Sunday, August 31, 2003

Not much time online recenty, but luckily for me my good friend The Phantom Mencap has provided me with a reminder of this classic letter that has been doing the rounds for many a month. As you might have guessed I'm still having muchness of grief with the whole NTL situation. More grief comes from the knowledge that I had no hand in the writing of this letter....

Dear Cretins,

I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your 3-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, and telephone. During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions.

Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative, and seek to rectify these difficulties - or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office.

My initial installation was canceled without warning or notice, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did not arrive at all, spent a further 57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website.... how? I alleviated the boredom to some small degree by playing with my testicles for a few minutes - an activity at which you are no-doubt both familiar and highly adept.

The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools - such as a drill-bit, and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After several further telephone calls (actually 15 telephone calls over 4 weeks) my modem arrived ... a total of six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for it. I estimate that the downtime of your internet servers is roughly 35%... these are usually the hours between about 6pm and midnight, Monday to Friday, and most of the useful periods ove the weekend.

I am still waiting for my telephone connection. I have made 9 telephone calls on my mobile to your no-help line this week, and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly skilled bollock jugglers. I have been informed that a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back), that no telephone line is available (and someone will call me back), that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off), that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been redirected to an answer machine informing me that your office is closed), that I will be ransferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman.... and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no-longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore, and also another one of those crucially important testicle-moments to attend to. Frankly I don't care, it's far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustrations in print than to shout them at your unending hold music.

Forgive me, therefore, if I continue. I thought BT were shit, that they had attained the holy piss-pot of god-awful customer relations, that no-one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That's why I chose NTL, and because, well, there isn't anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum - incompetents of the highest order. British Telecom - wankers though they are - shine like brilliant beacons of success, in the filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy.

Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest that you do likewise, and cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver - any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief - although these feelings will quickly be replaced by derision, and even perhaps a small measure of bemused rage.

I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cats litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you, and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit - they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL, and its worthless employees.

Have a nice day - may it be the last in you miserable short life, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.

Thanx Marcus

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ah-ha! Have you noticed?

Have you noticed the little link on the left column?

Had you been reading the last entry you will know.

You will know and you will look.

But you must keep it as our secret; because if everyone knows it's fiction, it will be diminished. There has got to be at least the faint possibility that it is the truth, else all wonder fails.

And without wonder there is despair.

Remember: truth is despair. Angst if you will.

Read Jean Paul Satre if you're not sure what I mean (but not before you read The Outside Man obviously).

Thursday, August 21, 2003

It is with little surprise that since this weblog began to publish stories of NTL incompetence, stories of further out[r]ages (get it? Good use of pun there I like to believe) have come snowballing in. Well, to be frank it is more of the kind of slow trickle one might experience on a windowsill after the thaw. But hey, Charging is a young beast and cannot be expected to command a Pop Idol level of public response. And for the record (and again) folks, Pop Idol is considered here to be a superficial, unsophisticated, and puerile container of other people’s toss; but yet again I digress.

For instance there is the incident of the customer who complained about the lack of signal and had to wait a total of eighteen weeks for an engineer to visit. Luckily the long-suffering NTL viewer had recognised the problem fairly quickly after reporting it, realising that it was a problem with a cable inside his house. But the NTL engineer came un-announced had a look and said “ooh, this’ll be a job for the Outside Man”. The Outside Man presumably being a strong-armed gangster contracted by NTL to look after problems such as customers who fix their own problems and then fail to cancel their request for overworked engineers (and who then reveal the engineer’s incompetence).

None of this bodes well for my particular predicament. Our free and illegal NTL signal has been suffering a bit from the extreme heat of this year’s global-warming affected summer. And on the day of the Charity, sorry, Community Shield – the first day of the new and eagerly anticipated footy season – it all collapsed fulfilling pretty much every nightmare worth sweating over. Yes, Sky Sports fell apart before our very eyes. We figured it might be the heat: our chipped cable-box went promptly into the fridge. But alas it was an external problem affecting our entire neighbourhood. I know because I asked people if they had a signal. I’m thinking that somebody will complain; but I’m also thinking that only paying customers can complain. And after having spoken to my neighbours, I’m thinking that everybody has NTL cable but no one is paying for it.

I even know what the problem is. I asked a proper non-NTL employed television engineer. Meanwhile I keep my home address secret for fear of a visit from the Outside Man in eighteen to twenty-five weeks.

But there is at least some good to come out of this experience. I now know that the most likely title of any autobiography I ever pen will surely be ‘The Outside Man’. It seems to fit somehow. Obviously I’ve got to do stuff to put in it; else I’ll make it all up Fargo style and call it the truth. I’ll never know why none of the thousands who claim to have been abducted by aliens have ever written an autobiography - possible gap in the market there me thinks. Failing that I could just reprint the archives of this blog in a decade’s time (although I’ll probably delete all the crappy little comments I’ve made within brackets that are strewn across this site).

Mm, that last paragraph gives me an excellent idea. To set up a new blog and write it as if I am in space in an alien’s craft and detail my story in a believable (to the extent that it could be) and realistic fashion. I think I might do that you know. Remember you saw it here first. And if anyone nicks this idea I’ll kill ‘em, regardless of the me stealing cable irony hypocrisy thingy.

Monday, August 11, 2003

My housemate and I are sitting out a half-year contract in our current abode. So after we realised that NTL only offered 12-month contracts, we decided not to pursue their (probably incompetent) services after all. That was despite one of their representative’s assurances that “it should be alright. We probably won’t sue you when you move out.” Yup that’s great. Thanks.

I’ve had this yearlong contract problem rise up before. On the previous occasion it was my attempt to undertake a monthly payment for unlimited Internet access with another debt-ridden and slightly less incompetent media company called Telewest. I had about seven months or so till my moving out date yet the agent seemed determined to somehow convince me to commit to 12 monthly payments. It seems that when a company finally realises that not every householder is able to undertake an entire year’s contract for a simple service, a sizable amount of money will be theirs for the taking.

It’s all due to superficial boardroom thinking of course. The fat suited ones obviously believe that such yearlong restrictions can only possibly benefit them. That same sort of thinking occurs around the probably malevolent boardroom tables of supermarket companies. They don’t like providing those smaller more useful trolleys because of their naïve belief that if you are wheeling around a big fuck-off unwieldy mother of a trolley you will want to fill it up and spend more money. What they don’t count on are the grumpy cynical bastards like me who notice their tactic and react accordingly with a steely determination to spend as little time in their money-grabbing, plasticy and hellish stores as possible. The greedy manipulative cunts that they are. But my opening gambit here is a mere digression from the main and urgently relevant topic I wish to discuss today.


It’s not that I believe they are out there or anything (belief is a strong word banded about far too regularly by people who could barely explain the first thing about the thing they claim to believe in; let alone the concept of belief itself) but I’ve been thinking that if there was a civilisation of sophisticated aliens who were aware of the existence of life on Earth, than they would almost definitely be lurking near us watching over our technological development. Because our world, presumably having developed independently from any outside influence, would represent an unbelievably large treasure trove for any alien species – even though they would be way in advance of ours. Just think: a detailed study of just our biology alone would produce original ideas worth huge amounts to any alien species. Our technology has been developed and invented completely autonomously - and in an alien way from their point of view - and would surely provide countless interesting and new concepts, ideas and spin off inventions.

So the aliens would wait nearby and watch, knowing we would make their alien version of a fortune (or newly conquered oil-producing middle eastern country). And if they wanted to they could make subtle corruptions to the flow of information around the globe to affect the results they desired. It would be in their interest to prolong our development and keep us from self-destruction because the further we came along the more we might have to offer. So for instance the Allied success in decoding the German’s communications during WWII may not have been as remarkable as we first thought. A subtle injection of a single but vitally significant key in some radio link somewhere could do the job of preventing the destructive evil of Nazism from prospering. However if and when we do make the final steps towards destruction, they would be forced to show themselves to save us and then to finally take their prize.

Hopefully they will not seek to conquer but to learn. One can only hope, but I wouldn’t put money on it. I wouldn’t even accept a sportsman’s bet on that one I’m afraid. And afraid could be the right word; if they are anything like fat boardroom types, they might consider our destruction to be a faster and simpler way to a quick buck. Shit the bed then. I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that fat boardroom types could never achieve the necessary intelligent required to evolve into a space faring species.

The aliens could happily monitor all our privately and publicly broadcasted material and would wait until we had a reliable communications network that they would then be able to participate in easily. This of course is our Internet. So they will probably be reading this very page using their version of an immense processing machine or group of analysts along with every other page published. No doubt they will have noticed that the rapid blossoming of pornography sites reflects us human’s blatant sexual repression across the board. With the aliens superior technology they would have no problems disguising their presence effectively. It’s not that they wouldn’t leave signs of their existence it’s just that they’d make us think we were seeing something else. An entry into our orbit for instance could be made to look like an asteroid impact or a nuclear test. Craters can be faked, information manipulated. They could pluck one of our space probes out of the sky to examine and easily make it look like a reasonably explained mechanical failure.

And if one looks at the record of probes sent to Mars, just a few too many have failed. So I’m thinking that they may be hiding with Mars being used as a blind between them and us. There are a few more probes heading towards the red planet as I write this. Watch them potentially tumble into disaster this winter.

But as we develop they won’t be able to reliably keep themselves secret for too much longer. So reveal themselves they soon must. And as the Internet grows in importance and size so their power to affect themselves upon our world balloons. It is the tool they need to facilitate an increasingly greater amount of control over our information ebbs and flows, and so they can then do things that they previously could not. This should already be happening. The final pieces are surely being moved into place. Perhaps soon they will covertly approach an open minded human and they will whisk him or her off in their vehicle to converse with for a few years and learn yet more. It would be an historic and risky moment but a precursor to the huge revelation of their existence. (You read it here first folks.)

And since there is even the vanishingly tiny possibility that I’ve hit the nail on the head concerning all of this, I’m hoping they’ll see what I’ve written here and choose me. Just imagine all the women who will want to sleep with me after I return. The chat shows would be all over me – naturally I’d turn them all down. Neil Armstrong would be like a children’s television presenter when compared to my fame and world importance… HA HA HA HA HA HA… I’d have to watch my comments for fear of upsetting religious types of course. That would be hard, but I’d take the duty seriously. The Daily Mail will inevitably invent some horrible and morally reprehensible story about me, and link me with the Trotskyite movement somehow but I’d be so popular the hoarding masses would tear down their offices and lynch the meaty right-wing lunatics within (well, one can but dream). Presuming we were not the victims of an interstellar pogrom, there will be kids reading about me in a Millennia’s time and stuff. Marvellous.

Come on aliens, I must be impressing with all this. Beam me up and project me into world stardom and threesomes with beautiful women - alas I cannot afford the plastic surgery to achieve that on my own (today’s society is oh so superficial).


Friday, August 01, 2003

I continue to wait for NTL’s response to my request to become a member of their obviously exclusive club of paying customers. So I come before you now with the intention of enlarging this current period of alternative Charging Through The Midfield entertainment. That is, with no time to surf and thus unable to proffer the usual linkage fantastico, please find this text-only entry as my gift to you. And a fine gift it very much is.

And with gifts very much at the top of my mind, I will now strive to meander my way through some sort of gift-related piece of writing.

Um… Well, here is me believing I can choose a subject matter at random and then write entertaining prose for public consumption without any prior planning or ideas. And naturally I’m failing miserably. Of course there is much I can write on the subject of gifts, but it is mightily dull fare. For instance this weekend is my housemate’s girlfriend’s birthday and the dilemma that looms (well, “looms” is a bit hyperbolic really but it makes for a more interesting read don’t you think?) before me is at what level of gift (or even mere acknowledgement) I should be striving for (too many bracketed comments in this sentence by far). By level I mean - and I ask you to at this point to correspond with me here regarding the actual boredom you experience here - this:

There is the top level of course, which is always reserved for one’s partner. This is a breaking of the bank arrangement and the gift equivalent of the US military’s DEFCOM 1. Any given person will always be prepared to strive higher and higher in order to show a loved one (who can realistically leave you at the drop of a hat should you fail to butter on enough attention) what they mean. Not preparing a gift for such an event is the personal equivalent of a state accidentally dropping its entire nuclear arms cache on another bigger and richer country containing lots of religious zealots who have just slightly different religious beliefs (massively different and it wouldn’t be so bad; it’s the ones that differ only fractionally that hate you the most). So quite bad then.

Next in the hierarchy is the parent’s gift. Instead of the sole emotional necessity to keep one’s lover close to you, here the motivation is also a moral one. It would be simply wrong not to present a gift for a parent’s birthday (unless they’re estranged of course – if so, fuck ‘em in the ear). However failure to do so would probably not result in a catastrophic abandonment by your parent of you. Although be warned that repeat offences will result in many minutes of upset pleas and questioning. Basically though, this is another must-buy gift situation. Not buying a parent’s gift is the state equivalent of an all-out trade war and diplomatic fall-out. Highly damaging, concerning, and liable to take up lots of emotional energy. But usually alright in the end with only the tiny danger of things going completely tits up should foolish action continue unabated.

Below this comes a sibling’s birthday. Some would put this close to the level of parent’s. Not me however. My brother and I have a long-standing agreement that we needn’t bother buying each other presents. We can realistically put the money to better use by purchasing for ourselves (this point drives a stake square into the philosophical heart of the matter of gift purchasing, but we’ll smoothly glide past this with only this tangent as a healthy nod toward the real cornerstone of the issue at hand). The illusion or reality of fairness is of paramount importance when it comes to relationships between siblings. So bit of an odd one this. But my brother’s existence is important to me and thus the position of this category remains high. Although I buy no gift, it is still vitally important that the situation is squared one way or another. Not buying your sibling a gift without some sort of arrangement of equality is the state equivalent of a particular Government falling out with its religious leadership. Ties usually get repaired in the end else you end up casting the whole relationship into the dustbin; but if you let it get to that stage you obviously never gave a fuck anyway so why worry?

Now come your friends. The question here is what import do you give the gifts that you receive yourself. If you buy generous gifts, you will be very likely to get equally generous presents in return. And this arrangement can be applied across almost every adjective. You go for imagination and you increase the likelihood of receiving a gift borne out of your friend’s imagination somewhere later down the line. So if you hate receiving books, don’t bloody buy them for all your friends first. Of course you want your gifts to your friends to be an embodiment of your friendship, so they are important. But failure to buy coupled with a reasonable excuse will lever you out of the situation nicely enough; not like in bastard category 1 (despite what your partner may publicly claim). Failure to buy a friend’s gift is the state equivalent of arresting and trying a foreigner from a country with an active media in dodgy circumstances and for murky reasons. You can probably get away with it then, but you will not be a popular bunny. And you’ll never hear the cunting end of it.

Another consideration must be bloody kids. The self-centred little fuckers always expect a whole array of presents when their birthday comes rolling around. And how is it possible that their day of the year appears to occur more frequently than your own? You don’t have to be a close relative or friend to feel the pressure of the present buying situation here. If somehow you’ve been dragged out to be with them at any point during their birthday week you’d better be carrying a gift, else be prepared for silent and unspoken grumbling from child and parent. Luckily however the little cunt will probably be satisfied with some cheap shit you picked up from Woolworth’s (unless you’re the child’s parent or grandparent of course. Bwahahahahaha!!!). Not bringing a gift is the state equivalent of closing the pits and putting everyone out of work. Not popular, not pleasant, but you get the feeling that you’ve done the spoilt brat a favour in the long run and everyone will forget your foul deeds soon enough.

Finally comes “accomplices”. That is the term I have decided to use and stick with it I will. Now “accomplices” represents a whole rainbow of those people in your life who are not represented in the categories above. Neighbours, work colleagues, teachers, distant relations etc. And just because this is the final and lowliest category does not mean the people within it are unworthy or not liked. This is a list of people to buy gifts for remember. Small tokens of your acknowledgement of their birthday should be enough - often expressed in the form of the classical birthday drink. Marvelous. Of course the danger is that the person you regard as nothing more than an accomplice regards you as a fully blown paid-up member of the friends category. So they’ll be pretty peeved to discover you’ve only given them an accomplice offering. Sadly where to place people in these categories is wholly down to you. Charging does not accept any responsibility for any crap you may experience should you blunder. Failure to offer up gifts to your accomplices is the state equivalent of the Government not providing a spokesperson on the BBC’s political discussion show “Question Time”. No one will care but even those lonely and sad enough to notice will forget within the hour.

There is another category. Hatred gifts. Filling a brown paper bag with dog shit, putting it on your enemy’s front step and setting it on fire before ringing the doorbell is such a hatred gift. Failure to occasionally serve up a hatred gift is the state equivalent of not declaring a pointless war in order to satisfy your arms dealer and oil baron sponsors. Everyone will like you, but you may not get very far. Think about it: arms have a shelf life of about 9 years anyway so if you dump them on a country once every decade that war is practically free. Likewise, dog shit is also free, so why not put it to good use?

For the record, my housemate’s girlfriend falls between accomplice and friend. So I shall be providing a gift this year, or at the very least a nicely written card. Not doing so would be the state equivalent of not providing a fireworks display on New Years Eve. I wouldn’t attain popularity or gratitude, but everybody will be far too intoxicated to spare even a second’s thought on the matter anyway.