Monday, July 16, 2018

The Politics of Ignorance

It's the sheer ignorance which appalls me, the way that people, even supposed political correspondents, think that they can discuss political issues without grasping even the basics of how political systems work.  On a daily basis I see ridiculous statements presented as fact go unchallenged by journalists and other so called experts.  Especially where the Brexit referendum is concerned.  Take the oft quoted phrase used in response to calls for a second referendum or the reversal of Brexit: don't you trust the British people?  Well, obviously not, or we wouldn't have a representative democracy where we elect a parliament to make the significant political decisions on our behalf.  This isn't unique to the UK.  Most democratic states use variations on this system.  The referendum, curiously enough, isn't generally used as a means of framing legislation.  In fact, they are more likely to be used as demagogues and dictators to rubber stamp repressive, but populist, measures, thereby giving them a spurious sheen of respectability, ('it was the public's choice to make homosexuality/the free press/religion/etc illegal').  It's why, when they are used in democratic societies, their results are usually non-binding upon the government, (just like the Brexit referendum).

The electorate at large, sadly, are too easily swayed by the emotional and illogical 'arguments' of the so called populists, prey to the lies and half truths they peddle in pursuit of their dubious ends.  Hence the triumph of representative democracy, where we delegate those decisions to elected bodies we assume are better placed to make an informed decision.  Although, watching the conduct of some the Brexit bastards on the Tory back benches of late, one might reasonably question such a proposition.  The problem, obviously, is that the majority of the public simply don't have access to all of the relevant facts and arguments concerning complex issues such as the UK's relationship to the EU, which simply can't be boiled down to a binary choice of 'should the UK leave the European Union. Yes or No?', as the 2016 referendum did.  (Notice how there's no mention of how the UK should leave the EU< or what its future relationship with the EU should be in the event of it leaving.  Which leaves me wondering how the Brexit bastards can possibly say that anything short of a complete break - so called 'hard Brexit' - wouldn't be what people voted for and would be a betrayal of the 'public will'.  (Ignoring the fact that, constitutionally, in the UK it is parliament which represents the 'will of the people', not a single referendum result).  Yet more unchallenged nonsense).  The advent of the internet should, in theory, have given people greater access to the sort of information they need to make informed political decisions. Sadly, it hasn't worked out that way, with the web rapidly turning into a vast continent of lies.

I know I've said all this before and that it sounds as if I'm giving one of my AS level politics lessons from back in the day when I was still in the classroom.  But I just felt it needed to be said again:  I'm so tired of all the ill-informed bollocks I keep reading in the media which, as I've said, seems to go unchallenged.  It's wearying and depressing.  Is it any wonder that these days political discourse seems to be dominated by lies, hate and rancour?  It really gets me down.  I think I'll try and steer clear of politics for the rest of the week.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Rant Round Up

So, caught up in World Cup fervour and the heatwave, as I've been lately, I've neglected to rant about a whole lod of other stuff that's been going on and has annoyed me.  To compensate, here's a brief 'rant round up' to try and cover some of the lost ground.  First up: no, Elon Musk, the rescue of twelve Thai boys and their football coach from flooded caves is not an opportunity for you to stroke your ego by turning up with more of your crazy but utterly pointless contraptions.  Jesus, fucking billionaires!  You'd think that being fabulously wealthy would be enough to satisfy anyone - the knowledge that you will want for nothing for the rest of your life would surely make you feel incredibly secure.  But apparently not -  so many of these wealthy fuckers spend their time (and money) doing all manner of stuff to garner publicity and boost their insecure egos: building mini subs to rescue kids from caves, flying balloons across the Atlantic, you know the sort of shit I mean.  look, if you want to do something worthwhile people will remember you for, try giving away all your worldly wealth to help address issues like global poverty, homelessness and general deprivation.  Christ, bearing in mind that the personal wealth of some of these bastards is bigger than the GDP of some small countries, they could even resolve all these problems by only giving away 99% of their money and still be multi-millionaires.

Talking of billionaires: Donald Trump - go home.  He really excelled himself this week, declaring a politically awkward interview he'd given to the Sun 'Fake News'!  But don't worry, he thinks that ordinary Britons love him.  Sadly, there actually are some utter ball sacks out there who apparently like this bell end.  And I don;t just mean that currently unemployed sack of shit Boris Johnson, (OK, I know that he's still an MP, but I doubt that he sees that as a proper job).  We've had the likes of the abominable Nigel Farage and the despicable waste of space Katie Hopkins gushingly tweeting their support for the orange knacker.  I mean, really, if that's the best you can muster in terms of support - the utter dregs of British society - then you should be ashamed of yourself.  Damn it, if I found that Katie Hopkins supported me, or even agreed with anything I'd ever said, I think I'd contemplate suicide, so shameful would it be.  Aside from rich dicks and publicity hungry arseholes, the other thing which irked me over the past few weeks was a newspaper story about the fire on Saddleworth Moor, bemoaning how such a major incident wasn't being reported nationally because the 'southern' dominated media wasn't interested in anything going on in the North.  Really?  For a while that fire was all I bloody read or heard about in the media.  I really do get sick of this fake Northern self pity at being ignored by the media, 

I live in the South and I get the bloody North rammed down my throat at every turn: the oly football teams we hear about are fucking Liverpool and Man Utd/City, every sodding drama series seems to be set in the North, every TV presenter and commentator has a Northern accent.  The South is badly unrepresented in the media (no, Eastenders doesn't count, it is set in London, which isn't the South) - I rarely hear a proper West Country accent, for instance, unless it is being parodied.  Since Howard's Way, I can't recall any major drama series being properly set in the South.  (Again, Inspector Morse doesn't count - Oxford is part of the Midlands and Midsomer Murders is filmed in the Home counties which, like London, isn't really the South).  Where are our dramas, set in Southampton, Portsmouth, or even Bristol, (even Casualty has moved production to Cardiff)?  Or Plymouth and Exeter, for that matter?  Where are our rural soaps?  I'd venture that Wiltshire is better farming country than bloody Yorkshire, so where's the Southern Emmerdale Farm?  Part of the imbalance, I know, is down to the fact that, when ITV was a series of regional franchises, the Northern, Midland and London broadcasters tended to be the better funded ones, contributing more programming to the network.  The main sSouth of England franchise, Southern, was traditionally content to rake in the ad revenue and pay it out to shareholders rather than actually make decent programmes, (cheap daytime fare like Out of Town and House Party and various kids shows don't, in my opinion, count).  But the BBC has no such excuse in this department.  Anyway, that's the rants rounded up for now.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Curse of ITV

It's the curse of ITV.  As soon as I saw that ITV were exercising their 'right' to show the second World Cup semi final, I knew that England were doomed.  They always perform badly when their World Cup matches are shown on ITV.  The statistics back it up: their win rate on ITV televised matches is something like 28%, compared to around 80% for matches shown on the BBC.  Just look at Russia 2018 - first two group matches, shown on the BBC, won them both.  The only group match they lost was the one against Belgium, which was shown by ITV.  Then there was the first knock out match - it went all the way to penalties because it was shown on the commercial channel.  By contrast, England breezed through the BBC screened quarter final.  It really is about time that the FA put its foot down and told ITV, 'NO'.  If England are ever to succeed in a World Cup, then ITV need to be banned from showing their games.

It would be no great loss - I mean, their coverage is dire, regardless of results.  Their entire presenting team of BBC cast off pundits and Roy fucking Keane need to be given their marching orders.  Especially Keane - if he wants to cover the World Cup as a pundit, do it on bloody RTE and don't darken these shores again, you miserable git.  'England are in the Semi Finals, but I'm still going to say they are shit'.  Yeah, fuck off Roy, it's closer to the trophy than you ever got.  As for their main presenters, we've gone from Adrian 'I'm being paid a shed load of money for this, but I've still got a face like a slapped arse' Chiles, to another BBC exile, Mark 'Where's my personality' Pougatch.  Give me Gary Lineker any day - at least he's played in a bloody World Cup Semi Final.  (Going back to Adrian Chiles, briefly, why do people keep paying him large sums of money to present TV programmes very badly?  He was dreadful doing that ITV breakfast programme and worse still presenting their football coverage.  The One Show was about his level: trivia masquerading as current affairs).  Really though, in the national interest, ITV must be kept away from any future tournaments featuring England. 

And that, I promise you, is the last time I'll mention the 2018 World Cup, which managed to draw me in, before cruelly dashing my hopes.  Well, for now, at least.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taboos of the World (1963)


I'm still in something of a 'Mondo' mood.  I partially sated it the other week by watching Addio Africa.  Or, a version of Africa Addio, that is, as many different edits of the film exist.  The one I saw was the longest version currently available with an English language narration.  This is still several minutes shorter than the Italian language original and cuts some sequences, but adds others.  It is still more complete than the butchered US release version, Africa: Blood and Guts, which is something of a travesty, editing the film down to less than half its original length and focusing on the violence.  Whichever version you watch, it's a grueling experience. But we're not here to talk about Africa Addio (we'll hopefully get to that in a later post), but rather to take a quick look at the trailer for another intriguing-looking Mondo movie: Taboos of the World (1963).

In an age when absolutely nothing seems taboo any more, with so=called 'reality' TV regularly serving up the sort of content you might only have found in soft core porn a few years ago, it seems odd to think that there was a time when you could titillate cinema audiences with the prospect of seeing some 'taboo breaking' behaviour.  Especially when a lot of it, like eating snakes, jumping down wells and some mildly smutty temple engravings, seems pretty damn tame by today's standards.  But, as I've noted before, the pre-swinging sixties were a different world, still living in the shadow of the less socially liberated immediate post-war era.  Overseas travel was, for most people, a novelty and, consequently, much of the rest of the world seemed incredibly exotic to most Europeans.  I've yet to track down a complete version of this film but the trailer indicates that it includes the usual Mondo mix of sex, sensationalism and animal cruelty.  All proven box office winners back in the sixties but undoubtedly the subject of disapproval nowadays.  Now, it seems, shockumentaries are bad, but low rent 'reality' TV exploiting the emotionally vulnerable, subjecting them to public humiliation and ridicule, is OK. 

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Monday, July 09, 2018

The Heat is On

What a time to be alive!  England are in the World Cup semi finals, the UK is in the grip of a heatwave and two of the most despicable and incompetent members of the cabinet (and that's saying something), have had hissy fits over Brexit and resigned.  Really, though, if May had any real gumption as a Prime Minister, both David Davis and Boris Johnson should have been sacked long ago.  Davis for incompetence alone - his apparent inability to grasp even the most basic facts about the UK's EU membership was bad enough, but lying to parliament over the non-existent Brexit impact studies should have been the final straw.  But apparently not. As for Johnson, if generally being a buffoon and constantly embarrassing the UK in his role as Foreign Secretary wasn't sufficient grounds for dismissal, then his constant undermining of and lack of respect for the Prime Minister should have resulted in him being shown the door.  Sadly, though, we live in an age when the UK's main political parties have weak leaderships, apparently unable or unwilling to control potentially destructive elements of their parties, leaving a vacuum at the centre of British politics.  A vacuum in which opportunists and extremists like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg can flourish.

But hey, this is all getting too heavy.  I really don't want to talk about politics,  It's far too hot, for one thing. Not that I'm complaining about the heat.  I welcome it, I'd rather be sweltering than freezing.  I'm actually finding the heat much easier to handle this summer, which is probably because my blood pressure has dropped significantly.  I'm sweating far less and the high temperatures don't leave me feeling exhausted all the time.  I just don't understand these people who keep moaning about this protracted heatwave: surely this is the kind of Summer we've been complaining for years that we don't get in the UK.  Well folks, it's here at last, so enjoy it!  Who knows when we'll get another Summer like this?  (Actually, with global warming, it could be sooner than we think).   Yet there are people who keep on complaining about the heat.  These are probably the same people, though, who are prepared to spend significant amounts of money to spend two weeks every year in search of temperatures like these. Bizarre.  Obviously, there are some things I don't like about prolonged heatwaves: mainly the fact that they encourage over weight middle aged men to wander around shirtless, usually drinking beer from cans.  I really don't want to see their tattoos and beer bellies.  I also don't want to have to pay for the treatment on the NHS for their inevitable skin cancer in few years time.  For God's sake stay covered up, not just for decency's sake, but for your long term health, also.  Otherwise, long may the heatwave continue.

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Friday, July 06, 2018

Never Say Novichok Again

This recurrence of the novichok nerve agent in Wiltshire just goes to reinforce my theory that the whole Russian connection is just a smokescreen and that the UK government is actually being held to ransom by some SPECTRE-like international crime syndicate.  Clearly the government didn't pay up after the first poisoning in Salisbury, so they've upped the ante, targeting not ex-Soviet spies this time, but ordinary people.  They're sending a message: nobody is safe - you can decontaminate as much as you like, but we can still get you.  Believe me, right now Number Ten is in panic mode (although, these days, one has to ask when it isn't), with all these cabinet meetings supposedly about Brexit a cover for hastily convened crisis meetings.  Why else do you think that the government are getting nowhere with Brexit (other than their utter incompetence)?  As I write this, M is on the intercom to Miss Moneypenny, telling her to recall every double O agent in Europe, no matter how vital their current mission might be.  Which will be a cue for a middle aged man in a dinner jacket to have a fight with a bloke with metal teeth on a plane, before jumping out without a parachute.

I know, I've seen far too many Bond movies (not to mention having read all the books as well).  I do have to say,though, that the bit in Thunderball where M does have all the OO agents in Europe has always left perplexed.  There seem to be a hell of a lot of them gathered together in the briefing room.  Bear in mind that in Moonraker (the book, not the film), Ian Fleming clearly states that there are only ever three OO agents active at any one time.  Even in the 1950s there weren't that many people that the UK government wanted killed.  That said, even Fleming seemed to become confused as to who the other two OO agents were.  Originally it was 007, 008 and 0011.  While the first two remained constant throughout the books, the third OO varies: 009 in Thunderball, 006 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Which, if nothing else, confuses the issue of how the numbering system works as it indicates that, unlike the implication in Moonraker, new OO agents aren't simply numbered consecutively from the last one to die or retire.  And, in the films at least, they do die at an alarming rate: 002 in Man With the Golden Gun, 009 in Octopussy (although 009 turns up again, apparently unscathed in World is Not Enough and Spectre), 003 in View to a Kill, 004 in Living Daylights and 006 in Goldeneye

But, getting back to this nerve agent business, there's no doubt that this latest attack is the most exciting thing to happen in Amesbury since, well, since ever.  I don't want to diss a town but Amesbury makes Salisbury look like an exciting big metropolis.  While it has expanded quite a ot in recent years, my childhood memories of Amesbury are of one of those 'blank and you miss it' places as I was driven past it in the back seat of my Dad's car.  I know that's undoubtedly an unfair assessment of the place, but coming from Salisbury, I was used to seeing lots of streets, shops and stuff.  Which Amesbury, to my child's eye view, didn't seem to have.  But hey, it's certainly on the map now.  It'll probably get even more coverage when half the OO section descend on the town in pursuit of Blofeld and the inevitable car chases and gratuitous sex and violence ensue.

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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Vegetable Cruelty

Whilst I've been engaging in football-related revelry here, other things have been going on in the real world.  But I'll come to the latest nerve agent business in the fullness of time.  Right now, I'd like to rant a bit about bloody vegans.  I remember when they used to be a joke, seen as cranks existing at the extreme edges of vegetarianism.  But now the bastards are everywhere, getting in your face and telling you that 'meat is murder'.  What sparked off my latest burst of outrage was an article in The Independent (you know, used to be a newspaper that nobody bought, now it is just a website that few people click on,) ostensibly about the latest shooting of a wild animal in Africa (this time a rare Giraffe) by a hunter who then proudly posts the photos of themselves posing with the body all over the internet.  But it quickly became obvious that it was merely a vegan propaganda piece.  Apparently, you aren't allowed to express outrage over the slaughter of wild animals by hunters if you eat meat because that makes you a hypocrite because, you know, 'meat is murder'.  For fuck's sake, you self righteous bastards, do fuck off! 

There is a world of difference between being unnecessarily cruel to animals by, for instance, hunting them purely for sport and killing them, as humanely as possible, for food.  I know that facts are alien to these sanctimonious arseholes, but the homo sapiens is an omnivorous species, meaning that meat always has been part of our diet.  Moreover, there is a whole class of animal, the carnivores, who exist by eating meat.  Do these pricks go around shouting 'meat is murder' at lions and tigers?  Do they force their pet cats and dogs into vegan diets?  Actually, some of them do try the latter, which is both cruel and potentially fatal.  So, clearly, animal welfare isn't really the vegans' priority.  I wouldn't mind, but why do they think that not eating meat or using animal products makes them so superior?  Have they seen the conditions vegetables are kept in?  Factory farmed, exposed to the elements and buried up to their roots all day.  Outrageous!  Moreover, don't they know that plants scream when they have their leaves or flowers pulled off?  Do they honestly believe that chopping up innocent vegetables and putting them in scalding water isn't cruel?  Vegan bastards!

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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Quantum Penalty Shoot Out

So, the box was opened and the cat was alive: England progress to the World Cup quarter finals and the negative narrative of them being perennial losers is banished for a few more days.  But now we're back in that quantum limbo where England as semi-finalists co-exists with the possibility of England as losing quarter finalists.  Still, quantum speculations aside, there is undeniably something deeply satisfying in seeing England finally win a penalty shoot-out.  And the Columbians were dirty bastards, making their last gasp demise on penalties even more satisfying.  That said I could have done without all the tension - after all, I'm under Doctor's orders to avoid stress as it isn't good for my blood pressure.  The biggest obstacle England had to overcome tonight, though, was the fact that the match was being shown live on ITV.  Now, not only is ITV's football coverage utterly dire, but, statistically speaking, England have a very poor win rate for matches in the finals of tournaments when they are shown on ITV.  Thankfully, Saturday's quarter final is being shown on the BBC, so at least that's one handicap that England won't have to labour against.

The question, obviously, is if an England match was to be shown simultaneously on both ITV and the BBC, would there be different results for viewers of each channel?  We're back into quantum physics territory here.  That said, I can remember a time when England's matches in World cup Finals we're shown simultaneously on both channels and I don't recall them losing on one, but winning on the other.  But that still doesn't mean that it couldn't happen.  Of course, there is a downside to England's survival, for a few more days at least, in the World Cup: between now and Saturday we're going to be besieged by idiots using it as an excuse to march around the streets drunkenly shouting 'ENGERLUND!'.  Oh, and there'll be even more cars festooned with England flags driving around.  I've actually never understood the flags.  I mean, I know that I'm in England, I don't need to fly bloody flags from my car to establish the fact.  But, on the bright side, the quarter final coincides with the first day of the latest incarnation of Crapchester Shite, 'C-Love', so should help keep attendance (and the accompanying anti-social behaviour, which, in the past has included people trespasssing on my garden, using the rear alley as a public convenience and littering the street outside my house) down.  Hooray!

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Monday, July 02, 2018

Schrodinger's World Cup

OK, I'm finally going to have to talk about football.  And quantum physics.  We're in that strange situation with the World Cup where England have escaped the group stage, but have yet to play their first (and possibly last) knock out match of the tournament.  Which, in practice, it means that for fans and the media, the possibility of progressing, even winning the World cup still exists.  They are all still allowed to be elated, they can still dream.  Yet at the same time, there coexists the possibility that they will lose and go tumbling out of the competition.  It's a bit like Schrodinger's Cat which, until the box is opened, exists in a state of limbo, neither dead nor alive - both possibilities coexist until that fateful moment.  Gareth Southgate is still the greatest England manager since Alf Ramsay and Harry Kane still a national hero.  All those firms sponsoring England can still dream of another couple of weeks of their World cup themed advertising campaigns and the press can still dream of more column inches about England's glory to come.

Simultaneously, Southgate is vilified as the worst England manager since Steve McClaren, Harry Kane is branded a flop, those advertising campaigns come to an abrupt halt and the media looks forward to more column inches slating England.  You can see both of these narratives jostling for position as the match approaches, with fans and press alternating between bouts of euphoria and despondency.  Which one finally comes into full existence will be decided over ninety minutes (or more, if it goes to injury time and/or penalties) tomorrow night.  Right now, though, many can't decide which reality is preferable: an England victory will simply put us all into another limbo as we await the quarter final.  A defeat, however, would not only put us all out of our misery, but would confirm the underlying assumption among press and many fans that England are the perennial non-achievers, that no matter how ell they perform, they always fall at their first real test.  There's undoubtedly something reassuring about such a narrative: the inevitability of failure becomes something you can rely upon - success would be an unknown country, something to be feared.  Still,by this time tomorrow we'll all know which way the cat has jumped and which reality has prevailed.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Prequels: An Unnecesary Evil

You know for sure that a film franchise has run completely out of steam when they start peoducing prequels.  It's an admission that there is nowhere for the series to go - every conceivable idea, plot twist, reversal of expectations and character development has been exhausted.  Or maybe it is just that the most recent sequel has been such a stinker that it has killed the series stone dead at the box office.  Either way, no further forward motion is possible.  But we just know that the studios and distributors can't leave it at that - they always think that there is some way to squeeze a few more profits from even a stone cold dead franchise.  Hence the prequel, a format which is admitting that you are creatively bankrupt.  You can't move the story forward or develop the characters so you instead go backwards, turning what was a slim backstory in the first movie into a full blown film in its own right, telling a story that the original creators obviously didn't think worth telling.  Prequels are laborious affairs, inevitably destroying any of the mystery surrounding the origins of popular characters, thereby rendering them mundane.

The prequel is up there with the 'origins story' as an utterly pointless exercise which insults its audience's intelligence.  Both are also evidence of poor story telling skills: back story and origins are things which the skilled writer will subtly filter through to the audience as part of their story telling.  We don't need to be bludgeoned with it all in laborious  detail.  Besides, by their very nature prequels are predictable: they can have only one end point - the beginning of the movie they are prequelling.  Consequently, the central character(s) can never be in any real peril - we know that they have to survive, otherwise the rest of the series is negated. Take Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, a film generally considered the first proper Hollywood prequel, (although there is an argument to be made for 1946's The Brute Man being a prequel to House of Horrors, except that it isn't at all clear that Rondo Hatton's 'Creeper; is the same character in each film), there is no dramatic tension because it has to end up with that train robbery which opens the original.  It's existence also underlines the purely opportunistic motivation which lies behind the making of sequels:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a huge success, the ending of which cunningly precluded the possibility of sequels which might damage its reputation.  It might have taken the frustrated Hollywood executives a few years to figure out how to grind some more money out of the property, but they finally did when they came up with the idea of a prequel.  And they haven't stopped doing it since.

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