Newton's Law
My friends are now openly calling me a grumpy old bugger! But it's not just me. As one ages, your experience allows you to see more things as they really are - and a lot of what's going on in society is not pretty, nor is it honest and it's costing you and me a fortune in taxes and over-pricing. Wastage and incompetence are everywhere, but the problem is, incompetent people don't know they are incompetent, and that leads to frustration and anger.

I have concluded that in the provision of all goods and services today, the default expectation for the consumer is incompetence or at best, mediocrity. And the bigger the organisation, the worse it gets.

As a PR professional, a stock in trade is an ability to anticipate the bleeding obvious. I've lost count of the number of times I begin carrying on about a particular issue, only to find it in print a couple of months later. It proves that I am not the only one who feels the way I do about many things. So anticipate the future - read it here first.

Sandwich - you want food with that
How base is the Basement

Follow the chef - not the restaurant

RIP common sense
The days of the big restaurant con are numbered

...and we find other languages awkward?

Travelling too fast
The new heroes - football thugs
There's no such thing as a free handout
Why you should never visit a car dealership
Fremantle restaurants and the big seafood lie
How do you get a decent feed when travelling? And a plug for a Glen Innes restaurant
At last, a fish shop which really understands the difference
The passport application story - the language may offend so don't say I didn't warn you
Food, glorious food - some notes about Sydney restaurants - GOOD AND BAD
Hollywood's obsession with dental hygiene
Too many forms - not enough common sense
I throw down the gauntlet to the restaurateurs
Food, inglorious food
Two heads but hardly one brain
Clients I can do well without

The Insurance Casino
What did he say???
Growing old disgracefully
Where has our seafood gone?
The perfect squelsh
Computers - Male or female
The good mail
Join my war against the Corporates
Of Sandwiches and Couriers

Passing of a good friend - a link to another page, just click the thing...
Don't blame me, mate
Happy Australia Day - a must read
Blame everyone but yourself!

How company policy is shaped - boy do I know some companies like this!!
Who would like a house wine?
A real Set To
How old are you? Who cares!
Doctor who?
Till death us do part
I'd rather go hungry!
Today - Tonight!
Is that Mr Newton - and how are you today?
Fools. Who needs them?
You want good fresh Redland Bay garlic - rots of ruck!

Tank rebates - another bureaucratic minefield

Plenty of roads, but nowhere to live
Killer Roads - baloney; bad weather - no such thing
Watch what you throw down your cake-hole
The passing of a good friend

A sandwich - you want food with that?

Occasionally, I like to return to a place to see if anything has changed. Why do I bother?

A so-called healthy takeaway at Paradise Point was looking very tired and unloved until a recent makeover and slight name change to Rise and Shine.

Running short of time, I raced in for a quick take away snack. A foccacia sandwich perhaps, or a wrap.

I looked over the tired ingredients in the servery. It was all the same, the grey roast beef, the plastic cheese, the tinned beetroot, the limp lettuce, the down-market ham slices, the tasteless tomatoes. I just don't understand why people who serve food know so little about it. This cafe makeover would have cost a bundle, yet nothing is spent on the very produce which is supposed to generate a return on investment.

I chose three or four of the more acceptable ingredients for a multi-grain sandwich. It might just as well have been two pieces of cardboard with the words 'sandwich' written on them. It was absolutely tasteless. A tragic apology for a simple sandwich. I can make a sandwich at home with a tomato from my own garden, a bit of rocket and a slice of a tasty cheese and it is full of flavour. Unless Rise and Shine can replicate that, they will never see me again and I hope others read this and give them the same wide berth.

How base is the Basement

On a trip to Sydney (May 2010) we paid a first visit in many, many years to the iconic Basement jazz club. I recall seeing Galapagos Duck there a long time ago and being impressed with the vibrant late night scene.

A cuban band inspired the most recent visit. The music was fantastic. The venue was a disaster zone, in the hands of young and inexperienced people who managed to get everything wrong - the booking, the table, the time, the drinks - everything.

Apart from the staff incompetence, you have to admit that the Basement has had its day. Looking around, it really is a dump which has outlived its use-by date by a couple of decades.

We went to see the music. We didn't. Despite our best efforts to secure reserved seating at a table with even half a chance at seeing the stage, there is really no such thing. This is not a venue for seeing anything. It's a mad house of overpriced drinks and very mediocre food. The only good thing about the Basement is the entertainment, if only we could see it.

Follow the chef, not the restaurant

A good friend who, like most of us, is sick and tired of the disappointments of dining out and the price restaurants charge for their attempts at good food, came up with a brilliant idea - a register of chefs.

Her point is: You go to a restaurant for the food. The ambiance, the staff, the quality of the wine, even the parking, might all influence your decision, but the bottom line is that the most important person in your life when you walk into the restaurant is the chef.

Who is this unseen man or woman who is going to cook something for me that will be flavoursome, value for money and better than I can do at home with the best ingredients?

On a recent UK TV cooking show, I was impressed with the restaurant's insistence that all wait staff must be thoroughly briefed before the doors open each night, and that actual dishes from that night's menu are prepared and shared around the staff.

We have reached the stage in our part of the world where it is a waste of time asking the wait staff for any information about the dishes on the menu. The vast majority haven't got a clue. The restaurant management is to blame.

Back to the point. Our friend happens to like a particular restaurant at Paradise Point. The food was once very acceptable. Now it's not.

On our last visit, we sent back two out of four tapas dishes. I asked the head waiter that night "Have you changed chefs?" "Yes - don't tell me about it." He was obviously painfully aware that the chef was a third rate "fitter and turner". If he were really honest, shouldn't he have told us to go to another restaurant?

Our friend at her last visit to the same place confronted the same head waiter with complaints about the food. You know what he told her? "What do you expect when the chefs are paid $18 an hour?" A cheap-skate owner has reduced a promising eating establishment to a third rate hash house, but not had the decency to let the patrons know that the people preparing the food were the dregs of chefdom who will work cheap because they wouldn't get a job in a decent restaurant.

"What's the chef's name?" she asked. "I want to know because in future, I will be dining out by the chef's name, and not the retaurant's name."

I'm with her. Far too many restaurants in this city (Gold Coast) prefer to keep the chefs out of sight, for obvious reasons.

I am inspired by a review in a foodie magazine recently, which revealed that a two- Michelin-starred restaurant (not in Australia) made a point of the chefs bringing the food to the tables. The head chef said it was a good reminder of the importance of what chefs are doing. The guests really liked to see the chefs and the interaction between the chefs and the waiters generated a whole new team spirit.

When I first wrote this, I was inspired to begin an online register of chefs. I now give up. There are so many bad chefs, who move around so often that it's impossible to keep up. So the project is abandoned. It's every man and woman for themselves from here on.

But stand up for your rights. Ask questions about the food you are paying big dollars for. If you don't like the answers, get up and leave.

RIP common sense

An Obituary printed in the London Times - Interesting and sadly rather true.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot.. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; by his wife, Discretion; by his daughter, Responsibility; and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

The days of the big restaurant con are numbered

We all know that for some little time now, seafood retailers have been required to show countries of origin of the seafood they are selling.

It has always amazed me that fish and chip shops and restaurants don't have to declare the origins of their product. The vast majority of people who buy fish and chips at any shop (there are few exceptions, like Fishbone Takeaway in Crestwood Plaza) think they are getting Pacific Dory or perch or some other iconic species, whereas in fact they are swallowing shunks of Vietnamese catfish loaded with out of date antibiotics and fed on chemicals and human waste.

At long last one Australian State Government, Queensland, has acquired the balls to bring this to an end. They say they are preparing legislation to force restaurants to reveal the source of their seafood.

As you will see from other entries in Newtons Law, I have waged a war on the big restaurant con for years. I am no longer surprised that the vast majority of restaurant staff have no idea where the food on their menu comes from. I have only visited one restaurant, in Auckland NZ, which featured the source of every bit of their food on their menu. Why other restaurants don't do this as a matter of marketing defies logic, and just illustrates once again that many people in charge of restaurants should be doing some other job, like working in sewage farms.

Most restaurant operators are greedy buggers who are conning you by buying in cheap shit seafood from Asia, tossing it through a sauce, lying to you that it is top gourmet produce, and charging you $35 a plate for it. You are being conned bigtime folks.

Do what I do and start asking questions when you go out to dine. You wil be shocked. In fact, recently, in Strahan, Tasmania, even the chef had no idea where his food came from. "Wait and I'll have a look at the packet", he told me when I asked about the pasta (having already found out that his seafood came from China and India, the most polluted countries in the world). He's charging me $25 for a plate of Gnocchi which he's tipped out of a cardboard packet with no labels on it. The chef and his employers are criminals.

I have a standard question when I sit down in a restaurant which has seafood dishes on the menu. It is "Can you please check with the chef and find out when all your seafood was last swimming, in which country, in the wild or on a farm and has it been frozen." I'm never surprised that the wait staff have no idea where the seafood comes from. Many of them are shocked when they return to the table and tell me that the barramundi on the menu is actually basa catfish from Vietnam. These people don't deserve to be running restaurants.

So start standing up for your stomachs people. For the money they are charging, you really do need to know that you are getting produce at least as good as, if not better than the food you would buy for your own pantry. (That's assuming of course that you do care about the health of your family)

...and we find other languages awkward

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England ..
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop?

Travelling too fast

I often wonder if every generation reflects on the 'good old days' when everything seemed to work far better than it does today.

Young people, and I mean anyone under 50 today, will probably argue that progress is inevitable, and that everything is getting better, and faster.

I disagree. I really think the world is turning to shit. And you know why? We were never intended to travel at this speed. 'Slow down and smell the roses' is probably the best advice anyone can get if you wish to retain your sanity, your peace of mind, your humour, your temper and your health. And once again, this is not just me talking.

Everyone seems to know that something is seriously wrong with the way we are living. We and our governments have allowed the world to be dominated by corporate heavies who would like to dictate what we eat, what we wear and what we do. Individuality is gone the way of the Dodo. Small independent businesses are swallowed up or just run out of town by the heavies. Fast food is screwing with our children's heads, and their stomachs.

You know what the big problem is? Today's youth think this is all normal. Today's youth have no idea what a good, productive, caring society is. They's never been in one. I'm glad I was born when I was, because I knew a time when it was a pleasure to walk into a bank, when telephones actually worked, when you could trust your members of parliament and your local councillor, when there were few hoons on the roads, when people talked to each other, when there were no such things as human resources staff or (shudder) customer relations people. Yes, there was such a time.

My argument turns a bit mushy, however, when I look at the internet. As a working professional still, I don't know what I did before the internet. It has improved my working life to an unbelievable degree. The trouble is that everyone thinks it's so easy, that we can do things so fast, that it must be efficient, and cheaper. Wrong again. Fast is shoddy workmanship. Fast is making huge mistakes.

I was inspired by a recent article quoting extracts from John Freeman's new book, which argues that the speed of communication is threatening what it is to be human. He says that continuing to work and type and write at speed will make our communication environment resemble our cities. There will be concrete as far as the eye can see.

The declining use of real-world communications drives people back into the virtual world, causing a feedback cycle that leads to an ever-deepening isolation and neglect of the tangible communications. This, he says, is a terrible loss, and I agree with him.

The new heroes - football thugs

Those working in the media obviously don't know where to look for news any more. Why else would they devote most of their news space to the pursuit of the trivia in the lives of people the media themselves have helped to make famous. The media have manufactured their own news. Turn a footballer with a low IQ into a front page star, then report his antics as he spins out of control in a vortex of sexual adulation and media hype. I lost count recently of the number of front page pictures of so-called football stars in the Courier Mail, Brisbane.

Didn't something more interesting happen in the state that day? And now I read today that the chief of the NRL has the stupidity to call for better education of footballers to avoid the scandals that are rocking the industry. Yes, industry. It's not a sport any more. It's not education they need, but a little humility and a realisation that they are no better than anyone else.

You don't have to be bright to figure out how these neanderthals go off the rails. Too much money, too much spare time, too many pictures in the papers, too much adulation by female groupies. It's like putting a third world tribesman into a military uniform. It doesn't work. A uniform, or in the footballer's case, a public profile higher than that enjoyed by most pollies, changes their personality. Simply, it goes to their head and because they were none too bright to start with, they allow themselves to be carried along on this tidal wave of manufacturered fame until they eventually fall.

As for the women now crying foul. Hard luck. You should have reminded yourselves of the culture of football before you agreed to being locked in a toilet cubicle for a quick snog. You took the risk, now you pay the consequences. Life is all about making the right judgements to stay out of trouble and keep your reputation intact, if indeed you ever had a reputation.

There's no such thing as a free handout

A mate sent me the following email as a commentary on Kevin Rudd's stimulus package

[A quote by the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931–2005]

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.
What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.

You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

Why you should never visit a car dealership

I made a big mistake in October 2008. I went to have a look at the new Toyota Camry at Grand Motors on the Gold Coast. I only wanted a look. Maybe I was thinking of upgrading from my trusty, but old Audi. Then again, maybe not. Since I know nothing about cars, I relied on my auto friends to guide me. Have a look at theToyota Camry, they said. So I did...or at least I would have, had it not been for the pesky, smirky, chunderishly insincere salesmen (yes, two of them), who attached to me like limpet mines as my shadow was barely across the threshold.

I thought I showed my disgust by trying desperately to ignore them, but these guys are apparently immune to abuse of any kind. "Does it take two of you," I screamed.

"Look...look...just point me to the Toyota Camrys," I wailed. After pumping my hand with their clammy cold claws and grand introductions all-round (as if I cared), I was placed in the hands of a young, Target-dressed, Colgate-polished salesman who wanted to skite that he knew everything about cars. He led me to the Camrys. "Let's start at the bottom of the range," he suggested, eyeing my two day beard growth and dirty jeans. "No - I protested. Show me the top of the range." By now, I would do anything to shake him, or screw with his mind.

Then came the list of things in this it has airbags, wheels, seats. I tried to escape by sticking my head in through the window of the car.

I actually saw nothing. I felt like I was in a swamp, being annoyed by swarms of mosquitoes. I just wanted out of there. "Let's make a date for a test drive," he gushed. "No," I said. "Let's not make a date for a test drive." Toyota's well earned reputation notwithstanding, I couldn't take any more of this high pressure crap.

Christ!! I only wanted a look at the bloody thing. I'm capable of looking all by myself. I didn't know it was an inquisition. I certainly don't need smarmy car salesmen rabbiting on in my ear-hole about the attributes of the car. All new cars look great. I would be making my judgement on my own criteria - not theirs.

What these idiots don't seem to understand is that most thinking people do their homework first. We don't have time to drift from dealership to dealership, so the fact that I walked in to look at a particular vehicle means that this is the one I have selected to look at, with a view to perhaps purchasing. You can't determine anything about a new car on a first visit, but this first visit is important because you need to just walk around it, sit in it, quietly contemplate its lines and its feel. This is just a first stage, and this first introduction should never be sullied by over-zealous salesmen and their endless, and useless patter. It's akin to looking at a girl across the room. You need to fall in love, even if only superficially, in the quietness of your mind before making the next move.

If these salesmen ever get to read this, I would like them to know that, if I wish to buy a Toyota Camry, I will not be returning to their showroom and their clutches. If the Toyota people are so desperate to sell cars that they let guys like this loose on unsuspecting customers, I perhaps don't need a new car, after all.

My dear Audi - obviously now distressed because tears were running across the tarmac from under the engine compartment, never looked or felt better as I slid into its still comfortable and responsive interior, and off I sped. Thanks to those pushy guys, all thoughts of upgrading to a new vehicle have gone, and my Audi and wallet have sighed a big sigh of relief.

WHEELNOTE: With news that my Audi needed a paint job, had a serious oil leak and would eventually need an engine rebuild, I turned to one of my best mates who knows cars and said "Get me a car". He did. It's a new Volvo V50 sports waggon and I'm delighted. It even looks so different that there are few jokes about Volvo drivers and their hats.

Fremantle restaurants and the big seafood lie (again)

We've pretty much given up expecting to find fresh seafood (apart from the occasional fresh fish, caught locally), in popular restaurants, no matter where they are. Bron and I found ourselves in Perth in late 2008, so wandered down to have a look at Fremantle. Can't really see what all the fuss is about.

But we sought out a restaurant with a view over the water for a nice seafood lunch. After all, isn't this the home of great seafood, or so the restaurants would have you believe. And despite more disappointments than successes, I am always interested in trying a fresh cooked lobster, cray, whatever. Isn't this where they come from?

So we try this very large seafood restaurant right on the water at Fremantle. It's one of only three big restaurants on the water, so you figure it out. This one is full of seagoing kitch - you know, bits of boats, fish jumping all over the walls, photos of the old-timers, cutaway combi vans. They specialise in seafood, but they don't have any, except for the local snapper. Oh yes, they have lobster, prawns, scallops, squid and the rest, but none of it is fresh, and I doubt if any of it has ever swum in anything other than an Asian sewer.

I asked the waitress about the lobster. "Yes, we have lobster," she assured me. "But when was it last swimming in the wild," I asked.

She eyed me carefully. This guy is asking awkward questions. She looked around to check that nobody else heard, looked me in the eye and confided, "Look, the lobster season doesn't start for two weeks", leaving me to figure that whatever is in the kitchen is frozen from last season or imported from somewhere. I just don't understand how chefs think that frozen lobster, crab and prawn can ever be passed off as fresh seafood. Freezing absolutely destroys crustacian flesh, and should not be allowed to be served. Seafood from Asia or particularly China makes the choice even worse. Frozen AND from Asia - that's a double disaster waiting for an unsuspecting diner. Still, a lot of people are so used to eating crap, that's why many restaurants get away with this lie.

So we had a drink and got out of there fast and wandered up Essex Street. Intrigued by the menu, we chose Organic Royale, a little hole in the wall, with tiny downstairs kitchen and front desk, and a dining room upstairs. The interesting thing about this place is that everything is organic, and after chatting with the host, who I presume was Damian Donoghue (from the card I picked up), I would say this is an honest claim. Even the wines were organic. We chose a fine white wine and plates of Malaysian Beef Rendang. Upstairs looking out the window was peaceful, with magazines strewn around the room of mismatched furniture and quirky ornaments and hangings.

The food was among the best we ate on that trip.

So the lesson for Fremantle is...if you really must go there, forget the big flashy so-called seafood restaurants and head for Essex Street and Organic Royale.

How to you get a decent feed when travelling? And a plug for a Glen Innes restaurant

Bron and I jumped in the SAAB and headed across the border into north west NSW for a few days relaxation recently. Mid winter, magnificent skies, great scenery and fascinating little towns and roadside produce markets.

Now the last thing we want to do when travelling is to eat at greasy spoon cafes or any of the fast food chains. We would rather go hungry than eat yellow food from a club or third rate restaurant, and there are plenty of those around. So the big question is - how do you suss out a decent restaurant when you arrive at a small town. There's one thing you don't do. Don't look for restaurants on the internet and don't expect to find a list of decent restaurants on any tourist brochure you pick up along the way.

There's only one way to find a place to dine in a strange town - in fact this system is really only applicable to a country town. We found ourselves in Glen Innes, a delightful and picturesque town on the inland highway. Bron found a great apartment on 'wotif' in the heart of town in a former Salvation army temple. We parked the car and went walking.

On our meander around town, we wandered into a handful of shops like book stores, fashion boutiques (shoe shops for Bron) and kitchen shops. As strangers in town, we stand out, so it's easy to strike up a conversation. Then we pop the question "what's the best place to eat". And they tell you. It never fails.

In Glen Innes, the popular choice was the New England Club, just a walk across the park from our apartment. We dropped in around 5pm for a drink and reconnoitre. Pretty depressing actually. A big but empty bar, cheap furniture which really didn't belong in such a grand building, paintings on the wall which looked like rejects from a garage sale, and if it were not for the warming fires, there would have been no good reason to hang around.

Not a good start. If the club is this bad, what's the restaurant like. We found out pretty quickly that the club restaurant is a separate, privately run entity, so there was still a chance.

We returned a little later, to find we were the only patrons (a cold Wednesday night in Glen Innes is not a big social night, believe me).

What a surprise. The food was superb, interesting, innovative and well presented. The operator and chef is Doug Bower and the restaurant is called Bower's On The Park. Here is a top chef who escaped the big city life for a saner existence in a very pleasant town.

Suffice to say that we dined at Bower's for both nights we were in Glen Innes and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences and Doug's company.

At last - a fish shop which really understands the difference

Discovered the Fishbone Takeaway in Crestwood Plaza recently. Clean, interesting and professional for a take away fish shop. Run by Tim and Nicole Hoy, this little shop really does understand the difference between tasty seafood and rubbish from the importers. I was taken immediately by the sign on the front counter, that this shop is dedicated to serving top quality Australian seafood. I quizzed the owners and found that Tim was a chef of long standing (23 years), and he had left the restaurant industry, partly through his dismay at the standard of food served up at top price to the unsuspecting punters.

The previous owners of the shop said they would never survive if they stuck to the fresh Australia seafood ideal because people wouldn't pay more than $7 for a piece of fish. They have proved them wrong, because with gradual education, they have reduced the sale of the hated Basa fish from the cesspools of Vietnam from the original 100 kg a week down to about 20 kg a week and he's forecasting it will disappear from his display cabinet within 12 months. (It has long since gone from the display cabinet - good work Tim).

Took Bron there for a midday snack, a piece of fresh snapper, grilled, with a lemon butter sauce and a simple but fresh Greek salad. The price was well below a far less quality meal in a top restaurant, and it was superb. We also took home a $5 tub of seafood chowder that Tim makes fresh when he has the time. 'Tim, make the time, because it was great'.

Little businesses like this deserve top patronage and we'll be telling all of our friends. Most takeaway seafood shops are disgusting, serving tons of Basa and other questionable sealife at top prices, and pretending that it's fresh seafood. Most of these establishments are great liars when it comes to the origin of seafood. I have proved that time and time again. Most staff in these shops have no idea where the seafood comes from, and they don't really care. It suits the owners to keep their staff, and their customers, ignorant.

So that's it...a big plug for Fishbone Takeway in Crestwood Plaza.

The application for a passport and why we hate bureaucratic twits so much..a fun story, but bad language

A characteristic of Australians is that we are far more direct and outspoken than others when dealing with the sort of elected wanker who wouldn't otherwise get the full drift of what they were trying to communicate. Below is one such wonderful communication, contributed by a friend of mine with an equally warped sense of humour and a hatred for officialdom.

Dear Mr Minister,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.

How is it that K-Mart has my address and telephone number, and knows that I bought a television set and golf clubs from them back in 1997, and yet the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date. For Christ sake, do you guys do this by hand?

My birth date you have in my Medicare information, and it is on all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 40 years. It is on my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've ever had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that I've filled out every 5 years since 1966.

Also..would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Audrey, my Father's name is Jack, and I'd be absolutely fucking astounded if that ever changed between now and when I drop dead!!!...


I apologise, Mr. Minister but I'm really pissed off this morning. Between you and me, I've had enough of all this bullshit! You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my fucking address!! What the hell is going on with your mob? Have you got a gang of mindless neanderthal arseholes working there!

And another thing, look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I can't even grow a beard for God's sake. I just want to go to New Zealand and see my new granddaughter. And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a sheep or a horse, believe you me, I'd sure as hell not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to the other end of the city, and get another fucking copy of my birth certificate, and to part with another $80 for the privilege of accessing MY OWN INFORMATION!

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot, to assist in the issuance of a new passport on the same day?? Nooooo.. that'd be too fucking easy and makes far too much sense. You would much prefer to have us running all over the place like chickens with our fucking heads cut off, and then having to find some high society wanker to confirm that it's really me in the goddamn photo! You know the photo..the one where we're not allowed to smile?! fucking morons.

Signed - An Irate Australian Citizen.

P.S Remember what I said above about the picture, and getting someone in high-society to confirm that it's me? Well, my family has been in this country since before 1850! In 1856, one of my forefathers took up arms with Peter Lalor. (You do remember the Eureka Stockade!!). I have also served in both the CMF and regular Army, I went to Vietnam in 1967, and still have high security clearances. I'm also a personal friend of the local president of the RSL.

However, your rules require that I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am; You know.. someone like my doctor WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN FUCKING PAKISTAN!!!......a country where they either assassinate or hang their ex-Prime Ministers, and are suspended from the Commonwealth for not having the 'right sort of government.'

You are all Fucking idiots.

Food, glorious food - some notes about Sydney restaurants - GOOD AND BAD

It must be obvious to the casual observer of these pages that Bron and I are avid foodies. It's not that we go out every night and spend ridiculous amounts of money on restaurants, but we do enjoy a good meal out, with or without good company, in a nice atmosphere. We don't like pretentious prats and we can smell a snivelling wretch of an insincere waiter a mile off.

So last weekend, Bron whisked me off to Sydney for a foodie weekend celebration for my birthday, which has now been struck off any calendar forever. A lot of reviews led us to Bodega, at Surry Hills. A tapas bar, run by a team of young (well, young to me) boys and girls who are a joy to behold. We also like going to the musty old Spanish tapas bar at Capitan Torres, but I'm afraid our allegiance is now with Bodega. What a fabulous night of entertainment, food, wine, ambiance, noise, great food (did I say that once already?). The team is to be congratulated for pulling together an awesome experience.Unlike so many other restaurants we frequent, these guys really do understand that elusive balance between a good time, top class ingredients, innovative cooking that must be better than I can do at home, and friendly, committed staff. This place really rocks, and it works. It is a picture of professional performance, but it hangs loose. It's chaos, but organised chaos. It's electric, but there are no shocks. We sat at the bar, in front of four of the zaniest chefs you've ever seen. They were beautiful to watch - and they knew it. It was as good a performance as the night before at the Playhouse Theatre at the Opera House, where we saw Frank Woodley's 'Possessed'. Our night at Bodega was probably the most memorable night we've had in a long time...and we've had a few around the world, believe me.

And if the Bodega people wondered why we didn't eat as much as we normally would have on a night out, we must explain that we had a big lunch at a cute new joint at Balmain, called La Boheme which is sort of Belgian, European and German, but on quizzing our host, we found they were all Czechs. We had stuffed mushrooms, pork brawn and vegetable patties, washed down with an interesting little Merlot from Transylvania called Vampire. Really.

Then we went and spoilt it all by dropping in at the Oyster Bar at Circular Quay for our farewell lunch on Sunday. The most abysmal food you could imagine. Top spot, spoilt by a shocker of a restaurant. It is painfully obvious that these characters never expect to see the same people twice. It reminds us a bit of the Gold Coast restaurants - tourist traps. They serve third rate crap, and when you complain, they just shrug it off, because there are plenty of stupid tourists around. Without a word of lie, the Oyster Bar served the worst seafood platter we have ever experienced in our lives. The oysters were the only things worth eating. We complained, but they handled that badly. And the price - just don't go there. The history of that building was that it was a toilet block. That should have been a sign. It would be better off being restored to toilet status.

You live and learn, don't you. But don't hesitate. Just go to Bodega. Hopefully, they won't change chefs or staff any time soon.

Hollywood's obsession with dental hygiene
Hollywood movies in general leave me cold and bored. But I've suffered enough of them to conclude that there must be some kind of deal between the movie producers and the Dental Association of America.

I believe that cleaning one's teeth is as personal as attending to your toilet, and it really nauseates me to see scenes in movies of people standing in front of the bathroom mirror, or walking around the house, with a tooth brush stuck in their gob. They often try to talk through the process. I don't know about you, but my teeth cleaning is a messy business, with spashes of toothpaste on the mirror, lots of water rinsing and foaming at the mouth. Not a pretty sight really. It's not as if the teeth cleaning scene is imperative to the movie story-line. It has become a game with us now to try to guess when the teeth cleaning scene is coming up. I swear that 99% of movies out of Hollywood has one of the stars brushing their pearly whites at least once during the movie. Yuk.

Too many forms - not enough common sense

Modern society, which seems to rely on the principle that people must be protected from themselves, has become weak and puny, robbed of the 'have a go' attitude which built this country.

The advantage of growing a little older is that one remembers that there was a time in history when people took responsibility for their own actions; when we didn't subscribe to the blame game; and when lawyers knew their place.
Now, thanks partly to the legal profession and moronic bureaucrats, people have been relieved of this time-honoured responsibility.
I was with clients in the construction industry recently, when they lamented that they now had to employ a team of workplace health and safety officers to do what came naturally to responsible people in earlier days.
"In my day, workplace health and safety was me sticking my head out the office window and yelling to an employee "Don't do that - you'll kill yourself." Workplace health and safety is really only common sense, but they have created an industry out of it. It's all bullshit.

I throw down the gauntlet to the restaurateurs

During a 23 day stay in New Zealand at year end 2007, partner Bron and I had ample opportunity to sample the fine foods and wines of Hawke's Bay in New Zealand. It was most enjoyable, and while the food and wines were generally first class, we do have some issues about honesty in seafood origins. Most of the fine dining restaurants failed the honesty test - not so much that they told lies, but they mislead diners by omission. The bottom line is that too many great restaurants are relying on their sauces to disguise the fact that they are placing cheap, tasteless, and highly suspect Asian seafood on the plates of diners who are lulled into thinking they are tucking into a plate of fresh New Zealand produce.

We use Cuisine Magazine as a guide, and very good it is too. But I sent them the following email, containing the results of my survey of the food honesty of their fine dining restaurants. To response.. perhaps it's too hard. Perhaps they don't want to lift up the rocks to see what's underneath. Perhaps they need the advertising revenue.


Some of the following may be repetitious if you read the Cuisine contribution...but you should enjoy it anyway.

Next time you go to a restaurant, and before you fork out $30 for a meal which came from a Chinese sewage pit, try asking where the seafood came from.

You'll be told outrageous lies by the wait staff. If they are not lies, they are a guess because they just don't know any better and it suits the restaurant owner or chef to keep them in the dark. There is an appalling lack of knowledge of food and its origins among restaurant staff, and presumably by the chef.

I'm tired of paying out good money to restaurants who don't understand the difference between fresh and frozen, imported and local. The law now requires even Woolworths to label the origin of their seafood. Not so the restaurants. They can sell you any old crap, charge the earth for it, and the consumer may be none the wiser.

It is an absolute betrayal of trust that restaurants serve up cheap imported seafood from the slums of Asia. And it seems that this lack of honesty pervades all restaurants, from the very top. I had an issue with the great Fellini's restaurant on Main Beach. In fact I ended up in a pretty wordy email argument with the chef over the origin of the white bait they had on the menu, in the form of white bait fritters. Their menu quite cunningly said "imported". But of course, everyone knows that white bait comes from New Zealand, so it could indeed be imported. I recall asking the smug waiter, "Where does the white bait come from". He thought New Zealand, but obviously was not sure, so I despatched him to the kitchen to find out. When he came back, the answer was that it came from China.

I was appalled 1) because the waiter in a so-called first class restaurant didn't know where the seafood came from and b) because he attempted to hide the fact that it was not New Zealand white bait but a cheap apology of seafood from the putrid fish farms of China.

When I chided the restaurant chef for this disception he tried valiantly to defend his stand. He tried to convince me that the restaurant relied on the standards set by the authorities for the importation of food.

This guy has obviously never been to Asia, or to China, the most polluted country in the world. The average standard of hygiene in China is about 4th world. I've spent a lot of time in Malaysia, Singapore, India and Indonesia, and I can assure you that hygiene does not exist in our understanding of the word. Their approach to food handling is primitive and in most cases, disgusting. I have filmed the fish farms of Asia, and they are stomach renching apologies for farming. On the Straits of Malacca, I visited fish farms where hundreds of trapped fish writhed in a foam of polluted sea and hormones. There were dead fish everywhere.

In China, the situation is worse. Latest reports point to the fact that China is lurching towards industrialisation at a pace that does not allow even the most basic level of human hygiene. A business friend of mine regularly visits China. He tells of modern office buildings, with no toilets. Just a room at the end of the corridor where the Chinese deposit their bodily expulsions. There is no running water and the stench is unbelievable.

A journalist colleague returned from China with horrific tales of the decline in hygiene standards. He and his wife went on a boat trip, and the toilets were simply unusable. How China is going to cope with the Olympic Games when outside a five star hotel, people wallow in filth, is the big question. I can't seem to grasp how such a noble civilisation with thousands of years of history, hasn't yet learnt basic toilet habits.

So it was from the fish farms of China that the great Fellini restaurant imports its white bait, which retails at around $12 a kilo, and they use two spoonfulls to make a couple of tasteless fritters, charging the punters $19 for the privilege. This is blatant exploitation and disception. (proper New Zealand white bait, when I was in Auckland at Christmas 2006, was AUD$120 a kilo)

In future, any restaurant I visit which can't instantly tell me where the food comes from, will see my backside walking out the door. I am tired of these rip-off merchants. If a waiter can't tell you when the fish was last swimming in the wild, I WILL WALK OUT, never to return. And I expect the information to be volunteered, not dragged out of them. I want prawns from Queensland, not India or China. I want squid from Australia, not Sri Lanka. I want scallops from Tasmania or Queensland, not Thailand. I want fish from Australia, not the cesspools of Vietnam.

I had the chance to put my anger to the test recently at the Cafe Riviera in the Grand Hotel restaurant precinct at Labrador. Now to be honest, we have tried a few establishments there, and have been sorely disappointed in every one of them. But we ventured in to the Riviera and asked the gushing young lady what sort of fresh seafood they had on the menu. She gave vague answers until I nicely insisted that she ask the chef what the fresh seafood was that evening and where did it come from. A long huddle through the servery window followed and I suspected the worst. I got it. As she came back she was followed by an arrogant young fellow who I presumed to be the maitre'd, and he came out with "It's the best seafood on the Gold Coast". I asked the same question again. He obviously had no intention of telling me, so finally said "It's the best seafood on the Gold Coast and you can take it or leave it." We left it. So the lesson here is, unless someone reports the contrary, there is nowhere in the Grand Hotel precinct worth visiting.

Now to put some substance to this tirade, read some of the most recent and disgusting things to come out of China. Have a puke bucket ready.

Deadly goods wreak havoc - read the Newsweek story PAGE 1 PAGE 2 PAGE 3 PAGE 4
Imported food carries diseases - Qld Seafood Industry Association
Fish bans raise food poison risks
Read the story of the buns made of cardboard.
The story of the ban on all China farmed seafood, but which Australia somehow finds appetising.
and to show that it's not just food, read about the safety features of the cars made in China.
...back to fishing, here's a disturbing story - not enough seafood, too many people.

So, Fellini, Riviera and others of your ilk, I don't care how safe you think your pseudo white bait is, you are deceiving the Australian public by having it on your menu. It's time quality restaurants took their responsibility more seriously. We expect food of a standard at least equal if not better than we get at home. If you can't provide it, you are not looking in the right place and you certainly don't deserve my custom.

And before I finish this gripe, I hand a Newton's Law gong to the new seafood outlet at the Ferry Road markets on the Gold Coast. Not only do they clearly label food imported or local, but they tell you whether it was farmed or caught in the wild, and (wait for it), the name of the trawler the seafood came off last night and at which fishing port. Now that's what I call relevant consumer information.

Blame everyone but yourself!
So the guy who wrecked his old man's boat on the Southport bar blamed a "rogue wave", but was pleased to see a response by one David Tanner of AMI Marine who rushed to the defence of the sea with his comment "there's no such thing as a rogue wave."
On a similar vein, I've never understood the lynch mob mentality of those who kill every shark within cooee when someone gets attacked by a poor bloody fish which is labelled a "man eater". And while I'm on this hobby horse, I really get cranky when journos label stretches of highway "killer road". A road never killed anyone. Bleeding hearts really piss me off. Some young hoon doing 200kph wraps himself around a tree and the do-gooders blame the tree. Has the world lost its sense of reality.
Nobody wants to take responsibility for their own actions any more. No wonder society is going downhill fast.

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How company policy is shaped - boy do I know some companies like this!!

Every now and then someone sends a gem of an email with something interesting in it. Try this one.

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.

Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked.

The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not?

Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here. And that, my friends, is how company policy begins..

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Who would like a house wine?
When a venue offers you a drop of the house wine, most people I know usually politely refuse, or run for the exit. We all know wines are usually cheap and crap.

I tried once to convince the Gold Coast Arts Centre function people that they need to drop the House Wine tag in function planning, and simply offer function planners a choice of say three or four different booze packages, which may indeed begin with cheap plonk, with a good average Oz wine in the middle range and the top choice for the big spenders. I didn't have much luck, because they really can't see the point. They must drink the cheap wine themselves. I was planning a function for the city's architects and the function man got my back up when I challenged what the house wine was. When I sort of indicated that this was bottom of the food chain, he looked miffed and sniffed "We can get you better wines, but you will have to pay for it". So?

In a subsequent follow up note, I tried to give him the big idea....don't say "Well, this is the house wine, take it or leave it and if you want real wine it will cost you!". Better to simply say, "we have booze packages with a range of fine Australian wines, starting at $10 and going up to $25."

I think offering a house wine immediately puts you into the cheap and nasty category and makes the rest of the offerings highly suspect. Let's face it, if you can't offer a half reasonable drink of wine in a country like Australia with its unbelievable choices, you shouldn't be in the business.

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A real Set To

Journalistic cliches have always grated on those who read the papers regularly. The journos of course don't know they are doing it. What worries me is that most of the news is now quite generic...same intros, same tired presentation. (That's assuming you can differentiate between news and entertainment). The intro that really gets up my nose is the one that goes "So and so is set to do something". What is this fixation with "set to". It's really getting quite boring...almost as boring as my other pet hate, photographic subjects being made to leap into the air. It seems when photographers run out of ideas, just get the person to jump in the air and look stupid. Watch the papers for the next one.

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How old are you? Who cares!
I'm with the actor Jack Nicholson, who was quoted as saying that he always assumed that he would be the same person throughout his life and then it would be lights out. When those people who have the nerve, or the bad taste, ask me how old I am, I usually respond "19 and a half". It's the truth. That's where my mind is at.

I'm older of course, but I have to admit to resisting age with a passion. After reading Nicholson's approach, I might change. His view is that one should not resist the inevitable. And here's the quote of the year for me, "A lot of what we call ageing is stress caused by resistance."

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Doctor who?
Don't you like those pretentious prats from the Gold Coast Hospital who wander across the road to the coffee shop with their stethoscopes draped around their neck. "Look at me, I'm a doctor".

I feel the same way about barristers who strut from the courts to their rooms blocks away while wearing their gowns and wigs...idiots.

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Till death us do part
Having done my share of funerals, I have always felt that the departure service needed revision. Sitting with head bowed among friends and family, some religious twit raves on with words which are supposed to comfort, but if the occasion wasn't so sad, you'd rather burst out laughing. I have always found the departure of a loved one a sort of anti-climax. Surely they deserved a better show than this predictable, amateurish, insincere farewell. I liked the interview a few years back with Xavier Herbert, who told how he farewelled his beloved wife. He invited nobody to the funeral...refused to put a notice in the paper in fact. When the black mourning car came to pick him up, he waved it away and took a taxi. At the crematorium he shooed away the long-faced, black suited stiffs who like to hover with the smelling salts, and then closed the doors, leaving just he and his wife alone. He plonked a battered old portable radio on top of her coffin and tuned it to the ABC's Saturday morning classical music show, which they had both enjoyed for a lifetime. They heard it together one more time. When he was good and ready, he pushed the button himself to send his wife to the furnace. Great style.

I've been talking with some close friends about this and posed the question, "what say you submit to my interviewing you on camera, so that it can be played on a big screen above your look at your own life instead of someone making it up for you.....your life and your loves, your highs and lows, your ambitions, your hopes and fears, photographs or film snippets of your life's high points. Since you don't care once this tape is played publicly, you can say what you like and get away with it."

It hasn't been done before because most people just can't sit in front of a camera and do it. But what if they were helped through a special kind of interview process....we are experts at that. We would edit it to around a 10 minute show. It would at least be more entertaining than the repetitive, insincere crap from the mouths of the clergy.

Catharine Lumby, writing in the Bulletin magazine of Oct 29 2002, summed it up perfectly. Her words.. "Dealing with death is always dislocating. That's why we've invented rituals such as wakes and funerals to help us cope. For many people, these rituals are as alienating as the experience of loss itself. For the growing numbers of people who don't believe in a god, the spectacle of a priest or rabbi making pronouncements about someone they had no personal contact with is profoundly discomforting. There's something intensely artificial, hypocritical even, about mumbling along to half remembered prayers or hymms at a time when what you really want to do is sit down and have a good cry or a laugh with people who knew the dead person well."

Here here.....So who will be first for our new interview technique so that you can leave this world with some semblance of style and panache. It will cost you of course, but no more than a smarmy lawyer will charge you for a will that nobody will ever understand.

(FOOTNOTE: Added in March 2007. I've proved my point in a very dramatic way. My good friend in business and personally, Mark Mitchell of SuperCool fame in Southport Queensland, recently lost his Dad prematurely from the dreaded cancer. I knew Bob Mitchell also, and was well aware that he had a remarkable history as a champion motor cycle racer in Europe and Australia in the 50s. In many respects, he was a sporting legend, mentioned in a number of books and still gets fan mail from Europe. He had a tremendous set of albums and also some old racing footage from Holland and England. Son Mark was determined to get his Dad's story on film, so only months away from death, he agreed to an long interview on camera with Mark and myself. It was brilliant, and Bob was brilliant.

For the funeral service, Mark and I prepared a show on Bob's motorcycle life, with mixes of real footage and lots of pics. Mark narrated the show live, to a big plazma screen, with big sound for the movie bits. Other family members had also delivered great live presentations, so the big audience received a wonderful story of this great man's life. The funeral was long, but nobody cared. I'm sure the family won't mind me sharing their thoughtful card with you - it says it all "Dear Ken, I cannot thank you enough for the time and effort you put into making Bob's sendoff a most remarkable event. He would have been so proud. So many friends have said to me it was the best and most memorable funeral they have been to....Regards Jean Mitchell (Bob's widow)"

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I'd rather go hungry!

What a waste of public money...the just released Gold Coast Food and Wine Trails, 3rd Edition. Thank God I missed the first two editions.

It's written in the sort of language popular when Fitzpatrick was making travelogues for the black and white movies. If you are old enough, you'll be lifting your eyebrows to heaven by now.

The idiots who write this crap really take it seriously, don't they?

Here's a gem "Local Gold Coast foods and beverages can be found on sale throughout the city including your local delicatessen, bakery, greengrocer, bottle shop, convenience store, supermarket and even petrol stations!" This is one of those publications which could be reduced to about one tenth its size without sacrifice of any facts. Don't really expect to find the best eating places in this classic volume. They are not there.

Remember this - the best eating places rarely advertise. Enthusiastic word of mouth is the only way to go and it's a lot cheaper.

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The restaurant insincerity index

I have never understood why restaurant operators insist on waiting staff putting on totally unnecessary airs and engaging in patently insincere banter with customers. You know the type...we had one at the new restaurant at Ephraim Island the other night.

A beautiful restaurant, by the way, totally spoiled by the insincere gushiness of certain staff, and the food wasn't really up to scratch either. (In late 2006, the situation has changed with Max of Eccolo fame at Paradise Point taking over management as a consultant)

But the banter went something like this. "So you're dining with us this evening." (No, we're dining with you tomorrow evening. We just wanted to try your chairs)

"For you, this evening, the fish of the day is snapper." (What about the fish of tonight. And what's this 'for you' rubbish.)

Why can't table waiters just be themselves. Why do they think they have to develop some kind of stage personality, sprinkled with unnecessary jargon, just to please the customers. Let me tell the restaurant owners, "You are annoying the crap out of your customers with your oh-so-charming, but insincere bullshit." I will never return to a restaurant that serves up these platitudes, regardless of how good their food might be.

I stopped one otherwise charming waitress at a little restaurant we frequent regularly, by putting down a $10 bill, with "here's your tip, but every time you say 'tonight', a dollar comes off it."

For a lesson in how to wait on table, visit Rufinos at Runaway Bay Marina. Owner Antonio is precisely what a waiter should be like. He is a pleasure to watch in action. He and his staff are friendly, fast and you never hear them say 'and how are you this evening'. They are living proof that there are friendly and more sincere ways to say everything to a customer." And their food is pretty extraordinary - quite frankly the best on the northern Gold Coast.

I have a large number of restaurants on my "insincerity index".

Most Gold Coast restaurant staff reek of insincerity and you can tell. They come from the same school which trains those automatons increasingly found on the end of our know the type "Good morning. Mr Newton? And how are you today". You know damn well they don't give a shit how you are and it's a presumptuous question to start with if you don't know them. This is the catch cry of the insincere salesman or woman. Hang up on them immediately.

Loved the sardonic diner in the superb arthouse movie Dinner Rush. In a busy restaurant he arrives with his large party, to be greeted by the waitress with "Hello, my name is Sara and I'll be your waiter this evening." The diner doesn't look up, but interrupts, "Hello, my name is Syd and I'll be your diner this evening, and his name is Fred and he'll also be your diner this evening, and this is Shirley and she'll be your diner this evening, now just bring the menu and get on with it." -- or words to that effect.

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Is that Mr Newton - and how are you today?
Firms who reduce human dignity to the level of telephone canvassing deserve to be ignored and ridiculed.

I guess they work on the principle that there's a sucker born every minute and most of them have phones. I really resent having my working train of thought interrupted by these mindless fools. My partner says I waste too much time taking the piss out of them, but hell, if my train of thought has already been derailed, what's a few more seconds of verbal revenge.

As I said earlier, they stand out like country toilets. They will ALWAYS start the conversation with "...and how are you today". My usual response is "That depends on what you are going to say next".

And don't you like the telephone sales person who then has the cheek to quiz you on why you don't need their company's services. The answer is simple "None of your business". It helps the emphasis if you use the good old four letter word as well. At least it makes you feel better.

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Fools. Who needs them?
One of the big problems with modern business life, is that we feel obliged to suffer fools gladly. Oh...I have my share of fools that I suffer, but I hand pick them. But generally speaking, I won't suffer fools. Yes, we should send more food back to the kitchen, we should challenge more of the mindless crap which pours forth from the big institutions, like the banks, superannuation funds, credit card companies and many more.

One of the cultural changes it has been difficult to come to terms with in my business life is the role paid by banks, insurance companies and superannuation funds. I have to keep reminding myself that none of these institutions exist to help me make better decisions or help me save money. They all suffer from serious conflict of interest. They represent first and foremost their stock holders. Therefore, you and I are not their clients.

My very old and faithful general insurers have handed over the office to the younger breed, with disastrous results. Because I challenge every decision made by insurers (I'm talking here about the absurd manner in which claims are handled) I'm often branded as a curmudgeon. They misread me, of course. On achieving a payout from an insurer for a machinery breakdown claim, my young agent thought he would have a final crack when he sent me the cheque "Here's a win for you from one of those nasty insurance companies". He's missed the point, again. I just cashed the cheque (quickly) and said nothing more, but I should have responded "This is not a win - this is a legitimate entitlement. Why do I have to strap on armour and load my pistols when I have to make an insurance claim." The day insurance companies get real and treat their "clients" with some respect, will be the day they will get respect from me.

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You want good fresh Redland Bay garlic - rots of ruck!

I sent this to the Bayside newspapers - wonder if they had the guts to publish.

On a recent visit to Redland Bay, a roadside vegetable stall near Victoria Point took our eye and we stocked up on fresh garden produce, believing that stuff grown in Redland is, after all, the best you can get from the rich red soils which made strawberries famous.
The garlic bulbs also looked good and fresh, nicely packed up in string bags, so we bought those too.
At home, we skited to a visiting family member that we’d picked up some great produce, fresh from the soils of Redland. “Great”, said the precocious kid, “So why does the garlic say ‘Delicious Food, Super White Garlic, PRODUCE OF CHINA”.
Why on earth would a farmer at Redland destroy the famous image of Queensland’s bayside food bowl by bothering to pass off imported rubbish as fresh garden produce. One can only guess at the conditions under which it was grown, so we threw it in the bin.
How can we trust the farmers of Redland Bay again…..did the ripe red tomatoes we bought come from Bolivia, and the sweet corn from Portugal…’s a question of trust and market perception guys.
Stop thinking of your pocket and think of the long term damage to the reputation of Redlands. Any short term monetary gain you might be making will be lost at the end when you destroy the loyalty of your market. (we since discovered that that cheap garlic from China is dipped in chemical bleach baths before sent to the stupid round-eyes in Australia)

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Tank rebates - another bureaucratic minefield

Try visiting Gold Coast Water's website and tell me where you can find any reference to the money the council gives away as rebates if its citizens install a water tank on their property. won't find it.

It's one of the best kept secrets - no doubt on purpose.

Here's the deal. You put in a tank at home, take a photograph of it plumbed up in location, enclose a copy of your tank sales invoice and send it to some character in the council whose name you will be given, like a secret code, when you first phone a special number, which is also not easy to find, to REGISTER your house as one most likely to install a water tank. No wonder our bloody rates are so high. Wouldn't you like to meet the idiot who penned this great plan. At least I'll get a hundred bucks back for my trouble. At my charge out rate, the effort involved in getting the rebate comes to about $300.

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Plenty of roads - but nowhere to live

Gold Coast Mayor Gary Baildon came out with a statement on 8 September 2003 indicating for the first time that a pre-occupation with more and wider roads will never be the answer to the growing traffic chaos. I sent this response to him: - It's not often I burst into print to comment on civic matters, but today I can't resist. Your comment on Page 3 "Cars not the way to go", is one of the best statements you've made yet - and you've made quite a few I'll admit.

Our obsession with making way for mostly maniacs rushing to nowhere in particular in pieces of pressed metal containing a combustion engine has always been a source of amazement to me. There will never be enough roads to carry traffic and I have this wacky theory that roads actually attract cars.

We mow down houses and commercial buildings to widen roads everywhere and the disruption this causes is greater than anyone could possibly imagine. Here in High Street Southport, when Main Roads set about widening the road a couple of years ago, I found out that the Gestapo was never disbanded.

Between Main Roads and Energex, the lives of every business in this street were hell for 12 months. If everyone was aware of what is involved in this process of widening a road there would be a citizen's revolt every time it was mentioned. I forecast that if we keep going this way, we will end up with a city full of beautiful wide streets, but nowhere decent to live.

Someone has to start putting vehicles into some perspective of comfortable life. Traffic, and the new breed of idiots it has spawned, are driving us all crazy.

So Gary, stick to your guns. I think a lot of people will agree with you. I think the time might be right for a radical council sponsored campaign to re-educate people about the use of vehicles, because right now, it's out of control.

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Killer roads - baloney; bad weather - no such thing

The words were hardly out of my mouth (above) when two things occurred. The Bulletin magazine came out with a story "does speed kill?", and I saw Billy Connolly on TV doing a skit about the weather.

Billy was berating those weather reporters on TV who rabbit on about "bad weather". Says Billy, "There's no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothing".

I believe the same about roads. I really want to throw up when the local blat comes out with a bleeding heart story about some young hoon who wraps his speeding car around a lamp post on an innocent street and they - egged on by failed parents who are looking for any scapegoat for their son's untimely death - declare the innocent street A KILLER ROAD.

But back to the Bulletin Magazine's story. Michael Lane, from the National Motorists Association of Australia says speed is the prime cause of about 7% of accidents. Most crashes, he says are caused by driver error. Pedestrians cause most of their own crashes.

Over emphasis on speed has caused the reduction in the road toll to plateau. Putting 90% of the effort into 7% of the cause will not reduce road trauma, he says. We must improve driver training, emphasising defense driving, alertness, hazard awareness and self reliance, instead of speedometer gazing. Thank God there are some intelligent people out there. Why aren't they in parliament?

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Watch what you thrown down your cake-hole

I have had an interesting few hours with Elaine Hollingsworth, author of the book, 'Take control of your health and escape the sickness industry.'

This fascinating lady has spent a crusading 50 years of her life simply documenting the processes used in most of our so-called modern packaged food and talking with world experts about the scams being being pulled by big corporations in the name of good health, whereas they really mean GOOD PROFITS.

Readers of this new volume will form their own opinions, but even if 10% of what Elaine reveals is absolutely correct and proven, it is enough to send a stampede to our legislators asking for certain substances to be banned for human consumption.

I rarely shop at supermarkets. Close encounters with cancer in my family have exposed me to a great deal of information which I might otherwise never have thought about. And that's the problem with food, isn't it. We need catastrophies in our lives before we ask the pertinent questions about the food we put into our mouth.

I have often wondered why doctors never ever mention food when you report in sick. But surely, what you put in your mouth dictates totally how our bodies cope with life.

Do this as an excercise. Go to the supermarket and check out what people put in their trolleys. I watched an overweight woman with two young kids pushing an equally overweight trolley to the check out. I couldn't see one piece of real food in the trolley. It was loaded with soft drinks, snack food, tins, frozen packets....everything but food. There were no fresh vegetables or fruit...not that I would recommend buying that from the supermarket either.

There's no question, we are what we eat. I agree with Elaine. People should be encouraged to take control of their lives and take more responsibility for what they feed their children, instead of simply becoming a supermarket automaton. Woothworths and Coles don't want you to buy real food. The layout of their supermarkets says it all. The most accessable and visible aisles are full of crap - but that's where the big profits are.

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We are one - an ode to Australia Day - for the broad minded and tolerant.

We are the people of a free nation of blokes, sheilas and the occasional wanker. We come from many lands (although a few too many of us come from New Zealand), and although we live in the best country in the world, we reserve the right to bitch and moan about it whenever we bloody like.

We are One Nation but divided into many States. First, there's Victoria, named after a queen who didn't believe in lesbians. Victoria is the realm of Mossimo turtlenecks, cafe latte, grand final day, and big horse races. Its capital is Melbourne, whose chief marketing pitch is that "it's liveable". At least that's what they think. The rest of us think it is too bloody cold and wet.

Next, there's NSW, the realm of pastel shorts, macchiato with sugar, thin books read quickly and millions of dancing queens. Its capital Sydney has more queens than any other city in the world and is proud of it. Its mascots are Bondi lifesavers that pull their Speedos up their cracks to keep the left and right sides of their brains separate.

Down south we have Tasmania, a State based on the notion that the family that bonks together stays together. In Tassie, everyone gets an extra chromosome at conception. Maps of the State bring smiles to the sternest faces. It holds the world record for a single mass shooting, which the Yanks can't seem to beat no matter how often they try.

South Australia is the province of half-decent reds, a festival of foreigners and bizarre axe murders. SA is the state of innovation. Where else can you so effectively re-use country bank vaults and barrels as in Snowtown, just out of Adelaide (also named after a queen). They had the Grand Prix, but lost it when the views of Adelaide sent the Formula One drivers to sleep at the wheel.

Western Australia is too far from anywhere to be relevant. It's main claim to fame is that it doesn't have daylight saving because if it did, all the men would get erections on the bus on the way to work. WA was the last state to stop importing convicts and many of them still work there in the government and business.

The Northern Territory is the red heart of our land. Outback plains, sheep stations the size of Europe, kangaroos, jackaroos, emus, Uluru, and dusty kids with big smiles. It also has the highest beer consumption of anywhere on the planet and its creek beds have the highest aluminium content of anywhere too. Although the Territory is the centrepiece of our national culture, few of us live there and the rest prefer to fly over it on our way to Bali.

And there's Queensland. While any mention of God seems silly in a document defining a nation of half arsed sceptics, it is worth noting that God probably made Queensland, as its beautiful one day and perfect the next. Why he filled it with dickheads remains a mystery.

Oh yes and there's Canberra. The less said the better.

We, the citizens of Oz, are united by highways, whose treacherous twists and turns kill more of us each year than murderers. We are united in our lust for international recognition, so desperate for praise we leap in joy when a rag tag gaggle of corrupt IOC officials tells us Sydney is better than Beijing. We are united by a democracy so flawed that a political party albeit a redneck gun toting one, can get a million votes and still not win one seat in Federal Parliament. Not that we're whingeing, we leave that to our Pommy immigrants.

We want to make "no worries mate" our national phrase, "she'll be right mate" our national attitude and "Waltzing Matilda" our national anthem (so what if it's about a sheep-stealing crim who commits suicide). We love sport so much our newsreaders can read the death toll from a sailing race and still tell us who's winning. And we're the best in the world at all the sports that count, like cricket, netball, rugby league and union, AFL, roo shooting, two up and horse racing.

We also have the biggest rock, the tastiest pies, and the worst dressed Olympians in the known universe. Only in Australia can a pizza delivery get to your house faster than an ambulance. Only in Australia do we have bank doors wide open, no security guards, or cameras but chain the pens to the desk.

Stand proud Aussies - we shoot, we root, we vote. We are girt by sea and pissed by lunchtime. Even though we might seem a racist, closed minded, sports obsessed little people, at least we feel better for it.

I am, you are, we are Australian!
P.S We also shoot and eat the two animals that are on our National
Crest!!!! No other country has this distinction!

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Don't blame me, mate

As one grows older, it's amazing how frequently people of the same age group lament the passing of activities or attitudes we held dear. I was commiserating with fellow senior scribe Barry Galton (Gold Coast Bulletin and great historian) about this and he responded with this. (Thanks Baz)

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Who is responsible for the changes?

Senior citizens are constantly being criticised for every conceivable deficiency in the modern world, real or imaginary.

We take responsibility for all we have done and do not blame others. But...on reflection, we would like to point out that it was not the senior citizens who took.....

The melody out of music
The pride out of appearance
The romance out of love
The commitment out of marriage
The responsibility out of parenthood
The togetherness out of family
The learning out of education
The service out of patriotism
The religion out of schools
The natural scenes out of the cities
The civility out of behaviour
The refinement out of language
The dedication out of employment
The prudence out of spending
The ambition out of achievement

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Of Sandwiches and Couriers

A strange combination, I know, but all will be revealed.

For the working classes (that's us), sandwich eating has become a daily ritual. It's convenient, gives us variety - you know about sandwiches. So how come sandwich bars, including those with the audacity to call themselves Gourmet, turn out disgusting, tasteless craven images of the great sandwich. Come on, when was the last time you really got a decent, tasty sandwich. I've worked out why - the bastards are too miserable to buy decent ingredients. We are being dished up the equivalent of the Woolworths sandwich because the ingredients are the cheapest, most generic packaged plastic foods available. In short, we are being served third rate rubbish masquerading as sandwiches - and they are asking top money for the privilege.

..and they lie. Try asking for "butter". Sure, this is butter, they will tell you. Ask again - it's not butter, it's margarine. You might as well inject raw plastic formula into your veins. If you knew how margarine was made, you'd puke every time you saw a tub of the stuff. But sandwich shop people think it's all the same. They call everything butter. I could go on...the tasteless packaged cheese, the supermarket tomatoes with no flavour, the processed meats with a shelf life of three years. And the chicken - yuk.

I want to know how people can run a business they know absolutely zilch about. I mean, these people must eat shit at home, or are they just serving up this crap believing that most people don't know good from bad ingredients.

I implore all thinking sandwich eaters - stand up for your rights. Rebel now. Demand better ingredients. Challenge these morons to come up with some fresh, decent, tasty food. Better still, buy a loaf of nice bread (not from a supermarket), a decent block of Kenilworth matured, grow your own lettuce and tomatoes, and discover for yourself what a sandwich is supposed to taste like. It's not exactly rocket science.

Now, I promised you something about Couriers.

It strikes me as being coincidental that just as sandwich shops can't make sandwiches, I find that Couriers can't find delivery addresses. Isn't that odd.

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Join my war against the corporates

I call on the honourable Winston Churchill "Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the corporate world". Ok so I changed one word.

I'm tired of it. I am sick to death with the intrusions in my life of the corporate players in telecomunications, wine clubs, the deaf society, the kidney foundation and the rest of these morons who phone me at work, on my mobile, at home, deluge my emails and my post box. ENOUGH.

OK, it takes time to protest, but bugger it, what's another minute or two when it gives me some degree of satisfaction that I have tried my best to change the world, a world that right now, I don't particularly like.

I've started taking names and serial numbers from these characters who phone. It's amazing sometimes what they will tell you. I've had interesting chats with people from India and the Philippines, who had called me about Optus. Having done that, I got onto the Optus website and gave them a mouthful - nicely of course, you know me. But I challenged their marketing methods and made the point that I am sure that in the business community, they alienate more people than they satisfy, so sooner or later, there has to be a negative gain for them.

I got a call from a smart person at Optus HQ in Adelaide. Sure, she was reading from her manual on how to manage tetchy consumers, but she promised to remove every phone and fax number and internet address from the Optus database. "How can I trust you," I snorted. "Here's my name, direct phone number and I'm in the Adelaide office of Optus. If you are still being annoyed by us in six to eight weeks you can phone and abuse me." A done deal. (it's now November 2006 and I freely admit, I have never received a call from an Optus salesperson...but then I rarely give callers enough time to announce themselves these days)

One down, 98 to go.

Yesterday, I dobbed in 3 for Business (a mobile phone company would you believe), to the ACCC for false pretences. They sent me a formal looking window envelope, all corporate details correct, a return address, but strangely no company name, and an official looking notation next to the window "Invoice Inside". I opened it, and a flier jeered at me, "hah hah, it's not an invoice, but would you like one like this." Not only was the flier impossible to follow (does anyone really understand how phone bills and airline prices work?) but I became incensed at the invasion of my time. I logged on to the ACCC website, found an excellent mechanism for making a complaint and I made it. I'm going to do it more often.

So if you are reading this, think about standing up for yourself against this onslaught of unwanted, intrusive, money grabbing corporate marketing.

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The good mail

I met our genial postman at the front gate this morning and I quipped as he handed me yet another window envelope "how about some interesting mail".

As he roared off, his words hit me with the power of the 11th commandment "nobody gets nice mail any more".

...and you know. He's right. I might even do something about that too. How about we all write a nice letter to someone - family, friends, business associate. My guess is that you will win them for life with such a gesture.

Instead of wasting your money and time on the mindless, boring,insincere christmas card, write little personal notes instead. I haven't send out bulk cards for years - don't intend to start.

Computers - male or female

You know that in some languages, French and Spanish, for example, objects are genderised with a le or a la.

Picture a Spanish classroom. The kids are asked if a computer should be male or female.

The boys handed down their judgement thus:
Definitely feminine gender ("la computer"), because:
1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers
is incomprehensible to everyone else;
3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for
possible later retrieval; and
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself
spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

...and the girl's judgement:
Masculine ("el computer"), because:
1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;
2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time
they ARE the problem; and
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realise that if you had waited a
little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The perfect squelsh

Occasionally, among the many idiot call centre phone calls I receive, there's one which allows me to score a good point - a thoughtful verbal wound. Whether the people at the other end of the phone enjoy it as much as I do is not my problem.

A fast talking, reasonably articulate and well spoken young guy was on the other end of the phone. He was from a research company - how bloody original.

He rattled on about how his company had been commissioned to find out, once and for all, what was the biggest single drain on small office budgets and resources. I suspect he was leading up to tell me it was the phone bill.

An inspiration. "I know the answer to that already,' I responded gleefully as though I was about to come into money.

He hesitated. "Oh. Do you?".

"Yep. It's idiots like you from call centres wasting my bloody time with your useless information."

In the pregnant pause which followed, I quietly replaced the receiver, smirking as I did so.

Extruded, look-alike, make believe, plasticised seafood!

I rushed to Sydney for a night dinner meeting with clients last Saturday night (2July05). Found myself at the Bankstown Sports Club. A tawdry mini-Vegas mess of smoke-filled spaces. We chose the Thai restaurant. When the seafood curry emerged from the slop house out the back, I immediately extracted about four large sticks of seafood extender and a number of rounds of white stuff masquerading as sea scallops and piled them on a plate, at the same time suggesting that nobody touch this stuff. One of my guests who really should have known better admonished me. "That's crab!". "No. You're one letter out, it's crap. It's extruded seafood extender," I responded. I know my seafood. "This is the sausage of the sea." Why people put up with this stuff is beyond me, but it seems to be becoming a sad fact of life that tomorrow's adults will never know what seafood is or what it tastes like.

I went on the world wide web to try to find out how they made that seafood extender. I couldn't find it. Another chemical company with a patent on a formula that they are not about to divulge.

Growing old disgracefully (only the numbers have been changed to protect the vain)

OK, so I'm over 60. Happy now? But I really do resent it. In the hope of scoring some discounts, I applied for a Seniors Discount Card. I hate asking for discounts as well.The government department who runs the geriatric division sent me a new discount catalogue in the mail today, in a clear plastic envelope so everyone could see it. I sent the following to the Government.


I don't want to make a big thing out of this, but thanks for sending me the latest seniors directory in a nice plastic, see through envelope which was delivered to my post box (my choice) and now ensures that everyone in my office knows how old I am. (a young staffer picked up my mail while I was out of town last week)

No doubt the decision to use see-through packaging was made by some fresh-out-of-university expert who has yet to find out that most people get a little sensitive about their age around this time.

I hate being labelled as senior or old in any sense of the word, and more and more studies are revealing that people of my age group really do resent being categorised in this way.

The fact is that I am not growing old gracefully. I still work as hard as ever and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. I am being dragged by my time clock into maturity, kicking and screaming. My mind says I'm 19 but the calendar says I'm a lot older. I hate it and I hate it being broadcast to all and sundry.

So please consider engaging in a little discretion for those of us who have lied about our age for some time and will continue to do so. Pop all future correspondence to me in a plain brown envelope, there's a good little government department.


Ken Newton
Aged 19, going on ??

What did he say???

I'm sure all of you in business have received regular outpourings from Telstra, and in particular, the one recently (late 2005) which was headed "Changes to the Portfolio Management Program".
I can't begin to describe how purile this communication was. I was annoyed, not so much because it was an unncessary intrusion on my day, but because it didn't make sense, and is typical of the way corporates waste money on useless, mindless, money-grabbing exercises.
I penned this letter back - I think you will enjoy it. (click to read) I have reached the conclusion that customer service personnel are the problem and not the solution.Why would anyone in their right mind wish to deal with a person who has no understanding of the product, no authority to tell you anything other than what they read on the idiot sheet in front of them, no authority to do anything for you and are trained to distance you from the real people in the organisation who, if they wanted to, might be able to help.
Customer Service Departments, in banks and institutions that we have to deal with every day, are a self perpetuating industry.
It is the Customer Service Departments which are the problem.
The day companies made the decision to have these semi-trained monkeys answer phones on their behalf and try to resolve our consumer questions, was the day customer relations took a whole new turn for the worst. A state of war now permanently exists between me and the customer affairs and marketing departments of every bank, telecommunications provider and finance company in the land.So rise up, citizens. Look again at the wave of rubbish you are receiving daily from people you thought you could trust. Respond with threats of disengagement if they continue. Want inspiration here to read my letter to my bank. (This comes after a countless wave of poor communication from their financial marketers and so called customer relations people, so you'll be lacking a little history...but you will get the drift)

I'll lay 10 to 1 against my insurance company

I read this in a New Zealand magazine: "The insurance market is the largest casino in the world. Take away the jargon and insurance is no more than a casino where the insurance company acts as the banker and you as player.

The insurance industry makes money by taking your bet, correctly calculating the odds and where possible avoiding paying out by manipulating the game rules recorded in the policy. "

Now go to the DVD store and rent The Rainmaker (1997)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Danny de Vito

Clients I can well do without

In the last couple of years, I broke a rule I made a long time ago. I took on a real estate/development project as a client. Big mistake. In fact, I vowed many years ago that my office would be out of bounds for any client who dabbled in real estate, development, restaurants and hotels. Everything I have ever touched in those departments over the years, with a couple of notable exceptions, have turned to mush. As it turns out, some of the best people I have ever worked with were developers, but they were of a different ilk than the people at the helm of major development companies today. At least the guys I dealt with were gentlemen....I don't mind naming them - Neil McCowan, developer of Runaway Bay, Jock McIlwain, developer of many things, around the Sunshine Coast and Mermaid Beach areas and the late Bernard Lewis, of the Sovereign Islands and Harbour Town. I guess I was spoilt by these people. The thing each of these people had in common was a preparedness to be consistent and look long term at promotional strategies. Today's real estaters and developers are so hungry for sales that they dart from one idea to the next with wasteful abandon. They have no idea about promotional style and they certainly don't understand loyalty to consultants.

I succumbed to the pleadings of a mate to consult to a real estate project at Hedges Avenue. I made a nice documentary as a result of their willingness to be different, but then it turned to mush, through no fault of mine or indeed even the real estate group in charge of sales. That's another story. But you might find it interesting to read my spin on real estate marketing, in the proposal letter I sent to this company (names deleted to protect their amateur approach to promotion). CLICK HERE FOR THE LETTER

Two heads but hardly one brain (November 2006)

I found myself in Adelaide recently on an overnight business trip and with an hour or so to kill before catching the flight home, I pottered about with some paperwork in my room and put the TV on for company. That's a lie. Why would anything on TV ever be company. I actually wanted to check out the morning shows, you know, Today on 9 and Sunrise on 7.

I tried, without success, to tell myself that these were top rating morning news/entertainment shows. I used to admire Kochie, but no more. I watched them for fully ten minutes before I had to turn off to allow my nausea to subside. He and the blond (name not important to thinking people) made a mockery of television. They raved on, chortling and chuckling to each other with in-house funnies which might have been hilarious to them, but meant nothing to the audience. The show on the other channel was the same formula.

Why does it take two people to do the job of one competent person. I think I just answered my own question.

This TV circus is pathetic. It's not interesting, it's certainly not news, it's not even entertainment. So why do the morons watch it. I guess the same reason bored housewives and process workers listen to commercial radio. They have to have noise to keep awake because their brains are permanently on idle. Then they can get another script for valium to calm them down. The drug companies have got them hooked. Maybe the drug companies are major shareholders of modern commercial radio and TV?

Food, inglorious food (November 2006)

I'm really sick of people who sell food, but know nothing about it. We've got a local fruit and vege market which does a roaring trade in mediocre produce. Many people I know refuse to shop there because often, fruit on the bottom of the pile is rotting, bringing swarms of those little flies.

When I first moved here, I tried to help the guy to understand real food. His eyes glazed over when I told him there were at least seven varieties of potatoes that he should be stocking. He relented finally and now stocks two kinds.These guys must never taste the food they sell. I paid a ridiculous price for a handful of grapes recently, to find they were tasteless rubbish. I threw them away. I go there rarely.

And don't get me started on seafood. WE HAVE NO FRESH SEAFOOD IN QUEENSLAND. The only shop where you could be guaranteed that all the seafood was swimming yesterday was Chirn Seafoods in Nind Street. Sadly, they closed about a year ago, never to be replaced. It's an era now long gone.

I have yet to find a seafood market which understands seafood. Harking back to Adelaide, I walked through the inner city markets and stood drooling at the seafood counters. Now that's fresh seafood. You must keep reminding yourself that the best seafood comes from colder climes.

Up here in sunny Queensland, the trawlermen overboil the prawns, the shops overcook the mudcrabs which are now only half full because they've been virtually fished out of existence, and the fish is days old and probably was caught two months ago in one of the Asian sewers which grow the catfish called BASA, which Australians consume by the ton. I guess that explains why the fast food outlets that flog plastic hamburgers and chicken are making a living. The Australian palate is jaded. Today's kids think this crap is food. Get a life. If you intend to live a reasonable amount of years, start thinking about what you throw down your throat.

The passing of a good friend

Columnist Brian Mossop at the Gold Coast Bulletin deserves full credit for unearthing this gem.

I have always been a great campaigner for common sense. I hate insurance and I resent the fact that society has become so controlled that it has transferred its right of individual responsibility to the state.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend by the name of Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge).

His health began to rapidly deteriorate when well intentioned by overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, which only worsened his condition.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student; but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted an abortion.

Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense finally gave up the fight after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, she spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

Two stepbrothers, My Rights and Ima Whiner, survive him. Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. If you still know him pass this on, if not, join the majority and do nothing.

Thanks Brian, I'm passing it on.








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