Saturday, November 26, 2011
People’s obsession with music and the extent to which they will go to in order to satisfy their needs is inconceivable to me. I’m a very different kind of guy, and those of you who have already read my column will be aware that I prefer black comedies to Black Sabbath, new boxers to New Order and Britain’s Best Dish to British Sea Power. But since joining the Monograph and working among true fanatics and am no longer able to ignore your fascination, and even though I am unable to understand it, I am beginning to appreciate it…like the when Bill and Ted visit Socrates.
With that in mind, and as we edge into the winter months of the year I have looked back upon what has been a non-music fans guide to British music in 2011.
The year has seen many winners and losers, splits and reconciliations and sadly a number of high profile ‘home grown’ losses perhaps most notably Amy Winehouse; a victim of success and another bitter admittance to the 27 club. Amy, like so many before her, will be mourned and remembered as we show our respect by dressing up as her at Halloween for the years to come.
year in music PJ harvey The Non Music Fans Guide to... A Year in MusicPJ Harvey celebrated winning the coveted Mercury Prize with her seminal ‘Let England Shake’ which reflects upon this her time in Great Britain and lovingly celebrates its ‘damp grey filthiness’. I have sat with this record for some time now and have concluded that, despite what some harsher critics might say. I probably still would.
Summer came and went and, though they may have lacked the red and the white, Blue lived up to their name with a drab, lacklustre and narcoleptic performance at this year’s Eurovision.
Locally we have fared well and Maybeshewill show that they are more than just the exit music to the credits of an indie film by releasing their third album to critical acclaim. Meanwhile, having recently returned from their holiday with The Specials, By the Rivers continue to put more seasoned and experienced musicians to shame with their faultless commitment and abundant hairlines.
Leicester heroes Kasabian treated locals to two intimate shows, as well as releasing their third or fourth studio album, Velocraptor! which is already being heralded as one of the releases of the year.
Other albums of note include the much anticipated ‘King of Limbs’ from supply teachers, Radiohead. It may not seem like the most logical comparison, but you know when people post pictures of their dinner on Facebook? Well, this record is about that interesting. But I was hardly going to ‘get’ Radiohead, was I? I mean, I don’t read broadsheets or brush my teeth, so perhaps something more upbeat would be more my thing and many people recommended ‘On a mission’. This, the debut album from London’s (I assume) Katy B combines Dub-step, dance and ‘ragga’ compounded with that voice all the actors in ‘Kidulthood’ use.
Mediocrity and a small guitar seem to be key to success in music with Ed Sheeran’s ‘plus’ album being one of the year’s biggest sellers. The record is brimming full of fascinating social observations about important issues such as cartoons we used to watch as kids and computer games.
Director’s Cut by Kate Bush is equally full of surprises; most shocking of all is that Kate Bush isn’t dead as I had thought. Sticking with the girls, (as I like to do) I was looking forward to hearing the debut record ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ by EMA but the government cut it.
I think Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner must have broken up Alexa Chung as he’s managed to write two albums this year. ‘Submarine’ is the title of his soundtrack to the film of the same name and, like the Arctic Monkeys hilariously titled album ‘Suck it and see’; I’ve also not listened to it either. In keeping with indie music, it’s good to see Damon Albarn finally doing something new since his days in Blur, and though Beady Eye’s ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ isn’t quite the departure I was expecting, it does fulfil the minimal possible expectation one can possibly expect from a record. Next up, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Not much as it goes. Cheers guys, you’ve saved me a lot of time
‘Cults’ by Cults. People name their cars, their pets and even their gentiles. So, when you have gone to the effort of writing an album, why would you not want to name it? Bunch of Cults.
Obviously there were a large number of other credible albums this year as well as many, well, ‘less credible’ and, as we draw into the winter of the year we begin to notice various on-line petitions for ironic (but ultimately insidiously collusive) tracks to beat the X factor winner to Christmas number one slot. So with reference to reality talent shows I’m going to try and keep it short…
I think I did well.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that you are receiving a letter of complaint in relation to your decision to cancel the 15:30 flight from Belfast City Airport to East Midlands Airport on Monday 19th September. I am also quite certain that this is not the only letter which you will be receiving, given the solemn mood in the departure lounge on that fateful afternoon.
My frustrations run deeper than the mere disappointment at having to spend a sunny Monday afternoon inside the corporate limbo of George Best Airport. You see, I am a reasonable man. People say so. I am so patient and enjoy my own company and, had I made a decision to waste a day I'd be quite happy with my choice to do so. However turning up on time to be told by a member of Group 4 Security: 'Flights been cancelled, go to departures' didn't exactly get me on side.
Confused and a little bit annoyed I joined the bitter queue at departures (despite having already printed my boarding pass) behind a woman who had just been given the same news as me; she was not impressed. In fact I took it better than she did. Eventually I was seen by a young chap who offered little apology or explanation stating the cancellation was something 'operational'. Keeping my composure, I asked how long they had been privy to the knowledge that the flight had been cancelled, to which he shrugged. I then recalled the laborious booking process where, amongst the traps including car hire, insurance, priority lounge and excess baggage potholes I was asked for my mobile phone number. I asked him politely why, if they have our contact information from booking, did they not contact the customers and let them know the flight had been cancelled earlier. This would have saved me significant time and effort as well as £55 in a taxi. Again, my comment was met with a shrug.
Now, I don't want to get this guy in trouble. He was polite in his ignorance and it was quite apparent that he did not know why the flight had been cancelled and that he was in the highly unfortunate position of having to tell the would be passengers that they would be unable to get home/to work/to appointments/meet deadlines and so on. He put us on the next flight however, which was at ten past seven. This was at half past one.
On the plus, I was offered (after I asked) some compensation! That'll help the next 6 hours simply fly by! My girlfriend and I were able to treat ourselves with your very generous token of a £3 voucher, redeemable throughout the airport (excluding W H Smith). You can imagine our elation at this 'Golden Ticket', an opportunity to dine like kings, an ephemeral blissful moment were we could forget our humdrum lives and the poverty we wade through and enjoy the finer things free of guilt. It might surprise you to learn what £3 will buy you in George Best airport...
At the Bushmills bar: 1 small tube of pringles.
At the Cafe: Crisps and Soft drinks (excluding Innocent Smoothies).
At O'Brien's Sandwich bar: nothing, whatsoever.
Needless to say we were disappointed; however we opted to use our £3 voucher to offset our meal at the ‘Bushmills bar’ which came in at £26.55. I appreciate that times are hard, but three pounds does not stretch as far as it once did and, I would anticipate that with a turnover in excess of £869,000,000 last year that you could perhaps dig a bit deeper in order to preserve a valued and regular customer.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Following the mixed feedback from my first column I approached my follow up with some trepidation and so contemplated for some time about what to write about. But what do people really want, I mused? I considered current issues; but are people really interested in my views on the recent UK riots or on the Gadaffi regime? Probably yes.
Then I saw my opening, Leeds Festival 2011; the last hurrah of the festival season. But could I really write about another festival? We all know what happens when follow ups don't cut the mustard and ideas get stretched. Need I remind you of: The Matrix - Reloaded, Blues Brothers 2000, Sex and the City 2, The new Star Wars films, Grease 2, Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep, Jaws 2: The Revenge, Men in Black 2, Dumb and Dumberer and Speed 2: Cruise Control. I mean, they’re all incredible films, but sadly the world wasn't ready.
Despite the fact I am a confirmed musical ignoramus, the calibre of acts at Reading and Leeds this year was so strong and unignorable that even I was familiar with some names. So on my long and pointless drive to Leeds on the Friday morning I spend the journey familiarising myself with the hits of The Muse, The Pulps, The Strokes and Late Night Gimp Fight. I also opted to bring my girlfriend with me who does like music, despite being completely deaf.
Friday started wel,l as I managed to lose all my cards and money before even paying my donation for our guest passes. Compounding my elation at this, we were also welcomed to the 'jewel of the North' by apocalyptic weather conditions and a small Irish girl attempting to sell me Ketamine. Once we set up camp (in the disabled camp site) music reigned as well as the sky and I decided to watch the bands with the worst / most interesting names which included: Death from Above 1979, Panic! At the Disco, Chapel Club, Friendly Fires, Danananaykroyd and Warpaint. I didn't enjoy them personally, but my girlfriend appeared to - or at least I think she did. I don't know sign language.
In addition to his main stage set we also managed to watch a 'secret set' by one Frank Turner. It can't have been too much of a secret though as the backdrop behind him had his name on it. Much later we watched the Muse with 100,000 strangers. Muse decided to use this point in history to perform their now 10 year old record 'Origin of Symmetry' album in its entirety. I’m sure it’s good and all, but it’s hardly ‘NOW! That’s what I call music’ where you’re certain to have hit after hit and I felt as though it went on a bit, I mean even people wearing Muse T-shirts didn’t seem to know the words so I used this opportunity to eat some chips. Later that night we went 'celeb-spotting' in the guest area which was completely unsuccessful. On arrival back to my tent I attempted to manually blow an inflatable mattress. What a rush.
In the morning a number of stewards approached us and appeared to be trying to suss out the nature of our disabilities, but they were all too polite to just come out and say something, so I spend the entire weekend pretending to suffer various impairments to justify my stay in disabled camping. It was a lovely morning; I was full of positivity and cider. The sun was out, BBQ's were lit and there was an air of optimism, until it started to rain. We spent some time in the early afternoon at the main stage where heavy metal boy bands ‘Architects’ and ‘Bring me the Horizon’ sang songs about girls, their issues with God and having mild mental health problems. This set the tone for a very bleak afternoon spent watching hardcore bands with homeless people. My girlfriend didn't enjoy it either, but obviously I couldn't be sure.
Despite missing X Factor my Saturday evening picked up tenfold when I realised that there was free 'Relentless' in the guest area, and by realising this I managed to miss My Chemical Romance and most of 30 Seconds to Marxism. I particularly enjoyed watching the moment where Actor and Model Jared Leto literally come out of his A-hole.
Sunday and more 'Relentless'. Relentless drinks boast some impressive flavours and over the weekend I enjoyed 'Dominion', 'Inferno' and 'The blood of Christ'. Celeb spotting was a bit better today too and, as well as human shit pump Chris Moyles I was lucky enough to see Louis from pop sensation 'One Direction', though the only sensation I was feeling at the time was a Relentless inducted Stroke. If the drummer from the Kaiser Chiefs looks like a train driver then I may have seen him too.
The weekend was topped off by forgettable performances from The Strokes and Pulp and then changing a car tyre on terra firma drenched with 3 days of rain. My girlfriend and I still aren't talking, but what's new...?!
Monday, August 22, 2011
Not being a massive music fan I was surprised when The Monograph asked me to write my thoughts on Summer Sundae Festival, but in the spirit of community and self-improvement I decided to proceed. Though not a music fan I am by no means a philistine, I’m a big fan of black comedy for example. When I say black comedy I don’t mean Monty Python or Partridge and I mean Barbershop, White Chicks, Juice, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, CB4, Friday, The Wash, Next Friday and Friday after next.
Unlike these films, Summer Sundae is in Leicester which was perhaps the biggest difference, but on arrival at the site I was immediately at ease with the beautiful settings, quaint stalls and polite and well behaved families. But I’m not here to judge you and your children (but rest assured I am, quietly). I am here to broaden my horizons. For good music, good times and to experience something new, like Queen Latifah and Steve Martin in ‘Bringing down the House’.
And so on to the matter at hand, the music. I had heard bits about Elliot Morris, a young singer songwriter from Nottingham and everything I had heard was correct; he is very young. Next up on the main stage is Fists, they began a notable theme of the festival which is to feature attractive girls. Well done them. Following Fists I started drinking and watched Admiral Fallow who were Scottish and had an attractive female member. Then The Bees who had a song in an advert or something; the singer had a megaphone so I assume he is either very clever or very stupid. Staying with the main stage the much hyped ‘Givers’, who featured an attractive girl and didn’t offend me. I then swung by the Musician Tent to catch local reggae band ‘By the Rivers’ who ended up being everything I thought they’d be: white. Headlining the main stage was The Maccabees who were nice and well dressed and sounded like music from a Guinness advert.
SATURDAY! More Saturday Kitchen Highlights – seriously is this what I pay my license for? I was later than I intended on being today and sadly missed Humble He who I understand have an attractive girl. Other bands with attractive female members today include: We three and the death rattle, I am in love, Beth Jeans Houghton, The Daydream Club, Kirkland Turn and The Paradimes. I also watched Reef who are famous for writing the Riverboat song.
Sunday was a better day; I watched ‘How I met your Mother’ in the morning. In truth I like predictable sitcoms nearly as much as I like black comedies.. After that I went to the festival and began the morning watching Dark Dark Horse who promised so much, see I was imagining a band of warlocks with beards and biceps but in reality they all looked like Shia Le Bouf. On the main stage the Leisure Society failed to impress me but everyone else liked it, a bit like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ I guess. The Young Knives were fine. Dutch Uncles were neither. Example played all the songs from the radio. Everything Everything are silly. McFly still don’t know who they are and the winner of the hottest girl in a band goes to Blood Red Shoes.
Right, did someone say How High was on?
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
First off I wanted to say that I'm no stickler or fuddy duddy, quite the opposite. In fact I am all for pushing boundaries; I admire the spirit of the impressionists and their impact on Fauvism and Cubism. I am in awe at the theatrical progression of the likes of Boal and Brecht. I've read from Douglas Adams to Ezra Pound and from Plato to Bukowski. I believe that Aphex Twin has done as much for music as Elvis and I even enjoy the occasional saucy joke. But there is a line, and last night as I watched the adverts in between Scorsese's 'The Departed' I feel that you crossed that line.
The line is of course that of decency. It is one of respect and courtesy. One which respects both the living and the dead. I shudder to imagine the depths of human depravity within your board rooms as your fat, bloated, money stained hands rubber stamped this abomination. I'm all for poking fun, I'll laugh at misfortune in the same way as anyone would but I know where to curb that and, as a national institution I had assumed that you would too. But,as they say 'to assume is to make an ass of u and me'...
In case this letter reaches someone lacking the level of political sensivity which I feel is required by a chewing gum company, permit me to spell out my frustration. The scene in your advert is one of a modern day city centre, there's hustle and bustle, attractive people going about their lives doing attractive things. This city 'could' be anywhere, but lets of the sake of argument say it's New York City? Judging by the lenses used and the brightness on screen I would put the time of year as mid-Autumn, would you agree? We follow a man dressed in an attire which would be appropriate for work, he innocently enough eyes up a pretty young lady before making his way into work in a tall building. The man is being haunted by various food stuffs, as are his colleagues. His colleagues are dressed smartly, smarter than him but perhaps he's working in a post room where a suit would not be the best choice of attire. It's difficult to ascertain what industry these workers are involved in, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that the building is mixed purpose but with a strong, perhaps international core of finance.
But then our muddy story becomes much clearer, the fog lifts and we see the darkness, the innocent flower, but the serpent underneath if you will; but what we see next is something all to familiar. Sure, it has been softened by the use of innocent looking food stuffs but we all recognise the scene. A scene which in terms of social and cultural significance has been called ''the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music'' according to the Moore Theological College.
You will therefore understand why I find it so deeply offensive that the tragedy of 9/11 and the victims helplessly jumping from their office windows should be parodied quite so insensitively for the sale of chewing gum. Worse still, AMERICAN CHEWING GUM.
Too soon guys, too soon.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
To whom it may concern at Subway,
I have enjoyed subway for many years now and to this end have relished your 'sub of the day' offer which has satisfied my hunger, nutrition and my overwhelming inability to make decisions on my half hour lunch break. That said, every Friday my heart sinks when I stand in line in my local subway only to be reminded that the sub of the day for Friday is Tuna. I don't like tuna and I do not believe that it represents the excitement of the impending weekend. Imagine if you will the following scenario:
Donnie and Mikey are two 'cool' youngsters with piercings and sexually ambiguous dress sense. It's Friday afternoon and they've finished 'College' (where they probably study music technology or something) for the day and they're hungry for a tasty lunch-shaped bite.
Donnie: Hey dude, man I'm hungry.
Mikey: Yeah man, me too. What you thinkin'?
Donnie: Well, I'll tell you what I don't want; something high in cholesterol which is packed full of delicious MSG.
Mikey: Yeah 'screw' that, man! How about something grey, pasty and fishy.
Donnie: Yeah, that sounds great.
Donnie: Thought you'd never ask!
OK, are you finding the above scenario hard to believe? Well, you should, you see Mikey and Donnie are both made up characters and DO NOT represent the thoughts of the country's trendy young consumers. Tuna is boring, in fact tuna is so boring that the term 'boring tuna' actually refers (in slang terms) to a sexually inadequate partner. I didn't know that, but Mikey and Donnie would have.
Looking through your list 'Sub of the day' menu and I can see several more suitable sandwich candidates which much better embody that 'Friday feeling'. There's a few other duds on the menu, I mean, clearly you wouldn't have Ham or Turkey breast and Ham as Friday sandwiches, we can strike them from the maybe list straight away. But Italian B.M.T (or 'Bigger, Meatier, Tastier'), 'Spicy Italian' and 'Meat Ball Marinara' are all well worth considering.
I used to think that the best thing about ordering tuna is that it's scooped out using an ice cream scoop, but now that I'm thinking about it, that's actually a little bit gross. In fact, now it has connotations of gruel and the 'Can I have some more' scene in Dickens' classic 'Oliver Twist'. Subway, I implore you to address my concerns. Friday represents magic, opportunity and living on the edge. Tuna merely represents compromise, sadness and sexual disappointment.
Yours with upmost sincerity,
Monday, May 23, 2011
Over the past month myself and Mr Zumeiri have built up quite a relationship and, fortunetely for me, I've been selected to reieve 40% of his $10.5 fortune.
Don't believe me, well read on...
On 25 Apr 2011, at 13:27, Mr Waiti Zuweiri
Dear Sir / Madam Please read.
It is my sincere pleasure at this moment to exhibit my total trust bestowed on you in accordance to my Proposed partnership relationship with you of which I am fully convinced that you will really welcome my partnership with you in this transaction Being very sceptical about dealing with Africans in such transaction, Ranging from the height of fraudulent activities encompassing the African communities. Now it is my Godly nursed intention to prove myself to you that I am very much different from others which you must have come across.
I hereby attested my accepted conclusion to take upon my gentle self and to join hands together to cover any unforeseen expenses that may be involved here till the Final Transfer of the Funds to our Correspondent Bank before its Final remittance into your Nominated Bank Account.
This is to convince you of my spirited acceptance to have you as a confidant in a business of this magnitude knowing that you will not turn me down come-what-may, regarding this Claim/Transfer to boost my planned establishment of a funding Company out of Africa . In other Words, I went into a more concrete arrangement in couriering to your doorstep, a total of US$10.5Million Dollars through INTER-BANK TRANSFER. This amount of Money belongs to our Deceased Customer as there were no claims over this Dormant Balance Account for a period of many Years.
Therefore, I am in need of a Reliable Partner that would come forward to put claims over the Funds for its Transfer into his/her Foreign Bank Account. This is because I am the Director of Foreign Remittance Department of my Bank for secures Transfer of these Funds without any Hindrances.
All I am expecting from you, as a matter of greatest urgency and importance is your sincerity and Honesty as I have some of the Needed Legal Documents to prove that this Business is Lawful for its onward Remittance.I urgently want you to send all the demanded Personal Information’s below to me as soon as you receive this PROPOSAL in order to show your readiness and Willingness in this Proposed Business.
BELOW ARE THE NEEDED PERSONAL INFORMATIONS
1) Your Full Name.......................... ...
2) Your Age........................... ............
3) Your Mobile and Home Phone Number…………..
4) Your Fax Number……………….....
5) Your Country of Nationality………………............. .
6) Your Occupation.................... ........
7) Sex........................... .....................
8) Alternative E-mail Address/ ........................
Finally, you have to keep this Proposal confidential and secret from your Relations, Partners and Colleagues for our success in this Transaction as the basis of this Business is Secrecy. I promise you that I would protect your Personal Interest as this Business is 100 risk-free.
Therefore, I want you to express your interest to engage in this Business with me because your share is 40% of the Funds in Question so that I can send to you the TEXT OF APPLICATION which you have to Fill and send to the E-mail Address of the Bank.
I look forward for your immediate Positive response.
My regards to you and the family,
Mr Kuwaiti Zuweiri
On 28 Apr at 12:02, you wrote:
Why do you need my age?
Sent from my iPhone
On 25 Apr 2011, at 16:57, Mr Waiti Zuweiri
Salam My Dear,
Those information needed from is to fill the application form that will be forwarded to you as the proceedure of this project.
I will be waiting for your urgent information.
My regards to you and the family
On 25 April 2011, at 18:05 you wrote:
I'm still not 100% on why you need my age, but you seem like an honest enough guy and I'm sure that this is entirely legimate so, I'm 28 (though I feel much older lol!). I'm sorry to hear that you've been having difficutlt with mistrust from fanancial institutions, it must be awful for you; frustrating too i'd imagine as the you are dealing with a lot of money - 10.5 Million is a lot, especially just to be sitting in an account! As for the information you requested, well I am male, my full name is Tiernan Trent D'arby. I am not currently employed but have previously worked in various Government jobs and am training to be a professional wrestler. I like long walks, sunsets and the smell of petrol.
Tell me about yourself.
On 26 Apr 2011, at 11:50, Mr Waiti Zuweiri
Salam my dear,
With thanks for you assistance so far. In order to progress with this arrangement there are only a few more obstacles which stand between our transaction’s completion. We will require you home address also as correspondence may need to be sent to yourself.
I will be waiting for your urgent information.
My regards to you and the family
>On 26 Apr 2011, at 16:30 you wrote:
Hey there Kuwaiti,
Though I understand that you require information from me I think you’re acting very formally, a less trusting man may have even said suspicious? I am not sceptical about dealing with Africans, however what I do know about business is that you should know who you’re dealing with. I'm more than happy to deal with you in relation to this financial matter but I’m curious about you, what makes tick and such.
You on facebook?
Sent from my i-phone
On 28 Apr 2011, at 13:02, Mr Waiti Zuweiri wrote:
To progress with our lawful remittence I will need information on your home to progress. I urgently want you to send all the demanded personal information you as you are able in order to show willingness for my proposal.
Peace be upon you
Mr Waiti Zuweiri
On 28 Apr 2011, at 14:50, you wrote:
Great to hear from you again mate! Tell me, if you could pick one weakness in yourself what would it be? I have to say I find it hard to trust people, but (fortunately for you I am an excellent judge of character. Pointing out our flaws is difficult, but I believe that it's really important that we recognise them, that we can address them and try to work on them, wouldn't you agree?
What's your favourite food?
On 30 Apr 2011, at 10:58, :Mr Waiti Zuweiri wrote
Salam my friend,
As my reliable partner I still will need information relating to your address and will also need to sight of your banking information. Once competed I can progress with the application and furnishment of your remittance.
BELOW ARE THE NEEDED PERSONAL INFORMAIONS
Your fax number..................
Your banking account number................
Mr Waiti Zuweiri
On 30 Apr at 14:00, you wrote:
Are you not going to buy me a drink first?!
Ok, I understand that you're here to do business and you don't have time for chit chat. That said, I'm a bit believer in doing these things face to face, I do however understand that we're not going to be able to meet on this occasion (but when this goes through you never know, I might pop over and visit!). I would feel more comfortable if I knew what you looked like, it just helps me with my trust issues. Here's a picture of me:
On 02 May 2011, at 18:45, :Mr Waiti Zuweiri wrote
To progress with you I will need address and account number for your bank. This is one in a lifetime chance for an investor
My regards to you and the family
Mr Kuwaiti Waiti
On May 01 2011, at 10:02, you wrote:
Mate, I'm in some serious trouble and need some money, fast. Thankfully I don't need all the 2.6 million you promised me in your first e-mail but I was wondering if you might be able to stand me a few grand? I will need your account information and details of your date of birth, address, email and your bank sort-code and account number. Obviously if you're able to front me a bit of cash I would have no reason whatsoever to even doubt you or your intentions.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I had one such experience only today; and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Hark back if you will to New Years Day, you were all out celebrating and spending time with your loved ones. So was, but as we partied and in the wee small hours, some reprobate was breaking into my house, robbing me of my belongings and trust in fellow man. My new year’s thieves only managed to get away with a camera, laptop and my X-box. Not a bad haul I’m sure you’ll agree, but also as they soon found out, a grave error. Permit me to explain.
X-boxless and alone, reluctantly I began to socialise with real people. And it was a good job I did. In late January I was visiting a friend’s house, predictably we were playing X-box when all of a sudden I came on-line. But hold on, my Xbox was stolen and as yet still unreplaced. So how in God’s name was this happening? Seeking permission, I checked my friend’s friend-list and sure enough there I was; ‘Sosolidvampire1 is on-line’. I checked ‘my’ profile to see if there was any information and to my surprise I was now a bald-headed, goatee wearing black man.
Then I got angry. This wasn’t helped by the day’s drinking which preceded it.
I’d have paid good money to see my face at this point – a mix of bewilderment, a red-face and hard-boiled fury. See, its one thing to be burgled, but quite another to have your identify stolen. I appreciate this isn’t identity theft in the real sense, but surely it must have some ethical muddiness with regards on-line identify? There’s my rep to consider for one. My kill ratio and gamer points and as if I would play Gran Tourismo or God’s sake?!
Wasting no time I got on to the local Police and from here on in it’s difficult to articulate my frustration. To me it was simple, someone stole my Xbox and now they were using my account. Therefore, someone HAS my Xbox and, as it’s being used on-line, their IP address can be checked by contacting Microsoft thus providing an address. Hell, even if the person using it didn’t burgle me themselves – they’re still handling stolen goods and committing fraud by charging my bank account for use of Xbox LIVE… I understand that the nature of the crime I was reporting is usual, but seriously, the next 15 minutes were like trying to explain Quantum Physics to a dog. And not even a very bright dog. This is no reflection on the Police, who for what it’s worth were fantastic, but the poor chap I was on to had at best a limited understanding of gaming and on-line etiquette. But he got it in the end, well, he wrote it down anyway.
Days went by, then weeks and I assumed that the evidence I had supplied had become redundant. But then on Monday 27th April that all changed as I received a call from the Police asking me if there was anything identifiable about my Xbox. I paused for a moment. Was there? Had I added anything which may make it stand out, was there any periphery which might identify it as mine? My pause must have lingered longer than I thought.
‘Mr Welch?’ the voice asked. ‘Was there anything that might identify it was yours?’
Now at this stage I wasn’t 100% sure, but due to the nature of my own work I had inherited some smart water pens as part of an anti-burglary campaign (smart water does not show as visible to the eye but can be seen under UV light) and, with this I was confident enough to ask.
‘Sorry, yes. I think I that there may be something written using smart water’ I replied cautiously.
The voice coughed, as though embarrassed. ‘Would you be able to confirm what was written on the stolen item, Sir?’ the voice went on.
I think we all know what its like to not be able to laugh but really want to. When you’re in church and someone farts, in a meeting when someone’s phone goes off exposing a hilarious and surprising Hip-Hop ring tone. Or in this case, when a police Officer has her fears confirms and hears the answer: ‘Yes. If memory serves I drew a massive penis on my Xbox’.
Now bless this woman, but at this point she could no longer hold in her laughter and more of less lost it on the phone for a good ten seconds. Between composing herself and giggles she did apologise (which I had no trouble in accepting) and we continued our conversation. Sadly, she was unable to confirm any details of the actual daubings with me as they had to speak with the suspect further, but on ending the call she did seem confident that I would, one day see my Xbox again.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Experts say that obesity is actually now responsible for more ill health in the UK than smoking. Unsurprisingly, obesity can lead to some pretty nasty outcomes for us, including: heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure as well as anxiety and depression and in some cases, get this, cancer which can affect as many as 300,000 people a year.
The problems within the UK is of epidemic proportion and costs the NHS (or ‘tax-payer’ for all you budget cut fans out there) £500m a year (that’s half a billion pounds) and the wider economy a further £2bn a year in lost productivity. Now, though this doesn’t come close to what we pay out in Bankers bonuses (for banks we ‘own’) it is still a lot of money, I think we can all agree. There is unquestionably an issue in this country regarding health – but on the other side of that, there is also an obsession and the health and beauty industry has never seen such profit.
Personally, I aim for a balance. I drink heavily but then I also eat right and try to exercise. This wasn’t instilled in me from birth but, like me my parents have balance. But since those simple, halcyon days of my youth, convenience has become king. Everything you want is attainable and accessible, immediate and instant, we live in a fast paced world and if you can’t keep up with it then get out of my face and stop slowing me down! To meet this impossible need over the past decade or so we’ve seen the emergence of the energy drink. Most famously there’s Red-bull, which has gone on to become such an institution that it owns a Formula 1 team and can sponsor international events. Amazing, considering it tastes like the Devil’s backwash.
But the thing about Red-bull is that it has the good decency to be vastly overpriced and therefore only really ‘binged’ on by those idiots in the fast lane on the motorway and hedonists looking for get off their head drunk on cocktails containing powerful and confusing mixes of stimulants and depressants. But, with its success it was only going to be a matter of time before there were copycats. And man did these copycats come in their droves!? There’s shark AMP, Doubleshot, No Fear, Venom, Jolt , Go Girl, FRS, 5-hour, NOS, CRUNK, Verve, Shark, 180, Blue Energy, Bawls, EVO Smart Formula, Energy+, HELL, Red Thunder, Venom Energy and XS Energy Drink...to name put a few.
Not to be outdone, it wasn’t long before the supermarkets got on board and began asserting themselves by making their own versions of these drinks. Plain labelling but just as potent; the only difference being that these could be bought for as little as 25p. I was in a corner shop only last night and some guy came up to the counter two 1 litre bottles of some new concoction called ‘Boost’. He then asked the assistant if they had anymore in the back. I assumed he was stocking up, perhaps he had a marathon to get to, but when she returned to say there was no more he began to twitch with anxiety and looked about ready to have a stroke. Clearly that’s not a good sign? He was also very overweight and I have to question whether he really needed that much energy at 10:00pm.
As you may have picked up, these drinks frustrate me. I do a lot of work with children and I have noticed a steady increase in the consumption of these drinks, to a point where most of the children I am in contact with will frequently drink 2 to 3 of these in a day. So what you may ask, and indeed fair enough, but don’t children already have a lot of energy? I know I did, that’s why I played. And I certainly didn’t feel the need to supplement this with dangerous amounts of sugar. There’s also the caffeine element, should kids be drinking caffeine in any form, let alone one as concentrated as energy drinks?
Let’s not forget though, stimulants ARE coo, I concede this. And children are going to want to have things that are en vogue whether they’re energy drinks, Ben10 or MCAT. Now, I am not suggesting making them illegal or placing an age restriction on buying them (though that did little to curb smoking). But I do feel that we have to take some of the responsibility as the affect they must be having on them cannot be healthy. It’s no wonder teachers have difficulty controlling classrooms when half the students are off their heads on this stuff.
Within the UK, research suggests that one in eleven children suffer from ADHD and that number is currently on the rise (despite our current Government’s pledge that the number of Special Education Needs students will be reduced). Though the national figure for ADHD is one in eleven, in my line of work it is significantly higher. Alarmingly, ADHD seems to be able to target young people from families on low income in deprived areas in the country…which is some feat. These kids however, seem especially keen on energy drinks and, though I’m no Doctor, I can’t imagine that more energy is the antidote to a disorder which causes hyperactivity.
I often hear people finger point as to why there is such an issue with health in younger years - it’s the multi-nationals, isn’t it? Them, with their faceless sales targets and enormous buying power milking the state and destroying the family unit. It’s Red-bull, and Coca-cola and McDonalds…
But they have McDonalds everywhere, right? I mean, I’ve been to their restaurants in Spain, France and Peru and they don’t seem to have the same health problems? In fact, and I can’t believe I’m defending them, but in the last 5 years McDonalds have changed the make of up their produce drastically (now using 100% British beef for example), they are fully transparent about what goes into their food and its fat content. And, though they don’t actively encourage healthy eating – they do at least give the option on their menus. I certainly don’t see the same commitment present within the plague of fried chicken takeaways which seem to have engulfed England’s high streets like a deep-fried zombie Apocalypse.
Things are very hard at the minute, no one can deny that. The recession which everyone spoke about two years ago now seems very real. I can see the difference in my own bills week on week. Inflation is on the increase, as is the cost of living. Unemployment continues to soar and, despite what Jamie Oliver might say – it really isn’t cheaper to make home cooked meals every night of the week. Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle are a hard, but everything in moderation, right?
Friday, February 11, 2011
Fortunately for me (or so I thought) Direct Line operate a ‘like for new policy’ which states that I would be rescinded the value of my stolen item as if they were new. Then they give me a pre-paid credit card with the amount they felt that my items are worth. This seems like a pretty straight forward concept, right? So why fuck it up by only allowing me to purchase these goods in Comet? When was the last time anyone bought anything in a Comet store? In fact, where is there a comet store these days?
I was frustrated, naturally, as I had hoped that I wouldbe able to shop at my leisure and buy a laptop from e-buyer or at least a PC World. But, as was expected this frustration was nothing compared to having to go into the shop and actually try and buy the Godforsaken item.As a side note, I have friends and used to go out with a girl who shopped for ‘fun’ – all I can ascertain from this is that you are all mentally ill.
Annoyingly, the £399.99 I was given for the value of my laptop went only some way to buying me the modern day equalivent of my stolen laptop due to the VAT increase. This ate into my Xbox budget and obliterated my Digital Camera nest egg. Compounding this, I was met by the most ill-informed and frankly aggressive salesman I have ever encountered in my awesome 29 years on this grey Earth. This guy was the embodiment of arrogance. Sales were his lifeblood and his essence and he was damned if he was going to get something as futile as my opinion or need get in the way of a Goddam sale…and so began our stand off.
‘You don’t want that one like mate’ he informed me.
‘I don’t’ I replied politely taking in his confident stance and assertive body language.
‘Nah bud’ he replied with a coolness which seemed equally effortless and forced. ‘It’ll be obsolete within a few months and then you’ll just have to replace it’.
He took a few stops to his right and stood in front of a HP laptop with a needlessly big screen before opening his mouth and announcing: ‘this is the one you want.’ I walked forward and looked at the beast of a machine. It was impressive, I can’t deny that but it far exceeded both my need and the price I was prepared to pay for a computer.
He then went into some rehearsed diatribe of consisting of numbers, jargon and processing speeds. I tried to interject on a number of occasions but he just turned his head and raised his voice as though making a key note speech and trying to ignore whispering. After he finished he seemed almost annoyed that I wasn’t visibly impressed – out of awkwardness I made a faint ‘hmmm’noise, but on reflection I think he anticipated a round of applause. I took a few steps back to the new ACER Aspire (now priced at £439.99).
‘This one will be fine’ I instructed.
He actually sucked his teeth before responding ‘You’re chucking your money away’.
‘Ok’ I responded and walked off, literally. I wasn’t bartering, I was just happy enough to come back again later or have a look on their website. As I walked into the sunset like an IT literate cowboy I heard him yelling.
(Did he just call me blud?).
I turned back to him and he was shaking his head.
‘Don’t get me wrong’ he quipped. ‘The ACER is a good machine, yeah. Its just the HP s got it all’.
I was frustrated by this point and my tone must havegone someway to demonstrating this.
‘I don’t need it all, mate’ I responded. ‘I just want a laptop for the internet, syncing my phone and word-processing…’
He cut me off ‘Safe then, safe. This’ll be good for you then. And tell you what, yeah? Cause of this I’ll do you Norton anti-virus for only £40.’
‘I’m fine’ I declined.
‘You don’t want it then?’ he insisted.
‘I’m fine buddy, you can download AVQ for free’ I said.
‘£20 then’ he begged.
‘Just the laptop mate’ I said quite finally before backing away from him a bit.
He nodded before he spoke.
‘I’ll get this from the stock and see you at the till’ he muttered.
I wandered around the shop for a few minutes. A really attractive girl asked me if I needed any help with anything and I nearly said yes but figured that my relationship with my aggressive salesman had already probably gone too far. After 5 minutes I walked to thetill and he met me holding a long black object.
He smiled and said ‘I can let you have this external hard-drive for £30. I’ll just ring it through.’
The truth is I almost let him, I almost didn’t see this stealth sale happening! I had to speak up.
‘Listen mate, I’m fine; really. I was burgled and my laptop was taken but I still have everything else that goes with it. I have an external hard-drive, I have a mouse. I have a case and a copy of Word. I just want the damn computer.’
He looked unperturbed.
‘You’ll need cover for that though, yeah? We have an extended warranty for…’
This time I cut him off.
‘Mate, just the computer – that’s it. Thanks.’
We completed the exchange in silence and I was almost done. Foolishly, I enquired as to how much their HDMI cables were and God, it was like he was reborn. What had I done?
He was recharged and focused again.
‘HDMI cables start at £20 but you get what you pay for, innit. We have gold ones here which start at £50 but even they don’t give you the quality you need for HD…’
He continued talking for a few days but I’d had enough. £20 for an entry level HDMI cable - is it any wonder that the high street is dying. In my haste and frustration I informed him there and then that I would not consider paying £20 for a HDMI cable, stating that you could buy a DVD player for that price. Needless to say he scoffed at my remark and went on to discuss the intricacies and value of this Holy Grail of a cable. I didn’t buy it, not for a second and, perhaps arrogantly, said that they probably sold HDMI cables in Pound shops these days. He laughed at my remark, he even told a colleague of this. He was mocking me - he went on to say that there was ‘no way’ a pound shop could afford to sell this cable for that little as they would be making a ‘significant loss’ on every item sold.
Well, buddy. Swivel:
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
There's something just so unforgivably obnoxious about a know it all. I'm sure we all know one, the person who's always knows best – who is always 100% certain when there's doubt; arrogant to the point of aggressive and who condemn and undermine anyone who should dare an opposing feeling. We've all met these people and I'm sure that, because your time far is too valuable to waste it in the company of these insufferable boresyou have long since left them to themselves and their drudgeries.
I myself seem to have at last rid myself of such types in my personal life; however I cannot seem to break the one intrinsic linkback to the worst possible example of this sort of person. I say ‘example’ as this person does not actually exist – aspects of them certainly do but the entity I am referring to is Lisa Simpson. Now, I know she’s a cartoon character and therefore it’s fairly futile to harbour any real feelings of contempt, however even with all this considered, I still really to hate her. Never has there been a more bombastic, sanctimonious and downright pretentious manifestation.
Its not that I don't understand the purpose of the character, I realise that she is supposed to the voice of sense and reason in what is effectively a depiction of modern American values; I just don't like it…at all. I also understand that I could easily avoid it, but I love the Simpsons and hate when people say:‘’you don’t have to watch it if she annoys you so much’’. I know I don’t have to watch it you utter cretin. I also don’t have to drink this cold tea, but despite the fact its not as good as it used to be its still fairly enjoyable…! I’ve been a fan of the Simpsons for most of my life; in fact I’m pretty certain that Bart and I are (chromatically) much the same age if you consider when the show began as a skit on the Tracy Ullman Show.
The Simpsons gets it so right in so many ways. People are fickle and often say that the new episodes lack the writing flair of the older episodes and that many characters have become parodies of themselves, but I adore it and enjoy the wry look it casts on the society it mirrors. But more and more frequently I am finding that any episode where Lisa is the main focus is going to frustrate me and eventually just piss me off.
Speaking of earlier episodes and, quite conversely, I didn’t actually mind the quiet, gifted ‘middle child’ of the first few seasons of the show. However since her ‘rebirth’ as a switched on liberal her behaviour is often puerile and frequently maliciouslyunprovoked; such as ruining Homer’s BBQ because (the equally bloated and pointless) Paul McCartney decides on her behalf that eating meat is wrong. Or when she selfishly dupes and misleads her family because she wants to see a museum exhibition, resulting in her father nearly losing his job. There’s also the time when she refuses to seek medical attention for Bart when he breaks his arm whilst in her care, or when she exploitsher tirelessly loving family for the purpose of making a ‘warts and all’ documentary on ‘American Life’ for the Canadian film festival. Or the time when she endangers her life (and the life of others) by living in a tree like swampy (which I still maintain was an act of lust rather than of altruism). Then there’s her condescending attitude to gay rights and marriages, her intolerance of Christianity, her cynicism towards authority, herprecociousness around adults and her obsession with her own academic superiority.But my isolating examples is as futile as my frustration as there is too many, but, it appears to me that her behaviour representsan appetite for selfishness and a disregard for both other people’s opinions and feelings.
More frustrating than her self-centred arrogance is her ambiguous political dogmaand inconsistent ethics and world view which are both contradictory and confusing. Passive on one hand yet vehemently aggressive on the other; adopting a Michael Moore like stance on Politics with regards Socio–economics and Foreign Policy affairs yetclaiming to be Buddhist and hippie on the other. A feminist who collects Barbie dolls, an Environmentalist who sells out, a pacifist whowilfully insists on attending a Military Academy. It’s this flaky attitude towards commitment which for me undermines the character’s relevance. She is portrayed to us frequently as a quiet, brooding, jazz-loving and independent however there are so many episodes where we see her try to ‘fit in’, but in doing so crumbles to peer pressure – whenshe takes up Ballet and starts to smoke for example. Or when she adopts a new personawhilst away at the beach with her family (and in doing so mocks her brother), becomes a white witch, when she pretends to know Alaska Nebraska (Hanna Montana) in order gain kudos amongst a new peer group. These are all examples of how she is weak willed and impressionable; happy to follow thezeitgeist but then (normally by the end of the episode) will haplessly disregard herself from any status quo claiming to be a nihilist and a loaner.
I have been known to have rants on this subject from time to time and friends and others have commented that her character is the mouthpiece of writer and creator, Matt Groening. This is quite likely, and over time I suppose Lisa has become the left wing voiceof a very popular show – which I suppose is better than Republican messages. What I do detest however is when people argue that she is the ‘straight man’. The Simpsons has a straight man in Marge. She is also the voice of reason, the good, the memorable and indeed shows values and ethics.
I admire the way that the Simpsons has, quite literally, killed off unpopular characters in the past. But now, I think the time is right for a sacrifice.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
As if January wasn't bad enough, on top of the weather, the post-Christmas depression and the lack of money I now understand that Swine Flu has reared its unwelcome (pig) head again. But it feels different this year though, doesn't it; understated almost? Lacking the hype and fanfare that it had last year, despite the fact that the strain of flu is apparently 'every bit as deadly' as it was last year when we were all due to be set upon with Armageddon like consequences.
We're fickle beings aren't we - humans I mean? We treat these diseases in the same way that we treat fads, getting all excited about them when they're all new and shiny but then, as they fall off the front page and imbed they lose their edge and we lose interest - like myspace. I'm not condemning us or our society or anything, I just think that most of us have quite short attention spans – we all remember Roaul Moat because of the Gazza thing, but I struggle to recall the name of the Taxi driver in Cumbria who shot all those people. And he was probably worse.
I do not aim to interpret the human condition, but we do have a tendency to react to these things in the same way. I personally have no memory of anyone I know falling victim to the CJD 'outbreak' some years back; however I do remember the fear resulting in everyone avoiding beef like it was selling the Big Issue as we allowed the UK livestock farming industry to become crippled. Conversely, and interestingly, we never really got that into SARS in a big way, did we? It always seemed like someone else’s problem. But the images of those cute little commuters in masks had us all little scared, right? But being scared then was nothing like what its like to be scared today. We barely knew how good we even had it back in the time before ‘international’ terrorism. International Terrorism (not to be confused with domestic Terrorism like the IRA and that lot) changed the world and overnight we all became suspicious of our neighbours, or friends, colleagues and anyone foolish enough to run with a rucksack on.
I guess it's natural that we should be fearful of the skies, most people feel vulnerable enough in the air without the added anxiety of becoming a senseless death on a Jihad suicide mission. This may be why Aviation or 'Bird flu' captured our imagination and was so frightening? Bird flu was a weird one for me, though I didn't really understand it, by God weren’t we all terrified of it! And now, nothing - I mean it barely gets a mention despite the fact there has been as many 'outbreaks' of bird flu this year as there have been of swine flu - but they were in Egypt so who cares, right?
Swine flu has been the most relevant of the modern scaremonger diseases for me, partly due to the fact that I'm that little bit older now and have a certain degree of awareness these days but also because I'm told I should be frightened of contracting it. Apparently swine flu doesn't discriminate on the grounds of age, so people young and old are as at risk as each other. I'm not frightened though, see there seems to some wonderful immunity I possess which restricts me from getting the sort of undiagnosable and unverifiable ailments which automatically justify having to take a week off work, no questions asked to 'stay at home, take care of yourself by keeping yourself hydrated, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep'. I don’t doubt swine flu is horrible and I have met some of those unfortunate enough to contract it, however, perhaps coincidentally it did seem to affect a lot of the same people who were ‘snowed in’ during the 4 inches of snow which brought the UK to a ‘stand still’ last year. Just saying.
So, despite already having a death toll in 2011, swine flu appears to be old news and with recession, job losses, the new coalition government making a balls of everything it would appear that there isn’t a place for swine flu this year in our newspapers, our hearts or in our minds anymore. Next.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
As I stood by the grave of 2010 there was a brief but wholly welcome relief that it was coming to its end. It was a year which brought me some happiness; however these brief and ephemeral moments were insurmountably eclipsed by crushing grief and sadness. Like most, I treated the end of a year and the dawn of the next with the usual dignitaries by raising a glass or two. New years isn’t a time of year which I’m particularly crazy about, but in the spirit of things I ignored my better judgement and like some kind of fool I attempted to make the most of it.
Time, as it has a tendency to, passed. Jubilations ended and it was time for me to go home. I was tired and I knew that sleep would be welcome. Fate, it seemed, had other plans. On my return home I was surprised to find that my front door wouldn’t open. I’d had a drink so thought it best to try again, but still nothing. It felt as though he door had been locked internally and suddenly I was overcome with a wash of exhilaration! Perhaps last year hadn’t happened at all, it’d all been a long horribly vivid dream? My girlfriend hadn’t left me and we were still together and she’s gone to bed locking me out accidentally…!? But, with the miasma of fried chicken hanging in the air and the sound of idiots chorusing in the streets my daydream ended and as my senses returned I realised that I was probably in the process of being burgled.
So bravely, and without any regard for my safety I sped to the rear of my house somehow managing not to break my neck on the wall and sure enough I saw the damage to the back window. What struck me, other than how bloody brave I was, was the craftsmanship, that they hadn’t smashed the window as much as fully remove it from the frame. And there, my double glazed window stood, fully intact, propped up and looking displaced and disorientated. On the plus, I am getting my window replaced through my insurance and it’s only going to take one full calendar month.
On entering the house I realised that whoever had been in had long gone and left little by way of trace. I had heard tales of thieves defecating on their victims beds so; perhaps bizarrely, this was the first thing I checked for.
No joy. No DNA.
Upon initial inspection I gathered that the bedside table, which had previously held my ex-girlfriend’s underpants, had been rifled through and the case from my iphone lay open on my bed. The guest bedroom had been entered too, though only a bag containing scarves appeared to be open. The offender profile was beginning to look confusing, confusing and sexy.
I returned downstairs and was unsurprised to find that my laptop and Xbox had been taken along with whatever games and DVDs were on the table, the sight of my ultra-violent computer games must’ve been any deterrent whatsoever. Politely they left Dexter season 3 (clearly this was either too high brow or they hadn’t managed to get through 1 & 2 yet and didn’t want to spoil the Bay Harbour Butcher story). I also noticed that the ‘interactive headset’ for my Xbox had been left also. It appears even my burglars have their thresholds about what they’d be caught dead with.
The Police were good. There in well under an hour and taking the piss out of me with five minutes. One of them was in a bad mood, and man he did not want a hug…!
Weirdly that appears to be all that was taken which, as an indicator my worth is more depressing than the burglary itself. If I’d have burgled me I’d have taken my passport at least, it was on the coffee table but was of no interest. Its an irish passport so I can only assume that not only are my burglars heartless they’re also a bit prejudice - I bet if it was British they’d have been all over it. There’s my ‘flat’ screen television which despite being thinner than your standard CRT unit is probably as heavy. They could have had that? And what about dining table and chairs I’ve been trying to get rid of for the past 2 years? My limited edition Radiohead poster? My 1000+ CD collection? My guitars? You come into my house, put on my scarves and underwear and don’t even have the good manners to burgle me properly; you really are the lowest of the low…
People keep telling me that the worst thing about being the victim of a burglary is that you feel that you’ve been violated, perhaps my poor house may feel as though it’s been prison raped, but personally I would contest this. The inconvenience is the worst part; they’ve not just taken my stuff so much as taken my time. Mot to mention the rigmarole of having to put all of my music back onto iTunes, re-syncing my phone and unlocking my Xbox achievements all over again – the Police did not empathise with this. I’ve just remembered my Xbox gamer points, are they safe? My God it’s worse than I imagined.