Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stop Fingering that Festive Piano...

We seem to mark Christmas via TV commercials these days.  At one time they simply used to herald the approach of the festive season - you could measure how close we were getting to it by the type and frequency of the ads.  It's the only time of year that you'll see those commercials for various perfumes.  You know the ones I mean - they're all somewhat surreal, usually presenting us with a brief black and white clip of people playing on a beach with the sound of the sea and children's laughter in the background as a voice whispers 'Eternity'.  Equally baffling is that one with the guy at a press conference telling everyone 'I'm not going to be the person I'm expected to be anymore'.  What the fuck is all that about?  Then there are the products which don't seem to be advertised on TV at any time other than Christmas. Disaronno, for instance.  In fact, I don't ever recall seeing it on shop shelves at any other time.  I didn't even know what it was, the first time I saw a commercial for it, other than that it was some kind of alcoholic beverage that groups of cool-looking people drank in cool-looking bars over the Christmas period.  (I know now that it is an Italian liqueur).

But we seem to have reached the stage now that we look to TV adverts to set the entire tone of Christmas.  Some of them seem to be regarded as annual events, on a par with the festive season itself: everyone waits with bated breath for, say, the Marks and Spencer Xmas ad, as if fearing that if it is crap, then so will Christmas itself.  The trendsetter for the past few years has been the bloody John Lewis Christmas commercial, always full of saccharine sentiment, tugging at our heartstrings, whether its romantic snowmen, that sodding bear and the hare or this year's lovelorn penguin.  It's as if people need to see these things in order to know how they should feel about the season.  (At least last year's John Lewis ad had Lily Allen singing on it - the first few times you could always hold out the hope that she was going to swear, or that her dad would turn up and eff and blind whilst denouncing the evils of the BNP).  This year, the ad which, for no reason particular, has irritated me the most is that bloody Aldi one.  You know, the one which tracks through various groups' Christmas dinners and culminates in Jools Holland playing the piano.  "Stop fingering that fucking piano", I've taken to shouting at the TV every time we get to that bit.  Sadly, I can't quite say it with the same degree of manic menace Gary Hope does in Big Zapper, when he shouts it at Penny Irving.  But I suspect that I'm going to get plenty of practice as we approach Christmas... 

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Big Zapper (1973) and Zapper's Blade of Vengeance (1974)



"This has to mark a low point for the British film industry; it is cheap, slapdash, sleazy, painfully unfunny but, most unforgivably, totally dull." So says some would-be film critic on Big Zapper's Internet Movie Database page.  Clearly, they haven't seen some of the British movies I have.  They really need to get out more.

"The film features plenty of action, but it's all badly done and the director can't seem to make up his mind whether this is a comedy or a thriller!" adds another amateur critic on the same page.

Like those who seemed incapable of grasping that Lindsay Shonteff's earlier private eye picture Clegg was a parody of the genre, so these supposed cinephiles fail to grasp that his glorious Big Zapper is effectively a live action comic strip.  Shot, like Clegg, on a miniscule budget, Big Zapper is far more indulgent of its director's quirky sense of humour: featuring villains being kicked through walls - leaving a hole in the shape of their bodies - samurai swordsmen and a comedy relief S&M obsessed sidekick, (Rock Hard, played by Richard Monette).  Unlike Clegg, which maintains its blackly humourous tone throughout, Big Zapper 's tone varies wildly, opening with the violent murder of a semi-naked young woman, shortly followed by the killing of her avenging brother and proceeding through sequences parodying of martial arts movies, private eye movies, someborderline soft core pornography and various comic scenes involving the villain and his inept henchmen, who all seem utterly incapable of dealing the heroine.  At worst, this leaves the viewer feeling disconcerted and disorientated, at best, it induces a heay sense of delirium.

Investigating the disappearance of the first victim is Linda Marlowe as Harriet Zapper, .357 Magnum-toting and Mercedes convertible-driving lady private eye, who advertises her services in the local village magazine.  In contrast to the titular hero of Clegg - who spends most of his time getting beaten up or in bed with various women - Zapper spends most of her time actually investigating, follwing up leads.  She's also more likley to be handing out the beatings rather than being on the receiving end.  She's a far cooler customer than Harry Clegg, emerging unreuffled from her violent encounters with various henchmen and an attempted seduction by the villain, (during which she reveals that she has what appears to be a blazing ball of fire in her pants - something which is left unexplained and never referred to again).

The villain himself is an extremely nasty pimp named Kono, who also has a sideline in counterfeiting.  Shonteff regular Gary hope gives a performance and a half as Kono, alternately camp and psychotic, he disconcertingly shifts between comic outbursts at the incompetence of his henchmen to highly disturbing outbursts of extreme violence.  Indeed, it is the inability of these henchmen to neutralise Zapper which drives much of the plot, with Kono being forced to bring in various specialists, including a hitman and a Yukuza samurai swordsman to try and deal with her.  All to no avail as nothing, not helicopters, heavy machine guns and swords prove to be any match for Harriet Zapper's magnums.

Big Zapper is a brisk and bizarre ninety minutes or so of entertainment.  Sure, a lot of the humour seems corny nowadays and often serves to slow down the action, but the surreal and tongue in cheek nature of the film carries it along.  Shonteff's obvious directorial competence ensures that, despite the low budget, the film always looks reasonably slick and professional, with well-staged set pieces and interestingly photographed locations.

Like Clegg, the film did surprisingly well at the box office (particularly in the US), making a sequel inevitable.



Zapper's Blade of Vengeance (aka The Swordsman), clearly has a somewhat bigger budget than its predecessor (it includes location shooting in the South of France), but, to be frank, isn't anywhere near as much fun. Part of the problem lies in the absence of Gary Hope.  This time around the villain is played by Alan Lake, (recently released from a spell in jail following a pub brawl), who, although possessed of a considerable degree of screen presence, simply isn't as flamboyant as Hope in his performance.

Also absent is Rock Hard, replaced by a Chinese Humphrey Bogart wannabe called Hock, Zapper's Mercedes, replaced by a Triumph Stag, one of Zapper's Magnum revolvers (she has to make do with just the one tis time around), and, perhaps most damagingly, Linda Marlowe's first person voice overs, which had helped establish much of the first film's playful tone.  Indeed, Zapper's appearance in this sequel is much delayed, as Lake's villiany is established in the opening sequences.  

The whole thing is also noticably slower paced, lacking the delirious mayhem of the original and with Shonteff's quirky humour somewhat toned down.  Clearly, the additional finance dictated a move toward the mainstream, which ironically weakened the very elements which had made the first film so popular.  That said, it is still entertaining.  Edina Ronay provides a sleek sidekick for Lake and, as before, the action sequences, particularly the sword fights (Alan Lake was, apparently an accomplished fencer in real life), are well staged.   Once again, Shonteff's direction is assured, making excellent use of his locations.

It's worth considering, at this juncture, that I'm basing my judgements on a viewing of what appeared to be the UK release cut of Zapper's Blade of Vengeance.  According to gavcrimson (if you like Lindsay Shonteff films, you'll enjoy his site, go take a look) there is a longer French language version in existence, which includes many scenes cut from the UK version. (Including the sequence in which Lake uses his sword to cut a Zorroesque 'Z' into Ronay's pubic hair).  If I ever saw that version of the film, I might revise my opinions.

So, there you have it: two more slices of Lindsay Shonteff directed British exploitation from the seventies.  As I said in the post about Clegg, I'm not making any claims that Shonteff is some kind of neglected genius, just that he was a much better than average director of low budget entertainment.  The only thing I am claiming is that his reputation is frequently unfairly trashed by the kind of condescending film snobs who post on the Imdb.  Taking into account the severe limitations his budgets must have placed upon him, Shonteff produced some remarkably well made movies.  Most importantly, they are, in the main, still entertaining.  Certainly, he's a far better director than many contemporaries in the low-budget movie arena.  It can surely only be down to the fact that he was far more prolific (not to mention fashionably continental) that Jesus Franco's reputation seems to be greater than Shonteff's.  There's no doubt that Shonteff was a far better director than the zoom obsessed Franco, most of whose movies are anything but entertaining.

Anyway, as with Clegg, these two films are still up on You Tube, (they're presented in a single continuous programme and have what appear to be Russian sub-titles) so you can judge for yourself.  Quick!  Before someone gets them taken down!

(As a footnote, it's worth noting that Linda Marlowe will shortly be joining the cast of Eastenders as Stan Carter's estranged wife.  We can but hope that the Big Zapper brings her Magnums with her to Albert Square).

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Cameron Delenda Est

Before concluding our look at the exploitation movies I watched the other weekend, I thought I'd take some time out to look at some current popular phenomena.  Namely the fact that #cameronmustgo has been trending on Twitter for what seems like an eternity now.  I have mixed feelings about this.  Obviously, like any sane person I agree with the sentiment, but another part of me is asking: why has this taken so long to happen?  It's been obvious since the day he became Prime Minister that Cameron is simply a puppet for the vested interests of the City and big business, asset-stripping the UK's public sector for their benefit.  So, I'm inclined to tell those behind the hashtag to stop trying to jump onto my bandwagon - they're just a bunch of Johnny-come-lateleys trying to grab the glory at the last minute. Joking aside, whilst it is always gratifying to see the likes of Cameron being publically skewered in this way, one still has to ask what those involved in the hashtag hope to achieve?  It certainly won't bring either Cameron or the government.  Nor, I suspect, will it leave them feeling embarrassed or humiliated - the policies they've pursued with regard to the poor, disabled and unemployed  alone show that they clearly don't care that people perceive them as evil scum.

At best, it can raise awareness of the effects and failures of the government's policies, although I'd hope that these would be obvious to everyone anyway.  I know that with the aid of the right wing press and other friends in the media the government have pursued a propaganda war to try and influence public perceptions, trying to re-write history so that the Labour Party, immigrants and the less well off are responsible for the recession rather than the greed and recklessness of the financial sector, but really - surely nobody but the most deluded knee-jerk reactionary Daily Mail readers out there believe this stuff?  The sad fact is, good though they might make us feel, stuff like this hashtag won't unseat the government and win elections.  Which brings us to another problem - who would we want it to win the election for?  The Labour Party, right now, isn't offering any coherent alternative to the government's economic policy of austerity - they're just saying they'd make spending cuts too, but wouldn't be as nasty about it.  They also don't seem to be offering any kind of alternative on things like civil liberties, constitutional reform, employment law or any manner of other crucial areas, for that matter.  Don't worry, after this bout of despair, we'll be getting back Lindsay Shonteff films next time.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Clegg (1970)



"My name is Harry Clegg.  I'm a private eye.  I'm also a cold blooded killer, a lecher, a liar and a thief.  My big problem is that I've been a loser since the day I was born."

Gilbert Wynne's voice over gets Lindsay Shonteff's 1970 private eye thriller off to a brisk start.  Having established our anti-hero's credentials we're thrown straight into a frantic action sequence featuring thugs, blazing sten guns and fists - the fall-out from Clegg's most recent case.  Apparently his client wanted his money back as he didn't get his divorce, despite having paid Clegg a tenner to sleep with his wife to prove her infidelity.  Problems with clients seem to characterise Clegg's professional life: when they aren't having him beaten up and threatened with guns, they're dropping dead before they can pay him.  Indeed, he spends a lot of the film trying to find new paying clients rather than chasing down leads.

Clegg could well lay claim to being Shonteff's best movie.  Cynics might sneer that such an accolade doesn't count for much, bearing in mind the Canadian's generally perceived status as a hack director of poverty row exploitation movies.  But that would be to completely misunderstand Shonteff's approach.  Which a lot of people seem to.  "One of the most unintentionally hilarious films I've ever seen", brays some idiot in the comments of the You Tube posting of Clegg.  Except that the point is that Shonteff intends it to be funny.

Whilst Clegg might superficially appear to be a straightforward re-location of the US hardboiled private eye movie to the UK, visiting every clich√© of the genre in process, in actuality it is a deft deconstruction of the genre.  Certainly, all the regular tropes of private eye fiction are there: the mean streets, the squalid flat, the beaten up car, a battered ''hero who spends his time walking those mean streets, when he isn't bedding a succession of gorgeous girls that is.  But if you look closer you'll see that although Clegg has the private eye lifestyle, he actually does very little detecting, relying instead on his female contact in the police force, taking her calls even as he's climbing into bed with yet another conquest.  When he does engage in any leg work he's usually pretty inept, blundering into situations in search of information and instead getting beaten up or having doors slammed in his face.  He frequently forgets his gun and even when he does carry it, he's often forgotten to load it, (although this works to his advantage in one crucial scene).   Raymond Chandler might have thought that 'down these mean streets must walk a man who isn't mean', but Clegg is no knightly Philip Marlowe with a personal code of honour: he's a mean bastard interested only in saving his own skin and getting paid.  He's even prepared to forgo the latter if it achieves the former, happily sacrificing his client at the climax.

Then there's the fact that in spite of the number of car chases, beatings and public shoot outs Clegg is involved in, the police seem to remain oblivious to his activities.  The only time he is pulled in by the cops, he gets warned by a Flying Squad Inspector that if he's caught carrying his gun he'll be put away - apparently failing to notice the fact (revealed in the next scene) that Clegg has been wearing it in shoulder holster during the entire interview.  The plot, for what it's worth, involves several prominent and wealthy businessmen receiving death threats, then being killed (before they can pay Clegg for his services).   The trail eventually leads to dodgy fashion designer Gary Hope (a Shonteff regular, here giving a relatively restrained performance compared to some of the villains he plays in the director's later films) and yet more shootings and beatings.

Shot in 1969 on some grimy looking London locations, allegedly for ¬£6000, (most of the financing came from a cameraman friend of the director's who wanted to invest in a low-budget film), Clegg was effectively a job creation scheme on Shonteff's part.  His career as a commercial director having been derailed by various circumstances, (he'd previously made films for producers like Harry Alan Towers and Richard Gordon), Shonteff realised that the only way for him to continue as a director was to independently produce films himself (often, as here, using the alias 'Lewis J Force' for the producer credit).  Which meant working on micro-budgets, shooting entirely on location and not using expensive star actors (leading man Gilbert Wynne, for instance, was known principally as TV actor, having been a regular in BBC police series  Softly, Softly during the sixties).  The result was an impressively gritty looking film which belies its low budget, with some well-staged action sequences, (including a terrific car chase around narrow and car-clogged London streets), and, unusually for a Shonteff film, some location shooting in Paris.

Shonteff moves the whole thing along at a cracking pace, with sharp editing and very nicely photographed locations adding to the impression of a much higher budget.  Paul Ferris' excellent score helps keep the pace up and adds immeasurably to the film's general ambience. Wynne's sardonic first person voice-overs are sharp, witty and funny, helping to establish Clegg's mercenary character adding to the picture's cynical tone.  I have to say that I found watching Clegg an exhilarating experience, both funny and exciting, it's easily one of the best British crime movies of the seventies - brisker and more violent than the bigger budgeted and better known Get Carter, for example and much more fun than, say, the Richard Burton starring Villain or the dour Oliver Reed thick ear Sitting Target.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that Lindsay Shonteff is some kind of unjustly neglected auteur of British cinema.  But what Clegg shows is that he was a skilled and efficient director of low budget films with a distinctive style.  In an era when films are apparently created by committees and focus groups and spend years in pre-production, it's refreshing to be reminded of an era when film makers just went out there and made movies.  Movies, incidentally, which are at least ten times as entertaining as the average contemporary Hollywood blockbuster.

But don't just take my word for it - at the time of writing an excellent print of Clegg is still available to see on You Tube.  Go watch it before someone gets it taken down!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

It! (1966)



One of a pair of horror films produced at Merton Studios by Goldstar Productions in 1966, It!, like its companion piece, The Frozen Dead, has ambitions which far outstrip its resources.  That said, the execution of this tale of the Golem is far better realised than the army of frozen Nazis in The Frozen Dead.  The biggest difference lies in the choice of name actor for the lead role.  Whilst Dana Andrews gave a generally undistinguished and unmemorable performance as Nazi mad scientist Dr Norberg in The Frozen Dead, Roddy McDowell is manically memorable in the lead role of It!, easily outshining the bland supporting cast.  McDowell, an actor nowadays probably best remembered for playing a chimp in most of the original Planet of the Apes movies, appeared in many movies which were, to be frank, beneath his talents.  Quite why he agreed to appear in a low-budget monster movies is a mystery.  Perhaps the pay was good, or maybe it wss because the film offered him the rare opportunity of a starring role.  Originally a child star, as an adult McDowell tended to find himself confined to character and supporting roles - probably because he wasn't any casting director's idea of what a romantic leading man should look like.

Even in It! he doesn't quite get to play a conventional lead: his character Pym, assistant curator of a London museum, is, from the outset, clearly a psychopath who talks to his mother's mummified body (which he keeps in his flat), steals from his employers and is prepared to use murder to remove any obstacles to his twin ambitions of becoming curator and bedding his predecessor's daughter, (played by Jill Haworth).   Despite all of this, thanks to McDowell's performance, Pym is still the most interesting and likeable character in the film - by the end I was still rooting for him, in spite of the lengthy list of atrocities he had been responsible for.  But to focus on the film itself, the instrument of Pym's revenge against his perceived enemies is a weird-looking statue which he discovers to be the legendary Golem: an artificial man made of clay which can be animated and controlled via a scroll hidden in its foot. 

Compared to The Frozen Dead, the production values on It! seem much higher.  Sure, it's still quite obviously a low budget movie, but, unlike The Frozen Dead, the sets don't look tatty and there's a good use of various London locations, including the Imperial War Museum, whose exterior stands in for that of Pym's museum.  The Golem itself is interestingly designed - strikingly different from the traditional cinematic image of the Golem established by Paul Muni in the silent era, looking far less human.  Up to a point, it is also a reasonably creepy and convincing movie monster, particularly in its early appearance, when it is confined to the museum and its movements limited.  However, once Pym starts taking it outside, driving it around in a van, it its menace is dissipated.  In the harsh light of day, it is too obviously just a man (Alan Sellars, to be precise) in a suit.  It is also in these later sequences, as Pym moves beyond simply using the Golem to dispatch rivals within the confines of the museum, that the film rapidly starts to show the limits of its resources.  The Golem's destruction of Hammersmith Bridge (an attempt by Pym to impress Haworth), for instance, is somewhat ludicrously depicted via a few shots of the monster straining against some girders - the subsequent destruction is, for budgetary reasons, merely described to the audience.

From that point on, the film rapidly runs out of steam, with a completely insane Pym using the Golem to kidnap Haworth and holing up in a castle with the living statue and the girl.  At this point the low budget finally scuppers the picture, with the Golem single-handedly holding off the entire British army (which seems to consist of half a dozen men) before the authorites decide to deploy a tactical nuclear device (on the mainland of the UK) against it.  The film culminates with Pym nuked, the Golem striding, unscathed, into the sea and Haworth rescued by bland 'hero' Paul Maxwell (serial voice-provider for numerous Gerry Anderson puppets).  Many questions - most notably that of  the reason for Pym's mother's demise - are left unanswered.  But, as I noted at the start, what puts It! head and shoulders above other low-budget independent British horror films of its era, like The Vulture, The Frozen Dead or The Projected Man, for instance, is Roddy McDowell's performance.  Despite the script making it clear that he is unhinged from the start, thereby depriving him the chance of building any real ambiguity into the character, McDowell still manages to bring a surprising degree of complexity to Pym's character, so that his mid-film attempts to destroy the Golem and stop himself from committing any further crimes hold real conviction and don't seem like an out-of-character plot contrivance. 

All-in-all, It! is a surprisingly entertaining and effective horror thriller.  I must admit that, having already seen The Frozen Dead, I didn't have high expectations of its companion piece.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  It's no masterpiece, but McDowell's performance alone makes it a worthwhile ninety minutes or so.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Save Our Celebrities!

At last those poor oppressed celebrities are fighting back against the evil mastermind Ed Miliband and his 'Mansion Tax'.  First it was Griff Rhys Jones who was daring enough to risk ridicule and speak put against this iniquitous tax on success and now its Mylene Klass.  Unlike Jones, who simply whined from the safety of a right-wing newspaper, Klass has taken the fight to the enemy, confronting the evil Miliband live on TV, putting him to flight.  It should make us all proud to the be British, seeing our brave has-been celebrities taking on the might of the Official Opposition in the name of inequality and injustice - the things that have made this country great.  For they are quite correct - without growing inequality where would those at the bottom find the motivation to better themselves?  Without gross injustice, where would the disadvantaged find the inspiration to fight for their rights?  For too long too many of our celebrities have pandered to the masses in the name of popularity, supporting leftie worthy causes like fighting poverty, social justice and eliminating inequality, but at long last at least some of them have found the courage to abandon the Labour Party and come out in support for the progressive anti-equality policies of out glorious Tory government.

From Take That, Jimmy Carr and the Arctic Monkeys trying to avoid paying their taxes to Griff Rhys Jones threatening to deprive the UK of his unique 'comedy' talents and go into foreign exile in the face of the 'Mansion Tax', Britain's celebrities are at last showing their true colours.  They've finally realised that it is time to tell the public: 'Fuck you!  We toiled in obscurity for years before finally getting that lucky break which unlocked the door to our current riches - we've earned our mansions and extravagant lifestyles.  We spent years ensuring we weren't 'equal' to you - just be satisfied that we condescend to appear on chat shows and allow you to watch us on TV, in films and to buy our music, not to mention our overpriced merchandise.  We've got your money - we don't need your respect.'   Even as you read this, groups of celebrities, worried at the oppressive measures being proposed by the evil genius Miliband are planning a march through Belgravia, in order to protest at his proposed 'tax on aspiration'.  Strike action can't be far behind: can you imagine the chaos actors and musicians withdrawing their labour would cause?  No Downton Abbey!  No new singles from One Direction!  Clearly something must be done - I urge to all get out there and show your support for our embattled celebrities by buying their Christmas books, CDs and DVDs so that they can earn enough to offset any 'Mansion Tax'!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Age of Intolerance

At some point soon I hope to be able to look at the movies I watched in the weekend before last's exploitation movie marathon, (there was no repeat performance this last weekend: I confined myself to catching up with a seventies James Garner movie, several episodes of Barney Miller - an American sitcom which used to be used as a late night filler by ITV back in the day, but deserved better - and listening to Atomic Rooster, because I'm so down with what the kids are listening to).  However, right now I feel moved to comment on the shocking levels of intolerance which seem to prevail these days.  No, I'm not talking about the appalling persecution of comedy genius 'Dapper Laughs' which saw him driven from ITV2 and the web by hordes of humourless gits who just couldn't grasp that his misogyny was 'ironic' and his rape jokes just 'banter' - they obviously all had too much time on their hands because they weren't getting enough, on account of being 'too ugly to shag.'  I'm more concerned by the hate campaigns which seem to greet any public figure (and sometimes not-so public figures) who expresses an opinion that the 'Twatterati' and their ilk don't like.

Most recently, we've seen the athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill receiving threatening tweets because she doesn't agree with the idea of convicted rapist and sometime professional footballer Ched Evans being re-employed by Sheffield United, where there's a stand carrying her name.  Conversely, we'd earlier seen Judy Finnigan enduring online abuse and rape threats against her daughter merely because she'd pointed out that said Ched Evans had served his prison sentence and therefore was entitled to try and put his life back together, (she also, in a poor choice of words, claimed that the rape he'd committed had been 'non-violent' as the victim had been drunk and incapable at the time, I understand the point she was trying to make, but I really don't think that you can have degrees of rape - either sex is consenting or it isn't).  In a somewhat less emotionally charged example, tennis player Andy Murray was on the receiving end of internet abuse for having the temerity to say that he was voting 'yes' in the Scottish independence referendum.

In all of these cases (and many more I could cite) we simply have someone expressing a not unreasonable personal opinion with which the rest of us might, or might not agree.  If we don't agree, fine. We can always express our counter opinion in an equally reasonable way if we feel strongly enough and can be bothered. But we still acknowledge the right of the person in question to hold and express their opinion.  But increasingly, it seems, those who disagree feel that it necessary to hurl a stream of abuse, invective and threats at anyone expressing an opinion they don't like.  Reason doesn't come into it: those holding a different opinion apparently must be intimidated into silence.  Differing opinions cannot be tolerated.  Whilst I've highlighted the role of social media users in this, the mainstream press are just as bad in this respect, particularly when it comes to political opinions.  The abuse isn't just confined to celebrities - just look at the comments under news stories on newspaper websites, or on personal blogs, whenever a differing or unpopular opinion is offered.  In my more paranoid moments I suspect that these apparently increasing levels of intolerance for other people's opinions is part of some establishment plot to stifle debate and prevent current political and economic orthodoxy from being challenged.  I imagine that all those tweeters and posters are actually Security Service agents.  But that's just crazy talk.  That said, the alternative explanation, that through a combination of growing levels of ignorance and increasing levels of pro-establishment propaganda being put out by the media, people are just growing less tolerant of difference, is far more disturbing. 

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Slim the Ebola Way

"Look, there really is no danger to this new weight loss regime - don't believe all those scare stories in the press," says Dr Hans Schlonger, the man behind the controversial new 'Slim the Ebola Way' regime.  "It's all perfectly natural - weight loss as nature intended!"  The method - reportedly the current slimming craze amongst celebrities - involves the subject contracting a dose of the deadly disease Ebola, then effectively shitting and vomiting their way to thinness.  "I know that Ebola has a bad reputation right now, what with having killed thousands of people in West Africa, but the fact is that it need not be fatal," the medic claims.  "As long as you get immediate, high quality, medical care - not the shitty conditions they have in West Africa, but the kind of care you get in my high tech private care facility in Boston - then your chances of survival are surprisingly high."  Indeed, a surprising number of obese millionaires have taken Schlonger's treatment regime, being infected with a mild dose of Ebola at his clinic before being whisked straight into the care facility.

Whilst Schlonger has so far suffered no casualties at his facility, he has been widely criticised by the medical profession for his reckless approach the weight loss.  "The biggest worry is that he will encourage fat people who can't afford his fees to travel to places like Liberia in the hope of contacting Ebola," declares Professor Enid Muffler of the World Health Organisation (WHO).  "Having caught a dose, they'll then try to rush back to Europe or the US for treatment, putting further strain on health facilities in these countries."  Already there have been reports of teenaged girls from the UK travelling to West Africa and deliberately coming into contact with Ebola sufferers in the hope of getting the disease.  "I'd do it again, it was worth all the pain," gasped eighteen year old Mandy Feel, from the intensive care ward of the School of Tropical Diseases at St Fanny's Hospital in Uxbridge, where she has been confined since returning to the UK from Liberia.  "It was really easy to get a dose of Ebola, I just shook hands with this sick looking bloke outside the airport after I landed in Liberia - I got on the next plane back home."  After enduring several massive bouts of vomiting and crapping, Mandy claims to have lost three stone in less than a week and has now secured a modelling contract.   

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Traumatic Defence

A man who last week opened fire on his neighbours with an illegally held assault rifle has claimed that he was suffering a flashback to his time in Afghanistan and thought that he was defending himself against the Taliban.  According to thirty four year old Northampton resident Joe Crapster, his lethal flashback was triggered by his next door neighbours' fireworks.  "I didn't realise that it was Guy Fawkes night - it's easy to lose track of time for combat veterans who, like me, are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," the former Catering Corps soldier - who was given a dishonourable discharge after being caught urinating in the soup about to be served to his commanding officer - told his local newspaper.  "As soon as those explosions started I was back in Afghanistan - it was pure reflex that I picked up that AK-47, jumped over the fence and started firing."   Crapster has claimed that the weapon was a souvenir that he had brought back from Afghanistan.  "I had no idea that it still worked - I thought that it had been deactivated," he asserted.  "As for the bullets - I've no idea where they came from."  Despite having killed three people (one of them a child) and seriously wounded seven others, Crapster has been given bail by the police and is currently receiving counselling for his war trauma at local taxpayers expense.  "Nobody is denying that he's made a serious mistake, but it's important that we support our war veterans," said a spokesperson for the British Legion.  "People have to understand that criminal behaviour is an inevitable consequence of putting yourself on the line for your country.  We owe these boys for keeping us safe, even when they shoot us.  Just remember, they have extenuating circumstances."

In the wake of Crapster's PTSD defence for his actions, a Southall man has claimed that when he violently attacked a group of trick or treaters who knocked on his door at Halloween, he was having a traumatic flashback to the time that he was attacked by a group of monsters whilst on holiday in Transylvania.  "It was an horrendous experience, first of all this group of vampire women came in through my hotel room window and started biting me," Brian Shatz explained to his local newspaper.  "They seemed to put me under some kind of spell - next thing I knew I was in the dungeon of a castle with some mad scientist telling me he wanted my brain!"  Shatz claimed to have escaped the dungeon when a fellow inmate turned into a werewolf and attacked the vampire women.  "Even when I was out of there, I found myself being chased by the Frankenstein monster," he recalled.  "It followed me all the way back to the town square, where I had a street brawl with it - the local police had to step in and break it up." Shatz claims that he had forgotten it was Halloween on account of having been completely bladdered the night before.  "When I opened the door to see those ghouls stood there, it all came back to me," he claimed.  "Is it any wonder that I chased them into the street with sharpened sticks and crucifixes?"  The adult supervising the group, who was dressed as Dracula, was impaled on a wooden stake during Shatz's attack, during which he also attempted to stab an eleven year old dressed as a werewolf, with a silver teaspoon.  Several other children, dressed variously as cowboys, spacemen and Lady Gaga had crucifixes waved at them in a menacing fashion.  Police have rejected Shatz's flashback defence, dismissing it as 'ludicrous'.  Romanian police, meanwhile, have confirmed that three years ago Shatz was arrested following a drunken fight with a local pimp, after he had refused to pay two prostitutes who had taken him to a local S&M parlour. 

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Hundred Years on Benefits

Apparently you may live to be 120.  According to the headline on the Daily Mail yesterday, that is.  What scientific foundation (if any) there is for this claim, my reaction was to think, may I?  I mean, the way they phrase it, it sounds as if this possible longevity is some kind of option we could activate.  Just tick the box and add forty or fifty years to your lifespan.  Trouble is, I'm still not clear as to where I check this particular option.  After all, if I had those extra years, just think of the number of additional old exploitation movies I could watch.  Obviously, I'd be so decrepit once I passed ninety, (they mentioned nothing in the headline about slowing or stopping the ageing process, without which extended lifespans would be pretty pointless as you wouldn't be able to fully enjoy the extra years), that watching films will about all I'd be capable of doing.  The other downside is that, inevitably, we'd all have to work for more years than we do now, as there is no way they'd leave the retirement age at 65 if we were all living to 120 - everyone would effectively be retiring in middle age.  Which, come to think of it, is another good reason for me to exercise my Daily Mail mandated right to live to 120: I wouldn't be middle aged any more,  I'd have at least another decade before middle age set in.  Bring it on!

The Daily Mail being what it is, I'm surprised that they seem to have missed a trick by not turning this into a scare story.  I'm sure that they only envisage nice, white, middle class people having the option to live to 120.  But what if the 'wrong' people acquired such longevity?  that's right - you'd have workshy 'benefit scroungers' claiming their money for additional decades. Even worse, they might be illegal immigrant 'benefit cheats'.  That really must be the Mail's worst nightmare: idle foreigners capable of claiming British taxpayers' money for a century at a time.  And what about single mothers?  We all know that they only keep having kids so that they can claim benefits and 'free' council flats, don't we? Well, if they had increased longevity and the ageing process was slowed down, imagine how many more children they could have?  They could produce so many in a 120 year lifespan that they'd have to be provided with mansions rather than flats to accommodate them all.  There's another Mail nightmare: Griff Rhys Jones evicted from his London mansion by the council to house seventy year old single mother of twenty kids!  Yeah, that's it - increased longevity of the unwashed lower classes will inevitably result in councils compulsorily purchasing mansions to accommodate them, putting millionaires out on the street!  It would be worse than Labour's proposed 'mansion tax'!  Damn, I should be working for the Daily Mail, shouldn't I?

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