk to kangaroos.

“What’s that, Skippy? Uncle Tony has fallen down a well? We need to go get Constable Bob to rescue him? What’s that, Skip? If we don’t get there soon he might die?

I’ve got bad news for you, Skip. Mum needs us home for tea. Here, have a knighthood instead.”

So what about you, Dear Reader?

Which English-ish person or animal should have received a knighthood before Prince Phillip?

Don’t hold back.

The commonest illness on earth that turns lives into misery. Yet in many cases, we can make a huge contribution to our own recovery.

The commonest illness on earth that turns lives into misery. Yet in many cases, we can make a huge contribution to our own recovery.

At various stages in the last 56 years, I, like most people, have been prone to anxiety.

In my case, facing a dreadful crisis at one point in my life, it tipped over into full-blown Obsessional Compulsive Disorder and Depression. (Search for either of those terms on this blog for more information.)

Nowadays, perhaps with the benefit of middle aged perspective, (the clear realisation that one will survive most things and come out stronger, given time, and therefore it can be excellent practice to just to try and “roll with the punches” – indeed, the greatest gift of middle age is patience) I am less likely to fall prone to the misery of anxiety.

Perhaps, also, my brain chemistry is more stable, (it is notoriously less so for teenagers and young adults), or I have just learned to recognise anxiety faster, and deal with it more effectively.

In any event, now that I have taken the decision to be open about my own brushes with “mental illness” (which should, of course, be called “physical illness affecting the brain” – I am no more “nuts” than the next person) I am constantly meeting other people who struggle with anxiety disorders of one sort or another, and who often ask my advice when I pipe up about them.

Sadly, I am not an expert.

Or rather, I am expert in what the bloody illness feels like, but not really an expert in how to solve it.

What worked for me, or someone else, might not work for you. So I went looking for some help online, and found this excellent article from the Australian National University, which is well worth a read.

I have made the occasional comment myself in italics. The rest is from ANU. It’s chock full of good commonsense.

I hope you, or someone you know, finds it helpful.

The 10 best ever anxiety management techniques

These techniques fall into three typical clusters:

  • the physical arousal that constitutes the terror of panic
  • the ‘wired’ feelings of tension that correlate with being ‘stressed out’
  • the mental anguish of rumination – a brain that won’t stop thinking distressing thoughts

Cluster One: Physical Arousal

Distressing Physical Arousal – sympathetic arousal causes the heart thumping, pulse-racing, dizzy, tingly, shortness of breath physical symptoms, that can come out of the blue and are intolerable when not understood.

Even low levels of anxiety can cause physical tension in the jaw, neck and back as well as an emotional somatic feeling of doom or dread in the pit of the stomach, which will set off a mental search for what might be causing it.

Method 1: Manage your body.

  • Eat right
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, sugar and caffeine
    Certainly in excess. The temptation to self-medicate with alcohol particularly is a curse for those who suffer from anxiety, because it is an utterly transitory solution. As soon as the buzz wears off, one is just as (or often more) depressed, and now dealing with a hangover as well.The most intelligent comment I have ever heard about booze was “I used to drink to drown my sorrows. Then one day I woke up and discovered they’d learned how to swim.” However, in my experience, one or two drinks, especially in the late afternoon or early evening, can be helpful in “switching off” the day and settling down for an evening’s relaxation and a night’s rest. I am also advised that a good session on a treadmill in the spare room or at the gym has a similar relaxing effect.
  • Exercise
  • On going self care
    This needs to be active and deliberate. Looking after yourself is often the lowest priority for people with anxiety or depression. It should be the first.
  • Sleep
    I always rely on the rule “an hour before midnight is worth two after”. I have no idea if that has any scientific basis, but it’s true for me. Similarly, sleeping at the wrong time of the day (eg during daylight hours) can leave one with a sense of worthlessness, or having “wasted time”. That said, I think I am convinced that a short “Nanna Nap” (eg 30-60 mins) in the mid-late afternoon can be health-enhancing and lead to more productive evenings.
  • Consider hormonal changes

Method 2: Breathe

Breathing deeply and being aware of the process will slow down or stop the stress response.

I don’t know why this simple fact is so hard for stressed people to get hold of. Close your eyes. Decide to ignore, momentarily at least, whatever is troubling you. Breathe in, hold the breath momentarily, breathe out through your mouth. Empty your lungs. Repeat. Do it for 60 seconds and you can feel control of your emotions returning. It’s infallible.

Do the conscious, deep breathing for about 1 minute at a time, and do it when you are not stressed, at least 10-15 times per day – just do it every time you are waiting for something eg., the phone to ring, an appointment, the kettle to boil, waiting in a line etc.

Method 3: Mindful Awareness

Close your eyes and breathe; notice the body, how the intake of air feels, how the heart beats, what you can feel in the gut.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Breathe. Just breathe.

  • With eyes still closed, purposefully shift your awareness away from your body to everything you can hear or smell or feel through your skin
  • Shift awareness back and forth from your body to what’s going on around you

You will learn in a physical way that you can control what aspects of the world – internal or external – you’ll notice, giving you an internal locus of control and learning that when you can ignore physical sensations, you can overcome them.

Above all, resist the temptation to make catastrophic interpretations of events that bring on panic or worry. Keeping things “in perspective” allows you to feel more in control and mindful of the present.

Very few things are catastrophic in life, and even catastrophic things can be overcome.

Just decide to stop “blowing things out of proportion”.

Stop luxuriating in fear.

It isn’t good for you, and it never solves the problem.


Cluster Two: Tension, Stress and Dread

Many people with anxiety search frantically for the reasons behind their symptoms in the hope that they can ‘solve’ whatever problem it is,

But since much of their heightened tension isn’t about a real problem, they are actually wasting their time running around an inner maze of perpetual worry.

Even if the tension stems from psychological or other causes, there are ways to eliminate the symptoms of worry.

These methods are most helpful for diminishing chronic tension.

Method 4: Don’t listen when worry calls your name

This feeling of dread and tension comprises a state of low grade fear, which can also cause other physical symptoms, like headache, joint pain and ulcers. The feeling of dread is just the emotional manifestation of physical tension.

You must first learn that worry is a habit with a neurobiological underpinning. Then apply relaxation to counteract the tension that is building up.

Nothing real is causing it, so get rid of the symptoms, and enjoy life without them.

This ‘Don’t Listen’ method decreases the tension by combining a decision to simply ignore the voice of worry with a cue for the relaxation state.

To stop listening to the command to worry, you can say to yourself: “This is just my anxious brain firing wrong”. This is the cue to begin relaxation breathing (as described earlier) which will stop the physical sensations of dread that trigger the radar.

Method 5: Knowing, Not Showing, Anger

When you fear anger because of past experience, (which may be very real, and justified) the very feeling of anger, even though it remains unconscious, can produce anxiety, which does no good to you at all. To know you’re angry doesn’t require you to show you’re angry.

A simple technique: Next time you feel stricken with anxiety, you should sit down and write as many answers as possible to this question, “If I were angry, what might I be angry about?” Restrict answers to single words or brief phrases.

This may open the door to get some insight into the connection between your anger and your anxiety.

Method 6: Have a Little Fun

Laughing is a great way to increase good feelings and discharge tension. Getting in touch with fun and play isn’t easy for the serious, tense worrier.

A therapy goal could be simply to re-learn what you had fun doing in the past and prescribe yourself some fun.

In my experience, this can involve choosing to be around people who are fun, and spending less time with people who “bring you down”. When you are more on an even keel, you can deal with less cheerful people more easily. In the meantime, there’s good reason to avoid them. Seek out positive, gentle, funny people.


Cluster Three: The Mental Anguish of Rumination

These methods deal with the difficult problem of a brain that won’t stop thinking about distressing thoughts or where worry suffocates your mental and emotional life. These worries hum along in the background, generating tension or sick feelings, destroying concentration and diminishing the capacity to pay attention to the good things in life.

Therapy does not need to focus on any specific worry, but rather on the act of worrying itself – the following methods are the most effective in eliminating rumination.

Method 7: Turning it Off

If a ruminating brain is like an engine stuck in gear and over-heating, then slowing or stopping it gives it a chance to cool off. The goal of ‘turning it off’ is to give the ruminative mind a chance to rest and calm down.

Sit quietly with eyes closed and focus on an image of an open container ready to receive every issue on your mind. See and name each issue or worry and imagine putting it into the container.

When no more issues come to mind, ‘put a lid’ on the container and place it on a shelf or in some other out of the way place until you need to go back to get something from it.

Once you have the container on the shelf, you invite into the space that is left in your mind whatever is the most important current thought or feeling.

At night, right before sleep, invite in a peaceful or happy thought to focus on while drifting off.

Method 8: Persistent Interruption of Rumination

Ruminative worry has a life of its own, consistently interfering with every other thought in your mind.

The key to changing this pattern is to be persistent with your attempts to use thought stopping and thought replacement. Its important to attempt to interrupt the pattern every time you catch yourself ruminating – be aware that you’ve spent a long time establishing this pattern and it will take persistence to wear it down.

Work on having a good five minutes without worry … then another .. then a day … and so on. Be patient. Change takes time.

Thought stopping – use the command “Stop” and/or a visual image to remind yourself that you are going into an old thinking habit that just leaves you feeling uptight.

Thought replacement – substitute a reassuring, assertive or self-accepting statement after you have managed to stop the thought. You may need to develop a set of these statements that you can look at or recall from memory.

Method 9: Worry Well, but Only Once

Some worries just have to be faced head-on, and worrying about them the right way can help eliminate secondary, unnecessary worrying. When you feel that your worries are out of control try this next method:

  1. Worry through all the issues within a time limit of 10-20 mins and cover all the bases
  2. Do anything that must be done at the present time. Set a time when it’ll be necessary to think about the worry again.
  3. Write that time on a calendar.
  4. Whenever the thought pops up again say, “Stop! I already worried!” and divert your thoughts as quickly as possible to another activity – you may need to make a list of these possible diversions beforehand. Until it’s time to tackle the issue again, forget it.
    You may find, in the meantime, it quietly resolves itself.

Method 10: Learn to Plan Instead of Worry

A big difference between planning and worrying is that a good plan doesn’t need constant review.

An anxious brain, however, will reconsider a plan over and over to be sure it’s the right plan.

This is all just ruminating worry disguising itself as making a plan and then seeking constant reassurance.

It is important to learn the fundamentals of planning as it can make a big difference in calming a ruminative mind. These include:

  1. Concretely identifying the problem
  2. Listing the problem solving options
  3. Picking one of the options
  4. Writing out a plan of action
Fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Never was a truer word spoken, and especially for people who are inclined to be anxious.

Fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Never was a truer word spoken, and especially for people who are inclined to be anxious.

To be successful in this approach, you must also have learned to apply the thought-stopping/thought-replacing tools or you can turn planning into endless cycles of re-planning.

Once a plan has been made you can use the fact that you have the plan as a concrete reassurance to prevent the round-robin of ruminative re-planning.

The plan becomes part of the thought-stopping statement:

“Stop! I have a plan!”

It also helps the endless reassurance-seeking, because it provides written solutions even to problems the ruminator considers hopelessly complex.


Conclusion

These skills do require patience and determination. However, once learnt, people gain a lasting sense of their own power and competence in working actively with their own symptoms to conquer anxiety through their own efforts.

Getting control of yourself. It’s a wonderfully liberating feeling. Good luck!

In our career in the advertising business, we have spent a lot of time drooling over – prior to writing about – cars.

Car head. Car nut. Car freak. They all apply.

This work included the re-launch in Australia of the Porsche 911, which included some of the most beautiful cars imaginable.

1993 3.3 litre Porsche 911 Turbo S

1993 3.3 litre Porsche 911 Turbo S

I well remember being given one for the weekend to drive around so I could “get my head” into the brand, in preparation for the writing. In traffic approaching the freeway junction I could not help but notice the admiring glances of all around me. But by thirty seconds onto the freeway itself I knew all I needed to know, and, in fact, turned back and returned the car to the dealership. By the first flyover I was doing well over 160 kmh and hadn’t even noticed the car accelerating. Had I kept the car all weekend, I am in little doubt I would have killed myself and others.

Another personal favourite of mine of ours was when we were doing all the writing for Holden Special Vehicles (exported as Vauxhauls to the UK and Chevrolet’s to other parts of the worldf In particular, I admired the two-door HSV Coupe which revolutionised the market with its good looks as well as its performance.

2009 Holden Special Vehicles Coupe

2009 Holden Special Vehicles Coupe

During this time we coined the new slogan for HSV – “I just want one” – which we are pleased and proud to say is now one of the longest-running car slogans anywhere in the world. And it still perfectly captures the quirk nature of HSV buyers.

Anyhow, we have compiled a collection of some of the most beautiful cars that have ever been produced. We would love you to contribute your favourite, with a photo. Please click on the comments section and add in a photo, why you love the car, or a url link to a picture of it. Have fun!

Here’s our faves:

1939 BMW 328 Roadster

1939 BMW 328 Roadster, surely the most beautiful BMW ever.

1948 Jaguar XK120

The 1948 Jaguar XK120 – the owner of Jaguar said “We have created a car which is alive.”

1954 Mercedes Benz 300 SL

1954 Mercedes Benz 300 SL …

... with it's gull-win doors.

… with it’s gull-wing doors.

1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala Convertible - created just one year after we were born, but sadly cars didn't look like this when we were able to drive.

1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala Convertible – created just one year after we were born, but sadly cars didn’t look like this when we were able to drive.

Ferrari have made many beautiful cars - this 1961 250 GT California is one of our favourites, and as an interesting tit-bit, the first Ferarri ever to not have wire wheels.

Ferrari have made many beautiful cars – this 1961 250 GT California is one of our favourites.

The 2008 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Frankly, it's a sexual thing.

The 2008 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Frankly, it’s a sexual thing.

The Bugatti Type 57 - only three were ever made.

The Bugatti Type 57 – only three were ever made.

Quintessential Britain - the 1954 MG TF. Want.

Quintessential Britain – the 1954 MG TF. Want.

The 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B Dual Windshield Phaeton - - just one of dozens of such cars from the period that we could have chosen.

The 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B Dual Windshield Phaeton: just one of dozens of such cars from the period that we could have chosen.

So those are our favourites? What’s yours? Modern, antique, and everything in between.

Oh Lord. Mustn’t forget Mum’s trusty 1963 Triumph Herald that took us everywhere till it actually literally fell apart from rust. She’d never forgive us.

The smallest turning circle of any production car ever. There. you didn't know that, did you?

The smallest turning circle of any production car ever. There. you didn’t know that, did you?

There are no human beings in this world other than the taut and trim. Yeah. right.

There are no human beings in this world other than the taut and trim. Yeah. right.

 

The international phenomenon which is No Pants Day continues to grow exponentially in popularity.

Knobbly knees, pale-as-sunrise calves, cheeky buttocks and bizarre underwear. There was no shame for the thousands of commuters around the world who travelled sans trousers for the 14th No Pants Subway Ride and all its variants on Sunday.

What began as a small stunt by seven New York subway riders in 2002 has turned into a global event. The original pranksters, who formed the group Improv Everywhere, said pants were dropped and legs bared in 60 cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, London, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. On the Gold Coast, the privately-owned tram operator G:link shut it down just seconds before it was about to begin, but then that’s Queensland, where as all Aussies know the clocks are stopped at eight minutes to eight in the evening, or as we like to call it, 1952.

“It’s a celebration of silliness,” said Larry Piche, the organiser of Calgary’s No Pants Skytrain Ride. “There’s no real reason, just come out and play.”

And fair enough too. The world needs more silliness.

The premise is simple: don’t wear pants, ride the set route, and keep a straight face. But there are rules, such as being “tasteful and hygienic”, wearing “everyday” clothes from the waist up, and carrying a valid ticket.

“If questioned, you do not know any of the other pants-less riders. Tell folks that you ‘forgot to wear pants’,” organisers said on Facebook ahead of the Sydney event.

We have just one major concern.

Have all those discarding their skirts and trousers actually looked at a subway seat recently?

You know, the vomit-and-urine-soaked, chewing-gum-infested, coffee-and-coca-cola-stained subway seats we are all so used to?

As you can see from this charming video from TimeOut via YouTube, clean they ain’t.

If you can bear to watch it, the video shows clouds of dust billowing up from seats on London Underground lines as they are bashed with a rubber hammer. Testers looked at the Piccadilly, Victoria, Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee, Central, District, Circle, Hammersmith and City, and Metropolitan lines.

Even brand new ‘S’ stock trains on the District line, rolled out over the last year, contained significant quantities of the brown dust, which is thought to be a charming concoction of dead human skin and dirt from people’s shoes. Presumably even more skin particles, now.

 

 

We really don’t think you have to have a hygiene phobia to want that extra comfort of another layer of clothing between one’s fundament and the seat. Do you?

 

Gotta love those.

Gotta love those. Classy.

 

Can anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

Can anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

Anyhow, honestly, we have other concerns.

To look at the press coverage, one would think that everyone who cheerfully dropped their daks were buffed and shaped into swoon-worthy well-muscled buttness and thighness that was crying out to be freed for world view.

Whereas we are reasonably sure that a goodly proportion of the delightfully silly people that took part are boasting hidden bits that should, at the very least, stay hidden in public.

We assure you, Dear Reader, we will not be going bare-legged (or bare anythinged)  on the train anytime soon.

Mind you. What other opportunities are there for bare-leggedness that might offer an opportunity for a good laugh without the concomitant possibilities for rampant yeast infections?

#nopantshopping. We’d like to see that.

je suis

 

No further blogs will be posted today as an act of respect for those murdered in Paris.