Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Favourite Movie Scenes: Blazing Saddles...

I'm a big fan of Mel Brooks.

As in-flight entertainment goes, his movies are among the best in terms  of passing the time between here and Neptune.

One of my favourites is Blazing Saddles,one of themost quotable movies in cinema history, with (almost) every scene worth the price of admission.

My favourite scene in the movie is where the townsfolk meet in the church to discuss the state of things and what they're going to do about it.

It goes like this:


Now who, as Dr. Samuel Johnson said, can argue with that?

What Part Of 'No' Don't You Understand???

Over a 10-day period, I have had no less than three (3!) doorstep visits from salespeople representing Airtricity, a power generation and supply company, trying to sign me up to a contract with them, something I resolutely refuse to do.

Notwithstanding the fact tht the IncrediCave uses a combination of geothermal energy and cold fusion as a power source, I could not be less inclined to sign with these people if they offered me their service for free.

This is how it works:

The sales agent calls to your door and asks if you would like a 16% (or whatever the rate du jour is) reduction in your electricity bill. If you say yes, he asks for a copy of your bill and will sign you up on the spot if you let him. What he doesn't tell you about is the small print:
  • You have to agree to a Direct Debit payment method - this allows the service provider to take their money from your account at their convenience, something I refuse to permit;
  • If you don't pay by DD, not only do you forfeit a significant chunk of the discount, you also become liable for a one-off 'Security Deposit' of €300 ($350) which will be applied to your first bill. This is also not made clear; I found out about it through research.
  • Opting to receive a paper bill in the post also drops the discount level - Airtricity brands itself as a 'Green' company, and thinks that email is the way to go- besides, with DD, you won't even need to worry about a bill, will you?
Now, I've been from one end of this Solar System to the other and I've seen a lot of strange things, but nothing so strange as a company that works on the basis that 'the customer is not to be trusted'.

If I've learned nothing else in life, I have learned that you don't buy anything on your doorstep - with that in mind, I usually thank callers for their time and promise to look at the offer they've brought on the Web so I can see it for myself.

And that's usually the end of it.

But Airtricity appear to be more difficult to get rid of than a case of the Argonian - er, Flu...

I first tried to submit a request using their website's email complaint form. The fact that they have a category for 'Door to door Sales' is interesting. I filled out the form concisely and clearly, requesting no further sales or marketing contacts, and clicked the form's 'Send' button.

Nothing happened.

It continued not happening when I tried a second time, and a third time using a different web browser.

On Monday, I called Airtricity's Customer Service Line, whose phone menu offers four options, none of which seem to fit the category of my problem.

Selecting '3' for Sales, I spoke to a young woman and explained the situation.

"Oh," she said, "You'd better speak to a Customer Services Rep. If you hold on, I'll put you straight through."

Five minutes later I was still listening to a recording saying how important my call was and apologising for the delay.

Needless to say I hung up.

My next recourse will be a letter to the Customer Services Manager, followed by the energy Regulator.

Sadly, I remain pessimistic...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

And While I'm On The Subject...

Happy Birthday also to boxing legend, three-time World Heavyweight Champion (back when it meant something), the immortal Muhammad Ali.

I remember staying up late with my Dad and my brother whenever he had a title bout; invariably, they took place in exotic locations like Manila or Las Vegas, so when they were shown live in Ireland it was usually three in the morning.

For me, boxing died as a professional sport when the man retired.

Happy Birthday, Champ - you are and always will be "The Greatest"...

Happy Birthday, Darth Vader...

Or indeed, Happy Birthday to the voice of the Sith Lord, Mr. James Earl Jones.

I first came across him as Thulsa Doom in Conan The Barbarian, before I ever knew about his role in Star Wars.

A subsequent role as the reclusive author Terence Mann, opposite Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, is a personal favourite.

His is a voice which, like those of  Morgan Freeman and Walter Cronkite, inspires confidence - the man could announce that the world was about to end and people would say, "Oh, that's all right then..."

Of coure, as Darth Vader he got a lot of practice, so he probably had it down.

Makes you wonder what Messrs. Freeman and Cronkite were hiding, don't it?

Happy birthday, sir...

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Artist...

This weekend, I went to see The Artist, a silent movie in black & white directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean DuJardin and Bérénice Bejo.

DuJardin, a French actor known for his comic roles in the OSS:117 spy spoofs (also directed by Hazanavicius) plays George Valentin, star of the silent screen, known to 1927 audiences for his daredevil adventures and canine companion, Uggie.

A chance photograph, taken with a fan at the premiere of his latest hit,A Russian Affair, introduces ingenue Peppy Miller, played by the delightful Berenice Bejo, who embarks on a career in pictures, beginning as an extra. Some advice from George helps her to establish herself and earn bigger roles in better pictures, and she's soon on her way to the top.

But the age of the talkies has arrived and George wants no part of it,dismissing it as a fad, a crass gimmick that takes away from the artistry of acting. And soon his star is on the wane, and before long, he's yesterday's news.

To say more would be to spoil it completely, and this is a film that quite simply deserves to be seen, not read about.

Director Hazanavicius brilliantly evokes the atmosphere, humour and pathos that were the cornerstones of the silent era, and the excellent supporting cast of John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller help to shape what will surely be hailed as a silent classic, nearly a century after the movies learned to talk.

I imagine I'll see The Artist a time or two again - you should, too...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

This Is Just Wrong...

A friend of mine told me today that she had visited the local branch of Marks & Spencer here in Dublin on - wait for it - December 30th.

Where she saw this:

April's almost more than three months away, and those eggs will have hatched by then!

Recession or not, it's a cynical ploy on behalf of the store to lure sales shoppers into impulse buying.

I'm very disappointed...

Monday, 2 January 2012

So That Was 2011, Was It???

And here we are once again at the beginning of a New Year, with seemingly-endless days stretching before us and the promise of spring and, hopefully, summer to come before the neutrinos inevitably mutate and John Cusack gets chased by lava (Dara O'Briain has the inside track on this - trust me).
And it's been a stressful year, both in and out of work, as may be reflected by my somewhat sporadic postings over the last twelvemonth.

So what have we had?
  • Earthquakes - quite a few, but none so powerful as the one that struck Japan in March;
  • Tsunami (it is its own plural, isn't it?) in many areas, most notably South-East Asia;
  • The removal from circulation of several big names on the planetary wanted list,  including Bin Laden and Ghadafi, with Mladic and others facing justice in The Hague;
  • Popular (with the people) uprisings, the so-called 'Arab Spring', North Africa;
  • Unpopular (with the Establishment) uprisings, the so-called 'Occupy insert city-name here Protests', worldwide;
Here in Ireland, we saw a number of things that would have seemed either unlikely, if not impossible in previous years:
  • A state visit by a reigning British monarch;
  • Ireland beating England at Cricket - how bizarre was that?;
  • The near-annihilation of a political party that's been in government for over sixty of our years as an independent nation following a near-revolution by ballot box;
  • Beating reigning champions Australia in the Rugby World Cup (group stage);
  • Qualification for the 2012 European Football Championship finals.
A somewhat punitive austerity Budget in December ensured that the economy will suffer in 2012, but that's institutionalized-short-sightedness for you.

On the work front, things look like being busy, with a reduction in the workforce and an increase in the workload. We're told to think of it as 'challenges and opportunities', but it says 'heart attack by June' to me.

For me, hopefully 2012 will be the year I move house. The suburbs are calling, and I think it's time to listen. We'll see how things turn out.

In any event, I hope your year, in whatever form it's measured, will be a good and positive one for you.

Above all, always remember - be excellent to each other...


(Note: I had planned on posting this last year, but somehow couldn't bring myself to click on "Publish"). My dad passed in...