Friday, February 11, 2011

Comets and truth bombs

Regular readers will be aware at I was regrettablyburgled some weeks ago. I am however happy to say that, after 30 days my window (which had been rather impressively removed from my wall without breaking) has been replaced - thus making my house safe once more. In another bout of unprecedented good news I also received compensation from my insurer (Direct Line) to cover the price of the items stolen which were 1 digital camera, 1 xbox and 1 laptop (as well as miscellaneous games).

Fortunately for me (or so I thought) Direct Line operate a ‘like for new policy’ which states that I would be rescinded the value of my stolen item as if they were new.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.

‘Hey blud!’

(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

I hate you Lisa Simpson

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.