Thursday, November 30, 2006

Invasion of the Christmas Snatchers

Today I was suddenly afraid. I realised that they might finally have arrived. What triggered my fears was the sight of a flatbed truck loaded with supine Christmas trees driving past me as I was returning to the office this morning. It occurred to me that, lying flat like that, they looked just like the pods in Invasion of The Body Snatchers when they're being shipped out of the town on the backs of trucks. Could it be that Christmas is just a cover for some sinister alien invasion? Just think about it - one of those trees is going to end up in virtually every living room in the UK over the next few weeks. What better way could there be to infiltrate the community?

I'm now gripped by a terrible foreboding. If I'm right then, as families innocently sit around their trees, they'll find their personalities and DNA being absorbed by the evil vegetation. Replicas of them will grow, like grotesque decorations, from the branches of their trees, budding off when fully grown to dispose of the now psychically drained originals. Before we know it, every home in these islands will be occupied by a family of grinning Christmas obsessed clones, hell bent on converting the entire world to the nightmare of an eternal Christmas. Credit cards will be maxed out, overdrafts extended to the limits and homes remortgaged to fuel their genetically driven consumer urges, as they follow the advice of the TV ads and buy, buy, buy!

So, I'm urging you all - burn those evil trees! Under no circumstances allow them into your homes! Indeed, I sincerely believe that we must immediately launch a guerilla campaign against these insidious invaders. Every garden centre, filling station or formerly vacant lot seen selling Christmas trees should be immediately torched. Any plantations seen growing them must be cut down. Arm yourselves my brothers and sisters! It isn't too late - we can still save ourselves! Just grab that axe or chainsaw and join me as I storm those plantations...


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TV Shows They Should Make...

OK, having apparently escaped the Spin Cycle of Fate, let's try and do that post I'd planned, or at the very least part of it! Now, I know that Steven Spielberg was lukewarm about that I Was a Teenage Pope movie idea I pitched him a few posts back, but I'm not going to let that deter me from trying to break into moving pictures. However, I will concede that maybe I was a little over ambitious in thinking that I could wade straight into the Hollywood deep end and pitch to a top producer like that. So, I've decided to scale back a bit and aim lower - TV, in fact. I have a plethora of great ideas for TV shows, and even if the BBC, ITV or Channel Four turn them down, there's always Channel Five or Sky. Failing that, I can always try the independent production companies who supply dross to the likes of E4, Bravo and Living TV.

Bearing in mind the dearth of decent sitcoms about, and the critical acclaim heaped upon edgy, off beat stuff like Extras and Lead Balloon, for instance, I thought I'd start off with some comedy concepts which combine traditional sitcom structures with daring, on the edge, subject matter. I've long believed that there's a great sitcom to be made about concentration camps - I mean, they've done it with films like Life is Beautiful and The Day The Clown Cried, (OK, so that last one was never actually released, but that was because it was a Jerry Lewis film, rather than because of its subject matter), so why not TV? I was thinking of something along the lines of hoary old BBC holiday camp comedy Hi Di Hi, but set in Belsen. Heil Di Heil, perhaps. The whole thing could centre around the zany antics of roly poly camp host Ted Goering, and his attempts to conceal his money making scams (like stealing the inmates gold teeth and selling the soap their melted down into on the black market) from the straight laced new camp commandant. All the while he has to keep coming up with new entertainments for the inmates, so as to keep them occupied before they're exterminated. Things like the 'Knobbly Knees Contest' - anyone found in possession of knobbly knees is immediately shot as being non-Aryan. I really think it could be a winner, using good old belly laughs to explore man's inhumanity to man.

Another approach could be My Mother The Lampshade, set in post-war Germany, where a young Jewish man finds that his light fittings are made of his late mother's skin. Her spirit hilariously haunts him, interfering in his romantic liaisons and nagging him to track down the rest of his family who perished in the camps and are now variously employed as book covers, imitation leather sofas and hat stands. Slightly less of a knockabout comedy, more a semi-tragic examination of parent-child relationships, in the mould of Steptoe and Son, or That's My Boy. The most obvious suggestion would be a revival of classic 1970s race 'comedy' Love Thy Neighbour, set in the 1960s East End, in which Hitler and Eva Braun are found to be living (under assumed identities), next door to a nice middle class Jewish couple. Cue lots of hilarious (but obviously harmless) culture clash comedy. In a surprise twist, you could have the warring neighbours united in their opposition to the wave of Bangladeshi immigrants moving into their street. Side splitting.

Still, even if none of the TV companies bite on any of those, I've got plenty more ideas up my sleeve...


Fate as a Washing Machine

You know, I did have a post planned for today, and I'd also hoped to make some progress with a new story for The Sleaze, but, as usual, fate intervened to blow me off course. In this case fate took the form of my washing machine, which this evening decided to malfunction spectacularly. My kitchen floor is now swimming in water after I had to take emergency measures to recover my clothes from the infernal device. I think I've tracked the problem down to a blockage in a waste pipe. I'm about to make a second attempt at the spin cycle. Fingers crossed.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Fishy Business

So, a former KGB agent dies of radiation poisoning in London, and there's a fish connection. Yet more proof, if any were needed, that fish rank amongst the most dangerous creatures on earth. First of all Steve Irwin is battered to death with a stingray, now Alexander Litvinenko is felled by a radioactive fish of indeterminate species (wielded, no doubt, by some shady Russian assassin) - and let's not forget all the regular citizens in the UK who have suffered serious fish assaults. How many more people have to die before the government does something? Hell, when is the United Nations going to do something? The demises of Irwin and Litvinenko have shown this issue has now gained an international dimension. Of course, I'm assuming that Litvinenko was slapped with a radioactive fish whilst he was in that sushi bar, but the truth could be far more sinister.

Could it be that mutated killer fish, the result of nuclear waste dumping in the North Sea, are stalking London? Are they using sushi bars as a front for their nefarious activities? I'm beginning to suspect that the police have got it all wrong - the real secret which Litvinenko stumbled across was that radioactive fish monsters were in league with Russia's President Putin to overthrow the Western democracies. Seriously, I think that it is entirely credible that fish have mutated to possess super-intelligence and perhaps even legs. It's the latter bit which really scares me - the idea of giant cod and skate actually walking around our streets (presumably with water-filled goldfish bowls over their heads so that they can breath. Unless, of course, they've mutated sufficiently to possess lungs), terrifies me. I mean, they could actually chase us down the streets. Or even ride bicycles - where the hell would that leave us, eh? Trust me, al those years of over-fishing are going to come back to haunt us now! Their first targets will be the anglers, then the fish and chip shops! Imagine the horror of it - fish and chip vendors fried in their own batter by giant walking halibut! Before you know it, we'll be the ones kept as pets in glass bowls, with the fish ogling us! Don't say I didn't warn you!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Critical Learnings From the US...

You know, the other day I read the most extraordinary attack upon Sacha Baron Cohen in regard to his recent Borat movie. The gist of this attack - made by self-styled US film critic Joe Queenan in The Guardian - was that Baron Cohen is just another middle class snob laughing at the less fortunate in society by making them look stupid. Oh, and because the film was made mainly in the US, he must also hate Americans. I'm left puzzled by Queenan's arguments (if, indeed, we can even characterise his irrational tirade as such), most particularly that social class should be a deciding factor in humour. Following this logic, as someone of working class origin, it would be OK for me to take the piss out of, say, redneck bigots, but not middle class racists. But of course, as a Brit, I'd be anti-American if those rednecks came from, say, Georgia. Hmmm. Queenan's righteous indignation on the behalf of Borat/Baron Cohen's victims also seems misplaced, as they actually made fools of themselves. Nobody actually forced them to come out with racist and sexist comments on camera. They all knew they were being filmed. They all knew the film would be broadcast.

The anti-American angle also seems a somewhat bizarre charge to make against Baron Cohen. I'm guessing that the reason the film concentrates on taking the mickey out of Americans is mainly financial - it was backed by a US studio with American money and its main market is going to be the US. I doubt very much that such an audience would be terribly interested in seeing the British or Germans, say, parodied in the same way. The US is notoriously insular in this respect. But let's not forget that long before any two-bit US film critic had ever heard of him, Baron Cohen was busy doing exactly the same thing to both the British public and UK politicians and celebrities. You really shouldn't take these thing so personally, Joe. Actually, the thing which most amused me about Queenan's article was the way in which he so quickly fell back on that old diatribe as to how we Europeans shouldn't forget that it was those same Americans it was hating/laughing at (apparently the same thing in his mind) who had died on the beaches at D-Day to liberate them. Yeah, yeah... And you Yanks shouldn't forget that it was those same French you despise whose maritime interventions disrupted supplies to King George III's army and consequently contributed to US independence...

I'd also hope that the US's exposure to other cultures during WWII would have made them more tolerant of other races. But apparently not. As Michael 'Kramer' Richards showed last week, even apparently intelligent, educated, middle class Americans are prone to resort to racist abuse at the slightest (perceived) provocation. One final observation on Queenan is that he's the type of middle class critic who spends a lot of his time disparaging the kind of movies which attract mass, working class audiences. By extension, he is also disparaging the tastes and opinions of those who view them - precisely the crime he's accusing Baron Cohen of. But then hypocrisy is the very least we should expect from someone whose rantings have shown him up to be exactly the kind of narrow-minded reactionary Borat shows up.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's Magic. Or Is It?

Is it just me? Am I the only one who looks at David Blaine's antics and simply shrugs 'so what'? I was just reading about his latest venture - being strapped to a giant gyroscope over New York. One has to ask - why? This seems even more pointless than such previous stunts as living underwater, living in a box suspended from a crane or being encased in ice. Indeed, the key word here is 'stunt'. The problem is that Blaine still touts himself as an 'illusionist', yet increasingly his activities seem to constitute endurance tests rather than illusions. Trust me, there is nothing mysterious or illusory about being strapped to a gyroscope. The whole point of an illusion is that we, the audience, know that we are being deceived, we just can't figure out how. Of Blaine's recent stunts, only the one where he lived in that transparent box had an element of illusion to it - clearly, without food or drink he would have died, so we know there was something going on (probably substitution by a double), but couldn't be sure what. Nevertheless, it still didn't feel like an illusion - there just wasn't enough mystery about it, and no real denouement.

Ultimately, Blaine's stunts just don't adhere to that three part structure laid out in The Prestige. Sure, he has 'the pledge', where he shows us something (himself), and there's definitely a 'turn', where he transforms the object - in this case himself - in some way (by being encased in ice, or strapped to that gyroscope, or whatever), but there's no real 'prestige', where the object is returned. (I hope I'm remembering the structure correctly). The problem is, of course, that he is always in plain sight. He cannot truly be restored or transformed, if he doesn't, at some point, appear to vanish, or be destroyed. All of which makes me wonder how Blaine ever got such a reputation as a showman, when this basic point seems to elude him. Quite frankly, even Paul Daniels has more sense of drama than Blaine.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Seasonal Satire

I know, I know, for a confirmed Christmas-hater, I've been discussing various aspects of the season of hypocrisy quite a lot of late. Unfortunately, it is difficult to escape Christmas, even though it is only November. Quite apart from the seasonal bombardment I get from TV adverts and every supermarket I try to shop in, there's the little matter of next month's stories for The Sleaze, at least one of which really needs to have some kind of Christmas-linked theme if I'm to successfully capitalise on the season in traffic terms. In previous years we've had Santa turn white supremacist and reveal his Nazi connections, get chased by Christian fundamentalists objecting to his pagan origins, go on strike in protest at something or other and go on a gun-toting rampage against globalisation. Oh, and let's not forget the time he was accused of terrorism and Donald Rumsfeld threatened to shoot down his sleigh if it entered US airspace. Not surprisingly, I thought that I'd exhausted my stock of Santa-related satire, and that I'd have to look elsewhere for inspiration.

However, thanks to my tortuous mental processes, I think I've come up with a new one: Santa comes out of the closet! Yes indeed, I think this one has potential - the whole business of the way homophobic bigots always try to link homosexuality with peadophilia can be brought in, with parents objecting to Santa 'giving presents' to their kiddies. Is he actually 'grooming' them? I thought perhaps a George Michael angle could be run, with Santa being arrested in a public toilet whilst 'cottaging' (he could even be caught high at the reins of his sleigh, bringing in the drugs angle). I even have a title: 'Jingle All the Gay'. Subtle, eh? Still, before I get to the Christmas story, there's the little matter of two other stories to complete, not to mention a new editorial. Of these, 'Sex Slaves of Downing Street' is part written and should be on the site by the end of the week, whilst 'Queer in the Head' is pretty much completely blocked out in my head. I still haven't a clue what the editorial will be about.

Right, having brought you all up to speed on my future publishing schedule, I'd better get back to writing 'Sex Slaves of Downing Street'!


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Great Seasonal Turn On

The Christmas, or Winterval, as I like to call it, tree has finally arrived in my town centre. The lights have been stealthily snaking their way from lamp-post to lamp-post for a few weeks now. Apparently the grand 'switching on' is this coming weekend - to coincide with the appearance of Santa Claus in the town centre. What a fortuitous coincidence. I really don't know how he finds the time to make so many guest appearances. Getting back to the official decorations, the banners all around the shopping centre are promising that 'stars' will be present. Now, in the past, the organisers' definition of 'stars' and mine have differed considerably when it comes to the switching on of the Winterval lights. In the past we have had such 'celebrities' as one time Eastenders actor Dean 'I Wasn't Sacked' Gaffney, his sometime colleague Ross 'Ultimate Farce' Kemp and Ted Rogers. The latter only appeared because Marti Caine - scheduled to co-star with him in the local pantomime - had the good sense to die. As did Ted, shortly after. So, who will they muster this year? The clue might lie, once again, with the pantomime, which features some bloke from Emmerdale, a girl from Balamory and some guy who, despite being touted as an Eastenders star, hasn't actually appeared in the programme for at least ten years. So, anybody turning out for the ceremony expecting to see celebrities of the calibre of Robbie Williams, Harold Bishop from Neighbours, or even Mark 'Chappers' Chapman, the bloke who reads the sport on Radio One, is going to be sorely disappointed.

Personally, I'd like to see the festive lights switched on by some kind of porn magnate. You know, the sort of bloke who owns a chain of nudie bars, publishes a string of 'gentleman's' magazines and produces straight to DVD 'erotic thrillers' starring the likes of Lusty McBusty. You can just imagine it, can't you? This silver haired, dinner-jacketed, cigar-toting smoothie, flanked by scantily clad blondes, pushing that button to light up: an amazing erotic display of Christmas lights and animated life-size figures. How I'd love to hear the gasps of outrage and astonishment from the good citizens of this town as gigantic flashing penises and breasts burst into life around them. I'd love to witness them attempting to hide their kiddies' eyes as the animatronic Santa starts rutting with Rudolph and the elves engage in a drunken orgy. Ahhh! A man can dream! Mind you, it would all be no less offensive than some of the abominations passing as external Christmas decorations I see in the course of my travels at this time of year. Why do people do it? I cannot think of anything more anti-social than festooning the outside of your house with garish flashing lights and sticking giant inflatable Santas and Snowmen in your garden. Even worse are the houses which sport reindeer and sleds on the roof. Jesus Christ! If nothing else, just think of the electricity bill! Not to mention the carbon emissions! For God's sake people, if you are thinking of putting such decorations on your house this year - don't! Just think of the environment instead - give the world a Christmas present by refraining from wasting yet more of its precious resources 'decorating' your house and thereby confirming your neighbours' suspicions that you have no taste whatsoever!


Saturday, November 18, 2006

The C-Word

There's no escaping it - Winterval is fast approaching. Sadly, the media at large are still insistent upon bandying the C-word about instead and our television screens are rapidly becoming clogged with 'Christmas' adverts. The one which is -so far - irritating me the most is the Sainsbury's one with that twat Jamie Oliver. You know the one - it starts with him in his kitchen wiping his arse with his pastry, or whatever else it is he does to get that 'specially seasoned' taste for his mince pies, when he pauses to ask: "Do you know what this really needs to make it a happy Christmas?" At which point I always think "Yes, hearing that your knackers have got caught in a mincing machine". Sadly, my fantasy isn't fulfilled, and we're instead treated to a Victorian-themed Christmas fantasy. Which, inevitably, enrages me even more!

I ask you, what could sum up the sheer hypocrisy of the so-called 'Season of Goodwill' better than this nostalgia for supposed Victorian values? Yes, I'm sure they did have wonderful family-orientated celebrations back then - if they were well-off. For the average worker it was still pretty shitty. If they were lucky they got some nice practical presents: a lump of coal to keep the fire going and maybe an orange to stave off the scurvy for another couple of days. Still, they did get the day off - what more could they ask for? But then, that's all part of the advert's message - Merry Xmas to all our nice middle class customers and a big 'Fuck you' to the snivelling working classes who can't afford our prices. The only lower classes they tolerate are the mockney tossers who like to flaunt that 'working class' accent to give them 'street credibility' whilst pursuing entirely middle class aspirations and lifestyles.

Bollocks, I'm ranting again, aren't I?


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Toilet Humour

Apparently, we shouldn't be making fun of people with a phobia about toilets. So say mental health activists, anyway. Well, it was news to me that we were making fun of them. Have I missed something? Is there an entire genre of comedy which has passed me by? Are there entire websites out there devoted to mocking those afflicted with toilet phobia? You know the sort of thing - animated toilets chasing terrified looking dudes with their trousers around their ankles. If you know of any such sites, let me know. Of course, all of this begs the question, what, exactly, constitutes a toilet phobia? Are we talking here about people who are so terrified of falling in the toilet and drowning, that they'd rather shit in their airing cupboards or hang their arses out of the bathroom window to take a dump? (Of course, both of those alternatives have the added bonus of leaving your toilet free of skid marks and smelling fresh). Maybe they view the toilet as an evil monster, just waiting to eat them, or perhaps they simply had a bad toilet experience when young which resulted in traumatic stress disorder, resulting in horrendous flashbacks every time they approach a crapper. Could it be that their phobia is based on the idea that the toilet encourages you to crap indoors, which is obviously unhygienic? Perhaps that's it - the toilet is the devil's work, another manifestation of original sin! Using it an admission that we are ashamed of defecating outdoors, in public, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Edenl before they ate the forbidden fruit (which probably gave them the trots...).

Once again, I've digressed somewhat. Getting back to the point, As I understand it, the toilet phobics in question are those people who are afraid to use public toilets. And who could blame them? Have you seen the state of many of our municipal crappers? I certainly wouldn't park my bum on most of them. Quite apart from the disgusting state of their pans (frequently still full of someone else's crap - haven't you bastards ever heard of flushing?), there's also the question of the piss on the seats and the highly suspect substances smeared on the cubicle walls. I especially object to the latter as it tends to obscure the graffiti, some of which is truly astonishing in the psychoses on the part of the authors it reveals. In fact, some of the graffiti, whilst obscenely entertaining, is so disturbing that I find myself fearing that the axe murderer who wrote it might return, chopper in hand, to wreak havoc on the toilet whilst I'm sat there.

However, we really shouldn't be surprised at the state some people leave public toilets in, when their private toilet habits are, if anything, even more disgusting. My day job has taken me into some of this part of England's most disgusting domiciles and, believe me, some of the things I've seen in and around their toilets would make your hair stand on end. A couple of examples will suffice. In one recent incident I found a toilet full to the rim of the bowl with excrement. It clearly hadn't been flushed in weeks and to use it you'd have to crouch on the rim of the bowl, with your arse held high. There was a shovel beside it which, I assume, had been used to level off the shit so as to keep it at rim level. The other example comes from a few years ago when, during the height of summer, I had to enter a flat where the former tenant had broken his toilet and had instead been peeing into two and three litre coke bottles. I estimated that there were upward of fifty litres of piss in that place. A couple of full bottles, their caps removed, were stood proudly on the dining room table, clouds of flies buzzing around them. I ask you, why didn't he just pour it down the sink? Why stack cupboards full of bottles of your own piss? In fact, why not just get the toilet repaired? Of course, if he'd drunk that much coke to get the empty bottles, it's no wonder he was pissing so much... I was told later that a bucket full of shit had been found out on the balcony. Dirty bastard.

But, yet again, I have digressed. That's twice in one post. The point I'm groping toward is that if people weren't taking the piss (if you'll excuse the joke) out of toilet phobics before - mainly because nobody really knew they existed - they sure as hell will be now that this plea to stop mocking them has hit the press. Typical do-gooders, you see. If they'd just kept their traps shut instead of rushing to right a perceived wrong, nobody would have been any the wise. And we'd have been denied a rich new source of toilet humour.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Stern Talking To

What about that Stern Report, eh? Threat from global warming reduced to a profit and loss analysis. It really is a sad reflection of our society that in order to try and get the message across, the potential damage climate change could cause has to be laid out in economic terms. Apparently, the fact that there could be mass extinctions, famines, melting icecaps and that, basically, we could all die horribly, isn't as important as the fact that it could hit the profits of big business and might just cause a budget deficit resulting in higher taxes. Hey, now we're talking - higher taxes! If that thought doesn't start panicking people, I don't know what will!

But that, of course, is the whole point of the Stern Report - it is addressing itself to the capitalists in their own language, in the hope that the message might get through that way. After all, global warming is effectively driven by our western consumer lifestyles. The more goods we buy, the more the factories make, and the more they churn out their emissions. At the moment, all big business can see is that restrictions on emissions will cut into their profits in the short term. The Stern Report is obviously trying to impress upon them that failure to act will dent those profits even more in the long term. Will the message get through? Sadly, business rarely looks that far ahead - long term planning really isn't its strong suit. This is especially true in economies like the UK, where everything seems to be driven by investors, who want a rapid return on their capital.

So maybe it is going to take more than just an economic argument to get the message through. Perhaps an appeal to the spiritual is in order? I'm sure the best way to get Bush on side with climate change would be to convince him that it was the Devil's work - another scheme by Satan to undermine God's divine creation. If you could also convince him that the war on climate change was a literal war which could be fought with bombs and bullets, I'm sure he'd come aboard like a shot! (Such is the theme of The Greening of Bush over on The Sleaze). Mind you, I don't think it is likely to happen anytime soon. Sadly, I strongly suspect that it is going to take more than just a Stern talking to for our industries to change direction.


Monday, November 13, 2006

We Want Winterval!

Well, it's that time of year again when you can't find anything in the supermarket because their shelves are suddenly full of Christmas-related goods (most of which they never seem to sell judging the quantities which they always seem to be trying to shift at discounted prices come New Year), and the municipal Christmas decorations are stealthily snaking their way down the town centre, lamp post by lamp post. So, what better time could there possibly be for me to start my annual campaign for the abolition of Christmas. Now, don't get me wrong and start labeling me some kind of miserable old killjoy. I'm quite happy to have the midwinter celebrations, I just object to all the bloody cultural and commercial baggage which has accrued to Christmas. Especially the 'Goodwill to All Men' and all the other sanctimonious bollocks which Christianity has pinned on it. Let's be honest - it is simply another pagan festival hijacked by the God-botherers. I think we should be taking it back - then we can all enjoy the debauchery, drunkenness and over-indulgence with clear consciences!

To be frank, I think they got right in the West Midlands a few years back where they simply labeled the whole festive season 'Winterval'. I know at the time it was seized upon by the fascist press as yet another example of 'political correctness gone mad', and portrayed as an attempt to avoid offending non-Christians by taking the Christ out of Christmas, but it deserves another look. The idea behind Winterval was simply to incorporate all of the religious festivals which take place around that time of year within one overall season. If you think about it, this has distinct advantages. Most obviously, it extends the festive season quite considerably, allowing us not only to celebrate more, but also to pace our excesses better over the season. With several other festivals, such as Hanukkah and the orthodox Christian Christmas (which is later than ours), incorporated, it provides more high points to work toward, instead of the measly two (Christmas Day and New Year's Day), we get now. The bits in between those to can often seem really dull and depressing - with Winterval, it would be one continuous party, staggering from Holy day to Holy day! I ask you, wouldn't the festive season be so much better if it covered most of December and early January?

So, this is where the campaign starts! We want Winterval and we want it NOW (well, starting in early December, actually)!


Sunday, November 12, 2006

At a Loose End...

So, here we are, Sunday afternoon and I'm at a bit of a loose end. Now, normally on a Sunday afternoon, I'm down at my silver-haired old mother's house, but this week she's away at my sister's, so I've got the whole weekend to myself. The trouble is that I came into this weekend exhausted and only just recovering from a virus, or something, which had been sapping my strength for most of the preceding week. Having spent most of the weekend recuperating, now that I finally have my strength back and feel OK again, the weekend is nearly over. I've posted a new story on The Sleaze, done the ironing, put the rubbish out - now what? There's nothing on TV I want to watch (always the case when I've actually got time to watch it). My friend - the one who thinks the minister at the local Spiritualist church looks like a sex offender - is apparently on line, but my IM tells me she's 'idle'. Tell me something I didn't know! She's like that in real life! It is the main thing we have in common - a propensity to do nothing when given the opportunity.

Even that Asian cable channel I was raving about a few posts ago has vanished, and those bloody idiots trying to sell me broadband (which I've got already) and telephone talk plans (which I don't want) are back. The most irritating thing about their presence is that the information they are giving is now totally out of date. Not only has the pricing of all the packages changed, but one of the talk plans doesn't even exist any more. That just about sums up the efficiency of my cable provider. Actually, going back to the Asian channel, for those of you left wondering, the bloke who was gunned down and enjoyed a truly OTT death scene in the soap I was watching turned out to be not quite dead. Two bystanders rushed him to the nearest hospital, where he lay on a trolley in the lobby for what seemed like hours whilst a policeman questioned the guys who'd brought him in about the crime. Finally, after he must of lost at least six pints of blood, he was wheeled into the operating theatre. When last seen, he was on a life support machine.

The trouble with being at a loose end is that my thoughts tend to wander onto dangerous ground - to those news stories I know I really shouldn't comment on as I'll be accused of bad taste, insensitivity, and all that. But I just can't help it. Did you see that story the other day about that poor six year old girl who choked to death on her school dinner? Apparently it was a sausage which did it. Of course, the burning question is: was it one of Jamie Oliver's healthier school dinners she was eating, with special low-fat sausages? I think it is important we know. After all, it could call into question this idea that 'healthy eating' is god for kids. There's no denying that nobody has ever heard of a six year old choking to death on chips. They might be bad for you, but at least they'll take several decades to do you in. Unlike a sausage, which can apparently finish you off in minutes.

Ah well, I'm bored doing this now. I'll have to find something else to amuse myself with. Maybe my friend will stop being idle. Maybe I'll go and drink another beer...


Friday, November 10, 2006

The Poppy Orthodoxy

I'm glad to see that the tyranny of the Remembrance Day poppy is finally being challenged. In the past week we've had a Christian group arguing that their white poppy is more appropriate than the tradition red one as it represents peace, rather than commemorating war, whilst Channel Four newsreader Jon Snow (who I ordinarily consider something of a knob head), has been refusing to wear any form of poppy on air. Now, I probably need to make clear here that I mean no disrespect to war veterans with my attitude. I have nothing against people buying or wearing poppies if they choose to. What I object to is the attitude which has taken root over recent years that you have to openly display this symbol of your respect. Failure to do so is, it is implied, somehow disrespectful; unpatriotic, even. Consequently, every TV presenter, every public official, school teacher and pupil feels obliged to wear one for fear of being branded anti-social if they don't. The whole poppy business has effectively become a question of 'political correctness'. Bizarrely, the kind of people demanding its observance are precisely the type of knee-jerk reactionaries who are usually to be found braying on about 'political correctness gone mad', whenever they're told they can't call ethnic minorities 'niggers' and 'wogs' any more.

In my opinion, for what little it is worth, is that observance of such things is a deeply personal thing. This poppy orthodoxy is yet another symptom of this strange notion which seems to be prevalent in public life these days, that we all have wear our hearts on our sleeves and make extravagant public displays of grief, jubilation, pain or whatever emotion is deemed appropriate for a situation. Bollocks, I say. These are private emotions and I reserve the right to express them privately and discretely. For the same reasons I'm getting increasingly fed up with the number 'two minute silences' we are expected to observe for this anniversary or that. Look, I have no wish to appear disrespectful, but once again, shouldn't it be my personal choice as to whether, or how, I commemorate such things? While we're on the subject, why have we suddenly reverted to observing the Remembrance Day two minute silence on 11 November, instead of on Remembrance Sunday? OK, I know 11 November is Armistice Day, but the silence is nowadays meant to commemorate the dead of all wars, not just World War One (hence the concept of Remembrance Sunday)? My biggest gripe about this reversion is that a 'corporate observance' can be imposed upon workers, denying them their freedom of choice of commemoration. It is with relief that I note that this year the eleventh is a Saturday.

The bottom line is, if you want to wear a poppy and observe two minutes silence on the eleventh, fine. Just don't try and impose your concept of commemoration on everyone else. Of course, the big question now is - do I choose to buy and/or wear a poppy? Obviously, I don't wear one. As to whether I buy one, well, that's my personal business. Just don't assume that I'm disrespectful if I don't conspicuously display my feelings. Spare me your disapproving looks.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Return of Cable TV Hell?

I was left reeling this morning. I was having my customary breakfast time flick through the TV channels, when I decided to have a look at what was on cable. Jesus Christ! Instead of the usual cable company logo, there they were again - those bloody idiots trying to sell me various phone and web-related packages! I thought I'd seen the back of those bastards months ago! Clearly, I thought, I must have done something terrible in a previous life to be subjected to this horror again. Still reeling from these apparitions I stumbled off to work. However, it was clear that the damage had been done - a cloak of depression descended over me for the rest of the day.

So, you can imagine my relief when, on my return home this evening, a quick check of my cable channels revealed that everything was back to normal - no inane sales idiots, just the logo back. Back to normal, except... Upon flicking through the channels again, I found that Sony Entertainment Television Asia (SETA) was unencoded. A whole new world has suddenly opened for me! A world of bizarre Hindi-language soap operas, in which most of the vital action seems to take place in people's brightly-lit living rooms. The directors are obviously greatly taken with video editing technology - the number of zooms every time something dramatic happens is incredible. The acting performances are also wonderful - in one soap a character is shot several times and proceeds to clutch at his (extremely bloody) wounds in one of the most protracted death scenes I've ever seen. I particularly liked the relatively delicate way in which he finally fell to the ground - where he proceeded to twitch his legs violently before finally expiring. Magnificent stuff! As well as the soaps, I also caught a sitcom about the Indian Mafia, which involved someone doing a truly dreadful Marlon Brando impression. It was all accompanied by lots of canned laughter and looked like something ITV would have made in the 1980s.

Whilst I can't understand most of what they're saying (although quite a lot of English phrases are used), I can honestly say that SETA is one of the most entertaining cable channels I've ever seen. The only thing which has rivaled it was the Italian channel RAI Uno, which I got for several months a few years ago. I don't know how long SETA is going to be available to me, but I intend enjoying it for as long as it is there!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Age of the Mega Dump

Are we living in the Age of the Mega Dump? Is it just me, or do we seem to be crapping more? Is it something about modern diets? Or is it just that toilets are getting smaller? I only ask on account of the number of U-blockers I've been responsible for lately. I mean, it really used to be an event when you produced something so humungous it not only refused to flush away in one go, but actually blocks the waste pipe as you desperately try to get rid of it. Yet twice this has happened to me in the past couple of weeks. On the most recent occasion, not only did the first attempt fail to flush it, resulting instead in the water creeping ominously up the sides of the bowl, but the second flush (with lots of added toilet paper), seemed to make the situation worse. I really thought the toilet was going to overflow. It was with great relief that the waters finally receded, taking the blockage with them.

Now, this might seem trivial to many readers, but let me tell you, it's bloody terrifying watching that water rise inexorably. It is at times like that I find myself doing my Oliver Hardy impression - waddling up and down on the spot going "Oooohhhh". I swear that if I had a bowler hat I'd be desperately pressing it down on my head with both hands - and probably shouting "Stanley! That's another fine mess!". The thought that a huge brown trout could be slopping its way out of the crapper and be flopping around your feet is enough to panic anybody. Anyway, getting back to the point of this sordid post, if this sort of thing is going to become commonplace as we enter the Age of the Mega Dump, we really do need to take precautions. The government should be issuing advice. You know, to always wear Wellington boots whilst taking a dump, to buy bigger bog brushes, that sort of thing. They should also consider a major programme of renewing and enlarging waste pipes to take these mega dumps. Trust me, if we don't take action now, then this time next year we'll be swimming ankle deep in crap.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Clowning Around With Fireworks

Fireworks. Jesus Christ, I've had my bloody fill of them for another year. It isn't because they're potentially dangerous that I'm suddenly against them. I'm all for a bit of recklessness with perfectly legal explosive devices which can be bought over the counter at supermarkets. No, it's just that I've barely been able to get any sleep for the past few days with the bastards round here letting them off every hour of the day and night. Actually, some of the 'warnings' against the abuse of fireworks this year have been priceless, and actually seemed designed to encourage people to use them recklessly. I particularly liked the local TV news story about a travelling clown who'd had his truck cum mobile home attacked with rockets, burning the cab and engine out. The item was meant to elicit sympathy because he and his cronies wouldn't now be able to keep their clowning engagements across the South of England. Frankly, I think whoever was responsible for stopping the red-nosed bastard from going around creeping out kiddies with his unfunny antics deserves a bloody medal! Stop Clowns Now! Blow the bastards up!

I mean, does anybody find these big-shoed, baggy trousered weirdoes funny? Sinister, yes. Funny, definitely not. Indeed, the really creepy thing about the TV item was the way Coco the Clown (or whatever his bloody name was), was interviewed in full make up and red nose. I ask you, your home has just been torched and your livelihood threatened, so what do you do? Dress up like a sodding clown. Oh yes, people are really going to take your plight seriously now, aren't they? What are you trying to tell us? That when you catch the perpetrators you are going to hit them in the face with a custard pie? Actually, something else which bothered me about this whole item was the question of why, when it blew up, didn't the wheels fall off of his truck? I've seen the clown's car at the circus - bits always fall off of it. Clearly, this guy isn't even a competent clown.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Secret Admirers...

I saw a bit of that South Bank Show special about George Michael the other day (do you think they were trying to tell him something by showing it at Halloween?). I got a bit perturbed when he started going on about how celebrity gossip is used by the establishment to deflect public attention from the real issues, as that sounded dangerously close to my own rantings in a recent post. I got to wondering - does George read Sleaze Diary? In fact, is he actually the mystery person who anonymously commented on another recent post? Now, I'm going to be honest here - I always thought Wham! were crap and I've never bought one of George's solo records. Not really my cup of tea - not enough wild guitar action. So George, if it's you, I'm sorry but I can't reciprocate the artistic admiration. That's not to say that I don't like George. Indeed, in recent years (since he stopped releasing records), I've actually come to quite like him.

Whilst it would be great to have a celebrity fan, I'd really been hoping for someone a bit more, well, heavyweight, than a bloke who used to sing with Wham!. Professor Simon Schama, perhaps. Or George Clooney. Ian Hislop would be good. Ray Stubbs or Gary Lineker from Match of the Day. Let's face it, Chris Moyles off of Radio One would be preferable. Hell, I'd even settle for Scott bloody Mills off of Radio One. But George Michael? Ah well, I suppose beggars can't be choosers. Mind you, I do have a 'six degrees of separation' type connection with George. Way back when I was a student in Bristol, I was in the same History tutorial group as a girl who allegedly slept with his Wham! band mate Andrew Ridgeley (according to The Sun, which paid her a couple of hundred quid for the story).


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To The Left, To The Left...

I'm in the mood to start a new urban myth. You know the sort of thing - playing 'Let It Be' backwards reveals a message admitting that all of the Beatles except Paul McCartney were replaced in 1966; or that standing next to a microwave oven whilst it is in operation makes your testicles/breasts drop off. There have been a lot stories in recent months concerning those satellite navigation systems, and the bizarre routes they send people on; stranding them in impassable fords, or along clifftop tracks, that sort of thing. Whilst sounding highly unlikely, these stories are apparently true, so they could be used to give credibility to an urban myth. Consequently, I was thinking of claiming that drivers were mistaking the intro of Beyonce's latest highly irritating song - 'irreplaceable' - for instructions from their Sat Nav system, and having horrendous accidents as a result. You know the song, the one which begins with her saying "To the left, to the left". It seems entirely credible to me that motorists could be swinging their steering wheels violently to the left as a result of hearing that on the radio, ploughing into post boxes, lampposts, pedestrians and parked vehicles. If they were in the fast lane of the M4, it could result in a massive multi-vehicle pile up as they swing across several lanes of traffic before hitting the crash barrier instead of the expected exit.

So, it checks the boxes: vaguely credible and involves a celebrity. The only thing I need to do now is to get it into circulation. I daresay if I pose as one of those dolts on a Beyonce fan message board somewhere, I could start a thread on it - the trick would be to reply to the original post under other aliases claiming actually to have crashed as a result of the song. The bastards who hang out in such places are credulous enough to swallow it, and I know from experience that most TV 'researchers' simply seem to trawl the web for material. Before you know it there'll be a Channel Five documentary and The Sun will be calling for all Beyonce records to banned. "Stop this Evil Now!" the front page will, no doubt, bellow.
OK, I'm off to find a Beyonce fan site...