Sep 272010

<UPDATE> As suggested I went back into the Vodafone store and spoke to the manager at Truro where I was originally sold the idea of an N900. (They didn’t have it in stock so I had to get it from the Penzance store). The manager at Truro basically spent the whole conversation with a smug smile on her face explaining that I was stupid and if the phone was not fit for purpose I should have known in the first twenty-eight days. Regardless of me hoping for an update to Ovi-Maps that was never to come. The twenty-eight day return period had expired and there was nothing she could or would do to help me.

Two days ago (2nd November) I went into the Vodafone store in Penzance as I was already in the area. I held out absolutely no hope of help and I really didn’t feel like explaining everything again only to be fobbed off and sent packing. To my utter surprise, the manager, a guy named Paul Rich bent over backwards to help me and promised that if I returned on the 3rd with my original paperwork he’d replace the phone; I am now the owner of a spangly new N8 that seems to be everything the N900 promised to be and more. I now have Sat Nav and a 12MP camera phone.

Thank you Paul… You have redeemed Vodafone! </UPDATE>

I have had an account with Vodafone for the past five years. Seven months ago I upgraded my Nokia N95 8GB to a Nokia N900 but had to take out a 24 month contract at £35 per month for xx many minutes, texts and data usage. It didn’t come cheap. I have been offered the same minutes and texts etc by Orange for the half the price.

A month or so back I was contacted by Vodafone’s customer satisfaction team to see how the phone and service were. I replied that I was less than happy with the 3G coverage in Cornwall, the battery life of the phone as it continually searched for 3G and that although the phone was sold with Sat Nav at no point was I told that the Sat Nav had no turn by turn voice option. The guy from the customer satisfaction team told me there was nothing he could do and to either contact Vodafone’s retention team or go back in-store and complain.

A few days later I went into the local Vodafone store to try to explain my problems and was told within the first few minutes that the guy serving me wouldn’t recommend the N900 to anyone.

I decided that the retentions team would be a better bet as surely they wanted to keep my business.

I explained my problems to voice on the phone #1 who gave the following solutions. To conserve your battery life turn off the 2G/3G search option and live with 2G only; “Yes, I realise that will slow your phone down considerably but you can always re-enable the 3G option when you are in a 3G area” he said.

I wondered how I’d actually know I was in a 3G enabled area: Was the sky bluer? Did I receive a call from Vodafone congratulating me on being in such an area or were there signs pinned to trees?

I argued that in this day and age, when you buy a smart phone, is it not unreasonable to assume that one can unplug it from the charger each morning without having to think about switching options on and off all day depending on where you are to conserve battery life? Voice #1 replied that when you use a laptop you set the energy saving options to suit your usage.

I agreed and explained that the energy settings I have set on my laptop have never been changed since I first set them up on day one and that they suit my purpose fully, wherever I am. I don’t have to use different settings in a cafe in London to the settings I use on the beach at Lands End.

Voice #1 understood what I was saying but told me I’d either have to live with the inconvenience of changing the options or live with short battery life. There was no compromise and that Vodafone state in their T&C that they do not guarantee any kind of network coverage.

I suggested that Vodafone should at least make customers aware that smart phones are rendered virtually unusable in areas such as Cornwall that have little to no 3G network coverage. Apps, emails, internet, Facebook and Twitter all rely on 3G to make the activity pleasurable rather than a chore.

Who buys a smart phone to access the online functions laboriously slowly? Don’t the networks and phones all sell themselves on speed and ease of use?

To give you an idea how bad the battery is;  a couple of days ago I unplugged the phone from the charger at 8.30am. At 5.30pm that evening I received a phone call that went straight through to voicemail as the phone had died sometime during the day. I know this because when I went to set an alarm at 11pm the phone was dead with not enough battery power to start up. I received the text notification for the missed call at 8am the following morning. It had been an important call I had missed. One that had the potential to cost me financially had the caller not been contactable the next day.

This is Nokia’s supposedly flagship phone, less than seven months old!

After thirty-five minutes of getting nowhere with voice #1 I asked to be transferred to someone more senior; I was put on hold and eventually Gavin Mandrill, a customer service manager took the call. He asked me to cut to the chase, explain what was wrong succinctly and what I wanted Vodafone to do about it.

Once more I explained that I was unhappy with the 3G coverage in Cornwall and that the lack of 3G made a lot of the phones ‘smart’ features unreasonably slow. I explained that were this problem explained to me at point of sale I might have chosen a phone that had more ‘offline’ features. I suggested that Vodafone made it a priority to explain the lack of 3G locally and that it would be of great help to future customers. I explained that I was more than a little unhappy with the phones lack of voice directed Sat Nav especially in a flagship model, especially when the phones predecessor had it and especially when Nokia use it in their television advertising as a selling point.

Regarding the lack of 3G Gavin again stated that in Vodafone’s T&C they did not guarantee coverage. Therefore, Vodafone were fulfilling their obligation by ‘not’ supplying 3G to the majority of Cornwall. Although they didn’t advertise the fact at point of sale I was in error for not doing my research. Regarding the short battery life Gavin suggested as Voice #1 had done that I compromise and adjust my settings so that the phone stopped looking for 3G. Sure, it would be hassle to keep having to change settings if I ever wanted to use 3G where I could but it was one or the other… Short battery life or 2G unless I knew I was in a 3G area and reverted my settings back to the standard ones.

“Again, tell me directly” said Gavin, “What do you want Vodafone to do for you?”

“Well” I replied “Orange have offered me the same tariff as you guys but at half the price. What I’d like from you is that you give me an early upgrade so that I can get a phone I can use or that you let me cancel my account with you without charging me a cancellation of service fee.” (Which they quoted in the region of £500).

“Why should we not charge you?” said Gavin. “You’ve had the phone for seven months, you have seventeen months left to go on your contract and we stand to lose money. You can make phone calls, you can send texts, you can access the internet and you have Sat Nav. Where have we failed to withhold our end of the contract?

If you’ve had a bad experience in-store, I apologise but you should take that up with the store’s manager. Not with Vodafone directly! On top of that, you’ve seemed to be happy with the phone up until now and I don’t understand why you’re complaining now, after seven months.”

I explained that missing the call last night was the final straw and that although I ‘had’ complained about the lack of voice in the Sat Nav app before I had been told that that was Nokia’s problem and not Vodafone’s. Adding everything together I believed that Vodafone held at least some of the blame in bad customer service, bad information at the time of sale and poor network coverage in the west of the country that wasn’t publicised.

“Look” I said, “I’m not trying to scam Vodafone, I’m not trying to get something for nothing, I’m willing to compromise. I don’t want to go through the hassle of cancelling with you and opening an account somewhere else. I’m sure you don’t want to lose my business and don’t want the hassle of taking me to court to reclaim the cancellation fee which I definitely ‘will not’ pay up-front and willingly because I’m happy to argue that you ‘have not’ fulfilled your contract completely with me.

Let me have an early upgrade please, to a phone I can use offline as easily as online, a phone I can get Sat Nav with turn by turn voice direction, even if I have to pay for that feature as an app and I’ll happily agree to a new 24 month contract.”

Gavin reiterated that everything was fulfilled by Vodafone in their contract with me and that I was at fault for not researching both the phone and the area I live in. Point of sale staff are not at fault for not answering questions not asked of them and not at fault for not supplying information that might be of use to a potential customer. Everything I was sold was ‘fit for purpose’.

‘Hmmm. Fit for purpose. Interesting!’ I thought.

“Define fit for purpose.” I said.

“Do you want the Oxford English definition?” asked Gavin.

“No, you know what I mean.” I said.

“What are you getting at?” asked Gavin.

“Would you agree that Satellite Navigation on a phone or on a Tom Tom like device is aimed primarily at drivers?” I asked.

“Yes.” replied Gavin.

“Would you agree that reading a book while driving was dangerous?” I asked.

“Yes.” replied Gavin.

“Would you advocate looking at a map whilst driving?” I asked.

“Ummm, I know what you’re getting at and I’m not going to answer.” said Gavin.

“So in declining to answer and by not agreeing that looking at a map while driving is dangerous, you’d, by implication, be suggesting that a Satellite Navigation system, aimed at drivers, that you can only make use of by taking your eyes off the road and squinting at a small, phone sized screen is ‘not’ fit for purpose?” I asked.

“Gavin, is the Sat Nav on an N900 fit for the purpose of driving?”

“I’m not answering that and not getting into this.” said Gavin.

“Can I quote you on that?” I asked.

“If you do it will be libellous unless you recorded the conversation and informed me of such at the beginning.”

“Vodafone recorded it.” I replied “You informed me of that at the beginning of the call. If this goes to court to reclaim a cancellation fee it can’t possibly be libel as the definition of libel is:

Libel occurs when a false and defamatory communication is written and seen.

Nothing I’ve said or will say, if this goes to court, is either false or defamatory. You have the proof there at Vodafone unless you can erase or lose it.”

“We will agree to disagree.” replied Gavin.

I said my goodbyes and hung up the phone. Honestly, I’m not going to let this drop. I was more than happy to take out another exorbitantly priced twenty-four months when I can get the same deal cheaper. I don’t usually have a problem with Vodafone. I would get to keep my number when it’s on all my stationery and we would all have come away smiling.

Where to from here? I don’t know yet but ranting on my blog is a start.

Sep 012010

Right now I have no idea where or what I should be doing. I feel I’m in that burned out place once more, I don’t want sympathy, I don’t deserve it, I have made the bed I lay in:

I’m numb, I’m angry, I’m angsty, I’m confused, I’m short tempered, I’m looking for something I can’t find, I’m down with a few of my so called friends that promise to call or visit but don’t, I’m searching for inspiration, I need a studio, I need work, I can’t decide whether shock value is relevant any more, I can’t decide whether glamour is relevant any more, I want to see and do but can’t, I want to move on with the business but feel like I’m swimming in tar, I want to increase my meds but the doctor says I’m on the maximum dose without seeking the advice of a psychiatrist which he won’t do until I start counselling again, what I thought I knew I don’t, things are positive, things are bleak, there is good, there is bad, I can’t help comparing past and present, I hate the past, thoughts of self harming have come back, I’ve found in my dad a man I like and it’s confused me, I want Faye here, I see my past in Jo, I don’t want to, I have violent outbursts, I am laid back, I bury my head in the sand, I see too much, I love living by the sea, I want to make more of it, ultimately I think I’ll fail, I can’t give up trying, trust no-one, accept people for who they are warts and all, I’m positive, I lack motivation, my website gets over a 100K hits a month, my website generates no income, I accept me for who I am but I wish I were different.

I have 6 local girls I can shoot right now but I lack inspiration. I actually want to shoot Hollie but she’s incommunicado right now. I can’t offer the 6 anything when I feel I’m just going through the motions. Unlike my London apartment, although much bigger, my Cornwall house is set out differently and doesn’t make for good studio space. To do these girls and my own work justice I need to be able to set out my lights properly.

Maybe I need to get back to Church? But…

Part of the Church work is definitely the shock value, though in our time, the beginning of the 21st century, shock is hard to come by. The only people shocked by what I do are the devout. Most people are desensitised to shock, to religion, to horror. I questioned what shock is and how far I need to go to shock and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that unless I find what I’m doing obscene myself I doubt I’ll shock many others. I don’t want to push myself that far.

We live in a world where car crashes are entertainment… How can I compete with that? Death is entertainment… How can I compete with that. Humanity is desensitised. Look at the horror and macabre gallery  on deviantART, people find the work beautiful. Tanya, the gallery moderator, does a great job every month showing us the best of the best of blood soaked photographs; people sucking on razor blades, syringes hanging from drug riddled skanks, hangings, mutilations, fake dead bodies washed up on the shore of life. I myself have dipped my toe in these waters. To really shock I need to immerse myself and take to swimming in these waters.

Twenty five years ago, in 1983/4, the British Board of Film Classification decided that video tapes needed to have the same age classifications that film had. Video at the time was a free for all without censorship. Overnight, what became known as the video nasty act was made law and a whole bunch of films became illegal to own or rent. I made a mint, a really pretty penny selling these films as pirate copies. I was already selling pirate porn, a few horror movies added to the mix couldn’t hurt.

People that had never even heard of Last House on the Left, Driller Killer, I Spit on your Grave and Faces of Death suddenly wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was a media frenzy; watch Zombie Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Holocaust the tabloids stated and you’ll all become serial killers. We must be protected, we mustn’t have free will and the right to decide on our own what is good or bad for us. The now protected masses, probably unaware beforehand that these films even existed were now unable to make up their own minds unless they came to me, or people like me. We pirate film dealers had a captive audience.

The average person becomes immune to stimuli rather quickly. If I take myself as an example; selling porn. I became bored of it almost instantly. I had banks of video duplication machines running day and night. I watched a lot of what I sold not for titillation but to make sure what I was selling was of good enough quality for my customers to keep coming back for more. To this day I cannot sit down and watch a porn movie. As I’ve said before on other pages; whatever way you swing it, whatever way you film it, whatever the combinations of sexes and numbers it all comes down to fucking and sucking. It is only; fucking and sucking.

I am completely desensitised to it. However pretty the cast, whether male/female, female/female, male/male… Whatever hole is being filled with whatever body part or kitchen utensil it bores me. Who then needs the stimuli? The young and inexperienced? Curiosity is part of humanities make up. The highly sexed and those lacking the ability to get sexual partners? It caters to a need.

Once one becomes desensitised to normal (ish) sex where does one turn to for kicks? Animal Farm? There was always a call for Animal Farm. I refused to deal in it. I could never decide whether the people that asked for it were genuinely turned on by the idea or whether there was a car crash mentality surrounding it. The same with Scat and Watersports. What in fact had happened was that I had become the censor myself. I couldn’t understand how people could get turned on by defecating on one another so refused to give people the opportunity. To be completely honest, it didn’t bother me but I didn’t like it either.

Then I discovered the Japanese porn market. As with all things, the Japanese had turned porn into an art. While watching a drugged Danish girl get fucked by a pig or a Great Dane left me cold, watching a Japanese girl trying to stuff a bucket load of baby eels up her vagina amused me in some odd way. While the Danish girls always looked forced, drugged or coerced into what they did on the farm the Japanese girls seemed willing in some way. While just as perverse, the Japanese films were so out there they almost seemed like parody. They seemed comedic in some way. Perhaps eels are funnier than dogs? Perhaps because the eels were unwitting participants and the pigs and dogs seemed only too willing? Perhaps the absurdity of watching a bucket full of eels escaping all over the set was more like Benny Hill and National Lampoon than Hostel?

Oh those crazy Japanese… Not content with eels, anything with tentacles became game. Anything from the sea in fact. You have to love the twisted morality… While it was illegal to show pubic hair and the genital area was more often than not blurred out or covered with a mosaic it was alright to fill a vagina with live fish.

What we in the West made sordid, the East made art. While bondage in the West during the 70s and early 80s comprised mainly of badly printed booklets showing men in inflatable rubber suits and hoods or Wellington boots and rubber Macs the east had Shibari; Bondage as an art form. While in the West we were training German Shepherds to fuck drugged women wearing dayglo wigs and overly large sunglasses to hide their identities the Japanese had Wakamezake and Nyotaimori. While in the West, forced sex films tried their hardest to be as brutal as possible; where rape was taken almost to the level of snuff and made to seem as unpleasant as it would be in real life the Japanese take on this was Chikan; rubbing of the genitals on unsuspecting teens on the subway and the odd crafty boob grab.

To this day, one of the funniest things I have ever seen though in no way sexually arousing is a video of two Japanese girls indulging in emetophilia or Roman Showers. The thing that amuses me most about this short clip is the humour… Neither girl seems forced, in fact the girl actually vomiting seems to be enjoying herself no end and giggles helplessly all the way through.

So back to the story; questioning my own need to shock through photography and feeling completely numb and uninspired I went on a soul searching mission to uncover my motives and find something to nudge me back into a world where I felt something. I wanted to be horrified. I wanted to be shocked. I wanted to feel revulsion. Fuck, I just wanted to feel. Something, anything, other than the stress and anger I have been feeling. Sickened to the pit of my stomach has got to be better than nothing right?

I started in the past…

What was considered vile enough to ban in 1984 is now freely available at any good video store. Zombie Flesh Eaters is now branded ‘UNCUT’ and ‘REMASTERED’ you can now experience it in the comfort of your own living room in 5:1 surround sound and HD video. We who now watch real war on prime time TV in HD widescreen can also watch the beauty of Rape and Revenge that is I Spit on your Grave. Better than that… Why watch the originals of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left when we can watch the bloodier, more violent remakes? There seems to be a fashion right now… Take a classic horror from the 80s and bring it up to date for the desensitised. Which is the better film? Carpenters Halloween or Rob Zombies Halloween?

I started in the past; over the past few weeks I’ve watched; Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Last House on the Left and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I enjoyed them as much as I did in the 80s.

What the general public never knew was that while the media pounced on the horror blockbusters, if they can be called that, was that there was an underground movement producing art house movies far more shocking. From Japan came the Guinea Pig series… Flowers of Flesh and Blood, The Devils Experiment and He Never Dies. While Faces of Death was reviled few people knew the Mondo genre had spawned far more shocking films like Traces of Death where nothing was staged unlike Faces and Japan’s The Death Files. Love it or hate it, Tobe Hoopers Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a classic piece of film making. Dealing with Cannibalism and Necrophilia it touched a raw nerve in many people. It was all the more shocking in that it was based on the true story of Ed Gein. Take then the little known films from Jörg Buttgereit; Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 where necrophilia becomes romanticised and the protagonists fall in love and run off with their corpses preferring them over the living. 1976s In the Realm of the Senses went a little further giving us unsimulated sex and a castration to boot.

I dipped my toe here too. Still I wasn’t moved. I’d seen them before… I needed something new. Oh font of all knowledge that is Google, show me your wares, lead me to the forums. “Come” said Pinhead “We have such sights to show you”.

I need not go into detail regarding the films here but I found and didn’t find what I was looking for… It seems (unless anyone can tell me otherwise) that the most shocking films of all time are as follows; August Underground, August Underground Mordum, August Underground Penance, Salo, Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible, I Stand Alone, Tokyo Gore Police and Visitor Q.

While not easy watching, some for their graphic content, some for their depressive subject matter and some for being just shock for the sake of shock I can honestly say that I am still unmoved. If I am moved in any way it would be the need to question why some people have gone to the lengths of say “Mordum” to utterly repulse the general public. A public that won’t search out these films anyway.

To bring it back into context I cannot compete and don’t want to compete with these movies. If the general public want to be shocked they need to see these movies. The lengths I would have to go to to surpass them would be far out of my comfort zone. Maybe comfort zone is the wrong phrase? I feel desensitised to the point where I could portray as bad as or even worse images as these films but why would I want to? What would I achieve and what point would I be proving? I need to rethink my motives and desires.

What would you like to see from me in the future?