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living the glamorous life…

Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2007

So, my last ten days have been rather interesting, confirmation that I was put on this planet and given life just to make everyone else feel good about themselves. It has been a time of great bewilderment on the part of yours truly, a small but eventful catalogue of seemingly unconnected events which have conspired to drive me to tears while at the same time somewhat amusing and given me a whole new source of macro injustices and micro despairs to bitch about on my weblog. This process of writing this stuff here is partly cathartic and partly to be used by my defence council should I be pushed over the edge.
Thankfully, I long ago gave up hope that just being me could in anyway be a dignified affair although I’ve come to believe that as I get older I respond better to minor calamities as I did when I was a younger man.
I’ve recently found myself lucky enough to be invited to play some shows in South America and, because it is some time since I last visited that part of the world, I’ve been rather excited about it and have decided to start early to prepare the shows as I’d like to play some new things and generally improve my performance. I have been having some technical problems which I wished to iron out, so I thought that the first thing I should do is clean up my laptop from the debris of non essential music software, you know, the things which cross over to my ‘so called’ professional life from my family life, like Violette’s beauty and the beast and dora the explorer games and the like, so I decided to do a clean install using the factory restore disks, something I’m familiar with and take as a matter of course being a closet geek. I have no fears of doing that kind of a thing and find it an essential, but somewhat tedious, chore which needs doing once a year. The only problem is that, chez moi, we have probably more computers than seems healthy, but we can im each other from different parts of the house. OK, that’s not true. But we could. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that usually we have at lest one computer being in a state of despair but it’s never a problem. I’m good. OK
So I backup all my stuff, pop in the disk, reboot, follow the instructions for a destructive re-install, taking my computer back to the factory condition and after half an hour when it had finished, it rebooted and .. nothing. Um, ok. Not to worry, I’ll do it again. . . Umm, how curious, not working.. the hardware is fine, it was working and I can run a live Linux distribution. Hmm, what to do? So I did what I am normally pathologically unable to do. Something I find more impossible even than asking for directions if I’m lost. I emailed the tech support of the manufacturer and, over forty eight hours had the following dialogue.

me : I’m trying to do a full system restore. It worked up to the point where the computer reboots and then it hangs…any idea’s?

tech support : Ah, that’s easy, you will have to do a full system restore using the system recovery CD.

me : Ah, um that’s what I was trying to do when it froze. So how can I work around this?

tech support : Oh, if that’s the case you will have to do a full system restore using the system recovery CD.

me: ah, perhaps I’m not making myself clear, I’ve tried to recover using the system recovery CD but the operation will not complete. Is there some other solution for me?

tech support : Thank you for your reply, I suggest that you back up all your files and perform full system restore using the system recovery CD.

me : Are you a computer generated response or just simply retarded?

perhaps not strangely this one wasn’t answered. I think I confused him

me : Can I speak to a customer service representative?

tech support : to call our customer support dial 1-800-XXX-XXXX

me : I’m sorry but I don’t live in the US and cannot dial an 800 number, can you please inform me of another number that I can call from abroad.

tech support : Ah, yes you can get the number from our customer support, just dial 1-800-XXX-XXXX…

So after a while I just had to give up. Even with my experience of living in France where the idea of customer service remains simply just that, an idea, I wasn’t prepared for this. I mean couldn’t this person seek employment in a Chuck-E-Cheese instead. No on second thoughts that’s probably dangerous.
Anyway, I just built myself a boot disk, ran a few command likes and restored the system myself, which is what I probably should have done in the first place. Foolishly I then tried to download all the drivers from the manufacturers website, you know put in my serial number, model number, operating system and other details with the following result.

me : I have downloaded all the drivers from the your website, the ones ‘specifically’ for my computer, but have found that most of them are incompatible and will not allow me to install them.
Any thoughts?

tech support : If this is the case then I suggest that you download the correct drivers for your computer from our website.

There followed links to, it goes without saying, the wrong files. I found my solution on the internet as I evidently wasn’t the only person with this problem. Curiously, if you take your model number, subtract the number of pointless emails that you’ve received and divide the answer by the accumulated IQ of the tech support department you can get a new model number which points you to the correct files. Or something like that. Anyhow it was working now and I was ready to get on with preparing my show.

Or was I?

If that had been all my frustrations for a week that would have been enough, but as there is much truth in the adage it never rains but it pours I got my umbrella out and waited in trepidation for the deluge. The first drops appeared in my email the next morning. Out of my mailbox jumped an attractive young woman with large breasts who seed to be informing me Welcome, Robin Guthrie, to cheesyvideochatforthesadandlonely.com (or something of the sort). It would appear that some jolly young scoundrel has stolen my identity. Now, I hasten to add, I’m not talking about, you know, the things which define me as me, you know, suave and sophisticated middle aged man, big guitar, dodgy hair in the eighties, failing eyesight, failing short term memory, oh, no, none of that stuff. No he didn’t want that. He did, however, arm himself with all my personal banking details and proceed to try to relieve me of the contents of my bank account. Nice, So I visited the aforementioned website to inform them of this fact only to find that to contact customer service I had to, yup you know it, dial 1-800-YYY-YYYY. I emailed them and they told me to call customer service. I shit you not.

Now, at this point I could have lost it but I showed restraint and tried to contact the payment gateway people who had been charging my card. Unbelievably the customer support agent, who apparently must have just started working there that very morning after leaving the technical support department of a well known computer company, told me that as far as he was concerned I had, indeed, subscribed to those services, and to prove it he furnished me with all my personal banking details, billing address, passwords, the lot. Had it not been for the fact tha the IP address recorded was in Germany I’d have believed him myself. So I then tried to call my bank to freeze my accounts when, somewhat in keeping with the tone of my morning, I noticed that I had no dialling tone on my phone. Mmm, strange. No internet either. Umm. Sigh,
Ah. I forgot. I live in France and am a customer of France Telecom and one of the more interesting things that they provide is a special Fuck You service in which they, from time to time, reward a lucky one of their loyal customers by cutting all of their services for no reason apparently other than they can.
Madame Guthrie stepped in, as she so often has to do to interface me with the real world, and called them on my cell phone (oh, and in France customer service isn’t a toll free number) but they have no record of us ever having been a customer with them. However if we would like to subscribe they can offer us a service in two weeks…

So, that was last week and thankfully I knew that the weekend was coming and that, what the hell, it’d be nice to have a couple of days with no email and phone. My good friend and super talented gentleman Lord Hamish Mackintosh of Forfar was arriving at my local airport to spend a few days mixing some of his new tracks and I thought I’d take the lapse in my communications to my advantage, you know, get really stuck in and do a lot of work sans interruptions. So it was with a certain amount of enthusiasm that I fired up the computer in my studio to commence work. The error message I got was something like ‘cubase has suffered a serious error and will close down, lock up your computer, hose your hard drive and seriously fuck up your weekend, loser’ or something of the like. No doubt if I had tried to repair it there would have been a pop up asking me to call customer service on 1-800-ZZZ-ZZZZ.

So that’s two computers down, no phone, no dsl, a stolen credit card and some close encounters with some dangerously stupid support employees. Oh, and a new president, who has the look of someone who can enter a room not by opening the door but by sliding under it.
Well all is not lost, mes amis, and the irony of this, I have to say is not lost on me. I have another laptop, the one I use for my email and stuff when I’m travelling, which I can take to my local McDonalds which has free wireless. First however, I need to get a driver for my wireless adapter from the manufacturers website…

The fact that you are reading this means I’m right now being subjected to the smell of McDonalds grease, the worst in french pop music and irritating small children. I know that in the whole scheme of things none of those things are such of a big deal, well apart from France electing the wrong president, but without my little calamities I’d not have much to write about, not much that’s funny anyway. The beautiful thing is that I realise it’s just my turn for things to fuck up and, thankfully, soon it’ll be yours.

My apologies to anyone who’s been trying to get in touch from me. Call my cell phone or send a postcard.
I’m not coming back to McDonalds everyday. I’m not checking my mail. Fuck it. I’m going to do a little gardening until the phone is back on.

I’ll write about something relevant next time, I promise.

18 Responses to “living the glamorous life…”

  1. Roberto Retana

    J’ai vécu les même choses en France c’est incroyable! Quelque part les misères que vous avez vécu la semaine dernière me soulagent un peu car étant donné que je suis habitué aux toll free numbers et la possibilité d’accéder a un superviseur lorsque l’agent de service client est stupide, je m’étais demandé si en fait la source de mes problèmes avec le service client en France était moi meme…

  2. Ted

    Must be the cosmos screwing us 40 something’s Robin….in the last 6 weeks I had my credit card info stolen, had a hell of a problem upgrading my operating system with similar support nightmares, had cubase crash out with similar ‘catastrophic error message’ (um, we are running the same one too, hummm?), got summoned to jury duty, got a $250 speeding ticket AND like you can fall back on the ‘wisdom’ of old age to rest assured that it is just my ‘phase’ of taking it up the backside….and we both know that life is still absurdly beautiful…have a grand day my friend!!!! as your old landlords mate would say, “it’s just another tricky day…fella!”

  3. vanderlei

    Hello, Robin, when I read your blog I realize that I should be happy for living in Brazil, despite all our social problems, we don’t these kind of “French” problems. No wonder economy magazines diss France’s economy and economical model. And France is considered a 1st world country, ha, go figure!!!

    Have you seen this Saturday Hight Live episode when they said the French had come up with their own version of Google, called “Quaerio”? It works like this, you type in a word and it “refuses” to look it up.

    By the way, which countries and cities in South America are included in your tour?

  4. John Blasini

    welcome to my world Robin 😛

    thats just the way it is I suppose for certain people…some just flow the easy way some just have to work really hard for it…but mostly its them who gets the biggest rewards…

    will you post a sample from the Guthrie/Budd collabo on your myspace soon? any release date for that album, im dying to hear it!!!

    will you ever release those tracks you did with john foxx? would love to hear that aswell.

    wish you all luck! continental is a marvelous album and helped me thru the days these last weeks, thanks a lot for such stunning music.

  5. clive Booth

    Jeeez, what a nightmare.

    I hope things pick up for you this coming week.

    If all else fails, please consider doing something you probably take for granted… look in the mirror at yerself and say “I am Robin Guthrie… I wrote Mussette & Drums, Garlands, Millimimariliarymlarry and loads of other epic tracks n’ still continue to write beautiful music with an international army of fans”.

    You really do inspire us.

    p.s: only look in the mirror at shoulder height if you’ve got a belly anything like mine. Full of Heineken :o)

  6. amber

    Just this week I’ve had to deal with car problems, computer malfunctions AND indentity theft! I’ll be glad when it’s someone else’s turn!

    Nice to hear the Hamish is going to grace us with more music!

  7. starfishatlantis

    Thankfully you hung up, that 1-800 number actually goes to India where they walk you through a full system restore using the system recovery CD in an accent that no English descendant nor immigrant to France would fully comprehend… 😉

    I had to finally leave Cubase for DP because I found that the same cabal who translates Roland manuals from Japanese to English was also behind the Cubase technical support knowledgebase.

    Here’s wishing to you better, more productive days ahead!

    Any details on the S. America dates? May those lead to US dates as well? Best Regards!

  8. Steven

    Hi Robin:

    Nice work on your new albums w/Harold Budd. I’m listening to them as I write this. Brillant. I love these albums :o)

    Take Care….and thanks.


  9. Nick

    They play loud music at McDonald’s in France? In the US, it seems to be FOX News.

  10. gregg

    i hate to ask a stupid question but…

    why do you choose to live in France???

  11. Steve

    I had to smile at your post. I seem to have a lot of days like that, funny that someone talented/famous does too. Must be karma or something! Or computers and tech support people are just illusions created by a Gnostic demiurge.

  12. mike

    Robin, while I’m aghast at your bad luck, I am happy to inform you that some good has come out of your experience …. upon reading your writing (which I hasten to add really should be printed in a suitable news-organ of some sort!) I proceeded to deal with my colleagues with an inane grin permanently affixed upon mon visage (obviously after picking myself up from the floor under the desk whence I had rolled in fits of hysterics) – I know I shouldn’t take advantage of your bad experiences but it has cheered me up immensely and dragged me from the depths of despair which is the UK (otherwise known as “Tony Blair’s gift to the world!”).

  13. Napoleon 1er

    “Impossible is not a French word”.

  14. therno

    We´re anxiously waiting for you in Chile, at least me and my friends, with some wine and goodtimes and memories for the future

  15. roald dahl

    the phrase “..I’m going to do a little gardening..” turned this blog entry from an episode of “Tales of the Unexpected” into “Tales of the Absolutley Fucking Unbeliveable”.
    gardening, my arse.
    is that what you call it, these days?

  16. Katheryna


    I’m so happy to know you will come to Santiago, Chile!!!

  17. Milk

    This blog describes a kind of situation I am all too familiar with. I have grey hairs to prove it. And I am not going to spell grey gray just because this computer tells me I am wrong. Although I wont try and use any ” ‘ ” because I have to press that key really hard about eight times before it will work.

    My machines are so unreliable that I boot from an external Fire Wire HD. And live in fear of not backing up songs. Anyway, must now go off and decide whether to buy a backup drive for my backup drive or just delete all those crap movies I dont watch… ever…

    My sympathies. X

  18. Indyenna (Ian)

    Wow. It sounds like you NEED a vacation and a new country with working technology…maybe just a new country.

    Or better still, Robin Guthrie, President of France: “Better music. Better technology. Better landscaping. Better customer service. Elect Robin Guthrie for President of France.(Except all of this would be in French.)” 🙂

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