The Consumer | Anorak - Part 3

The Consumer Category

We bring you the chic and unique, the best and most bizarre shopping offers both online and offline. We offer you tips on where to buy, and some of the less mainstream and crazy, individual and offbeat items on the internet. Anything that can be bought and sold can be featured here. And we love showcasing the best and worst art and design.

Aviva treats every customer just like ‘Michael’

Aviva typing pool

Cheap words at insurer Aviva, which undid the pretence that letters are tailored to each individual customer by addressing thousands of missives to just one: ‘Michael’.

The boss doesn’t sit on a big chair dictating a new letter for each customer. Someone in marketing simply cooks one up and a machine guffs them out. Aviva tells us: “We sent out some emails to existing customers, which, as a result of a temporary technical error in our mailing template, mistakenly referred to customers as ‘Michael’.”

We tell them it’s time to bring back the typing pool.

Posted: 28th, January 2020 | In: Money, News, The Consumer | Comment

Whodunnit? Ham sandwich posted through letterbox in Wisbech

On the Wisbech Discussion Forum news: who posted a ham sandwich through a man’s door? “Right I’m not happy!,” says Mr Brazil. “Whoever has put a ham sandwich in my letterbox, I suggest you come and retrieve it now before I go to the authorities. You have 10 mins…”

Two days on, nothing…

File under: spam.

Spotter: Facebook

Posted: 25th, January 2020 | In: Strange But True, The Consumer | Comment

28 animals you can eat at China’s Wuhan Market

These are the 28 animals identified by the South China Morning Post for sale at the Huanan (Wuhan) market in China. Many animals do not feature. And the thinking is why not? If you can eat camel and donkey, why not llama or flamingo? And are Hoxton’s hipsters lagging, sticking to ostrich, emu and crocodile when those food-forward Chinese are dining on Asian badger, otter and scorpion? As the West weeps over footage of the burnt Australian wildlife, are Chinese sympathies fogged by the scent of roast koala?

bat soup
Best served accompanied by a young Robin with a Penguin chaser

Some science suggests the coronavirus spreading in China started in bats served at the aforementioned Wuhan market. Analysis shows the virus’s genetic makeup is 96% identical to that of a coronavirus found in bats. “I would be very surprised if this were a snake virus,” says Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina. Bats were also the ultimate source of SARS, scientists believe.

bat soup
Apple News

“evil! Chinese eat bat – movie exposure, ” says a headline to an Apple News story shared by the Daily Mail. The video features a woman eating bat soup. Why eating bat should be evil and, say, eating newborn lamb the stuff of daytime telly cooking shows and Easter treats is moot, moreover eating kangaroo testicles for slots of entertainment dished up between ads for insurance, holidays and mobile phones?

But war with the bats has begun. And you need to pick sides. (I’ll have a side of chicken wings and foie gras.)

Posted: 24th, January 2020 | In: Key Posts, News, The Consumer | Comment

Italian street artist Blu creates animated graffiti mural

Blu graffiti

Italian street artist Blu has been enlivening Bologna since 1999. In Big Bang Big Boom, Blu gives us a “short animated story about evolution and consequences”.

Buy gorgeous Art Nouveau posters here.

Spotter: Kottke

Posted: 20th, November 2019 | In: Music, News, The Consumer | Comment

How to buy drugs on the Dark Web


Jason Kottke directs us to an article on the London Review of Books by Misha Glenny (DarkMarket: How Hackers Became the New Mafia) and Callum Lang called How to Buy Drugs. If you need to ask, right? It gets really interesting when they investigate customer service on the so-called Dark Web:

The internet has dramatically improved the experience of drug buyers. The market share of a dark web outlet depends almost entirely on its online reputation. Just as on Amazon or eBay, customer reviews will describe the quality of purchased products as well as reporting on shipping time and the responsiveness of vendors to queries or complaints. If drugs that a buyer has paid for don’t turn up — as once happened to Liam, the Manchester student — a savvy vendor will reship the items without asking for further payment, in the hope of securing the five-star customer reviews they depend on.

As a consequence, the drugs available to the informed buyer are of a higher quality than ever before. They are also safer. The administrators of — a site on the open web which you don’t need Tor to visit — pose as ordinary users in order to buy samples of popular drugs from major vendors. They then have the drugs chemically tested to see whether they match the seller’s description.

Kottke points to how technology means cheaper and ‘better’ drugs for the buyers but a lot of unpleasantness making it happen that goes unseen. I;d argue that it depends what you’re buying: a bag of marijuana from a small, domestic grower or a pound of cocaine?

Posted: 13th, November 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, The Consumer | Comment

Salvador Dali Tarot cards

dali tarot cards

Salvador Dalí designed a full deck of tarot cards for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. But the production team were reluctant to pay Dalí’s fee, so they never appeared in the movie. But the artist liked the work and completed the set in 1984. Now art book publisher Taschen (they make those massive coffee table books so big they could double as coffee table) is releasing the deck.

dali tarot cards
dali tarot cards
dali tarot cards
dali tarot cards
dali tarot cards

Spotter:  Hyperallergic

Posted: 11th, November 2019 | In: Books, The Consumer | Comment

Kurt Cobain’s cherry-burned sweater sells for $334,000

Someone just paid $334,000 for a cardigan with stains and a cherry burn hole in it. The green cardi was worn by Kurt Cobain for Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance.

Kurt Cobain's cherry-burned sweater sells for $334,000
For the imitators

“This cardigan, it’s the holy grail of any article of clothing that he ever wore,” says Darren Julien, CEO and president of Julien’s Auctions. “Kurt created the grunge look; he didn’t wear show clothes,”

Posted: 29th, October 2019 | In: Celebrities, Music, News, The Consumer | Comment

A little kitchen painting sells for $26.8million

'Christ Mocked' by Florentine artist Cimabue

‘Christ Mocked’ by Florentine artist Cimabue (Giotto’s teacher) was created around 1280. It’s been in someone’s kitchen in France was ages. And now it’s sold at auction for $26.8.

From Smithsonian Mag:

[Auctioneer Philomène] Wolf spotted the painting, titled “Christ Mocked,” on display between the woman’s open-plan kitchen and living room. While she immediately suspected it was a work of Italian primitivism, she “didn’t imagine it was a Cimabue.”

Wolf turned to Eric Turquin, a Paris-based art historian who had previously identified a painting unearthed in a French attic as a long-lost Caravaggio. According to Benjamin Dodman of France 24, Turquin and his colleagues concluded with “certitude” that the new find was a genuine Cimabue.

How certain can you be that it’s the real deal?

Posted: 28th, October 2019 | In: Money, The Consumer | Comment

What fool buys this revolting Captain Beefheart shirt for $1000?

CAptain beefheart
‘Crepe and Black Lamp,’ by Don Van Vliet, 1986 oil on canvas, 148 x 122 cm / 58.25 x 48 inches

Stuck for a gift this Christmas? (And how can you be when Flashbak’s new Prints Shop offers such great deals on wonderful art.) But if you stuck, then do not panic and at the last minute invest $1285 in a silk shirt struck by a painting by Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. As Richard Metzger rightly says, it is revolting.

CAptain beefheart shirt
CAptain beefheart shirt

It’s made by Enfants Riches Deprimes (“Depressed Rich Kids”). At least they know their target market. This is impulse shopping for the daddy-fed rich, entitled and inflicted. Expect to see some berk wearing it on the streets of Notting Hill soon…

Posted: 27th, October 2019 | In: Celebrities, Fashion, Key Posts, Music, The Consumer | Comment

Shot In Soho

William Klein Men hidden their faces : 69 Sauna & Massage © William Klein
William Klein Men hidden their faces : 69 Sauna & Massage © William Klein

A new exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery looks are Soho, London’s most vibrant square mile. William Klein is just one of the photographers featured in the show.

William Klein Shoes polisher, Rocky II, etc, Piccadilly, 1980 © William Klein

Via: Flashbak

Posted: 22nd, October 2019 | In: The Consumer | Comment

The cheapest pint in London as a Tube Map

The Cheapest pint in London Tube Map
Click to enlarge

Looking for a cheap pint in a new London manor, Adam Stead called the nearest pub to every London Underground Tube station and got their prices. All pubs surveyed feature in this map.

The Oyster Rooms over Fulham Broadway station wins. It’s a Wetherspoon’s boozer. The dearest pint is yours for £5.55, available at the Frontier at the Union Tavern, Westbourne Park.

There are some oddities. Apparently, the Three Wishes is the closet pub to Stanmore, Canon’s Park and Edgware stations.

The nearest pub to a Tube station is on average only 0.18 miles away. The closest pub to a Tube statin is The Famous Cock, 10 ft from Highbury and Islington station.

Posted: 15th, October 2019 | In: The Consumer | Comment

Nasa’s hard shell space suits

Nasa's hard shell space suits

From 1966 through the 1990s, NASA crested hard space suits for space travellers. These suits would offer greater mobility than soft suits. The leader in space fashioned was Hubert “Vic” Vykukal. As the principal designer and investigator of the AX space suit series, he was also happy to model them.

You can see lots more of Vik in his creations on Flashbak.

Posted: 10th, October 2019 | In: Fashion, Key Posts, Technology | Comment

Ceramics by Sophie Woodrow

Bristol-based artist Sophie Woodrow makes the most beguiling ceramics of mythical creatures and otherworldly things – twists on the natural we think of as real.

Sophie Woodrow ceramics

ceramics sophie woodrow art

Via: Sophie Woodrow and Flashbak

Posted: 6th, October 2019 | In: The Consumer | Comment