Monday, 16 March 2015


Trustpilot: Building trust between consumers and companies.

If you're buying goods or items on the internet, standards of customer service can vary from one website to another, so it's wise to base your purchase decision on more than just the cheapest price.

For example, I once booked a holiday only to find that when I clicked the final purchase button, the confirmation page had suddenly added an extra £80 onto the advertised price!  To make matters worse when I rang up to complain about being overcharged they then agreed as 'a gesture of goodwill' to refund me half of the overcharged amount!
Trustpilot: Making your shopping experience more transparent.

So let me get this straight...  You've incorrectly overcharged me by £80, but as a gesture of goodwill you'll keep half of the money!?  I don't think so!

Luckily, I had kept screen prints of every stage of the purchase, so when I threatened to take things further they eventually agreed to return the full overcharged amount which they had incorrectly taken from me.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Free Stuff!

Music, web shows, guide books, etc ... all for free!

This month's post is for the benefit of anyone who spent a little too much cash over Christmas and New Year.  All the items featured in this post are free!

1) Free web series:

Pioneer One was funded entirely through donations.
Pioneer One is a cool web series which was financed via crowdfunding and won the Best Drama Pilot at the 2010 New York Television Festival.  It's distributed with a creative commons licence, and each episode is available free (via torrents) from the VODO website:

This is the blurb:
"A mysterious spaceship has entered Earth's atmosphere. A US Department of Homeland Security investigation has uncovered a live human being in a Soviet space suit in an unstable condition. A note in Russian, found at the crash site, claims the man is the child of cosmonauts living at a base on Mars."

Friday, 14 November 2014

Books: The Walking Man by Wright Forbucks

"The Walking Man is a unique book which deserves to be discovered by a much bigger audience."

The Walking Man by Wright Forbucks
The Walking Man tells the story of Francis 'Buddy' Morris, a selfish yet strangely likeable character who suffers from Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disease which causes paralysis after muscle use, and right from the start it quickly becomes clear that this is a book which isn't afraid to pull any punches.  Likewise, author Wright Forbucks isn't a writer who will sugar coat his stories.

I was hooked right from the very start, and a combination of the unique story and the memorable characters meant that within a few chapters I was thoroughly engrossed.  It's the type of book where you say to yourself, 'I'll just read one more chapter,' and then two hours later you realise that 'one more chapter' has quickly become an extended reading session.

If you were a cynical person then you might possibly argue that certain elements of the plot are unrealistic, but as Wright Forbucks himself points out, the truth is often stranger than fiction.  Real life can also be incredibly unrealistic sometimes, and despite the non-conventional nature of the plot, the blurb describes The Walking Man as 'loosely based on a true story'.

Friday, 12 September 2014

TV: Bates Motel

Bates Motel: "Had me hooked from the first episode."

Bates Motel
Bates Motel is a TV prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but with a modern day setting, and the show is based on the early life of main character, Norman Bates.  The show explores the loving but intense and occasionally creepy relationship between Norman and his mother Norma Bates, and also examines the psychology of this young Norman Bates and the events of his early life which will eventually lead to him becoming the psycho of Hitchcock's movie.

This early version of Norman Bates is a long way from becoming the ultimately unhinged Norman Bates from the Psycho movie though, and you don't have to be a fan of the original movie to enjoy Bates Motel.  The show does include some clever and interesting details which fans of the movie will recognise, however, such as the beginnings of Norman's interest in taxidermy, and of course his complex relationship with his mother, Norma Bates.

Perhaps the danger with doing a show about a character who goes on to become a psycho killer is that you could potentially alienate some viewers by having a main character who it's difficult to sympathise with.  However, at this stage in his life Norman, although already showing signs for concern with his mental state, is nevertheless a largely likeable character.  Actor Freddie Highmore is the perfect choice to play Norman, and helped by some talented writers he does a superb job or portraying the deep and complex nature of Norman Bates' character.  He also infuses the perfect balance of edginess and vulnerability into Norman, with the overall result being a character who you cheer for even when his psychological problems surface.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Funny Webcomics Worth Checking Out

Surreal humour from comic strips found on the web...

There are lots of amusing webcomics out there with large followings of fans, but in my opinion many of these webcomics deserve an even bigger audience.  This month I've therefore featured below a few comic strips from some favourite webcomics of mine...

1) Unearthed Comics

This first comic strip is from the Unearthed Comics website created by Sara Zimmerman (with her husband Rob providing support), and it features quite a literal joke...

Monday, 12 May 2014

Movie: Clear History

A treat for fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Clear History starring Larry David
Any Larry David fans who haven't yet seen Clear History will be pleased to know that it follows the tried and tested format followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the result is a brilliantly funny movie.  Although not a carbon copy, Larry's character Nathan/Rolly still has some similarities with the Larry David character from Curb, most notably that they both seem cursed with the same bad luck.

Another similarity is that Clear History was also produced in an improvisational style, rather than by following a script.  According to Larry David, in some cases this helped create extra unintended laughs, as for example the character of Frank (Nathan's friend and co-conspirator in his quest for revenge, played by Danny McBride) was originally meant to be more of a straight role, but because of Danny McBride's improvisational skills he ended up with more jokes in the finished version than intended.

One thing which is different though, is that Nathan has a sinister side to his character and this provides a key element of the plot.  The story sees Nathan Flomm fall out with his friend and business partner just before the launch of a new electronic car (known as the 'Howard') which goes on to be the success story of the decade.  As a result Nathan loses out on what would have potentially made him a billion dollars, and becomes a figure of media ridicule.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Music: 6 Cool Tunes By Australian Artists

Six of my favourite songs by Australian musicians

In my youth I don't remember being aware of that many Australian bands and musicians who were big in the UK.  However, I'm guessing there were actually loads of great Australian musicians and the problem was just that their talent hadn't gained the worldwide recognition it deserved.

Whatever the reason, the internet now means that great bands and artists from all over the world can be enjoyed all over the world, and Australia seems to be producing more than its fair share of great music at the moment, so to highlight some of the best, here are six of my favourite tunes by Australian artists.

1) Cypher - Liar

Liar by Cypher
An absolutely brilliant track to start things off.   Liar opens with simple piano and vocals, then gradually builds up as more layers kick in, and it's a tune that for a brief spell I listened to on repeat.  The first time I heard it I sort of casually had it on in the background, but it turned out that Liar was so excellent that I had to stop what I was doing and give the song my full attention to fully take in and absorb every moment of its brilliance.

Cypher recorded Liar on Garageband on her iPad and if the marketing executives at Apple had any sense they would launch a promotional campaign around this song to showcase the excellent standard of music you can potentially produce with GarageBand.

Listen to it and download it for free from the Triple J Unearthed website:
Cypher - Liar

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