Archives for category: The fog of war…

Dear Irish Rail,

What the what, man? It’s bad enough that you schedule trains to run to anywhere that’s not a city in a haphazard fashion, making it increasing difficult to get to somewhere that isn’t Dublin or Cork without having to take time if not the whole day to make the train to get to these places. You keep raising the prices of your tickets, making these very journeys exorbitantly costly. Even when you create a system that allows for some control over this, as with your online booking site, you start to extract the urine: having a handling charge because of credit cards is something I was willing to accept because of the issue surrounding bad credit in the financial tailspin that is the soi-disant recession and that you gave the option of paying by debit card at no extra cost. Except that now you charge punters irrespective of what type of card they use to pay. Let’s be clear on this: we do your job in organising the ticket, guarantee you a sold and paid-for attendee, lessen the number of people queuing and creating a backlog particularly at peak commuting hours, therefore reducing the tension and stress and workload of your understaffed workforce and you are going to make me pay you for this?! To paraphrase that most defining of modern poets, camels got back and this is the straw that does that thing…

Let us consider the service you are providing when I book: a site which frequently does not process my transaction, meaning that I have to reenter everything I have already done, including selecting the trains, the times, the seats and payment details; when I do book, I may have to ask people to leave my seat when I arrive at the train because you have not properly indicated that the seat is pre-booked; if the person refuses to move, I have no actual recourse, since you no longer maintain conductors on the train and there is no guarantee that there will even be a ticket inspector who can help me; if I miss the train, I have to pay you extra in order to avail of standing space on any subsequent train, the fee for which may be in excess of buying another ticket; oh, and my fiancee cannot book a ticket in advance, as her free travel pass demands that to avoid fraud she purchase a new one-way ticket at the box office with each journey for a train that she has no guarantee of having a seat for as a result, in spite of the reason that she has a travel pass is because she has a physical limitation which requires the ability to not have to stand for several hours.

In short, if we travel together, there is no guarantee we can travel together without my forgoing the seat I have paid for, or paying the travel costs which are inexplicably higher by buying from your box office. Are you seriously contending that this is an acceptable public interaction in the modern age, with all the resources that entails? This is not an attack on your staff who, for the most part, are pleasant and friendly under often-strenuous circumstances. They have a job to do, and to the letter of the law must they follow it. Against them in this, there is no grudge.

When you are a company that is subsidised by the government to allay the losses incurred by running services that may not be profitable, the idea is to break even, not to gouge the consumer base. In order to travel from Waterford to Westport to see my family, I have to spend eight hours on two trains, tolerating all the noise of beer-drinking psychotics and screaming children, the smell of your chemical toilets which, if I should need to enter, will leave me reeking of human effluent for the rest of the day. For this joy I will spend nearly eighty euro. And that’s on the cheaper tickets. I can fly to London and back for less in a matter of hours, yet at the mercy of your excessively costly service I lose two days each way, with a lack of facilities provided for the waiting periods in between trains because if I schedule my trains too close together and the first runs late I will miss my transfer and have to pay you more yet again. The distance is not your fault, but the fleecing for substandard service and provision thereof is entirely on you.

Irish Rail management, you suck and not in that pleasant way that boys think fondly of through math class in secondary school of a hopeful Friday afternoon.

With a shaking head, clenched fists and gritted teeth,

Starting next week will be a new thing on the blog that is this blog: The Art-Off!

Each Sunday afternoon, both myself and herself will be posting a new piece of art side-by-side. It can be interpreted in any way we choose: a portrait, an abstract, a comic, an ice sculpture, inks, pencils, pastels, whatever… Each piece will be based on the same theme or idea, and should you so choose, favour should be bestowed on the piece you prefer. Who ever gets the most yeas wins, chooses the following week’s theme and shall have right of mockery o’er the loser. If no one wins, we cry into our cupped and gnarled hands at the lack of attention we sorely crave and pick the next idea at random. Suggestions for themes are welcome, will go on a list and will almost certainly be done at some point. The only rules we will make is that the topic should be worksafe, since I maintain the vague idea that this blog is such (at least until I decide cursing is cool once more) and that any comments be made here rather than on Twitter or Facebook (as keeping track across multiple sites is a pain and I am lazy, to be honest).

Since I have a holdover request or two from Livejournal, you can expect to see the following very shortly: Cute Girls with Bees (for Dave Monk) and Guilt (for The Demure Lemur). It should be noted that Olivia has a degree in art and therefore I am more deserving of your pity and as a result your support. Vote Brian!

And with that, it is on.

[Disclaimer: the production of a poster I promised Very Lovely and Wonderful Patient People will not be disrupted by this endeavour. Theoretically, this will improve it!]

Those crazy French, eh? They do like to pass through the veil of normality and redecorate the house, don’t they?

Facetiousness aside, there is an interesting debate to consider here (with some of the views in opposition to the ban summarised here). While the automatic reaction is to look at how the ban on the burka and niqab affects the religious and human rights of the people targeted by the Bill, it’s not quite so clear-cut as it might seem. France is a country very much concerned, at least superficially, with maintaining a secular tone, particularly in regards to government. My setting a limitation on something often certainly described as religious in motive as the face veil, I could see how to someone not quite so atheistically-minded that it could be an attack on choice and religious freedom.

As I prepare to write the next few paragraphs, I suddenly find myself wishing that I had an Islamic best friend to point to as a defence, but life as a curmudgeonly hermit will always put paid to that.

Read the rest of this entry »

What the what, guys? I am fond of the moving-picture shows, but I find a drought in what should be my land of plenty at the moment. Putting Kristen Bell into a movie I have no intention of watching is not what I would describe as a successful example of counter-scheduling, at least in respect to nerd-men and other such cultural grazers who do not follow Foot-the-ball. Delaying the release of Toy Story 3 and insisting on having a simultaneous worldwide release of Twilight is like punching me in the face and daddy bags, then having at the sandwich I was about to enjoy with a rabid stick. I don’t even know how you could get a stick rabid, but you went and did it anyway.

Please make an effort to try harder and release movies that do not make me prefer to wrench my own teeth out in strange and unusual fashion. It’s not hygienic and it will play merry havoc with my insurance costs. I buy your DVDs with moneycashfunds rather than pirate them and this gives me a gross and disturbing over-estimation of my worth to you.

Brian x x x

I’m not sure if it has been officially announced yet, but I’ve been told by people ‘in the know’ that RTE have cancelled The Den. To those not of Irish descent (or, if you were born after the early nineties), The Den was THE television show for children (and laterally the adults who ‘happened’ to be in the room by some strange chance…). The easiest way to describe it in its prime would be to take your favourite Muppets, have them on TV every day and somehow never lower their quality of entertainment. Zig and Zag alone were so popular the UK TV station Channel 4 stole them… Stole them from the children of Ireland! The success of the show lay in the fact that it was helmed initially by seasoned host Ian Dempsey and later by child psychologist Ray D’Arcy, both of whom actively sought to engage their prepubescent (and older) audience with fun and surreality and ludicrous plotlines, almost all of which were engaged within the confines of their one-camera box-set. There was no attempt at making ‘sophisticated’ or ‘mature’ viewing for its childish audience – it was big and silly and loud. It revelled in these things and defined entertainment for a generation of children.

So initially it annoyed me that the Z-list celebrity-wannabes who took over the series in the wake of Ray D’Arcy’s departure (to say nothing of the glorious puppets which either left or were ousted from their presence within the show) had managed to topple this behemoth of my childhood. Then it occurred to me that the aforementioned presenters left many, many years ago and it took the doofs currently presenting it twelve years to muck it up.

That’s all sorts of wonderful, when you think about it, and it’s certainly how I will remember The Den: A children’s entertainment show so awesome, it took idiots over a decade to run it into the ground.