Thursday, March 29, 2007

Revelations!

I'm sure you've all encountered those sites and forums where sad social inadequates try and gain some degree of kudos by revealing the spoilers of popular on-going TV series. Quite why potentially ruining people's viewing enjoyment should be considered in any way laudable is beyond me. Nevertheless, such sites do seem to have a certain degree of popularity, so, in a shameless attempt to get some more hits, I'm going to reveal some spoilers here at Sleaze Diary. Well, to be honest, I'm going to make up some spoilers. By the time the series in question end and people find they've been lied to, it'll be too late - I'll already have had the traffic! Hah! OK, let's start with the big one - Lost. Now my theory here - bearing in mind that I've never actually watched the programme - is that the people on the island are going to find out that they're now living in the far future, having been snatched from the present by a group of wealthy perverts. These future people - being incapable of normal sexual gratification as a result of nuclear war, global warming or something - have created the island as some kind of sexual playground, where they vicariously enjoy the sexual frissons of their captives by means of telepathy. As the series continues, various characters will find themselves captured and subjected to increasingly bizarre sexual situations including extreme bondage, rubber fetishes and chicken whippings.

The monster which wanders the jungle will be revealed as some kind of sexual id-monster - a by-product of the future perverts' increasing sexual excitement. Eventually it will be revealed as it goes on a frenzied rampage, molesting men, women and livestock alike - a bit like the id-monster in Forbidden Planet, except that it will be shaped like a huge penis and scrotum. In the ensuing conflagration, the monster will turn on its creators, causing a huge sexual explosion which will destroy them and blast the survivors on the island back to the present. All pretty plausible, I think. Now, sticking with time travel, let's move on to Life on Mars. This one's a bit more complicated. Either, Sam Tyler will discover that he is actually a renegade Time Lord exiled to 1970s earth by the Gallifreyans - the present-day coma being an hallucination resulting from the trauma of having his memory wiped - and the series will end with him discovering that Gene Hunt's Mk III Cortina is actually his TARDIS, or it turns out that in the present day he is a shoe salesman who, having stolen the secret plans to a competitors new range of unisex footwear, has been run over and put in a coma by the opposition. The whole 1970s schtick is a fake reality created by his employers in order to try and unlock his memories and access the shoe secrets. Let's face what better way to jog someone's memory about fashion accessories than by putting them into the decade that fashion forgot?

Heck, we're really cooking now! So, while I'm on a roll, how about Dr Who? Who is the mysterious Mr Saxon? Now, bearing in mind that he's to be played by John Simm from Life on Mars, we could have a whole crossover from that, with Saxon revealed as Sam Tyler/the renegade Time Lord, who, with the aid of the Cortina/TARDIS, has returned to present-day earth to wreak revenge on those who exiled him. Of course, finding that Gallifrey has been destroyed, he's forced to focus his wrath on the only other surviving Time Lord: The Doctor - who turns out to have been the main prosecution witness against him! Hell, I should be sending all this stuff off to Russell T Davies at the BBC - he might give me a fiver for it! Alternatively, Mr Saxon could turn out to be Peter Saxon, who, like his namesake the 1960s and 1970s pulp writer, could turn out to not really exist, but instead be a pseudonym for a whole group of other writers! In Mr Saxon's case, a gestalt alien which intends building superhuman bodies from corpses to house each of its individual intelligences before taking over the Earth! Wow! I've impressed myself with this stuff!

So, remember folks, in the unlikely event of any of these spoilers turning out to be accurate - you heard it here first!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cucumber Dinosaur

You'd think after that monkey misunderstanding last week I'd start taking more care in reading newspaper headlines, wouldn't you? But no, yesterday I did it again. This time I was leafing through the Guardian's Media section when I thought I saw the headline "We are not a cucumber dinosaur". Once again, my imagination raced off in top gear. There's no denying that a cucumber dinosaur is an intriguing concept. Did they mean a model dinosaur made from a cucumber, or cucumbers? Perhaps, I thought, this is some kind of esoteric media term - just like you sometimes hear the term "about as useful as a chocolate teapot" bandied about, maybe in the world of media, they say "about as much use as a cucumber dinosaur". I mean, let's be honest, a dinosaur made from cucumbers would be pretty useless. It really wouldn't be frightening, would it? You could easily take care of any potential threat by slicing it up and putting it in a sandwich. Unless, of course, it was very big. Then it struck me - I'd misunderstood! It wasn't referring to a cucumber-sized and shaped dinosaur, rather a dinosaur-sized cucumber!

Now, there's a thought - a huge cucumber lumbering across the land, crushing cars and destroying buildings. Obviously, any damage it did would be accidental, simply a result of its huge size, as it stands to reason that a dinosaur version of a vegetable is highly unlikely to be carnivorous. So I doubt very much that we'd see people being pursued and eaten by it. In fact, I envisaged it to be a bit like a long-necked sauropod in appearance - part of the giant cucumber arcing upwards to form the neck, with the lower part widening out to form the body. The whole thing would trot around on four sturdy legs. Perhaps that was what the headline meant - 'they' were big and cumbersome, but ultimately harmless. Just like a cucumber dinosaur. Then I had another thought - what else are cucumbers famous for (allegedly) being used for? That's right - a cucumber dinosaur could be some kind of huge dildo! In which case the headline could be saying that someone didn't consider themselves to be a 'spare prick', or a 'huge (green) knob'. Excited by all of these possibilities, I eagerly turned back to the headline, which, of course, actually read: "We are not a cumbersome dinosaur". Very disappointing.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Sleaze Remix

You know, I'm a little pressed for time today and I really don't have time to make a proper post. Instead, I'm going to follow the example of the music world and 'sample' somebody else's writing in order to pad this post out. Obviously, this isn't plagiarism as I'm just using the sample to 'set a tone' for the post. So, here goes with a 'sample' from a recent story in the ever excellent Watley Review (if you are going to steal - sorry, sample - you might as well do it from the best):

"Massachusetts has awarded more than three hundred letter Es to nineteen shopping centers in five counties as part of an economic development package designed to spur commerce."

Great stuff, eh? See how the immediate mention of E's can take us into a psychedelic drug induced ramble, even though that was never the intention of the sample's author! See, already I'm subverting, not plagiarising, the sample! Wow, man! See those groovy elephants fly by! Cucumber dinosaurs and ready sliced bears! Hey! Getting into a bit of a 'Strawberry Fields' groove there!

"The appendage of an E to the end of a business name has a demonstrable, if poorly understood, effect upon small business revenues; it is often termed the "Mr. E" effect, after the Harvard economist Edgar Ennis who first identified the phenomenon in the 1940s. Businesses with the extra E are able to charge anywhere from ten to fifty percent more for essentially identical goods and services."

Mr E! 'E's a good! 'E's a good! 'E's a good old boy! (Bugger, I'm plagiarising - sorry sampling - something else altogether there). How about; Mr E, 'E's an eeeeeeeeeeeconomist! Eeeeeeeeconomist!? Hell, this is going so well, I think I'm going to try remixing the original sample a bit now!

"We are frankly relieved - re - re - relieved that the governor has taken this bold and visionary step st-st- step-step-step," said James Peterson of the Pioneer Valley Chamber of Commerce. "These extra-tra-tra-traneous vowels may mean the difference between success and failure for many small to midsized bus-bus-bus- businesses- es- es- es."

Hey! I'm really enjoying this! How about a more radical remix, combining the sample with some of my own text?

"It's not a panacea," warned Milt Goldberg, an economist with the Brookings Institution. "You also need to be
sex pests being put to the ultimate test
sure you're distributing the correct vowel; extra Es may work well in Massachusetts, whereas in some cases,
a quick one off the wrist would result in instant disqualification, unless they've done a deal with the mysterious 'Wanker'
as with Mayor Bloomberg's distribution of extra 'Os' in Little Italy last year, other vowels may be more
the opportunity for a quick handy shandy before the next temptation rolls up
appropriate. And it should be noted that the 'Mr. E' effect doesn't work when the clientele is insufficiently
rubbing their lovely arses in their faces
literate to tell the difference between Shoppe, Shop, or Ship."

Jesus! That was brilliant! OK, to round things off, a bit of a rap remix:

"There's just something about that extra letter," MUTHA! "Even when it doesn't make sense. I mean, MUTHA! I don't know what a 'Krogere' is, but I didn't know what a MUTHAFUCKA! 'Kroger' was in the first place. MUTHAFUCKA! And I'm certainly willing to pay more for groceries at a Krogere than a Kroger. MUTHAFUCKA FUCKA!"

So, there you have it - the Watley Sleaze Remix. Possibly the easiest post I've ever written!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

It's a Sin!

Jeffrey Archer, Neil and Christine Hamilton and the Yorkshire Ripper - what do they all have in common? They're all utterly reprehensible individuals who have somehow been 'rehabilitated' through television. Except the Yorkshire Ripper. He's still a reprehensible individual, obviously. But he hasn't yet been rehabilitated through TV. It's just a matter of time, though. Mark my words, pretty soon he'll have the good sense to ditch his solicitor and employ a good agent instead. Before long he'll be out on licence and appearing in reality TV shows, where he'll admit his 'mistakes' and be transformed into a 'character', who can then make a career out of being a panellist on quiz shows. I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty sick of these sinners being transformed into 'celebrities' in this way, as if appearing on TV can somehow wash away your sins. The sight of Jeffrey 'Jailbird' Archer on ITV trying to show us what a warm-hearted philanthropist he is really makes me want to puke. The man's a liar, for God's sake! He perjured himself in court! The Hamiltons are even worse - he's a corrupt bastard who, not satisfied with his MP's salary, effectively prostituted his position as an elected representative by taking money from a dubious businessman!

Frankly, I don't know why they don't just formalise the whole process of rehabilitating the fallen famous by having a dedicated TV entertainment show - It's a Sin!. The likes of Archer and Michael Barrymore could go on there and accept bizarre challenges from the public - if they complete them, they're absolved of their sins and allowed back onto prime time TV and people's hearts! There'd be no shortage of takers! Trust me, Barrymore would gladly eat dog shit, or nail his todger to a Welsh dresser in order to get back on British TV! They could even extend the concept, and have personalities who think they're darkest secret is about to be revealed in the press come on the show and see if a celebrity panel can guess their sin! To help the panel, they could give cryptic clues, or even mime their misdemeanour. Another variant would be to have some heinous sin described, or recreated by actors, and get the viewers to try and guess which celebrity actually committed it! Yes folks, I think I could be on to another winner with this one - ITV's Summer schedules beckon!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pot Smoking Cannibal Zombie Killers...

The stereotypes keep coming thick and fast where crime is concerned. In reporting the verdict of a recent double murder case, in which two teenagers were knifed to death by their friend, the media kept emphasising the fact that the murderer had been 'obsessed with knives, martial arts and horror films', as if any of those things could turn you into a killer. They also threw in the fact that he was a cannabis user before noting that it had been suspected that he might have had mental health problems. Once again, it is all in the implications. Just because there isn't any conclusive evidence that smoking pot turns you into a psychotic killer, doesn't mean that the media can't imply it. It's the same with the implied link between watching horror films and violence, studies have consistently failed to establish a link between the two - but that doesn't worry the press.

Now, I'm no expert on cannabis - I've only smoked a couple of joints in my life, one of which made me extremely ill, the other had no discernible effect at all. I decided I preferred beer - but I've always found that it tends to make people mellow, rather than violent. OK, I know that basing a conclusion on the tiny number of cannabis users I've actually observed isn't exactly scientific, but I'm just following the lead of the press here. As for the horror films - well, I've been watching quite a few Italian zombie movies on DVD of late, and I can honestly say that I haven't been gripped by the urge to rip out people's brains and eat them. Watching such films with their patently fake gore has never moved anyone to murder. Not even those so-called 'video nasties' (most of which are now available, legally, on DVD), which all look pretty laughable nowadays. Perhaps the media have got the cause and effect the wrong way around - the obsessive viewing of such films might be a symptom of mental disturbance, but most probably not the cause. If it was the other way around, then surely certain newspapers should be banned from showing pictures of semi-naked young ladies, as it could incite impressionable youngsters to commit sex offences?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dial M For Monkey

I really must stop trying to speed read the story headers in newspapers with a quick glance. It just leads to misinterpretations and (usually) bitter disappointment when I re-read them and realise their intended meaning. Today, for instance, I misread something in the international news section of The Guardian - I could have sworn that it said 'Kenya sets world first with monkey transfers by mobile'. My heart leaped with joy! What an achievement that would be - no longer would surplus monkeys have to be laboriously rounded up, caged and put on trains or lorries before enduring arduous journeys to wherever there were monkey shortages! Oh no! Now you can just transfer them by phone! Presumably, I thought, it would be a bit like taking a photo of one on your mobile. Except that as you clicked to take the photo, the simian would be transported, Star Trek style, to the location of the number you'd dialled! Incredible stuff! At long last monkey infestations could be dealt with humanely - instead of shooting the little bastards you'd just telephone them somewhere else.

However, the potential dark side of this new technology soon occurred to me. Perhaps Kenya was overrun by monkeys and this new technology was in fact part of a cunning plan to resolve the problem by stealthily exporting all the hairy little bastards by dialling them out of the country. Imagine, there could be a massed monkey mobile transfer in which hundreds of Kenyan game wardens pointed their phones at monkeys and dialled London numbers. Before you knew it, there'd be hundreds of the banana-eating bastards scrabbling up Nelson's Column, throwing their own shit at the Queen as she passes down the Mall, or masturbating wildly on the altar at St Paul's during services for school children. It'd be a national disaster. Even if not used as a warped weapon of mass destruction, this monkey mobile technology could still be used by pranksters to beam wild monkeys into the homes of unsuspecting citizens. Imagine the shock of answering your mobile only to have a blue arsed baboon leaping straight at your face!

At this point, I decided to actually read the article and find out if any of my worst fears were about to be realised. To my dismay, I found that I'd misread the headline. Sadly, it really said 'Kenya sets world first with money transfers by mobile'. Very significant, I don't doubt. But not as exciting as monkey transfers.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Bad Example?

So, the England cricketer Freddie Flintoff has been stripped of the vice-captaincy and suspended for one match after some late night drunken antics during the Cricket World Cup. Apparently he's setting a bad example with his behaviour. To whom, exactly? The self same press who are slating Flintoff are forever telling us how we've become a nation of binge drinkers. Surely he's just behaving as any other young English bloke does at a weekend? As far as I can make out, he went on an alcoholic bender all night and ended up having to be rescued from a peddle boat. Where I live, that's a pretty average Saturday night (apart from the peddle boat - round here blokes his age are more likely to be found drunk in charge of a shopping trolley). I should imagine that most people back home would be cheering him on!

Mind you, it isn't just Flintoff who has been misbehaving, according to the press. They've also had it in for various young female pop stars of late, accusing them of setting bad examples. Apparently Amy Winehouse likes a drink, Lily Allen has allegedly been beating up members of the paparazzi and Joss Stone, well, she's been weird and speaking with a strange mid-Atlantic accent. In the case of Winehouse, I suspect that most journalists are simply jealous of the fact that she can probably drink them under the table. In the case of Lily Allen, since when has it been a bad idea to give the press a kicking? As for Joss Stone, well OK, she is weird, but the accent is hardly surprising as she's spent so much time in the US. But, as with Flintoff, aren't these three simply behaving in exactly the way the press claim that every other young woman in Britain behaves - binge drinking and starting fights? Far from setting bad examples, aren't all of these people simply trying to live up to the stereotype of youth presented by the media? Far from them setting the bad example, surely it is the press which is leading our youth astray?

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Odds Against

So, the public have spoken and decided upon the UK's entry for this year's Eurovision song contest. Apparently the event was marred when the two presenters of the Song for Europe TV programme simultaneously read out different winners. Could this be yet another of those phone-in scandals which have (according to the press) been rocking British television of late? First it was Richard and Judy, then Saturday Kitchen, followed by Blue Peter and now Song for Europe! Not that it would make much difference in the case of the latter - whichever song the public chose, it would be guaranteed to be utter shite. The voting public clearly have no musical taste or judgement. Song for Europe is the most compelling evidence, if ever any were needed, that the vote actually needs to be taken away from some people in this country. Clearly we need to restrict the size of the electorate, not expand it.

The best thing to come out of this fuss over premium rate phone ins is that ITV has axed ITV Play, its interactive games channel. Ultimately, I must confess to having little sympathy for those who phone into these things - they're all idiots. No, really, they are. Just take the case of that pillock who ran up a £9,000 phone bill calling up ITV Play. I heard an interview with him where he claimed that it wasn't his fault, it was the telephone company's! Apparently they should have cut him off before he ran up the bill, instead of now threatening him with court action because he can't pay it! Jesus Christ! The Year of the Idiot never ends, does it? Of course, this controversy is used as an excuse to attack other forms of gambling and denounce plans for 'super casinos' in the UK. Such arguments are, I feel, completely spurious. There is a world of difference between someone entering a casino (an institution whose sole purpose is to get you to loose your money through gambling), and being enticed to phone premium rate numbers in the privacy of their own homes. The casino (or the bookies, for that matter) makes no bones about the fact that you will be gambling when you partake of their services. The TV programmes, by contrast, present their activities as a competition in which all entrants have an equal chance of winning. Pull the other one. I think you'll get better odds at the roulette table.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Red and The Green

Well, waddya know? It seems my satiric ramblings about environmentalists turned out to the actual views of some on the extreme left. According to George Monbiot in The Guardian the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) believe that the environmental lobby is merely a tool of the middle and upper classes, trying to return society to some kind of pre-industrial rural idyll where the workers know their place. Coincidentally, this is precisely the perspective of the greens I attributed to a left wing academic in The Greening of Bush over on The Sleaze. Whilst intended satirically, I must admit a certain sympathy for this view point. There is no doubt that the environmental lobby - at least here in the UK - is dominated by earnest middle class types who seem to have little grasp of the impact many of their proposals would have on the less well off.

Nevertheless, despite this sympathy, I really wouldn't go as far as the RCP does, in denying that global warming exists, claiming that it is all a capitalist plot to deceive us. Personally, I'm of the belief that it is time the rest of us took control of the environmentalist lobby and started steering it toward some kind of proposals that were both effective environmentally and which didn't disadvantage the working classes. Perhaps it is time the workers took control of the RCP as well - I bet its leadership is solidly middle class. That was certainly the case with most of the far left organisations I encountered in my student days. I used to enjoy flaunting my authentic working class credentials at them: born in a council house, father a shop steward, state schooling, etc. That's why they're always so unrealistic in their aims - they represent the middle class view of what the working classes want. Come the revolution, we'll put 'em all up against the wall! (But only if it is tastefully decorated in pastel colours...)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Real Thing?

Now there's an interesting thing about popular culture in this country. It seems we like the idea of 'street culture' and art reflecting the true 'grittiness' and experience of urban working class life. You know the sort of thing - music which purports to be the sound of Britain's inner city estates, that sort of thing. At least, we like the idea in theory. Fascinatingly, when we do produce a music artist who actually does come from this background, they find they can't actually seem to sell a record in this country. However, perhaps bizarrely, they are embraced by the US record buying public. Such seems to be the fate of Lady Sovereign. I seem to recall that the only time she broke into the top ten of the singles chart was when the Ordinary Boys did a cover of one of her songs. Truly, a fate worse than death.

Equally interestingly, here in good old Blighty, we have taken to Lily Allen, who has been promoted as being some kind of authentically streetwise voice. In reality, of course, she's decidedly middle class (and actually pretty well spoken when I've heard her interviewed). It seems we like to play safe and stick with someone who might be able to speak the language of the streets, but only as a second language. The genuine article scares us - we'd rather stick with that nice middle class girl. She's less threatening. (Now, before any fans of Miss Allen who have strayed in here start castigating me, I'd just like to point out that I like Lily Allen - she seems a perfectly pleasant and intelligent person who has come up with several songs I've found very entertaining. I've even forgiven her for being Keith Allen's daughter (I really can't stand him). I'm just trying to make a point here about the mind set of modern Britain.)

Over in the US (and I'm straining my knowledge of modern popular music to the limits here), they seem to have no problem in embracing authentically working class acts such as Eminem and the like. Of course, these acts, in turn, have no problem whatsoever in embracing the extravagant lifestyles that their success buys them. They don't start producing albums bemoaning have changed and telling us how being wealthy is a drag. Perhaps, being less class conscious in the States, they're less worried by the idea of 'betraying your class' and 'forgetting where you came from'. (Both of which seem to be notions imposed by the middle class, projecting their anxieties about their lack of cultural and social roots onto the working class). Maybe it says something about modern Britain that the closest to a real working class voice we've embraced is Mike Skinner aka The Streets, purveyor of novelty records passed off as social commentary.

Then again, I'm probably just talking bollocks again!

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Crazy Like a Squirrel?


Have I ever mentioned how deranged my friend is? I'm sure I must have alluded to her insanity. She's the one who described my coffee table destroying fall from a step-ladder whilst adjusting my indoor digital TV aerial as 'a less dangerous version of what happened to Rod Hull'. The same one, in fact, who once tried to give up cigarettes, cheese and coffee at the same time. Although she denies it, I strongly suspect she tried wearing a slice of that processed cheese on her arm like a nicotine patch, to help her over the cheese addiction. She also denies getting so desperate during her 'cold turkey' that, desperate for a 'hit', she smoked a cigarette rolled from another cheese slice and filled with ground coffee. Her past lunacies are too numerous to mention and she has a habit of saying whatever's in her head: she once announced to me that drinking large amounts of cider turned her urine orange, for instance.

Anyway, getting to the point of this post, her lunacy seemed to reach new heights last week, during an IM conversation. Without warning, my friend started going on about squirrels, stating 'Now I'm really scared - squirrels!', before vanishing from the conversation for several minutes. As her absence lengthened, so my anxiety grew, and I began looking up her number on my mobile, worried that perhaps some kind of rabid killer squirrels had broken into her house and were, even now, attacking her. Believe me, the mental picture of one of your closest friends being overwhelmed by a horde of bushy-tailed nut-crazed fiends is bizarre, to say the least. The alternative, and equally worrying scenario, was that she was under the influence of powerful hallucinogenics (or cider), and imagined that she was under attack from squirrels. Another mental picture flashed into my mind: my friend stumbling wildly about her living room attempting to beat off rogue squirrels with a frying pan, and wrecking the place in the process. Finally, she reappeared asking whether I'd received the pictures she'd sent me. Apparently she'd been attempting to send me some kind of squirrel images. However as I use Trillian as an IM client, I couldn't receive them (or even know that they'd been sent).

So there you have it: barking mad, but lovable with it. I don't know why I put up with it! But then again, I probably wouldn't like her half as much if she wasn't so weird. Life would be terribly dull without these lunatic interruptions!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

I'm Free!

I can't let the death of a childhood icon go unmentioned. Whilst John Inman has sadly passed away, I'm sure that his catch phrase of 'I'm free' will live on for many years to come. There's no doubt that Are You Being Served was one of the great smutty sitcoms of the 1970s, full of sexual innuendo and homophobia. Ah, such simple times! Thankfully, you'd never get away with it now! Not to say that it wasn't amusing in those far off days. Who couldn't titter at Mrs Slocombe's declaration that "My pussy hasn't had any for weeks!" A reference, of course, to that fact that her pet cat hadn't had any fresh fish for a while due to the ongoing Cod War.

For those of you too young to remember, the 1972 Cod War was sparked by the refusal of North Sea cod to be caught by British trawler men in protest at the low prices they were being sold for. Believing that they were being seriously under valued, the fish held out for several weeks, causing fish and chip shortages in the UK. The resulting riots in the North of England - as poverty stricken miners and steel workers, deprived of their staple diet faced starvation - forced the government's hand, and the Royal Navy were deployed to bring the fish back into line. In a fiercely fought conflict, a VC was awarded to Able Seaman Archie Dong, who selflessly threw himself in front of his commanding officer on HMS Incredible to block an attack by a flying cod, which had leaped from the sea on a suicide mission. The unfortunate fish was subsequently beaten to death with an oar. A cease fire was eventually called after an unfortunate incident in which the captain of HMS Redundant depth charged a shoal of neutral halibut by mistake.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Celebrity Death Camp

The other day one of The Guardian's TV critics was commenting on the BBC's Celebrity Fame Academy, which is being inflicted on us once again, and suggested that perhaps we could have 'Celebrity Euthanasia' instead. Now, there's an idea with merit. It conjures up a wonderful image of some past their sell-by date micro-celeb being smothered with a pillow after the public finally decides they've had enough of them. However, I really think they'd have to retain the talent show format. Even I'd pay good money to charity for the opportunity to see the looks of desperation on these no-talents' faces as they perform appalling routines to try and save their own lives. You can just imagine it - the pleading looks to the audience, the sweat pouring off of them in bucket-loads, the quavering voices and brown stains at the backs of their trousers. When they get to the bit where they find the two who came bottom in the public vote, instead of allowing one to be saved by a vote of their fellow contestants, they should simply vote on which one gets to have the painless 'mercy killing'. The winner of the vote gets to die by lethal injection, or something, whilst the loser is condemned to a very cruel and unusual execution: torn apart by wolverines, or something.

The sad thing is, there are enough of these Z-listers out there desperate for publicity, that there'd be no shortage of volunteers for such a contest. I can guarantee that some of them would probably be perfectly happy to be the first to be executed, believing that even posthumous fame is better than obscurity. Trust me, just so long as you say that it is all for charity, you really could get away with murder. After all, just look at the crap that's already foisted on us in the name of 'good causes': Celebrity Fame Academy. Actually, I really should get this right, the correct title for the programme is Comic Relief Does Fame Academy. Does Fame Academy! I ask you, how fucking pretentious can you get? That's one of the things I really hate about Comic Relief; the way it thinks that it is so fucking important. Am I the only one who finds this idea of so-called comedians and 'celebrities' donating their 'services' for free to get us to give money to those poor people in Africa, just slightly patronising? It all comes over as a massive ego-massaging session on their part. There's this undercurrent to it, suggesting that we should be somehow grateful to them for organising it. Why? I didn't fucking ask you to do it! If you want to salve your consciences, try donating some of your vastly inflated pay packets to charity, instead of expecting ordinary working people to. Hell, it probably is just me, isn't it? Bitter and twisted, as usual!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When Two Elephants Fight

According to an old Ghanaian saying: "When two elephants fight, it is only the grass which gets hurt". Wise words indeed, told to me by a law student friend whose tutor was an old (well, middle aged, Ghanaian). You'll find variations in every culture, with horses, tigers, Sumo wrestlers or giant greased buttocks substituted for elephants as appropriate. But the sentiment remains the same - it is the little people who are taken for granted and trampled underfoot when 'higher powers' clash. I was reminded of this old African adage during the recent spat between Sky and NTL Telewest (I'm sorry, but 'Virgin Media' is just a trading name, this is still the company's correct name), which has resulted in the loss of Sky One, Sky News et al from cable TV. Here the 'elephants' are Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson (the largest single shareholder in NTL Telewest, although not the majority shareholder, despite the impression he likes to give), who are busy puffing and posturing as they engage in a colossal battle of egos. Obviously, Branson is painting himself as the 'good guy' in this fight, a position the non-Murdoch media are tending to swallow (after all 'Saint' Richard couldn't ever do anything wrong, could he?). In truth, he's just as culpable as Murdoch.

What it all boils down to is that Dickie is still sore that Murdoch's Sky effectively blocked him from bidding for ITV by taking a stake in the broadcaster itself, forcing him to settle for the consolation prize of a stake in NTL Telewest. Murdoch, of course, is out to nobble an increasingly threatening rival. The re-branded NTL Telewest might well shake off its image of poor service and unreliability to challenge Sky as a digital TV platform. Sadly, the only people being hurt, so far, are NTL Telewest customers who have now been deprived of some the channels they subscribe to. What I find fascinating is Sky's assumption that their non-premium channels are such a draw that disgruntled cable customers will immediately order a satellite dish so that they can keep up with 24 and Lost, (ignoring the fact that viewing figures for the latter have nosedived since it was poached from Channel Four).

Speaking personally, as a cable customer, I really couldn't give a toss. It just reinforces my decision to ditch cable. Not that Murdoch will be the beneficiary. Once I get a new aerial installed, I'll be making the switch to Freeview permanent (I'm currently getting pretty good reception on an indoor aerial). The fact is that most of the channels on Freeview broadcast bollocks, but at least they are free to air and I'm not paying for hundreds of channels all showing crap. In point of fact, the only channels I regularly watch on it outside of the main terrestial ones, are BBC 4, More 4 and Film Four. I just don't have time to watch all those movies and all that sport that Sky seem to think we all want. Equally, I really don't have the time or inclination to watch all those repeats on demand that NTL are offering. The fact is that I didn't bother watching most of them when they were on originally because they were shit. Guess what? They're still shit when you charge me for them!

Once I've made that switch then the crappy broadband I get from the cable company can go and the phone can go back to BT. The fact is that NTL have been crap for years - I only signed up through necessity as, pre-digital, you couldn't get decent reception for Channels Four and Five here through an aerial - and teaming up with that hairy buffoon Branson is the final straw (I've travelled on his trains). The only thing that could be said in their favour was that they weren't part of Murdoch's empire. Thankfully, I now have an alternative in the form of Freeview.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Urban Myths

I've talked a lot about conspiracy theories, both here and over at The Sleaze, but what about urban myths and legends? You know the sort of thing: Prince had a rib removed, Richard Gere sticks gerbils up his arse, standing next to a microwave makes women's knockers drop off. That sort of thing. The kind of story which gets told to you down the pub, in the office, in a bus queue, or wherever, presented as fact, but with no corroborating evidence whatsoever. The teller has always themselves been told by 'a friend', or a 'friend of a friend', or a friend of a friend's hairdresser. Sometimes the events described supposedly happened to a mate's cousin. However, it has never been directly experienced; all knowledge of the incident is at third or fourth hand. Every so often, one of them gets reported in the press as fact. I was reminded of these kind of stories this afternoon, when the subject came up on the radio. I fell to thinking about some of my favourite urban myths. There was one clear winner.

Without doubt my favourite urban myth (and probably the most pointless of such stories), is the one claiming that TV presenter Johnny Morris was a Nazi sympathiser. I remember the first time I heard this one - it was told to me at a friend's birthday party. The supposed 'factual basis' behind the story was that Morris' name was on the list of contacts Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess had on him when he parachuted into Britain in 1941. Not that anyone telling the story had actually seen this list, of course, but the friend who's told them knew a bloke who had once seen it. Bearing in mind that in 1941 Johnny Morris wasn't the minor celebrity he became in the 1960s and 1970s, it is highly questionable as to whether he could have in any way have helped the Nazis gain favour in Britain. Furthermore, in Morris' subsequent career as a presenter of nature programmes on kids' TV, I don't recall there being any evidence of him trying to indoctrinate Britain's youth with Nazi ideals. Or was there?

Over the years I've done my best to breath life into this particular urban myth, spreading rumours about allegedly suppressed editions of his popular children's show Animal Magic. The main story I tried to perpetuate was that several episodes were pulled after someone at the BBC noticed that the uniform he wore during the zoo sequences was actually an SS uniform with the insignia removed. You'd be amazed how many people have swallowed that one, hook, line and sinker! I've also claimed that in at least one sequence where he voiced various zoo animals, the gorillas could be heard conspiring to gas the baboons in the next enclosure, as they were an inferior species. Add to that the Hitler saluting elephants and the goose-stepping giraffes, and you've got all the elements of an urban myth which has the potential to run and run. Of course, the fact Animal Magic hasn't been shown in years and is only hazily remembered by those of us over a certain age has helped keep the whole thing going. I have high hopes that if I can get this particular urban myth going on the web, it will really take off. So, if you get the opportunity, just slip the fact that Johnny Morris was a Nazi into the conversation...

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Conspiracy!

I was planning to write something about the advent of the Fox Network's 'answer' to the Daily Show, a sort of continuation of my earlier rantings about right wing satire. However, that bloody Charlie Brooker got there first in his Guardian TV column the other week. I was also going to do something about conspiracy theories, in response to the BBC documentary about the Twin Towers. Guess what? That Brooker bastard got there first again. Undeterred, I'm going to stick to my guns and have a little tirade on the subject of conspiracy theories, but concentrating on the second episode of the BBC series, about Dr David Kelly. So, did Dr Kelly really commit suicide, or was he really assassinated? Well, when a man is found dead in a pool of blood with a slit wrist and an overdose of prescription drugs in his body, I'd say it was pretty near certain he'd taken his own life. But apparently, that's what they want you to think. Exactly who they are varied according to which nut job was being interviewed.

Some, including a Lib Dem MP, argued that British Intelligence had him done in to stop him embarrassing the government further over the 'sexing up' of the so-called 'dodgy dossier' which had been used to justify the UK's entry into the invasion of Iraq. The problem with this scenario is that Kelly had already done the damage - killing him would surely only draw more attention to the issue. Also, wouldn't it have been less suspicious to make his death look like an accident, rather than suicide? The other popular theory seemed to be that he'd been offed by the Iraqis, as revenge for his activities as a UN weapons inspector. Apparently they had a 'hit list' of former inspectors, which featured Kelly at number four, or something. The flaw with this one was that no other UN inspectors have died under suspicious circumstances, which one would surely expect if there was a secret Iraqi hit squad on the loose. Furthermore, surely it would have been easier to assassinate him several months earlier when he was actually in Iraq?

However, it wasn't so much the warped fantasies looked at in this programme, as the actual conspiracy theorists themselves who fascinated me. These were people so desperate to convince themselves that they were doing something important that they were even willing to subscribe to such crackpot ideas. Their capacity for self-delusion was incredible. I especially liked the lawyer who claimed to have all the contacts in the intelligence community. His claim that his 'red' phone was the line on which the great and the good could call him at any time was priceless. Apparently the likes of Henry Kissinger had contacted him. "When it rings, it could be the White House on the other end," he told the film makers, with a commendably straight face. Yeah, sure. The fact is that the next time my phone rings it could be Bill Clinton on the other end. It is highly unlikely. But it could be. At the end of the day, these were typical conspiracy nuts - the core of their creed is that they, and they alone, know the 'truth'. Like Magi, shaman or even priests, they are the keepers of arcane knowledge, therefore they must be special.

The most frustrating thing about these people is their inability to view anything outside of their own narrow terms of reference. They seem completely devoid of any objectivity or critical faculties. It is impossible to argue with them because they simply cannot conceive of any world view other than their own. Everything is twisted to fit in with it. A few days after watching the Kelly programme, I caught part of the Daily Show where a right wing fruit cake was being interviewed about his book which claims that global warming doesn't exist. Apparently all of the proposals to stem climate change are part of a vast communist conspiracy to destroy capitalism by burdening its industries with additional costs. His evidence for this? Well, all of the countries advocating these measures have 'socialist' governments. Of course, to him even Mrs Thatcher would have been a socialist... Anyway, it's all ludicrous cobblers, which even the nuts advocating these theories could see if only they were capable of just stepping outside of their own mind set for a few minutes and observing the facts objectively. Having said that, it is obvious that there are some genuine conspiracies out there. For instance, there's this Guardian writer who keeps tapping into my subconscious mind while I'm sleeping to steal all my ideas for his own column...

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Umbrellas and Black Leather

Have you ever experienced the thrill of encountering your long ago first love again? The racing of the heart, the tingling of the spine? The breathless expectation as you glimpse them again? I've been experiencing all that over the past few weeks as I've watched the repeats of the first colour series of The Avengers on BBC4. Yes, you've guessed it - I've fallen madly in love again with Steed's umbrella. No, of course not. Whilst Patrick MacNee's John Steed remains the epitome of the true British gentleman spy of a certain age about town, it was - and still is - Diana Rigg's Mrs Peel who captivated me. Such grace, intelligence, coolness under pressure and style. And what style! All those great tight fitting sixties outfits! Not only was she beautiful and smart, but she could kick the shit out of all comers - elegantly! I can honestly say that Emma Peel was probably my first crush, when I originally saw The Avengers during my childhood.

Mind you, watching these episodes has also reminded me of just how camp it all was. A man in a bowler hat and a high-kicking posh bird bring to justice various naughty generals and mad scientists planning to take over the world (or worse, Britain) from large country houses. Only in the swinging sixties! Let's face it, that was the only period in history when a spy who dresses in a three-piece suit, conceals a sword stick in his umbrella and drives a vintage Bentley wouldn't be considered conspicuous. Sadly, when I worked as an intelligence analyst the nineties were upon us and such accoutrements were considered out dated. This was the age of those designer suits - you know, the ones you paid hundreds of quid for, but still looked just like the fifty quid ones you could get from C & A - BMWs and floppy hair cuts. Hats, of any description, were definitely out.

I often think that I should adopt the garb of Mr Steed for my present day job. What a fine figure I would cut, driving around various sink estates in my open top Bentley, Bowler at a rakish angle and umbrella close at hand. Gad, those rapscallions would instantly recognise my authority and grant me the correct degree of respect! Obviously, I'd need a female assistant. Perhaps I could try persuading my friend to take on the role - she claims to know karate (actually, I've never known whether she means that she's versed in the ancient Eastern martial art, or simply knows some bloke called Bert Karate). Cynics might suggest that this is simply a ploy to get her to dress in black leather. But I'd never do anything like that - I'm a gentleman in the John Steed mould, for goodness sake!

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