Category Archives: News

Hey Oscars – This is no time for La La

Hey Pal:

I know my last post was a rant and I know I sometimes get too soap-boxy in this space, so I apologize in advance for this post, but it has to happen. I’m getting back on my soap box and I’m now going to stop talking to you, Pal, and address some important folks in the entertainment business.

Dear Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

Congratulations! The nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards are out and by most accounts you got it right this year. Critics seem to agree the nominated films and performances recognize the best in movies rather than the best in “for your consideration” campaigns, and there’s plenty of diversity in the mix to help you begin to shake that whole #OscarsSoWhite thing.

Well done.

Now, can we talk about next steps? The real decision-making starts now and I’d like to get radical and strongly suggest that you surprise everyone with your Best Picture choice and not give it to La La Land. Nothing against La La Land, I’ve seen it twice, and it’s a tasty morsel of cinematic confection; beautiful to behold and impeccably made. But this is not the time for La La Land, as great as it may be, because we are living in dangerous times. On November 8, the American electorate made a wildly bizarre choice and the doomsday clock was moved the closest it’s been to midnight since 1953, and now the whole world sits on the edge of our collective seats, watching a freak show unfold while chewing our nails and clenching our sphincters.

This is no time for singing and dancing.

This is time for a statement.

There is a certain film up for Best Picture that can be that statement. I’m not going to say it’s better than La La Land, but it is bigger, bolder and brainier. It’s more important and more profound. That film is…Arrival, the cerebral and thrilling  science fiction film starring Amy Adams as a linguistic professor tasked with finding a way to communicate with a newly-arrived alien species.

arrival-banner-1-final

I know it’s a longshot but hear me out. I’m asking that Hollywood Meryl Streep the shit out of this situation and give Washington a smack upside the head. I’m asking that you stare down a bully with his fake news and “alternative facts” and make a statement of truth and purpose. I’m asking that you award a film that is a perfect counterpoint to so much that’s going on right now, a film that is everything the new president isn’t.

Consider:

As the president drags political discourse into the gutter and shits in its mouth, Arrival eloquently explores the connection between the complexity of language and sophistication of thought.

As the president validates evidence-hating climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers, Arrival knows that truth is found through scientific inquiry and the collection of facts.

As the president builds walls out of hatred and discrimination, Arrival shows that a truly evolved species does not waste time and resources bickering over political borders, skin colour and religion.

As the president feeds off the worst human instincts, Arrival is a tribute to the potential of humankind.

As the thin-skinned president thinks small and petty thoughts, Arrival thinks big.

Very big.

Plus – it also happens to be a really exciting movie with plenty of intrigue and surprise, great acting, a perfect score and a killer ending. It’s exciting and emotional, and it would be a great choice for Best Picture no matter who’s in the White House.

There is a particularly potent and stressful moment in Arrival when 12 computer screens one by one blink to black and I fear the world is moving toward that moment for real.

So what do you say, Academy? Do you want to do the obvious thing and go all La La on us, or do you want to make a statement that may, in some small way, help turn those screens back on?

Later, Palsoap-box

Be afraid – truth isn’t what it used to be

miloHey Pal:

On Sunday December 4, 2016 Edgar Maddison Welch entered the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. armed with a Colt AR-15 assault rifle, a .38-calibre Colt revolver and a folding knife, and spent 45 minutes searching for underground vaults and hidden rooms. Fortunately, no one was hurt although he did fire a couple of shots during his investigation.

Why did he do this?

Because he had fallen for a completely bogus “news” story that had proliferated on social media in recent weeks – a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair had been running a child sex ring in the basement of Comet (the place doesn’t even have a basement). He was not the only person who had targeted the poor restaurant over this nonsense (far from it), just the most extreme.

For some truly chilling reading, check out the hashtag #Pizzagate on Twitter, where you will see reams and reams of comments from an astonishing number of people who believe this lunacy, or felt it warranted consideration, and who said things like – I’m waiting for proof that Clinton did NOT commit these acts. That sentiment is horrifying; in a civilized society the onus of proof is on the accuser, not the accused.

I bring this up, Pal as just one example of why I am scared right now, and why we should all be scared. We are living in a time when facts, rational thinking and objective truth are less important than they used to be. There have always been people who are largely oblivious to reality, of course – and Pizzagate is an extreme example – but on Nov. 8 we all received a shocking bit of news that suggests these people have far more influence than we might have thought.

Yes, I am referring to the election of Donald Trump, who officially takes over the White House in just under a month. This phenomenon is not strictly about him, but his triumph in the 2016 U.S. election certainly brought the scope of the problem to the fore.

Trump lied constantly during the campaign and, in the end, was rewarded for it. His disregard for the truth was so striking that newspapers made games out of counting his lies. According the Toronto Star, who fact-checked his every statement from mid-September to early November 2016, he spewed 560 things that weren’t true (about 20 per day). A sampling:

  • Canadian health care is a disaster in terms of cost
  • The U.S. is the highest taxed nation in the world
  • Clinton hired thugs to go to Trump rallies and beat people up
  • There is no economic growth in the U.S.

Yes, Clinton lied too but Trump took it to a whole new level (104 to 13 during presidential debates). As quoted in the Star: “He lies strategically. He lies pointlessly. He lies about important things and meaningless things. Above all, he lies frequently.”

And, to repeat, he was rewarded for it.

The President-Elect also doesn’t hold much stock in science. He has said that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to hurt U.S. business. And he’s an anti-vaxxer, as this tweet shows:

When the President of the United States thinks like this, it will empower and embolden anyone and everyone who is inclined to ignore mountains of scientific evidence in favour of what feels right to them. Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” to describe the phenomenon: people who disregard facts in favour of what their gut tells them is true.

This is not OK.

What happens when a presidential candidate is a pathological liar who ignores science, and his followers don’t care and are numerous enough to give him the reins of power?

I don’t know, but it definitely concerns me. They’re not all going to barge into pizza restaurants waving assault rifles, but they are going to influence really important decisions: decisions about the economy, human rights, the environment, social services and international relations. And these decisions will be made based on feelings, hunches, gut reactions, rumours and mob mentality – not on a rational view of facts and evidence.

A scary thought.

So what can we do about it?

Can I suggest that all fact-loving people do what I did and make a donation to the Skeptics Society, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting critical, rational, scientific thinking. Let’s help make their voice as loud as it can possibly be. Are there other organizations dedicated to the same purpose? Then let’s support them too.

Another thing we can all do is make it a point to read, watch and listen to reputable news outlets, ones that hire trained journalists who get every side to a story and use fact-checkers. And teach your kids to do the same. The driving force behind the Pizzagate nonsense was fake news sites and, sadly, people are becoming less and less capable of differentiating between real and fake news because it all looks the same in tweets and Facebook posts. By the way, kudos to Facebook for deciding to do something about it – in December it announced it would begin flagging fake news stories with the help of users and fact-checkers. Thank you, Mr. Zuckerberg.

I know these little actions may not be enough to hold back the tidal wave of kooky “thinking” that appears to be washing over the most powerful country on the planet, but it’s better than nothing. Whether these people want to believe it or not, there is such a thing as objective truth, and we all have an obligation to rationally explore the facts until we find it.

Hopefully, this wave of irrationality will be a temporary blip and not a new reality.

Later, Pal

I Fucking Hate You Bill Cosby

binkleyI fucking hate you Bill Cosby
I fucking hate you Bill Cosby

Just like Beetlejuice emerging out of that scale model town, my emotions reach the surface on repeating that statement and I get surprised by watery eyes and stammering speech. I knew that he was important in my life but maybe I didn’t realize how much his influence on me was crushed by the discovery of his horrific actions.

What makes things worse is that just before that fateful Hanibal Buress exposure to the mainstream of what he had done, we were midway through season 1 of The Cosby Show with our kids. They were hooked. We were all laughing together at all the crazy Huxtible antics. But fuck all that because….

I fucking hate you Bill Cosby

The Cosby Show had principles. Great messaging for a young Pal that I wanted to share with my kids. There’s a scene where the entire family is fighting in the living room. A voice rises above all the yelling. The family goes quiet to look at the TV where Martin Luther King was giving his I Have a Dream speech. They slowly sit down to listen to the remainder of the speech. The episode just ends after that. It was the first time I had heard the I Have a Dream speech. It was the first time I had heard anything like that. That scene was so effective at making the statement that this was really important. It blew my mind. The idea of human rights and activism was not a concept I was aware of. That there were real people (not just the cartoon superheroes I was used to) who fought for what was right. That scene really meant a lot to me. I always had this weird fantasy that if I ever met him someday I would thank him for that. But fuck that now because …

I fucking hate you Bill Cosby

Watching The Cosby Show now, I came to realize that my family is sort of like the Huxtables. My wife is similar to Claire in her strength, beauty and reluctant acceptance of her goofy husband. My kids are smart, sweet and rambunctious like the Huxtible kids. I got a Rudy for sure in my youngest and I suspect that my oldest will be a Sandra. They were the ideal family and it warmed my heart to think that my family was similar. But fuck that now because …

I fucking hate you Bill Cosby.

So, we stopped watching the show. This was upsetting for the kids. They loved the show and wanted to see more episodes all the time. There was crying and begging because they didn’t know why we aren’t watching it anymore.

Like everyone else we were confused. Are these just allegations? There are so many women coming forward about what he had done to them. His leaked testimony of him admitting to giving drugs to women. The seeming awareness in comedian circles that something nefarious was going on. I am just a civilian, but I am going to treat it as a pretty solid fact now.

We can’t have our kids fall in love with the man the way we did when we were kids. When they get wind of the truth, what kind of message would that be that we happily watched his show knowing what kind of monster he is.

http://www.etonline.com/news/154160_timeline_of_bill_cosby_sexual_assault_allegations/

We finally explained that someone on the show did something very bad and watching that show now makes us unhappy. They didn’t press the issue. Kids don’t want to know that stuff and I am glad that we didn’t have to explain ourselves further.  But we will have to eventually.

So fuck you very much Bill Cosby

All of this complaining about ruining my fandom is really not the issue. Even the far bigger fans than me that had their hero crumble like a meteor entering the atmosphere. The real issue is the women he raped and what that trauma did to, and took away from, their lives. The real issue is that he can’t be tried criminally. I understand their is a civil law suit and I hope they soak him, but that is not what should have happened. What should have happened is that he should have been convicted a long time ago. What should have happened is that those women should not have had to watch this monster rise to iconic status as the comedian’s comedian. As everyone’s favorite dad. because of that, I say…

I fucking hate you Bill Cosby.

There is an upcoming HBO documentary featuring the women that he raped. A follow up to the very compelling New York Post piece.  I will now look to these women as the ideals of principles and courage.

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So all we can do now is not forget. All we can do now is ruin his legacy. That is the point of this post.  He won’t get away with it in the eyes of the public.

Fuck you Bill Cosby.

Two Pals’ 2014 Woman of the Year: Emma Watson

miloPal, you low down dirty son-of-a-gun, you’ve really done it this time. You’ve declared Weird Al the official Two Pals’ 2014 Man of the Year, which means he’s my man of the year as much as yours, and I did not authorize this provocative (to put it mildly) choice. Sneaky, Pal, very sneaky!

Ah well.

So be it.

You made a good case. I love your solo ping pong story. And I also dig “Word Crimes”, so I suppose we’re O.K.

You closed by calling on me to choose our official Woman of the Year, and when I saw that, one name sprang immediately to mind.

Emma Watson.

Yes, Emma Watson. Of Harry Potter fame.

Whereas “our” Man of the Year was rewarded for 31 years of work, our Woman of the Year is getting hers for just 12 minutes. Specifically, these 12 minutes:

Ms. Watson was named U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador in September and that same month delivered a smart, stirring speech that, if there is any justice, will not be forgotten. Its core purpose was to launch HeForShe – A feminist movement that calls upon boys and men to stand up and declare that they are feminists.

Clearly nervous, but fueled by the fire of conviction, she told the world it was time to quit barking about the dreaded f-word. It means equality, not man-hating, and men can and should be feminists as well.

“Gender equality is your issue too,” she said, pointing out that men are also trapped by gender stereotypes, from fathers being seen as the lesser parent to “men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success.”

Then, the key point: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

She put a fresh spin on an old idea — that gender equality is not possible if women are the only ones pushing for it.

It struck a chord with a lot of people, myself included.

Because I remember as a kid being asked by other kids “what did your mom make you for lunch” and puzzling over the built-in assumption in the question, and wondering why you wouldn’t just ask “whaddya got for lunch”?

And because, years later, on the days that it was my turn to drop my daughter off at daycare, I would bristle at the tone in the teacher’s voice as she spoke to the child, not me, and say: “Oh! I see Daddy brought you in today! Let’s just have a quick look in your bag and make sure we remembered everything!”

And because when my 9-year-old son plays with his buddies, I see how they are already fashioning their “tough guy” masks, performing their idea of masculinity as defined by athletes and action movies. I recognize the mask because I have worn it. I still do. I suspect we all do, to one degree or another.

And because, in the most extreme cases, some people’s idea of masculinity can be downright disturbing.

In recent months, there’s been an unsettling volume of news items about men behaving criminally toward women. There’s a line-up of women with shocking allegations about formerly beloved CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi. Likewise, Bill Cosby. There are even accusations of sexual harassment and abuse flying around Canada’s capital city involving elected officials.

All of this seems to have kick-started something. There is a big conversation taking place. It’s filling the news and social media. On Twitter, the hashtag #beenrapedneverreported has taken off.

It’s like one of the world’s biggest, ugliest, worst-kept secrets is finally being brought into the light. It’s ridiculous it took until 2014 for it to happen, but at least it’s happening. It feels like a sea change. But one that’s not going to last if, as Ms. Watson put it, only half the population is a part of it.

I’m not saying Ms. Watson brought all this to the fore – the alleged, brave victims of Ghomeshi, Cosby and others seem to have done that more than anything else. But in a year when a mountain of shit is piling up about men’s treatment of women, I see her message as a clear and essential articulation of the solution that could help us all begin to rise above it.

That’s why I’ll accept her call to declare myself a feminist.

And that’s why Emma Watson is Two Pals’ 2014 Woman of the Year.

emma

Later, Pal.

No Laughing Matter: My Epic Battle Against a Ticket Company and a Comedy Festival

 

miloHey Pal:

As you well know, and as our many reader should know, I have spent the past week getting all David-y against a couple of Goliaths. Here’s the lowdown.

The Issue

I hate to name names so let’s just say I was struggling to secure tickets to a certain annual comedy festival in Toronto through a certain company – well, monopoly, really – that sells tickets and demands you call it master.

The details are tedious. Suffice to say I needed to transfer a ticket from Mrs. Pal’s account to me, and upon doing so the ticket disappeared. There were countless phone calls to Ticket Company and countless emails to Festival (Festival is crafty enough to not have a phone number, they know they’ll get inundated). My mood fluctuated between frustration and rage.

Eventually, I descended into despair and took my case to social media, sending tweets to Festival and, for good measure, to my favourite comedian performing at Festival, to declare how I had suffered and to plead for help. The Twitter guy at Festival was extremely responsive and sympathetic, but his advice was that I should send an email to Festival  after which, he was certain, all would be fixed.

Through all of this, everyone I communicated with was relatively pleasant but the problem remained unfixed and, in a turn of events more predictable than death and taxes combined, Ticket Company blamed Festival and Festival blamed Ticket Company.

So at the stroke of 9 a.m. this morning, I steeled my will, picked up the phone and called Ticket Company one last time.

The Conversation

Simon: Good morning! Thanks for calling Ticket Company! This is Simon! How can I help you?

Me: Simon, based on how happily you’re talking, I don’t think you know who I am.

S: Who are you?

Me: In a world of people who hate your company, I am the person who hates your company the most.

S: Eddie Vedder?

Me: No, I am Milo Pal and, Simon, I have had a lifetime of struggles with your company. In two decades of trying to buy tickets to the shows I love, I have never had an easy time of it. The problems generally involve not being able to log on or getting logged out at the worst possible times, typically resulting in me once again sitting at the very back of the Rogers Centre trying to see tiny specks on a distant stage. For this, I am always charged a “convenience” fee, which I think you and I can agree, Simon, is probably the single worst bit of spin doctoring language ever created – and this is coming from a guy who actually has a strong appreciation for good spin doctoring.

S: So you’re a doctor?

Me: Stay with me Simon. Here’s the situation – your company, or a comedy festival, has done it again. I’m not sure which, I just know I have a problem. I have spoken to many of your colleagues, all of whom were just as sweet as you seem to be, but no one has been able to find my missing ticket. So here’s what’s going to happen, Simon. You and I are going to stay on the phone together until this is solved. Hold on Simon…

(Gets up from desk, closes office door, returns to desk, puts Simon on speaker phone, puts feet on desk.)

Me: So, as I was saying, you and I are going to stay on the phone all day if that’s what it takes and neither of us is going anywhere until I have the missing ticket in my hand. Sorry to do this to you, Simon, but enough is enough.

Simon: Is Eddie there? Can I talk to him?

Me: No, now let’s get to work.

The Resolution

And so Simon and I got to work. And after a substantial review of every email I had received – after a thorough analysis of all the accumulated information – we solved the mystery. The ticket had indeed been transferred, but it had been transferred back into my wife’s account, the place where it had started. The email I received saying the ticket had been transferred “successfully” obviously has a different definition of success than I do.

I thanked Simon for his time. I let him go. I sent a tweet to my Twitter friend at Festival to tell him I had figured it out. He instantly replied with an explosion of glee, and complimented me on my excellent taste in comedians.

Lessons Learned

  1. I’m an idiot. A more thoughtful, less enraged, look at my wife’s Ticket Company account probably should have tipped me off to what had happened.
  2. Ticket Company still sucks. As pleasant as the customer service folks were (good ol’ Simon chief among them), someone there should have and could have identified the essence of the problem — an absurd problem that never should have happened, I might add — and fixed it on the spot. This is why idiots like me call help centres like theirs – to save us from ourselves.
  3. If you’re having a problem, and there are two organizations involved, there is a 100% chance that each organization will blame the other. Message to all of us in the working world – rise above such crap. Take ownership. Next time someone calls with a problem, assume that maybe they’re right and see what you can do to fix it.
  4. If you’re ever in a battle with an organization and you decide to take your case to social media, be respectful about it and don’t expect miracles. Hands down, the Twitter guy at Festival was the most responsive person I dealt with in all of this (it is ingrained into social media guys and gals to be thus), and there was evidence that my public griping (delivered respectfully) helped bring some urgency to my case, but it did not in and of itself solve the problem. For that, I needed Simon and I needed to finally calm down a bit and, in the words of Ed Harris in Apollo 13, “work the problem.”

And that’s my story – looking forward to a few laughs at the festival after which I’m sure all of this will be forgotten until, of course, the next time I try to “conveniently” buy tickets from my friend Simon’s masterful employer.

Later, Pal.

 

What a Bunch of Assholes, Part I: The Trouble with Bird Blenders

 The aim of a debate should not be to win, but to find the truth.                       -Tweet from David Lucas (@_davidlucas_)

miloHey Pal:

I recently attended a conference at which former Ontario Premier David Peterson lamented the state of political discourse today. There used to be real and respectful debate, he said, but it has degenerated into: “my truth is better than your truth instead of let’s work together.”

That is a classy way of putting it. Another way of putting it is that we’re becoming a bunch of assholes: shouting, stubborn assholes entrenched in our views and refusing to find middle ground.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating: politics – through our politicians and pundits – is becoming increasingly polarizing and extreme. More and more we’re giving the microphones, podiums and elected positions to people who are more interested in winning fights than improving the world. Who stand at opposing sides of the table (or legislature) shouting about why the other side is wrong.

screaming

There are a lot of problems with this, including the fact that it really dumbs things down. “My truth is better than your truth” does not lend itself to thoughtful discussion and outcomes.

For example, at the same conference, there was a panel of two Canadian media pundits.

One of them was poo-pooing environmental concerns and making the case for the Alberta oil sands. He was doing this by disparaging wind farms. He told the audience about a YouTube video in which a bird flies into a wind turbine and is ripped apart. He called wind turbines “bird blenders.”

The audience muttered in shock and outrage, gave Mr. Pundit a round of applause and, just like that, appeared to toss away all hope for the prospect of wind power as an energy option.

Because…bird blenders.

Bird blenders!

That’s a clever turn of phrase and a great sound bite but it’s not an argument. It’s not a reason.

And it sure as hell shouldn’t be the final word in a discussion about climate change, fossil fuel and renewable energy – an issue we all know, or should know, is incredibly complicated and requires real discussion, compromise, long-term thinking and realistic solutions.

But no – fucking bird blenders. That’ll do for now.

windmills

Another painful example of the perils of “my truth is better than your truth” is Toronto city council. And no, I’m not talking about drug use, alcoholic stupors and having enough to eat at home. I’m talking about a city council with two opposing factions duking it out day after day and accomplishing very little for the people they are supposed to be serving. It’s a place where belligerent bullies rule because belligerent bullies do much better when the name of the game is win or lose rather than find compromise.

city council

Most disconcerting is how they’re dragging the rest of us down with them. Toronto residents are fast becoming as polarized as our elected officials. I recently met a guy with whom I happened to mention the startling behaviour and comments of Mayor Rob Ford. His response: “But still better than that commie pinko ______.”

So that’s where I fear this is going, Pal: no middle ground, just everyone hating and yelling and winning or losing.

A bunch of assholes.

But no. Because the reality is the vast majority of us aren’t like that; we are rational, moderate and agreeable. We’ve just been giving too much of our attention to the wrong people. We’ve been hypnotized by their simple arguments, snappy catch phrases and entertaining antics.

So how about this: let’s agree to turn our backs on the assholes – to turn them off when they roar onto our TVs and to stop checking their names on the ballots. And let’s make sure we’re giving voice, power and influence to people like the rest of us; people who will do as Tweeter David Lucas says at the top of this post – debate not to win but to find the truth, and then implement changes intended to improve things.

Granted, things will be less entertaining — not as many “bird blenders” to chuckle at – but it should ensure we continue to make this world a better place.

Later, Pal.

(Up next, in part two, I’ll talk about one issue that can’t be anything but polarizing. It’s also the reason I’m an asshole.)

spaghetti

The HP Tech Support Scam: McGruff Says, “Don’t Let it Happen to You!”

binkleyHey Pal. Wowzers. I have a question for you, your lady, and what seems to be the entire world. You guys know Breaking Bad isn’t real right? I have never seen an episode and I am not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. Well, I hope you get through the next two weeks guys. I have my own sad and disturbing tale to tell about bad people doing bad things. However, mine is not in the land of make believe. Mine is some real ass s$&@. As comedian T.J. Miller might say, “I got some real juice for you. DRINK IT UP!!!”

I can’t believe it but I am the victim of a scam. You hear about it all the time. People taking advantage of the ignorance of others. Usually it is some 80 year old lady who listened to the wrong person and thought she was doing the right thing. Well, I am that 80 year old lady. I never thought it would happen to me. I feel so stupid. I am going to swallow my pride now and tell my story. I hope that in me telling this story that others can avoid falling into the pitfall that I did.

McGruff

Here goes….

imagesCAS4TO7EI just bought a new computer. All was fine except for 2 things. Windows 8 is a bugger. So different, and navigating it is so frustrating, but I’m sure I will eventually adjust. The other more pertinent issue was that my Internet connection kept on getting kicked out for no apparent reason. In a strong moment of frustration I decided to call the HP Help Centre.

I should pause to state that as I look back on it, I now see the many red flags and mistakes that I should have picked up on, but when in anger, bad decisions are made.

I could not find the HP support number anywhere so I Googled it (mistake). I clicked on the first match I saw thinking I was calling the legit HP for help (mistake). I got someone I thought was an HP technician. I told them my problem. They immediately started to throw me around from technician to technician trying to help me (red flag). My level of frustration accelerating. Finally someone stayed on the line. Relief. He got me to install a linking program so that he could see and control my computer from his (big mistake). This was my biggest error, but I didn’t think twice about it. At work IT guys do this all the time, so it was not new to me. So now he is flying around my computer opening and closing this and that. I really have no clue what he is doing. I am just trusting him (mistake). While he is “helping” me, I start getting all these error messages. He asks me if my computer is slow. I say, “I guess”. I had only had it for two days. It shouldn’t be slow. But the Internet kicks out and these errors pop up and I think “sure, it’s slow.”

scamNext he starts opening up these windows on my computer that show these background operating files. I now know that these windows are all fake. He is opening up these fake windows from his end. He must have had some extended view. I am seeing my display, but he has another screen and he is throwing all these fraudulent windows in.

He shows me files and records that say they are from Japan and China and opens another window showing operating files that have stopped working or say they are corrupt. All fake, but I think they are from my computer. He starts drawing pictures on my computer to show me how my old computer corrupted my new computer the second I connected into my network. He is literally drawing a diagram on my screen. He opens my web browser and takes me to the Wikipedia page on Trojans and viruses and underlines words like “corruption”, “crashing”, and “identity theft” saying that people are on my computer right now taking my information. “Well of course they are”, I think. I saw it with my own eyes. At this point I am flipping out. My new computer is totally F@$@ed. What the hell am I going to do. I ask him, “is this why I am losing my Internet? Can you fix all this?” He says, “yes, of course, we can fix all this.” I am relieved. HP help is so great. I am so impressed.

Then he says, “I can fix it for $200.00 and I can fix your old computer for $150.00 (big red flag). He says because it is a software issue, HP will not cover it. It would take him 45 minutes to do the whole thing. All my problems would get fixed and he would set it up so no outside user could ever get back in. Now the wheels are turning. At this point I start to think, “he isn’t from HP.” I call him on it. I say, “that is a lot of money, are you just trying to sell me a service?” He starts to get defensive stating that he is a Microsoft Certified Professional (red flag) on contract to HP and he is very concerned for my computer. He is actually getting fairly aggressive (red flag).

abortAt this point I am done. I don’t feel comfortable giving him the money. I tell him I need to think about it and I will call back if I want to do it. I ask him for the reference number of this call so I can give it when I call back. He doesn’t have one (red flag). He says he will remember my name. I say “that is not good enough. What is your name.” He says “Raj.” I say, “shouldn’t I get your full name.” He spells it out for me and gives me an extension to ask for. He quickly deletes all the stuff off my computer and we hang up.

Keep in mind that I still think that my computer is f&$#ed. My head is just spinning at this point. “What the f$%# am I going to do?” I decide to go the Best Buy where I bought the computer and pay for the Geek Squad to fix it. I am not two sentences in with the Geek Squad guy when he tells me I was scammed and that the whole encounter was fake. Everything. Likely my computer is totally corrupt now, and while he had me on the phone, he was trying to take personal info from me. Good thing I had basically nothing on it as my computer was only 2 days old. The Geek Squad guy goes on to tell me that some people come to him with 10 year old computers that had all their information on it. They paid the $200 thinking these scammers would fix their computer and lost everything. I also heard that sometimes these guys threaten the person by saying if you don’t pay the money they will totally ruin their computer forever. I guess they can do that if they have control of your computer (just like I gave him).

So, $150 to those fabulous Geeks to wipe all traces of this guy off my laptop, reinstall everything, and put a new Antivirus software on it. A lesson learned I guess. I ended up paying in the end, but it could have been worse. Mostly, I feel really stupid. As I walk through the whole experience in my head I realize how crazy it all was and how I should have just stopped to think, “what the f&$@ am I doing”. I can’t believe I gave this guy complete access to my computer. Holy S&@$!! Why did I do that?

I hope that the stink of this event doesn’t linger. From what I understand these guys are not really hackers. So future threats are unlikely, but I really have no idea. I had never heard about this scam, but apparently it is very common. Kids get hired by these Indian tech services and they get a lot of money to fleece the innocent. I found a great blog about this. Someone who was hired by a scam tech services took the high road and quit. He wanted to expose the scam so he wrote a blog about what these guys do and how you can fix your computer. Worth reading and spreading around if you want to get the word out.

http://indiancallcenterscam.blogspot.ca/2011/11/hi-everyone-recently-i-was-working-in.html

Aside from being victimized, I found the whole experience sort of interesting. How they created confusion by throwing me around to different assistants. How I blindly accepted their expertise and let them have their way with me. How rage and frustration caused me to make very poor decisions. How bad people can manipulate the fears of good people to get what they want. I hope that I will be a little more skeptical the next time. About everything.

Well Pal, that’s it. I hope that our many fan will read this and he or she can help spread the word about this SCAM. I fell prey to it. Maybe this cautionary tale can be an example so no one else does.

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By the way. The problem with my internet kicking out was related to my old WiFi. 7 hours of fumbling on the install of a new router and another call into Tech Support (legit this time) my computer is working fine now. sheeeesh!

Later.