Posts Tagged ‘Wellthisiswhatithink’

Fog of war

Some days ago, we reported a widespread conspiracy theory (not of our making) that the shooting down of Malaysian Flight 17 was a “false flag” attack conducted by the Ukrainian government to put pressure on Russia’s leadership.

We came in for a lot of flak from a variety of people for giving oxygen to the theory, despite saying that our best guess was, in fact, that pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels shot the plane down, either as the result of a ghastly error or an act of unbelievable bastardy.

Why conspiracy theories need answering

On this blog and elsewhere we pointed out that any criticism of Russia needed to be watertight, and thus the conspiracy theories needed to be answered – debunked – to prevent Putin and his cronies being able to slough off responsibility.

Well, now, the Russians – entirely predictably – are making much of the alleged presence of a Ukrainian jet fighter near the ill-fated civilian aircraft.

The Russian claims

They have responded to the widespread opinion that Russia is responsible for the downing of MH17 by reportedly claiming that it has flight records showing a Ukranian fighter jet was close to the passenger jet before it crashed.

At a specially called briefing, Russian Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov said MH17 had strayed from its regular route (why?) and had been recorded in the proximity of a Ukranian SU-25 fighter jet, which is equipped with air-to-air missiles.

“An altitude gain was recorded for a Ukrainian armed forces plane,” he said, adding that the fighter jet is capable of reaching a height of 10,000 metres. “Its distance from the Malaysian Boeing was three to five kilometres.”

“With what aim was a military plane flying along a civilian aviation route practically at the same time and at the same flight level as a passenger liner? We would like to receive an answer to this question.”

 

The Russian briefing earlier.

 

The Lieutenant-General, head of main operational department of Russian military’s General Staff, left, can be seen above speaking  to the media during a news conference in Moscow. (Photo: AP.) General Kartopolov further claimed that the Russian Defence Ministry had detected a significant reduction in Ukranian radar stations after the accident.

Citing data displayed on slides and charts, General Kartopolov claimed that nine radar stations, which are used to operate missile systems, were operating close to the site of the MH17 crash on the day of the tragedy. Within 48 hours, only two remained.

He also strongly denied Russia supplying Buk missile systems to Ukranian separatists, which has been widely speculated across the world.

“I want to stress that Russia did not give the rebels Buk missile systems or any other kinds of weapons or military hardware.” Well, whilst the first part of that sentence could be true, the last half is very obviously not. (Rebels are using Russian-supplied tanks in Donetsk as we speak.) So does that mean the whole sentence is rubbish? You be the judge.

Elsewhere, US network NBC reported that a report on Russia’s Channel One claimed the CIA was to blame for the shooting down of MH17.

LATER UPDATE

In the interests of integrity, we also point out this story, which has Western defence experts arguing that what damage pattern can be seen on the plane would seem to indicate a ground launched Buk-type missile rather than an air-to-air missile. If that is the case it would seem to be a crucial piece of information to be verified as quickly as possible. US intelligence officials think that the most “plausible” case scenario (and we agree) is that these separatists were not aware that MH17 was a passenger flight when they fired what the United States believes was a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile.

Seeing through the fog

So what’s going on here? Bluster? Fact? Mis-information? Genuine disagreement? Are these the bleatings of a regime (and an unpleasant one, at that) who which to avoid responsibility being sheeted home to them, or the legitimate complaints of a Government that does not wish to be unfairly blamed for a murderous tragedy?

We do not purport to know. We really do not, and we do not make a judgement. It is virtually impossible to parse what is going on without access to all the technical information and analysis of a dozen intelligence agencies, and certainly not by wandering the internet and watching media.

We do say, however, which has been our point all along, that the world deserves to know the answer, if only to lay the blame where it accurately lies.

In the meantime, therefore, we urge caution.

Cui Bono

In particular, we would also urge consideration of the Latin phrase Cui bono /kwˈbn/ “to whose benefit?”, literally “with benefit to whom?”. It is also rendered as cui prodest.

This Latin adage is used either to suggest a hidden motive or to indicate that the party responsible for something may not be who it appears at first to be, or to argue that the way to find out who perpetrated a crime can be determined by asking ourselves “Who benefits?” Or equally, “Who is harmed?”

We confess that one nagging thought eats away at us. If you wanted to gain traction for a push back against the pro-Russian rebels, and in general terms to stymie the expansionist tone of Russian rhetoric and behaviour after their successful annexation of Crimea, (and noting the lascivious glances they are casting towards the now-independent Baltic states, for example), then what better means than to create an incident of such transcendent horror as to shoot down a civilian plane and blame the rebels directly and Russia by association?

We note, also, that while the world is focused on the crash site and the event itself, the Ukrainian government forces have seized the opportunity to mount a full-blown assault on Donetsk, moving from their foothold at the airport to assault the railway station and surrounding areas, as the first step in what may be a bloody battle to recover the whole city, which is the “second city” of Ukraine and a key target for the Government.

Too bizarre? Maybe. At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we are not, by nature, enthusiastic supporters of conspiracy theories. We have even seen it suggested – follow this if you can – that the extremist lunatics of ISIS murdered the three Jewish teenagers to provoke Israel into attacking Hamas in Gaza (and effectively destroying Hamas) while simultaneously causing huge outrage both locally and worldwide at the civilian casualties, so that ISIS (or their fellow travellers) can take over in Gaza when Hamas is basically marginalised.

The Israelis know the invasion of Gaza is wildly popular inside their own country, and the Americans, playing a long game, believe that the Israelis can effectively defeat Hamas and then resist ISIS incursion (probably by effectively re-occupying Gaza, which we must remember they left voluntarily, using the region’s strongest army and navy, unlike the weak resistance to ISIS put up by the Iraqi central authorities) so they arrange, via the Ukrainians, to shoot down Malaysian 17 because it takes the world’s attention off Israeli aggression in the key early days of the ground invasion of Gaza, and gives Russia a bloody nose at the same time. Winner winner chicken dinner thinks the CIA and the shadowy forces in the military-industrial regime.

Could such a hideously realpolitik and convoluted scenario ever possibly be true? The answer is, it could. Anything could be true. False flag attacks are common throughout recent history. (Just Google them.) We pray it is not, because what it says about the nature of governance in the world (and especially our bit of the world) is chilling indeed.

The cock-up theory of events

But in the final wash up, we are more pragmatic. Our instinct is always to accept the cock-up theory of international relations – essentially, anything that can go wrong will go wrong –  and we still hold to that view in this case, which is why we tend towards the “idiot Ukrainian rebel makes mistake on the readout on the Buk system and fires missile at Malaysian airliner”. Especially as we know the system had been used to attack military aircraft within the last two weeks. The Buk system “reads” the transponders of the aircraft it is tracking and theoretically identifies that aircraft to the man with his finger on the button. But we know to our cost that transponders on aircraft can give false readings.

Cock up. Bang. Right there. Three hundred bodies fall from the sky.

The absolute need for clarity

However, although that’s our best guess, we nevertheless urge all the authorities concerned to tackle the mysteries involved in this case as speedily as possible. As the Independent (amongst other people) pointed out yesterday, the really bizarre thing about conspiracy theories is that just occasionally, very occasionally, they are actually true. And if this was a false flag attack, then the world assuredly needs to know. Can you just imagine the Governments that would tumble? That’s why, above all, the truth would probably never come out even if it was, improbably, the case. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and find out.

But if it wasn’t, as we suspect, then we need to know who was responsible for this act: fast, and with certain proof. The level of international tension currently exhibited on all sides demands it. In California, Diane Feinstein opined that the level of tension between the West and Russia is now as high as at the height of the Cold War. That’s an exaggeration, to be sure, but it’s not a happy thought even if it’s only half true.

And for that reason alone, before the world stumbles ever closer to the precipice of conflict between its major powers, even the craziest of conspiracy theories need putting to bed, and right now.

Have you heard about the new road safety ad? You're about to.

Have you heard about the new road safety ad? You’re about to.

Big ups for this road safety spot from China, via Volkswagen, who are to be warmly congratulated for a brilliant piece of marketing that is not only attention-grabbing but also very relevant to their market.

At a stroke they become a good corporate citizen and get millions of people applauding their brand.

Smart.

 

At the Wellthisiswhatithink marketing guru training school, we are becoming increasingly interested in the potential for these very localised broadcasts of text messages as a marketing tool.

As we understand it, you can send a blast of messages out to all people nearby who have bluetooth enabled on their smartphone. The opportunity to grab people’s attention as they linger in (or pass by) any given locale is interesting to say the least.

Alright, alright: no one wants dozens of unwanted text messages turning up on our phones all the time. But that simply means adhering to what we have always known.

To be accepted, all advertising (whether it’s a TV ad, a billboard, a radio ad, or a text message) needs to combine relevance, useful information, and entertainment value – when entertainment value doesn’t necessarily mean ho-ho humour, but always means what we call inherent interest, which is usually delivered via enhanced creativity. Rule one of advertising: be noticed. Rule two: no-one was ever bored into buying anything.

This great ad triumphantly ticks both boxes.

(Sorry that the YouTube video comes up covered in banner ads – now that IS annoying. Just click them away, peeps.)

 

The Guardian reports that the Mayor of London (and probably Britain’s most popular Conservative politician, a possible replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron) has issued a strong condemnation of the former prime minister’s views on the Middle East.

Boris JohnstonBoris Johnson, (seen left) said the former prime minister is unhinged in his attempt to rewrite history and is undermining arguments for western intervention in Iraq, the London mayor claimed in an extraordinary personal attack on the former Prime Minister. (Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty)Blair took to the media over the weekend to make the case for a tough response to the extremist insurgency in Iraq, insisting it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis rather than the 2003 US-led invasion which he helped to instigate.His intervention was met with widespread criticism from Labour figures and others as extremists posted pictures apparently showing the killing of dozens of Iraqi soldiers by jihadist fighters.

In his condemnation of Blair the London Mayor accused the ex-Labour leader of having sent British forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

Exactly echoing what we said a couple of days ago, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column that Blair and then-US president George Bush had shown “unbelievable arrogance” to believe toppling Saddam Hussein would not result in instability which resulted directly to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and hundreds of British and American troops. In fact, the figure of Iraqi losses is well over 500,000, according to a range of impeccable sources.

He suggested there were “specific and targeted” actions that could be taken by the US and its allies to deal with latest threat – as Barack Obama considers a range of military options short of ground troops.

But he said that by refusing to accept that the 2003 war was “a tragic mistake”, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates: the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it, or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing,” Johnson concluded. And he is exactly right.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

 

As to whether Blair is actually unhinged, we couldn’t possibly say. But there is something about the messianic glare that overcomes his eyes when he is defending his position that we find quite disturbing to watch.

The row over the events of 11 years ago came amid suggestions of serious atrocities being committed in the militants’ advance.

Taking on critics in an eight-page essay on his website, Blair rejected as “bizarre” claims that Iraq might be more stable today if he had not helped topple Saddam.

The former premier – now a Middle East peace envoy – said Iraq was “in mortal danger”, but pinned the blame on the sectarianism of the al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria’s brutal three-year civil war, not on the instability created by the West’s invasion of Iraq.

“The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true,” he wrote in a push for military intervention – though not necessarily a return to ground forces. “But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. Every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”

Former foreign minister and United Nations Depity Secretary-general Lord Malloch Brown urged Blair to “stay quiet” because his presence in the debate was driving people to oppose what might be the necessary response.

Clare Short, one of a number of MPs who quit Blair’s cabinet over the 2003 invasion, said he had been “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue, and opposed more strikes.

Never miss an opportunity to up the ratings, no matter where the truth lies.

Never miss an opportunity to up the ratings, no matter where the truth lies.

 

The appalling Murdoch-owned Fox News, various right-wing Senators and Congressmen, and other Tea Party types like Rush “Pig” Limbaugh and others, have relentlessly tried to stir up trouble for the Obama government about the attack on the American compound in Benghazi which saw four Americans killed.

9 September 2012, Benghazi

9 September 2012, Benghazi

There may, indeed, have been issues surrounding that event that warrant further cool-headed examination, and most likely in the area of how intelligence is handled in the chain of command, and many decent-minded Americans legitimately want those matters discussed.

But it is amazing how similar historical incidents worldwide failed to provoke anything like the froth and bubble surrounding Benghazi.

It surely couldn’t be that the GOP would do anything they can to stop then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton getting to the White House in her own right, could it?

This list of other incidents, including links to coverage, all happened under the previous Administration’s watch. They are reproduced from policymic.com and were originally compiled by Shwetika Baijal who is a PolicyMic columnist and writes for their Millenials and the Media column. She focuses on how the media frames policy and cultural issues, and how the media’s framing of events effects public opinion.

Article begins:

The incidents below include all kinds of attacks — gunmen on bikes, suicide bombs, car bombs, gunmen shooting outside, and terrorists storming Consulate compounds similar to what happened in Benghazi. During each of those incidents Fox News was only supportive of the administration’s reactions and there were no calls for the removal of Secretary Condoleeza Rice.

The GOP and Fox’s fixation on Benghazi is partisan propaganda. In some of these attacks the State Department had been forewarned about potential threats, unlike Benghazi. Instead of reporting the incident and the recent allegations from a whistleblower, Fox News is hacking together their own version of the events to further convolute the story’s reality.

Check out the timeline of attacks on embassies and consulate compounds during Bush’s tenure that received no similar fine-toothed-combing from Fox.

1.Jan. 22, 2002: Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Attacks Indian U.S. Consulate

Five policemen were killed and 16 injured in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta because of an attack on the U.S. consulate by militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. American employees including the consul-general in Calcutta, Christopher Sandrolini, were unscathed, and those injured and killed were all Indians.

2.June 14, 2002: Suicide Car-Bomb Outside U.S. Consulate in Karachi

Twelve people died in an attack outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi when militants exploded a car bomb. A Taliban splinter group referred to as Al-Qanoon, or “The Law,” claimed responsibility for the attacks that also injured 51 people. Two hired guards, a Marine, and five Pakistani staff members were among the injured in the attack that followed then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to the country.

3.Oct. 12, 2002: String Of Bali Bombings Included U.S. Consulate

The U.S. consulate in Indonesia was attacked as part of the ‘Bali bombings’ on a devastating October night. While there were no fatalities at the consulate, seven Americans were among the 202 dead at the coordinated blasts inside a bar and outside a nightclub.

4.Feb. 28, 2003: Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, Attacked For the Second Time in One Year

Gunmen rode up on a motorbike to the U.S. consulate’s security checkpoints and rained gunfire killing two Pakistani police officers. One gunman arrested by paramilitary officers was found to have several rounds of ammunition prepared for what could have been a far more devastating attack.

5.May 12, 2003: 36 People Including 9 Americans Die After Terrorists Storm U.S. Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The State Department had warned of a potential strike against the Saudi days before gunmen infiltrated the Al Hamra Oasis Village and two others killing 36 people and wounding 160. This was the most devastating attack on a State Department employees to occur under Bush. The Saudi government cracked down on terrorists group but that did not prevent another attack to occur a year later in Jeddah.

6.July 30, 2004: Islamist Attacks U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Two Uzbek security guards died in a bombing on the U.S. embassy in Tashkent days. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan claimed responsibility of the bombing after 15 alleged Islamist militants went on trial.

7.Dec. 6, 2004: Five Staff and Four Security Guards Die in U.S. consulate attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Gunmen fought their way into the complex, reportedly taking 18 staff and visa applicants hostage for a short time before Saudi security forces stormed the building. The final dead counted four security guards, five staff, and three attackers. No Americans were among the dead.

8.March 2, 2006: Third Attack on Karachi U.S. Consulate Killed U.S. Diplomat

U.S. Diplomat David Foy was specifically targeted in the third attack in as many years on the Karachi consulate compound. He was one of four people killed. The bomb occurred two days before President Bush was to visit Pakistan and also targeted the Marriot hotel in an upscale neighborhood of Karachi.

This was a planned and coordinated attack that nobody covered as more than a news item.

9.Sept. 12, 2006: Four Gunmen Stormed the U.S. compound in Damascus, Syria

Gunmen yellingAllahu akbar ” – “God is great” – fired on Syrian security officers guarding the U.S. embassy. The gunmen used grenades, automatic weapons, car bombs, and a truck bomb and killed four people and wounded 13 others. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State praised the Syrians that defended the U.S. employees: “the Syrians reacted to this attack in a way that helped to secure our people, and we very much appreciate that.”

10.Jan. 12, 2007: Greek Terrorists Fired a Rocket-Propelled Grenade at the U.S. Embassy

An antitank grenade was fired into the empty consulate building by leftist terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle angry at American foreign policy. Even though nobody was in the building at the time the attack was a blatant breach of security and showed enormous security loopholes.

11.March 18, 2008: A Mortar is Fired at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen

Similar to the Greek attack, a mortar was fired at the U.S. embassy building killing 19 people and injuring 16. This was the second attempt at a similar mortar attack on the embassy. The first one missed the embassy and hit a girls’ school next door.

12.July 9, 2008: Three Turkish Policemen were Killed When Gunman Fired on the U.S. Consulate Istanbul, Turkey

Four attackers drove up to the high-walled compound of the U.S. Consulate and started shooting the security guards. The gun battle took the lives of three of the attackers but the fourth one drove off. No Americans were injured or killed.

13.Sept. 17, 2008: 16 People Including 2 Americans Die in an Orchestrated Attack on the U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen

An arsenal of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and two car bombs were involved in the second attack on the embassy in seven months. Eighteen-year-old American Susan El-Baneh and her husband of three weeks died holding hands.

Yes. Hardly a stellar list of events.

Anyhow, since their initial flurry of coverage, Fox may be back pedaling just a tad, and so may the right in general. This AP report, from April 10, shows some of the heat coming out of the issue.

GOP chairman satisfied with military response to Benghazi attack.

The GOP chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday he is satisfied with how the military responded to the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans are pressing ahead with multiple congressional investigations, but Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said the military did what it reasonably could during a chaotic night of two separate attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. The assault killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“I think I’ve pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did,” McKeon told reporters at a roundtable discussion. “Now, we’ve made changes since then. We’ve got more Marine fast teams that we built up security around the world.”

Republicans accuse the Obama administration of misleading the American people about a terrorist attack weeks before the presidential election by blaming the assault on protests touched off by an anti-Islam video. An independent investigation and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report earlier this year blamed inadequate security and faulted the State Department.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Obama administration has not been forthcoming.

“They owe the American people the truth. And when it comes to Benghazi, we’ve got four Americans who are dead. And their families deserve the truth about what happened, and the administration refuses to tell them the truth,” Boehner told reporters at a separate news conference.

McKeon said five committees are investigating. His panel and members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee interviewed retired Gen. Carter Ham, who headed the Africa command, for nearly seven hours on Wednesday. McKeon said he was told lawmakers heard nothing new in the testimony by Ham, who has spoken to investigators at least six times.

“We have been working on this for a long time. We issued a preliminary report,” McKeon said. “At some point, when we run out of people to talk to, or we run out of people to talk to two or three times, at some point, we think we’ll have as much of this story as we’re going to get and move on.”

Democrats have called for an end to the investigations, arguing that Republicans are on a futile search for information to embarrass the Obama administration. Republicans reject those calls and insist there are numerous unanswered questions and that they owe it to the families of the dead Americans to investigate.

The Armed Services Committee’s interim report released earlier this year said the military’s response “was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding. However, given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.”

The Senate Intelligence committee report described the military’s actions. One unarmed Predator drone was diverted for surveillance, a seven-man security team with two Defense Department members flew from Tripoli to Benghazi to evacuate Americans and then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered two Marine anti-terrorism security teams from their base in Rota, Spain, to Libya.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Panetta have testified to Congress that the lack of intelligence about what was happening on the ground in Benghazi made it difficult to send in jet fighters or other aircraft.

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

The mob is a dangerous thing. Excite it at your peril.

The mob is a dangerous thing. Excite it at your peril.

What we feel is really sad about events like Benghazi – beyond the tragic loss of life – is the way that partisan politics muddies the waters deliberately to whip up fury against those in authority, whoever they happen to be, before it is possible to parse exactly what may or may not have taken place.

We are all for clarity, and transparency. We would never argue that any administration, in any country, should be above scrutiny, and close scrutiny at that.

But neither should anybody seek, by the endless drumbeat of malicious mistrust, to inculcate the view in the general public that whoever is in power are automatically lying, mendacious  types who seek to rule without democratic oversight or who have something to hide. Sometimes, no matter who is in charge, “shit happens”. We need to be big enough to accept that.

The mob is universally poorly informed, easily excited, and it rarely serves any good purpose to stir them. There has been a lot of wanton stirring going on in the bloodsport that American politics has sadly become, where truth appears to be endlessly malleable, and where it seems nothing matters beyond pulling down the other guy to the lowest possible level of public respect.

The key point is that if our democratic institutions become too mistrusted, through continual howling and unreasonable attack, then they will be easily done away with by those who never believed in them anyway …

In our view, the only things that defends democracy from the mob is the endless and truthful repetition of facts; repetition that occurs in large enough doses that it can puncture the vested interests of those who seek to trivialise – and thus marginalise – democracy. You may care to share some of the facts you find in this article.

Every little helps.

Over here at the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we have made a living from writing for more than 25 years now, so we were fascinated by this excellent article from Carolyn Gregoire of Huff Post on the things that creative people do differently. Indeed, the Wellthisiswhatithink household comprises a writer, voiceover artist and speechmaker (er, that’d be yours truly), a leading glass artist, and an aspiring young actor with her own improv troupe. Close relatives have included an accomplished drawer of portraits, a member of the Royal Academy of Art, one of Australia’s leading watercolourists, and an amateur sculptor … so anything that explains the quirks of creative people is very helpful in surviving our somewhat unusual family!

When you work in advertising and marketing (areas where creativity, applied to a purpose, is supposed to reign supreme) people often ask us, frequently in a despairing tone, “what can I do to make my organisation more creative?”

In response, the Wellthisiswhatithink gurus always reply “Give your people room to fail.”

To be allowed to experiment and fail, even when that creates cost, is the critical pre-requisite of thinking (and acting) creatively. Thomas Edison, history’s most creative inventor and genesis of one of the world’s most powerful and profitable companies, tried over 1,000 filaments for the electric lightbulb before he found the right material to sustain light, and in doing so, made the world a brighter and safer place for millions of people.

He called them his “One thousand magnificent failures.”

egg crushed

So often, not always, but often, we observe the creativity being battered out of new joiners or junior staff by the (usually) older and more cynical bean counters that head up organisations. Creative people are not risk averse – bean counters and lawyers are.

When we let bean counters and lawyers run organisations they become increasingly stifled and fail to act with entrepreneurial flair.

People who create brilliant businesses are always creative thinkers. Sadly, as those businesses grow, as a result of the very risk-taking creativity that sets them on the path for success in the first place, they become riddled with ‘creativity cut outs” and increasingly bureaucratic, and much more prone to worried introspection than creative flair.

If you want to unleash creativity in your organisation, read this article and make a note of how creative people need to behave. And remember, they are the very lifeblood of your organisation, not a distraction.

Great article. Really. Read it. Specially if you run a company or anything else bigger than a knitting circle. Article begins:

Main Entry Image

 

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuro-science paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently.

They daydream.

daydreaming child

 

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time.

According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled “Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming,” mind-wandering can aid in the process of “creative incubation.” And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state — daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.

They observe everything.

The world is a creative person’s oyster – they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.”

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

“However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I,'” Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker.”

They work the hours that work for them.

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.

They take time for solitude.

solitude

 

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming – we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

“You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it,” he says. “It’s hard to find that inner creative voice if you’re not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself.”

They turn life’s obstacles around.

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak – and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically,researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and – most importantly for creativity – seeing new possibilities in life.

“A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality,” says Kaufman. “What’s happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that’s very conducive to creativity.”

They seek out new experiences.

solo traveler

 

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind – and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”

They “fail up.”

resilience

 

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives – at least the successful ones – learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

(Or as a Creative Director once appositely remarked to us, “Always remember, our job is to say “Imagine if you will …” to people with no imagination.” – Ed.)

They ask the big questions.

Creative people are insatiably curious – they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.

They people-watch.

people watching

 

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch – and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

“[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books,” says Kaufman. “For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important. They’re keen observers of human nature.”

(And as John Cleese once remarked, “If you are calling the author of “A la recherche du temps perdu” a looney, I shall have to ask you to step oputside.” – Ed)

They take risks.

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”

They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.

self expression

 

Nietzsche believed that one’s life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

“Creative expression is self-expression,” says Kaufman. “Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”

They follow their true passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated — meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.

They get out of their own heads.

creative writing

 

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

“Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present,” says Kaufman. “The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind — I like calling it the ‘imagination brain network’ — it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking.”

Research has also suggested that inducing “psychological distance” — that is, taking another person’s perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar — can boost creative thinking.

They lose track of the time.

Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

“[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state,” says Kaufman. “The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you’re engaging in.”

They surround themselves with beauty.

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians — including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists — exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.

They connect the dots.

doodle

 

If there’s one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it’s the ability to see possibilities where other don’t — or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

They constantly shake things up.

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

“Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience,” says Kaufman.

They make time for mindfulness.

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind — because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.

And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focusbetter emotional well-being, reducedstress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity — all of which can lead to better creative thought.

customersYears ago … deep in the last millennium … the Managing Director of the ad agency I worked for stuck a photocopied note on the wall outside the door of his office.

It read “If there’s anything a customer loves more than a reactive agency, it’s a pro-active agency”.

Time and again in the last 25 years we have had cause to reflect on those words, and to consider how right he was. Customers stay with agencies that don’t wait to be asked to help. Customers move to agencies that demonstrate initiative.

Then again, there was an interesting counter-intuitive moment in the Wellthisiswhatithink household over breakfast this morning.

Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink’s cellphone rang, and it was our local estate agent. About a year ago we asked them in to give us an idea of what the house might be worth, in case we decided to sell. (We didn’t.) Since then we have received Christmas cards, Easter cards, birthday greetings, and even once, chocolates.

After politely informing the realtor that we weren’t selling anytime soon, he obviously chanced his arm a bit and kept talking. “Look, we’re really not interested.” Mrs W warmed to her task. “Would you please take us off your list? Yes, off your list altogether. Thank you.”

customer puzzleSo much for “Customer Relationship Management” systems.

I can’t really fault the professionalism and interest shown in us by the poor chap.

We just popped up on his computer screen once too often and he tried a bit hard.

I have often wondered how much pro-active contact from companies is too much. It’s a fine balancing act, to be sure.

Anyhow, coincidentally, later in the morning, (when you’re pregnant all you see is babies, right?) at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we wandered across these comments in a business2community.com discussion on the topic:

“As companies adjust to the emergence and convergence of both new and more customer service channels, reactive customer service remains the day-to-day norm for most organisations. But taking steps to move from predominantly reactive service and support delivery, to reactively proactive, to proactive can make all the difference in increased customer satisfaction and retention, establishing a differentiator for the brands that can (even at times) delight in this manner.”

Interesting. The article continued:

“According to a recent Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 87% of U.S. adults are receptive to being proactively contacted by an organisation when it comes to service and support. Nearly three-quarters (73%) who have had a pleasant surprise or positive experience with proactive communication from a brand report they had a also positive change in their perception of that organisation; 62% said they took action as a result of that positive experience.”

Yet the same article reported that only 29% of enterprises are investing in proactive outbound communications, even though customer expectations for real-time updates and information may be steadily increasing, and new service channels such as social and mobile are making it easier than ever to reach out proactively at scale.”

The article went on to make these suggestions for making a move to more proactive customer service:

social media

1. Provide Alerts and Updates.

Use channels such as mobile, social, IVR messaging and Knowledgebase/FAQ updates to provide reactively proactive (great) or proactive (even better) information and updates about service and product statuses.

For example, utilities companies could use the above-mentioned channels to proactively alert and update customers on outages and estimated service restoration times. Retailers could alert customers as to shipping specials, price reductions, product availability or recalls, and airlines can proactively update passengers regarding delays, cancellations or weather announcements. In the USA Delta Airline’s mobile app, for example, proactively delivers flight notifications and allows customers to re-book without having to call or wait in line at the airport. All of these proactive communications can reduce high call or email volumes as well as social media complaints.

2. Make Money or Time-Saving Suggestions.

While predictive analytics have been a topic of conversation for many years now in customer service, the technology to make full use of them is now catching up. A great example of this anticipatory service is Google Now, which combines information that Google knows about you from the devices you use, your location and your online searches to suggest information you might need before you even need it, whether that’s weather, traffic information or the nearest metro station. Brands can apply the same analytics to dramatically improve the customer experience.

Historic analytics can also be used to save customers money, which typically results in delight. Whether it’s an adjustment in utilities usage based on the customer history, or notifying a customer who has placed and then removed a pricey electronics device from their online shopping cart three times that it is now on sale, this proactive customer communication can foster enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Reach Out with a Random Act of Kindness.

Where brands can impact the individual customer experience and deliver delight is through random acts of kindness. Provide customer service representatives with a 15 to 30 minute window each day to reach out to at least one customer whether that’s by phone, email, social media or what have you, just to say thanks for being a customer, happy birthday, hope your day’s going well, or to even present them with a discount or small thank you.

The brands that make this extra effort to deliver small unexpected kindnesses with no expectations will master what customers are craving from today’s big brands: authenticity, care and delight created by a small human kindness.”

Well, we’re not so sure. We can’t fault the logic. We can’t fault the intent. And we’re sure pro-active marketing is going to employ a lot of people in coming years.

But we are tempted to also wonder whether marketeers risk merely adding to the information overload that we all suffer from, and producing the exactly opposite result to that which they intended.

Maybe it’s just that pro-active marketing is a bit like salt in the marketing stew. Just the right amount brings out all the great flavours of everything else. Too much, and the whole thing becomes inedible. And ensure the pro-activity suits the character, likes and dislikes of your audience.

Leave chocolates on my doorstep whenever you like. Don’t ring over breakfast.

(In his “day job”, the author of Wellthisiswhatithink is a marketing and advertising consultant working for one of Melbourne’s leading ad agencies, Magnum Opus, see:magnumopus.com.au. To chat to Steve Yolland about proper grown-up paid advertising advice or to sample his communications knowledge, or maybe to get an opinion on your organisation’s current public profile, just email him on yolly@magnumopus.com.au.)

The world of the interweb is a wonderful one that just keeps on giving. Those of you that follow our F*** Ups series through the meandering lunacies of advertising, sub editing, social media and, of course, packaging, will enjoy these. They’re right up there with the infamous Masterfoods cock-up we spotted a while back.

At least most of these have the excuse of being obviously “foreign”, unlike Masterfoods in the USA, and of course, we all know that foreign Ingrish (on menus, for example) can sometimes leave a little to be desired. Chicken Anus Soup, anyone? Nevertheless, these are utterly hilarious. Well, they are to our tiny minds at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, anyhow …

We don’t really understand why the Asian manufacturers of these products don’t think to check with a native English speaker for any concerns that might be raised. Then again, here we are advertising their products for them for free, so maybe, you know, those inscrutable capitalists are just cleverer than we thought?

Nice girls, your soup is in the next aisle.

Nice girls, your soup is in the next aisle.

 

Please ask the lady concerned for informed consent first.

Please ask the lady concerned for informed consent first.

 

One does not want to be a product taster in this factory.

One does not want to be a product taster in this factory.

 

Yummy. Not.

Yummy. Not.

 

Ditto.

Ditto.

 

We know Asians reputedly eat anything, but this answer to world population problems is a step to far.

We know Asians reputedly eat anything, but this answer to world population problems is surely a step too far.

 

A whole new level of refreshment. Where level includes "lower level".

A whole new level of refreshment. Where level includes “lower level”.

 

Everyone's always getting at the Jews. But juicing their ears is totally wrong.

Everyone’s always getting at the Jews for somethin’ or other. But juicing their ears is just totally wrong.

 

So that's what was wrong with that snack we purchased in Beijing.

So that’s what was wrong with that snack we purchased in Beijing.

 

Interesting flavour choice for crisps.

Interesting flavour choice for crisps. We can see it appealing to a certain audience.

 

We are not going anywhere near this. Nuh-uh. Lips are sealed. No, no, no.

We are not going anywhere near this. Nuh-uh. Lips are sealed. No, no, no. Don’t tempt us.

 

Pretty sure we've drunk this too. We remember a little cafe in Brentford.

Pretty sure we’ve been served this too. We remember a little cafe in Brentford before a football game.

 

Now we have definitely been served this with our vodka, often. Every time they serve that stuff that comes out of a pipe rather than a bottle.

Now we have definitely been served this with our vodka, often. Every time they serve that stuff that comes out of a pipe rather than a bottle. Clearly Ghana manufactures the stuff in bulk and exports it to my local pub.

 

Wishing you all one.

Wishing you all one.

 

Believe it or not, Dear Reader, this really IS a product we know. It is a very popular ice cream in Australia, and I can report it is utterly delicious confection of vanilla/toffee/nutty thing. And yes, everyone sniggers when they buy it, but the brand is a long-standing one, since long, long before the word “gay” acquired other meanings.

The makers have steadfastly refused to change it, and good on them, we say. Indeed, as it is 32 degrees in Marvellous Melbourne today, we may just treat ourselves to one a little later on.

Related articles

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE*

I am indebted to Ian Hanslope who immediately got back to me with these wonderful examples. Keep ‘em coming, people! (*A very famous Australian advertising punchline.)

Truth in advertising from Princebrim Foods?

Truth in advertising from Princebrim Foods?

And we all know how we feel after a few sakes.

And we all know how we feel after a few sakes, right?

psychology

There’s a name for everything nowadays. Everybody thinks they know what you mean when you say you’re happy or sad. But what about all those emotional states you don’t really have words for? Here are ten feelings you may have experienced, but never knew how to explain.

1. Dysphoria

Often used to describe depression in psychological disorders, dysphoria is general state of sadness that includes restlessness, lack of energy, anxiety, and vague irritation. It is the opposite of euphoria, and is different from typical sadness because it often includes a kind of jumpiness and some anger. You have probably experienced it when coming down from a stimulant like chocolate, coffee, or something stronger. Or you may have felt it in response to a distressing situation, extreme boredom, or depression. This is not to be confused with Dysmorphia, which is when people have a compelling view of their own body which is not born out by logic – for example, a skinny eating-disorder affected individual thinking they are fat.

2. Enthrallment

Psychology professor W. Gerrod Parrott has broken down human emotions into subcategories, which themselves have their own subcategories. Most of the emotions he identifies, like joy and anger, are pretty recognisable. But one subset of joy, “enthrallment,” you may not have heard of before. Unlike the perkier subcategories of joy like cheerfulness, zest, and relief, enthrallment is a state of intense rapture. It is not the same as love or lust. You might experience it when you see an incredible spectacle — a concert, a movie, a rocket taking off — that captures all your attention and elevates your mood to tremendous heights. For the Wellthisiswhatithink crew, it is anytime we see Southampton FC beat one or all of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Tottenham.

3. Normopathy

Psychiatric theorist Christopher Bollas invented the idea of normopathy to describe people who are so focused on blending in and conforming to social norms that it becomes a kind of mania. A person who is normotic is often unhealthily fixated on having no personality at all, and only doing exactly what is expected by society. Extreme normopathy is punctuated by breaks from the norm, where normotic person cracks under the pressure of conforming and becomes violent or does something very dangerous. Many people experience mild normopathy at different times in their lives, especially when trying to fit into a new social situation, or when trying to hide behaviors they believe other people would condemn. What we want to know at Wellthisiswhatithink is what compulsive on-going un-Normopathy is called, because we frankly think we “suffer” from it.

4. Abjection

Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva

There are a few ways to define abjection, but French philosopher Julia Kristeva (literally) wrote the book on what it means to experience abjection.

She suggests that every human goes through a period of abjection as tiny children when we first realize that our bodies are separate from our parents’ bodies.

This sense of separation causes a feeling of extreme horror we carry with us throughout our lives.

That feeling of abjection then gets re-activated when we experience events that, however briefly, cause us to question the boundaries of our sense of self.

Often, abjection is what you are feeling when you witness or experience something so horrific that it causes you to throw up. A classic example is seeing a corpse, but abjection can also be caused by seeing faeces or open wounds. These visions all remind us, at some level, that our selfhood is contained in what Star Trek aliens would call “ugly bags of mostly water.” The only thing separating you from being a dead body is, well, almost nothing. When you feel the full weight of that sentence, or are confronted by its reality in the form of a corpse, the resulting nausea is “abjection”.

This one really interested us, Dear Reader, because we clearly remember an isolated incident in our early childhood where total despair overwhelmed us and we simply sobbed in utter existential horror for an hour. Since then, the incident has recurred very rarely, always at night, and always when fast asleep, and with no apparent specific stimuli. The depth of distress is simply inexplicable, and quite impossible to put into words – it is total loss and unassuageable grief. We have always assumed it related to a traumatic death in the family when we were two, but maybe it goes even earlier than that? It doesn’t happen all that often, (thank Goodness) so we are minded to ignore it. Then again, the idea of death also, if we are to be frank, distresses us unreasonably, so who knows …?

5. Sublimation

English: Sigmund Freud

Here’s looking at you, kid.

If you’ve ever taken a class where you learned about Sigmund Freud’s theories about sex, you probably have heard of sublimation. Freud believed that human emotions were sort of like a steam engine, and sexual desire was the steam. If you blocked the steam from coming out of one valve, pressure would build up and force it out of another. Sublimation is the process of redirecting your steamy desires from having naughty sex, to doing something socially productive like writing an article about psychology or fixing the lawnmower or developing a software program. (This is the theory behind the vast amounts of sport played at boarding schools, of course. Ed.)

Anyhow, if you’ve ever gotten your frustrations out by building something, or gotten a weirdly intense pleasure from creating an art project, you’re sublimating.

Other psychiatrists have refined the idea of sublimation, however. Following French theorist Jacques Lacan, they say that sublimation doesn’t have to mean converting sexual desire into another activity like building a house. It could just mean transferring sexual desire from one object to another — moving your affections from your boyfriend to your neighbour, for example.

6. Repetition compulsion

Ah, Freud. You gave us so many new feelings and psychological states to explore! The repetition compulsion is a bit more complicated than Freud’s famous definition — “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.” On the surface, a repetition compulsion is something you experience fairly often. It’s the urge to do something again and again. Maybe you feel compelled to always order the same thing at your favourite restaurant, or always take the same route home, even though there are other yummy foods and other easy ways to get home. Maybe your repetition compulsion is a bit more sinister, and you always feel the urge to date people who treat you like crap, over and over, even though you know in advance it will turn out badly (just like the last ten times).

Tagliatelle Carbonara is not sinister, Sigmund. It is an entirely rational and calm decision, made in light of all available evidence.

Tagliatelle Carbonara is not sinister, Sigmund. It is an entirely rational and calm decision, made in the light of all available evidence.

Freud was fascinated by this sinister side of the repetition compulsion, which is why he ultimately decided that the cause of our urge to repeat was directly linked to what he called “the death drive,” or the urge to cease existing. After all, he reasoned, the ultimate “earlier state of things” is a state of non-existence before we were born.

With each repetition, we act out our desire to go back to a pre-living state. Maybe that’s why so many people have the urge to repeat actions that are destructive, or unproductive.

Speaking personally, in the Wellthisiswhatithink sweatshop we do not wish to cease to exist.

Then again, we do find it difficult to ever order anything other than Tagliatelle Carbonara at Pacinos. However we think it is because that particular offering is, without question, the best pasta dish in the world.

7. Repressive de-sublimation

Political theorist Herbert Marcuse was a big fan of Freud and lived through the social upheavals of the 1960s. He wanted to explain how societies could go through periods of social liberation, like the countercultures and revolutions of the mid-twentieth century, and yet still remain under the (often strict) control of governments and corporations. How could the U.S. have gone through all those protests in the 60s but never actually overthrown the government? The answer, he decided, was a peculiar emotional state known as “repressive de-sublimation.” Remember, Freud said sublimation is when you route your sexual energies into something non-sexual.

Marcuse: whose best ever quote has to be "Free election of Masters does not abolish either the Masters or the Slaves".

Marcuse: whose best ever quote has to be “Free election of Masters does not abolish either the Masters or the Slaves”.

But Marcuse lived during a time when people were very much routing their sexual energies into sex — it was the sexual liberation era, when free love reigned.

People were busily de-sublimating. And yet they continued to be repressed by many other social strictures, coming from corporate life, the military, and the government.

Marcuse suggested that de-sublimation can actually help to solidify repression by acting as an escape valve for our desires so that we don’t attempt to liberate ourselves from other social restrictions.

A good example of repressive de-sublimation is the intense partying that takes place in college. Often, people in college do a lot of drinking, drugging and hooking up — while at the same time studying very hard and trying to get ready for jobs. Instead of questioning why we have to pay tons of money to engage in rote learning and get corporate jobs, we just obey the rules and have crazy drunken sex every weekend. Repressive de-sublimation!

Or as we like to put it when we are in table thumping mood about what is wrong with society, “Bread and circuses, sheeple, bread and circuses! It’s all bloody bread and circuses!” Er …. nurse, our pills please. The little pink and white ones.

8. Aporia

You know that feeling of crazy emptiness you get when you realise that something you believed isn’t actually true? And then things feel even more weird when you realise that actually, the thing you believed might be true and might not — and you’ll never really know? That’s aporia. The term comes from ancient Greek, but is also beloved of post-structuralist theorists like Jacques Derrida and Gayatri Spivak. The reason modern theorists love the idea of aporia is that it helps to describe the feeling people have in a world of information overload, where you are often bombarded with contradictory messages that seem equally true.

In other words, what, if anything, are we supposed to believe, any more? Quite.

9. Compersion

We’ve gotten into some pretty philosophical territory, so now it’s time to return to some good, old-fashioned internet memes. The word compersion was popularised by people in online communities devoted to polyamory and open relationships, in order to describe the opposite of feeling jealous when your partner dates somebody else. Though a monogamous person would feel jealous seeing their partner kiss another person, a non-monogamous person could feel compersion, a sense of joy in seeing their partner happy with another person. But monogamous people can feel compersion, too, if we extend the definition out to mean any situation where you feel the opposite of jealous. If a friend wins an award you hoped to win, you can still feel compersion (though you might be a little jealous too).

10. Group feelings

Some psychologists argue that there are some feelings we can only have as members of a group — these are called intergroup and intragroup feelings. Often you notice them when they are in contradiction with your personal feelings. For example, many people feel intergroup pride and guilt for things that their countries have done, even if they weren’t born when their countries did those things. Though you did not fight in a war, and are therefore not personally responsible for what happened, you share in an intergroup feeling of pride or guilt. Group feelings often cause painful contradictions. A person may have an intragroup feeling (from one group to another) that homosexuality is morally wrong. But that person may personally have homosexual feelings. Likewise, a person may have an intragroup feeling that certain races or religions are inferior to those of their group. And yet they may personally know very honourable, good people from those races and religions whom they consider friends. A group feeling can only come about through membership in a group, and isn’t something that you would ever have on your own. But that doesn’t mean group feelings are any less powerful than personal ones.

Anyway, hope you found all that fascinating and even helpful. We did.

(Much of this content – the intelligent stuff – was originally published on iO9.com)

Everyone-Has-a-Phone-Now-1

 

We wish we could say, Dear Reader, that we never use our ubiquitous iPhone at inappropriate moments. But we can’t. It’s just too damn useful. It’s a great little camera … and not a bad little video camera … but in the Wellthisiswhatithink household we do find ourselves at times moving seamlessly from snapping a cute flower to checking emails, dancing around Facebook for a while, checking the weather, playing with the latest application, or even – gasp – making a phone call or two.

Before you know it, serious time can have passed, and Lord knows what else.

We well remember being in Malaysia on business. Our local tech-savvy younger Malaysian contacts spent at least as much time photographing their meals as eating them. That was a few years back. Now the phenomenon is as common everywhere in the world.

To be frank, we rather like the instant connectedness that the world now offers us all, but it’s smart, surely, to ponder what we might be losing at the same time. This little video makes the point very cleverly, and is well worth pondering …

 

 

Sometimes, maybe, we should just … be.

Moreover, today’s smart phones obviously offer all of us increased opportunities for activities traditionally defined as sedentary behaviors, such as surfing the internet, emailing and playing video games. But despite their mobile nature, researchers Jacob Barkley and Andrew Lepp, faculty members in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University, have linked high cell phone use to poor fitness in college students.

Barkley and Lepp were interested in the relationship between smart phones and fitness levels because, unlike the television, phones are small and portable, therefore making it possible to use them while doing physical activity. But what the researchers found was that despite the phone’s mobility, high use contributed to a sedentary lifestyle for some subjects.

More than 300 college students from the Midwest were surveyed on their cell phone usage and activity level. Of those students, 49 had their fitness level and body composition tested. The researchers’ results showed that high cell phone use was associated with low cardiorespiratory fitness. In the study, the students who were the least fit were those who spent large amounts of time on their cell phones – as much as 14 hours per day. The most fit students were those who used the cell phone the least – around 90 minutes per day.

One subject said in the interview data: “Now that I have switched to the iPhone I would say it definitely decreases my physical activity because before I just had a Blackberry, so I didn’t have much stuff on it. But now, if I’m bored, I can just download whatever I want.”

The study is believed to the first to assess the relationship between cell phone use and fitness level among any population. Barkley and Lepp conclude that their findings suggest that cell phone use may be able to gauge a person’s risk for a multitude of health issues related to an inactive lifestyle.

So. What does your iPhone say about you?

In our neck of the woods, the Wellthisiswhatithink collective is off for a walk. And leaving our phones behind. And we intend smelling the roses, not photographing them.

"You know what, Jean? it's just ... just ... something's nagging at me ..."

“You know what, Jean? It’s just … just … something’s nagging at me …”

At the Wellthisiswhatithink coalface we are in a very generous mood today. It’s been a wonderful weekend, and we return to the keyboard full of the joys of Spring, and pleased to report that the little pump in the newly installed goldfish pond is working, thanks to the loving care and persistence of Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink when yours truly was more than happy to chuck the damn thing in the bin. Little tea lights now hang in the cherry tree over the new pond, and all the wonderful dark purple petunias have taken. It looks like a good crop of apricots this year too, thanks to excellent rain.

In short, all is good in the Wellthisiswhatithink paddock.

So, wiping out Lord knows how many future posts with complete abandon, we are chucking caution to the winds and are going to give you a whole bunch of advertising and layout F*** Ups, just to start the week off right.

We can’t believe how they just keep on coming. And thank you so much, Simon, for these.

Always remember, Dear Reader, all donations gratefully received.

Meanwhile, publishers, try and get your sub editors, journalists and advertising departments to talk to each other, you lazy buggers.

On the other hand, thanks for the laughs.

 

I've always had my suspicions about Winnie. Far too bloody nice,

I’ve always had my suspicions about Winnie. Far too bloody nice.

 

We are reasonably sure one was involved at some point, but do you have to rub it in. So to speak?

We are reasonably sure one was involved at some point, but do you have to rub it in. So to speak? No-one saw this? Really? Sheesh.

 

Or this? Poor girl. Her mother will be delighted.

Or this? Poor girl. Her mother will be delighted.

 

Memo to Russian newspaper. You have to put the photos in, not just the placeholders. Wonderful stuff, new technology, eh, Boris?

Memo to Russian newspaper. You have to put the photos in, not just the placeholders. Wonderful stuff, new technology, eh, Boris?

 

The dangers of asking your idiot ad agency for "web ready copy".

The dangers of asking your idiot ad agency for “web ready copy”.

 

She's very tolerant, obviously. How to take the gloss off a Royal Wedding.

She’s very tolerant, obviously. How to take the gloss off a Royal Wedding.

 

Hooray! Duck!

Hooray! And, er. Duck!

 

Yes, well. What else could one say?

Yes, well. What else could one say?

 

Sometimes, you even have to worry about how the article will stack in the dispense box.

Sometimes, you even have to worry about how the article will stack in the dispenser box.

 

We finish with our two favourites. This magnificent cover fail reveals, when read carefully, the importance of those little things like commas.

We finish with our two favourites. This magnificent cover fail reveals, when read carefully, the importance of those little things like commas. Little wonder Rachael looks so healthy with such a diverse diet. We think “Tails” magazine should be renamed “Fails”.

 

And last but not least, the power of the Leading Cap. I think you can discern the sub editor's view of these departing journos quite clearly.

And last but not least, the power of the Leading Cap. I think you can discern the sub editor’s view of these departing journos quite clearly.

 

More soon. Meanwhile, which is your favourite of this crop?

If you want to check out the whole history of the F*** Ups, try these:

The other F*** Ups we’ve spotted, if you missed ‘em.

Where words fail. Entirely. And wonderfully: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-H7

Naughty schoolgirls celebrated by Headmistress: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-zy

The world’s stupidest billboard placement: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-gX

Not the holiday anyone would really want: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-hJ

Two for the price of one: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-13P

Stores abusing innocent shoppers: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-j8

The most embarrassingly badly worded headline in history: http://tinyurl.com/7enukvd

Oh, those crazy whacky country McDonalds eaters: http://tinyurl.com/83vgpng

And a burger we think we KNOW you’re not going to want to eat. http://wp.me/p1LY0z-14r

The amazingly handy father: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-vM

When Boy Scouts go bad: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-1lC

What you really didn’t need to know about your chef: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-1Co

Enjoy! Please feel free to share.

rudd sadA few people have asked us, following our slew of seat by seat predictions a couple of days ago, and the considered answer is “maybe”.

It is actually one of the great imponderables of the night.

The seat at over 8% ALP lead is outside our feeling for what the country will do as a whole (we’re thinking about a 6-7% swing – enough to deliver an Abbott landslide) and being Prime Minister should give Rudd some added kudos, but we also have a sneaking feeling people have really gone off Kevin ’13. Labor were on the nose going into the election. And they’ve gone backwards since it was called.

Why? Hard to be emphatic, but we do know this. People – especially those not “ironed on” to one side or the other – love voting to be on the winning side.

It’s been so obvious for so long that the Labor Party have lost this election that people are now busily abandoning the ship in their heads. Abbott has the “Big Mo” as the Americans call it, and Rudd now has a tag he has never really carried before. And that tag is “Loser”.

Shorn of any sense that he is a mystically successful electoral talisman for Labor who would have won easily in 2010 if he hadn’t been shafted by Gillard (a highly dubious assertion) there really doesn’t seem much reason to re-elect him personally. He’s only going to retire, anyhow.

Demographic changes contributed to John Howard losing his seat in the Ruddslide of ’07, it is true. But John Alexander’s subsequent re-taking of the seat shows that it was also very much about the people of Bennelong just being thoroughly sick of Little Johnny.

We’re guessing a little, and there is no poll data after August 22nd to back it up, but on balance we are prepared to stick the Wellthisiswhatithink neck out and say “Yes.”  Rudd will lose Griffith.

People will simply be glad to see the back of the Milky Bar Kid. We think. Maybe.

Incredibly it’s two years to the day since we somewhat nervously launched Wellthisiswhatithink.

Seems like yesterday.

2In that time, we have enjoyed – and we really mean that – a whopping 113,677 viewers and responded to 2,096 comments. Phew!

Our “Top 20” most popular countries for views are, in order, the good ol’ USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, India, Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Japan, Brazil, Finland, Philippines, and South Africa, but virtually every country in the world is represented.

We have even had a visitor from Vatican City. Just one. Once.

So welcome, and thank you, Your Holiness. Do you prefer to be called Frank?

We think the people should be told more about the British Virgin Isles. Maybe a letter writing campaign? Hmmm.

We think the people should be told more about the British Virgin Isles. Maybe a letter writing campaign? Hmmm.

Anyhow: other “sole visitor states” have included Micronesia, Togo, Solomon Islands, Lichtenstein (lift your game, please, bankers), Djibouti, Benin, Lesotho, Madagascar, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, Dominica, and the British Virgin Islands.

So you can expect a travelogue item sponsored by the local tourism authorities of the British Virgin Islands really soon: a quick acclimatization and photography tour will probably be required, don’t you think, Mr Minister of Tourism for BVI?.

"China? Are you out there somewhere? Talk to us!"

“China? Are you out there somewhere? Talk to us!”

And “Where’s China, we hear you ask?” Answer: banned.

Not them, us.

We have fallen foul of the Great Firewall of China, which is damned annoying as we really like the place, and the people. 请停止阻止我们的博客,我们是非常好的人。*

We await a response from the Chairman soon.

Anyway, we’re now comfortably over 500 posts (so you should be able to search on just about any topic you can think of and find it covered somehow!) and we’re not far behind a rolling average of offering you a blog a day, which was the goal we set ourselves.

Not a bad effort, really, from both readers and writers. And we really are very grateful to everyone – every subscriber, every visitor, everyone leaving a comment, and every guest blogger.

We are delighted that you, Dear Reader, show every sign of enjoying the deliberately esoteric collection of news items and thoughts we pull together. It’s not a political blog, it’s not an art or photography blog, it’s not a food and wine blog, or a travel blog, it’s not a blog about poetry and writing, it’s not a humour blog.

We hope Wellthisiswhatithink is all of that and more, and we are deeply touched by your interest and your generous help.

Your loyalty – and more importantly, your input: positive, or critical – is what has made Wellthisiswhatithink a success.

We hope you stick with us, and keep enjoying our somewhat wry, askance, and opinionated view on the world. Please tell your friends. And once again, thank you from the bottom of our ink-stained hearts.

Is there a topic you would LIKE us to comment on that we haven’t? Got a pet cause you think should get the Wellthisiswhatithink treatment? Want to volunteer as a guest blogger? (Worldwide fame guaranteed, and not a cent in pay.) Just drop us a line at yolly@decisionsdecisions.com.au …

It’s your blog. We built it for you. Be a part of it in our next year.

*Please stop blocking our blog, we are really nice people.

Alison Grimes

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes – she’s taking on the big one.

One of the more interesting Senate races in 2014 will be that for the seat of Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is now a staggeringly unpopular man for someone with his standing.

As leader of the Republicans in the Senate, he epitomises Washington gridlock, and frequently appears grumpy, curmudgeonly, and stubbornly pleased to be in that position.

That doesn’t mean he can’t get re-elected, of course. He’s a thirty year veteran in his position, and has a strong track record of winning in his Kentucky seat with a mixture of attack ads and connections to a strong grassroots street-corner campaign machine.

But in any two horse race, upsets can and do occur. And the anti-incumbent swing in 2014 is going to be savage.

All that remains is for the Democrats to come up with a candidate who is photogenic, connected, talented and clean. And they have.

As she demonstrated at the traditional campaign starter for Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic, Alison Grimes has got what it takes to upset McConnell in spades.

She’s also a darling of Democrat activists, having used her time when campaigning for Secretary of State to argue against voter Photo ID, believing that it discriminates against poorer voters and people from racial minorities.

As these stories indicate, Grimes is galvanising the Democrat base – including with an hilarious and pointed performance at the Picnic – perhaps her funniest line was “If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.” – and generally doing an excellent job of making McConnell look tired and out of ideas. She can expect an influx of workers and cash now she’s looking competitive.

http://www.politicususa.com/2013/08/03/alison-grimes-storms-fancy-farm-turns-mitch-mcconnell-paranoid-man.html

And opinion polls showing her neck and neck or hitting the front have excited much attention.

http://democracyforamerica.com/blog/728-this-probably-isn-t-the-week-mitch-mcconnell-wanted?t=C_fb_080213b

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/02/1228419/-Two-Dem-polls-show-Grimes-leading-McConnell-Cook-moves-Kentucky-Senate-race-to-toss-up

The last one includes video of an appalling poor McConnell attack ad which clearly didn’t resonate with voters. If that’s the best he’s got then he’s in even deeper trouble than it looks on the surface.

Well, of course, part of the fun of following politics is picking winners.

And picking them a long way out is more fun than we can resist. We think Grimes is in with a real shout.

"Things happen in American politics in the political center. If the President will meet us in the center, there are things we can accomplish." How's that going for you, Mitch?

“Things happen in American politics in the political center. If the President will meet us in the center, there are things we can accomplish.” How’s that going for you, Mitch?

But of course, if a week is a long time in politics, then between now and the 2014 elections is a positive aeon. Nevertheless what is certain is that McConnell now has a real fight on his hands.

And top guys can and do lose their seats.

Remember, Australian Prime Minister John Howard was turfed out in 2007 as part of his party’s overall loss.

It’s also worth recalling that Grimes beat a sitting Democrat to get into the Secretary of State race which she went on to win with a huge lead.

The number of attractive photographs of the candidate on the internet show that her camnpaign managers know full well that her looks are an asset.

The number of attractive photographs of the candidate on the internet show that her campaign managers know full well that her looks are an asset.

She’s got form as an anti-incumbent candidate.

Did I mention she’s cute?

And if you don’t know how that can help when up against a somewhat … less cute? … an older man, then sorry, but you just don’t get modern politics.

So we she’s one to watch.

If she beats McConnell, or even wounds him badly, then the sky is the limit for this woman.

Relatively inexperienced Junior Senators can go far, remember.

PS Meanwhile, in breaking news, it has been confirmed a few minutes ago that Australia will have a General Election on September 7th. Given that 80% of the readers of Wellthisiswhatithink are Americans, I apologise in advance that we will be mentioning it from time to time, and especially to those of you who couldn’t give a monkey’s bum what happens down here in God’s own country. Or as we like to call it at WTISIT, the Land of the Long White Lunchtime.” 

I am always being asked – usually very grumpily – why I fulminate on matters outside the borders of Australia by people who obviously believe that none of us have the right to speak truth (OK, I will concede, “our version of the truth”) to citizens of other countries.

And my stock response is, “Because I believe countries are artificial constructions, and I don’t think national boundaries should prevent the free flow of opinion, as we are all, first Citizens of the Wor4ld, not citizens of wherever we happen to live …” which always produces howls of derision from those who originally asked why I dared to say what I think, and murmurs of approval from anyone else.

And one day, recently, a very nice person in another forum where I post links to the blog – Linked In – kindly remarked that she thought I “am the bravest person posting in Linked In – I know it’s scary, but you keep raising important issues.”

I should warn you, everyone, one comment like that can keep me spouting off for a year or more.

Anyhow, here’s your real answer, Dear Reader. You just seem to be an amazingly international person … so I try and include content (or opinion) from all over the world, providing I think the content is important, or I can think of anything relevant to add to it.

How funny that orange is my favourite colour …

As I have explained many times, by far the most regular readers of my blog are Americans, who read my blog more than three times as much as my fellow Aussies.

From a country as saturated as media as it is, I consider this a great compliment, as it implies they think someone this far away has something relevant to say to them.

Either that or they’re masochists and they just love to hate me.

Whatever their reasons, I am grateful for the continual support from the good ol’ US of A. And the next biggest bunch of readers are from my old homeland in the UK, who also out poll the Aussies. This is perhaps understandable as once, deep – deep – in the last Millenium, I had something of a public profile in the Old Dart, but it is humbling and heart-warming to know that after 25 years as an Aussie they are still remotely concerned about what I think.

Either that, or my articles on sausages strike a chord.

Looking at the map, the sheer reach of blogging in the Internet age becomes clear. My words – or yours, if I have been re-blogging something – reach into almost every corner of the planet, which is something I find really quite awe-inspiring. Places I shall presumably never visit nevertheless know a little of me, virtually, at least. And whilst I recognise that the Internet can be something of a curate’s egg as far as information gathering goes – after all, how do you judge whether what you read is valid, true, biased, or … what? – it is without any doubt a remarkable step forward for the free and unsupervised dissemination of information.

Or at least, the attempted dissemination.

The Great Firewall of China has me blocked, for example. Which is quite bizarre, as I have visited China a number of times, I like the country and its people, and I wish both well as they continue their great strides onto the world stage. Or maybe I am blocked because all of WordPress is, just in case. But I think it’s me, because before my friends over there started reporting that they couldn’t read my work, fully six of them had done so. Mine was a star that shone very momentarily over the Oldest of Old Kingdoms. Hong Kong, however, can read me, and does. How curious.

I think it’s totally brilliant – totes brill as Fruit of One’s Loins would have it –  that WordPress provide one with these stats, partly out of my sheer fascination in trawling them, but also because if one covers a topic concerning, say Sri Lanka, then one can track the sudden up-tick of interest from that country as the story crawls its way from computer to computer. They also tell you what search terms most often bring people to one’s pages, and yes, Dear Reader, the top one on mine is still “tits”, and long may it be so.

(Stick tits into the search box at the top left on this site and you’ll see why.)

Interesting anomalies occur all the time. Sweden delivers about double the hits that I get from their neighbours Norway and Finland. I really am curious as to why – presumably it is a matter of population, internet access, English language skills and stuff like that. But I also wonder if it is because I post semi-regularly on the cases of Bradley Manning, the provider and founder of Wikileaks, respectively, and Assange is assuredly of interest in Sweden for various reasons.

What is also interesting is the very few countries that are not represented on the map at all, as they indicate with clarity where some of the poorest nations of the world are. Sub-saharan and central Africa especially. Or where internet access is simply impossible.

I see you there, little singular net surfing person, I see you, shakin’ dat mouse.

A whole bunch of places, although the list is getting smaller the longer the blog stays up, have recorded just one hit on the blog in the last 11 months.

One little idle, solitary flick of a finger, one man or woman, who I see in my mind’s eye, hunched over their laptop or desktop in the dark, screen glowing, hungrily gobbling up my profound thoughts on Angela Merkel, President Obama, the food we will be eating in 40 years, vaginal surgery, the mauling of the English language, the weather in Australia (and climate change generally) or – whatever.

I do hope you will drop by again, my solitary visitor from Djibouti, Lesotho, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Samoa, Togo, Aruba, Dominica, Lichtenstein, the Federated States of Micronesia, Angola, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Kyrgyzstan, the Solomon Islands, and last but by no means least, Vatican City.

Your voices need to be heard, and very often, I suspect, they need to be heard much more than mine does.

Then again, you could just be searching for tits, in which case, welcome aboard.

Post scriptum: I nearly forgot to mention that this is also my four hundred and oneth blog in a little over a year, and I could not have done it without all the feedback, positive and negative, so thanks very much! WordPress has stopped sending me little “gee up”  messages as I pass each milestone, which is a bit sad, really. They’ve obviously decided I am hooked. All gee up messages, therefore, gratefully received.

;

Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?


My mother was a dear old stick, who had more sayings, aphorisms, and well-aged bits of folk knowledge than an entire shelf of Christmas gift books. So instead of buying your dearly beloved “Ye old Celtic folklore” for Xmas, just re-package these. These were all considered bad luck, for example:

  • A bat flying into your home. I just think Mum was scared shitless of bats.
  • An owl hooting three times in a row, or hooting nearby. Owls occur in many ancient superstitions, as they were regarded as mysterious and knowledgeable beasts.

  • Seeing three butterflies flying together. Abandon hope now.

    Oh. My. God.

  • Spilling salt – this one can be redeemed by grabbing some of the salt and throwing it over your left shoulder, believed to be the spot where the Devil sits, lying in wait for you to stray.To this day, I cannot scatter salt on my plate without also putting some in the palm of my hand and chucking it over my left shoulder. I’m serious, I mean, I just can’t. Ask Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink or Fruit of My Loins. And now she’s catching it, too. These ideas aren’t just ridiculous, they’re inter-generationally infectious!The tradition stems, by the way, from when in medieval days salt was so rare (prized for its preserving qualities as well as its taste) that it was actually worth more than gold, and spilling it would have been bad luck indeed!
  • Staring at the new moon over your left shoulder. Two things at play here – the moon was widely regarded to be the agent for all sorts of human wierdnesses – Shakespeare’s sub-lunary lovers, remember? – and left is just, well, bad. Evil. Wicked.

  • Placing a hat on your bed.

  • Never get out of bed with your left foot first or you will have bad luck all day. Ditto that leftness thing again.

  • Breaking a mirror will bring on 7 years of bad luck.

  • Singing before breakfast. Strictly verboten.

    Now that’s just asking for trouble.

    ;

  • Opening an umbrella inside the house is sure to bring bad luck to the entire household. Lord if anyone did this there was hell to pay, if you’ll forgive the pun. To this day I would freak if anyone did it at my place.
  • Never give a wedding present away or it will bring bad luck to the marriage. Which explains a lot, really.

  • Giving a knife to someone as a present brings bad luck to the friendship.

  • If the groom happens to drop the wedding ring during the ceremony, the marriage will not last. In the case of Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and me it was the Bishop that dropped the ring, which I duly decided to ascribe good luck to. Worked so far, fingers crossed.
  • When you leave the house and forget something and must return indoors, then you should count to 10 before leaving again or you will have a dreadful day.
  • Never display lilies in the home; they are widely considered bad luck as they were commonly used in funeral wreaths. (Mrs Wellthisiswehatithink shares this belief.)
  • Walking under ladders is bad luck. It’s because the triangle made by the ladder leaning against the wall symbolises the Christian Trinity, and walking “between” the Trinity is the act of the Devil. I cannot walk under ladders. Really.

That was the just the start, though. We also had:

  • Walking without shoes on will give you worms. (It doesn’t. They don’t enter through the soles of the feet.)

    See you all at the hanging, then.

  • Shoes on a table are a sign that a hanging is near. Great way to put you off your meal. Plain insanitary I could have agreed with.
  • Never sleep with your feet facing the front door. Why? Well, dur. Corpses are always taken out of the front door feet first. Don’t believe me? Watch the crime scene clearer-uppers in every movie for the next week or so. Well, every movie with corpses in it, anyway.
  • Feed a cold and starve a fever. You know what? It’s a friggin’ miracle I survived childhood at all.This is a common old wives tale during cold and flu season that makes recovering much more difficult for some people. The old wives tale says that one should feed a cold and starve a fever, except depending who you listen to it’s also said that you should starve a cold and feed a fever. Where this came from is really anyone’s guess, but it’s cobblers.The fact is that fluids are often lost when a person is ill with a cold or a fever, so increasing fluids is always a good idea. When sick, a person should always eat to make sure that their body has the nutrients it needs to get well, as well as the energy that the body needs to recover. So, when you are sick it’s best to increase fluids and eat when you have an appetite!
  • If you pull a funny face, and the wind changes, you’ll be stuck with the face forever. The wind changed a lot growing up on the English Channel. From West, to South West, to West, to South West. Always gale force. I obviously pulled a face at the wrong moment. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
  • If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold. Er, nope. Viruses, not bad weather, cause colds. It’s more common to get sick during winter months because these viruses thrive better indoors due to the warmer conditions and also because the air may be more dry indoors.

  • Eating crusts on your bread makes your hair curly. Which was important to my Mum, as she constantly complained her hair was “straight as pokers”. My hair looks as though I ate nothing but crusts for the first ten years of my life. I am inclined to blame Dad, however.
  • You should put butter on a burn. Er, no you shouldn’t. You should run it under a cool tap or put something cool on it. A packet of frozen peas is commonly called into the ranks in the Wellthisiswhatithink household. Putting a greasy substance on the burn holds the heat in, exacerbating any tissue damage.
  • Not that Mum ever told me this, but I am also reminded of the common myth that cranberry juice cures urinary tract infections. Actually, it doesn’t, no many how many people tell you it does. It’s just less of an irritant than other juices. It’s unlikely to do you any harm, as it helps to flush the system. Persistent infections are likely to require antibiotics.
  • While we’re about it, chewing gum doesn’t stick to your ribs (and it would be a rather strange digestive tract if it did, right?)
  • Last but by no means least: eating before swimming does not give you cramp so you drown – fair dinkum, I used to have to sit on the blistering beach for an hour after a single sandwich.
  • Black cats crossing your path do not bring you luck. Then again, I have been known to stop the car, get out, and shoo one across the road in front of us before now.

So. What’s your favourite old wives tale or superstition, and do you still obey it? Touch wood, I’ll get a lot of replies.

Well, it’s like this. We meant to have a big celebration when Wellthisiswhatithink passed 15,000 hits. Like we did when we passed 10,000.

17,000 hits

17,000 hits? Blimey!

Then a few of our blogs went batshit, and we have just belted past 17,000 before you could say “I’ve come over all viral, Vera, pass me pills.”

Sadly, despite assiduously trawling the interweb on your behalf, we can’t find anything interesting to say about the number 17,000 at all, except to say that, well, it’s an awful lot of readers, donating your valuable time to read what we think.

And, needless to say, we thank you all very much indeed, and ask you to please keep coming back.

So without further ado, onwards and upwards, and we will endeavour to keep posting stuff we find interesting, or important.

Please continue to comment, praise, lambast, and above all, spread the word about stuff that you think is important, too!

Loads of people enjoyed my blog on the lunatic Qantas twitter campaign that caused the benighted Australian airline so much public embarrassment. Now, as further evidence of the reach of social media, a New Zealander tells me via a University alumni website in the UK, about this genuinely brilliantly written and laugh out loud funny piss take.

 

Bravo whoever did it. And once more, thumbs down to the idiots at Qantas who think it’s a smart idea to launch a social media campaign just after grounding their airline and leaving tens of thousands of people stranded all over the world, in the middle of a brutal industrial dispute, and when their standing in Australia is only a little higher than serial axe murderers.

My original story is here, for those wanting more background.

http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/making-a-complete-hash-of-social-media/

Can you imagine what the conversation was like between the Generation “X” marketing manager who didn’t realise what his Generation “Y” social media person was doing? They should both, of course, be sacked instantly, given an open ticket to anywhere in the world and told to get seriously lost. But don’t hold your breath. This is Qantas we’re talking about.