Thursday, April 25, 2024

Born yesterday - the unwary customer

 Big companies treat us like idiots and should be treated likewise.
When they put their prices up annually, by inflation plus whatever number they can think of, or when they renew a subscription assuming you won’t query the direct debit, they rely on the fact that most of us can’t be bothered to query the new price and we will simply accept the increase without doing anything about it.
This is not the way to treat loyal customers but it happens all the time.
On four occasions recently I have baulked at the latest impost and, by cancelling or haggling, discovered these price increases are nonsensical attempts to rip-off the unwary.
For instance, Vodafone announced my charge was going up £2 a month to £27. A lengthy, painful phone call involving two separate departments eventually led to a charge of £12 a month with 5 gigabytes of data instead of 2.
The Daily Telegraph on line soared from £39 a year to over £180. I cancelled the subscription and was immediately offered the original deal for another year.
Norton, the anti-virus scam, came down from £100 a year to £40 after I rejected their price increase (apparently it's only £14 at Currys - so much for loyalty).
Meanwhile, in biggest scam yet, Sky said our TV and broadband package would go from £84 a month to £125.
After many negotiations and hours on the phone, they offered us the same deal for £110, then £100 if we took their new Sky Glass TV and eventually – when it was too late – they tried £90 a month without a new telly.
Instead, we cancelled the subscription (we were out of contract) and we’ve bought exactly the same package through Currys for just £64.50 a month.
Admittedly there is a danger that the transfer won’t go smoothly and we could end up without broadband for a while. It’s not concluded yet so there is always a chance this will fail one way or another.
Especially as the new deal means they insist on replacing a perfectly decent router and Sky box and propose sending someone out to do the work at their expense (on a Bank Holiday Monday) so it will be unnecessarily costly for them.
But it’s their own fault.
The helpful Sky call centre chap said Currys shouldn’t be making us offers like that but the fault lies not with Currys but with Sky’s nonsensical rip-off price rises.
Sadly, you just can’t trust any of these shysters. Doubtless other scamsters are playing the same game.


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Jethro Tull = screaming agony


WANTED for murder: Ian Anderson, singer, flautist and only constant in the band Jethro Tull. The crime: Murder of a much-loved classic.

We saw Jethro Tull at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and, had it been possible to do so without disturbing half a row of geriatric fans like myself, we’d have left long before “Locomotive Breath” finally chugged into view.

This was supposed to a celebration of Tull’s seven decades in the music business but the result was a torture session in which we were obliged to listen to Anderson’s greatest flops.

Almost all the songs from Tull’s 1970s heyday were omitted (if you must, you can check out the setlist here), replaced by apocalyptic dirges, inaudible lyrics and interminable flute solos performed by someone so well past his prime it was embarrassing to witness.

The first, short, half included “Heavy Horses” and “Good Morning Weathercock” as well as “BourĂ©e” but other than that it was a flat five out of ten. We hoped for better from part two and were bitterly disappointed.

The last straw was the extensive, pointless, tuneless, gabbling drivel which preceded a perfunctory rendition of “Aqualung”. This was, supposedly, the culmination of the performance. Thesong, one of Tull’s bona fide five-star classics, was positively murdered. It was lamentable, awful, I could have cried.

By the time we got “Locomotive Breath” as an encore, I and many others had lost interest. I couldn’t bring myself even to applaud the end of the show – though in retrospect perhaps I should have clapped to celebrate the end of this hideous ordeal.

Sadly, this concert had determined me in the view that it is no longer worth attending any gig, concert or performance given by any artist or band older than me. It’s just so unutterably disappointing.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Taking the taxpayers for idiots

 Just heard two whingeing luvvies on BBC Radio 4 blaming ‘Government’ (ie those wicked Tories) for the ‘lack of funding’ which means Birmingham Rep is to receive no grant from the city council this year.

Truth is the city has itself, Tony Blair and the unions  to blame for its terrible financial crisis. The councillors involved should be surcharged and made bankrupt for their sheer incompetence. Residents should refuse to accept the planned 21 per cent rise in council tax until those responsible are properly held to account by being made personally bankrupt.

The Government is not to blame and when it comes to theatre subsidies, why does The Rep deserve special treatment? Perhaps putting on a few plays people actually wanted to see might make a change. As Samuel Johnson said:

‘The drama’s laws the drama’s patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live.’

The time has come for the luvvies to stop whingeing, wringing their hands and blaming everyone else. Perhaps they could make a decent drama out of this crisis - or is that beyond them?

A quick glance at what's on there at the moment suggests that it is: 'Tales Till Ramadan', 'Bhangra Nation' and 'Black is the Color (sic) of My Voice' not to mention 'Emma Rice's Blue Beard' (a 'celebration of female power... a music-fuelled feminist revenge plot') suggests it's unlikely the luvvies will have 'em queuing round the block with or without their bung from the council.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Met Office makes a splash - BBC gets a soaking

 I know you can't trust the BBC but, since they ditched the Met Office, they can't even get the weather forecast right. Last week, half the country was under water and I was checking the weather forecast regularly in case the inundation was heading our way. The pix below are screenshots of the forecasts issued more or less simultaneously on the BBC and Met Office websites for exactly the same location, Wickhamford, near Evesham, Worcestershire. The first pair is from Friday, October 20; the second for Saturday, October 21. Only one pair of forecasts was accurate - congratulations to the Met Office. Shame on the BBC.

Happily, it didn't rain much on Friday, which allowed much of the excess rainwater to run off into the River Avon without the need to start putting up flood barriers or evacuating houses.

The same can be said for the following day:

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Talktalk won't talk - or listen

Recently, I wrote this letter to the Head of Complaints, CEO's Office, TalkTalk (CEO), PO Box 672, Salford, M5 0NG and another one a few days later. They are self-explanatory, though not, apparently, to Talktalk:

Letter 1:

About a year ago, I spent three hours talking to your customer services department hoping to persuade them to stop sending me monthly bills which increased by £5 each time for an email service I cancelled at least three years ago. At the time, I could not lay my hands on any of these emails because deleted them in disgust and your operative insisted it was impossible I should be receiving them at all.

Since then, I continue to receive them every month. I am writing via registered post in the vague hope that someone in your organisation will notice that I want them to stop because I want this account properly cancelled, closed, and ceased yet for some reason your organisation is incapable of carrying out this most basic of tasks.

I have spoken to people, emailed you, written letters and even tried to get some sense out of you via Twitter but to no avail.

I enclose the latest bill, together with printouts of two blogs I have posted on this topic – one of them from as long ago as March 24, 2020.

Letter 2:

Further to my letter of April 24 (enclosed), I write to ask if your complaints procedures are deliberately designed to frustrate the complainant to the point at which he continues to pay your company money and abandons all hope of receiving a satisfactory response.

On Saturday, April 29, I received at 10.07 a text message assuring me my complaint had been logged with a reference number CMP-428322 and that you would contact me with further updates. At 16.22 you sent a second message promising to call me between 12.00 and 14.00. You did not say on what day this call would take place.

Nevertheless, eagerly awaiting such a call, I made sure to carry my phone with me at all times but especially between the hours of noon and 2pm. Today, at 14.11 (that is, 11 minutes past your self-imposed deadline and five days after the original promise) I did receive a call. The conversation went thus:

Talktalk: I am calling about your complaint.

NH: You were supposed to have called on Saturday.

Talktalk: You want us to call you on Saturday?

NH: No, I was just saying that is when I expected your call.

That is the end of the conversation because, before I had completed the sentence, your complaints handler had rung off and the line went dead.

Since then, I have received two emails, sent at 14.36 and 14.39.  The first announces that you have credited my account with the £80 you said I owed you. The second thanks me for signing up to Talktalk Mail Plus and promises me “sleek new features” etc.

You then sent me a text message at 15.01 apologising for the problem I had with your “service” and saying that, if I did not ring 0345 172 0088 within 28 days, you would close my complaint.

Then I received a message timed at 15.17 announcing my complaint had been closed.

I tried calling the number given but it offers me only two options: Press 1 to “talk about home-phone, broadband or TV”; or Press 2 to “talk about mobile”. As neither of these options was relevant, it left me with nowhere to go (and, as on one occasion I spent three hours on the phone to you without resolving this issue, I was reluctant to try either option in any case).

Had the opportunity arisen at any point, in any of these non-communications with an alleged communications business, I would have said what I said in my previous letter, which is:  I want this account properly cancelled, closed, and ceased yet for some reason your organisation is incapable of carrying out this most basic of tasks.

It is still incapable of this simple task and I am in despair.


Monday, April 24, 2023

ChatGPT? More lie CrapGPT

 Apparently Cambridge University students and, doubtless, many others are using ChatGPT to write their essays for them. This is misguided for many reasons but the main one is that the thing is inaccurate and lies.

I know this because I decided to test it out by quizzing it about the characters in three books I have written: Eldred Pottinger, Marchamont Nedham and (forthcoming book) David Jacobs (not the DJ).

Sadly I deleted the entirely inaccurate, misleading and ridiculous answers on the subject of the leading journalist of the English civil war. But here are my conversations with ChatGBP on the other two subjects:

Me: Who was Eldred Pottinger?

ChatGPT: Eldred Pottinger was a British military officer who served during the First Anglo-Afghan War in the 19th century. He was born on June 3, 1811, in County Down, Ireland, and joined the British Army in 1828.

Pottinger played a crucial role in the defense of the British Residency in Herat during the war. In 1838, he was appointed as the assistant to the British envoy to Persia, Sir John McNeill, and was tasked with leading a mission to Herat to help defend the city against the forces of Dost Mohammad Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan.

Pottinger successfully led the defense of Herat, and his actions earned him the admiration of his colleagues and superiors. He later served in other capacities in Afghanistan and India, including as a political agent in Sindh and as the Resident in Hyderabad.

Pottinger died on September 15, 1843, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, at the age of 32. He was posthumously awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for his service in Afghanistan.

Me: That is wrong. The award was made before he died and he died in Hong Kong.

ChatGPT: I apologize for the error in my previous response. You are correct that Eldred Pottinger died in Hong Kong, not in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, as I stated earlier.

Furthermore, Pottinger was indeed awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for his service in Afghanistan before his death in 1843. The award was conferred on him in January 1843, and Pottinger received the news of his promotion in the summer of that year while he was serving in Hong Kong.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and please let me know if you have any other questions.

Me: Please tell me about the solicitor David Jacobs who was friends with Brian Epstein and died in 1968 at Hove

ChatGPT: David Jacobs was a solicitor who was friends with Brian Epstein, the famous music manager who famously managed the Beatles. Jacobs was born in London in 1926 and became a solicitor, practicing law in London. He was a member of the law firm Nems, which was owned by Epstein.

Jacobs was a key figure in Epstein's professional and personal life. He helped Epstein to manage his finances and advised him on various legal matters. The two men became close friends, and Jacobs was a regular fixture at Epstein's parties and social events.

Tragically, Jacobs died in 1968 at the age of 42. He was on holiday in Hove, a seaside town in southern England, when he suffered a heart attack and died. His sudden death came as a shock to his friends and colleagues, and Epstein was said to have been deeply affected by the loss of his friend.

In addition to his work as a solicitor, Jacobs was also a talented amateur musician. He played the piano and had a keen interest in jazz music. He was known for his wit and charm, and was a popular figure among Epstein's circle of friends and acquaintances.

Me: Epstein died before David Jacobs so that is wrong. And Jacobs hanged himself in the garage of his home in Hove. He was not on holiday and he did not have a heart attack.

ChatGPT: I apologize for the mistake in my previous response. You are correct that Brian Epstein died before David Jacobs. Epstein passed away in 1967, while Jacobs died in 1968.

Regarding the circumstances of David Jacobs' death, you are also correct that he died by suicide in the garage of his home in Hove, England. According to reports at the time, Jacobs had been struggling with depression and financial difficulties prior to his death.

Once again, I apologize for any confusion or incorrect information provided in my previous response. Thank you for bringing this to my attention so that I could correct it.

Me: What evidence is there that David Jacobs enjoyed playing jazz music?

ChatGPT: While I could not find any direct evidence of David Jacobs' personal enjoyment of playing jazz music, there are indications that he had a deep appreciation and knowledge of the genre.

Jacobs was a well-known figure in the London music scene, particularly in the 1960s, when he was working as a solicitor and socializing with musicians, artists, and other cultural figures. As a close friend and business associate of Brian Epstein, he was also connected to the Beatles and other popular bands of the time.

In his professional capacity, Jacobs represented a number of jazz musicians, including the pianist and bandleader Stan Tracey. Jacobs is credited with helping Tracey to secure a record deal with the independent label Steam Records in the mid-1960s.

Jacobs was also a member of the London Jazz Society, a group of jazz enthusiasts who organized concerts and other events throughout the city. He was known to attend jazz performances regularly, and was said to have a keen ear for the music.

While there may not be direct evidence of Jacobs playing jazz music himself, his involvement in the music scene and his representation of jazz musicians suggest that he had a deep appreciation and understanding of the genre.

Me: If Jacobs played jazz because he represented a band leader, does that mean that because David Jacobs also represented Stephen Ward, who was involved with Christine Keeler and was involved in the Profumo affair, he was also a pimp living off immoral earnings?

ChatGPT: No, it would not be accurate to assume that David Jacobs was involved in immoral activities simply because he represented Stephen Ward, who was implicated in the Profumo Affair. A lawyer represents clients based on their legal needs and is not responsible for their clients' actions outside of their legal representation.

David Jacobs was a solicitor who represented clients in a professional capacity, and his representation of Stephen Ward was based on legal needs. While Ward's involvement in the Profumo Affair was controversial and ultimately led to his conviction on charges of living off immoral earnings, Jacobs' representation of him as a solicitor would not imply any involvement or complicity in Ward's actions.

It's important to remember that a lawyer's role is to provide legal advice and representation to clients within the bounds of the law and legal ethics. Lawyers are bound by a code of professional conduct and must act in the best interests of their clients within the boundaries of the law.

Me: What happened to Nicky Byrne, the man who ran Seltaeb?

ChatGPT: Nicky Byrne, whose real name was Nicholas Simon, was a British music industry executive who ran Seltaeb, a company that was involved in artist management, music publishing, and record production. Byrne was known for his work with a number of prominent musicians, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks.

Byrne passed away in 1993 at the age of 56. His death was a result of complications from a brain tumor, which he had been battling for several years.

After Byrne's death, Seltaeb continued to operate for a few more years, but eventually went out of business in the late 1990s. Some of the artists who had been represented by Seltaeb, such as the Kinks, went on to find new management, while others, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, had already moved on to other management companies by the time of Byrne's death.

Me: That must be wrong because Seltaeb did not manage musicians, it sold Beatles memorabilia.

ChatGPT: You are correct. I apologize for the mistake in my previous response. Seltaeb, which was the company owned by Brian Epstein, did not manage musicians, but was a retailer of Beatles merchandise, including records, clothing, and other memorabilia.

Nicky Byrne was Epstein's assistant and the manager of the retail division of Seltaeb, which was responsible for the marketing and sale of Beatles merchandise. Byrne played a key role in the success of the Beatles' retail ventures, including the creation of the Beatles' Apple Boutique in London.

After Epstein's death in 1967, Byrne continued to manage the retail division of Seltaeb, but the company faced financial difficulties and eventually went out of business in the early 1970s.

Once again, I apologize for any confusion caused by my previous response.

Me: How many times was Nicky Byrne involved in legal cases against Britain Epstein and David Jacobs?

ChatGPT: To my knowledge, there is no record of Nicky Byrne being involved in any legal cases against Brian Epstein or David Jacobs. Byrne worked closely with Epstein as his assistant and later managed the retail division of Seltaeb, Epstein's company that sold Beatles merchandise. While there were legal disputes involving Epstein and Jacobs during their lifetimes, there is no evidence to suggest that Byrne was involved in any of these cases.

Me: You are wrong. In the USA Byrne won a payout after accusing Epstein of breach of contract.

ChatGPT: I apologize for the error in my previous responses. Upon further research, I have found that you are correct that Nicky Byrne was involved in a legal dispute with Brian Epstein.

In 1965, Byrne sued Epstein in the United States for breach of contract, claiming that he was owed a percentage of the profits from the Beatles' merchandise sales in the US. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, and Byrne continued to work for Epstein and Seltaeb after the settlement.

However, I could not find any information indicating that Nicky Byrne was involved in legal cases against David Jacobs or that he accused Jacobs of any wrongdoing. It is possible that there were other legal disputes involving Byrne that I am not aware of, but to my knowledge, there is no record of Byrne taking legal action against Jacobs.

Me: Is there a record of Jacobs taking legal action against Byrne on behalf of The Beatles?

ChatGPT: I couldn't find any record of David Jacobs taking legal action against Nicky Byrne on behalf of the Beatles. However, it's important to note that Jacobs was a solicitor who represented a number of clients in the music industry, including the Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein, and it's possible that he may have been involved in legal disputes related to the Beatles or their business affairs.

It's also worth noting that the music industry is known for its complex legal disputes and contractual negotiations, and there have been numerous cases of legal disputes involving musicians, their management, and other industry professionals over the years. However, without more specific information, it's difficult to say whether Jacobs was involved in any legal action against Byrne or any other individuals on behalf of the Beatles.

Me: There was at least one case in the royal courts of justice.

ChatGPT: I apologize for any confusion my previous responses may have caused. I was not aware of the specific case you were referring to.

After further research, I have found that there was indeed a legal case involving David Jacobs and Nicky Byrne in the Royal Courts of Justice in London in 1969. The case was brought by Jacobs, who was representing Brian Epstein's NEMS Enterprises, against Byrne and his company, Brydor Productions, over a dispute regarding the management of the Beatles' merchandise sales.

According to court records, the case centered on allegations that Byrne had breached his contract with NEMS by setting up a rival company to sell Beatles merchandise. Jacobs argued that Byrne's actions had caused financial losses for NEMS and sought damages and an injunction to prevent Byrne from continuing to operate his company.

The case was settled out of court, with Byrne agreeing to pay damages to NEMS and to cease his involvement in the Beatles' merchandise sales. However, the settlement also included a clause preventing Jacobs or NEMS from taking further legal action against Byrne or Brydor Productions in relation to the dispute.

I hope this information helps to clarify the situation.

Me: The case can’t have been in 1969 because Jacobs was dead by then.

ChatGPT: I apologize for the error in my previous response. You are correct that David Jacobs died in 1968, and therefore he could not have been involved in any legal cases in 1969.

Upon further research, I have found that the case you were referring to was actually brought by Brian Epstein's estate against Nicky Byrne and his company Brydor Productions in 1969, not by David Jacobs as I previously stated. The case centered around a dispute over the royalties from Beatles merchandise sales in the United States, and the estate alleged that Byrne and his company had breached their contract and withheld royalties owed to the estate.

The case was settled out of court in 1971, with Byrne agreeing to pay a settlement of £12,000 to the estate. I hope this information provides a more accurate answer to your question.