Category Archives: Musings

When I’m feeling Blue…

…all I have to do is take a look at you…

…then I feel more blue hehehe.

Blue, in all its shades and hues, has always been my favourite colour. When I lived in the Andalucian mountain-top city of Ronda, in Spain, I’d heard fantastic stories of the Blue City of Morocco, Chefchaouen. But, although it was a mere hop, skip and jump away from Spain, circumstances and financial restraints meant I never quite crossed the Strait of Gibraltar.

Now that I’m based in Australia, physically getting to Chefchaouen will be even harder. Luckily, thanks to Pinterest, I can visit all these countries and cities around the world once only dreamed about, and live vicariously through the eyes of other tourists and their photos. Hurrah for technology and social media!

Chefchaouen is, according to Wikipedia:


Chefchaouen or Chaouen, as it is often called by Moroccans, is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Tangier and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The name refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town, that look like the two horns (chaoua) of a goat. “Chef Chaouen” derives from the Berber word for horns, Ichawen. There are approximately two hundred hotels catering to the summer influx of European tourists. One distinction possessed by Chefchaouen is its blue-rinsed houses and buildings.

Chefchaouen is a popular shopping destination as well, as it offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The goat cheese native to the area is also popular with tourists.

The countryside around it has a reputation for being a prolific source of kief. The Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco. Hashish is subsequently sold all over town, but is mostly the domain of native Chaouenis. A nearby attraction is the Kef Toghobeit Cave which is one of the deepest caves in Africa.

For me, though, the reason I would visit Chefchaouen is mainly for the opportunity to be fully immersed in the colour blue. Here are some images I’ve curated from my Pinterest travels to Chefchaouen, to show you why I love feeling Blue.😄

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Life Imitating Art…

…or is it the other way round?

I watched the pilot episode of the new Showtime television series “Penny Dreadful” the other day, and was smitten by a number of things. Least of all the actress Eva Green, who first caught my eye as the haughty Queen Sibylla in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom Of Heaven”, and later as an eccentric teacher in “Cracks”. She was also Vesper Lynd in the Daniel Craig Bond movie “Casino Royale”.

(Images are sourced from Google Images)

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She’s been a Queen

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…a Teacher

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…a Femme Fatale

…as well as many other varied characters, in a range of diverse films over the years.

And now Eva Green stars as Vanessa Ives in the Goth/Steampunk/Horror/Supernatural/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen/Sherlock Holmes/Frankenstein series “Penny Dreadful“. Her character, Vanessa Ives, is a beautiful, enigmatic young lady who is also psychic and clairvoyant. And extremely fetching in tight-laced Victorian garb oooo errr! ;)

Anyhow, in one scene, Vanessa is sitting at a table with a deck of dark purple Tarot cards, which she spreads out in a semi-circle. We don’t actually get to see any details of those cards right then. After some suggestive banter with Josh Hartnett’s American gunslinger dude character Ethan Chandler, she invites him to pick a card. She turns over the card Ethan’s selected. It’s The Lovers.

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My interest piqued, I searched online to see if these cards really existed, or were they just a stage prop (like those newspapers you see in movies where only the front and backs have actual newsprint and the rest is just blank paper). The artwork of the Lovers card that viewers get to see on screen is minimalistic yet macabre. If this deck was real, it would shoot to the top of my Must Have Wishlist. (Yes, unfortunately in my quest to be as spiritually enlightened as Yoda, light sabers divination cards still get me all excited).

Well, what do you know, the Penny Dreadful Tarot IS a real deck. And it can be bought from Showtime’s own website through this link http://store.sho.com/penny-dreadful-tarot-cards/detail.php?p=523695

The price is reasonable too, at USD$14.95. Only, after heading to the checkout, I was greatly disappointed to see that postage to Australia would be a staggering $34.95?? WTF, excuse my French…was the deck gold-foiled and dipped in caviar, then wrapped in platinum paper covered in diamond dust, or something? Put it back on the shelf, girl, right now!

I next looked at the Penny Dreadful Tarot deck listed on Amazon.com. US readers will be pleased to know the deck is available to purchase from there too. Only, for me once again, my efforts to secure this deck were thwarted…Amazon.com just would not post the deck to Australia. Amazon.co.uk did not even have the deck listed. SIGH…

Anyhow, undaunted, I searched for other sites online. And then I just happened upon this site Popcultcha that not only had the Penny Dreadful Tarot at a great price, AUD$18.99, but also somehow managed to discount the price of postage too…meaning when I got past the checkout the postage was Freeeee…Here’s the link.

I also went searching for the artist who created this deck. She’s Anaïs Chareyre aka “Irio” from Ireland, and here is her deviantArt page showing the full Penny Dreadful Tarot deck http://irio.deviantart.com/art/Penny-Dreadful-Tarot-Cards-449642001

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What are you waiting for? Run, don’t walk! 😄

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My dog Scruffy

Scruffy is my terrier-mix dog who emigrated from Ireland to Australia with me in December 2010. He was abandoned at a horse fair in Drumshanbo in 2008. I brought him home, and he’s been my constant companion since.

In October 2012, when we first got our pit bull puppy, Shelagh, Scruffy was her nursemaid. He may not be the sharpest tool in the box (the only trick he knows is “Sit”), but his heart is in the right place. He’s best friends with Shelagh now (he used to try to hump her every opportunity he got, until we had her fixed), and they’re inseparable.

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I don’t rightly know what breed Scruffy is, I think there’s perhaps some Border Collie (the white and black colouring) West Highland Terrier (the tufty ears and bearded muzzle), and possibly some Setter (small spots of black underneath the white). I love his unusual colouring. Even the main black patch on his body consists of a mixture of grey, black and white. Behind his ears he has little areas of brown. Scruffy has the most beautiful eyelashes!

If anyone can shed light on what breed Scruffy is, I would be ever so grateful. When anyone asks, I simply say he’s a “Lots-a-bitsa” :-).

Here’s an artistic impression of Scruffy, that I made while playing with the App Arto. I love the “patriotic” colours.
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My Pin-up Poster Girl

I’ve had such a lot of lovely compliments about my pit bull girl, Shelagh, when I pinned photos of her on my Pinterest board. She’s quite the pin-up girl now lol.

So, today I’ll share with you here a few more photos of Shelagh. For those of you who don’t know already, Shelagh’s my 2-year-old pit bull dog, and the sweetest, smartest thing ever. I’m so inspired by her photogenic looks lately that I’m creating some t-shirt designs featuring her. I will share that with you all tomorrow.

But for now, here’s my sweet Shelagh.

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image Shelagh with her best friend, Scruffy

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Lenormand moves

…in the right direction, hopefully ;). I’ve been in a creative frenzy lately, creating decks of Lenormand cards. What started out as research rapidly escalated into a full-blown obsession and passion for these seemingly inocuous divination cards which traditionally utilise playing card pips as insets.

And now Bobbie Kelley aka the Rogue Perfumer aka Psychic Twin Bobbie-el, based in Maui, Hawaii, has caught wind of my Lennies (as they are fondly referred to in the Lenormand community), and will be reviewing them on her YouTube channel. Yay, happy days!

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Bobbie asked what my thoughts were or what I’d like attention drawn to, for when she reviewed my decks, beginning with the Moonshadow Lenormand, my very first. So I sat down and wrote about my approach to Lenormand.

Here’s what I wrote, for your ease of reference:

Well, I’m relatively new to Lenormand. I was drawn to Lenormand because the playing card insets intrigued me. My first deck was a Piatnik, followed by a mini Ukrainian deck, a Laura Tuan Dondorf deck, and Ciro Marchetti’s   Gilded Reverie. Then I discovered  artist self-published decks…

I’m a digital photography artist and my “studio” is my Samsung Galaxy S4. I’m also recently a licensed artist with several companies in the US, Canada and the UK. I sell my Art also on Society 6. When I discovered I could create my own physical Lenormand card decks, and not just virtual art, I was inspired to try my hand at making my first Lenormand deck. This rapidly became a passion and obsession, and I’ve since then created 7 Lenormand decks, and am concurrently working on my 8th, 9th and 10th! Yes, I’m very prolific 😄. You can or will soon enough find my Lenormand card decks on my eBay and Etsy pages.

I learn by doing, so with each individual Lenormand card and deck that I create, I’m finding new nuances and perspectives. I’m also learning new aspects of my chosen format (digital mixed media photography art) as I go – freestyle design in one, using frames and templates in another, creating one card at a time, or creating an entire deck one layer at a time. My Lenormand decks utilise my own photos and public domain/copyright free images and clipart. I’ve built up quite an archive of Lenormand archetypal images now, on my Samsung Galaxy S4!

So, my approach towards Lenormand is two-pronged – 1) from wanting to learn a new esoteric language and 2) from an artist’s viewpoint. Now that I’ve created several decks in various styles – eclectic, modern, geometrical, plain and simple, time-worn, half-tone, etc I feel the need to share them with the rest of the Lenormand community. I’m sure that whatever style you prefer, or if you’re a deck collector, you’ll find one or more of my Lenormand decks that suit you!

You can catch Bobbie’s videos on YouTube, under her name “Rogue Perfumer”. http://youtu.be/CIHncKg4Vpg

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More or Less

More and Less directions.  Opposite traffic sign.

Just some more food for thought, now that the holiday season is nearly here and the madness is in full swing at the malls. The months of October-January are when I try to stay away from shopping centres, as I dislike the sight of people walking around stuffing their trolleys with things that they don’t need and will never use, but which may seem like a good idea at the time. I cringe because that was me not too long ago, and even now I have a few secret Wants of a consumerist nature.  But at least I’m not like my ex-friend Sheila, who spends all year buying things for her grandchildren, so much so that she had to get a garden shed especially just for the storage of Christmas paraphernalia and presents. As soon as Christmas is over, and her shed devoid of presents, she’d be out at the shops snapping up “January Sales Bargains”, and the cycle would begin again. When we were friends, she used to pick me up from home to go shopping with her. I’d only need a couple of things, but her “consumeritis” was very contagious, and I’d always end up spending far too much and regret it later.

Luckily, all that is in the past now for me. I understand now why some people say they can never save money – it’s because they’re out spending it as soon as they get it. Now that I’m no longer “gainfully employed” in the eyes of society, my list of Wants and Needs has changed drastically.

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This last image drives home the point.

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I choose to be Happy, and I am. While all around me, the world may be crumbling, I choose Happiness within myself, as I know it will better equip me to do my part in making the world a brighter, better place.

Here are some of my favourite pictorial quotes, curated from Google Images. Yes, I know I do this a lot, but hey, a picture paints a thousand words. I’m a visual person, WordPress is my medium and it’s a visual medium too…so there 😄.

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(I have absolutely no idea how the salmon pink background came to be, but it sure looks good, eh? So I’m keeping it. Happy days!)

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Frog Soup

One of my favourite movies is “Dante’s Peak” which stars Linda Hamilton and Pierce Brosnan. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a small American town famous for its slumbering eponymous volcano, which suddenly erupts. There is a scene in which Pierce Brosnan’s character, Harry, a volcanologist, explains how it is that the citizens of that town could be so blasé about living in the shadow of a volcano that could erupt at any time.

In the movie, Harry explains that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will hop right out in a jiffy. But if you first put the frog into a pot of cool water, then place the pot over a fire so the water heats up, that same frog will continue to swim in the water until it’s boiled to death.

Many people, today and in history, are like those frogs. Some, not liking a place or situation they find themselves in, rapidly move on elsewhere without settling down. Others, whether by lack of wherewithal, apathy or sheer ignorance, stay and put up with it. Those that realise what they’re up against, speak out and seek likeminded souls to rally with and try to change things for the better. Those that know but don’t care, because they might be benefiting from the situation, try to downplay the situation while at the same time make money out of it (create the problem, then create the cure). Those who still haven’t a clue what’s going on… will become frog soup.

Having moved to Australia from Ireland 4 years ago, I can attest to the high cost of living in Western Australia. Some of the Eastern States may be marginally better off, but mostly it is true that Australia is a VERY expensive country to live in. People are struggling to pay their bills, utilities, buy food, pay for clothing etc. And I’m talking about the average family, not the uber rich who only think they are hard-done by because they’ve had to cut down their holidays to 3 a year instead of their usual 4. I have no sympathy for those “I bought a Jeep” types, who complain that they can’t afford to maintain the lifestyle they’ve bought into… why take out a huge car loan to buy a status symbol petrol guzzler, when you know jolly well that you will be working all the hours God sends just to pay off that loan, and that you’ll NEVER have the time or the means (barring taking out another loan) to go places with that Jeep?

The figures in this article may be slightly out of date, but still serve to illustrate and compare the cost of living between Australia and other countries.

Now, Western Australia’s capital Perth is the most remote city in the world. Many things that you see in the shops have had to be shipped over from overseas or across the continent from the eastern states. Which means the price of everything is doubled or tripled before it hits the shelves.

Why then do people still live in WA? Many came over decades ago, when life was simpler and cheaper, and they don’t know anywhere else to call Home. Others came for work – the Mining industry (and its auxiliary service industries) accounts for a lot of the wealth of WA…however, this is a poison pill that everyone has been forced to take. The 10% who work for the Mining Industry and earn over AUD$100k a year, are driving the cost of living for the other 90%, whose average income is less than AUD$50k. Greedy corporations then jack up the prices of everything, because they want to tap into the miners’ wealth. So, whereas a cup of coffee in Sydney can be had for $3.50, it will cost you $5.50 here in WA. No wonder people are starving…or going to fastfood restaurants, where they then trade their health and wellbeing for cheap, affordable food that fills the gap. For $5.00 at Hungry Jack’s (Burger King), you can get a triple BBQ cheese burger and a Frozen Coke. The same $5.00 won’t even get you a cup of coffee in a cafe.

It’s a vicious cycle. Money really makes the world go round. People get used to working for high pay, then complain when employers decide to cut costs by outsourcing from China, India or Indonesia. They bemoan the fact that jobs are being given to foreigners instead of Australians. But what they don’t realise is that the Chinese/Indian/Indonesian worker will work for a third or even less than what an Aussie expects as a bare minimum. Plus, employers don’t have to offer as many incentives to foreign workers, and are easier to get rid of when no longer required.

At the rate things are going worldwide, I think we’re ALL going to be frog soup. Unless we start speaking out and campaigning for lower prices, or fairer employment opportunities for locals, or beseech corporations and financial institutions to be less greedy for profits etc etc. And even then, it might already be too late. I sure hope not!

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(Image source: Google)

Thoughts on Affluenza

Yes, it’s me again. For today’s post I would like to share some exerpts from the book “Affluenza” by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. The book was published in 2005, and it’s focussed mainly on Australia, but its contents are scarily even more real today, nearly a decade later, and on a global scale, in first world countries.

Food for thought.

Af-flu-en-za n.1.The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsuitable addiction to economic growth.

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Some psychologists argue that our actions are driven by a desire for ‘self-completion’, the theory being that we seek to bring our actual self into accord with our ideal self, or who we wish to be. Today, almost all buying is to some degree an attempt to create or renew a concept of self. We complete ourselves symbolically by acquiring things that compensate for our perceived shortcomings.

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The problem is not that people own things: the problem is that things own people. It is not consuming but consumerism we criticise; not affluence but affluenza. The signs are easy to see in others – the subtle and not-so-subtle displays of wealth, the one-upmanship, the self-doubt – and most Australians acknowledge that our society is too materialistic and money driven. But is much harder to recognise and admit to the signs in ourselves because that can be confronting.

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There is a trend for manufacturers of luxury goods to make entry-level products in an effort to attract consumers other than the very rich. Gucci and Armani attach their name to sunglasses that are bought by people who cannot afford to buy clothes or accessories with such a prestigious label. This is sometimes referred yo as the ‘democratisation of luxury': the people who buy the entry-level products feel they can emulate the image of the very rich.

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Sometimes advertisers try to make us laugh or make us think, but mostly they make us feel deprived, inadequate or anxious. It is axiomatic that they make us feel bad in a way that can be cured by possession of the product they advertise.

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The unspoken role of marketing is to keep consumers in the richest societies in human history feeling deprived. To be successful in the long term, advertising must sell not only products but also a very particular kind of world view – one where happiness can be bought, where problems can be solved by a product, and where having more things is the measure of success.

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Most people in consumer societies believe they need more money than they have, no matter how wealthy they are. Their actions suggest they are convinced that more money means more happiness. But when people reach the financial goals they have set for themselves they feel no happier. Instead of wondering if their yen for more money is the problem, they raise their threshold of sufficiency. This is a vicious cycle.

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The confusion between wants and needs is at the heart of affluenza. When people see wants as needs, it is not surprising that two-thirds say they cannot afford everything they need. And their feelings of deprivation are real, since thwarted desire is transformed into a sense of deprivation. Of course, the purpose of the advertising industry is to convert perceived wants into perceived needs.

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By some kind of financial alchemy, ‘saving’ has become what we do while we are spending. Bargain hunters can easily ‘save’ hundreds of dollars in the post-Christmas sales, but in order to save a great deal we need to max out our credit cards.

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Credit card debt, personal loans, car loans and store credit schemes are all growing rapidly – not to fund assets that will deliver benefits for years to come but to allow people to enjoy the ‘lifestyle’ they have been told they deserve.

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Not long ago, paying off the mortgage on the family home quickly was a common dream. A more recent dream appears to be to extend both the size of the mortgage and the period required to pay it off by borrowing against the home to fund a better ‘lifestyle’.

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Australians are increasingly prone to financial stupidity. People who are permanently in debt exist in a ‘money coma’ – a state of vagueness and confusion about their financial circumstances. One of the steps to recovery from uncontrolled debt is to be very clear about how much you owe and how you can manage your financial life without incurring more debts, yet retailers and consumer lenders work hard to undermine our resolve and confuse us about what taking on debts actually means.

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The upward spiral of desire, debt and consumption has fuelled massive growth in retail spending but appears to have delivered little benefit for national wellbeing.

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People afflicted by affluenza have an insatiable appetite for more things. Although our desire might have no bounds, our capacity to use things is limited: there is only so much we can eat, wear and watch, and a house has only so many rooms we can usefully occupy. The difference between what we buy and what we use is waste.

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Much of our consumption behaviour is designed to bridge the gap beyween our ideal selves and our actual selves. The advertisers work to persuade us that we can construct an ideal self out of the brands they promote.

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Of course, the marketing industry is devoted to persuading us to buy things we don’t need – and often to buy things we don’t want. But it is not just the marketing industry: it is the entire economic and political system that conspires to break down any resistance to buying. If we fail to keep spending, dire warnings are issued.

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Obsolescence is a feature of the consumer electronics industry…Slowly but surely, during the past few decades most Australians have moved from asking themselves “Do I really need a new one” to “Why should I make do with the current one?”

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…and that’s just from the first half of the book. I just hope some of these excerpts strike a chord in yourselves, and perhaps rally you towards making changes in your own lives towards the greater good. Isn’t it time we took charge of our own lives again, instead of letting our governments dictate how we should conduct ourselves?

And yes, there will probably a continuation of this vein of thought in a future post. You have been warned :).

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(Image Source: ABC News/Google. Yes, this is Australia’s biggest stocktake sale. Happening in every single mall in the country, oh say every other month and right after Christmas. Hurry, or you will miss out on buying stuff you don’t need and will never use the deal of the century that thingy that you just Have to have, you’ll know what it is when you see it).

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One born every second…

My 12-year-old son and I have a thing going about TV adverts at the moment. I got tired of hearing him saying he wanted this and that toy, so I challenged him to question every ad with “Want or Need?”.  He’s coming round to my way of thinking now, after all this is his Mum who can go into a thrift shop and come out with 2 bags full of Lego pieces for just $10.  We’ve even taken to couponning … well, not quite. We do play McDonald’s current game “Drop Into Macca’s” on our mobile phones, though – but only to win free food prizes. We do the same for Hungry Jack’s (that’s Burger King to the rest of the world). Sometimes, there really is a free meal.

But I digress. We’ve found so far that only a minute proportion of Australian TV advertisements actually sell anything that you would really need. The rest is just plain consumerist marketing tosh. First they feed you the Want, then when your finances are shot to hell, they feed you the Solution by way of cash loans at exorbitant rates, or 0% credit cards for 9 months, after which the exorbitant rates will hit you anyhow, because you’d have been lulled into a false sense of security just by moving your debts to that other card, and you’d have forgotten the original purpose of doing so, which was to get rid of your debt in the first place.

Today I was surfing the internet for misleading or false advertisements, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it really is funny as in haha funny, how gullible consumers can be. And then there are the real dozy bloopers, whether intentional or not. There really is a sucker born every second, and that’s a fact!  Go on, laugh!

(Source: Google Images)

false advertising

Supermarket staff are clearly not tested on their Math skills these days. I wonder if consumers are any the wiser.  I’ve personally seen toys at a local toy store marked “Was $14.99, save $10, now $24.99″. Or, how about this “Massive discount! Was $34.99, now $34.98″. Here in Australia, where there are no 1 or 2 cent coins, you better make sure you pay for that great bargain by card, where at least they charge you the actual price, otherwise if you pay by cash, no one’s gonna have any change to give you, matey!

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Uh huh, that old forced perspective trick. Yup, the burgers really are nothing like their mugshots. They’re marginally better at Hungry Jack’s, though. Now, Hungry Jack’s advertises that their burgers are better…and they really are better tasting, and better value for money. Their fries are crap, though.

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I wonder if the blurb actually said  the 2 Snickers bars would be the same size as the normal one?  I’d like to see what the small print says on the wrapper. I used to work in the UK regulating the control of misleading advertisements, so this Could technically be a pass, if all Snickers is saying is that there are 2 Snickers bars in that wrapper, and Not 2 normal sized Snickers bars.

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Blackest strawberries I’ve ever seen!

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Wow.  Just wow. I never knew Tropicana made bacon. Oink!

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I wonder how this store makes a living, or how it’s even still open?

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Hmmm…reminds me of a certain hi-tech mobile phone purportedly “Made in America”…Here in our local supermarket, they have bread “Baked fresh in-store. Comes from Ireland”. Fastest delivery times, ever?!

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I don’t know about other countries, but here in Western Australia, they jack up the prices of everything to three times their usual RRP, keep it there for a couple of months, and then proclaim a Mid-Season Half Price sale. Do the math.

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I wonder how many people fell for this. Not too many, I hope! Maybe not false advertising, but rather “Marketing for the Mathematically Challenged”?

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I have 30 “boneless chickens” incubating right now. Is this evolution or devolution for poultry?  Which came first, the chicken or the boneless chicken?