Monday, May 22, 2017

Back on Track, Again

So, after all the disruption caused by boilers needing to be replaced, mortgages paid off, digital TV recorders failing, yet more hatefulness at work, not to mention that bout of tinnitus (now seemingly passed), I'm finally beginning to get stuff back on schedule.  Or back on track, even, with regards to that model railway I've been talking about building for an age now.  The baseboards are finally complete and assembled and I'm hoping to be able to start laying the track this coming weekend.  Indeed, I have high hopes for the weekend as, not only is it a bank holiday weekend, but it is one of those rare weekends I get entirely to myself.  So, with luck, I'll be able to get most of the track down on the station side of the layout.  The best thing about all this model railway activity is that it isn't actually costing me anything other than time.  Just as the baseboards were salvaged from a previous layout, so all the track I'll be using comes from previous layouts.  I should have more than enough points (always the most expensive item of trackwork) to complete the project.

I'm also hoping to get back to the schlock movies soon.  Despite having lost a whole load of unwatched stuff when the video recorder died, not only have I started filling up the hard drive of its replacement, but I also have a couple of Pete Walker movies on DVD to catch up with.  I also really need to buckle down and get on with producing, at the very least, a pilot for that new podcast series I've been mumbling on about both here and over at the Overnightscape Underground for more than a year now.  Funnily enough, whilst searching my archives for unused material to try and fashion into some kind of contribution to this week's Overnightscape Central group podcast, I discovered a complete, twenty five minute piece of narrative audio I recorded last year but, for some reason, never used.  So, with a bit of editing and expansion, this has become my contribution for this week's Central.  It isn't, however, quite what I have in mind for my proposed new series of podcasts, (it's in the same ball park, though), so it won't act as a 'back door' pilot.  Of course, the 'elephant in the room' in all of this is my work situation. I'm afraid that things are rapidly reaching a point where I'm going to have to make the decision whether to jump ship now, or try to tough it out for a while longer.  I might have to start looking for some kind of alternative employment , just for the short term, while I try to work out my long term plans in more detail.  We'll see.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Searching for Votes

Apparently people are asking Google 'Who should I vote for?'  Clearly, things are worse than I feared if Britain's voters are so confused/thick, that they think they can get any kind of coherent guidance from a notoriously bad search algorithm run by a tax dodging multinational corporation.  Leaving aside, for one moment, the frightening fact that there are, apparently, people among us who are entitled to vote, yet incapable of making a decision how to cast this vote themselves, the fact is that Google's search results these days won't help them as they rarely, if ever, actually return results on the first page which are actually relevant to the user's query.  Below half a page of adverts about voting machines and second hand ballot boxes, they'll probably get several links to Amazon, selling books with the word 'vote' in the title, a You Tube video of someone doing something 'whacky' outside a polling station and a couple of eBay auctions of old political manifestos and rosettes.  That's if they are lucky.  There's also a fair chance they'll get a page of results full of links to the websites of various extreme right wing groups who have been gaming the search results.

But why would any prospective voter be so desperate/stupid as to delegate their decision making to a search engine on such an important issue?  The excuse which is always given is that 'there's no difference between the parties'.  Which, whilst never actually true, is a particularly spurious argument when it comes to the current general election.  With the publication of the party manifestos, there is clear water between Labour and Tories.  Although the Labour manifesto has been lazily characterised by the right wing press as being 'back to the seventies' because of its commitment to restoring public ownership of various privatised assets, I have to say that there is a lot of stuff in it that I like.  The problem, I fear, is the presentation: like it or not, 'Nationalisation' has become a dirty word in politics today and, thanks to decades of right-wing propaganda, now conjures up images of monolithic and inefficient state owned institutions.  And, like it or not, in the modern world, you have to be able to 'sell' policies to the electorate.  Most won't buy 'nationalisation', but they might well buy 'public ownership', especially if the latter can be defined in different terms than the former.  Following a popular continental model, where things like railways are reconstituted as commercial ventures in which the government holds 51% of the shares, for instance.  This ensures that the state retains control, ensuring the venture is run in the public interest and can, if necessary, use public funds to finance infrastructure projects, or subsidise loss making lines, but the company would also still be able to seek private investment.

Unfortunately, under Corbyn's leadership, a much needed debate on issues such as how to define public ownership, simply hasn't occurred. which brings us back to the main problem with Labour's manifesto: in the public consciousness, it is inextricably linked with Corbyn.  The fact is that elections aren't won or lost on how left or right wing a manifesto is perceived to be - it is factors such as trust and credibility which ultimately sway voters.  And, like it or not, Corbyn simply isn't trusted or seen as a credible Prime Minister by large swathes of the electorate.  My great fear is that if Labour lose badly, then Corbyn will inevitably (and rightly) be blamed and the policies in the manifesto most closely identified with him will also be branded vote losers and abandoned for another generation.  Which would be a pity as a lot of those policies are, fundamentally, good policies which try to reconnect Labour with its core vote.  They just need to be refined and recast in a 'modern' idiom, so that they can more easily be 'sold' to the wider electorate.  So, there you go - we had my political ranting on a Friday rather than a Monday this week.  Makes a change, doesn't it?.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Murder From Beyond the Grave

Police are apparently guarding the body of 'Moors Murderer' Ian Brady, day and night.  Presumably because they are worried that he's going to spring back to life, just like the crazy serial killers in all those slasher movies, and continue his murderous activities from beyond the grave.  Actually, I'm surprised that at least one of the tabloids hasn't run a story claiming that Brady had a team of acolytes, all trained in occult rites, on standby to resurrect him as soon as his death was announced.  No doubt some kind of human sacrifice would be involved.  Or maybe it would involve crazy scientists reviving him with a shot of their experimental life-extension serum - resulting in him becoming an even crazier serial killer.  Like in that Chuck Norris film, Silent Rage.  Then again, he could be revived by a gang specialising in secretly reviving executed gangsters and killers.  That was a popular theme in thirties and forties movies and pulps.  Sometimes the revival process would result in the subject needing constant infusions of blood, (like Humphrey Bogart in The Return of Dr X).  Then the tabloids would have a new evil to add to Brady's crimes: 'He craves the blood of young children!'.

Then there's all that business about people wanting guarantees that Brady's ashes won't be scattered on Saddleworth Moor - are they worried that an army of Bradys will spring up if that happens?  Could it be that his victims, buried on the Moor, will act as some kind of ritual sacrifice to make this occur via black magic?  Whatever, it all fills pages and provides sensational headlines for the tabloids, which have been full of Brady since his death.  This continued exploitation of his notoriety and, by extension, his victims to sell newspapers is depressingly familiar.  Yet another example of  Britain's gutter press on the one hand trying to take a high moral stance - highlighting the depravity of his actions - whilst, at the same time, reveling in raking over the gory details of these crimes for the titillation of their readers.  I can't help but feel that it would have been sufficient merely to take note of his death, rather than allow him to continue his notoriety from beyond the grave.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere...

I heard today that a recent MacDonald's advert had been pulled after some people objected to it's content.  The commercial in question was the one with the boy asking his mother what his deceased father was like - inevitably, they end up in a branch of MacDonald's, where it is revealed that the one thing they had in common was a taste for fast food that tastes like cardboard.  The objection raised about this ad was that it was exploiting bereavement to sell burgers.  Well, obviously.  That's what advertising is about: exploiting our emotions to try and sell us essentially trivial products.  Personally, I found the sickly sentimentality it was trading in objectionable.  My dislike for other series of ads is less easily pinned down.  I detest, for instance, those Sainsburys 'food dancing' commercials.  In part, I think it is because they seem such a desperate attempt to create a 'trend' (note the hashtag they ran with the ads, in the hope that they could get #fooddancing trending on Twitter).  Moreover, the kind of people doing the 'dancing' in the ads, far from appearing to be ordinary supermarket customers of the kind I might relate to, just seemed like the kind of exhibitionists desperate to get on TV, that I generally run a mile to avoid.

But there are some commercials which, even over a distance in time of forty years, or so, still have a special place in my heart.  In particular, the Martini Bianco ads which played on British TV in the seventies.  These were incredibly glossy mini-movies with a catchy jingle, which aimed to show how, simply by drinking Martini, you could enjoy the international jet set lifestyle.  As I've noted elsewhere, as a young child, these seemed to represent the epitome of adult sophistication and believed that they were a reliable guide to how adult life would be: flying planes to rendezvous' on remote Caribbean islands with other beautiful people, or riding horses along a beach.  Of course, things haven't quite turned out like that, but I still have warm memories of the vision they created.  So, here's the Martini ad which, I feel, best encapsulated the dream they were selling:

Hell, I enjoyed that so much, here's another one:

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Cyber Defence

Those bloody Cybermen, eh?  They've been at it again, this time attacking the NHS.  It wasn't so long ago that  they were satisfied with just bullying people online.  But it seems that now they've gotten more ambitious, holding hospitals to ransom and, presumably, subverting them to turn their patients into more Cybermen.  I want to know what the government is going to do about these 'Cyber attacks' - this really should be an election issue.  Why isn't Jeremy Corbyn pressing Theresa May more on the matter?  Surely this is all down to spending cuts?  If the coalition government hadn't withdrawn funding from UNIT, then we wouldn't be suffering all these alien attacks.  They're clearly targeting the UK because they know that we're vulnerable, having withdrawn from the world's main international alien defence organisation.  I mean, this time we got lucky, thanks to the intervention of this mysterious individual who fortuitously registerd the right domain name to trigger the 'kill switch' on this latest attack by the Cybermen.  But we can't keep relying on rogue Time Lords turning up to foil alien invasions.

I ask you, have they even done a study into the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of Cybermen?  Knowing the government, they'll probably commission a study from some bunch of chancers, sorry, outsourcing company, which will cost the taxpayer millions, when all they have to do is watch a few episodes of Dr Who.  Of course, the key thing is identifying which type of Cybermen are involved in the attack: at least three types have appeared since the sixties.  The original ones - with their cloth faces and searchlights on their heads - came from Mondas (Earth's long lost twin planet which was destroyed at the end of the story) and were vulnerable to radiation.  When they reappeared, they had metal heads and lots of hydraulic tubes all over their limbs - these came from Telos, a Cyber colony.  All sorts of things killed this type: they used to wear lace up boots, so the Second Doctor devised a ray which destroyed boot laces, resulting their feet dropping off.  In the seventies and eighties they developed a vulnerability to gold, (indeed, I've heard that one Cyber attack on a hos[ital last week foundered after they tried to convert a patient with gold fillings in his teeth, which resulted in a rogue Cyberman, which went berserk and destroyed several other Cybermen before exploding).  Then there were those alternate universe Cybermen who turned up in David Tennant's era.  As I recall, the way to deal with them was to create a space-time vortex which sucked them into the space between universes.  Or something like that.  Anyway, the government needs to start taking this threat sriously and start allocating proper funding to cyber defence, or the metallic bastards will overrun us.


Friday, May 12, 2017

In Ruins

In Ruins from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

Another slideshow made up of stuff from my photo archives.  The main part concerns a ruined farm building I sometimes walk past.  These used to be hugely obscured by impenetrable foliage, but when I visited them last year, most of this had been cleared away.  Now that I can see them more clearly, I'm guessing that they were once used to store farm equipment and possibly temporarily hold livestock.  Whatever their original purpose, they haven't been used for that, or anything else, for at least two decades now.  The latter half of the slideshow is some footage taken in the New Forest in Spring a few years ago.  The bleak, leafless scrub land constitutes another sort of ruin, whilst the bridge (which has featured in an earlier film) if not ruined, is certainly of some vintage.

I'm afraid that I resorted to another slideshow of vintage material for today's post for reasons of speed.  I ended up wasting a lot of my evening trying to get my digital TV recorder to work after it unexpectedly died in the middle of a playback.  Unfortunately, it appears irreparable, meaning that I've lost several movies I'd recorded but not yet had time to watch.  It also means that I'm going to have to buy a replacement tomorrow, which means that my plans to replace this wheezing old laptop will have to be put off yet again.  To say I'm annoyed is an understatement - the bloody recorder was only a couple of years old (but conveniently out of warranty).  Modern manufacturing standards really are shit.  


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Phone Etiquette

I've clearly got my phone etiquette all wrong.  The other day I was walking through Crapchester town centre when I heard this rough looking bloke, thuggish, if we want to be accurate, shouting into his mobile phone.  I say shouting, it was more bellowing really.  A very angry bellowing.  Anyway, what's important is what he was bellowing into his handset, which was as follows: "Answer your fucking phone, YOU FUCK!"  The last part being bellowed several decibels louder than the first bit.  I assume that he was leaving a message on somebody's voice mail.  Now, I don't know about you, but if were to check my voice mail and encounter a message like that, I'd pretty much be disinclined to answer.  In fact, I'd probably delete and block the sender's number.  Indeed, maybe that's why the recipient of this outburst apparently doesn't answer his phone when he sees this particular caller's number come up.

On the other hand, assuming the bellowing man was calling somebody he knew - although we can't entirely rule out the possibility that he dials random numbers and shouts scary and sweary messages at strangers' voice mails - this would seem to be his normal method of communication with his friends and acquaintances.  Perhaps using these tactics are how he ensures that people do return his calls - by scaring them.  Which leaves me pondering as to whether I've got it all wrong - I'm too polite when I leave voicemails, or even send texts.  People assume I can be safely ignored, as I won't make a fuss about it if they can't be bothered to respond.  Maybe I need to be more assertive - perhaps, when my boiler died the other week,  I would have had more success in getting heating engineers to call me back if I'd left messages along the lines of: "My fucking boiler is fucked, so fucking call me back you stupid fuck."  (I'm pretty sure that the repeated use of the word 'fuck' is key to improving my communication skills to the level of the bellowing man).  Maybe I'll try that with the garage next tie I book the car in for a service...


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Comfort TV

I know I've talked about this before, but it's something I keep coming back to - the fact that, as I get older, I find myself watching less and less of what might be called 'mainstream' TV.  Thanks to the plethora of digital channels we can get, even free-to-air on Freeview, I find myself spending evening watching some highly esoteric programming.  I've just spent the last hour, for instance, watching a guy trying to locate the parts he needs to restore a World War Two German Panther tank that he's bought.  Along the way, he also tried to find out the tank's provenance, including what had originally knocked it out of action in 1944, which involved firing anti-tank guns at metal plates to try and match the shell hole in the Panther's side.  (They concluded it was probably a British 6 pounder anti-tank gun which did the damage).  Following that, I've switched channels to watch an old episode of The Man From Uncle, which is even camper than I remember it from when I first watched it as a kid back in the late sixties and early seventies (it was a repeat, even then).

These two programmes are typical of my viewing fare these days: a mixture of eccentric restorations and childhood nostalgia.  If it isn't someone restoring tanks, then it is Wheeler Dealers and Shed and Buried, (which are pretty much the same thing, except with cars in the case of the former and, well just about anything they can find in a shed or barn, in the case of the latter).  And if I'm not opening channel D with the Man From Uncle, then its The Avengers, The Saint, Minder, The Persuaders, The Sweeney, or any other action series I remember from my childhood.  Then there are all the old movies they show on Talking Pictures TV, the shows involving people buying and selling stuff, be it at storage auctions, pawn shops or out on the road, not the mention the 'reality' series about car repossessions and the like, and you get the picture when it comes to my TV viewing.  Oh, not to forget the off beat documentaries on BBC 4 (I was watching one about motorway service stations the other day).

Of course, it's really the TV equivalent of comfort eating: these TV shows are all nice and reassuring for a middle aged geezer like myself.  I already know the outcome of the dramas, I've seen them all enough times, so there are no nasty surprises.  Likewise the 'reality' and restoration type programmes - the end result is never really in doubt.  Besides, nothing in them is actually life and death.  It is all comfortingly trivial.  I should add here that I do watch some 'modern' TV as well - I still follow Doctor Who and I've been watching The Line of Duty since the beginning, when nobody else was.  But as I've mentioned before, I do find that contemporary TV dramas with their long-running story arcs which making missing an episode impossible if you are to keep up with the story, far too demanding upon my time.  I just find that I am no longer willing to make the commitment that watching them demands.  At least with Line of Duty, for instance, I know that it is a finite commitment of no more than six episodes a year.  I miss the good old days of TV when dramas has entirely self contained episodes, which meant that you could afford to miss them or watch them out of order without ruining the viewing experience.  I also have a problem with the fact that so many TV series these days are either on platforms I'm not prepared to pay to watch.  Especially as many of these shows are just rehashes of pre-existing material (Westworld for instance, is, after all, just Westworld, I'm not prepared to spend several hours of my life watching a story which was originally told perfectly adequately in ninety minutes).  Whatever happened to originality?  I'd rather watch the original.  Which is undoubtedly why I find myself watching the likes of The Man From Uncle again.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Disaffected, Disengaged and Deradicalised

With only a month to go before the general election, I would have expected to feel more engaged than I actually do.  It might be because everyone assumes the result is a foregone conclusion that I feel so disinterested.  Then again, it might simply be middle aged cynicism setting in: I've been through enough general elections now to start believing that they don't actually achieve anything.  Nothing ever changes. Except, of course, that it does.  General elections like that of 1945, which delivered a Labour landslide, affected the shape of post war Britain profoundly, bring us the National Health Service, the welfare state and universal state education.  Similarly, the 1979 election, which brought us Thatcher, had profound consequences also - for the worse for many ordinary working people, it also helped create the mess we are in now, with its deregulation of the financial sector and and credit services.  The outcome of this election will, likewise, have profound consequences: if it goes as predicted, then things are likely to get very much worse.  Yet still I'm not engaged.  Perhaps I'm just feeling complacent, having just paid off my mortgage:  my home is secure and, financially, I'm in the best position I've ever been in.  I have no dependents, no debts, no other financial obligations.  At the back of my mind is the feeling that, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what the election result is, I'll be OK.

Nevertheless, I still have a conscience and  there are a lot of people who are likely to suffer if there is a Tory landslide, (even though many of these people will vote against their own best interests by voting Tory).  So, in spite of Corbyn and his delusional followers, I'll be supporting Labour.  Not with much enthusiasm, mind you.  But I feel that I can support them safe in the knowledge that Corbyn, waste of space that he is, won't actually get into power and discredit Labour as a credible electoral force even further.  The important thing is to keep the aggregate vote up and try to minimise any Tory majority.  Sadly, I think that is he best we can hope for.  The thing I find most frustrating about Labour's campaign is that, despite all of Corbyn and his cronies' claims to be true left-wing radicals, I have so far not heard any radical policies proposed by them.  New Labour's 1997 manifesto contained more genuinely radical left policies (most of which, incidentally, were actually implemented).  Why are they being so cautious?  After all, if the polls are to be believed, they've got nothing to lose, so why not present some kind of radical reform programme?  Surely, if you are likely to take a pasting at the polls, it is better to at least fight the campaign on your own terms, with policies true to the Labour traditions Corbyn claims to represent?  Indeed, it might even attract otherwise disaffected Labour voters from the likes of the SNP and other fringe parties.  Ah well, that's what is fast becoming my regular Monday night political rant over for another week.!

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Walking into Spring

Walking into Spring from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

I haven't made a home movie in a while, so I decided to cobble together some footage I shot a couple of weeks ago with some last Spring which I'd never used.  I say footage, in truth it's really a slideshow of a collection of stills, with a video sequence in the middle.  Anyway, it all chronicles some country walks I've made during Spring over the past couple of years.  Sheep feature quite prominently in the latter half.

As it turns out, I've got quite a few collections of stills and even footage for a film shot three years ago which I never got around to editing together.  So, I'll probably be putting together a few more of these home movies over the next few weeks.  You have been warned.