Sunday, September 30, 2007

Live at the Lime

With the Ramadhan emphasis on culturally refocussing, open mics and the weekly Lime Loft sessions have been necessarily parked. The last time I checked out what was happening was one of the Thursday nights at the recently launched Lime Theatre Loft events near the Fairmont Hotel, off Sheikh Zayyed Road. On that occasion, a mixed bag of accoustic and "unplugged" sets were delivered by Messrs Graham Park, Neil and Andy (?) and Mike Ross. Mr Park and the informally named duo were in their different ways, overtly Brit; Mr Ross was overtly Canadian. Nothing wrong with that on either score I venture. The problem with guitarist and singer Graham Park (isn't that in Hackney?) was the classic English understatement, when cranking up the literal and emotional volume on his often excellent songs would have made a world of difference. As he soldiered on it was getting harder and harder to hear him from fairly close proximity to the stage as he declined to up the ante as the braying of the already beer-sodden exiled Brit bar props gained volume. Neil and Andy had no such problem. Their younger, Oasis style, almost sing-along approach, plus greater amplification given the use of (wow!) electric guitar, proved an easier hit with England's finest. Appeals in the intervals from Dubai Lime's drole comic compere went unheeded at the bar however when Mike Ross came on. His first few songs were nearly drowned out as the Anglo-Saxon chorus made his set a battle for audability. By the end, the mild-mannered Canadian won on points as the emotional strength and vocal power of his performance tipped the scales in favour of musicality over barrack room beery excess. The question for me is what can be done to ensure that a paying gig takes centre stage over just another weekend night in a pub? Perhaps the answer is to hire a louder PA system, get more musicians on the stage, and utilise the big blokes on the doors to mingle with the great unwashed at the bar.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hi-tech telecom revolution falls flat

I have become a little obsessed after a recent fracas with the long time monopoly provider. After 10 attempts to pay my bills (as usual) on line and two ignored emails, I finally found the courage and the time to call their erroneously named "help desk". It appears that the reason why I have been getting automated payment receipt numbers and then "payment not authorised" messages is because a decision was recently made by fiat to no longer accept non-UAE credit or debit cards for payment of bills. Apparently it was considered appropriate to only inform customers of this when they ring up and complain, not to put it in the automated email that is sent with the payment "confirmations". (I do not have a local credit card, suprisingly, perhaps, I find a Barclays Visa and a Barclaycard usually sufficient for my purposes).

I asked the genuinely pleasant person on the other end of the line what I should do to pay my bill, which is now about 2 weeks overdue. I was invited to visit a local payment center. My protest that I do not have the time or the inclination to schlepp all the way down there was met with the helpful suggestion that I send someone on my behalf. Great. I do not have a car, but no doubt I can send a servant to pay on my behalf with the credit card that they no longer accept. You can go to one of the many cash payment places, she helpfully suggested. Sure, I usually carry AED1000 in readies....Just how backward and un-user friendly can the otherwise very generous patrons of the local telecom monopoly be? (I note in this regard their "voluntary" payment to the latest state charitable mobilisation).


Upon schlepping over to the local telecom office today I found that I could in fact pay in person with my foreign-issued VISA card if I wanted (but NOT on-line)...This seems like a security issue therefore. But perhaps there is a credit card war too. I was charged a 2% mark up on a flight recently due to paying with a FOREIGN Visa card. Some residents from a neighbouring country could find cash use the norm over next few months....perhaps we will all be affected by a (US encouraged) tightening of control over financial flows around here.....