Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

Koreans seem quite calm despite living in a state of perpetual tension on the Korean peninsula. Maybe their huge consumption of Kimchi has something to do with it.

Koreans seem quite calm despite living in a state of perpetual tension on the Korean peninsula. Maybe their huge consumption of Kimchi has something to do with it.

Anxious about that big date, crucial meeting or family gathering?

You may want to prep with a cup of yogurt: a promising new study in Psychiatry Research has found that people who eat more fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and kimchi, have fewer social anxiety symptoms. But note, some of these foods, such as kombucha – a fermented tea popular in the Far East and Russia – have had adverse health reactions in some people.

Researchers surveyed more than 700 people and found that the more fermented foods participants ate the less likely they were to experience social anxiety – anxious feelings of distress that interfere with daily social interactions. Even wilder is that this benefit was greatest among people who had the highest rates of neuroticism, a personality trait characterised by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness.

What makes those foods so powerfully calming? Based on this study alone, the authors can’t say for sure, but previous research points the finger at probiotics, the good-for-you bacteria found in fermented foods. “Social anxiety has gastrointestinal symptoms,” says lead author Matthew Hilimire, assistant professor of psychology at the College of William & Mary, “and probiotics have been shown to reduce gut inflammation. So as the gut becomes less inflamed, some of those anxiety-related symptoms are reduced.”

Eating probiotics has also been shown to affect brain chemistry in a major way, triggering a neurotransmitter called GABA that calms the nervous system – the exact same neurotransmitter targeted by anti-anxiety drugs like Valium, Hilimire explains. The researchers hope that fermented foods could someday be a low-risk treatment for anxiety.

If you don’t want to live on yoghurt or plough through masses of sauerkraut (which wouldn’t be a problem for Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink, but Lord above it’s a problem for anyone sleeping in the same bedroom) the simplest solution might be to trial some of the many probiotics supplements now freely available.

We have long suspected that reducing “inflammation” in the system is a key way to not only improve mood but also defer illnesses like cancer. As in all things, a balanced diet seems the most sensible approach. The ancient Chinese concept of the body becoming “over heated” through the consumption of certain foods may end up being shown to be worthwhile.

chinese pharmacistChinese medicine is, indeed, interesting. On a business trip there many moons ago we were struck down with the most miserable dose of a cold or flu which then settled on our chest, and we ended up feeling very sick indeed.

Travelling alone we really didn’t have the faintest idea what to do, so wandered into a traditional Chinese chemist, full of herbs and potions and things that didn’t really bear too close an examination. The man in the white coat took one look at the hacking, sputum-fountain of a guailo in front of him and sold us a bottle of obscure liquid which as soon as we started quaffing it back at the hotel made us feel remarkably better.

So much better, in fact, that instead of discarding it when we recovered, we took it home and showed it to our GP, telling him how wonderful Chinese medicine is, and we should eat the stuff in Australia.

He asked his Chinese-speaking assistant to decipher the label, then turned back and smiled drily. He said it was hardly surprising that we felt on top of the world when quaffed it, as he strongly suspected the stuff was about 80% morphine. He quietly disposed of it in his office bin.

As we said, seemingly alone amongst politics-watchers, the storm in a teacup – albeit a very big, expensive teacup – is duly passing.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras votes during a session at the Greek parliament in Athens early 23 July 2015

The Greek prime minister secured the votes after a debate into the small hours

Greece has taken a crucial step towards a bailout after its parliament passed a crucial second set of reforms.

The passage of the measures means that negotiations on an €86bn European Union bailout can begin.

The reforms include changes to Greek banking and an overhaul of the judiciary system.

Thousands demonstrated outside of parliament as the bill was debated, with protests briefly turning violent as petrol bombs were thrown at police by a few anarchists.

There had been fears of a rebellion by MPs but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was easily able to must the support required. In total, the measures received 230 votes in favour and 63 against with five abstentions. Among those who voted against were 31 members of his own Syriza party. However, this represents a smaller rebellion than in last week’s initial vote. Demonstrating the breadth of understanding that the reform package had to pass,former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was one of those rebels in the first vote who returned to vote with the government this time.

Speaking before the vote, Mr Tsipras stressed that he was not happy with the measures that creditors had imposed. Well, he could hardly have appeared chirpy, could he? That would have been political suicide.

“We chose a difficult compromise to avert the most extreme plans by the most extreme circles in Europe,” he told MPs.

Representatives of the European institutions that would provide the bailout funds will begin negotiations in Athens on Friday.

Last week, Greece passed an initial set of austerity measures imposed by its creditors. These were a mix of economic reforms and budget cuts demanded by the eurozone countries and institutions before bailout talks could continue.

This second set of measures passed early on Thursday morning were of a more structural nature, including:

  • a code of civil protection aimed at speeding up court cases
  • the adoption of an EU directive to bolster banks and protect savers’ deposits of less than €100,000
  • the introduction of rules that would see bank shareholders and creditors – not taxpayers – cover costs of a failed bank

More contentious measures – phasing out early retirement and tax rises for farmers – have been pushed back to August. As we said, these issues were always going to be the can that got kicked along the road. The political fallout will need to be managed by the Greek Government and that cannot occur in a few days.

Negotiations will now begin on approving the terms of a third bailout, with the aim of completing a deal by the middle of next month. It’s a tight timetable but doable. What is not clear is that Mr Tsipras still has to decide whether a successful conclusion of negotiations should be followed by early elections. Our bet is not.

The deal explained

On Wednesday, the European Central Bank (ECB) increased its cash lifeline to Greek banks.

The emergency injection of an extra €900m (£630m), the ECB’s second in a week, came just hours before the vote.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed on Monday that Greece had cleared its overdue debt repayments of €2.05bn and was no longer in arrears. The repayments, which included €4.2bn to the ECB, were made possible by a short-term EU loan of €7.16bn.

Greece’s next major deadline is 20 August, when it must pay €3.2bn owed to the ECB, followed by a payment of €1.5bn to the IMF in September.

Essentially, the deal is akin to a Bank lending money to a drunken defaulting home owner to repay the mortgage they unwisely lent them in the first place. There is a lot of talk about how irresponsible the handling of the Greek economy has been by successive Greek Governments – not to mention that tax avoidance is something of a national sport – and that is all true.work greeks

What has been especially annoying in much recent commentary has been the characterisation of the Greek people themselves as lazy. In fact, the opposite is true. They put in some of the longest hours of any workforce in the EU. Needless to say, the Greek people know this, and their anger at having to carry the burden of the stupidities of generations of those that rule them is justified. That they could be working more productively is hardly the point. At some stage, the role of both private management, union leadership and political governance needs to be taken into account. It’s not all the fault of the “bleedin’ workers”.

What also needs to be factored in is that for decades now Europe has been lending Greece money for Greece to spend on vanity infrastructure projects supplied to them by Europe – arms is a classic example, manufactured mainly in Germany – Greece has a ridiculously large navy, for example – so the EU is at the very least as culpable in helping the Greeks to get into this mess in the first place.

Historically, Obama’s intervention to urge the Europeans to settle with Greece will be seen, for those attuned to geo-political balances – as the tipping point. What is encouraging is that some of the other economic basket cases in Europe have not instantly put their hands up for extra funds. It appears that brisk diplomacy – along the lines of “Shut up, guys, we need to sort this out, we’ll look at your situation down the track” – has worked in a timely fashion. But the Eurozone is not out of the woods yet.

One good start for Europe would be to substantially reduce the overhead structure of running the EU itself. The peoples of the constituent countries might be more amenable to pulling their heads in if they see the bloated and out of control Euro bureaucracy being made to do the same. No matter how pro-EU anyone is – and we are pro-EU, for political reasons more than economic ones – the Eurocrats need a serious haircut, and fast.

Graphic: BBC

Graphic: BBC

 

(BBC and other sources)

All together now ...

All together now …

I am very grateful to Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink for finding this little gem.

It really works, too.

I know so many people who need this, I thought I’d share. A few of the commenters on this blog need this. You know who you are. Now close your eyes …

It will never quite match The Dalek Relation Tape, but then we all know that stands in a class of its own, right?

Which reminds us, the Season 9 trailer for Dr Who has just broken out. Oh. My. Lord. Excited much?

Starts September 19. We don’t want to wish our life away, but we can’t wait.

ghost

 

Wandering around the worldwide interwebs can bring up a clutch of conspiracy theories, to be sure, but this link offers some of the more interesting UFO and “ghost” sitings recently captured on video.

Are these UFOs? Ghosts?

If you have five minutes spare, click the link, have a look and tell us what you think.

Have you ever seen what you consider to be a UFO? Or a ghost?

We happen to think, based on no evidence whatsoever, that sometimes universes in the “multiverse” bump into one another in a way we don’t understand, and we see shadows of what’s going on there.

We recently watched one of those brain-snapping TV speculative science shows that argued there was an infinite number of number of universes in which with every action – in every moment, for the whole of time – the universe continually splits. Turn left walking down the street, one universe is created. Turn right, a different one is. Both then exist side by side, interminably, constantly re-splitting.

Apparently the maths works. And no, we don’t pretend for one instant to understand it.

Are these UFOs? Ghosts?

Whaddyareckon?

We also think that in the future conquering time travel is inevitable, and in the universe as it stands right now, we can’t possibly be alone. So the idea of future beings or aliens checking us over doesn’t scare or surprise us at all.

Hey. Other recent research argues that aliens will look like us, pretty much. And if all the aliens look like Scarlett Johansson, frankly we say they can invade tomorrow.

abbott

Just submitted this question to ABC Television’s Q&A.

“Q & A is one of the few places in Australian media where Liberal/National leaders are subjected to both disagreement and cross-questioning. Is that the true reason for Tony Abbott’s bizarre banning of Ministers from appearing? Is he simply scared they can’t take the heat in the kitchen?”

If you agree, find the tweet from @yolly1234 and re-tweet it!

spit-the-dummyWellthisiswhatithink says:

This is the most politically stupid dummy spit in the history of dummy spits from a man who has made an art form of them.

The mother of all dummy spits. This is the world’s biggest dummy spit on the International Day of Dummy Spitting.

He’s over-reached this time – mark our words.

Really love this blog from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink (aka Jenie Yolland) on the classes she runs in Melbourne, Australia teaching people to express themselves and learn a new skill by making their own art glass plates and platters.

Article on Jenie’s classes – click here and enjoy a good read!

If you’re heading to Melbourne soon, or you live here, I warmly recommend them. Cheap as chips, and she spreads such joy!

 

 

Jenie Yolland's workshop

Jenie Yolland’s workshop

 

Jenie Yolland workshop

Jenie Yolland’s workshop

 

Some lovely photos of students’ work throughout the article – and students enjoying themselves – enjoy!

#jenieyolland #glass

Tommy CooperFor no particular reason, Dear Reader, we felt inclined to share some of these brilliant gags with you today.

Maybe because it’s Friday.

Maybe because the world needs cheering up today.

Maybe because yesterday was our birthday and the love flowed all day and we had the day off, including discovering a fine New Zealand beer which is perfectly flavoured with coffee. Two of our favourite things in one.

#winner #whoknew?

 

Coffee Beer. We know, it sounds mad, right? It wasn't.

Coffee Beer. We know, it sounds mad, right? It wasn’t.

 

You can find this astonishing tipple here, or head to SlowBeer in Richmond, Melbourne, and go for it.

Anyhow, Cooper was a master of paraprosdokians – where the second half of a sentence or phrase is completely unexpected – and silly one liners. Here are some of his best:

I went to a fortune teller and she looked at my hands. She said, ‘Your future looks pretty black.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I’ve still got my gloves on!

I said to the doctor, ‘It hurts when I do this’ [raises arm]. He said, ‘Well, don’t do it, then.’

I said to the chef, ‘Why have you got your hand in the alphabet soup?’ He said, ‘I’m grasping for words!’

My doctor told me to drink a bottle of wine after a hot bath, but I couldn’t even finishbullshit drinking the hot bath!

A drunk was driving his car down a one-way street when a policeman stopped him. The cop said, ‘Didn’t you see the arrows?’ He said, ‘Arrows? I didn’t even see the Indians.’

Gambling has brought our family together. We had to move to a smaller house.

I took saxophone lessons for six months until I dislocated my jaw. How did I know I was supposed to blow in the small end?

You know what a racehorse is . . . it’s an animal that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time

My wife said ‘Take me in your arms and whisper something soft and sweet’. I said, ‘Chocolate fudge’.

I bought some pork chops and told the butcher to make them lean. He said, ‘Which way?’

weekI said to the doctor, ‘Can you give me something for my liver?’ He gave me a pound of onions.

I sleep like a baby . . I wake up screaming every morning around 3am.

I went to see my doctor and he said ‘I want you to lie down on the couch.’ I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘I want to sweep up.’

And perhaps our personal favourite:

I told the waiter, bring me a chicken. So he brought me a chicken. ‘Just a minute,’ I said, ‘It’s only got one leg. ‘It’s been in a fight.’ I said, ‘Well, bring me the winner.’

Happy Friday everyone!

PS Stick Paraprosdokian in the search box top left for lots more fun examples!

all is well

This is how I want it to be when I go. Beautiful, and apposite.

I posted it on Facebook this morning, and later on got a message from one of my oldest friends saying he was about to fly home to his mother’s funeral. His distress was somewhat alleviated; he now felt all is well.

God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.

I was so taken with the words that undertook to find out who wrote them. The writings are actually a poem written by Victorian churchman and academic Henry Scott Holland.

Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. The Scott Holland Memorial Lectures are held in his memory.

He was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, the son of George Henry Holland (1818–1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, the daughter of Lord Gifford, and educated at Eton where he was a pupil of the influential Master William Johnson Cory, and at the Balliol College where he took a first class degree in Greats. During his Oxford time he was greatly influenced by the philosopher and political radical T.H. Green.

In 1884, he left Oxford for St Paul’s Cathedral where he was appointed canon.

He was keenly interested in social justice and formed PESEK (Politics, Economics, Socialism, Ethics and Christianity) which blamed capitalist exploitation for contemporary urban poverty. In 1889, he formed the Christian Social Union.

In 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity, a post he held until his death in 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints church, Cuddesdon near Oxford. Because of his surname, the writer, secretary and political activist Mary Gladstone (daughter of Prime Minister Gladstone) referred to him affectionately as “Flying Dutchman” and “Fliegende Hollander”.

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled Death the King of Terrors, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, Death is nothing at all, is drawn: the frequent use of this passage has provoked some criticism that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland’s theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular. What has not provoked as much criticism is the affinity of Holland’s passage to St. Augustine’s thoughts in his 4th Century letter 263 to Sapida, in which he writes that Sapida’s brother and their love, although he has died, still are there, like gold that still is yours even if you save it in some locker.

Which is another sweet thought to end on.

Respect.

Respect.

For more of the same, head to: paltrymeanderings.com. We like.

Surrounded by blackness on all sides, in utter impenetrable silence, and for a very, very, very long time, it did nothing.

There was nothing to see, so it did not see. Nothing to hear, so it did not hear. Nothing to feel, so it did not feel.

There were simply vast, unconscionable amounts of entirely nothing.

So – most importantly for our story – it thought nothing, either. With no external stimuli to provoke it, it simply did not concern itself with anything; it merely peacefully existed.

And incredible as it might seem in light of what happened later, for some handfuls of millions of years it did not even notice itself.

Then, during one instant which it would remember – well, forever, actually – a small, shiny proton appeared momentarily.

Over there. In what it would later come to know as “left”. And also “down a bit”.

Later – much, much later – it would come to understand that the lonely proton had flared into being for a few hundredths of a second as the result of a random and unpredictable thermo-dynamic fluctuation in the void in which it itself floated.

Like the last dying ripple of a stone cast into a pond uncountably many leagues away, space and time had broken upon the shores of its awareness in the form of one of the smallest building blocks of the Universe. And then it had immediately ceased, for with nothing around it to cling to the proton instantly had broken down into its components and they had dissipated into the nothingness almost too quickly to be observed.

Except the brief, evanescent burst of the proton was seen by the being – which, without even realizing it was doing it, had been peacefully observing nothing, and everything, with absolute and immediate accuracy.  And that was why, despite its apparent slumber, it could not miss the arrival, and near-simultaneous departure, of the pretty little particle.

The glittering sub-atomic appearance, brief and unthreatening though it was, nevertheless troubled it greatly.

Contradictions and nervousness rippled through it. It shook with excitement. Seething with speculation, for untold millennia it considered one critical and shocking question.

Not, as one might have imagined, wondering “What Was That?” No, no. What first occupied its attention was a much more pressing problem than the transitory proton.

What nagged away at it insistently was the question: “What am I?”

“What am I?” it wondered. “What am I?”

With no previous consciousness, and with no terms of reference whatsoever, it marveled at itself, and at this new sensation of existence, without, in truth, the slightest understanding of what was going on.

Casting frantically this way and that to work out what it was, it looked about itself, systematically, but in utter confusion.

Up and Down. Side to Side. In and Out. Backwards and Forwards. Along every plane and from every angle. Indeed, from many different perspectives simultaneously.

(If it did but know it, it actually looked for all the world like a large mahogany gentleman’s desk inlaid with a rather dinky line of shell marquetry around its edges and its drawers. Lots of drawers, in fact, with little pressed-metal knobs, that held promise of all sorts of treasures hidden away inside, and a couple of attractive glass paperweights adorned its leather-inlaid heart. But it wouldn’t understand all this until much later.)

Time passed. Lots of it. Loads and loads and loads of time.

Soon enough, and in a neat twist of reasoning that we can ascribe to what it actually was – which for want of a better term we could describe as “a really, really, really clever thing” – it soon realized that its own sudden and shocking existence was perhaps most easily understood by reference to what it was not. And in a miraculously short time after that, (for its powers of perception were, indeed, remarkably unconstrained), it had consequently separated the Universe into two orderly halves.

One half of everything it perceived to be it fittingly called “Me”.

The other half, it called “Not Me”.

The Me was pleased and much relieved by this development. Its jarringly unexpected coming-into-being seemed much less troublesome now that everything was neatly broken down into itself and … something else.

Thus reassured, it settled down to make a full and patient examination of itself.

Driven by insatiable curiosity, it first tried to work out why it had suddenly become conscious of its inherent Me-ness in the first place.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. – Dylan Thomas

By dint of absence of any other observable data at all, it almost immediately decided that the sheer,ineffable thrill of the proton’s appearance had awoken its knowledge of itself. It could remember nothing before that, and so it seemed perfectly practical to place this sudden awareness of itself and its surroundings to that startlingly incandescent moment.

Next it spent a few million years pondering the proton. Was the Me somehow related to it? Connected to it in some way? Should it search for it? Was it coming back? Was it important? Indeed, as the only thing it had ever experienced, were the Me and the proton all there was to consider?

For what seemed like a very long time indeed, but in the scheme of things was merely a blink of the Me’s eye, the Me looked around and wondered why no other protons had appeared to disturb it, before or since.

But after an æon or two of this, it happened on a thought that occupied it even more deeply.

Surely, it reasoned to itself, what the proton was could not be nearly as important as another question that bothered it constantly – like the buzzer on a motel clock radio after too many drinks the night before – and that question, of course, was why, for goodness sake, had the Me not been aware of anything before the proton?

Beyond the awful, inky nothing that surrounded the Me, (which was, in fact, only three billionths of an inch thick, but being so thoroughly enmeshed in its musings it hadn’t actually noticed that yet), the Not Me pressed inwards. It edged silently towards the Me, as if holding its breath for the answer to this one. Not Me quaked and tightened around the Me, just by a fraction, and whispered silently to itself, listening, wondering, waiting.

And then – perhaps somehow alerted by the new-found excitement in the Not Me – the Me saw to its wonderment that far from being empty as it had assumed, the Not Me that was near it was actually jam-packed with innumerable billions and billions of particles crowding nearby, just beyond the layer of darkness, vibrating slowly – so slowly, in fact, and in such tiny increments of space – that the Me hadn’t even realised that the Not Me was moving at all!

Gazing in amused wonderment, the now insatiably inquisitive Me was straight way tempted to investigate further the gentle quadrille of the miniscule particles that swirled around it.

But without an answer to the nub of its problem, to wit: why it had not perceived its ownself at some point before what it had recently decided to call “Now” – or indeed, why it had not noticed the crowded, quivering Not Me earlier, which after all was only just over there outside the Me, so close at hand – the Me was frankly too troubled to do so.

So after trying and failing to find any concrete answers by simply looking about a bit, and drawing on hitherto unsuspected intellectual resources that spontaneously delighted it, the Me resolved – for it was nothing if not a very practical being, as we shall see – that it would simply have to run with what would eventually become known in another place as an assumption.

In short: the Me decided that in the absence of observable empiric data, it made good sense to “make up something that fits, until you can prove it’s wrong”.

(And thus it brought into being that delightful hobby for people with staring eyes and strange haircuts who listen to Laurie Anderson CDs on repeat known as Theoretical Physics, but of course it didn’t know that then.)

In this wise, the Me plumped for the conclusion that – before what it now called “the Me moment” – it had simply not been necessary for it to be self-aware.

For want of a better explanation, it assumed that although it had existed, it had not needed to know of its existence – and so, post hoc ergo propter hoc, as it were, it did not know.

The Me patiently examined this conclusion from all possible angles, and could not fault it.

(You might imagine that it would also have paused to wonder how it could so instinctively express its cogitation in obscure Latin phrases, a language that had not been used anywhere in existence yet, but that was just one of innumerable trifling considerations that would have to wait until more important questions had been answered.)

Ploughing remorselessly on now, the Me then painstakingly worried away at another thought that had occurred to it, from amongst the untold trillions of thoughts that it had every second. And this one was a real biggie.

That not just “it” but “Everything” must have some purpose, if only to take its natural place in the scheme of things.

This first and most painful bout of existential angst was very intense, but quickly resolved. Yes, yes! It must surely be true! Even if the purpose of a thing was merely to lie passively next to some other Me-ness, like a compliant jigsaw piece fitting neatly into another, purpose there had to be. Pointlessness was surely pointless.

And just as it now observed that the endless particles around it in the Not Me were somehow interlaced seamlessly with one another, and that to remove even one from its place would cause a cataclysmic rent and collapse, so therefore it, too, the Me, must be where (and when) it was for a reason. For if the Me held no inherent purpose, no relationship with something, even if it did not yet know what that something was, then why would it exist? But it did exist, so therefore it must have some role to play. “I exist, therefore I should exist” it trilled.

The next thought arrived a nano-second later. “So what am I for?” it demanded of itself. “What am I for?”

Breathlessly rushing on for a few million years, the Me rifled through the arguments available to it like an over-excited burglar happening on a fortuitously open bank vault.

It reasoned that it must have begun at a particular point, and at some stage it had become needed by … well, something, or because of something … and so – of course! – before that moment self-knowledge would have served no purpose, because – and the Me raced effortlessly forward to its conclusion! – to be aware, but purposeless, would indisputably have no point at all, as mere awareness, it was sure, affected nothing else, either positively or negatively. And, indeed, might be intolerably boring.

(Thrilled with this reasoning, it made itself a mental note: ““Quod erat demonstrandum: we all do what we can.” It was not sure why this thought was important, but felt convinced it was, and promised itself that it would return to nut it out, one day.)

So. Conclusion: the Me fitted in somehow as well. Because it must!

It rippled and rang with the sheer orgiastic delight of its logic. Very well, it mused, it didn’t yet know what the reason for its own existence was, but it felt distinctly less alarmed now it had deduced that a reason must exist, and soon enough, if it continued to concentrate, it was confident it would work out what it was.

Having now been on the job for what seemed to it, suddenly, as an awfully long time, the Me paused for a well-earned rest. Happy with where it had got to so far, it rather liked the sensation of not doing much thinking for a while.

It added another note to its rapidly growing list of things to remember. “Take a break from thinking now and then. Maybe about 14.2857 recurring percent of the time,” it advised itself portentously, along the way inventing Sunday, the decimal system and a few other useful concepts without even noticing. Meanwhile, the Not Me crept ever closer, and waited anxiously for the whole complex tangle to be sorted out on the Me’s mental blackboard.

Lolling around in the dark, approvingly noticing the inlay around the edges of its drawers for the first time, the Me now began to dimly recognise the awesome deductive capacity it could marshal with such little effort.

It was as if it already knew anything it needed to know; all it had to do was turn its attention to a problem and the resolution would eventually become clear, like mist clearing on a beautiful, still lake of knowledge. And with this awareness, the tensions within it settled somewhat. There was a reason why. Because there had to be. So now, the Big One. What could that reason possibly be?

Here, the being’s deductive process – which was rigorous and invariably accurate, if for no other reason than it had an innate ability to consider all probabilities simultaneously and ascribe correct values to them – nevertheless slowed down just a little, because the number of possible reasons why it existed were so vast as to tax even its own seemingly inexhaustible computational capacity.

It spent some time, for example, wondering whether it was supposed to be a forty-seven inch flat-screen hi-definition television, an item with whose innate angular beauty it was instantly infatuated, and which was tremendously thrilling and desirable and perfect for viewing something it decided to call “sports”, and it would have been really quite content to be a television forever were it not, obviously, for the complete absence of anything to be watched on itself, at least until about a trillion years from then.

It thus followed, the Me reasoned carefully, that whilst it might become just such an item at some stage in the future, it was highly unlikely that it was supposed to be a flat-screen TV just yet. It similarly rejected being a “V8 Supercar”, “Designer Fragrance”, or “Hollywood Red Carpet Interviewer” for the same reason.

Poo-poopy-do.

For a long time it was quite taken with the idea of being a conveniently-sized ball of dung, stationed outside the home of every industrious little dung beetle, so that their existence would not be so miserably dominated by scouring the desert for poo of all shapes and sizes and then spending hours in the hot sun uncomplainingly prodding it into an easily-maneuverable shape and size.

The Me felt very compassionate towards the tireless little beetle. He reasoned that even as he extended compassion to the Least so he extended it, by proxy to the All. The idea amused the Me, and it made a point to remember it.

Not entirely au fait, as yet, with the niceties of mass marketing, the Me even nevertheless drafted a quick advertising jingle to promote the idea that went something like this.

“Poo, poo, just made for you,

 yes, do do do, choose ezy-poo

 delivered to you, you’ll be glad too

 with A-may-zing easy-roll Poo-poopy-doo!”

Being a ball of poo would, it felt sure, would be a selfless and meaningful reason to exist.

But sadly, once again, the fact that no dung beetles would be around for quite some time stymied that line of enquiry, too. Then in quick succession, it considered and rejected, for various reasons, the proposition that it was a field of daffodils enlivening the surface of a small rocky planet in the Lamda Quadrant, a very obvious cure for Malaria merely waiting to be discovered, or whether it was a rather nasty virus that caused the four-winged, Greater Blue Flerterbee to fall out of the sky unexpectedly and in alarming numbers on a rather nice globe circling two twin suns in a galaxy with a rather curious Coke-bottle shape, thus leading to the extinction of all life-forms on that planet within a couple of generations.

None fitted.

Last, but by no means least, and with an aesthetic sense that it found delightfully unexpected and artistic, it wondered whether or not it was merely supposed to fill the space around it with floating three-dimensional pyramids made of delicately scented orange seaweed and sparkling Tarl Tree blossoms.

(And that one nearly won, actually. Which would have been interesting.)

Yes, able, now, to roam its growing understanding in all directions at one and the same time, the Me patiently examined of all these intriguing options, and more.

It considered alternative reasons for its own existence to the value of 10 x 10²°. Which really was an awful lot of reasons. And sooner or later, as a direct result of its nascent omniscience, and with a rather annoyed snort of surprise – in light of its previous lack of wakefulness – it was very soon after additionally confronted by a growing certainty that it had always existed. Putting it at its most simple, the Me realised it had always been there.

Always, and forever.

This was an unexpectedly Big Thought. In fact, to be frank, it was a Big Thought And A Half.

Wandering up and down the timeline now, watching itself, it very quickly also correctly surmised that it always would exist, too. Right up until, well … forever, really. And once it had occurred, this new Thought seemed entirely appropriate and natural and comfortable.

Until, that was: until it observed – with some further distress – that all around it other things were coming into being and then moving into non-being with astonishing regularity.

Indeed, it rapidly deduced that moving into non-existence was much more common than moving peacefully through existence with no apparent end, and, indeed, after a few more millennia, it observed that it could find no other beings that shared its own notable, distinguishing, essential never-endingness.

This latest discovery intrigued it mightily. In fact, so mightily was the Me intrigued that it stopped worrying about what it was for a moment, and started looking around with more interest.

It was simply fascinated by the sheer … dyingness … of all it saw around it.

The Me wasn’t sure where it had got that word from, and there was something about it that it didn’t like all that much, but it didn’t have time to worry about trivia. Not when it observed that unlike itself, everything around it seemed to be in the process of discharging tiny amounts of energy, and in doing so, declining to entirely predictable, unavoidable nothingness.

There was an alarmingly vast amount of this decline going on. All around it, apparently spontaneous changes were going on all the time to smooth out differences in temperature, pressure, density, and chemical potential. In fact, the more it went on, the more it went on. Yes! There was no denying it. The process was accelerating.

Still somewhat uncomfortable with “dyingness”, the Me hastily coined the term “entropy” to describe this apparently calamitous force that it observed in the Not Me all around him.

The Me took a step back, and thought for a while.

It took a step back, and carefully considering all the observable phenomena, it came up with something rather like this to define what it was seeing:

Quantitatively, entropy is defined by the differential quantity dS = δQ / T, where δQ is the amount of heat absorbed in an isothermal and reversible process in which the system goes from one state to another, and T is the absolute temperature at which the process is occurring.

Encouraged by this understanding, the Me now also understood that more precisely:

In any process where the system gives up energy ΔE, and its entropy falls by ΔS, a quantity at least TR ΔS of that energy must be given up to the system’s surroundings as unusable heat (TR being the temperature of the system’s external surroundings). Otherwise the process it was observing would not go forward.

And in a rollicking fever of enthusiasm, it also realized that:

The entropy is defined as the number of microscopic configurations that result in the observed macroscopic description of the thermodynamic system, or:

where kB is something that would become known as Boltzmann’s constant 1.38066×10−23 J K−1 and   is the number of microstates corresponding to the observed thermodynamic macrostate calculated using the multiplicity function.

And that was how, after all this feverish figuring, that the Me finally came to know what its reason was.

There was no doubt. The terrible, incontrovertible fact was that – all around it, wherever it looked – the Not Me was dying.

Inexorably, undeniably, because of its own nature which it could not escape, the Not Me was destined, finally, to become perfectly smooth and calm, in a state of utter non-ness, untroubled by thermo-dynamic fluctuations, and unutterably silent and quiet. It was a fate from which there was no return, for once reached, there was nothing to rekindle the energies expended.

The Not Me would simply cease to exist.

And then, the Me mused, what would become of Me?

Would I exist alone? With nothing left to observe, perhaps, but nonetheless awake?

And in a fraction of a millisecond, it knew that this outcome was too awful to contemplate. Utter knowledge, surrounded by utter nothingness, would be unbearable to it now.

Driven back to the fundamentals by its own ruthless logic, the Me considered again the beginning of its own awareness. It saw clearly now – “How could it not have known?” it berated itself angrily – that the tiny, scintillating proton had been a desperate cry for help from the Not Me. It was so obvious! Aware of its own inherent, inexorable non-ness, it had turned to the all-knowing Me to find a solution. And perhaps, even, the Not Me had known – somehow – that the Me needed the Non-Me too. That once awoken, it would have to act, for not to act would leave it, ultimately, alone and perfectly brilliant, transfixed in horrified eternally silent and motionless despair.

And as it divined its purpose, the Me also saw that it was capable of decisive action. In an instant of perception, it was transformed. It became action personified.

Surging forward through the darkness that surrounded it, the Me spoke with a voice that resonated through the umpteen layers of reality.  For the first time in history, it spoke effortlessly and in chorus to the largest perfect number of particles of all kinds that it could see … crying out to the 232,582,656 × (232,582,657 − 1) tiny building blocks that it somehow instantly knew made up the Not Me.

“I Am!” it thundered, for the whole Not Me to hear.

The words echoed through all of existence like nothing had every done before. (Which was literally true, as it had just invented sound.) And the ever more confident Me really liked the phrase. It felt appropriate and proper, somehow. So it repeated it.

“I Am … The I Am!”

It rolled the phrase round and round, enjoying its profundity and orderliness. How it was so perfectly Beginning and End-ish. The Me made a jotting in the margin of History to use the phrase again when it felt the need to explain itself to someone.

It stretched, and stretched, pushing its boundaries outwards, tearing away at the darkness that clung stubbornly to it like wet serge shorts on a schoolboy’s leg. Yes, it knew its reason for existence now, and faced with such a cause, its course of action was as clear to it now as a shining new dawn.

It must act at once to end the dreaded entropy: for it was the Me’s job to banish this awful dyingness and save the Not Me, before it became quiet and flat and silent and the Me was left to stare at where it had been, alone and mad.

And now it also knew with perfect understanding that this task would become something of a recurring leitmotif for its own existence. A struggle – just beginning – which it could now see with terrible clarity would last until the end of Time.

“Listen! Everything!” it cried, in a voice that brooked no opposition. “Listen to me!”

The Not Me took a firm grip on itself and held on tight. It waited, hushed and expectant, for what it knew had to come, and what had come before, and what would come again, impossibly far into the future.

With a giant, convulsive gasp, the Me cried out in a great and terrible voice.

“Let … there … be … Light!”


And lo, there was Light. And man, it was good.

In the Wellthisiswhatithink household everything stops for Game of Thrones.

We love the characterisation, the plotting, the utterly brilliant set and costume design, and the whole gloriously bodice-ripping nonsense of it all.

But after a fair bit of gratuitous full frontal nudity to wake up your Monday evening (women only of course, no willies on display), some of the funniest lines ever delivered by a character in fiction – most from dwarf Tyrion Lannister, who is surely author G.R.R. Martin’s finest creation with lines like “It’s not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do it, if it were easy.” – it seems that the producers of the TV series think their appeal is running out of puff. Or at least apparently so.

 

What passes in Winterfell for "Lie down and think of Westeros".

What passes in Winterfell for “Lie down and think of Westeros”.

 

Last week the showrunners inserted a most unpleasant rape as Game Of Thrones aired another dark plot twist. Ever hard-done-by and innocent fan favourite Sansa Stark was brutally assaulted by sadistic Ramsay Bolton.

The character of Ramsay is no stranger to barbaric acts, of course – who can forget the grim scene where he cut off Theon Greyjoy’s penis as part of a torture ritual? But many were shocked at what they saw as a gratuitous piece of sexual titillation that notably wasn’t in the original books, and which again portrayed a key central character as nothing than a mere sexual plaything for horrible men. As one tweeter observed, virtually the entire show right from Episode 1 Series 1 has consisted of a “Who’ll be the one to rape Sansa?” mystery. Well, now we know the answer.

Sophie Turner, the 19 year old British actress playing Sansa, quickly piped up that she liked the scene because of the acting stretch it gave her, admitting she ‘secretly loved’ filming the brutal scenes, and the books’ author also opined that rape is a reality and we shouldn’t shy from showing it. Nevertheless a storm of blogosphere and twittersphere disagreement broke over the show’s head.

This week, however, the show went one better. Er, worse.

shireen

 

In a scene which is also genuinely disturbing, Stannis Baratheon takes the advice of the perfectly horrible Melisandre to burn his own beloved daughter the Princess Shireen at the stake – she being about the only genuinely likeable character in the entire series – to summon up some ju-ju from the God of Light that will get his army out of the mess that he has got them into.

The scene was apparently intended to alert viewers to the danger of religious fanaticism. But it is frankly hard to see it other than a brilliantly well-acted and extraordinarily unpleasant piece of horror schlock.

In his own words, Stannis basically tells Shireen that he’s not responsible for the horror that is about to come. “The choice is no choice at all. (A man) must fulfil his destiny and become who he is meant to be, however much he may hate it.” Shireen wants to help her father in any way she can and says so, not knowing – as the audience suddenly realised to its distress  – that she’s now up for being burned alive as a result.

As Stannis hugs his daughter, he mutters, “Forgive me.” So trustingly, Shireen walks off with her recently received toy stag in her hand to her terrible fate. Through the bitter snowstorm, Melisandre is waiting for her, stake behind her in the distance. In that moment, Shireen suddenly knows what was about to happen, and tries to run away but is restrained. She screams – piteously – for her watching parents to save her.

Cold as ice, Melisandre, being the one person who really needs to die this season other than Ramsay, according to many viewers, reassures the terrified child this is a “good thing.” She lights Shireen on fire and watches her die.

Her hopeless mother Selyse belatedly tries to save Shireen and breaks down as she watches her baby girl go up in flames. Silly trollop. Grim-faced Stannis looks broken and uncertain about the (awful) decision he’s just made. He turns away from Shireen’s burning flesh. Aaaaaand …. cut.

Phew.

Internet reaction has been, if anything, even more distressed than the previous week.

Well, we will stick with Game of Thrones in our household if only because we love the graphics, some of the humorous characters who leaven their wickedness with a good dose of laughter, the gratuitous nudity, the staging, the music, and much more. It’s very well done, and consistently entertaining.

But as for burning innocent young children at a stake – and letting us hear their hideous screams for mercy for what seemed like forever – well, on balance, we think that’s a step too far. Yes, human sacrifice was a feature of primitive societies, and particularly sacrifice of noble kin, so it has historic validity. And it surely makes a point about fanaticism.

But we can still hear her screaming. And it will take a long time for the image to leave our minds, if ever. As will the beheading in the arena that was in the same episode. That was about as graphic as it is possible for a moment to be as well.

Our point is simple: it would be a shame if GOT deserted its plotting and wit and marvellous art direction and all the rest and became merely a vehicle for shock.

Incidentally, it must be reported that the acting in this and other scenes was up to its usual superb standard. Carise van Houten is effortlessly horrid as Melisandre, Stephen Dillane is purposefully Macbethian and vile as Stannis, and the 16 year old British actor Kerry Ingram who plays the ill-fated Shireen has been compelling watchable since her first scene, not because she chews that scenery all the time, but precisely because she doesn’t.

Her sweet nature – which fellow cast members have said is not forced – has imbued her role with charm and emotional depth, especially as she is afflicted with the awful Greyscale, leaving half of her left cheek and most of her neck covered in cracked and flaking, gray and black skin, which is stony to the touch. Lord knows how long the poor kid had to spend in makeup every shooting day.

Anyhow, as an interesting aside, she could empathise with someone with a nasty illness because in real life Ingram has a form of osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. Having regularly fractured her bones, she requires periodic infusions to reinforce them.

 

Emilia Clarke

Writers. Leave. Her. Alone.

 

So – next week is the final episode of this series. Doesn’t time fly when you’re putting your brain out for lunch watching popular TV? We dread to think what fun will be sprung on us this time. We’re reasonably sure someone really important will die. We thought it might be John Snow last night, but then he’s probably safe for a bit because his story still has so many loose ends.

Just so long as it isn’t Daenerys Targaryen played by the ineffable Emilia Clarke. That will have us flicking to channel to … to … well to just about anything, honestly.

You have been warned, HBO. Leave Khaleesi alone.

 

sub editorWe have been laid up with flu for a while, Dear Reader, hence our output has been somewhat slowed, but we couldn’t resist whipping out the trusty laptop for this one.

So Boston is where all those posh Universities are, right?

Clearly they are not sending many of their alumni to work in newspapers as sub editors – that interesting crew whose main job is to fact check, slash verbilicious copy (yes, we made that word up) and – crucially – add headlines to news stories.

We are delighted to see that this ambidextrous Oakland Athletic relief pitcher can pitch left handed, right handed, and, apparently, underwater, too. Quite some skill, that.

 

amphibious

 

You might also enjoy these:

http://wp.me/p1LY0z-1lC – best Sub Editing F*** Up so far this year boosts scout membership. Maybe.

http://wp.me/p1LY0z-zy – the girl’s school everyone apparently enjoys.

For other F*** Ups of all sorts from the world of media and advertising, just put F*** Up in the search box top left of this page, and enjoy.

More news as it comes to hand. And when we stop sneezing. Nurse, we’ll take that little pink pill now, please. And a drop of chicken soup, if you can hold the spoon to our trembling lips.

 

 

  

When we were in our youth, deep in the last millenium, it was the greatest thrill to walk across the road from our student digs and indulge in a proper cooked meal at the Avenue Hotel – usually the occasional Sunday lunch. When it was “on”, roast beef and Yorkshire Pud, chased down by a couple of pints of bitter. This luxurious repast was only afforded by living the rest of the week on burnt toast smeared with cheap margarine and black tea. Quite what this style of living did to the body’s systems wasn’t going to become clear till some decades later.

As this week we have to judge a school’s public speaking competition in the evenings, a stretch of four nights eating dinner alone in restaurants stretches ahead. But it no longer holds any thrill. At 18 the whole exercise seemed impossibly grown up, and having the venerable Charlie weaving his way towards us between the tables bearing a plate of real food was genuinely exciting. Now it’s just a chore.

No one to pore over the drinks menu with. No one to swap war stories from the day. And as a middle aged man eating alone, it is telepathically obvious what the other diners think. 

That young brash gay couple over there consider in passing whether I’m a tired old queen they should befriend but decide against it. 

The family group with the noisy kids just think I look lonely and smile indulgently. 

And the courting couple – her with the cutest pony tail, him with a very cool leather jacket – glance at me and dismiss me utterly, before sharing a giggle over a Facebook post. 

The waitress is already looking impatient at how long is being spent tapping these few thoughts out on the iPhone, even though the restaurant is far from full and they hardly need the table back.

There is no cure for it, this eating alone syndrome. Especially if one has forgotten that day’s newspaper to hide behind. Buried in that, one can at least ignore the pity.

Heigh-Ho. Drive through MacDonalds and the radio tomorrow, perhaps. Or eat lunch at my desk instead. At least no one can see you through the plate glass windows there. Alone and pathetic.

Neddy No Friends and his Taiwanese fried chicken bento box. No one even to question “Since when did the Taiwanese have bento boxes?”

Except you, of course, Dear Reader. So, thank you. Another lemon tea?

  

It is now a matter of history that Ed Milliband failed to engage with the UK electorate, and has now resigned as Leader of the Labour Party, having overseen a very poor result for his party.

We discuss why in this article.

But we did think you might like to ponder this image, too. We saw it served to us on the Internet countless times.

 

The likeness is scary.

The likeness is scary.

 

Yes, yes – all well and good, and fair game, all’s fair in love and war etc – but we do wonder how ridicule like this seriously affects a politician’s chances, especially as our politics has become increasingly Presidential throughout the Western world.

After all, it’s legend that Nixon lost the crucial TV debate with Kennedy because he refused make up and so had a noticeable five o’clock shadow making him look older and unkempt. That hirsute shadow dogged him in virtually every cartoon of him from then till his death.

This pic would have been seen by a untold millions of Brits before last Thursday. It hardly enhances the poor chap’s dignity.

He can’t help how he looks, after all.

And we see these types of memes constantly – the world even had to invest the word meme to describe them – and after a while we are sure they have some sort of effect, and nearly always always negative. The fact that Wallace is a bit of a numpty working-class Northerner won’t have been missed by a few million sub-consciousnesses, either.

Hmmm. One of the commonest lines we deliver on this blog is “you can survive anything in politics except ridicule”. We are sure more serious matters were at play, too, but this can’t have helped.

And yes, we would be the last people to argue that humour and satire have no place in politics. They serve a valuable purpose and have done for centuries. Nevertheless, we also owe it to those who would govern us to look at issues more than their double chin (Jim Callaghan), the size of their hips or nose (Julia Gillard), their sticky-outy ears (Tony Abbott), their voice (Margaret Thatcher) and so on and so on endlessly.

Caricature is fun, but not if it overwhelms everything else. We dumb our politics down too far at our peril.

 

An artists works on a banner calling for the death sentence for rapists in Delhi, 16 January 2012

The December 2012 Delhi gang rape which resulted in the victim’s death shocked India

A 14-year-old Indian girl has died and her mother was seriously injured when they were allegedly thrown off a bus by the staff who tried to molest them.

Three men, including the bus conductor and his assistant, have been arrested.

The girl was travelling in Punjab’s Moga district along with her mother and younger brother. The bus had a few passengers at the time of the assault.

The crime is horrifyingly reminiscent of the widely December 2012 gang rape where a 23 year old student was assaulted on a bus in Delhi and subsequently died from injuries sustained during the attack. The crime shocked India and the world and raised an ongoing public debate over the treatment of women in the country.

In the latest incident, the girl’s family had boarded the bus from their village to visit a gurudwara (Sikh temple) on Wednesday evening, reports NDTV.

“They kept abusing us. No one helped. They first pushed my daughter off the bus, then me,” the channel quoted the mother, who has been admitted to hospital, as saying.

Police said they had seized the bus and were investigating the case.

Anti rape in India

Rape is virtually endemic in India, as is violence against women generally. The patriarchal attitudes that lead to this were exemplified by one of the men convicted for raping and killing a woman in a shocking and brutal 2012 gang attack on a New Delhi bus said in a TV documentary that if their victim had not fought back she would not have been killed.

Instead, the 23-year-old woman should have remained silent, said Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus when the woman was attacked.

“Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her,'” he said in a documentary being released next week. The filmmakers released transcripts of the interview, which was recorded in 2013, in early March.

Singh and three other attackers were convicted in a fast-track court in 2013. The appeals against their death sentences are pending in the Supreme Court.

“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said, according to the transcripts. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night …. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.”

The woman and her male friend were returning home from seeing a movie at an upscale mall when they got on the bus. The attackers beat her friend and took turns raping the woman. They penetrated her with a metal rod, leaving severe internal injuries that caused her death.

India, where many people have long believed that women are responsible for rape, was shocked into action after the attack. The Indian government rushed legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for police officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.

In the interview, Singh suggested that the attack was to teach the woman and her male friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night. He also reiterated that rape victims should not fight back: “She should just be silent and allow the rape.”

He also said that the death penalty would make things even more dangerous for women: “Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her.”

Singh’s interview is from the documentary “India’s Daughter” by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin. It was shown on March 8, International Women’s Day, in India, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries.

Yes means yes, no means no

Whoever we are, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no.

As always, it is male attitudes that put women at risk, not womens’ behaviour.

If you want to make the point to those around you, we politely suggest you buy one of our most popular shirt designs and make your views known to the world

The male version of the shirt is here.

Other clothing items with the same message are also available.

Girls at Islamic school banned from running over virginity fears: report

Vic Islamic college allegedly bans girls from running over virginity concerns.

The principal of an Islamic school in Melbourne’s west has allegedly banned girls from running in sporting events out of concerns it may cause them to lose their virginity, causing a huge community blowback at the worst possible time for local Muslims.

Female students at Al-Taqwa College, in Truganina, were also barred from playing soccer as a sports injury could make them infertile, Fairfax has reported.

School’s regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, is reportedly investigating the claims levelled at principal Omar Hallak, who earlier this year courted controversy when he suggested Islamic State was supported by western countries.

In a letter sent to education ministers and published by The Age, a former teacher at the college said:

“The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may lose their virginity.

“The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.”

The teacher claimed Mr Hallak stopped the female cross country team from participating in a 2013 and 2014 district event, Fairfax reports.

The girls had been training hard for the competition when Mr Hallak realised they were set to compete and cancelled it.

The girls were reportedly distraught by Mr Hallak’s intervention and penned hand written letters of complaint in which they expressed their disappointment.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student wrote.

The teacher claimed she had worked at another school where both boys and girls had equally been encouraged to take part in sporting activities.

“I look back on my time at Al-Taqwa with frustration and anger, which is how I felt most of the time while I was working there,” she said in the letter.

“I did my best to stay committed to the students however in the end, I was unable to provide the same opportunities to students that I was given when I was at a primary school, more than 20 years ago.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student said in her complaint to the principal.

Education minister James Merlino has told 3AW the reports are concerning and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating.

“If true these are very concerning reports and I have asked the VRQA to investigate and report back to me,” Mr Merlino has told 3AW on Thursday.

Mr Hallak courted controversy earlier this year when he reportedly told some students IS was backed by western countries as part of a plot to control Middle Eastern oil supplies.

Merlino labelled those comments ‘reckless and dangerous’.

“They’re reckless. They’re dangerous and it leads to confusion in young people … the best way to tackle radicalisation is through education of young people. The worst thing you can do is put reckless and dangerous ideas into their heads,” he told reporters at the time.

Wellthisiswhatithink doesn’t feel the need to comment further: frankly, we are speechless. In pursuit of fairness, we will provide a response from Mr Hallak if one is forthcoming and we are made aware of it.

(Yahoo and 7 News)

When will this end?

When will this end? When will the world truly care?

A Pakistani man and his father have been arrested in the country’s latest so-called “honour killing” after they set the son’s wife alight for leaving the house without asking his permission, police said Sunday.

Muhammad Siddique became enraged on learning that his wife, Shabana Bibi, 25, had visited her sister without first asking him if she could go out, her brother Muhammad Azam said.

Siddique and his father then beat Bibi before dousing her with petrol and setting her on fire in Central Pakistan’s Muzaffargarh district on Friday, Azam said.

Bibi had been married to Siddique for three years, during which time she had suffered repeated domestic abuse for the couple’s inability to have children, Azam said. Clearly that was the true “insult” received by the husband in this case.

Suffering burns to 80 percent of her body, Bibi died of her injuries in hospital on Saturday.

woman“We have arrested the husband and father-in-law of the deceased woman and charged them for murder and terrorism,” district police chief Rai Zameer-ul-Haq told AFP. The charge of “terrorism” is regularly applied in such cases so as to expedite the legal process.

Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year through domestic violence or on the grounds of defending family “honour”.

The Aurat Foundation, a campaign group that works to improve the lives of women in Pakistan’s conservative and patriarchal society, says more than 3,000 women have been killed in such attacks since 2008.

honour-killing-jpgWellthisiswhatithink does not, as some do, accuse the Muslim religion of being responsible for these outrages – so-called honour killings occur in many countries, and many cultural groups, including amongst Christians. Sikhs and Hindus. But the world needs to apply implacable opposition to this appalling practice wherever it occurs, and especially in Pakistan which accounts for more than half of such killings, and also to the oppression of women worldwide generally.

As John Lennon deliberately and pointedly remarked, “Woman is the nigger of the world”. How true.  And as he most appropriately urges: ” Think about it.”

<iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/VS78MX8Zmdk&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Primarily, because she’s smarter.

Whilst Bill was always a policy wonk – and a consummate speaker and all-round good bloke, of course – it was always Hilary who had the big smarts in his State and Federal administrations.

And her biggest smart is listening to good advice: a characteristic she has honed in recent years, and which has become more obvious as she’s got older.

If you’re interested in politics, whatever your shade of political opinion, I recommend you watch the video.

It will be criticised, of course. It will be called bland. It will be called too carefully crafted. It will be called slick.

All true. But that’s to miss the point.

What most politicians and commentators generally misunderstand is that to win a GENERAL election, as opposed to a by-election, special run off, or any other “smaller” event – even mid terms – one needs to build a broad base of support. That requires a coalition of voters, many of whom are nowadays more interested in a single issue than the broad gamut of policies.

Let me just say that again. People now tend to vote on one or two issues, not a broad brushtroke opinion of whether they support an entire platform, or even any particular party.

Cheery chappie Farage appeals to anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment

Cheery chappie – UKIP leader Farage appeals to anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment like a cracked record.

Thus UKIP, for example, in the UK – and many other parties in Europe but especially the National Front in France and the Northern League in Italy – leverage anxiety about over-weening central authority in the European Union and about immigration. They still talk about a heap of other issues, but frankly pretty much needn’t to justify their existence.

Their core base of support is pretty much ensured by those two focii.

Not a difficult concept to grasp - Green party appeals focus on degrading habitat for major animals, and trees.

Not a difficult concept to grasp – Green party appeals focus on degrading habitat for major animals, and trees.

Green parties worldwide leverage fears about global warming and environmental protection generally. Yes, they project a wide variety of other issues into the marketplace, (usually connected to social justice concerns that sit well with their mainly left-wing membership), but again, if they didn’t their raison d’etre would still be clear to a large enough number of voters to see them wield serious minority influence.

But when it comes to a major party, it’s no longer enough to be simplistically “On the side of Capital”, or “On the side of Labour” as it was for most of the 20th century.

If those observations seem somewhat contradictory, let us explain further.

After a century of combat, voters generally realise instinctively that “big” politics is now played mainly in the centre, with only degrees of difference or application separating historically opposed parties that are now not generally in disagreement about the broad thrust of “mixed economy politics”.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee - a common (and probably fair) complaint made against major parties worldwide.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee – a common (and probably fair) complaint made against major parties worldwide.

This is often most obviously expressed in terms that imply dis-satisfaction – “they’re all the same”, for example – but without any great or obvious desire to do anything about that observation at a broad election.

To the intense confusion or annoyance of those who represent more minority viewpoints, the vast mass of voters coalesce into the middle when push comes to shove.

Occasionally – very occasionally – major seismic shifts occur and one of the two major parties in any western-style democracy is replaced, but what then tends to happen is that the new participants start to look very like the organisation they replaced.

Yes, needless to say, there are legitimate squabbles about the size of deficits and the balance of the roles of government and private capital in funding the economy, but in most countries, the difference between left and right is now one of degree, rather than core principle.

And yes, there are “small government” libertarians seeking to outflank conservative parties on the right, and neo-Marxists still clinging to the fringes of the left.

But the days when there was a massive, enduring and quasi-violent divide between labour and capital have surely passed. Today, almost everyone is middle class. Even if they aren’t. Even the reining in of government spending during so-called austerity measures in Europe has not produced a genuine meltdown in public opinion by those affected. Annoyance? Yes. Big demonstrations? Yes.

But Paris in 1968? Britain in the winter of 1979? No.

Those to the far right and left like to pretend that the consensus is breaking down. In fact, it is more solid than ever.

In these days of the comfortable centre a winning strategy is to hold the centre and then judiciously add to your collection of centirst voters those “single issue” groupings that circle around it without a natural home – single issue groups that you can support, and lend a voice to, without betraying core principles too obviously.

Thus Obama won (twice, but especially the second time) by stitching together two groups that historically have not necessarily shared goals, to wit the African American urban constituency and southern Hispanics. In Obama’s case he didn’t even need to be particularly activist in building the coalition. The Republican failure to appeal to the more business-oriented Latino vote by failing to deal with the GOP’s own right-wing’s obsession with restricting Latino immigration (and not normalising residency status for those already int he country illegally) delivered them holus bolus into the Democrat camp in large numbers, thus delivering Obama a second term.

Back in the day, the activist Christian vote in America helped deliver Ronald Reagan big victories not because the whole of America was to be found in the Bible belt, but because they seemed generally wholesome and mostly inoffensive and thus people found it easy to vote for an essentially centrist politician in Reagan with conservative Christian overtones which didn’t really rock their boat. Snaring their political support was a masterstroke for Reagan’s campaign managers. By today, though, fundamentalist Christian activists often seem shrill, rather extreme and frequently to be drilling down to a bedrock of anti-knowledge. This delights their core audience, and attracts all manner of opportunist Republican candidates to their conferences and meetings, but their obvious extremism terrifies the soft centre.

The same is true of some other single issue groups on the right. The extreme small-government brigade frequently seem loopy even in a country where paying tax is begrudged more than most, and where central government is intrinsically very unpopular as a concept. Similarly, the anti-vaxxers and some parts (not all) of the pro-gun lobby seem so actively bizarre that they are, again, hugely popular with their very narrow constituencies, but a complete turn off for mainstream people.

Republican theorists frantically seek to build a winning coalition by yoiking together all these disparate groups, imagining that this is how you build a winning coalition, but all-the-while while bleeding common-or-garden Republicans into first the “Independent” camp and then, as the psychosis intensifies, into the “Well, I’m not really a Democrat, but I’m not going to vote for that lot” column, resulting in a boost to the Democrat vote or (more likely, and just as damagingly) widespread GOP abstentionism.

To win, Hillary has to appear intelligent – which she has no difficulty in doing at all – and to target enough single issue voters which are not likely to “spook the horses”. So now let’s look at that Hillary launch TVC again.

In the old days, in the ad business, we would have said “Ooops, your strategy is showing!” But most people will consume this very professional piece of propaganda without blinking.

Besides people who think Spring is a positive new start to the year – geddit? – these are the groups it targets:

Single parents – note the first woman says “My daughter” not “Our daughter”. Due to marital breakdown, single parents (with women disproportionately represented in caring for children) are a significant and growing demographic.

Returning to work mothers – a key constituency as many middle-class families require dual incomes to cope, and as women born in the feminist era prefer not to stay at home for 18 years to raise their kids.

Latin-speaking people who are – note – in BUSINESS for themselves.

African American expectant parents. Of course, Hillary and her team want all expectant parents to vote for her, but so much the better if she chummies up to African Americans at the same time, so crucial to Obama’s election. Don’t want any black middle class voters being siphoned off to the GOP … notice the people seen here are clearly middle class and relatively well off, not sitting on crumbling concrete steps in Detroit.

An Asian American woman … talking about graduating, of course. Because Asians are all about education, right?

Soon to be retired white couple – very naturally a part of the GOP’s constituency (often called, recently, the “Old White Party”) – if she could get some of those over too it would broaden her overall constituency considerably.

Pet lovers. Well come on. Pet lovers for Hillary.

People going back to work after the economic hardship of recent years. Hillary needs them to forget the bad times and become ironed-on blue collar workforce Democrats again, especially in southern states.

And notice two gay families – one male, one female. Gay marriage – homosexuality generally – is a “light the blue touchpaper and retire” issue for the extreme right, but middle America really couldn’t care less. They just see it as a fairness issue. Yesterday’s news.

What’s more, anywhere between 2% and 10% of the American population self-identify as gay. Many of them are “Dual Income No Kids” – a natural constituency for the GOP, if it were shorn of its religious extremists. So Hillary wants to send a message: you all need to be voting for me. And the gay vote alone could tip a close election one way or the other.

Hillary-2

So in summary, Hillary wants the mainstream pro-Democrat vote (let’s call that 35% of working and middle class whites for argument’s sake) plus you: you Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanics (especially Spanish speakers), blue collar work returners, expectant parents, near-retirees, dog lovers, and gays. Oh, with a strong implication that she wants women, too, but not too overtly, because that will piss off the men.

That’s a majority, right there. Very smart piece of work. Told you.

text message

 

Story hitting the streets in Australia of a young lady who sent her boyfriend a text message. Except she sent it to her boss instead. Ooops.

As the AFR reports:

It could be the modern worker’s worst nightmare. A bookkeeper has been sacked for serious misconduct after she accidentally sent a text to her boss calling him a “complete dick”.

The text was meant for her daughter’s boyfriend and now she has lost an unfair dismissal claim, failing to convince the Fair Work Commission that it was a “lighthearted insult”.

Before her dismissal, Louise Nesbitt worked for six years as the office administrator and bookkeeper for small mineral exploration company Dragon Mountain Gold in Perth. She and Rob Gardner, the company’s chairman and managing director, were the sole employees.

 As part of an office refurbishment, Ms Nesbitt arranged for plumbing work to be carried out by her daughter’s boyfriend, Robert Guy. On January 12 last year, Ms Nesbitt sent a text message intended for Mr Guy to Mr Gardner describing Mr Gardner as a “complete dick” before adding “We know this already so please try your best not to tell him that regardless of how you feel the need”.

Realising her mistake, Ms Nesbitt texted Mr Gardner, saying, “Rob, please delete without reading. I am so so so sorry. Xxx.”

She subsequently sent another text message to Mr Gardner which read, in part, “Rob I need to explain … that message came across so wrong … that is not how I feel. My sense of humour is to exaggerate … Yes I do feel that my ideas are all ignored but that’s ok … Please forget it and just go on as normal. I am very very sorry.”

Ms Nesbitt did not attend the office for several days, saying she was working from home.

Mr Gardner told the commission that the text message describing him as a “complete dick” was highly offensive, derogatory and a shock given Ms Nesbitt’s position as an employee and their long working relationship.

Commissioner Danny Cloghan noted that although the text message was the main reason for the dismissal, the working relationship between the duo had deteriorated in previous months.

Commissioner Cloghan said he did not accept Ms Nesbitt’s argument that the text was a “light-hearted insult” or that she lived with young people who put “complete” in front of every second word.

“To call a person a ‘dick’ is a derogatory term to describe them as an idiot or fool,” he said. “The word ‘complete’ is used to convey the message that the person is, without exception, an idiot or fool – they are nothing less than a ‘dick’.

He said he was satisfied that Mr Gardner believed on “reasonable grounds” that Ms Nesbitt’s conduct was serious enough to justify summary dismissal and she had not been unfairly dismissed.

Much easier than calling the boss a complete dick. Even if he is. Perhaps especially if he is.

Much easier than calling the boss a complete dick. Even if he is. Perhaps especially if he is.

 

It really would have been so much simpler for Ms Nesbitt had she simply purchased her boss a copy of this very excellent book, which was proudly edited at the literary desk of Wellthisiswhatithink. Head to iamtheproblem.com.au for the best $30 any employee – or employer – ever invested.

Not sure how to give the book to your boss? Well, we suggest buying it and dropping it onto his or her desk anonymously after hours.

Incidentally, we notice Ms Nesbitt’s apology to her boss included the words “Yes I do feel that my ideas are all ignored but that’s ok …”

Memo to bosses: if you wonder why your relationship with your direct reports is declining, that’d be a big problem, right there. Buy the book, find out what to do about it.

Frankly, we feel rather sorry for all concerned and are reminded of that famous old aphorism, “what we have here is a failure to communicate”.

Dunno how he got through life, being so unattractive, an' all.

Dunno how he got through life, being so unattractive, an’ all.

Talking of which, can you remember where that term started out?

It’s actually quotation from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, spoken in the movie first by Strother Martin (as the Captain, a prison warden) and later, slightly differently, by Paul Newman (as Luke, a stubborn prisoner).

The context of the first delivery of the line is:

Captain: You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.

Luke: I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.

Captain: Don’t you ever talk that way to me. (Pause, then hitting him.) NEVER! NEVER!

(Luke rolls down hill; to other prisoners)

Captain: What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

The Captain’s line is often misquoted as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” (which is more grammatically correct in the United States).

Near the end of the film, when Luke is surrounded in the church and about to be shot, he also says, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

The phrase ranks at No. 11 on the American Film Institute list, AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes which makes fun reading for saddos like us.

It is a matter of urban legend, Dear Reader, that your indefatigable correspondent has been known to suffer an attack of the vapours climbing up a step ladder to replace a lightbulb. We simply don’t do heights. Although weirdly, we have conquered our fear of flying (the result of genuinely taking on board the very obvious fact that one is much more likely to be killed driving to work every day than hopping somewhere on a plane) and we have very little fear of very high places that are enclosed in glass (we will lean on the window of an 89th story apartment, after a while to consider our actions carefully, showing probably unwise trust in the professionalism of builders) but we simply do not do edges. Whether walking, cycling or in a car, edges don’t do it for us.  We hate mountains with a passion, unless viewed from ground level. Even then they make us feel somewhat anxious.

Wandering around the worldwideinterwebs thingy we found this little gem of a story.

To say that climbing Mount Huashan in China is not for the faint-hearted doesn’t do it any sort of justice. Located about 120 kms from Xi’an in Shaanxi province, the path was first created in the 2nd century BC by Daoist monks, and was a major religious centre.  From that time onwards, monks and nuns slowly began to populate the mountain and surrounding areas. The mountain, with an elevation just over 7,000 metres, is considered one of China’s Five Great Mountains.

Despite some of the paths being restored or improved in recent times due to a large increase in tourists, (say what?! people do this for FUN?) it still remains extremely dangerous, with estimates that over 100 people are claimed by the mountain each year. It starts with a set of almost vertical stairs and evolves into a literally death-defying set of boardwalks and ladders. If you do happen to make it to the top, there is a small temple that has been converted into a teahouse. We’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Source: imgur.com

Stop now. The vertically-ness stuff is a clue.

Source: imgur.com

Wrong way, go back

Quality nail-work, right there.

We suspect the sign reads “Do you feel stupid now you realise you could have stayed in the noodle bar and had another beer?”

People leave padlocks to symbolise their eternal love. Eternal being the appropriate term if they fall off going back down.

Ooooh, nice. Refreshing cup of tea time. Pardon us if we take ours on Margate Pier.

And just in case that didn’t freak you out enough, here is a video to completely take your breath away. We were actually almost physically sick looking at this. Enjoy:

(Some of this story originally written by Adrian Cordiner : April 6th, 2014)