Friday, September 23, 2005


We are in the communications industry. So we are interested in words.

For instance: A very long palindrome (a word the same forwards as backwards) is:

A man, a plan, a canal, panama!

An interesting autoantonym (a word that means its own opposite)

Overlook – to watch over carefully
Overlook – to fail to notice

And the origins of words, idioms and expressions are always fascinating.

(This was sent to me from my uncle)

Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when
Getting married. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip
and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs." There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other
droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts
and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot
Nine days old." Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "bring home the bacon."
They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat.” Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid
content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.

They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would
take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So
they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to
listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

Table Manners

We have a lot of curiosity here at Creative Wonders, and possibly I am on a bit of tangent. But this still does tie into the resilience of cultural tradition in the face of radical paradigm shift.

Margaret Visser, in her book The Rituals of Dinner, points out that etiquette and the ritual it imposes helps to control the violence inherent in the preparation and serving of meals.


The Americans reinvented the way utensils are handled. Here is the proper technique for using a fork and knife (taken from a manners guide). Assuming you are right-handed, hold the fork in your left hand and knife in your right. With the tines facing downward (curving towards you), hold down an end-piece of whatever you are cutting (let's assume it's meat). Do not hold the knife or fork like a dagger, but rather, place your index finger along the top of each utensil, holding each at the end. This gives you greater control without looking like you're hacking into the poor dead animal. Gently, using a sawing motion, cut the meat near the tines of the fork, so that you have one bite-sized piece. Then, lay the knife down (without allowing it to touch the table), and switch the fork (complete with pierced meat) to your right hand. Bring it up to your mouth, chew quietly, and swallow when the meat is sufficiently masticated. This is called the American (or Zig-Zag) method of cutting food. The Continental (or European) method consists of not switching hands, and using the left hand for all fork-related activities.

This is just from my own observations – but people of Catholic decent do the switch, while Europeans and Protestants do not switch at all.

Scandinavians are known to always have two hands showing (as to not conceal a weapon). The English introduced dull knives.

It is also a part of my own observations that table manners are passed on from mother to children, keeping the dining tradition a matriarchal subtlety.

The Toast

Scandinavians traditionally would cut off the heads of the conquered and fill the skulls with wine. They still toast by saying ‘skol’ or skull.

The English introduced the crashing of the heavy chalice to ensure that poison (if any) was mixed into both glasses.

In Poland they bring the glass around their head to ward off the devil before they drink.

In Sweden, if you don’t drink after a toast – it’s seven years with no sex.

Hmm, maybe I am deviating a little here, but fear not, next week we will be back to more obvious displays of advertising culture and social status.


To observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Everyone has values. But it is interesting to think where these values come from.
Some values are cultural. In North American Individualistic cultures we are taught to do things for yourself, and you are responsible for your own fate - the future is in your own hands. In Asia and collectivistic cultures one is taught to support, defend and depend upon the group to achieve harmony for everyone.

These values are reinforced from our parents, our peer group, and our media.

Tv, films, newspapers, magazines and cartoons shape our values daily.

Think of what was accepted and expected in the heroes and villains in movies in the 30s compared to now.

A lot of it seems racist, sexist, and even ridiculous in our politically-correct times.

There are still plenty of values left behind from religion and out-dated traditions.

I love to watch people eat. Table manners are seeped with cultural, religious and traditionalist connotation.

In fact that will be my next blog entry.

How does this tie into LOHAS, advertising, and ethics?

Patience, my gentle reader, it all ties together.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The invasion of privacy and freedom of the blog

A few years ago they caught the hacker who sent out the 'iloveyou' virus by tracing the program back to the document 'stamped' by his home computer. A few years later, the Canadian government came under fire by the privacy commissioner for cross-referencing customs information with employment insurance (in other words they were withholding EI payments to those who had crossed the border for any length of time). The patriot act has introduced the capacity for another McCarthy era and just yesterday I was reading about how they can track the information you type into your computer (such as a password) by the sound of the keys clicking (as each key has a distinctive click). Now, a lot of us may think, 'How precious is my privacy, and my ability to speak freely? After all, there is no censorship as of yet, and I am not significant enough to be prosecuted openly for my thoughts'. I suppose this is because we are lucky enough to live in a country that does not have a tyrannical hold on communications, such as China, or Iran.

Blogs have become the new source of free press, especially in countries of extreme censorship. Realistically, every country bears the brunt of the censors, as the content of the news in North America is still regulated by advertising and political sway. But by extreme, I mean that we will not be jailed, intimidated, shot or condemned for our beliefs if they make it into public consumption. In China, far out radical cries for things like a free election system can come with heavy consequences.

However, tech-savvy China and Iran have began to censor and prosecute bloggers as well, as the popularity blooms. A post about a call for a free electoral system in China will have an online life of about half an hour. For this reason Reporters Without Borders' have released a "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.” Partly funded by the French Foreign Ministry it includes technical advice on how to remain anonymous online. The guide includes information about how to use pseudonyms and anonymous proxies and the means to break through government filters. It also offers tips about changing cyber-cafes and how to send cryptographically signed messages via specially formatted e-mail, as well as how to keep blogs out of search engines.

With the help of this handbook, perhaps the freedom of information will truly return, and people will once again be able to speak their minds anonymously without fear of consequence.

Save the Dolphins

One of the best things about working in communications is the ability to spread information quickly, and connecting people. Advertising doesn’t have to always be about growing back your hair and getting your degree online.

So here’s the call of the day:

October 8th is Dolphin Day.

Every year Japanese fishermen slaughter 20,000 dolphins and whales to eliminate the competition of their fish.

A protest is being organized online through this link.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Locus of Control

Below is Julian Rotter's locus of control quiz.

Locus of control is whether you believe that your life is under your own control, or whether you believe that everything is uncontrollable and left to chance.

Take the quiz and go to Creative Wonders link to see how you score.

1. I usually get what I want in life.
2. I need to be kept informed about news events.
3. I never know where I stand with other people.
4. I do not really believe in luck or chance.
5. I think that I could easily win a lottery.
6. If I do not succeed on a task, I tend to give up.
7. I usually convince others to do things my way.
8. People make a difference in controlling crime.
9. The success I have is largely a matter of chance.
10. Marriage is largely a gamble for most people.
11. People must be the master of their own fate.
12. It is not important for me to vote.
13. My life seems like a series of random events.
14. I never try anything that I am not sure of.
15. I earn the respect and honors I receive.
16. A person can get rich by taking risks.
17. Leaders are successful when they work hard.
18. Persistence and hard work usually lead to success.
19. It is difficult to know who my real friends are.
20. Other people usually control my life.

If you truly believe that you are creating your own reality as you go along, then you will have a very high locus of control. People like this are rarely sick, or depressed. It is the power of positive thinking, and life can be whatever you choose it to be.

There is a certain magic in throwing yourself into the maelstrom of chance and randomness. The strange thing, however, is the more madness you seek - the more sensitive you become to the synchronicity and alignment of events around central themes in your life. Themes that you are in fact controlling - no matter how much you might believe it to be impossible.

Try hitchhiking, or flying into a random city in a random country, doing something you have never done before, or expanding your comfort zone. You can strengthen yourself and your character, but you will never lose yourself, no matter how hard you try.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Intense Guerrilla promotions

At a Prada show in Milan earlier this year an unexpected mob of protestors disturbed the scene, only to be escorted away by security. Before they left, they managed to spread the word that the Serpica Naro show would be next. The next night, Milan’s finest, fearing another protest, formed a blockade in front of the show, only to be dispersed by Naro’s press agent. The press came en-masse to see the show, only to realize that there is no real Serpico Naro. The hoax was pulled off by the Chainworkers to promote the precarity movement.

While Adbusters may see such a story as a triumph for their precarity movement (something I spent several years of my life living unbeknownst of a label). I see this as a triumph of original effect. They are making things happen, but with a price-tag that advertisers can only dream of. But the effect is the same: The mass movement of people, ideas and concepts in a creative and compelling way. Effect. It is what communications is all about. The question remains, however, what is to be done with such effect?

Monday, September 19, 2005

McDonalds Uber Alles

Many of you may have read Fast Food Nation or have seen Supersize Me, but efforts against McDonalds’ poison have been going on for years, just a little under the radar perhaps. Most notably of theses attacks is McSpotlight, a website devoted to the unearthing of McDonalds sins.

McSpotlight grew out of the outcome of the McLibel case, the longest running court case in English history, where David Morris and Helen Steel were sued by McDonalds about their stance against its treatment of workers, quality of food and deceptive advertising. Although the verdict ultimately ruled against them, the process of the case itself brought to light, and finalized as fact, that McDonalds, for one, has no nutritional value in its food. Once that had been established in a court of law, attacking McDonalds was fair game.