Friday, April 27, 2007

I'll Use Paypal

You probably think that on-line shopping is a breeze. If you're an old person, as I am, you might remember when, if you wanted to buy something, you had to actually leave the house and go to a shop. Not a "virtual store", or an "on-line mart", but a real shop, with a window at the front with wasps in it and a counter inside and an old gentleman wearing one of those special brown coats with a six-inch ruler and three pens in the top pocket.

Sometimes you had to go to two shops, or even more, to find the thing you wanted. And then you had to write a cheque. And bring the the thing you'd bought home on the bus, more than likely. And there'd probably be a light drizzle falling, and you'd get a bit wet and have to have a cup of tea when you got back.


Now, considering that millions of people on the planet have to walk miles each day just to collect clean drinking water, I tend to think that even the old style of shopping was pretty fucking easy. And shopping on-line is so phenomenally slothful it actually makes me feel guilty. Let's face it, there are no arguments, it's a piece of piss.

Paypal doesn't agree.

Their current advertising campaign invites you to compare the preferred option of "I'll use Paypal" with the following scene of drudgery and sheer exhaustion:

"I'll spend the next few minutes hunting around for my credit card so I can type out that number (yes, the really long one) across the middle, and that 3 digit thingy on the back. And, of course my expiry date. Oh go on then, and my billing address too."

God, that sounds completely ghastly. Positively inhumane. You might have to type in your credit card number! Well, fuck me. I wouldn't be surprised if the non-Paypal version of on-line shopping is ultimately subject to the same universal opprobrium as child slave labour or the use of landmines.

What next? As far as I know the smart money is on the development of a microchip implanted just behind your ear which will monitor your buying patterns over a period of time and then forecast what you want to buy before you even know you want to buy it, contact the website and your bank and sort it all out while you're asleep. You won't even have the stress of wondering when your stuff's going to arrive because you won't know you've bought it until the parcel arrives. Surprise! And it's just what you wanted!

The only time you won't get what you want is when it's clothing and the chip knows your arse is going to look huge. Then you'll probably just get a nice handbag.

Now that's the kind of technology that makes life easy. "I'll use Paypal" indeed. You're having a laugh.

Another True Story

Now that I’m free to wander the earth having adventures like Caine from Kung Fu things are starting to happen to me. Last night I was rehearsing with some musician friends. One of the songs we worked on was “Short People” by Randy Newman. In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Newman’s oeuvre, the song contains the following lyrics:

They got little hands
And little eyes
And they walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

At the time of the song's release, when he toured those parts of the United States where a sense of humour is a rarity but proof of a permanent sense of outrage has, by law, to be produced at a police station every twenty-eight days, Randy received death threats in the mail. It was never proven that the vertically diverse were responsible, although the fact that teeny-weeny little ladders were sometimes found propped against Randy’s mailbox was thought to be significant.

Anyway, that's the song we rehearsed last night. This morning, as I walked into Redhill town centre I was stopped in the street by a midget who asked for directions to the road where I live. She didn't actually ask for directions to my house, so it might have been a coincidence, but to tell you the truth it spooked me.

When I got home I checked in all the flower pots and behind the sofa and everything seemed to be in order, but then I've no idea how midgets operate, and it's obviously much easier for them to go under cover than for the rest of us.

Maybe I should look up their modus operandi on Google.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Making A Name

A genuine news story from my local paper...

"A Redhill man who suffers bouts of depression broke into a Salvation Army citadel near his home and defecated on the floor near the piano, a court heard. Ray Barnett, defending, said: "I asked him why he did it and he said he wanted to make a name for himself.""

If anybody had bothered to ask me I would have told them that the way to really make a name for yourself would be to defecate on the ceiling.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Spell Of Total Enlightenment

It's been a weird few weeks. On March 30th I left my job as corporate lickspittle to wander the earth and have adventures. I had been with the company for almost twenty years and I can honestly say that I hated pretty much all of my time there, except for the parts that were merely dull.

Anyway, they turned me loose with a warm but insincere handshake and a severance package which will allow me to sit around for a year or two with my thumb up my arse should I so wish. Then I'll have to either get a job or start selling body parts. (Somebody else's body parts, obviously.)

Sooz and I went on a week's holiday in Derbyshire to help with the transition, and did a lot of walking, eating, drinking and sleeping. On my return I went into my study on Monday morning, turned on the computer and Wondered What To Do Next. Then I Went A Bit Nuts.

The problem was, I think, that while I was at work I was gainfully but pointlessly employed in an environment which, although not in the same league as being an air traffic controller or neurosurgeon when it comes to stress levels, was still fraught enough to fill my head up with Work Stuff, so all the Other Stuff I should have been thinking about could be pushed to one side during the day. In the evening I had the excuse of having had a hard day making a living to allow me to avoid thinking about the Other Stuff then, too.

So, with no Work Stuff to worry about I was visited by The Spell Of Total Enlightenment, and I started trying to think about all the Other Stuff at once. On Monday I thought about: making a will, changing my mortgage to another lender, taking out life insurance, registering with the Job Centre, calling my pension company, setting up a meeting with a financial advisor, booking a service for my car, booking an MOT for my car, selling my car, contacting charity organisations to see if they wanted any volunteers, buying a new desk for my office, getting the parts to fix the shower door, booking a holiday in Durham, booking a flight to Ireland, checking out training courses and finding a new job.

And, of course, trying to read, research and do some writing, which was the point of leaving my job in the first place.

After an hour or so I wound up in the corner of the study with the wastepaper basket on my head, singing the chorus of "Don't Touch Me There" by The Tubes. Then I calmed down, and made a list.

Three weeks later, I've crossed a few things off the list and added a few more, and I'm pretty much back in control. My days seem extraordinarily full, and not as structured as I'd like, but I'm making progress of a kind.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Lot Of Dead Alpacas

The Ministry of Defence has released figures relating to compensation to claimants “affected” by low-flying aircraft during the year 2005-2006. The amount awarded was £4.1 million, a huge increase over the previous year, when the sum was a paltry £760000.

Many of the incidents relate to farm livestock. The M.O.D. tells us that it’s “very unlikely that stock is hit directly and killed”, which is reassuring to a degree but not all that surprising, unless you’re farming giraffes, in which case it’s
still unlikely but not impossible.

It's well known that at the onset of Spring giraffes tend to get a touch exuberant and do a lot of leaping and bounding. The effect of a giraffe being sucked into an air intake is not something that’s easy to reproduce convincingly under stringent test conditions, but one can hazard a guess that it’s likely to prove fairly unpleasant for animal and aircrew alike.

More likely are occurrences of “huddling”. Many farm animals, from
sheep to more exotic breeds such as llamas and alpacas, are just as
likely to crowd together for mutual reassurance in moments of
danger as to try to make a run for it. Under these circumstances
it’s quite possible that a single Chinook landing a little
over-enthusiastically could annihilate an entire flock.

However, although it’s not difficult to see how these tragic events
can come about, the amount of compensation still seems extremely

£4.1 million’s a lot of dead alpacas. Or giraffes.