Thursday, May 31, 2007

Walk Like a Monkey

Have you seen that TV advert? You know, the one where the bloke goes into the office toilet to find a gorilla coming out of the stalls. The guy immediately starts grimacing and holding his nose, whilst the voice over tells us that you can't control who has used the toilet before you (turns out that it is an ad for toilet freshener - 'Stops Your Loo Smelling Like a Zoo'). Excuse me - isn't that a bit offensive - implying that gorilla crap smells worse than anyone else's? After all, if the ad started with an Asian man, or a black guy, or even someone with ginger hair, coming out of that stall and getting that sort of reaction, there'd be an outcry. And rightly so. On what do the advertisers base their findings? Have they done a study of the toilet habits of gorillas who work in offices? I think not. No, this really is a slur on one of our closest living relatives. Is it any wonder that gorilla went on the rampage in that Netherlands zoo the other week? He'd obviously seen that ad. In fact, the whole implication that zoo animals are responsible for foul smells in toilets is ludicrous. If that really was the case, just ban them from using the toilets in the average workplace. Then you wouldn't need this new toilet freshener. In fact, to follow their logic, they should be marketing it to zoos, not homes and offices.

All of which brings me to the whole issue of stereotyping. It seems that it isn't only advertisers which trade in such things, the security industry is at it now. The latest innovation is a machine which analyses the way people walk. The idea is that said machine can be used at airports and the like to identify terror suspects. Now, I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to work. Do the government propose building up a database of walks? Obviously every terrorist in the country will submit to this, and won't do silly walk in order to evade detection. Clearly, such an idea is ludicrous. The alternative is that they have identified certain 'types' by the way they walk. No doubt terrorists have a furtive walk, homosexuals are light on their feet and gorillas drag their knuckles. Perhaps Afro Caribbeans walk with rhythm? Is it just me, or are developers of security technology now taking the piss, knowing that they can use the 'War on Terror' to sell any load of old cobblers to the authorities? This latest one is particularly offensive as it seems to trade on crude stereotypes. But clearly, in view of the advert I described earlier, I shouldn't be surprised, as this seems to be stock in trade these days. Besides, Gorilla crap doesn't stink, it just smells of bananas.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Nude Avengers?

As I was attempting to lay some laminate flooring in my hallway today (a tricky job still unfinished due to the necessity of cutting several of the flooring planks lengthwise to fit the narrow room), my thoughts wandered, as they do, to television programmes again. This time I found myself contemplating the updating of 'classic' TV series which is so popular now, most notably Dr Who. Now, the revived Dr Who has been something of a triumph for the BBC, retaining all the essential features of the original, whilst successfully relocating it in a contemporary television format. The question is - could lightning strike twice? Could current Dr Who mastermind Russell T Davies similarly revive another classic TV show with the same success? If so, which show would most benefit from such a treatment? Now, for me, there's only one choice: that great 1960s icon The Avengers. The previous attempt to revive it, The New Avengers, was, in my opinion, something of a misfire, failing to recreate the essence of the series in the very different 1970s. It failed to relocate the essentials of the series in the then modern world. Likewise the more recent film version.

Clearly, any successful revival would have to translate the central conceits of the series - sophisticated, but strange, secret agents battle ever more surreal enemies of the crown - into the present day. The key to this, of course, is the character of John Steed. Now, on the surface Steed is your typical toff British agent - he wears three piece Saville Row suits, sports a bowler hat and an umbrella, drives a vintage Bentley and knows his champagne - an epitome of the establishment. However, all isn't as it seems, scratch the surface and you quickly find that Steed is also a man who seems to like dominant women in black leather and kinky boots - mind you, that sort of thing goes with public schools, doesn't it? The series cleverly deposited this outwardly establishment figure right in the middle of the singing sixties. However, far from being a fish out of water, he seemed quite at home. Indeed, that's what the sixties was really like - a violent collision of tradition and modernity. The future seemed finally to have arrived, and found itself in a pile up with the past. A lot of the people indulging in the 'swinging' aspects were actually well off toff-types, (as my late father once observed, there may well have been a permissive society in Ladbroke Grove, but down on the provincial council estates, we couldn't afford it). To cap it all off, Steed was teamed up with a succession of liberated young women who drove fast cars, were well-versed in the martial arts and wore black leather and kinky boots. Interestingly, they were all posh birds...

Getting back to the point, the key to any revival of The Avengers lies in the casting of John Steed. It needs to capture that sense of kinkiness lying just under the surface of coventionality, the collision of tradition and modernity. How about John Barrowman of Torchwood and Dr Who infamy as a mid-Atlantic bisexual Steed? He's still got the bowler, the brolly and the Bentley, and still likes the dominant ladies - but he's not averse to a bit of the other as well. Trust me, it could work. I can see the title sequence now: Barrowman stark naked apart from his bowler and umbrella - which pops open to hide his nads as he turns to face the camera. He could go through all the poses Patrick MacNee used to go through in the old titles, but with his bowler or brolly strategically placed to hide the naughty bits each time. In the silhouetted bits he could do some really interesting things with that umbrella. Let's face it, it wouldn't be so very different from the original colour title sequence used on the old show. You know, the one which opens with Steed opening a bottle of champagne, only to have its cork shot off by Mrs Peel - cue lots of foam spewing out of the neck and all over his hands as he firmly grasps the bottle's neck...

But what of Mrs Peel? Who could ever fill the shoes of the wondrous Diana Rigg? Not Uma Thurman, that's for sure. Why not ring the changes again - instead of a high kicking posh bird, why not counter soberly dressed, but sexually flamboyant, Steed with someone working class this time? What about Billie Piper? What better way to capitalise on her Dr Who success? She could be the perfect down to Earth counterpoint to Steed and his Bentley. Indeed, instead of the 1960s sports car, she could drive a Skoda, or one of those hybrid cars. Of course, there are other radical approaches. How about Colin Salmon as Steed? He's posh and establishment, has the bowler, etc., but he's black. If that doesn't encapsulate the the juxtaposition of contradictory elements which lies at the heart of Steed and, by extension, The Avengers, I don't know what does. Once you've got the two lead characters and their relationship sorted (they're clearly attracted to each other, but never actually do anything beyond innuendo), everything else falls into place. That was the problem with The New Avengers - no close relationship between Steed and the leading lady. The audience were instead expected to focus on the relationship of Steed's sidekicks, Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt. Sadly, there was just no chemistry, and thus no interest, there. It was the same with the film version - Ralph Fiennes (who I apparently went to school with, but that's another story), was just too wet for us to suspect that he was sexually adventurous underneath the bowler (perhaps if he'd had sex in the toilet of an airliner, before making the film, it might have helped), and Uma Thurman just missed the point as Mrs Peel.

So there you go - another TV show they should make. Russell T Davies, if you are reading this, take heed - a bisexual John Steed, that's what the Twenty First Century needs! And don't forget to bung me a few quid if you ever make it!

Labels: ,

Please Stop Now!

I'm really beginning to regret ever writing those bloody stories about 'Bishop' John Salford and his vampire/devil hunting activities. They seem to have landed me in the middle of the still ongoing (for other thirty years now) feud between British occultists Sean Manchester and David Farrant. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've had to restrict posting privileges here at Sleaze Diary in order to stop this becoming part of their battleground. Now, I find my inbox full of e-mails from the opposing camps. Yesterday it was Farrant's supporters, today it was the 'Gothic Press', which published Manchester's books. Look guys, I'm really not interested in this feud, other than for satiric purposes. I'm taking the piss out of both of you, OK? The bottom line is that I'm just some guy who writes stories he likes to think are satirical for the web. My quest for material frequently takes me into the realms of the Fortean. As a sceptic, I find such stuff ripe for satire. That's it. I have no interest in vampire hunting, ghosts, ghoulies, the Loch Ness monster or bigfoot. Except where I can use them for humourous purpose.

What I'm trying to say here is - leave me out of your feud. OK, I know you are running out of forums where you haven't been banned on which you can pursue your dispute, but that doesn't mean you can invade my inbox or blog instead! Please, please, stop sending me e-mails! Please, please, stop commenting here! I just want to be left alone to write my stuff, get my phone reconnected, lay my laminate flooring and drink beer. I really am growing tired of having to waste time writing posts like this one. It reduces the amount of time and energy I can devote to writing proper posts and stories. So, thanks, but no thanks - I'm opting out of your private war - OK?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Left Speechless

Sadly, normal service isn't quite resumed. With all my problems with the cable operator that I had last week, I decided to accelerate my plans to switch my phone, broadband and TV away from them. The logical first step was to reactivate the BT phone line I had and transfer the number over, as a first step to transferring my broadband from cable to ADSL. Now, BT assured me that it would all be done today - the only glitch would be if the cable people didn't release the phone number promptly. Guess what? Yeah, that's right - I get up today to find that I have no phone service at all - the cable people have cut me off and the BT line is still dead. Suspecting that the number hadn't been released, I decided to try and contact BT. One problem - no phone. I ended up wasting a lot of time finding a BT public call box which worked, then spent an age on the phone to them.

It transpired that the number had been switched, but that there'd been a problem at the exchange. Don't worry, they said, you'll have the line up and running in a couple of days. For fuck's sake! Couldn't they have checked to see if there'd be a problem before transferring the number and therefore depriving me of the old number? The best bit came when they told me they'd contact me to let me know how it was progressing. How? Apparently they had a mobile number for me - bloody amazing as I don't have a mobile phone, which is why it is vital that the land line is working. Don't worry, I told them, I'll make sure not to have any unforeseen medical emergencies or accidents until they install the line... Really, this isn't a good start to my relationship with BT, making me suspect that I've simply jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

On a more positive note, I've finally got a new story - the much delayed Evils of Religion - posted on The Sleaze. For some reason , this one has been a bugger to get written, going through several false starts and major revisions. It still isn't really what I wanted, but a new story was needed urgently. With traffic to the site dying on its arse for no apparent reason, I need to do something. Hopefully, this one is offensive enough to generate some traffic. Still, at least this is the last story of Issue 46. I really won't be sorry to see the back of that one - it seemed interminable, with stories posted very erratically and wildly fluctuating traffic. Hopefully Issue 47 will be a happier experience. Luckily, I've got the first couple of stories for the next issue worked out - they'll both be derived from posts here at Sleaze Diary (unless something else crops up in the news to inspire me). The next main hurdle to get over is a new editorial - I really haven't got a fucking clue what I'm going to rant about this time. Anyway, enough of my whining - maybe I'll finally be able to get back to posting properly tomorrow. You never know.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 25, 2007

Normal Service Resumed

OK, I'm back on broadband. The engineer came today and sorted the problem - after replacing the modem and internal cabling, the fault was traced to an external cable connector. All relatively straightforward. If only getting an engineer round hadn't been so bloody traumatic! After several fruitless phone calls and e-mails, I finally decided enough was enough, and yesterday spent nearly an hour on the phone to my cable provider's customer service line and eventually got a half-promise that an engineer might be available in my area on Friday. Now, the lady I spoke to who managed to arrange this for me was incredibly professional, from the outset she did what none of the people I had previously spoken to had - she established my name and account number. Something that simple makes a huge difference - it at least gives the impression that someone is actually interested in your problem. Furthermore, if somebody actually appears to be trying to resolve he issue, even if they are unsuccessful, the customer at least feels that somebody has made an attempt to help them. Ntl-Telewest Ltd T/A Virgin Media, please take note.

However, to get to this lady, I had to run the gamut of various other operatives, the first of whom appeared to be some kind of company zealot. His role seemed to be to defend the company and convince me that I was wrong and being unreasonable. All the time, he kept telling me how unfair I was being and saying that me not being able to drop everything at work and be in all day for an engineer to call on Thursday was 'a missed opportunity'. In other words, it was my all my own fault. It really was like having some religious nut trying to brainwash you into joining their cult. He also told me that I couldn't expect customer services to arrange an engineer to come sooner than next week if I'd already been told by the broadband 'help' line that one wasn't available. I simply responded that he'd better put me through to someone who could in that case, as I had no intention of letting the matter drop. He then petulantly put me through to what he claimed was the 'engineers' department'. I found myself talking to the installations department, who obviously couldn't help me. I was then put through to help desk in India which dealt with analogue TV problems. Again, no help at all. At this point I rang off, redialled and was kept in a queue for several minutes before finally being put through to the extremely helpful lady with proper customer service skills, who was actually able to sort my problem out.

So, my advice to anyone out there experiencing similar problems, whether with cable providers or other service industries, is to stick to your guns when dealing with the call centres and refuse to back down. No matter what they say to try and convince you that you are wrong, just keep reiterating the fact that you are the customer, and that the level of service you have received is simply not acceptable. As customers I do think that we are entitled to expect a certain minimum standard of service from suppliers, not just in terms of response times for maintenance calls, but also in terms of the way in which we are treated by call centres. When dealing with somebody with the right skills and properly trained, like the lady who eventually sorted my problems, you feel much happier. However, when confronted by script-reading automatons, or pro-company zealots, I, for one, simply get extremely annoyed as I feel that the company concerned is simply taking the piss.

Anyway, having finally got my broadband back on again, posting can get back to normal. What should have been this week's posts will doubtless turn up over the days to come, and I'll start writing the next story for The Sleaze tomorrow. Having said all that, I've got some time off work and everything will undoubtedly be disrupted by other activities, such as laying laminate flooring, getting my TV antenna sorted out and generally lounging around with beer. Such is life!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shoddy Service or, Why is NTL-Telewest T/A Virgin Media So Shit?

So, another day and still no broadband connection. Yes, it's still down and my cable provider's so called 'help' desk is still stonewalling me and claiming that no engineer/technician (the description varies according to how closely I question them) will be available in my area until next Wednesday. Which is rather strange, as apparently one was going to be in the area on Thursday if I had been prepared to abscond from work for the entire day on the off chance he might call around. If I want an evening call, well, can't manage that until June! So, obviously it's all my fault for foolishly insisting on going out to work all day so as to earn the money to pay for the service they aren't providing. Indeed, the alleged customer service person I first spoke to was quite taken aback by the idea that I couldn't just take time off work when I felt like it. Clearly it is very different for those lucky enough to work for my cable provider. That's probably why I can't get anybody to deal with my problem. Anyway, I had a second fruitless 'conversation' with them again today. Again, they simply wouldn't listen to me and got flustered when I expected them to deviate from their scripts. The fact is that I know I have an 'intermittent' problem - that's what I'm fucking telling you! And don't tell me that no problems with the network have been reported in my area: I'm reporting a bloody problem! But we just went around in circles.

Later on today I tried e-mailing them using the form they provide. I pointed out that I'm a paying customer who isn't receiving the service he is paying for. I pointed out that I'm a customer who isn't receiving any customer service. I pointed out that, having taken my money, they have a contractual obligation to provide this service. I further pointed out that to tell a paying customer that they face the prospect of another week without this service before an engineer is even sent out, is pretty outrageous. I also pointed out that when I ring a so-called technical help line, I expect to find myself speaking to someone technically competent, who can assist me in resolving the technical problem, not find myself confronted with someone who - regardless of the nature of your problem - simply gives stock answers from a prepared script, and who doesn't listen to anything the customer is saying. I got a very prompt reply. I got an automated response telling me that someone would get back to me 'in a few days', but as they were busier than usual (busy ignoring customer calls, presumably), it might take longer.

How refreshing it is to find a telecoms provider so contemptuous of its customers that it replies to an irate e-mail with an autoresponse. And to think, I had feared that such shoddy customer service was a thing of the past. Thank God for NTL-Telewest T/A Virgin Media for upholding the values of not giving a toss. Not that they have any incentive to actually fix my broadband. As long as it is down, I'm forced to use expensive dial up services, all billed to the phone line they provide. So they're raking it in and I'm not only paying for a broadband service they aren't providing, but also for their incompetence. What a racket! Having got no joy through the alleged technical help line or the e-mail, I tried their general customer service number. All I got there was an address I could write to with a written complaint (straight into the shredder, no doubt), and some hapless operative saying he was very sorry for my inconvenience. Yeah, right. Sorry's all very well, but it doesn't get my broadband reconnected, does it? I'm still at a loss to know why I have to be present when an engineer calls - the problem doesn't lie with the modem or any of the cables inside my house. It most likely lies with their junction box or cables outside. Indeed, most of this shower's broadband problems originate with their servers. Moreover, the idea that no engineer is available in my area, when I live about ten miles from their headquarters, is ludicrous.

So, the bottom line is that, until this problem is sorted, the only posts I'll be making will be me ranting and raging about how my cable provider and all its employees are a waste of space. All work on The Sleaze has halted as there is very little point in completing any more stories if I can't post them. (Trust me, trying to post via dial up is a nightmare). The only bright point is that, by coincidence, I have to visit their head office on business tomorrow. I'll also be taking the opportunity to shove my allegedly problematic modem up somebody's arse. Either that, or I'll start legal proceedings against them for breach of contract.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No Comment

Unfortunately, thanks to my shitty cable supplier's broadband service failing (according to their Indian based tech support, the fault must be at my end, and they can't send an engineer to seal with the non-existent modem problem until the middle of next week! So I'm expected to continue paying for a vital service I can't get, when, as I know from experience, the problem lies at their end. Of, and if I'm not in when the engineer calls, they'll charge me £10. Fuck off, incompetent wankers), I can't make the post I wanted to today. I'm stuck with an extremely slow dial-up connection which is both expensive and unreliable. So, I shall confine myself to some boring admin matters. Namely comment posting on this blog. Up until now I've trusted visitors to be responsible with their comments. Hence, no moderation and allowing anonymous posts. Unfortunately, it seems that some people seem incapable of playing nicely. So, as of now, comments are moderated and can only be made by blogger members.

I'm sorry to have to do this, but one recent post garnered a number of comments which weren't directly related to it, instead being the continuation of an argument between third parties unconnected either with this blog or The Sleaze. To add insult to injury, something in the formatting of one of these comments has seriously buggered p my layouts. Consequently, the offending comments have been removed. In future, only comments directly relevant to a post will be approved. This is not a forum for general debate. Like I said, if you can't play nicely, then I'm not going to let you play at all.


Monday, May 21, 2007

For Men Only

I know I'm not usually in the habit of reviewing books I'm currently reading, but this is my blog and I'll post what I like! I have a great love for the art which used to adorn old pulp magazines (particularly science fiction and fantasy titles from the 1940s and 1950s), so I was very pleased to finally obtain a copy of Adam Palfrey's It's a Man's World, which looks at the world of US men's adventure magazines of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, which more or less inherited the mantle of the old pulps. I must admit that was a field of publishing of which I had very little knowledge, other than having encountered some of the cover art from these magazines online (indeed, this blog's banner uses images drawn from such art work). Apart from presenting lots of full colour reproductions of those wonderful covers, this book also includes some very informative text, reproducing interviews with many of the editors and writers (including Mario Puzo) who worked on these magazines.

However, without doubt it is the artwork which is the real attraction, both of this book and the original magazines. You just know that the allegedly true stories of derring do and heroic exploits inside could never live up to those covers. The most notorious of these covers are probably the Nazi-themed ones, in which men in jack boots do terrible things to young women clad only in their underwear. Many of these covers - which show a remarkable level of invention when it comes to devising sadistic tortures - were by the great Norm Saunders . Occasionally Native Americans, South Seas savages, the Japanese or Fidel Castro lookalike communists substitute for the Nazis, but the themes remained the same. They're fascinating for what they tell us about attitudes towards women at the time - the female of the species is either being subjugated, or is depicted as a whip wielding sex sadist (who inevitably has to be 'tamed' by being subjugated by a muscle bound man).

These images are frequently juxtaposed with tag lines for articles on homosexuality: 'You can be framed on a homo rap!'; 'What happens when homosexuals marry?'; 'Exposed: newest gathering place for homosexuals'. The attitude toward male sexuality is confusing - to say the least - to contemporary eyes: fear of women, prurient fascination with homosexuality and covers depicting shirtless muscle bound men. Hmmm. Let's face it, if you saw a magazine entitled American Manhood today, complete with subtitle proclaiming it 'The Virile Magazine' and a cover depicting a beefcake soldier stripped to the waist, firing a huge bazooka over his shoulder, you'd immediately think: gay! But back in the 1950s no red-blooded heterosexual American man would have thought twice about buying it.

Whilst the Nazi covers are the most notorious, my personal favourites are the ones which depict man locked in combat with the animal world (another favourite theme of the men's adventure magazines). Perhaps the best known of these was the one showing a bare chested man fighting off a pack of weasels with the tag line: 'Weasels ripped my flesh' - immortalised when Frank Zappa used it as a title. Over the years, vampires (of the bat variety, kodiak bears and curved beaks (birds of prey) also variously ripped protagonists' flesh. In between the marauding wild boars, stampeding rhinos, vicious big cats and deadly sharks, my favourite animal attack story has to be 'I battled a giant otter', simply because an otter, giant or otherwise, has surely to be the crappest animal threat anyone could face. Just throw it a bloody fish, for God's sake! Amongst all this animal action are numerous covers featuring women being carried off by gorillas, groped by giant octopuses and, most fascinating from a Freudian point of view, crushed by giant snakes.

By the 1970s, sadly, these kind of magazines had been swept aside by the advent of real pornographic magazines, which were busy taking over the top shelves of newsagents. Why bother buying a magazine with a cover painting of a semi-clad girl, when you could buy one with real girls getting their knockers out? Looking back, it's hard to believe that you could actually buy things with covers like these legally, and over the counter! Mind you, whilst the covers and tag lines are magnificent, I'm glad the book doesn't reproduce any of the magazines' main content - it could only disappoint! The question is, of course, can I use any of this as inspiration for The Sleaze? Maybe. I already go for those sensational tag lines. What I really need is an artist to come up with some subversive man's magazine-style art - Blair and Bush as intrepid GIs invading Iraq. Or Osama bin Laden and his evil Muslim fundamentalist hordes doing terrible things to captured western women - like forcing them to wear burkahs. The satirical possibilities are endless!

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cranberry Sauce!

At long last I've been noticed! Not by the mainstream media or the Nobel literature prize committee, you understand. But by something far more important: the 60IF message board. This is the heart of the whackiest of all the online 'Paul is Dead' communities. These people are the absolute creme de la creme of the Beatles conspiracy world. Regular readers (and it is rumoured that there might be a few) will know that it was the rantings of this community which provided the original inspiration for my first foray into the world of McCartney madness - I Buried Paul. Anyway, much to my delight, its members have at last discovered this and The Devil and Paul McCartney, and have devoted a thread to them! Cue more insane discussions as they attempt to ascertain whether there's any truth in the stories (clue: just try clicking on the link to The Sleaze home page and read the strap line: "Incredible Lies Today - Still Bollocks Tomorrow"). The final post in the thread seems in indicate a degree of terrible realisation:

"This is ****ing stupid, have some self respect!"

Actually, to be fair, I strongly suspect that the board member who posted the stories to 60IF is actually some kind of piss-taking infiltrator, deliberately trying to test their credulity. I only wish that I'd thought of doing it!
Aside from this belated recognition of my contributions to the field, the 60IF boards seem, currently, to be moving in some interesting directions, with much speculation about other celebrity replacements. It seems that just about everybody famous you've ever heard of has been replaced. At least nine times, in the case of Bob Dylan. The coincidence of them 'discovering' my stories right at the same time that The Sleaze is headlining a story satirising conspiracy theories is incredibly post-modern (actually, it probably isn't. I have to confess that I've never really understood what the fuck postmodernism is all about, but I've been wanting to use the phrase for ages). It is fascinating watching them go through the conspiracy-forming process described in The Big Conspiracy, as they try and make the facts fit their whacked out world view with regard to celebrity doppelgangers. The bottom line is that it is all pure satirical gold and raw material for yet another future story...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whatever Happened To...Bill Clinton?

And not just Bill, but all former Presidents. I mean, what can you possibly do with your life which isn't an anti-climax after being the most powerful elected leader in the world? Go senile, like Reagan, I suppose. At least that saved him from the terrible knowledge that from the moment he gave up the Oval Office, his life was meaningless. Mind you, he probably thought that he was still President... But seriously, what can you do that can possibly match that adrenaline buzz which comes from having your finger on the button? Expose yourself in public parks, maybe? Like Eisenhower. Apparently he liked nothing better, in his declining years, than to stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue with his cock hanging out of his flies. It was the thrill of seeing if he got caught. The problem was that his Secret Service guards always made out sure that he didn't get caught. Not even that time he whipped it out in front of that party of nuns. They just paid them all off and confiscated their cameras. Others have gone the extreme sports route for post-Presidential fulfilment. Take Gerald Ford, for instance. In his retirement this much maligned President and lifelong naturist - it is a little known fact that he used to wander around the White House in the buff - turned to naked bear wrestling for thrills. Unbeaten in over a hundred contests, Ford continued this past-time well into his eighties, occasionally varying his activities to include eagle wrestling, otter boxing and no-holds barred Elephant grappling. He once even persuaded former Vice President Spiro Agnew to join him in a tag team match against a pack of ravenous weasels.

But getting back to our original subject: what does Bill Clinton do these days to while away the hours? Well, apart from dabbling with homosexuality in a well-publicised affair with ex-President George Bush Snr, he's been much in demand as a male escort. For ladies of a certain age, there can be no greater thrill than stepping out with the silver-haired charmer who now likes to put his finger on their button and tantalise them with the possibility of a pre-emptive strike. If they're really lucky, he lets them light up his cigar. However, his greatest success has been as a male model, modelling a range of trusses and male sex aids for magazines and catalogues, becoming something of a gay icon in the process. For Bill, the thrill lies in the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of men, up and down America, are admiring his body. "He believes that he's giving hope to other overweight, middle-aged guys, by showing them that they needn't be ashamed of their bodies, that they too, can be sex symbols," says former Clinton aide Harry Dingus. "He's also getting a big kick out of breaking down established sexual barriers - as many straight guys as gay apparently whack off over his pictures."

On this side of the pond, our political leaders have tended to content themselves with tending their roses once they've retired. With a few notable exceptions. Former Tory Premier Ted Heath was alleged to have pursued his ambition to play every Cathedral organ in the UK, naked, whilst one of his predecessors, Harold MacMillan cultivated a huge cannabis farm and became one of Britain's leading dealers, whilst publicly opposing the legalisation of weed, so as to keep his prices up. Mrs Thatcher, of course, has never been able to get used to not running a country. Her withdrawal symptoms got so bad that her son tried to acquire a new country for her via an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea. All of which leads us, naturally, to the question of what Tony Blair is going to do with himself when he steps down as PM in a few weeks time. Sadly, the ravages of time and stress have taken their toll on his once boyish features, making a return to his former profession unlikely. It is a well known Westminster 'secret' that back in the 1980s, the Labour Party was so strapped for cash that Gordon Brown was sent to pimp Tony Blair to off-duty sailors in Portsmouth. The future Prime Minister was, apparently, somewhat reluctant at first, but some prompting from the Chancellor to be - "For God's sake, Tony, stop being such a prude and get your cock out" - soon turned him into a top earner. Whilst a return to the sex trade seems unlikely, it has been suggested that Blair is planning to enter the dangerous waters of religious missionary work, post Downing Street. Unconfirmed reports claim he is planning to risk life and limb to spread the 'Good Word' to the savage natives of Britain's inner cities. We wish him luck.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Ministry of Justice League of Superheroes

It's the dawning of a new age - or at least it was last week, when the new Ministry of Justice came into being. I've been looking forward to this development for some time, believing that the establishment of such an organisation in the UK is long overdue. We've long needed a focal point from which the efforts of our local superheroes can be co-ordinated. Up until now their efforts to fight crime have been hit and miss, suffering from a lack of central direction. Now, with the Ministry of Justice League of Superheroes behind them, the likes of Nude Man, Mucus Boy and the Golden Shower can pool their resources and start doing some serious kicking of criminal butt. Hopefully, the national scope of this new organisation will mean that these colourful characters are no longer confined to operating in their home locales. Perhaps, at last, we'll see Nude Man policing public toilets outside of Lewisham. Another advantage will be that, finally, police and superheroes will be on the same side, sharing resources. Hopefully, the days of the police and environmental health wasting their time trying to prosecute the Golden Shower for public urination - hampering his crime-busting efforts - are over.

Of course, many of you are probably thinking that I've got the wrong end of the stick again, and will try and claim that the Ministry of Justice is simply an expanded and renamed Department of Constitutional Affairs, staffed by pinstripe wearing civil servants rather than colourfully attired superheroes. But that's exactly what they want you to think! Obviously, they have to try and keep its real nature under wraps, so as to protect the everyday identities of those superheroes. The fact is, though, that it is headed by a notable costumed hero - the Lord Chancellor. Oh, I know the present Lord Chancellor claims to have abolished the wearing of tights and the like for his ceremonial duties, but he has to say that, doesn't he? Just like the rest of them, he has to protect his identity by throwing people off the scent. We all know that as soon as he's out of the office, he becomes a two-fisted crime-fighting Life Peer. Trust me, the Ministry of Justice League of Superheroes is going to revolutionise crime-fighting in this country!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Less Than Tolerant

One of the reasons I like my slightly deranged friend - the one who wasn't attacked by squirrels, despite my worst fears - so much (apart from the obvious facts that she is both beautiful and intelligent), is that on some issues she is even less tolerant than I am. Phone-ins, for instance. The other night in the pub, she got onto the subject of breakfast TV and the way it is becoming dominated by phone-ins. You know the sort of thing, there's an item on obesity in children, they've got five minutes to fill before the regional weather, so they invite bigots to call in and spill their bile on the subject. Now, I generally don't watch breakfast TV, therefore I was unaware of this phenomenon, so it shocked me to find that the creeping scourge of phone-ins had made the evolutionary leap from local radio to national TV. A bit like bird flu jumping between species. Anyway, getting back to the point, my friend's rant on the subject set me to thinking about how best we can combat this growing menace (phone-ins, not bird flu).

I was forced to conclude that an extension of the principle of intolerance would be the best weapon. Let me elaborate. Most of the people who participate in phone-ins are intolerant, stupid bigots. Intelligent callers who try to intervene with reasoned argument and balanced views are either kept off the air altogether, or shouted down by the bigots - thrown to the dogs, if you will, by the hosts. They are inevitably reviled and ridiculed as 'bleeding heart liberals' and the like. Clearly, reason will not work. No, the answer is for us liberals to phone in and be unreasonable. We need to be as rude and obnoxious as the bigots. Forget logic, just spew liberal bile at them. Call them racists. Call them idiots. Shout them down. Make up 'facts' to refute their 'arguments'. Slowly but surely, we must come to dominate these phone-ins and force out the bigots. Only then can we start to use them as a forum for reasonable debate. Ultimately, that's our biggest problem - we try to be reasonable. We assume that these people are capable of understanding logical arguments. They aren't. If they were, they wouldn't hold such reprehensible views. So, just scream at them. Indeed, I see that at least one member of the media has decided to adopt this approach - a reporter for the BBC's Panorama has drawn some criticism for his screaming rant against a Scientologist he was interviewing. Personally, I commend his actions. Give the bastards a taste of their own medicine. See how they like having someone else's reactionary views shoved down their throats.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Yet Another TV Show They Should Make...

Well, with Doctor Who off the air for a week, displaced by the abomination which is the Eurovision Song Contest, I find myself forced to make up my own episode rather than suffer withdrawal symptoms. Ever since the end of 'Evolution of the Daleks', I've been wondering where Dalek Kan ended up after his 'emergency temporal shift'. Perhaps he just moved a few decades forward from 1930s New York to take up residence in present day Holby City. Yes folks, I've come up with yet another idea for a TV 'crossover' show - this time featuring the last of the Daleks in Casualty: as the new Emergency Department administrator. Bringing Skaro's brand of ruthless efficiency to the department, Dalek Kan enforces those new departmental targets rigidly: "Patients requiring more than thirty minutes for treatment will be exterminated!" Every week would see Charlie Fairhead attempting to reason with the Dalek in order to avoid the extermination of the entire waiting room.

On the other hand, the metallic fiend wins some friends in the department with his approach to the Hospital Board Trust and its endless meetings: "This is an inefficient means of decision making! Increase my departmental budget or be exterminated!" Of course, whilst the medical staff welcome all that shiny new equipment Kan's budget increases get them, there's a sinister undercurrent to the department's expansion - patients and staff start vanishing, people are snatched off of the street and bundled into ambulances by paramedics, even when they haven't been in an accident, but never arrive at hospital. In a thrilling denouement to the story arc, a new 'Doctor' arrives at Holby and uncovers Kan's terrible secret - a Dalek manufacturing plant has been set up in the hospital's new private wing. Here, the disappearing patients are being mutated and inserted into Dalek casings ready for their takeover of the NHS. Incensed by this latest threat to the ideal of universal health care, the casualty department's staff storm the new wing, waving blazing torches and chanting "Kill the monsters". Will Dalek Kan escape again as his evil empire collapses around him?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

Coincidence is a funny thing. Many moons ago I wrote and published a story (Die, Lady Di), in which Britain's self-styled top vampire hunter, 'Bishop' John Salford, attempted to stake a now vampirised Princess Diana. In the course of the story, the Bish described his encounters with the seductive, scantily clad, undead ex-Royal. It turns out that back in 1998 (more than five years before I wrote my story), Britain's self-styled top vampire hunter, 'Bishop' Sean Manchester published a story in an obscure witchcraft magazine in which he eulogises the late Princess, describing a dream in which she appeared before him over a lake. Interestingly, 'Bishop' Manchester's Diana is a seemingly seductive and scantily clad being:

"A figure emerged slowly and purposefully directly in front of me. It was a beautiful young woman, attired in white from head to foot, surrounded by a shimmering blue aura that gave a silver appearance to her diaphanous apparel... She did not look shyly down, but straight at me with an intensity which fixed my gaze. Once she had arisen from the depths of the lake, she seemed to glide towards me. Then she remained still. Despite the opaque shroud of mist, I could see her face quite clearly. She smiled. Such a smile that I felt a peculiar intimacy and inner knowledge of her...Then she raised her arms and held out a cup filled with a red liquid. An enormous feeling of peace came over me...I felt the mist cover me with a veil of dampness."

Hmmm. A damp dream, eh?

As I say, a strange (and quite disturbing) coincidence. Whilst, of course, any resemblance between my fictional vampire hunter and 'Bishop' Manchester is entirely coincidental, it does seem strange that both have an obsession (it seems) with supernatural manifestations of Princess Diana. I must confess that, at the time I wrote the story, I had absolutely no inkling of Manchester's interest in her. Spooky! I'm greatly indebted to MondoSkepto who recently broke this morsel of news. Said site also has quite a few fascinating articles on other aspects of Manchester and the whole 'Highgate Vampire' fiasco of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They also have some interesting stuff about Manchester's one-time associate, now sworn enemy, David Farrant. It's all given me food for thought, and I suspect that John Salford's supernatural exploits might yet grace the pages of The Sleaze for a third time (he was last seen fighting Satan in Brighton in The Devil Comes Out). Perhaps it also time to look more closely into the activities of his one-time associate, now sworn enemy, Don Faddle...


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just Text 'Twat'

Guys! Just text 'Twat' to 666999000 to see close up pictures of female genitalia from your area!

Yes, 100% guaranteed amateur twat direct to your mobile! All pictures genuinely taken and sent to us by local female customers - guaranteed 100% drunk and up for it! Hairy, waxed, shaved - we've got something for all tastes! When you see the twat you like, just text back!

Remember, it's only £6 a month to sign up - three twats a week per customer. That's just 50p for every close up fanny you see!

Girls! Want to see plenty of penises without having to deal with the guys? Just text 'Cock' to 666999000 to see loads of cock!

Big, small, straight, bent, hard, limp. We've got 'em all! Guaranteed genuine cocks - no dildos or knock wurst! All pictures taken by guys in your area! Stag parties, rugby club dinners, Young Conservative dances - they're all up for it!

Remember, it's only £6 a month to sign up - three cocks a week per customer. That's just 50p for every close up knob you see!

Sex offenders! Want girls to see your bits without fear of arrest? Just text 'Flash' to 666999000 to get your knob in front of loads of local girls!

Just upload your pictures of your privates and we guarantee they'll be seen by up for it girls in your area. Guaranteed 100% legal! Masturbation, strangulation, immolation - we guarantee there'll be someone for any kind of perversion you want to perform with your John Thomas!

Remember, it's only £6 a month to sign up - three flashes a week per customer. That's just 50p for every act of gross indecency you commit!

Labels: ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Following Through

I fear that it another sign of encroaching age. I had another one of those unfortunate experiences the other evening. You know the sort - you think it is just wind, but it turns out to be the kind of wind which leaves a damp patch in your underpants. I wouldn't mind, but I hadn't even been drinking. Not really. As I'd been doing the driving, I'd been on bitter shandy all evening. So I can't blame the booze. Admittedly, I had had a bit of an upset stomach earlier in the week, but I thought that had subsided. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'd got back home after dropping my friend back at her house, and was sitting in front of the TV in my underwear, flipping through the channels, as one does late at night, when I suddenly felt the urge to let one rip. As I was alone in the house I thought, what the hell? So I did. And it was a magnificent fart - one of those long low jobs - the note it makes sounds like something reverberating from a church organ pipe - you think is never going to end. But sadly it did. With a squelch.

Sadly, it wasn't just my underwear which was affected - the damp patch extended to the chair (that'll teach me to lounge around in my boxers). So, there I was in the middle of the night, not just forced to change my underpants, but also faced with the task of burning an armchair. Trust me, whilst this may seem like a drastic solution, it is far easier in the long run. Unlike underwear, you can't put the chair through the wash, and no matter how hard you scrub, the stain never really fades. Besides you know that it is there every time someone comes round and sits on that chair. Mind you, having a blazing armchair in your back garden in the small hours of the morning does take some explaining where the neighbours are concerned. In the end I just mumbled something about flea infestations as I hurried back inside to c all the fire brigade - the flames were getting dangerously close to the shed. So there you have it. I guess I've finally arrived at that age where I can no longer trust a fart. And I don't. Ever since the unfortunate 'incident' I've been holding my flatulence in until I can find somewhere I can safely drop my pants and trousers before letting go. It really is most inconvenient.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gort! Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Another trip down memory lane. I recently bought a CD of the first two albums put out by Klaatu. Who? I hear you all scream. Indeed, since buying the CD, all my attempts at discussion of Klaatu have been met with blank stares. I'm beginning to suspect that I'm the only person in the country who owns one of their CDs. For what it is worth, they were a 1970s Canadian group, largely remembered today for two reasons: the Carpenters covered one of their songs ('Calling Occupants'), and at the time of their first album's release, there was much speculation that they were actually some, or all, of the Beatles, performing incognito. Actually, their first, eponymous, album is a pretty good imitation of a post-Sgt Pepper Beatles album. It even includes one of those bloody novelty tracks that McCartney was so fond of. However, 'Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III' is, on the whole, a lot better than, say, 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer'. By the second album ('Hope'), they were beginning to drift into prog rock. Although, mercifully, there aren't any thirty minute long King Arthur inspired tracks there. All in all, it was good psychedelic fun which took me back to my childhood. Not only that, but who could possibly dislike any album which includes a track entitled 'Anus of Uranus'?

Listening to these two albums didn't just take me on a journey back to the halcyon days of my 1970s youth, but they also reminded me of the film from which the group took its name (and which the song 'Calling Occupants' makes reference to): The Day the Earth Stood Still. In this 1951 science fiction epic, Klaatu is the alien who arrives on earth bearing a message from a galactic federation which has been observing human history and is disturbed by both our war like nature and our recent acquisition of nuclear weapons. He delivers an ultimatum - disarm or the earth will be destroyed in the name of interstellar peace. It seems that by developing nuclear power, we've become a threat to the stability of our region of the galaxy. After much ado, which includes Klaatu going undercover in human society to try and learn what ordinary earth people are really like, he's gunned down by the military, but revived by his robot Gort (which has already demonstrated his power by incinerating several tanks). He and Gort finally fly off in their saucer, leaving the federation's warning ringing in the ears of the world's leaders. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this film is even more relevant today than it was in the 1950s. The whole concept of imposing peace through superior firepower in order to create intergalactic/international security and stability seems to have been lifted lock, stock and barrel by Bush, Blair, et al, to justify their 'War on Terror'. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is the fact that the film leaves out the final twist of the short story from which it is derived (Harry Bates' 'Farewell to the Master'). In this, it is revealed that Klaatu isn't really in charge of the mission - Gort is the true master. The robots had already imposed peace on his and countless other planets, destroying those who dissented. Klaatu is simply the 'acceptable' face of the 'federation', to whom we earthlings can relate.

So, is Bush Klaatu - the front man for a sinister robot conspiracy? Is Cheney really Gort, the implacable engine of destruction threatening the world with his brand of 'peace'? Are the multinationals behind him the federation? I'm surprised that the Bush administration hasn't had every print of this film impounded and burned. Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw The Day the Earth Stood Still shown on TV? My apologies to my long-suffering friend Andrea, who had to put up with me prattling on about this the other evening when were at the pub. You really are very patient! If you are interested in the music of Klaatu, then their official site (linked to earlier) has downloadable samples of most of their songs.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gratuitous Sex and Violence

Apparently cinema is in the grip of 'torture porn'. It must be true - I read it in the paper. Apparently modern horror films concentrate upon depicting extreme violence against women, presented in such a way as to make it seem somehow 'attractive'. So exploitation cinema objectifies women and makes them the subject of extreme male sexual and sadomasochistic fantasies? Well, fuck my hat, I never knew that (as Mark and Lard used to say in those far gone halcyon days when they were on Radio One in the afternoons)! I think you'll find that this has been going on for decades - it's just that a mainstream journalist has noticed it and managed to sell an article based on this startling theory. Actually, the article in question (in The Guardian), does acknowledge that this isn't a recent phenomena. Whilst the article's main text focuses upon the alleged transgressions of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double bill (which I haven't seen, so can't comment on), the sidebars do give us the 'highlights' of exploitation cinema, including Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave. Unfortunately, it doesn't give the full stories in its summaries of these films, leaving the impression that they glorify violence and are totally reprehensible. To set the record straight, whilst the former film does focus on the rape and murder of two teenage girls in its early section, it goes on to show the perpetrators of these acts themselves subjected to a similar ordeal by the parents of one of their victims. The point it is making - I think - is that violence desensitizes everyone exposed to it, and that it is self-perpetuating. Similarly, I Spit on Your Grave features the rape and humiliation of a women, but then shows her turning the tables and meting out a terrible revenge on her violators. Once again, it can hardly be seen as glorifying violence or rape.

The fact of the matter is that all horror films, from those creaky old Universal classics, through Hammer, slasher movies, right up to contemporary gore movies, tend to have the 'woman in peril' as a central motif - with all of its S&M, rape and bondage implications. Quite possibly this can be traced right back to the genre's origins in Gothic literature - only the cultural references have changed over the years. By ignoring this historical aspect, the article in question completely misses the point. It fails to fully grasp that in Grindhouse Tarantino and Rodriguez are paying homage to these earlier forms of exploitation film. One thing that has changed about horror films in recent years is that increasingly they choose to ignore such things as suspense, plot or characterisation in favour of boringly repetitive and realistic looking violence perpetrated against various cast members (often, but not exclusively, female), made possible by advances in special effects. Indeed, I tend to avoid horror films these days because they are so tedious and mechanical. But getting back to the original point; obviously, some films (of any genre) are misogynistic, some films do appear to glorify violence and some do pander to male fantasies. But more often than not, these are mainstream films. You can't blame the whole problem on a single genre. Granted, some of the people who make horror films these days do appear to be complete arseholes when interviewed, but equally, there are plenty of mainstream ('legitimate') directors who enjoyed working their misogynistic and/or macho fantasies out on screen and subjecting their leading ladies to all kinds of degradation, (take a bow Alfred Hitchcock and Sam Peckinpah, to name but two). So, stop going for the easy targets and cheap headlines, and tackle the big boys in the industry, after all, they're the ones making the blockbusters which get into every multiplex and are far more likely to be widely seen that the average low budget horror flick.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sexing Up the Body Politic

Well what about those French Presidential elections, eh? The first round has given us a straight left-right run-off between Socialist Segolene Royal and conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. The question I have is: why don't we have socialists like that Miss Royal here in Britain? Of course, in a way we do, in the sense that she's been criticised by many traditional left-wingers for being too moderate in a Blairite sense. What I mean is, why doesn't the Labour Party seem to have any hot political babes like Miss Royal vying for the leadership (and I don't mean Margaret Beckett)? Can't they grasp that it is this very lack of eye candy for male voters which lies at the root of their problems? Look, we're sick of having to choose between middle-aged, not very attractive, men in elections. What British politics, and most specifically the Labour Party needs, is sex. OK, I know that it could be argued that we've had too much sex already in British politics. However, John Prescott humping secretaries on his desk, or Robin 'Sex Machine' Cook using his gnomish charms to lure unsuspecting women into cupboards at the Foreign Office on the pretext of showing them his 'fishing rod', are not what we need. The images conjured up by that sort of thing are enough to kill any amourous thoughts potential voters might have had stone dead. What we need is something we can fantasize about as we cast our ballots (so to to speak).

Now, before I'm accused of sexism, I'd just like to say that I'm simply trying to be realistic here. Men are shallow, I should know, I am one. We don't just think with our penises, given half a chance we'll vote with them as well. Show us a pretty face, a shapely thigh, a well rounded buttock or, even better, some cleavage, and we're happy. For us, erection means election. So clearly, to mobilise the male vote, Labour needs to field some political 'stunners'. Don't worry about the women voters - they're too sensible to be swayed by such things. Trust me, the smooth charms of David Cameron will only appeal to repressed ex-public school homosexuals. They won't fool women, who'll see through the smarm and recognise his insincerity and lack of either policies or principles. Sadly, British politics doesn't have too good a record on presenting us sex-obsessed male voters with female candidates we can have masturbatory fantasies about. In addition to the afore-mentioned Margaret Beckett, Labour has also given us such passion killers as Glenda Jackson, Barbara Castle and Harriet Harman. The Tories, if anything, have been even worse, serving us up Maggie Thatcher and Edwina Currie. Now, I know that many Tory MPs seemed to find Mrs T sexy, but that just reinforces my opinion that they are a bunch of ex public school types, who spent so much time buggering each other that anything vaguely resembling an arse seems attractive. As for Edwina Currie - well, would you want to whack off over a photograph of her? Or, even worse, imagine her naked? It is one of the great tragedies of John Major's life that not only was he married to Norma, but that he also had an affair with Edwina. Sheesh! Just how unlucky can one man be?

But getting back to the original point - whilst being an attractive woman would be an immeasurable help, any such new Labour leader would, obviously, also have to be ideologically sound. In addition to a great pair of knockers and a shapely arse, any Labour equivalent to Miss Royal would also have to be committed to a programme of achieving greater social equality through a programme of wealth redistribution in order to get my vote. I might be shallow, but not that shallow!

Labels: ,