Monday, September 01, 2014

Scare Tactics

Apparently, "adhering to British values is not an option or a choice.  It is a duty for all those who live in these islands".  Is it just me, or do the pronouncements of our political leaders, particularly David Cameron, sound more fascistic with every day that goes by?  Really, this latest utterance could have come straight from the lips of Adolf Hitler in 1938.  What are these 'values' we all have to adhere to in our daily lives?  Who defines them?  David Cameron?  Conservative Party Central Office?  Rupert Murdoch? The Daily Mail?  We just don't know.  Equally poorly defined is this current terrorist threat which has caused the Home Secretary to raise the Terror Alert level to 'Pink Oboe' or whatever the fuck scale they use.  As far as I can see, it has something to do with British citizens leaving the UK to go and fight in Syria and Iraq.  They might become radicalized and try to come back here and start their Jihadi nonsense on the streets of Pimlico, or wherever.  I would have thought that if they were going to places like Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, then they are already radicalised and we're probably best rid of them.  As for the threat they might hypothetically pose if and when they return to the UK, bearing in mind the propensity for these guys to volunteer for suicide bomber duty, the chances of their return is pretty slim.

In reality, of course, this latest terror scaremongering and the accompanying political posturing and proposals for yet more oppressive legislation to curb everyone's civil liberties, has less to do with terrorism than it has with the fact that there's a general election due in less than a year.  As Josef Goebbels noted, keeping people scared is the key to controlling them.  If you can convince someone that there's an immediate threat to their lives and only you can protect them, then you can get them to agree to just about any kind of 'protective' measures on your part.  And when they don't die because you locked them in an iron box for their own protection, they'll be so grateful that they'll do anything for you.  Even vote for you.  If you can't buy people's votes with tax cuts, then the next best strategy is to scare them into giving you their vote.  Or maybe I'm just being cynical, but I don't think so - I don't think that there are any depths Cameron and his cohorts won't stoop to in order to cling to power, (and all the profits they and their friends can cream off from it in terms of sell-offs, out sourcing of services and state subsidies).  Roll on the revolution.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

A Rainy Day in The Forest

Both August's 'Monthly Movie' and the first of this year's holiday videos, 'A Rainy Day in The Forest' pretty much reflects the way this month has panned out: disappointing weather-wise, but still with plenty of points of interest.  This one was shot on Tuesday, in between downpours of torrential rain. Eventually it eased off enough for me to take a walk along some forest paths I hadn't explored in quite a few years.  The stream is usually fordable at the point it crosses the path, but the heavy rain had swollen it somewhat.

Interestingly, significant amounts of damage caused by last winter's storms, in the form of fallen trees and land slippage on the banks, can be seen along the stream.  So, there you have it - eight films into the 'Monthly Movie' project.  We're on the home stretch now with only four more to go!

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

South for Sunshine

There's an alarming tendency amongst people to assume that because it is overcast and raining where they are, then it must be like that everywhere else.  Consequently, they slouch around in a bad mood, mumbling at me that I picked the wrong time to take off of work didn't I?  Implying that I've completely wasted several weeks of leave, (the thought of which seems to cheer them up minutely).  My only response to such comments is to head South.  It's like the old Southern Railway advertising slogan used to say: 'South for Sunshine'.  It's true, as I've found several times over the past couple of weeks, by driving South of Crapchester, I inevitably run into sunshine and clear skies.  Well OK, I will admit that on Tuesday I spent part of the day trying to dodge torrential rain in the New Forest, but it did eventually ease off sufficiently for me to enjoy an interesting walk.  Today was a better example: as I left Crapchester the rain started coming down and the sky was iron grey with cloud, but the closer to the coast I got, the clearer the sky and the sunnier the weather, as these pictures attest:


Sure, it was a bit breezy - I think the correct term is 'bracing' - but nonetheless an enjoyable experience.  Indeed, for a while I thought that I might have fallen through a rift in the space-time continuum as, whilst checking my map book in a car park, a wartime DC3 Dakota transport plane, in full RAF WW2 colours, including 'invasion stripes', flew low overhead.  Less than half an hour later, whilst sat on a cliff top eating my lunch, a Lancaster bomber escorted by two Spitfires flew past.  Timeslip or nearby airshow? 

You know something?  Those skies stayed clear all the way back to Crapchester.  So, in future, don't just assume that because you are suffering fould weather locally, it must be just as miserable everywhere else - get off your backside and go South.  (Unless you are on the South coast already, obviously).


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beware of Boris

So, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and prospective Tory MP, believes that we should consider anyone who goes to Syria without getting permission from the UK government first, should be considered a terrorist.  Let's look at that in a bit more detail. Effectively, what he is proposing is to completely overturn one of the cornerstones of British justice by proposing that some people should be presumed guilty under certain circumstances.  The presumption of innocence is an essential part of our justice system: it is why you have a right to remain silent and why it is for the state to prove its case - all important safeguards of our fundamental civil liberties.  But hey, if people haven't sought the state's permission to travel somewhere, why should they enjoy such liberties, eh?  Which, of course, is the other main problem with Boris' latest pronouncement: that we apparently shouldn't be allowed free movement without the consent of the state - a bit like the Soviet Union.  Obviously, none of this would matter - it would just be the demented reactionary ramblings of some right wing blow hard - if Johnson wasn't a prominent politician in one of the major parties, with serious ambitions to be Prime Minister.

For years I've been warning people not to fall for Boris' 'lovable buffoon' schtick, which he deploys to try and appear somehow above partisan politics.  The reality, I keep telling everyone, is that all this clowning is designed to try and hide the fact that he's really an extreme right-wing bastard who believes that niceties like human rights are only for the wealthy elite of which he is a prime example.  Thankfully, the mask is beginning to slip, with badly misjudged statements like this one.  Nevertheless, there are still far too many people out there who think Boris is some sort of 'man of the people' and is a 'bit of a laugh'.  Doubtless, they're the same people who think that Jeremy Clarkson isn't racist when he refers to Asian people as 'slopes' - it's just a 'bit of banter' of the sort you'd hear down the pub, isn't it?  But I'm straying from the point.  The question is: would you honestly be happy having as Prime Minister a man who thinks that you should have your legal rights suspended simply because he doesn't like your travel plans?  Because that is what this comes dow to: Boris Johnson's contempt for the established legal process and whether we're stupid or lazy enough to simply go along with him.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Day Time Ended

A rainy bank holiday is the time for sitting on the sofa all afternoon, watching bad movies.  Movies like The Day Time Ended.  I remember when this film was released to cinemas in 1980, in the wake of the science fiction boom which followed the success of Star Wars.  I missed it then.  Finally catching up with it now, I'm glad I didn't waste my money on watching it my local Odeon back in the day.  In fact, I think that most people would feel cheated if they rented it as a direct-to-video (or direct-to-DVD as it would be today) release.  Not that it is entirely bad, just that it has an incredibly ambitious scenario which its obviously low budget could never hope to realise properly.  It might best be described as a poverty row 2001: A Space Odyssey, in that it features a group of humans being subjected to a series of bizarre space-time phenomena by some alien intelligence.  Except that instead of the spaceship 'Discovery', the action mainly takes place in and around a remote ranch house in California.  Whilst a radio newsreader burbles on in the background about radiation from a distant supernova, hundreds of light years away, finally reaching the earth, Jim Davis and his family find themselves beset by strange phenomena, much of it apparently centred around his young granddaughter. 

The initial disturbances and the involvement of the child initially seems to presage 1982's Poltergeist, but probably owe more to the recently released Close Encounters.  First of all, she encounters some kind of alien artefact which, like 2001's black monolith, appears to be some kind of trigger for some of the phenomena, (except that it isn't black and changes size).  Then she has an encounter with a tiny, apparently friendly, alien, who protects her from the advances of some kind of hostile alien machine.  Said machine then menaces the rest of the family before the house is beset by UFO flybys and mysterious whirling orbs.  The characters get separated, hostile monsters appear and the house is transported through space and time to various locations, including what seems to be a graveyard of disappeared aircraft and other vehicles.  At times it seems that the characters are caught in some kind of conflict between two sets of aliens.  At others it seems they are simply victims of some kind of space time fracture, (caused, perhaps by the aforementioned cosmic radiation), with creatures and objects being randomly thrown from one time and location to another.  Eventually, they are all reunited within sight of a fabulous crystal city, with the daughter assuring everyone that everything is going to be all right.  And that's it.  No further explanations are offered.

All of this would have been fine if the film had had the resources to depict these epic events convincingly.  Even at the time the film was made, the special effects were poor and dated - they make it look as if Star Wars and its computer-assisted effects had never happened - and today look like the kind of thing you can achieve with the average video-editing suite on your own lap top.  Dr Who episodes of the era had more convincing green screen work - by 1980 they'd managed to eliminate most of the 'halo' from around the green screened object.  That said, The Day Time Ended does feature some stop-motion aliens and monster - rather clunkily animated and poorly matted into the live-action, but I'm a sucker for stop motion.  Also, in the end credits, the name of the great Jim Danforth is evoked, not, surprisingly, with regard to the stop motion (he animated monsters in Jack the Giant Killer and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, amongst others), but rather with regard to the crystal city, which he apparently created.

So, in the final analysis, what are we to make of The Day Time Ended?  There's no doubt that it is pretty terrible by any critical standard, with a confused and perfunctory script and bargain basement effects.  A cheap cash in on the late seventies/earl eighties science fiction boom, it fails on just about every level.  Indeed, it isn't even as much fun as the fifties and sixties B-movies it most closely resembles.  And yet - it still exerts a certain fascination.  Whilst watching it, you can't help but feel that there's potentially a good idea at the heart of the film, which, sadly, remains unrealised.  Still, with a running time of only eighty minutes, it's all over relatively quickly. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Big Wednesday

With Gary Busey reduced to appearing in Celebrity Big Brother, I thought that this would be a good time to remind ourselves that he once had an acting career and starred in the greatest surfing movie ever made: 1978's Big Wednesday.  To describe Big Wednesday as simply a surfing movie is akin to describing Taxi Driver as, well, a film about driving a cab.  Covering a decade or so in the lives of the main characters, from the early sixties through to the early seventies, it takes in everything from the rise of the 'permissive society' through to Vietnam.  It's about friendship, ambition, hopes and dreams, life, death, mental illness and everything else.  It also boasts some magnificent surfing sequences.

I'm not a surfer - I've never even stood on a board, let alone ridden one - but it is one of my few regrets that I never learned to surf.  Coming from a land-locked county probably didn't help and I'm  far too old now to learn, (I've used up my mid-life crises on other things).  Instead, I watch films like this - just watching those guys riding the waves is exhilarating.  The film wasn't a box office success on its release, but has subsequently built a cult following.  It certainly rates as John Milius' best directorial effort, powerfully evoking a sense of time and place.  Subsequent films like Red Dawn and Farewell to The King come nowhere close to matching Big Wednesday, either technically or emotionally.  (Milius has found it hard to get either writing or directing credits in recent times, allegedly due to his gun fetishes and right wing politics - the John Goodman character in The Big Lebowski is supposedly based on Milius and said to be a pretty accurate depiction - which is a pity, as he has a stronger grasp of structure than most Hollywood writers and directors, not mention a sweeping sense of the epic).   The three stars fared little better than Milius in career terms subsequent to Big Wednesday.  Jan-Michael Vincent starred in a number of B-movies then moved to TV for Air Wolf, before becoming virtually unemployable due to drink problems.  William Katt went pretty much straight to TV movies.  As for Gary Busey, well, he did appear in the second greatest surfing move, Point Break, before sliding into the madness you can witness for yourself on Celebrity Big Brother.  I prefer to remember him in his prime, in Big Wednesday.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wet Feet, Warm Car

I've just spent the past hour having to drive with the heaters on and directed down at my feet in an attempt to dry out my shoes and socks, after finding myself ankle deep in mud after stepping on what looked like solid ground, but turned out to be something more akin to the Grimpen Mire in the Hound of the Baskervilles.  Obviously, I didn't have any alternative footwear in the car, so this was the only option.  I had to have a window cracked open to dissipate both the heat and the horrendous smell emanating from my drying feet.  Still, it was partially successful as I at least wasn't squelching when I got out of the car at this end of the journey.  The joys of being on holiday, eh?  Actually, it's funny how circumstances alter the ways you perceive things.  If such an incident had happened at work, I would have considered it a disaster and it would have ruined the day.  But because it happened on holiday, it seemed a minor, not to mention mildly amusing, inconvenience which did little to dent my good mood.

So, I've been on holiday for nearly a week and the worst that has happened is damp feet, which is quite a contrast to last year, when my holidays kicked off with someone going into the back of my car, resulting in me having to waste several days on the phone to my insurers, organising repairs and a hire car.  Fingers crossed that things continue in a positive vein.  That said, the weather so far hasn't been great, but it has at least stayed dry.  Working on the principal that just because it is raining here in Crapchester, doesn't mean that it will necessarily be raining anywhere else.  So far, I've been right.  In fact, down on the coast today, I even sighted the sun.  It was blowing a gale, mind you, but at least the sun came out.  The only downside of the weather has been that the cloudy skies haven't inspired me to shoot much in the way of footage for holiday films.  Still, there's plenty of time for that yet.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Deserving Sick

Would it be possible to sue one of those think tanks under the trades description act?  I was left wondering this after the latest piece of nonsense masquerading as a 'policy initiative' to emerge from something calling itself the Centre for Social Justice.  With a name like that, invoking the concept of social justice, you'd think that they'd be coming up with ideas about progressive taxation, equality of opportunity in education or universal healthcare. Well, their latest 'initiative' has to do with healthcare, I'll grant them that, but it has nothing to do with equality of access to healthcare.  No, they were peddling that hoary old idea that certain groups of people with lifestyles considered 'high risk' should pay some kind of surcharge for their healthcare as their ailments would be somehow 'self-inflicted', as if it was some new and innovative.  In this particular case, the group picked on were drinkers (in the past it has included smokers and even motorists), with the suggestion that there should be an extra tax levy on alcohol to pay for the treatment of alcohol-related ailments.

Now, this is clearly nonsensical on several counts.  Most obviously, the fact is that heavy drinkers are taxpayers as well and, as such, have already paid for the Health Service via their taxes and are therefore perfectly entitled to treatment for any ailment.  Moreover, alcohol already carries a heavy duty imposed the government - surely this should already be devoted to paying for the treatment of alcohol-related diseases and injuries?  (The same applies to tobacco revenues and smoking-related illness).  Most disturbing of all, though, is the idea that some illnesses are 'self inflicted'.  If we are to follow this logic, shouldn't, say, deck chairs, be subjected to additional duty to fund the treatment of illnesses related to exposure to the sun?  After all, people are only going to use deck chairs to sit out in the sun and get skin cancer, aren't they?  In truth, the idea of 'self inflicted' illnesses is simply an extension of the concept of the 'deserving poor', which the government, and most specifically Iain Duncan Smith, like to apply to welfare claimants.  Which shouldn't really surprise us, as the Centre of Social Justice, despite its name, is actually a right-wing think tank set up by Duncan Smith.  A Trojan horse if ever there was one.  So, do we sue them under the Trades Description Act for misrepresenting the term 'social justice', or for masquerading as a 'think tank' producing orginal policy initiatives?  

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Holiday

So, what are these allegations against Sir Cliff Richard, holiest man in pop, I wonder?  That back in the day he spent his Summer holidays cruising about in an ex-London Transport double decker bus, picking up unsuspecting young men?  Did he invite them up to his 'top deck' with a promise of allowing them to 'ring his bell'?  Did he ask them if they were 'going all the way' before 'punching their ticket'?  To be clear, I don't like to make light of the ordeals suffered by victims of sexual abuse, particularly those abused as children and fully accept that they might be so traumatised that they don't report it at the time.  I also accept that the police, historically, haven't exactly covered themselves in glory when such allegations actually are reported them, especially when those allegations involve powerful figures or celebrities, thereby discouraging other victims from coming forward.  On the other hand, I'm always slightly suspicious of allegations made against public figures decades after the alleged event.  More importantly, such allegations are very difficult to substantiate - after such a lapse of time there is unlikely to be any physical evidence so, all too often, it comes down to one person's word against another's.

However, the real question here surely is, why are the police harassing the likes of Cliff Richard.  Sure, he's released lot of crap singles and is far too sanctimonious for his own good, but he's not that offensive.  When are they going to start throwing allegations at celebrities who really deserve it?  Why hasn't Noel Edmonds been targeted?   Damn it, he was working at Radio One at the same time that Jimmy Savile was sexually assaulting anyone under the age of consent with a pulse and Dave Lee Travis was (allegedly) groping the breasts of female staff.  Surely Edmonds must have been doing something untoward during that time?  Why haven't the police interviewed Mr Blobby?  I bet he has some tales to tell about Noel's Crinkly Bottom.  For God's sake, for all we know Edmonds could have been behind the recent death of fellow former Radio One DJ Mike 'Smitty' Smith!  He could have offed him because Smitty knew too much about that contestant who died during the making of the Late, Late Breakfast Show - how he had been so horrendously sexually abused behind the scenes, that he deliberately jumped off of that crane!  The one time I thought the police had targeted someone deserving of having their collar felt, they ended up dropping all charges against Jim Davidson!   What happened to the good old days when they just fitted up people if they didn't have any evidence but thought they must be guilty of something?

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Ramblings

You know, I'm growing tired of people dissing August.  Of late I've heard it referred to as the 'Sunday of Summer' because it is the last month of the season.  This has been accompanied by numerous references to the fact that the fact that it is August is a constant reminder that Summer is almost over, which is why it is impossible enjoy August. All of which is utter bollocks.  August is the best month of Summer.  It is high Summer.  It is the month which frequently features the highest temperatures and clearest skies.  There's nothing like a clear blue August sky - particularly when contrasted with a beautiful golden corn field.  August is all about childhood memories of trips to the beach - the smell of damp towels and soggy sandwiches from a plastic lunchbox with a seal down lid.  Which is why, to this day, I take my Summer break during August  (this year's, as of this evening, is now underway). 

August, with its long lazy days and all-month carefree holiday feel, is also the 'silly season', when newspapers traditionally fill their pages with tales of flying saucers, sasquatch and the Loch Ness monster.  Just today, The Guardian's G2 section carried a UFO-related story, for instance. If you hadn't noticed, 'silly season' is in full swing over at The Sleaze right now with our latest story, Right is Wrong offering the ultimate expression of the crackpot conspiracies I've been discussing here of late.  That was preceded by Taking Liberties, about the UK's latest surveillance laws and their use by ministers as a cover for their peeping Tom activities.  Coming up, I'm working on something about Hitler and mummies - I'm looking for a topical hook to hang it on.  If I can do that, it will be the next story up.  There are also plans for another look at the world of celebrity sex offenders before August is out.  So, there you have it - lots of reasons to love August.  So lay off, August haters!  

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