Monday, 24 August 2009

Trying to figure out...


I've decided to move my blog and self host it on a platform. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and thought why not.

So now I'm experimenting and figuring it out with my new travel blog:
Ice Cream for Everywhere.

I always randomly write when I go off travelling and it has been collecting dust for a while so I thought I might as well put everything online. I spent several hours yesterday looking at WP themes and the site is far from finished yet. I want to understand it a bit better, finish copying a bunch of posts from various trips and then I'll take care of moving this blog here to a different site.

This way, I'll be writing about my South American travels directly on that other blog in December. That's right, I'm going to Peru and Bolivia and really looking forward to it! My little brother's little baby daughter should also be born by then so I'll have the privilege of meeting my new niece. ;)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

I f*cking hate Pizza Express

I f*cking hate Pizza Express. You may have already figured that out from the title. Most of my friends or people I tell don't get it and I think they're insane. It's insipid, their food is bland, really expensive, the portions are tiny, and they're overtaking everything at a Starbucks speed (Which I don't like that much but as much as I hate Pizza Express).

It's not that surprising given their size they can keep throwing 241 vouchers at all the affiliate sites possible and imaginable so people keep coming. Incentives and e-marketing 101. But then again, nothing wrong with that I guess.

Apart from the fact that I've been in a bit of an angry mood lately, I've just learned Pizza Express launched a ridiculous new product lately and it's as good an opportunity as any to share my distaste for the brand. I'm sure the 241 afficionados will be soon be all over it like a rash: The leggera pizza (it means light in Italian, call it a diet pizza). A pizza with a hole in the middle and salad in the hole. So like half a pizza.

Eat a salad if you're worrying about your diet. The worst thing is this kind of minute segmentation will probably work; specially created for the diet conscious who want to look good in front of their friends, feel good about themselves and can't make up their minds on whether to have a pizza or a salad. Now they can have both. I'm so relieved.

Curious, I checked the menu found out a classic Margherita costs £5.90. A light Margherita costs £7.95. I guess the fresh tomatoes in the latter are perhaps more expensive..? Still outrageous. Otherwise, the rest of their pizzas cost a fortune, ridiculousy overpriced.

Their ice cream isn't very good either. I don't understand how so many people love it. Apparently they have over 13,000 fans on their Facebook page. But I'm not one for random hate and I'm glad a good reason for you to boycott Pizza Express if you're up for it. Check out this Facebook group about Pizza Express employees.

Now there are problems with managing tips for the whole restaurant industry but still: Pizza Express takes 8% from whatever the service charge is for admin fees. Service charge in the UK is not obligatory, customers don't have to pay it, but usually do with the understanding that this money is tips for the staff. That's rarely the case and here a good example of Pizza Express taking money from their low paid employees.

Pizza Express employees protested against this in 2007 and a restaurant manager who supported the employees claims got sacked.

I'm also glad I found a few other people who don't like it, such as Pete Cashmore from 'Une Annee sans Pizza', the blog of a pizza lover who didn't eat any for a whole year.

And it's not just Pizza Express, it's every single standardised eatery and baverage chains. All the same lame decorations, overpriced offering, same bland flavours, paint by numbers school of cooking, etc. It's all killing the small restaurants and originality.

To finish on a positive note, because I'm not all hatred, I absolutely love good pizza. For some really good pizza and Italian food check out these places in London:

  • Bar Italia in Soho, a London institution open since 1949. If you haven't tried their pizzas yet, have one. They're not the best in the world but very good and beat a Pizza Express any time.
  • Ripe Tomato, close to Portobello Road.
  • Centonove, on Westbourne Park Road.
What are your favourite pizza places? I'd love to know.

Rant done. One day I may talk about Fire & Stone, possibly the only pizza place I hate more than Pizza Express ;) Have a great weekend.

PS: You probably noticed, but no link love for Pizza Express.

May 2015 update: For some reason this post seems to be garnering some comments in recent months so I'll reiterate a comment I wrote below. Feedback from a few employees are saying the service charge is split up fairly, if it's the case I'm glad for the employees. Otherwise it's a pretty old post, I don't hold passionate opinions about Pizza Express one way or another aside from appreciating the success from a business perspective perhaps. I don't eat there, nor do I particularly think about it unless someone comments here.

Avatar Day

I was invited last minute to go see the 15 minutes of clips from Avatar at the IMAX in London for Avatar Day. It's the new James Cameron movie that will be released in December this year and has been talked about for months already - if not a year or two.

For a movie building up so much expectations I think it's a pretty good idea to offer to see 15 minutes of clips months before the release date to get fans buy-in and build even more anticipation. Of course it's also gambling on the fact that most people will like those 15 minutes, but so far it seems to be paying off according to Avatar mentions on Twitter, although District 9 and Inglorious Basterds are both in the top 10 trends right now and Avatar isn't.

Apparently Cameron spent over $300M on this production, so I'm glad to say at the very least it looks good. Even stunning, in fact. A giant full fledged 3D animated fest of special effects for sure, but a visually beautiful universe. So it has that going, and it's pretty certain I'll go see it - I would advise an IMAX cinema for something at this scale.

Now the scenario may have some kind of twist but it seems unlikely and the storyline looks extremely basic. I had only read one article about Avatar and I think having created a whole brand new science-fiction universe, they are hoping to rival with something like Star Wars for a new generation of movie goers. So far as I said it looks beautiful and maybe even memorable - but only for so long.

Interestingly, Titanic was another giant super-production from Cameron and people haven't forgotten it but I don't think it has a cult status or following either (Does it?). Avatar might end up in the same category, but we'll see.

The other thing I'm not convinced about is the 3D glasses. I don't get the renewed 3D trend at the moment. I think it's still sort of blurry (Or not blurry, at least has a strange quality), the glasses are annoying and I don't find the little bit of depth perception adds much to the movie experience...

But I'll say one last time that it looks amazingly beautiful and that should definitely be worth it.

Trailer here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Remember SMEBS..? The Social Media Burnout Syndrome? Sure you must remember, back in February Marcus Brown came over to London and did a brilliant Garden of Tweetdom evening, including a piece about people suffering from terrible social media addictions.

SMEBS Watch - Meet Andrew from Marcus Brown on Vimeo.

More information on SMEBS watch.

So the new news is that Sony VAIO launched a campaign, apparently created by Nascom in Belgium and basically ripped the concept off completely. That makes the Kaiser angry. And the Hippo too (Why not, and people should know not to fuck with hippos, they kill more people in Africa than any other animal apparently).

As Marcus says in this post, just ask for god's sake. We all know there's stealing, sopying and plagiarism in the advertising industry, but when it's so blatant have the decency of asking.

What I actually find even weirder is that I don't like the campaign at all. I don't understand what the hell it has to do with Sony VAIO and doesn't seem to portray VAIO owners in a good light. Sure, one easy way to view it is that VAIOs are so good that you can't your hands off them.

Another interpretation is that Twitter / Facebook / etc are so addictive it has nothing to do with the computer.

Yet another one, and what I thought immediately was that VAIO users were obviously a bunch of worthless, sad weak willed junkies - so the computer can't be worth that much either.

I wonder how much Sony really wants to be directly associated with addictive behaviours, actually drugs and support Anonymous type groups..?

I would be interested in having more of other people's opinions about this, both about the plagiarism and thoughts about the campaign.

And actually, one more thing to finish. It just occured to me that I usually say that for any communications to be successful and generate conversations, they need to be polarising. And this one is. I don't like it and am campaigning about it.

That actually sounds like a pretty good job in my book.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


You've probably heard of the new Roland Emmerich cataclysmic fest of a movie coming out soon, 2012. The movie is based on the Mayan calendar stopping in 2012 and predicting the Earth will be destroyed (I haven't checked up on the legend and history so I won't elaborate) If you haven't seen the trailer, check it out but Bud pointed us out (via Twitter) to this excellent trailer remake inspired by 70's disaster movies with an awesome groovy tune:

Last weekend I was working on a few personal projects (Notably thinking of moving this blog to self hosted WordPress and registered another domain name for all the travel writing I have taking up dust in a folder, so look out for Ice Cream for Everywhere coming out soon).

Anyhoo, given I was looking at a few WP sites I ended up visiting Big Spaceship again and browsing around I saw they created a website for The IHC, The Institute for Human Continuity. An organisation dedicated to the noble cause of saving a few select humans by blasting them out in outer space while the planet will be destroyed in 2012 (Which by the way looks like a WP as well, isn't it?).

Nice way to promote the movie. But then also realised this was part of a larger ARG type experience and so I registered to the Lottery to be saved before the apocalypse, you should check it out if you want to have a chance to get of here in, ironically, a big spaceship. So now I have an optimistic Dr. Soren Ulfert PhD, Communications Director of the IHC emailing me with news and next actions in the preparation for our species survival.

But not everyone believes in the righteous actions of the IHC: I found out Charlie Frost, broadcasting live from his Winnebago out in the middle of nowhere, USA, does not believe anyone will survive 2012 and makes it his mission to tell whoever will listen in his website - This is the End.

He also has is own Youtube channel and answers audience questions about the apocalypse:
(You may notice he strangely resembles Woody Harrelson ;)

Charlie Frost is also on Twitter, as is The IHC. They are also on a bunch of other sites, links are on peppered on the main sites.

I don't really know where this is going but I'm finding it quite entertaining for now and expect it to perhaps be better than the movie so I wanted to share it with you.

On this note I will leave you and go submit my application to become the Post-2012 Glorious Leader of Humanity. Vote Willem!