Monday 14 September 2009

Not 99 problems, just one

It's six years since Jay-Z's The Black Album was released. So I'm sure I'm not the first person to say this but, dearie me, what's the point of BBC Radio 1 playing "99 problems" - of which the key message is "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" - in a 'clean' version that removes the word "bitch"?  Not even the entire word in some instances, just the first bit (if you'll forgive the pun). It's pretty damn obvious there's a word missing - and it doesn't take a lexicographer to work it out. Kanye West sang "heard they'd do anything for a Klondike; well, I'd do anything for a blonde..."  That's clearly not another choc ice reference. What’s next for the daytime playlist - "k the pain away"?  Once upon a time, bands would include an alternative line - "she'll grab your Sandra Bullocks" is better than the original, I think - but that seems to be too much trouble now.

There's a school of thought that says words are neither bad nor good. Much like guns and dogs, it's the owners who are the problem. I'm inclined to agree, although I'd be less worried by someone waving a dictionary around than by either of the two other options. My point is that the message is either likely to be offensive or it isn't. Either play the whole thing or not at all.

I was only reminded about the Radio 1 incident and my latent annoyance when I was flicking through The Guide (The Guardian's entertainment listings) this weekend. There's an ad for a band called what at first glance looks like "FACK BUTTONS". On closer examination, the A is actually a star, reminiscent of the grawlix used in comics to denote swearing. On the pages either side are articles that mention the band's real name. Apparently it's a U, not an A. So this is a band that uses swearing in its name but isn't brave enough to print it, although the newspaper reviewing them doesn't have a problem. They don't look so clever now.

I enjoy wordplay. I don't mind some swearing. But I also like a bit of integrity. Now, where's my David Hasselhoff CD?

NB: Yes, I know "... Buttons", as Radio 1 probably calls them, have been around for several years. Yes, I'm sure it's the Buttons' record label that I should be blaming. And yes, I know I'm sounding a bit Meldrew again.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Sounds like Paris

An assortment of sound effects from a trip to Paris in August 2009. They include:

  • The Ashford Eurostar terminal
  • Eurostar train arriving
  • Onboard the train
  • Paris Eurostar terminal
  • Paris Metro
  • Street noise
  • TV weather forecast
  • More street noise
  • CafĂ©
  • Park
  • Street musicians
  • Street noise
  • Another two groups of street musicians
  • Inside the Pompidou Centre
  • Protest march
  • Cafe outdoors
  • Walking through Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Frog & Princess pub / football on TV
  • Sacre Coeur interior
  • Metro interior (including busker with accordian)
  • Eurostar - pre departure announcement
  • Onboard Eurostar message

Monday 7 September 2009

What good has that done anyone?

In May this year I bought a camera. A nice little Samsung L313 from Argos. Catalogue number 559/1473 to its friends in the warehouse. 13.6 megapixels for £99.99. What a happy customer I was.

Alas, it went wrong after a couple of weeks. The controls would ‘freeze’ when you were using it and the only way to get it working again was to remove the battery for a moment.

I took it back to Argos and they replaced it. I was a happy customer once again. I liked Argos. I liked Samsung.

The second camera then developed an identical fault within three months. I took the camera back to Argos and told them what had happened. All I wanted was a replacement camera. Unfortunately my local Argos store wouldn’t do that. They wanted to send L313 off for a repair. Even when I suggested this wasn’t acceptable for a relatively new camera, their response was that their terms were within the law and that’s all they’d do.

Next, I wrote to Argos head office and told them my tale of woe. They wrote back to say they were sorry to hear of the problem but their terms were to repair faulty items if they were more than 30 days old and within 12 months of purchase.

So I headed for Her Majesty’s Courts Service online. £25 later and I’m taking Argos to court. Two weeks later and I receive a letter from the court telling me the defendant’s made a full admission. The next day a cheque for £99.99 plus £25 costs arrives. The day after that I get a letter from Argos telling me they’ve decided not to contest the matter.

What a waste of time and money. Argos is now £25 out of pocket… plus the time taken by head office staff to deal with the legal stuff… plus the wholesale cost of a faulty camera (which I still have in a drawer somewhere). I've spent at least a couple of hours chasing around and I no longer trust Argos.

Ultimately, no-one really wins. And that’s all a bit disappointing.