Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

January 2008

GeneralWednesday, January 30th, 2008, (10:25 pm)

A girl is pictured in a classroom wearing a cropped short sleeved shirt, a tartan mini-skirt, and long white socks. She looks somewhat reminiscent of Britney Spears in the pop-stars ‘Baby one more time’ music video, only like Britney, this girl is no student, she’s a model posing in an ad for ‘back to school’ fares from budget airline, Ryanair.

The ad, seen by approximately three and a half million people, appeared in three national newspapers in the UK. But following just 13 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (that’s less than .00003% of the readership it was exposed to) the airline has been told to withdraw it due to the fact that the agency believed it “appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour and was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

In response to the ruling Ryanair accused the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of being a “bunch of unelected, self-appointed dimwits [who] are clearly incapable of fairly and impartially ruling on advertising.”

Speaking for the Irish airline its head of communications, Peter Sherrard, said: “The ASA becomes more Monty Pythonesque by the day.” Stating that the company plan to defy the ruling he went on you say. “It is remarkable that a picture of a fully clothed model is now claimed to cause ‘serious or widespread offence’, when many of the UK’s leading daily newspapers regularly run pictures of topless or partially dressed females without causing any serious or widespread offence.”

This is a fair point given that The Sun, one of Britain’s most popular daily newspapers with a daily readership of well over three million people, features a daily picture of a topless or nude girl on page three of the newspaper. The Daily Star, which is read by just under two million people, is equally inclined to show such pictures.

Ryanair is no stranger to this kind of controversy though. The airline incurred the wrath of angry Spanish women last year when it released a charity calendar featuring female flight attendants wearing bikinis. The Institute for Women in Spain complained to Irish and EU authorities over the calendar which raised money for a disabled children’s charity called Angels Quest.

Of course, the depiction of women as sex objects is an age old ‘hot button’ issue, though curiously the depiction of men as sex objects seems to raise little, if any, objection at all.

For example, a charity calendar that featured ripped ‘half naked undertakers‘ was applauded by the media that has already gotten used to half naked firemen charity calendars. Indeed, naked charity calendars are old hat now since a bunch of old dears from a the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute in the UK stripped off for a 2000 calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research.

So what makes one image of a scantily clad person acceptable, and another unacceptable? Why is it that flight attendants in bikinis is offensive to Spanish ladies but buff semi naked morticians are not? Where is the line drawn and why?

In my opinion the Ryanair newspaper ad was not offensive, and certainly no more offensive than Britney’s ‘Baby one more time‘ video or the St Trinians movie which is showing in theatres across the UK at the moment. Maybe I’m missing the point, in which case could someone from that offended .00003% please help me realign my moral compass so that I too can join the moral high club.

The offensive ‘hottest’ ad in full
See me after class please Ryan
Ryanair to defy UK advertising watchdog
Ryanair cabin crew girls strip off for charity calendar
Sexist Irish airline slammed by Spaniard ladies
Ryanair ‘is least liked airline’
Men of Mortuaries
Sexy girls sell coffins

Faith & ReligionSunday, January 27th, 2008, (10:01 pm)

“A fundamentalist is a person who considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it, as opposed to a curious person who explores first and then considers whether of not they want to accept the ramifications.” – Seth Godin.

The above video reminded me of a Christian friend of mine who once described themselves as a ‘fundamentalist.’ They meant it not in the negative way we’ve come to interpret the word, but in a more literal sense of being a believer in the fundamental principle set forth by the Bible. However, like any fundamentalist, they were deeply suspicious of other interpretations or expressions of faith, especially it would seem, those who also called themselves ‘Christian.’ It’s attitudes like this that have repelled me from religion and driven me from wanting to spend even a moment in a church surrounded by people who might also be as openly closed minded.

I’m puzzled how anyone who believes in (any) God could be so narrow minded given that believing in the existence of something you cannot see or interact with physically is by it’s very nature an open minded thing to do. It seems to me that while mankind strives to find meaning and purpose on a spiritual level, religion strives to entangle those who are curious enough to seek.

I’m curious, but I don’t need an answer as much as I need the curiosity that drives me to question. This, it would seem, puts me at odds with religion.

Religion is methodology with a brand name. It’s politics of the heavens, where rules control the curious and answers control the questions. Just as there are numerous distractions to prevent us from seeking a spiritual experience, so to are there distractions within that experience itself.

My fundamentalist friend had honorable intentions; to seek the purity of God without the distractions of debate. But I think perhaps the fundamentalists, be them Muslim, Christian or whatever, have missed the point. They’ve become spiritual prefects entangled in the traps and traditions of method and ceremony when surely it’s not the rules that are important, but the search itself?

I’m still curious, and if God is out there, then I sincerely hope he’s not a religious man.

In God’s house
Seth Godin’s blog
Seth Godin on sliced bread and stuff

Art and Found on the webFriday, January 25th, 2008, (10:20 am)

Okay, it’s Friday and maybe you’re looking for something to amuse you for a few moments before you have to get back to pretending to work. So how about some freaky optical illusions? To tell you the truth after looking at these images I actually felt quite sick. But while I don’t want to make you feel woozy, I am interested in learning if I am particularly sensitive to these optical illusions, or whether you also see these static images moving. (Click on the images to see larger versions)

The one above requires a little interaction from you. Move your head toward and away from the screen while looking at the middle of the pattern.

The illusions are the work of Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka from the Department of Psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. He’s created many more which you can find on his website.

Of course these kind of pictures aren’t uncommon. They’ve even been used in advertising. Back in 2005 Sony made us all feel woozy by using images like those above on billboard advertising their new Bravia TV line.


PoliticalWednesday, January 23rd, 2008, (5:02 pm)

In the United Stated a continuing media campaign asserts that ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk.’ The idea of friends holding one another accountable isn’t a bad one, so maybe it was with that in mind when Canada placed their nearest neighbors on a government list of countries that allow or promote terror, in this case through the use of torture.

The Foreign Affairs Department document lists the United States along with Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria, as countries where prisoners are at risk of human rights abuses such as torture. The document, which formed part of a manual on torture awareness given to diplomats, was inadvertently released to Amnesty International lawyers as part of a court case against the Canadian government over the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan.

Responding the the news U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, said. “We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it’s absurd, for us to be on a list like that is just ridiculous.” Wilkins went on to say that the United States does not authorise or condone torture and that he had “very forcefully” requested that the U.S. be removed from the list at once. Israel was also unhappy with their inclusion on the Canadian list.

Canads’s foreign minister, Maxime Bernier, has since apologised for including the US and Israel on the list. Insisting the list was in no way part of any policy document and did not convey the official views of his government Bernier explained that the list “wrongly includes some of our closest allies.” He went on to say. “I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten.”

The United States has been repeatedly criticized for its continued detention and treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba where CIA operatives have used questionable interrogation techniques to obtain information and confessions from prisoners.

Interrogation methods employed by the CIA have controversially included simulated drowning, (known as waterboarding), mock executions, stress positions, sleep depravation, forced nudity, and among other things, continued exposure to Eminem’s “Slim Shady” album. However, President Bush himself has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. do not torture prisoners.

While Canada has apologised for including the U.S. and Israel on the list I’m wondering if there wasn’t at least a little bit of deliberate engineering behind its release. Canada is, of course, a friend and ally of the U.S., and as such maybe a decision was made to diplomatically lean on their neighbors in the hope of bringing a little accountability to the relationship. After all, if friends don’t let friends drive drunk, then surely the buck doesn’t just stop there?

Canada places the US on terror state list
Canada says ‘Oops, sorry about that.’
Canada put the USA on terror nation list
U.S. interrogation techniques (Also see another list)
Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on Waterboarding and Torture

GeneralSunday, January 20th, 2008, (9:36 pm)

Say something nice to someone! You’ll feel great, try it.

Found on the webThursday, January 17th, 2008, (1:28 am)

In a busy part of town NPR’s Alex Chadwick sets up a card table, two mics, a camera and a sign that reads “Interviews 50 ยข.” It’s not entirely clear if Chadwick pays them or they pay him, but nonetheless passers-by are willing to sit down a spare a few moments to tell him, and us, something of their story. In the four minute video below we meet Walter.

Walter, a fifty year old contractor interviewed in Baltimore, thinks he knows a thing or two about women. A veteran of five failed marriages he espouses his wisdom at the fifty cent interview table. “Women don’t like us, and don’t trust us.” By ‘us’ he of course means men in general. But according to Walter you can get – and keep – a woman by giving her the one thing they all want… security. He sums this up by explaining “If you give them security they’ll blow in your ear and follow you anywhere.”

Five marriages does seem like an awful lot of wedding cake, but Walter is a man of morals. “I believe in the sanctity of marriage,” He tells us. “I believe in that you don’t just sleep around. If you’re going to go to bed with a woman you’d better give her your heart and soul or don’t do it at all.” He goes on to reveal that as well as giving these women his heart and soul, they also get the house and car in the divorce.

At the time of the interview Walter was already planning to marry his sixth wife.

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