Who owns God’s voice?

22 10 2011

OK I am going to go out on a limb here, but since we have just survived yet another predicted date of the rapture, I am going to say that possibly Harold Camping is neither in close contact with God, nor able to correctly interpret biblical prophecy.

Yes, this is written on the 22nd of October 2011. The author is proud (but perhaps somewhat confused) to have survived both the 21st of May 2011 and the 21st of October 2011. Unless of course the rapture occurred while I wasn’t paying attention (I did have a few glasses of wine last night) and I am in fact one of those left behind. In which case everyone I know has also been left behind, and you, dear reader, are left behind as well.

There is of course one more major problem with any predicted date of the end of the world. And I quote myself on Twitter:

“It is Saturday here in Australia. Guess we all survived the #rapture. Good luck to the US for the next few hours!”

Yes, that’s right. Even if (and that is a big IF) Harold Camping had been able to correctly predict a date of the rapture (and assuming God is conveniently working on the same calendar that we are), at no time is the entire earth in the same day at the same time. So we have a couple of options here:

1. the rapture would start at the international date line as the day clicked over to the correct date and time (5.59PM), and would progressively work itself around the world . Therefore the US would essentially get almost 24hours warning it was coming. This hardly seems fair.

2. Camping (and therefore according to him, God) didn’t specify which time zone this was in (sloppy work on the part of God to not specify this – or perhaps our correspondent, Camping, doesn’t understand about time zones). This would mean that while part of the earth would be raptured at the predicted date / time, another part would either be early (cheated – I was just about to confess! I thought I had until 5.59pm!) or up to 18 hours late – and on the next date.

So perhaps this is just the latest version of the televangelist “God wants you to send all your money to the PO Box that you see on your screen now”. Have we not moved on from this? This was not a victimless crime – in May 2011 it was reported that a number of people had in fact quit their jobs and sold all their possessions to fund and work for the campaign to spread the word of the coming apocalypse. I can only hope that this hasn’t happened again.

I think it is time for Harold Camping to quietly fade into history, and not keep coming up with new dates.

Perhaps I am over-thinking this.

Like some more over-thinking on the religion questions? Try Is hell exothermic or endothermic?



1 10 2011

I have a deep suspicion of horoscopes.

I tend to avoid reading them. The reason I avoid them is because I am concerned that if I let them into my head, I will make the predictions come true in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy scenario.

And if anyone is going to be programming my subconscious to be making things come true, then I want it to be me, not someone I don’t know writing what can only be described as light-entertainment for a trashy magazine.

We all know that the logic of 1/12th of the world’s population having a good day or a bad day, all on the same day based on the position of some large rocks thousands of millions of miles away on our day of birth defies logic. I am sure the rocks themselves have little no interest in the birth of a lifeform on a small blue-green planet in a small solar system in the unfashionable end of the Milky Way. (Douglas Adams)

And even those horoscopes that are specifically about you – your moon rising and Venus setting (I won’t pretend I even know what these mean) at the time and place of your birth….well, the logic about how that influences your life then (in some predestined, slightly depressing and disempowering way), or how it influences your life now on an ongoing basis…..well, it really hasn’t been adequately explained.

Personally I liked the Douglas Adams story from one of the Dirk Gently books, where the horoscopes were written by an arch-enemy of Dirk’s, and were written specifically to send messages and try to make him have a bad day. Pity about the other 1/12th of the population who were the same birth sign.

Then of course there is the psychology experiment where psychologst Bertram R Forer offered students a free horoscope profile on their personalities. No matter what star sign, birth date or place the student was, they were given the same profile:

“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.”

The students were then asked to rate out of 5 how accurate it was. The average rating was 4.26.

Apparently this is called the Forer Effect, or the Barnum Effect (the latter attributed to PT Barnum’s statement “We have something for everyone”. Personally I think it more fits with his other famous statement “There’s one born every minute.”)

So clearly these are broad statements and you can read into them what you want. To a certain extent they do apply to everyone – there is nothing really specific in them.

Declaration: The author declares that she is a Pisces but relates entirely to the positive profile at the top of the page. The negative one in no way resembles the author. While neither of these profiles mention this, the author has in the past been told that being a Pisces tends her more towards skepticism, it does apparently make her more prone to drink (presumably it is a fish-and-liquids thing). The author wishes to state that this is her excuse and the rest of you had better come up with better reasons for your alcohol consumption. The author is now off to see of the sparkling wine in the fridge is cool enough yet.

Photo credit: licensed under creative commons from jo-h.

when PR gets it wrong

14 09 2011

Sometimes marketing and PR companies try to be too tricky….and fail big-time.

Case No 1. Toyota Stalker Campaign. (Saatchi and Saatchi) A California woman is suing Saatchi and Saatchi and Toyota after a guerilla marketing campaign which she claims “freaked [her] out”. After clicking on an email which offered her a personality profile, she started receiving emails from a man who knew things about her and said he was heading to her house where he wanted to stay. He was in trouble with a motel manager (who sent her a bill for damages). A MySpace page had been set up in the same name.

The campaign was aimed at young males who the company profiled as liking to prank each other. A friend signed you up for the hoax, chose a character who would them bombard the victim with emails, phone messages, text messages and videos for five days.

In their defence they claimed that in agreeing to the terms of the personality profile, the woman had unknowingly agreed to having emails sent to her.

More details here.

Case No. 2 ConAgraTV Dinner Con (Ketchum)

If you were going to annoy a load of people through a con – would you pick people with an active blog and a large following?

That’s what ConAgra did. They invite a load of food bloggers – those dedicated to natural whole and organic foods, low salt, no preservatives, etc – to a special dinner to be prepared for them by chef George Duran, host of Ultimate Cake off.

Then they served these bloggers a TV dinner, complete with the usual perservatives – Marie Callender’s three-cheese lasagne. Now while they apparently had reasonable approval rates (62.5% approval rating), the bloggers were not pleased to be conned and made their opinions known – where else, on their blogs.

ConAgra has said they will not be using the hidden video footage of the dinner.

More information on this one here.

Case No. 3. Comcast Phishing emails
Blogger Carol Tice writes about a suspicious email she received from Comcast telling her her computer was infected by Bots! and they have a great product to help her, Constant Guard.

The email was set up very much like the phishing emails that try to get you to click on their links and buy their “antivirus” product. Closer inspection showed that in fact the email said that her computer “may” be infected. Too little, too late.

Again, another too clever by half marketing campaign that probably got deleted by most people who received it, and disbelieved by the rest.

Carol’s blog is here.

Message to PR and Marketing companies: We don’t like to be conned!