The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Even The Keystone Cops Could Get A Conviction With This Much Evidence …
June 30, 2009, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Comment

As seen on my best mates Facebook page …

It’s OK to come out Paul, I’ll still love you – just not in that way. Don’t cry.

A Hotel For Arnie …
June 30, 2009, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back I wrote about how hotels should do a deal with Weight Watchers and basically offer people who travel a lot, a menu that guarantees they will eat more healthily, even if they’re desperate for the slob option.

Well it seems that one hotel in Guangzhou has taken this idea to an extreme because not only are they offering a gym, but bodybuilding.

Have to say, when I was there – all I saw were a bunch of people smoking their lungs out – and whilst I acknowledge they have taken their facilities much further than the average hotel, given the actual room was one of the absolute worst I’ve ever experienced [and I’m including jail cells in England, France and Spain in that] I think they have got their priorities slightly wrong.

Kill Yourself In Coffee …
June 29, 2009, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday – but I’m uber-pissed off today so let’s crack on shall we?

Right, so I was reading one of Jill’s trash mags when I came across this …

Ooooooh, that’s an interesting idea … Jarrah coffee has the ability to help you drift away from all of life’s expectations and demands and slip into your own zone of comfort, isolation and relaxation/rejuvenation.

That’s so differentiated, except for the fact a million other brands have said the same thing for the last 2000 years representing categories as varied as bath salts and liquor to chocolate and tea.

Oh I’m sure they have all sorts of research that justifies this as the right strategy … but you know what, I bet I could get some research that would allow me to do ads positioning Jarrah as the brew that turns you into an Italian temptress.

Fuck, I can see it now …

Close up of Monica Bellucci looking right into the camera. Her eyes are slightly narrowed, her lips parted and glistening slightly.

When you’re hot and steamy, you command total attention.

New Jarrah ‘cino coffee: Be Italian.

But enough of that, let’s look at that visual a bit more shall we?

Maybe I’m being a bit cynical, but am I the only one that thinks Jarrah are saying when you take a gulp of their powered pap, you feel like you’ve been thrown into a bath of boiling hot coffee???

Jesus, can you imagine the burns you’d get … that doesn’t sound very relaxing does it.

But it gets worse.

A LOT worse.

You see to me, not only is this ad saying that one gulp makes you feel like you’ve been plunged into a bath of coffee at surface-of-the-sun-esque temperatures … but it also implies that some bastard will come along and empty a whole bottle of bubble bath in there as well …

Christ, there’ll be bubbles everywhere and – as a man who once empted a family size bottle of ‘Matey’ into the bath only a few years ago – it’ll take a bloody age to clear up.

Seriously, how are you supposed to let all your troubles drift away when your skin resembles a lobster, your mouth, nose and eyes are being filled with [possibly] toxic bubbles and your body is starting to smell like a hobo who has lived in a Starbucks bin for 4 years!

But there’s more …

You think those brown speckles floating on the bubbles are the finest Belgium chocolate?

No … that’s what they WANT you to think … what they really are, are the effects of having boiling hot coffee splashed against your nether regions for 20 minutes.

Yep, I’m saying what you think I’m saying … they’re sprinkles of shit.

What on earth were Jarrah thinking when they approved this monstrosity?

I can imagine what the creatives were thinking when they developed it [“Take this you conservative, powered-coffee, delusional toads”] … but Jarrah!

Come on, do they really think an image of a woman plonked into a bath of boiling hot coffee, with bubbles and shit sprinkles is appealing?

Well yes they do … and not just because they paid for a double page spread, but because if you look carefully, you can see they wrote this on the ad …

Serving suggestion? Fucking serving suggestion?

No offence Jarrah, but even if Megan Fox [sorry Angelina] offered me a coffee, and then served me a cup with her buck naked in it, I’d not find it very appetising.

OK, that’s a bad example. A very bad example … but just what were you thinking?

Is it supposed to be humour? Is it supposed to be funny?

Well sorry to disappoint you but it’s no way near as funny as trying to position your powered coffee as a product that can give you an experience other than sheer bloody disappointment.

If I Said I Was Sophiticated, Do You Think People Would Pay Me More?
June 26, 2009, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

Well as yesterdays post was probably a bit too much for many of you to handle, I thought I’d get back to normal with a rant.

And there you were worrying my new found positivity might have resulted in the end of my cynical streak. Pah.

Right, it’s been a while since I got the shits with Starbucks … but they’ve gone and done it again.

To be honest, I feel a teensy bit sorry for them.

Their staff – at least in Asia – tend to be pretty good and despite their coffee tasting more of milk than caffeine, not to mention their grand relaunch having the impact of a damp squid, they are trying which is better than a hell of a lot of companies I could mention.

Saying that, like Amazon – I don’t really rate them as a brand.

You see to me, a real brand is one that has an irrational emotional connection with a person – where that individual will go out of their way [in some way] to embrace the brand they love over a cheaper/more convenient alternative.

Yes I know that isn’t how many people refer to a great brand – but I have never been of the school of thought that awareness or sales automatically equates to brand adoration.

Anyway that’s an argument for another day … so back to why I’ve got the shits with Starbucks.

Well basically I was in one of their stores when I saw this …

Can you see it?

Come on – surely you can?

Yep, it’s the way they say ‘blended coffee is for sophisticated adults’.


How can a blended coffee mean you are sophisticated?

And why does blended cream [which sounds as appetising as diluted cows blood] mean you are a sophisticated adult or kid.

SOPHISTICATED KID? Are they taking the piss? Unless the word ‘sophisticated’ has been re-defined as ‘complaining little shit who craves sugar rushes and screams till he/her gets it’ I think they might of missed the point.

One of the things that really gets on my nerves – especially in Asia – is the preoccupation of ‘status’.

Seriously, everyone is claiming it … sophisticated cars, sophisticated butter, sophisticated bog roll and now sophisticated bloody blended coffee/cream.

Of course ‘status’ isn’t an attribute unique just to the Asian advertising industry, but my god they embrace it with a gusto that leaves the West in the dust.

What makes it even worse, is the brands that adopt this no-effort-required ‘strategy’ don’t refer to values or sensitivity, they just go straight to the claim – meaning there’s no reason why someone should believe it as well as the fact any competitor could do pretty much the same thing. And they do. Often.

There’s probably quite a few reasons for this … including the expectations placed on the people of Asia interms of what they are expected to achieve, own and deliver … but still, are our lives so miserable that an overpriced bucket of hot, brown water with some contrived ‘badge value’ can make us feel better?

Don’t answer that – but if it’s true, then maybe if Starbucks embraced a strategy of making life miserable for each of their customers, their balance sheet might move from the red back into the black, ha!

I’ve written before how ‘sophisticated’ and/or ‘luxury’ has seemingly become nothing more but a price point and I believe this attitude is screwing everyone over because without celebrating attributes such as craftsmanship, soul, heritage, innovation and/or exclusivity, it means a coffee made by a spotty adolescent can claim to be upmarket, leading the average joe to pay more for something that quite frankly is about as sophisticated as a tramp doing a fart.

Why not go the whole hog Starbucks and print your cups with ‘LACKING SELF ESTEEM’ … you’re pretty much saying that already. [Quick question: how did you know??? 🙂 ]

My Dad Is Probably Glad He Isn’t Still Around …
June 25, 2009, 6:22 am
Filed under: Comment

I know this is slightly late, but a couple of weeks ago I was walking through a building when I saw an ad for a Father’s Day promotion …

Basically the promo is that any Dad who takes his kids skating will get free entry.

Apart from the fact I bet the conniving sods put the kids prices up to basically equate to what Dad would have had to pay, I don’t know if a Dad looking a prat infront of his kids is the sort of thing that will really entice them.

And why the hell have they ‘characterised’ a Dad as someone who wears a tie? What decade is this? 1950?

OK … this is a nonsensical post … I know the promotion would give Dad’s a chance to spend some quality time with their kids doing something different, fun and exciting [at least for the little ankle biters] but it just seemed strange when I saw it.

Talking of strange …

Before I write this, I should say I have never tried drugs, I’m not a follower of religion and normally find the people who say what I’m about to say, a bit WEIRD.

Saying that, it made a massive impact on me and I want to write about it … and yet I am not sure why.

As many who read this blog regularly know, my Dad passed away over 10 years ago.

And as many of you also know, this event is the most painful thing that has ever happened to me.

I’ve written many, many times about how much I miss him … how I wish I could see him, talk to him and hug him again … well on June 11th 2009, I did.

I know this sounds ridiculous … it IS ridiculous … but it’s true.

At about 11pm on the 11th of June, I was about to go to bed.

I wasn’t very tired but because I had to travel in the morning – the trip that was to make my birthday a total horror – I thought I should try and get some sleep.

Anyway, just as I was about to pick up my book to read a few chapters, I literally felt my Dad come into the room.

I can’t explain it properly, but I just felt his presence.

Look I know this makes me sound like a total fruitcake, but that’s what happened and it’s something I’ve never felt in all of the 10 years he has been gone.

Anyway, for some reason I felt he was telling me to turn out the light, so I got into bed, switched off the bed side lamp and closed my eyes tight.

Then he came to me.

I can’t explain everything in detail … I know I told myself to take in as much as I could, but I was so desperate to see his face that everything else kind of just became background blur.

All I can tell you is that I felt the warmth of his arms calmly wrap around me, holding me like a man who has not seen his son for 10 years would … and then after a few seconds, I felt the side of my face sink gently into the comfort, warmth and smell of his favourite jumper as he stood over me.

We were like that for a few seconds before I peered up from his tender grip and saw his kind, warm, beautiful face …

I remember him planting a big kiss on my forehead … I remember him giving me a final big squeeze … and think I remember giving him a kiss in return … but then that was it, he had gone and not a word had been spoken.

I know this might be making some of you recall in horror or start thinking I’ve lost it, but it was one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. EVER.

I wasn’t dreaming, I wasn’t even asleep … but when I scrunched down into the bed – keeping my eyes tightly shut the whole time – I felt incredibly happy, like 10 years of sadness, upset, frustration and longing had been taken away in an instant.

Look, I’m a cynical bugger … and I know how this makes me sound … however I honestly feel [and I’m bordering on saying ‘know’] I have seen, hugged and kissed my Dad again which is why it’s the best birthday present I’ve ever received.

You have to understand, where issues like this are concerned, I came from a pretty straight laced family.

It’s not that we didn’t ‘believe’, it’s just that because we never experienced anything like it, we had an inability to relate.

Saying that, I remember my Mum telling me I could not go to a séance a boy down the road was organising – and I didn’t – but that was more because I was a good boy than because I was worried of letting any potential bad spirits into the World. Besides, I didn’t even really know what a séance was, ha.

Mind you, there were a few events that occurred over the years that opened up some debate in the family.

First of all some family friends talked about how they had occasionally seen a woman dressed in Victorian clothes appear at the top of their stairs. Nothing bad happened, she just appeared … however when they looked into the history of the place they bought, they found it was an old school house and hundreds of years earlier, the headmistress had committed suicide at that very spot.

I also remember that when they moved – again to an old, old house [didn’t they learn the first time!] – they told us their son kept saying an old lady would come and sit on his bed and talk to him. Again, nothing bad ever happened and they never got to the bottom of it – but it ensured my family didn’t visit them nearly as much, ha!

And then there was Italy.

In 2003, I – with 12 friends – stayed in a 1200 year old house in Luca, Tuscany – once owned by film director David Lean.

One night I was in the bathroom washing my face when – for the first time in my life – I was struck with absolute fear.

I felt that if I stood up and looked in the mirror, I would see what I can only describe as ‘death’ standing behind me.

Yes … yes … my reflection can look pretty rough but this was something else entirely.

Whilst I have Italian blood so can be quite emotional, I also have a healthy rational streak, and yet this feeling of fear had such a hold on me, I literally ran from the bathroom to my bedroom and lay there in total panic. The feeling stayed with me [no one else experienced it] for a couple of days – and came back on one occasion as I was opening the door to my house in Australia – but they were nothing like that first experience, where I was genuinely, and totally petrified. Not scared … I mean the true definition of fear.

And then – up until the experience I’ve just written about – my Mum told me that after a few months of Dad dying, she had felt he had visited her as well, this time in the morning as she awoke.

I remember when she told me, she said it with such certainty and happiness in her voice that I could not doubt her, even though maybe in my cynical subconscious, I could justify it as part of the grieving process.

What I’m am trying to say is these things aren’t the sort of experiences or conversations my family ‘have’. It’s simply not us … which is why I think we’d still say we’d find it hard to give these sorts of things real credibility, even though there have been a few situations where whether we like it or not, they have made themselves credible to us.

Given I found it hard to tell my Mum I once got 2% in a maths exam, it’s amazing just how easy I found it to tell her I had been visited by her husband who has been dead for over 10 years.

And the reaction was magical.

I’ve always had a ridiculously close relationship with my wonderful Mum, but when I told her what had happened, it felt it was no longer just her and me, but the 3 of us again with Dad still around, watching over us.

I know it sounds mad – it IS mad – and I could easily of kept all this between my Mum and Jill … but something made me write about it because after 10 years, I can tell you that for the first time in all that time, I believe I can start moving forward and I’m a happier more confident man because of it.

PS: Jackets without sleeves should be sent to the usual address.

PPS: Don’t feel you have to comment, its fine to think “nutter”, I know I would.

PPPS: The planning/advertising reference I’m going to use in a desperate attempt to try and justify this post is that life is made up of more than just rational interactions and viewpoints, so never underestimate the power and influence of emotion, even if it making people say/think/do things you find hard to believe. Don’t let your personal opinions corrupt the insights – but by all means let your values influence the solution. [That’s a private ‘joke’ aimed at 3 people, they know who they are]