Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pizza Trap

I'm always mindful of being caught up in the trap of brand allegiance. Getting caught up in the cult of any one product just means that you're putting your decision making skills to the side and letting someone else make your mind up for you and that 'someone else' tends to have less than selfless motives.

I don't have a favourite tomato sauce, I always choose the cheapest milk, and I'm always looking for computer tech that works better than apple products. One day I may find it.

One of the few places I stumble is on cheap-arse takeaway pizzas. I've tried Eagle boys. I've tried Dominos. I always end up back at Pizza Hut. Maybe it's the fact that my first dining memories were of my family all dressed nicely and sitting patiently at the Pizza Hut restaurant. (remember those?)

I only really choose Pizza Hut when I simply don't have the motivation to make it all from scratch and coincidentally enough, it was a scratch that turned out to be the thorn in my paw. A scratch, there's the rub. For Pizza Hut set aside $10 million towards a scratch-and-win promotion.

You could buy a lot of grease for that.
So the card specified that there was a 1 in 84 chance of winning so I was pretty darn pleased when I managed to scratch off all the panels and find 3 x $5 prizes. So, off to Pizza Hut to claim my prize? Not so fast. You can't just rock on up. No. You've got to post the ticket down the Victoria. Dang! That's 60c out of my potential winnings.

Imagine how many people won, only to decide that all that effort isn't worth $4.40. Looks like Pizza Hut plan on keeping a big chunk of that $10 million they've put aside. But blow them. I'm not going to be beaten. I've got envelopes and stamps lying around. I'll be damned if I'll let them get away without paying me my $5.

Yep I'm going to seal up the ticket in an envelope and...


Because a quick read of the small print specifies that you've got to include the logo from the pizza box. Oh, the one that's already in the bin? Right. Fine. I'll dig through my bin to grab the logo. It's not worth $4.40 but this stopped being about the cash long ago.

Right. Ticket, scratched. I didn't scratch off the 'void if removed' panel. The address is correct. Done. This ticket is heading down south and they'll have to post me my cold hard cash...

Except that's illegal. They won't be sending cash. They're going to send me a damned cheque for $5. It'll cost almost that to drive to my bank.


I'll do it. For $2.50 in petrol and a 60c stamp I shall not let these sons-of-bitches win.  That remaining $1.90 will be all the sweeter for the fact that I'll have taken their stinking money. I'll have run their gauntlet and beaten their brilliant plan to offer $10 million while actually sending out 'Fuck all'.

Ticket scratched. 3 x $5. Logo from bin. Addressed. Sealed. Sent. Done.

Now to just sit back and wait for the letter from Pizza Hut. And arrive it does. I hastily slit it open to enjoy the fresh scent of a letter that points me to this phrase on the ticket.

Only scratch 3 panels, dummy.
So because I scratched off all nine windows instead of just three (like every single other scratch ticket in the universe), I am not eligible for the prize.

If you do have three identical values on your card the chances are
which equals
1 in 84

Sound familiar?

So each frigging card has a winning combination. They could have just made every 84th card a prize-winning card but instead they've got a system that tricks people into screwing up their entry. And this means that even though 83 in 84 properly scratched cards don't win that still counts towards their "$10 Million to play for."

That means that if everyone plays correctly and everyone goes through the hoops to claim their prize they still only have to pay $120,000 in prizes.

I didn't even realise there was a competition until after I'd eaten my pizza. I certainly didn't use it as a reason to select Pizza Hut over the competitors. But you know what? This whole experience has left a very bad taste in my mouth and I'm thinking about the fact that Pizza Capers is only a minute or two more up the road.

So congratulations Pizza Hut. Your brilliant scheme to excite your customers has destroyed one of the very few brand allegiances I've ever had.

And just consider yourself lucky that I didn't scratch off $10,000s instead of $5s

Friday, September 24, 2010


Discworld author Terry Pratchett once said that anyone who uses more than two exclamation marks is a psychopath. I've always subscribed to that school of thought and it occurred to me recently that I have developed a number of other rules in my own personal style guide.

One that was pointed out to me recently by the often imitated but never duplicated Girl Clumsy is that instead of writing an ellipsis as dot dot dot, I would always write comma dot dot. It's like I had to decelerate into the pause for fear of giving the reader whiplash.

I read a brilliant text about punctuation titled 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves'. It puts into black and white how punctuation has traditionally been used, but what it doesn't state, is how it is currently used. The web is a dynamic landscape and  we're suddenly trying to communicate subtleties to an audience who prefer, what can only politely be referred to as, large brush strokes.

How to put forward the notion that we're being gently ribald and sarcastic and not simply being tactless and plain-spoken?

Enter the emoticon.

In the early eighties Scott Fahlman typed the first ascii visage and turned the facial expression on its ear. Suddenly you could quickly and easily explain if you were happy :) sad :( or wished to infer that the recipient was, metaphorically, a part of the male genitalia 8===D

You could also, if the fancy took you, make a sarcastic comment. While the text medium was plain and obvious, tagging a comment with :P to infer a friendly tongue poke could disarm a potentially hostile comment. Of course, this, as was pointed out by the aforementioned Girl Clumsy with the phrase "You and your fucking sarcastic emoticon", would only go so far. Some would say that there is a little truth in every joke and you can't really get away with saying "And thus finishes a comprehensive list of your many flaws :P"

All in all I learned to simply not make sarcastic comments in text.

Now the emoticon removed a lot of problems, but it also created a few of its own. Most emoticons end up down the tail end of a sentence and the default use is to simply replace the period with the emotion. It can get confusing when dealing with question marks but the most frustrating thing is what to do when making an aside in the text and then finishing that aside with an emoticon.

An aside can be created simply by putting a comment in a set of parentheses (Just like this). But what if I wanted to put a smiley face at the end of the aside (Like this :) )?

What the hell has happened there? I wanted to put a simple smiley but now it's far too happy at having a light bulb jammed in its throat. What if it's a frowny face (Like this:() Even ditching the question mark it still looks like a frog.

Well I'm solving this problem right here and now. From this point on an emoticon officially replaces periods, question marks and exclamation marks. It also replaces the closing parentheses mark. Want to put an emoticon in the middle of the sentence? Too frigging bad! You shouldn't be writing run-on sentences anyway.

"And what of the interrobang?" I hear you ask. You know what? You can fuck right off you typographic hipster douche-bag! The interrobang serves no purpose that a simple question mark followed by an exclamation point can't. Indeed to really add emphasis to your exclamatory question you can even add two.

But never three.

That would be the sign of a psychopath wouldn't it?


Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to go to sleep

Sleep is something that should be easy. We need it to survive and pretty much every animal does it in one way or another, but we 'storytelling apes' live in an increasingly artificial environment. We evolved a response called 'stress' to deal with dangers. It allows us to boost our body processes for short bursts and survive more effectively.

The problem starts when our day to day lives involve more and more perceived danger. It's no longer pythons and cheetahs. It's emotional danger like job loss, traffic or work responsibilities that you really, really need to have a good night's sleep behind you in order to get them done.

Sleep is not something you are supposed to do when you're being attacked by cheetahs but our dumb bodies can't figure out the difference between that sort of stress and the stress of knowing that you need sleep but not being able to trip the trigger and fire off to the land of Nod.

Not all insomnia is caused by stress but I'm sure everyone reading this has had at least one moment where they've wanted to yell at them self "WHY WON'T YOU SLEEP?"

Poor Technique
On the occasions that I've had difficulties sleeping I've had the curious notion that getting to sleep involves figuring out the trick. Finding the switch that knocks you out. Each night you have to figure it out anew because as soon as you solve the problem you fall dead asleep before you can put the solution into short term memory.

This is clearly nonsense.

But I did find a trick. It worked for me every one of the dozens of times I've used it. I found myself with too many ideas in my head to settle and was having trouble clearing my mind. I offered this method to a friend who has quite bad insomnia. She said that it worked well for her for quite a lot longer than most other tricks but eventually became less effective as time went by.

Your mileage may vary.
I imagine a stone egg. Like an ostrich egg but made out of dark rock. It sits upright on top of an opaque, still liquid. (Yes I know it sounds stupid and hippy)
A light tan liquid starts to make its way up the egg, making it's way to the top. The liquid slowly coats the egg and represents your restfulness. As you feel more restful the cloak of liquid makes its way up the egg. Don't force it. Let it naturally climb up with your restfulness. If you start to feel more awake let the liquid drop down. The covering should match your restfulness. Eventually the liquid will reach the top of the egg forming a liquid tan shell over the top.
That's the first step. You should now feel totally restful. Now begin to imagine a second covering climbing up the egg. This time it's black liquid. This represents your unconsciousness. That feeling of blacking out. It will climb much slower and your more likely to jump back out of your mental state. Just let the black drop back down and the tan ooze back down the egg. Reassure yourself that it's okay to go backwards.
The goal is to get the black ooze to make it's way around 3/4 of the way up the egg and keep it there. Like the egg is wearing a trench-coat but you can still see it's head.
The hard part is making sure to concentrate on the egg and not let your other thoughts intrude on the exercise. But because it's not boring and you have a goal it's much more effective than counting sheep.
Good luck and sweet dreams, you delicious monkey.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The clothes that make the man... an asshole.

What you wear on your chest says a lot about who you are as a person. A low cut top suggests that your self worth is wrapped up in your sexuality. A tie suggests that you prefer to suffer for the delight of others. A fish tie suggests the reverse. A simple white t-shirt suggests that you have no imagination or possible excessive imagination when it comes to visualising yourself as a 1950s greaser.

If you really want to be obvious you can wear a t-shirt with text on the front. This reduces the ambiguity of the message. A t-shirt that says 'Female Body Inspector' or 'Amateur Gynaecologist' may just as well say 'I'm quite partial to date raping you'. A t-shirt that reads 'Porn str' may just as well say 'Targt'.

A simple solution

If you're buying a gift for someone and you're thinking about a novelty t-shirt try to consider whether the joke works as well on a t-shirt as it does in a racy email.

I once received a gift from my new girlfriend at the time. She knew I had a big hang up about Marijuana use but I'd also made a comment about how the letter 'J' was my favourite letter. She found a t-shirt that had a smiley face with a joint hanging out of it's mouth that read 'Have a nice J'. I figured at the time that she had just not thought it through, although in hindsight I realise she was probably a sociopath. I stopped wearing this shirt outside because the oddest people would walk up to me and comment loudly and politically about my excellent choice.

The next one was a promotional t-shirt. My grandmother got her hands on a free shirt that had an enormous drill on the front of it and read 'I've got a powerful tool'. Out of the ten grandchildren (six of them male) she chose me to gift it to. Being that she is one of the dozen or so women to have actually seem my genitals (albeit when I was aged two) I could choose to see this as a flattering comment but the message it sends as a piece of clothing is closer to 'I AM a powerful tool'.

The final one was a tricky one. It took me a while to twig as to the implications. I enjoy Family Guy and one of my favourite moments was when I first realised it was an adult show with blow job jokes.


She'll pretty much have to.

The problem is that I was so excited that the shirt had a joke I loved on it that I failed to realise that the message I was sending was, "I am a chauvinist and I like to control women" and that's something that, ironically, I'd prefer to keep close to my chest.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I was a guest at a wedding on Saturday. It's not common for me to go to church because it generally makes me angry. I've trained myself to notice when I'm being emotionally manipulated and so a church service sends up red flags like a communist golf course.
The most impressive piece of manipulation was the crucifix. Christ has always been portrayed as suffering for our sins. Hanging limply from the brace of one of history's most horrific execution devices.
I can't help but feel that this church romanticised the experience a little.
I can't WAIT to be crucified!
I've always found it to be a macabre sort of logo. The Jesus Fish was, I felt, a decent attempt at rebranding although it didn't really take. I guess the idea that the magic trick of multiplying fish is seen as less impressive than that of absolving the sins of mankind.
And that's what it was all about, right? Jesus dies so that mankind's sins are absolved. Jesus goes to hell and we go to heaven in his place. But he didn't, did he? He came back after three days.
Not even three days. He died after 3pm on the Friday and he was back up and out of the cave before dawn on the Sunday. That's... what? Less than 37 hours? And then he ascended bodily to heaven to live forever and ever at God's side.
So 37 hours in hell by Mr J. O'Nazareth is enough to account for all the sins in the world? Even the murders and the rape and the genocide? All Hitler had to do was accept Jesus into his heart on his deathbed and then BAM! Absolved. Is that an eye for an eye?
If so, I guess we can conclude that:
A) Jesus was really really valuable and/or Hell is very, very nasty indeed
B) Someone upstairs is much better at writing up contracts than everyone else downstairs.
But that doesn't make any sense because where would the lawyers end up?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


The anus is a magical thing.

The human body has an opening at the top and an opening at the bottom. It's like a tall, complex, meat donut. The mouth opens and closes with the very obvious jaw mechanism. The other end though, is pure poetry.

A circular muscle. There are over 50 sphincters in the human body but the one with which we are most familiar with is the anus. It can close completely shut or dilate to a size that, on some websites, can put the good old, vaginal baby shoot to shame.

It is, most would concur, an 'out' hole. Pleasant company is happy with 'in' holes. The mouth, the nose. But 'out' holes are generally avoided in polite conversation. Even the 'out' process of 'in' holes is seen as 'a bit icky'.

The problem is that a lot of medical problems can be diagnosed with a careful swipe of a knowledgeable finger in the right orifice. Men my age know that in half a decade or so they're going to have to start having quite an intimate relationship with their GP.

I imagine there are women out there saying 'Tough bollocks, Dan' and rightly so. They've had to deal with flattened boobs and metal ducks since they were in their early twenties.

Quack Quack Quack
(Don't come back)

But there's a lot of reservation out there. A man's anus is his castle.

My castle has been under siege my entire young life. I have a condition called RAP or Recurring Abdominal Pain. It rarely bothers me now but was a thorn in my side while I was growing up. I've had all sorts of invasive procedures and any number of manly calloused fingers travelling the road less travelled.

The big one though, was the barium enema. In order to get an x-ray of 'the lower third' you need to line the area with a metal fluid. Basically, you lie down on your side and a hose is lubed up and then inserted. A milky white, viscous fluid is squeezed down their pipe and up yours.

After a few minutes of this they need to force it further up the canal so they pump air up there. Having my colon inflated is truly one of the strangest experiences I've ever had. The doctor turned to me and explained what was going to happen then followed it up with the line...

"They say this is what Mary Poppins feels when she flies around on her umbrella."

I imagine he was trying to lighten my mood and make me feel a little better but it's really not the best of jokes. I guess he keeps the top shelf gear for the cancer patients.

And I just get left with the bottom shelf.

photo by PKMousie

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Green with Envy

When I was five, each Friday evening my mother would drive to the local bowls club and pick up my father. They’d hang around and laugh and have a few crisp drinks of ice cold (and horrible tasting) beer and my brother and I would be given full access to wander around the bowls club. The only rules were...

  • Don’t leave the bowls club grounds.
  • Don’t step onto the bowling green. The bowling green is the most important part of the bowls club. It is not for silly games. Never, EVER stand on it.

This gave an enormous amount of freedom and yet our favourite game was always to walk around the very edge of the green, not quite falling into the trim, manicured grass. One step from danger. The grass looked like uniformed army cadets. Measured, straight and carefully groomed. Once a week they’d be pressed.

None of these taste any good to a five year old.

When the sun went down we’d explore every corner of the interior but the thing that fascinated me was the ceilings. The club had that off-white puffy surface that kind of looked like sprayed on concrete and kind of looked like marshmallow. It appeared to be specially designed to absorb the sick, sticky cigarette smoke that climbed the walls and nested above us.

I’d stare up at that texture befuddled by how anyone could find out what it felt like. It looked alluring. It looked like the sort of surface that could hold you, absorb you and nurture you.

Eventually, many years later, I found a similar texture on a low ceiling. What once seemed far away was finally within reach. I hesitantly reached out and pushed into the marshmallow surface, but it was rock hard.

And slightly sticky.

Today I stopped off at the old bowls club. The building is still occasionally used by a bridge club but the greens have fallen into disrepair. The blades of grass claw upwards like rebellious, leather jacket wearing bikers. Bristly weeds dot the field.

I stopped at the edge and looked out into the ruins of the forbidden green. I guiltily looked around, then walked out into the centre.

Forget your motorbikes. Forget your leather jackets.

I stand on the grass.

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