Category Archives: ranting

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day Nine

Pet Peeves

This must be the third post that has asked for me to complain. Not that I am complaining about being invited to complain, as I like to complain.

Reality Television

Reality television is formulaic, and here are some examples.
Kitchen Nightmares has an ironic title, since each the first third of each show features Chef Ramsay and his Nightmare on Elm Street face march forth in order that they may find some restaurant problems. Into the second third of the show, and we are greeted by Ramsay yelling at people and interspersed external shots where, in a voice at least two octaves higher, he whines in bewilderment, safely out of earshot.
WAIT! We’re reaching the end and suddenly the restaurant owner decides they don’t see it Ramsay’s way anymore – cut to commercials!!!
The first third of a property show has an annoying couple looking to buy a home that they almost certainly don’t deserve. They have high expectations, but they are not willing to spend any money. We reach the second third of the show, the search for a property is about to begin and every God-damned show features the line: “It will be a challenge to find a home that fits their budget”.
TIME FOR A TALENT SHOW!!! It could be a cooking show, or one of the 500 singing contests, but whichever it is, there is a middle-aged person blabbering on about how tough their parents had it. BLAH BLAH BLAH. You’re a baby-boomer, of course they did.

Manicures on Public Transit

A few days ago, there was a bad snow storm. My journey ended up taking about an hour-and-a-half when it would normally take about 20 minutes. It seemed more like five hours, owing to the woman beside me deciding that she could make better use of this time by filing her finger nails beside me. Each stroke of the nail led to and elbow in my side. It was like sitting next to Vanessa Mae, except much less sexy.


I hate horses. But they can be pets, so I am including them as a pet peeve. Being honest, I am actually terrified of horses. They know I am, they react to my fear, and that, in turn, is why I hate them. There is no worse an animal to have around in an emergency situation. Imagine a fire in a stable. The horse is going to kick out at you, wild-eyed, and break your spine before it craps down its own backside and then runs into a wall and breaks all four of its own legs. A cockroach would be more use. I don’t understand the high-esteem that horses are held in, unless you particularly like the glue made from their bones after they have been involved in a hapless accident. With all the saddles, blinders, reigns and such, maybe it’s a fetish.

Vanessa Mae is a violinist
Blinders are sometimes known as blinkers

How To Ride a TTC Bus

ttc busOr: How to be a civil human-being and not a [Am:E] Douche bag / [Br:E] Bell-end.

  • There are not dragons at the back of the bus. You will not be eaten or flambéed if you stand in the aisle between the rear seats. Stop staring dispassionately ahead while people, just as desperate to get home as you are, stand in the cold as the driver feebly begs “folks, please move back”. It is not a stand-off. Just because you are concentrating furiously on dismissing your surroundings, it doesn’t make those left behind at the bus-stop any less human (or and less victims of your dickishness).

UK Bus

  • This is how you sit on a bus where there are two unoccupied seats. This picture was taken in England and is not an exception, it is how civilised people sit in a way that makes the outside seat available. How DARE you sit on the outside to dissuade people from sitting down? How DARE you sigh and tut and generally make a fuss if someone says “excuse me”. EXCUSE YOU, PRICK.
    There were riots throughout England a few months after this picture was taken, but at least they know how to sit on a bus. And unless your shopping bag has a Metropass, I don’t want to see it sitting beside you.
  • Don’t stand in the middle of the aisle in a passive-aggressive stance like the big “I Am” and then bitch and complain because someone barged into you, intentionally or otherwise. You are not the gatekeeper of the rear doors, you are a self-important pussy that should stand aside or walk and not demand an interaction from everyone that needs to pass without wanting to look at your gormless face.
  • Learn to queue. If someone is stood waiting at the bus-stop, stand behind or beside them (don’t block the [Am:E] sidewalk [Br:E] pavement). Exception: If you are stood in the bus shelter, you are not in-line. I assume the reason it is called a line-up over here is because, like a line-up in the UK (i.e. an identity parade), there’s always at least one criminal.
  • Stop using the rear doors after a snow storm when snow banks have accumulated, dummy. Don’t you remember the snow banks being there when you boarded 10 minutes ago? Or were you too busy staring passively into your phone’s display of your Facebook timeline filled with videos of singing goats and photos of girls’ cleavages hanging like meat in a butcher’s window suspended in time, forever. Yes, girls. Your tits. On a hard-drive in a Facebook data centre in Oregon. Forever. You can delete them from the album, but they’re still stored. Forever.
  • Did you just fully watch your stupid valley-girl girlfriend alight and jam the rear doors into a snowbank? Did you watch how the driver got up, walked outside the bus to the doors and try to close them, fail and return to the driver’s sear? If so, why scream “Errrr, like, what the f**k?” when the lights go out because he is clearly restarting the engine to reset the doors?
    Is it because you were taking a “selfie” at an angle that happens to cause the curvature of your cellphone’s camera lens at the frame to exaggerate the size of your tits? Thought so.
  • Each time you under-pay your fare by dropping a fist-full of low value coins into the fare box or you come up with some pitiful excuse not to pay that the driver can’t be arsed to argue with, you are stealing from everyone on that bus. Not that you give a f**k.

I’m done now.

Kultura Restaurant

KulturaIn what seems like a lifetime ago, but was in fact only January, my wife saw an offer on the discount coupon website-come-smartphone-app Groupon. $69 for a “four-course global tasting menu for two”. With a keen eye for a bargain at the best of times, a 60-70% saving could not possibly be ignored. She bought the “groupon” which had to be used by September.

Fast forward to the present. I have just returned home from the worst dining experience of my life. This is not Groupon’s fault, but if this was supposed to be a deal for some kind of intentionally terrible ironic restaurant, where everything goes wrong on purpose, an ill-advised and utterly bonkers themed eatery of some kind, it would have been perfect.

To begin, I have to go back exactly one week to the previous Wednesday. My wife Sara and i made our way into downtown Toronto to Kultura restaurant near the intersection of King and Jarvis. We had an early booking for 5.30pm and we had arrived a little early, so we walked around the block (twice) to kill time. On returning, although dark inside, we saw that there were people at a table, but when I tried the door I found it locked. Shortly, a girl opened it. After asking if we had a reservation (“Yes”), we were told that the restaurant was “closed until friday due to technical difficulties in the kitchen”, which we took to mean that the chef had walked out. Turns out the people around the table were not satisfied customers chowing but probably disgruntled servers and front of house staff. I hope that they didn’t have our phone number or email address, because if they did, they didn’t use them to tell us they were closed and we wasted a journey. I didn’t say anything as she closed the door, partly shocked, partly because I am an archetypical Brit who is culturally predisposed to not making a scene.

Sara contacted Groupon and we were offered the chance to go back. I was less than keen on this idea. They had had their chance. Another of my cultural dispositions (or is it just a character flaw?) is to sulk brilliantly. A McDonald’s once refused me entry when I just wanted to use the washroom because, in that instance, I was not a customer. Nevermind the 100’s of times I had been in the past, such as the time their Kidderminster branch held my 10th birthday party where half the kids in my class came along. Well, I went on to boycott McDonald’s for some 3 years. I digress…

We returned to Kultura tonight (22nd Aug). I was over joyed to find that the door was unlocked and could barely contain myself when we were greeted, taken to our seats and promptly served water and cocktails. I had a B52 Expressolini and Sara had a Sparkling Tropics. We would each have a second, because the website menu and the reservation confirmation both said that cocktails are half price before 7pm, costing $6 instead of $12.

We had arrived at 5.50pm, 10 minute early. There were four courses. Before my first course arrived, our server returned to inform me that I would have to change my second course, as they didn’t have any sushi tonight. I chose something else. After 40 minutes, my first course arrived. It was Beef Tartar presented in what they triumphantly described and I would optimistically describe as spring rolls. I didn’t start my food as my wife’s Oysters had not arrived, but after 5-10 minutes my hunger and preference for warm food out-weighed the remains of my manners. Perhaps, I reasoned, the Oysters were being dredged up from Lake Ontario.

Dishes continued to alternate in this manner for the rest of the night. I would get a course and finish it before Sara would receive hers. It wasn’t until the second course that we realised that this was by design. Everyone was being treated this way, unless both parties ordered the same food, in which case, it would arrive together. I don’t know if they intended for us to share our food or if they knew they couldn’t keep up in the kitchen and to hell with it. Perhaps it is an experiment in a new dining experience where your partner gets to appraise the manner in which you eat while they wait.

The manager had made an appearance at this stage. He seemed to be interviewing someone, perhaps about the Kultura website, we weren’t sure. The manager, even after the interviewee had left, appeared oblivious to the dissatisfaction. The website should have been his least concern.

Averaging at one course per hour, my Tofu Thai Curry (rather than Sushi) arrived, and it was bland. Very average. I’ve had food-court meals better than this. But I was lucky. There are plenty of reviews slagging off the sushi. Sara’s second course was Scallops, which took even longer to arrive than any previous serving. It gave us plenty of time to reflect on the music that was playing. An elaborate mixing desk with two record players was situated behind me, though it was playing a mix CD with about seven songs on it, including an awful remix of Empire State of Mind and some other track that would always skip before the CD restarted. We had heard each song about 5 times by now. I understand it is supposed to be a leisurely experience, that’s what fine dining is. But this was all fine and no dine.

Anyone newly entering the restaurant was left waiting for up to 10 minutes before being seated. People in the restaurant were beginning to get visibly agitated by this stage, albeit in a kind of whimsical disbelief, possibly almost extending to a Blitz spirit. We’re stuck in here, there’s no escape, might as well make the best of it. Patrons began conspiring amongst each other, whispering conspiratorially about how awful it was before quickly zipping quiet when a server would eventually arrive. I can guarantee that if we were in England at this stage, the eventual arrival of each course would be greeted by the sound of jeers and sarcastic applause.

Just as I thought there might be an uprising, complaints started to be verbalised to the staff. A couple beside us complained about the slow arrival of courses. Their “Cornish Hen” then arrived undercooked. They left the restaurant refusing to pay any extra beyond what they had already paid for their Groupon (tax is not included in Groupons and nor are tips or any extras you order, like drinks). As they left, they turned to us and wished us luck.

The third course arrives and Sara has taken the lead! Her Mushroom Orecchiette arrives after another hour or so. We now begin to share food, mostly to relieve the boredom of whoever didn’t get served. This was supposed to be a signature dish. The pasta tasted of old water to me. Sara felt there was too much cheese, and she love cheese. She has Montreal genes in her, for goodness’ sake. There was a bizarre addition of chutney which didn’t so much pleasingly contrast with the cheese as was probably intended, so much as unpleasantly declare war on each other in your mouth.

Mistakes start to happen, perhaps as the staff are now under extra pressure. Two separate tables receive the same course twice. The table beside us (the female has already introduced herself as Claire who just moved from Hamilton) receive one of their second courses before their first course. Claire, upon finding out that Sara is from Toronto, asks her for recommendations for any GOOD restaurants.

My “Cornish Hen” arrives and it’s pretty miserable. The vegetables are overcooked and mushy enough to please a baby. Even as an amateur ornithologist, I am underwhelmed by this sorry bird.

Glorified TimbitsThe longest and most painful wait is for dessert. Sara was served first. It took 50 minutes for the “dish” to arrive. It was 4-5 cinnamon “timbits” with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces which just didn’t taste good. The regular price for this dish is $7. My dessert took an additional 25 minutes. The couple who’d arrived before us were finally leaving. The lady placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder and wished us luck. The lava cake arrived in a plastic container and I have to assume it was microwaved. Banana tempura was overly mushy. Ice cream was simply lame. I tasted each and left it. It was clear we were annoyed at this stage. Our server had made eye-contact with Sara several times over the long wait. She asked if we would like complimentary champagne. I declined. An older couple was sat behind us. They had faces like thunder, but not the temperate kind. They had faces like the kind of thunder only experienced within the red-eye of the planet Jupiter.

The bill arrived and we were told that one each of our drinks had been taken off. The bill was $55 (in addition to the $69 Groupon). Two drinks had indeed been taken off, but we had been charged full-price for the others instead of the advertised half-price before 7pm. Sara mentioned it and they said it was because we had a Groupon. I understand not combining offers, but we should have been told. They offered to make them half-price but I cannot explain how overwhelming the desire to leave was. Charges and tax would have to be recalculated. We had been imprisoned for 3 hours and 40 minutes. We paid the bill, which already included a 20% tip!!!

We have had good experiences with Groupon before, but they need to cancel this contract for the sake of their name. While we don’t blame them, it also doesn’t reflect well on them. Unless you are a sadomasochist or have a twisted sense of humour and more money than sense, avoid Kultura.

Canadian Cellphone Networks Suck

Canadian cellphone networks suck harder than a barrel full of leeches at the end of a Guinness World Record Setting hunger strike. They suck harder than a prostitute starfish. They are the black holes of suckerdom. They suck.

There are three national cellphone network operators in Canada, although this definition of ‘national’ might seem strange to anyone who has ever had exposure to a dictionary or an education. I don’t want to get too embroiled in this, but it’s a bold statement when a typical coverage map looks like the one below.

Cellphone Coverage Map Canada

Coverage from one of the "National" cellphone providers in Canada.

Here are some policies that are fairly standard in Canada:

  • Pre-paid (or Pay-As-You-Go) customers must top up every month. If they don’t, they are cut off and lose any credit they had. Even if it’s hundreds of dollars.
  • Pre-paid customers (on some networks) pay for incoming text messages.
  • Any vaguely desirable phone will typically require a three year contract
  • Voicemail tends to cost extra. As much as $10 a month.
  • Some networks charge a monthly “Network Access Fees”, or to quote the Chairman of Wind mobile, “nonsense fees for fictitious network services”.
  • Locking phones to networks still happens 100% of the time
  • Data roaming is essentially legalised theft. Typically around $30 for a MB without a plan, it would cost you around $2.50 to read the front page of this website.
  • Many functions that should be included as part of any data plan, tend to cost extra. Tethering, for example. Even paying for data on some pre-pay plans only entitles you to use WAP, not full browsing.
  • Many applications on the iPhone simply will not work over 3g (such as Facetime) or they are scaled back. For example, no HD video on Youtube and Skype is throttled to reduce the call quality to make you consider making a phone call instead.



Facetime: But not on 3G in Canada

So what is the problem? In my opinion, Canada is in this funny position where they’re not quite committed to a USA style open market where customers decide which companies live and die by choosing their network carefully and letting the bad ones rot. Neither is Canada particularly committed to a European style regulated market with competition rules and consumer protection.

Anecdotally, I have seen a dispiritedly large number of Canadians fighting on messageboards for an open market. The problem is that there just isn’t enough competition between the big three telcos for this to be viable. And anytime the Government creates space in the marketplace for new companies (by selling radio spectrum), the big three telcos go crying about how unfair it all is or how foreign those new funny networks are. And mummy Government listens to them.

Canada doesn’t seem to want to regulate. But it’s not as though they never do. For example, the cost of buying out of a contract used to be ludicrous. Now it is just mildly ludicrous, because there are limits to what the networks can charge. The reasons that the Canadian government don’t want to regulate… Well, the current (Conservative) government probably doesn’t believe in it. Also, they are weak under the pressure of the crying big three telcos.

The Industry Minister, the honourable Tony Clement, is the man who should be on the side of the consumer against the behaviour of the telcos. However, he seems unwilling to help for much of the time, and when he was recently caught on camera by CBC’s “Canada’s Worst Cellphone Bill”, he seemed downright arrogant and dismissive. Who the fuck votes for this joker?

It would be libellous for me to say that he is being bribed by the cellphone networks, but it is interesting to note that he has received donations for his election campaign (as Conservative MP for Parry Sound) from the big three telcos. $5,000 from Telus, $12,500 from Rogers and $20,000 from Bell.

Canadian cellphone networks suck so much because there is nobody on the side of the consumer. Although I’m considering moving to Parry Sound to vote for anyone but Tony Clement. Anyone willing to donate to my cause?

Except for the Telcos, I mean.

Cellphone Retailer Spoke To Me

Cell Phone Man Rant

Canadian Cell Phone Industry: Infuriating.

I’m in a slightly confused position. You may have been on my website a few days ago, where I posted about some treatment that I received at the hands of a cellphone retailer. I have since been contacted by a representative from that company, but I will come to that.

The original story concerned how I received some poor customer service when I visited the company’s Scarborough Town Centre location in Ontario. It’s a long story. If you read my original post, then you know the story. If you didn’t read it, I’ve now taken it down. I will explain why in a moment. Essentially, I feel as though several details of an expensive, long-term contract were verbally mis-sold to me. I trusted what the sales person was telling me, and signed the contract on that basis. Yes, I should have read it first, but my trust was also abused.

A link to my post was retweeted several times on Twitter (and thank you to those of you that retweeted). I spoke to Daniel. I’m not sure he read my original post. The poor guy was on vacation and, from what I could gather, he had been alerted to my blog via email – probably because the companies head office saw it on Twitter. The conversation was amicable, although brief. I was finishing up at work when he called, so I had to cut it short.

But now I’m in a quandary. In the phone call, Daniel said that he wanted to make things right. He offered to compensate me financially for my poor experience. I didn’t agree to anything and said I would call back. I haven’t called back, and I don’t think I will. I’m not entirely sure what the BEST thing to do is, but here is what I AM going to do:

First of all, I won’t be taking any money from the company. That might seem strange to some people. Many people would probably take the money. At no time did Daniel say to me that a condition of accepting compensation is that I must take the post down, but I know that is what would be expected. I know that is the unwritten rule of this kind of situation. The problem is that I do not want to be paid off. It just isn’t principled.

But what to do about the original article? Should I leave it up? It IS a genuine reflection of what happened. I did get poor service. Is it fair to the cellphone retailer? That’s hard to say. I got bad service on my visit. Every other person that visited that day might have had wonderful service. I work retail and I know that it happens. On that basis, should my post, which spread around the net a bit, remain online forever, hurting their reputation and their business? Some would say yes, some would say no. Well…

Ten or so years ago, my experience would have been restricted to being shared amongst my friends. It would not have travelled very far, unless it was a massive deal and the media were interested. What happened to me was a fairly big deal, but not a massive deal by any means.

My experience has already travelled quite far. People have gotten to hear about it. Maybe it doesn’t need to spread any further. Therefore, although still angry and let down by them, I have taken the original post down.

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

Perhaps I’m being stupid. The retailer are willing to compensate me. They (probably) want the article to be taken down so maybe I should take whatever I can get from them. If I take it down and get nothing from them, except a call from Daniel telling me that he wants to make things right, does that make me dumb? Maybe. But… they can’t really make things right with me.

All I can say is that I feel like taking it down is The Right Thing To Do and I feel that taking any compensation from them to then take it down would not be principled and it would compromise anything I have to say on these pages from now on.

I won’t likely deal with them again. They can keep the money. My catharsis will probably be writing an article about the condition of the Canadian cellphone industry in general, at some point 😉

The Haunted is a Ridiculous Movie

The Haunted is a ridiculous movie

The Haunted: Ridiculous

If you can find this ludicrous made-for-tv movie from 1991, and there are a lot of movies with similar titles, then you should take a look – provided you have the kind of patience you might expect from Christ on day 39 of his 40 day sojourn into the wilderness.

The film is, supposedly, based on a true story. It follows the Smurl family, Jack and Janet along with their kids and parents, as they move into a new home. As they renovate the building, it becomes apparent that they have awoken dormant spirits and a particularly horny and ill-mannered demon, that subsequently haunt the bejeezus out of the family. At one point in the film, the demon rapes Jack. Really. Based on a true story, as I say.

The Haunted Rape Scene

The Meatloaf in drag look

When this rape-age took place, I had no idea of who the hell the female playing the demon was and thought at first it might be Jack’s daughter, in some kind of perverse twist to the narrative. Except that Jack’s daughter was mundanely attractive in previous scenes and this demon is offensive looking in a Meatloaf in drag kind of way. The storyline was already flat-lining by this point, so I considered the possibility that an incestuous rape scene might have been added just to check if the censors had made it this far. But, alas, it was a demon. The scene can be seen here, until it is taken down: (don’t watch if you are really, really easily offended, but honestly, it’s just as daft as spanners).

Anyway, the spirits and demons become increasingly restless, culminating in the rape but starting off by unexpectedly moving things around when people aren’t looking. You know, in that futile and inexplicable way that ghosts do. Exorcisms offer limited relief from the disturbances and the family eventually move. BUT! They are followed by the evil entities. The film ends in an abrupt manner with a white-on-black textual explanation as to how things ended for the Smurl family. Answer: lamely.

The special effects shine through the movie like a black hole in space and the acting, well, there isn’t any. The line of the film comes from Jack, when he realises that a spirit is touching Janet’s leg in an indecent manner during the night. He addresses said spirit with an unconvincing yet brilliant “Stop it you! Just….stop it – right now!”

Actually, it is the interaction between Jack (Jeffery Demunn – yes, like demon) and Janet (Sally Kirkland who has been in other things and must therefore be great) that make the movie so excruciating, embarrassing and yet hilarious. The only movie that makes me cringe more than this one is Cabin Fever which tries to be ironically terrible but misses the mark so completely that it is just terribly terrible.