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Stop FAQing about

Back in February I succumbed to the hype and bought an MP3 player: for the sake of argument, we'll call it a Pony Talkman. It's a nice little thing (much like me, really) - slim, elegant, charming, musically adept if a little quirky, and with a splendid little shuffle monkey that chucks random tracks at me like a hail of ripe bananas.

This weekend, however, things started to go a bit awry. The shuffle monkey was as fit as ever, but suddenly I couldn't select and play a specific album, artist or genre. Indeed, any attempt to do so caused the music box summarily to turn itself off. Frustrated and a bit annoyed (remember, this toy is barely 3 months old), I turn to the leaflet marked "Troubleshooting".

Hmmm! This seems to be written for the Very Hard of Thinking:

Symptom: There is no sound
Cause/Remedy: The volume is set to zero - turn the volume up.

Finally I find mention of a reset button. So I press it. Several times. Nothing happens. At least, nothing to fix my problem.

So I turn to Pony's so called "support Web site". There I find a "Troubleshooting" FAQ. This is basically the same as the aforementioned leaflet. Grrrrrr!

After a bit of ferreting about, I find a way to submit an email support query. Then I wait.

Two days later, I get this reply:

Thank you for your recent e-mail received on 10/05/2009 08.26 PM.

I am sorry to learn of the problems that you are experiencing with your Sony WALKMAN Pony TALKMAN.

Unfortunately, beyond normal FAQ's and troubleshooting found on our website, it is not possible for Sony Pony to offer diagnosis via e-mail and with this in mind, we would suggest that your product is forwarded to Sony Pony Central Service who repair this category of product. For full instructions on how to do this, please go to www.sonypony.co.uk.

Go to the Support section
Select Repair Service
Select the Relevant Article

For products that are repaired at Sony Pony Central Service, you will be asked to fill out the on-line Repair Registration form.

This area on the website provides instructions on how to send your product in for repair and gives fixed cost repair prices where relevant.

I trust that this information is of some help. In the event of any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely
Blah Blah Blah




The depths of wrongness in this email are so profound, I don't know where to start! Why the devil do they have an email enquiry function if they're not going to do anything with the damned query when they get it? And "fixed cost repair prices" - it's less than 3 month old, dammit: I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for it to be fixed, not to mention the postage to get it back to their Central "Service". Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

As I fulminate, Best Beloved remarks, "I had a prob a bit like that with my i-pod - think I had to press a combination of buttons together to fix it". Nothing ventured, nothing gained - so I press the "Back" and "Option" buttons together and hold them for a couple of seconds. Job done! Full functionality is restored. I am happy.

And Pony can FAQ off.

Oh, the sun shines bright ...

We're planning a trip to the pictures this afternoon/evening, to see Slumdog Millionaire. I'm not completely sold on this visit.  Granted, the films had great reviews and stuff, what with Golden Globes and all that ballyhoo, but I've been put off Danny Boyle somewhat by the execrable Sunshine, a film that, for me, redefined that famous old phrase or saying 'tedious load of pseudo-theologicalising bullshit'.  Fingers crossed that Slumdog doesn't go down the same route.

But maybe it's not Danny Boyle that's the problem: maybe it's films with Sunshine in the title.  After all I did pretty much despise Little Miss Sunshine.  And don't get me started on all the reasons why I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is really, really not a towering work of genius, but rather a derivative, imagination-free, maundering yawn-fest of epic proportions. 

Good job no-one's ever offered to take me to see The Sunshine Boys.

Mile Oak, Mile Oak

I took this photograph by accident. We were on the 1A, going home to Roy's parents' house in Mile Oak after a day shopping in Brighton just after Christmas. I was snapping away on the bus, almost randomly, not bothering to check the exposure or focussing or any of that technical malarky. When I looked at what I'd taken there was, as you might imagine, an awful lot of dross - but there was also this, which I think is pretty groovy.

mile oak, brighton, portslade, bus, happenstance, serendipity

"To live at all is miracle enough"

Like many folks, I discovered Mervyn Peake as a result of reading Lord of the Rings.  Not, of course, that Peake's writing in any way resembles Tolkein's.  It was simply that in 1969 there was little in the way of 'follow-on' literature once LOTR had hooked you into literature fantastical.

I'm not sure I even liked the Gormenghast stuff when I first read it - the baroque grotesqueries of Peake's world weren't really my cup of tea.  But it was fashionable to be enamoured and so I claimed to be, following up on the 'trilogy' with the (infinitely poorer) Mr Pye and the nonsense poems Rhymes Without Reason.  And gradually, what had begun as a mild flirtation turned into something a bit more serious. I read his wife Maeve's biography A World Away and learned that he was as much of an artist and illustrator as he was a novelist and poet (if not more so).  So I searched out collections of his drawings and copies of stuff he'd illustrated and it was the art, rather than the writing, that I came to love.  One particular drawing summed up for me the utter genius of Mervyn Peake; it's a drawing of Maeve's head in profile, lightly sketched in pencil in a way that is both spare and intricate, a kind of delicate, whispered drawing that still takes my breath away every time I look at it.  I've tried to find the picture on tinternet but with no luck, so you'll just have to take my word that it is a thing of wonder.

I loved his book illustrations too (there is no better Treasure Island or Alice in Wonderland in my opinion) and bought what I could, both new and secondhand. I've ended up with quite a reasonable collection of Peake-abilia, some of which I've pored over, some I've barely opened.  As with many of my fancies, this one came and went - I no longer seek out the published works, avidly read every biography and newspaper or magazine retrospective, or trek off to exhibitions.  But, like all old loves, Mervyn Peake has a place still in my heart.  Which is why, on our recent trip to Sussex, Husband and I went to visit his grave in Burpham churchyard:

From Burpham Church and Mervyn Peake's Gravestone

The encounter made me a bit sad, as much for the loss of the person I was when I was a 'fan' as for any other reason.  Which is also the way of old loves, I think, to remind us of past selves who were younger, brighter, more enthusiastic, more passionate, but also more confused, less self-assured, less confident of our tastes and affiliations. I don't really miss that old me - I really like what the intervening years have wrought of me.  And I honour the small but important part Mervyn Peake plays in that continuing process.

From Persepolis to Damascus

Roy is a big fan of comics and graphic novels, as those of you who read his recent blog post and/or attended the session it advertised will know. I, however, am not. I don't really 'get' graphic novels - I look at those nine-panel grids of somewhat hectic pictures and wonder where all the words went. I know it is as possible to read the text of pictures as it is any other text, but somehow I don't feel I have the knack. So it was with some misgivings that I picked up my latest book group reading, the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

I already had the book in my possession, having bought it a couple of years ago from a comics shop in Brighton. Roy was busy gathering together a stack of items and I wanted something to rest my eyes on, and a comic book about a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution seemed a novel antidote to the long-underpants-style stuff in the rest of the shop. So I bought it, took it home, read a few pages, left it on the bedside table and moved on, still unconvinced.

This week I picked it up again, not really expecting very much.  But, quite suddenly, I 'got' it. The almost-crude, blocky illustrations of the text began to reveal for me multi-layered depths of meaning in much the same way that a line of poetry does, and with the same immediacy. Sure, a written text could have conveyed the same information, but in the time taken to read the words that immediate understanding of the situation and its emotional load would, I think, have been lost.

So here I am, to my great surprise,a convert at last to the world of picture story-telling. This is not to say that I now think graphic novels are 'better' than traditional ones. For me nothing can beat the long-term immersion in another world that a really good read gives you. But, as I have said, I think the graphic novel is more analogous to poetry than it is to the traditional novel, or to film, a medium with which it is also frequently compared. It seems to invite more opportunities to fill in the gaps and thus leave more space for the reader to interpret (or misinterpret?) the action.

Good job Christmas is coming, cos Persepolis 2 is on my wish list.

Mister Roy says ...

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now. Use the closest, regardless of what it is.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions somewhere - blog, facebook, etc.

Here's mine:

Cosmographia introductio was accompanied by a globe (on which was marked the continent 'America') and a large map of the world 'containing the islands and countries recently discovered by the Spaniard Americus Vespucius in the western sea' - from Mercator: the man who mapped the planet by Nicholas Crane

I hear music, but there's no-one there

Here's a little something I nicked from kinkywolfgang on The Word blog

How to Create Your Debut Album

1 - Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Random quotations: http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

If you want to do this again, you'll hit refresh to generate new quotes, because clicking the quotes link again will just give you the same quotes over and over again.

3 - Go to flickr's "explore the last seven days" http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/

Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Put it all together, that's your debut album.

So, pop-pickers, may I draw your attention to my latest opus:


To argue about them

Now you try.
When I was 17, Miss Webb took the A Level French group to Paris.  This was an occasion of many firsts in my life: first trip abroad, first holiday away from parents, first stay in a hotel, first flight in a plane, and and so on.  It was not, however, my first experience of unrequited love: that had happened when I was five and David threw my valentine's card in the bin without even reading it.  And that pretty much set the tone of my relationship with lurv for the next decade or so.

Anyway, on the Paris trip the object of my moonstruck gazing was Richard. He - tall, dark and fairly handsome - was however largely oblivious of me - small, mouse and fairly gruesome (it took me a while to grow into my beauty but I did, in the end) - choosing instead to set his cap at my roommate Julie of the dark ringlets and womanly curves (in retrospect, I can see his point).

However, he and I did discover a mutual love of Curved Air (though in his case, I think it was more a love of Sonja Kristina than the band in toto) and fell to talking about music in general.  And it was thus that I learned for the first time of Fairport Convention.  Richard loved them with an all-consuming passion and, in order to give me a taste of fairporty goodness, taught me the words to Matty Groves. Yes, all the words - well, we were in Paris for a whole week. 

When we got home, I went out and bought History of and a lifelong love of folk music was begun.

So I went to Paris hoping for a snog, but instead I got this great, rich, wide musical tradition.  I think I got the better part of the bargain. 

Cheers Richard.

Meanwhile in Emmerdale ... (4:2 haiasI)

... Dopey Jo, a formerly feisty young woman whom lurv has rendered mindlessly unregarding of her own safety, was finally pushed too far by her meat-fisted lunk of a husband, Andy the Batterer last night.  An unfortunate altercation in the barn, whence Jo had fled for 'safety' (seemingly heedless of the fact that Andy has a propensity to burn alive in such buildings the women he loves) ended with the Batterer battered, or at least impaled on a nasty, sharp piece of farm equipment ...

... thus proving that Jo really needs to reread her Bible.


I think I'm turning Japanese ...

... I really think so!

Your result for The Motorcycle Personality Test...

Honda VFR

You scored -5 moxie, 9 zeal, and 0 pomp!

You are the Sport-Tourer.

You have the attributes of an excellent rider, but enjoy the personal challenge far more than the thrill of speed. As a sensible sort, you read all the reviews and buy Goldilocks' "just right" porridge - the Honda VFR. Not too sporty, not too toury, utterly reliable and practical. You probably associate with a bunch of other skillful and sensible riders, which is why your group rides look like a Honda salesroom.

(If you decide to shake up your image a bit, you might consider the far less practical Triumph ST, Aprilia Futura, or Ducati ST4.)

Take The Motorcycle Personality Test at HelloQuizzy