Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hotel Hell...

In a week that has seen me somewhat werewolf obsessed, I felt I couldn't let it end without sharing this fragment from an old Sleaze feature that I'm considering archiving, (it presupposes that you remember both the 1960s/1970s ITV soap opera Crossroads, and its disastrous revival some years ago):

Down in the Midlands, strange things are afoot at Crossroads Hotel. What is Adam Chance’s dark secret? Why does his moustache not meet in the middle? Why does he act as if he has just stepped out of a 1973 vintage episode of Dr Who? Is he in fact a hitherto unknown regeneration of The Master? Suspicions are raised when his new wife, Jill Harvey, becomes the victim of a werewolf murder - just as predicted by Bela the mysterious gypsy fortune teller with a droopy moustache and dangly earrings, who was moved on from the car park by Rocky the porter after guests complained about his curses and their missing underwear. Following the murder, Adam Chance locks himself in his room and will eat only raw meat, (which is just as well, as that’s the only way inebriated Glaswegian chef and part-time child-molester Billy can cook it), before finally confessing to mysterious guest Dr Niemann that ever since having his leg humped by what he thought was merely an amourous German Shepherd, (but was, in fact, gypsy Bela in wolf form - the dangly earrings were a dead give-away), he has been suffering the curse of lycanthropy.

In return for this confession, Niemann reveals just why he has been skulking around the hotel’s cellars, and why the sounds of excavation have been heard coming from beneath the hotel in dead of night - in an ice cave deep beneath the building’s foundations, he has discovered the frozen body of former Crossroads handyman Benny. Simpleton Benny has lain there since his titanic battle with wheelchair-bound vampire Sandy was interrupted when the old Crossroads Motel was swept away in 1987 after terrified villagers dynamited the nearby Kings Oak dam. Niemann plans to revive Benny and offers to end Adam Chance’s torment by transplanting his devious brain into Benny’s body. However, complications could arise, as it seems that evil vampire Sandy may also have survived the 1987 holocaust....

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Putting on the Tin Foil Hat

You know, I really should start wearing that tin foil hat a bit more. Years ago, I had a vague idea for a story concerning people having their organs repossessed. I can't remember whether it was because they'd used them as collateral for loans, or whether they were transplants they hadn't paid for, but the crux of the story was going to involve surgical bailiffs turning up to remove debtor's organs and sell them at public auction. Anyway, despite coming back to it several times over the years, I could never manage to develop the idea sufficiently to spin a story out of it. So, you can imagine my surprise when I read the other day that a Hollywood studio has a movie in development which features people having their organs seized by repo men when they don't pay their medical bills. It's like that modern day Sherlock Holmes idea I had all over again! I put it on the back burner, next thing I know the BBC are making a Holmes series with a contemporary setting!

Clearly, some bastard is secretly tapping into my thought processes! It isn't just story ideas - I frequently read Charlie Brooker in The Guardian, only to find him ranting about the exact same thing I was ranting about only a few days earlier. Years ago I had the same problem with Ben Elton - I'd come up with some great comic idea, next thing he'd be bloody telling the same gag on TV. It got to the stage where I began to suspect that he and I were actually the same person, that I transformed into him, Jekyll and Hyde style. After all, everyone I knew agreed that they'd never seen me in the same room at the same time as Ben Elton. Come to think of it, the same thing is true about me and Charlie Brooker. To be slightly serious, that's another reason why fragments of stories appear here before they get fully developed for publication in The Sleaze - it effectively date stamps the concept, so that I can avoid being accused of plagiarism if someone comes up with something similar before I can complete the story. Believe me, it's far more effective than those tin foil hats!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Howling Mad

"They don't make them like that any more", film lovers of a certain age are prone to saying after watching some black and white 1940s B-movie on DVD. Well, it seems that they do make them like that - having watched The Wolfman this week, nominally a remake of 1941's Lon Chaney Jr horror flick The Wolf Man, I can confirm that the values of the old Universal chillers still live. What many people don't understand about Universal's 1930s and 1940s horror pictures is that much of the pleasure to be derived from watching them lies in their innate lunacy. At their best, they transport you into a world of nightmare where normal logic and motivation don't seem to apply. The Wolfman seems to be an attempt to recreate this classic formula with modern special effects and a big budget, and it succeeds admirably in serving up one of the most lunatic films I've seen in a long time. Coming on like the demented bastard offspring of both the Universal original and Hammer's later Curse of the Werewolf, (it uses the same exterior locations at Black Park that Hammer utilised in most of their films), by way of 1935's Werewolf of London (the movie which features a lycanthrope who puts on his hat, coat and scarf before going out to commit depravities), the new film is pure Gothic insanity, encompassing fog shrouded moors, mumbling superstitious villagers, clueless policemen, gypsies and mad scientists.

Perhaps the best thing about the film are the bizarre acting performances, most notably that of Sir Anthony Hopkins, who takes ham acting to a new level, although Benicio del Toro, in the title role, gives him a good run for his money. Indeed, every time you think you've seen the most over the top performance, lo and behold, another well known actor suddenly appears to try and prove you wrong. First of all Art Malik pops up as an Indian man servant who appears to have wandered in from a different film, then, just when you've got over that Geraldine Chaplin treats us to her weird accent as Maleeva the gypsy woman. When Hugo Weaving's Inspector Abberline turns up to conduct his inept investigation, you start thinking you can relax - surely there can't be any more bizarre performances to come? But no, halfway through the film Anthony Sher appears as a certifiable psychiatrist with an accent that wanders all over middle Europe. In the midst of all this craziness, Emily Blunt does her best to look dignified.

Enjoyably weird performances aside, the film (in its first third, at least) is surprisingly close to the 1941 original. Even most of the character names are retained. In fact, not only is Benicio del Toro's character called Lawrence Talbot, he even contrives to look a bit like Lon Chaney Jr. The main change is to give the whole thing a Hammer-style Victorian period setting. It starts radically diverting from the original when Inspector Abberline of Scotland Yard, a real life character, turns up. Now, I thought that Abberline was most famous for investigating the Ripper murders in Whitechapel, but apparently he also looked into a series of werewolf slayings in Olde Hollywood Englande. Although given the name of a real Victorian police detective, the character in the film is actually reminiscent of the Inspector Owen character played by Dennis Hoey in 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. In fact, the whole business in the asylum in London is reminiscent of the hospital sequences in the 1943 film, where Patrick Knowles' Dr Mannering tries to convince Chaney's Talbot that his claims to be able to turn into a wolf are merely a psychiatric disorder. A subsequent flashback to India and the final conflagration recall similar sequences from The Werewolf of London. Thankfully, they don't forget to have the mob of villagers waving flaming torches pursue the monster through the woods at the end. No Universal monster picture is complete without such a sequence! All in all, a surprisingly entertaining film - probably for the wrong reasons! I'd encourage all lovers of those creaky old Universal monster rallies to catch it!


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Beast of Downing Street

The Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnel has angrily denied that he had to issue Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a verbal warning, following complaints from Downing Street staff that Brown had savaged several of them during the last full moon. "These claims are absolutely ludicrous," said O'Donnel in a statement released to the press. "I have never had cause to speak to Mr Brown over any such incidents, nor have I received any complaints about his alleged lycanthropy from any civil servants." The extraordinary claims were made in political commentator Andrew Corybungo's new biography of the Prime Minister - Howling Mad. "The fact that Brown carries the curse of the werewolf is an open secret in Westminster," he claims. "Just like Michael Howard's vamprism was, and that David Cameron was constructed by Baron Frankenstein as the perfect Tory. Not to mention the fact that Menzies Campbell was actually a 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy revived by the High Priests of Karnak." According to the book, Downing Street staff live in fear of the full moon, which causes the Premier to transform into a hairy half-man, half-beast. "When it happens, he just flies into uncontrollable rages, tearing up furniture and attacking staff," claims Corybungo. "At least two junior civil servants have had their throats torn out by the beast!"

Whilst Corybungo concedes that his book is based entirely upon the unsubstantiated claims of anonymous sources, none of whom ever actually saw the Prime Minister turn into a werewolf, he stands by the allegations. "It isn't just civil servants who live in terror of the fiend - even cabinet colleagues live in fear of his bestial rage," he says. "After one particularly violent transformation at a cabinet meeting, Chancellor Alistair Darling fled to the Treasury, where he started melting down the silver teaspoons and casting them into bullets!" The book also alleges that, whilst in werewolf form, the Prime Minister once chased Jack Straw down Whitehall, snapping at his heels, after he suspected that the Justice Secretary had been involved in a plot against him. "Most of the time his lycanthropy is kept under control by Ed Balls and Lord Mandelson strapping him into a chair fastened to the floor of a dungeon in the basement of Number Ten every full moon," Corybungo explains. "Either that, or they let him loose on a private estate in Wales where he can savage sheep all night in order to sate his unnatural blood lusts!" Although denied by cabinet colleagues, the story has been given some credence by the revelation that the South Yorkshire Occult Society's supernatural help line had received at least three calls from Downing Street staff enquiring about defences against lycanthropic attacks. "People have every right to feel safe from supernatural attack in their own workplace," said the Society's founder, 'Bishop' John Salford. "I think that it is important people realise this sort of thing isn't just confined to Gothic castles and haunted mansions - it can happen anywhere. But they should also be aware that there is help available for such situations."

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Again, Doc Sleaze!

So here I am, another year older. Another year closer to the boneyard, as the late Philip Larkin would have put it. Birthdays are the times when you tend to take stock of things, look back at your life. That sort of thing. "Are you happy with your life?" people tend to ask. Usually just before they proceed to tell you how you aren't really happy and how following their advice will improve your life. I'm happy to say that psychoanalysing people I don't really know and presuming to tell them how they should be living their lives, isn't one of my many faults. Who am I to tell people how to live? After all, my own life is hardly a shining example. That said, I can't say I'm really unhappy with where and who I am, right now. that's not to say there are things I wouldn't change, given the chance. Mainly, I'd like to exert greater control over my ego and temper. They've caused me all manner of problems in the past, and continue to do so. It's not that my temper is violent or anything, it's just short and pushes me into pointless confrontations. I don't know what sets it off sometimes. Quite often its just some inexplicable desire to be contrary - someone will say something and I'll immediately have to disagree.

Then there's the ego - combined with the temper it just pushes me to prove my 'superiority' by 'outsmarting' authority figures. This hubris has come close to destroying me in the past - I can't deny that at least once over the past few years I've been the architect of my own spectacular downfall. Most of the time I can keep them in check by channeling them into other avenues - writing The Sleaze, for instance. I know that my ego and temper make me impossible for friends and colleagues to deal with a lot of the time. I know I must seem infuriating. If not for my ego, I'd apologise. But that would set my temper bristling again and just make me worse. Now, I understand that all this must make me sound as if I have a poor self image, but I also accept that these character traits are an integral part of me - they help define who I am. And as I said, I quite like who I am. I'm also aware that my good points usually outweigh my inadequacies. Moreover, being occasionally infuriating doesn't necessarily make anyone either dislikeable or a bad person. Possibly the most infuriating person I know is also one of the nicest people I know. Indeed, they are probably the person in the world I've felt closest too in many years. Although, due to personal circumstances, I rarely see them now, I still feel an enormous warmth toward them. The fact is that if they weren't so bloody infuriating, I wouldn't like them half as much. So there you have it, another birthday nearly done - time to stop being introspective and get back to normal!


Friday, February 19, 2010

A Voice in the Wilderness

Do you ever have those days when you feel you might as well be invisible? When everything you say falls on deaf ears? When any attempt you make to point out the realities of a situation are characterised as being 'obstructive' and 'negative'? Well, welcome to my world. It seems increasingly obvious to me that, at work at least, my opinion, even in my own areas of expertise, are completely unvalued. It is getting to the stage where I'm beginning to feel that it is utterly pointless for me even bother speaking to my so-called 'colleagues'. My only solace is that it is apparently the same across the public sector these days. Even at the highest levels. One of my favourite pieces of evidence to emerge from the Chilcot Enquiry was the testimony of a senior Foreign Office legal adviser, who, when they offered their opinion to that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a further UN resolution, was to be asked why they kept giving such negative advice.

This individual had been labouring under the misapprehension that they were being employed to give their expert opinion, regardless of whether it was in line with departmental policy. The reality in today's civil service is that your opinion should always support the prevailing policy or management fad and, above all, be positive. Constructive criticism is definitely frowned upon. In fact, questioning management fads, even when they are patently wrong, or even illegal, is simply not tolerated. Management only want to hear voices which agree with the current status quo. That way, when it all goes wrong (as, inevitably, it always does), they can blame the lower orders, saying that nobody ever drew any problems to their attention, when they should have. It's a culture of 'yes men (and women)', which ensures that public sector continually lurches from one crisis to another. I'm really not sure how much longer I can take it.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Accidental Torturer

"I thought 'torture tourism' was about the US and UK sending terror suspects to be interrogated in countries where it was OK to attach electrodes to their genitals, rather than just ask them politely whether they were a terrorist," declares thirty-two year old former banker Virgil Triplex. "I never realised that it could actually involve me being paid to travel the world to abuse people's human rights!" Croyden resident Triplex found himself recruited as a CIA interrogator after visiting Guantanamo Bay as part of a package holiday. "It was a natural progression from 'accident tourism' where you go on a cruise which visits various disaster areas - earthquake zones, famines, that sort of thing," he explains. "When you have money, there's nothing like seeing other people wallowing in abject misery to make you appreciate it more!" The Camp X-Ray excursion was the climax of a tour around various prisons and detention camps in South America and the Caribbean. "The only misery worse than that caused by a natural disaster is that inflicted on some poor bastard by his fellow man," says Triplex. "The tour was great - we got to see political prisoners tortured in every imaginable way in some of the worst hell holes in existence! We were even allowed to poke them with sticks in Columbia!"

The highlight of the holiday came in the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, where, as part of the tour, the tourists were each allowed to actually torture an inmate. "It was only for fifteen minutes, but it was brilliant." Triplex enthuses. "Obviously, you were under the supervision of a couple of official interrogators and you had to follow a set script where the questions were concerned, but you were allowed to employ any form of coercion you liked - electricity, waterboarding, physical abuse, even thumb screws!" To everyone's surprise, Triplex proved most adept at 'interrogation', his skillful combination of techniques coaxing a full confession from an al Qaida suspect who had previously resisted six months of abuse. "Of course, everyone thought at first it was just a fluke - beginner's luck," he says. "So they got me to work over a couple more inmates - I managed to get the details of a terror plot against Britney Spears and a plan to blow up Gracelands! After that this CIA bloke told me I was a natural, and offered me a job!" Triplex is enjoying his new job. "It isn't just the travel - I get far more job satisfaction than I ever did working in the City. In this job you really get to feel that you've changed people's lives for the better. It's a public service," he opines. "Not only that, but at parties I get far more respect from people when I tell them what I do now, than I ever did when I was a banker."


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time Marches On

Of course, having a birthday coming up hasn't helped my creativity, either. (See how I seamlessly carried on from the previous post, readers? Neat, huh?) Not that there's anything wrong with getting older, of course. Particularly in view of the alternative. The peculiar thing about ageing is that you never feel that different on the inside - it's just the outside which gets old and decrepit. And that's the problem - we judge each other on appearances so much. We see someone with, say, grey hair, and we immediately make a whole load of assumptions as to what they do, what music they listen to, what they watch on TV and what their attitudes might be - all based upon socially-determined preconceptions about age. If you are over forty you can't listen to chart music, for instance. Indeed, only this week we had the BBC Trust chastising Radio Two for attracting too many 'young' listeners. How dare they listen to music society says they have to be middle aged to enjoy? Really, isn't it a bit pathetic to try and differentiate radio stations purely on the basis of an age demographic? Shouldn't they be differentiated by the type of music and programming they carry?

Anyway, getting back to the point, whilst I agree that there's nothing worse than would be trendy forty-somethings who try to be 'down with the kids', I find myself increasingly frustrated by social expectations of how I should be behaving baaed upon my age. Why shouldn't I be allowed to listen to music recorded after 1984? Why shouldn't I still be producing an irreverent would be 'satirical' web site? Why shouldn't I still be happily single? That said, I do find myself increasingly befuddled by some aspects of modern culture. I mean, Dizzee Rascal, what's that all about, eh? Don't get me wrong, he seems a nice enough bloke, but his music is just shit. Yet everyone says he's a musical genius. I also increasingly find myself wondering "If I do or say this, will it make me look like a dirty old man?" - you'd be surprised how often I decide it will, so I just keep my mouth shut. It's a rule I even find myself applying in private - if I watch Skins on E4, for example, I find myself feeling like a peado. It's a sobering thought to realise that you are old enough to be the grandfather of most of the cast.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Crapologies, Again

Having spent the past weekend laid low with several bucketfuls of diarrhoea, I've not been able to get anywhere near as much as I intended to get done both here and over at The Sleaze. Believe me, having 'Bumageddon' erupting in your bathroom isn't really conducive to creativity. This bout of ill health came on top of a week of relentlessly depressing weather and poor traffic to the main site, which had already conspired to undermine my creative efforts. Consequently, I still haven't come up with a new editorial, and I ended up abandoning (for the time being), the story I was working on, mainly on the grounds that it was 'too difficult'. Nevertheless, I have managed to piece together and post a story on The Sleaze. Entitled Scream and Cream Again, it reworks some older material that I never archived (and that I've already used as the basis for a couple of posts here at Sleaze Diary). The end result isn't a bad story, although, so far, it has been met with utter indifference. That said, so were the last two stories I posted, but they turned out to be slow burners and have subsequently generated a lot of traffic. So you never know. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that, with all this misfortune surrounding me, I don't really have the energy to make a proper post here today. So this will have to do. Normal service will be resumed shortly...

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Rogue Mail

Suddenly I'm feeling terribly unloved and unwanted - the avalanche of spam which usually fills my inbox has, over the past few months, dwindled to a trickle before all but drying up. Clearly, my spam filters have become more efficient, either that or I should have been more conscientious in my correspondence. Perhaps if I'd replied to a few more of those online pharmacies offering me viagra, or had got in touch with those nice Russian girls who were always eager to meet me and show me their photos, I wouldn't be left feeling so lonely and bereft. There's no denying that there was something quite satisfying about seeing that I had forty six new messages in my inbox. Even if they were all spam. It just made me feel wanted. All those spammers clearly thought I was a potential valued customer. But I spurned them, and now I'm alone.

So, due to my neglect, I will now never have the chance of rogering my Russian mail order bride - who I dazzled with my diplomas and doctorates from online universities - with massive, surgically enhanced member, which is kept rock hard with non-prescription viagra. Instead, I now have to satisfy myself with a paltry handful of e-mails inviting me to reactivate my account at various financial institutions I've never banked with, and VIP invitations to online casinos. Pathetic, isn't it? In an attempt to rectify this sorry state of affairs and get back to the good old days of a bulging inbox, I'm off to sign up to every dodgy looking site and newsletter I can find. Just to be sure, I'm going to make out sure that my primary e-mail address is exposed to every spambot on the web! Then it's just a matter of time before my popularity returns!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down With Love!

Apparently a primary school in Weston-super-Mare has banned Valentine's cards in order to save pupils the emotional trauma of being rejected. At long last someone is taking a stand against this dreadful annual ordeal! For years now I've been decrying the evils of Valentine's day. It really does seem designed solely to victimise single people. Year after year we have to put up with being characterised as sad losers and have other people's 'happiness' shoved down our throats. Now, I know that you are going to say that if I was in a relationship I'd feel differently about. Except that I wouldn't. It isn't just the stigmatising of single people that I dislike, it is the whole artificial image of 'romance' which St Valentine's day promotes. The whole thing implies that the route to true happiness lies only through materialism - flowers, expensive gifts, etc. The sickliness of this version of romance is enough to put many of us off of love for life. So, far from being 'political correctness gone mad', as I'm sure the media will label this story, the school in question's admirable action is a first step to prevent kids being indoctrinated with this commercialised version of 'romance' from an early age.

All of which brings us back to the notion, which Valentine's day seems to promote, that being single is somehow abnormal. For years I suspected that there was something wrong with me because I always seemed to end up unattached. However, I finally realised that being single is my natural state. I like being on my own. I enjoy my own company and most definitely need my own space. I like the freedom of action it brings me, the fact that I can pretty much do as I please. Don't misunderstand me - I'm not opposed to the concept of having a relationship with a significant other. It is just that I prefer such relationships to be semi-detached. I don't need to be with someone constantly. I don't need to define my identity in terms of such a relationship. Distance brings breathing space. Much better than the cloying fake closeness Valentine's day annually promotes - is it any wonder so many relationships in this country founder if they take that as their guide?


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Traffic Calming

Today The Sleaze recorded the worst traffic levels for more than five years. We're not just talking about lower than average page views, but a complete collapse in visitor numbers. There is no reason I can see for this, particularly as yesterday it recorded very good figures. Indeed, today's results were far worse than the site usually records over weekends. I really am growing tired of this daily battle to maintain any kind of consistent traffic to the site. If The Sleaze's tenth anniversary wasn't coming up in a couple of months, I'd give up now. However, out of sheer bloody mindedness, I intend making that milestone. Of course, against this background of piss poor traffic, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue producing material for the site. Not only is it dispiriting, but it means that I have to divert my energies away from actually creating new content, to trying to find ways of shoring up site traffic.

So, where do we go from here? I know I've ranted and moaned about declining traffic before, but today's frankly insulting results have genuinely left me questioning the site's future. Sure, it's only one day's results, but these catastrophic dips in traffic are becoming all too common. I really don't have the energy or, to be honest, the interest to keep coming up with new strategies to build traffic. Honestly, if people don't want to read my stuff any more, then I'll just shut up shop. Ten years is a long time to have been producing any publication, let alone a web site. I've had a good run. Certainly longer than most. Whilst I pride myself on the fact that The Sleaze is an 'underground' publication, and have always eschewed chasing the mass readership, these latest traffic stats show us going so far underground that we might as well be dead and buried. Even 'underground' sites need some visitors, otherwise, what's the point?

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Fuelling Extremism

The British National Party (BNP) today launched its new energy policy, with proposals to rename the National Grid the British National Grid, and to introduce a new energy tariff based upon ethnicity. "It's only right that British people should get priority when it comes to energy needs," BNP energy spokesperson John Twatter told a press conference. "Why should someone whose family goes back tens of generations in this country have to sit shivering, when some new immigrant a few doors away is roasting in their benefits-subsidised heating?" Twatter vehemently denies that his party's new policy is in any way racist, arguing that the proposed ethnic energy tariffs are based upon sound scientific analysis. "Look, it stands to reason that people who come from warmer climes will feel the cold more and therefore use more energy heating their houses," he explains. "Under our new tariff, the closer to the equator someone's country of origin is, the more they'll pay for gas and electricity. Now, it just happens that many of these people will be non-white, but that's simply coincidental."

In an effort to emphasise that the new policy would, in no way, be based on colour, Twatter further explained that some ethnic groups would also face restrictions on the amount of energy they could use on a daily basis. "It's a scientific fact - established, I believe by German scientists in the 1940s - that people from Eastern Europe, Poland and Russia, for instance, are able to withstand much lower temperatures than the rest of us," he says. "Consequently, they quite obviously wouldn't need as much heating as British people, so they would be allocated fewer units of gas and electricity, allowing us to prioritise our own people." Amongst other suggestions for saving energy made in the policy launch was a proposal to subsidise ethnically British citizens to install specially modified wood-burning stoves. "They're designed to use paper as a fuel, particularly if it is in the form of a book," Twatter told journalists. "Naturally, we've prepared a list of books which are best burned on these stoves, which will be distributed to all users."


Friday, February 05, 2010

The Monster Mash

So, what will the next big thing after vampires be? I mean, bloodsuckers seem to be very much in vogue, media wise these days. If it isn't the Twilight books and films, then it is True Blood. Indeed, even as I write this, there's something called The Vampire Diaries showing on ITV 2. In common with all the other recent manifestations of the undead, it presents vampires as sexy young-looking dudes, seducing young women of a certain age. Not that there's anything new in this depiction of vampires - Ann Rice was doing much the same thing years ago. In fact, the equation of bloodsucking with sex goes back at least to 1958 and Hammer's first Dracula movie. In an era when depicting sex in any form on screen was frowned upon by the censors, Hammer's stroke of genius was instead to disguise it as vampirism. Not that they were even very subtle about it - the way women appeared to climax as Christopher Lee bit them, and all that orgasmic writhing when they were killed with phallic stakes: Freud would have had a field day. Not only did Hammer present vampirism as a function of aristocratic decadence, but they also showed it as sexually liberating for the victims - all those repressed Victorian ladies in their corsets suddenly become libidinous and scantily clad, with magnificent heaving bosoms, as soon as they are bitten.

But getting back to the original point, have vampires run their course as fashion icons, and if so, which supernatural menace will replace them? With the remake of The Wolfman about to be released, there's been much press speculation that werewolves are going to be the next big teenage fad. However, I don't really see wandering around nightspots with a furry face and claws catching on. Besides, tearing out people's throats with your teeth every full moon really isn't as romantic as just biting someone on the neck. I just don't see young girls swooning over hirsute lycanthropes in the same way as they do over handsome vampires. Sure, the werewolf has the whole pathetic victim thing going for him, but they're just so, hairy! Honestly, if women don't like men with hairy backs, then they're never going to go fur the fully-furred look, now are they? So what else is there? Zombies? Again, brain-eating, half decayed perambulating corpses are just not attractive. The maggot-ridden look is never going to hold sway on the dance floor.

Frankenstein's monster has similar problems - those asphalt-spreaders' boots are just too cumbersome for dancing, although the electrodes in the neck could become a much sought-after fashion accessory. Just so long as nobody starts a fad of plugging themselves into the mains using them. Then there's always the Hunchback of Notre Dame look. Humps could be in this year. Except that simulating physical disability in the name of fashion might be considered poor taste and result in a backlash from disability groups. The same thing goes for the Phantom of the Opera - the burns victim look will never catch on. What about the Jekyll/Hyde look? You could have one half bestial and evil, the other smooth and civilised. It has the advantage of combining the raw animalistic sexual energy of the werewolf with the smooth sophistication of the vampire. But perhaps it is all a bit too elaborate, not to mention confusing. So that just leaves the Mummy. That's my tip for the next big supernatural youth craze - people shuffling around swaddled in bandages. It all makes sense - that ancient Egyptian thing has always been big with the kids and hippies, plus there's the element of mystery the bandages bring, not to mention the whole forbidden love across the ages thing. Yes indeed, expect to see lots of bandaged night clubbers in the next few months...


Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Arnold Raced Out the Door..."

A number of late lunches have brought me back into contact with the world of Murder, She Wrote, which has swapped places with Diagnosis Murder in the BBC's daytime schedules. I still find the most intriguing aspect of every episode is the title sequence in which Jessica Fletcher types her latest novel - the only sentence of which I can ever make out is "Arnold raced out the door". For decades now I've wondered just who Arnold is, and why is he racing out of the door? Bearing in mind that JB Fletcher writes mystery novels, it might be safe to assume that he has stumbled on something terrible and rushes out of the room in a state of shock. Perhaps he has walked into his bedroom only to discover his wife dead in bed with the corpse of a Catholic bishop - both horribly murdered with an incense burner. Fearing that, as an Anglican priest, he'll be the chief suspect, he flees, vowing to solve the crime himself through the power of prayer. Then again, maybe he's the one who has committed a heinous crime - after a heavy drinking session he 'followed through' when farting in bed and horribly soiled the sheets in his hotel bedroom. Unable to face the shame of being thought incontinent by hotel staff, he legs it.

Of course, all this presupposes that "Arnold raced out the door" is the complete sentence. I've never been able to make out whether the phrase actually ends with a full stop, or a comma. Maybe what it really reads is "Arnold raced out the door, his trousers on fire", following an unfortunate incident with some curling tongs. Then again, perhaps it's a case of "Arnold raced out the door clutching his severed penis with one hand, whilst trying to stem the flow of blood from his groin with the other". Maybe it was his wife who found him in bed with the Archbishop, and didn't believe his story about pioneering inter-denomination rapprochement. Mind you, bearing in mind the sorts of mysteries that Jessica Fletcher solves every episode, I could be wide of the mark. I mean, I can't really imagine there being an episode where the only clue Angela Lansbury has is a severed penis found outside the diner by Mr Cunningham, sorry, Sheriff Tupper. Especially if the episode also included a scene where the doctor performs microsurgery to reattach the member to its owner. Maybe Arnold is merely racing out of the door because he is late for a bus. A bus full of transsexual strippers threatened by a mysterious one-armed psycho-killer out for revenge...

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I Believe in Bollocks

So Jodie Kidd believes in miracles - well, she still has a career of sorts, so I suppose she might have a point. I was quite disappointed to see that this was the third, and last, instalment of BBC 3's recent TV series. After Joe Swash telling us he believes in ghosts and Danny Dyer revealing his belief in UFOs, I was hoping for something more dramatic: Ian Wright - I Believe in Werewolves, or Joss Stone - I Believe in Bigfoot, perhaps. The sight of Joss Stone - possibly the dippiest woman in music - wandering through the forests of the American Northwest in search of large hairy anthropoids would have made for excellent entertainment, I would have thought. But then again, BBC 3's budget probably wouldn't stretch to an overseas shoot, so instead Joss Stone would have had to confine her search for Bigfoot to some scrub land outside Basildon, instead. Likewise, if they'd gone for Ross Kemp - I Believe in Vampires, the ex-Eastender would have had to settle for trying to stake the undead in a municipal cemetery in Frimley, rather than Transylvania.

But what was the point of the series? To confirm what we already knew - that celebrities, by and large, are a bunch of ignorant pillocks who will believe any old bollocks? I mean, should we be surprised that loveable cheeky cockney halfwit Joe Swash believes in ghosts, in spite of a total lack of scientific evidence of their existence? We certainly shouldn't be surprised that self-styled mockney geezer Danny Dyer is a bell end, although it is somewhat surprising that he believes in something as un-macho as UFOs. If anyone had ever asked me what completely ridiculous thing Danny Dyer believed in, I'd have plumped for it being the vain hope that West Ham was still a football team. Of course, this programme ultimately disappointed everyone when it didn't conclude with Dyer being abducted by a UFO. Which, obviously, it couldn't, because they don't bloody exist.


Monday, February 01, 2010

Military Farce

Is David Cameron planning a military coup? Fears grew that, in the event of a hung parliament following the next general election, the Tory leader would attempt to seize power through military force after the Hampshire town of Alton found itself forcibly occupied by hundreds of World War Two Nazi soldiers. "It was a normal Saturday afternoon when they came into town," says local newsagent Jock Goggly, describing the bizarre events which befell the sleepy town. "We're used to having those World War Two re-enactment nutters turn up here - they're usually quite harmless - but this lot arrived in an armoured column!" Indeed, bemused shoppers looked on as a column of 1940s German vehicles, including what appeared to be a Tiger tank, rolled down the main street and proceeded to surround several buildings, including the town hall, police station, magistrates court and public library. "We all thought it was some kind of joke," explains Goggly. "The sergeant even came out of the police station and told them to piss off or he'd nick them. That's when they opened fire!" Faced with a hail of apparently real bullets, town officials and police had no choice but to surrender, and Alton found itself under military curfew. "It was a bloody outrageous! There was a swastika flag flying over the town hall and the buggers started requisitioning all my stock," recalls the newsagent. "They threatened to shoot anybody caught out on the streets after dark and started rounding up suspected Jews!"

The occupation was finally ended by a mass insurrection. "It turned out their bloody armoured vehicles were made out of plywood," says Goggly. "Two teenage lads took out the Tiger tank with an air rifle - the crew surrendered after one of them had his skin broken by a pellet!" Whilst the reason for the occupation of Alton is still unclear - the captured stormtroopers refusing to give the authorities anything but their names, ranks and numbers - some sections of the press are linking it with Cameron's election strategy. "It all makes sense - the way he's forged links with those far right European political parties, the fact he's slipping in the polls. This was just a dry-run for a possible coup attempt," opines George Frucktease, political correspondent of the Daily Norks. "Obviously, he can't use the real military - even they were interested in supporting him, they're all in bloody Afghanistan! So these so-called military re-enactment people are the next best thing!" Indeed, Frucktease has been warning of the potential threat posed by Nazi re-enactment enthusiasts for some time. "There are literally thousands of them - they far outnumber the British and American re-enactment enthusiasts," he explains. "It wouldn't be so bad if they just dressed up as Nazi soldiers, but for the past few years they've started building their own tanks! They're a virtual militia!" Naturally, the Conservative Party has denied having any links with these groups, and a leading World War Two re-enactment enthusiast has claimed the Alton incident was merely a misunderstanding. "I have it on good authority that the 'German' soldiers were expecting to meet some American re-enactment counterparts for a mock battle," claims Sturmbannfuhrer Eric Soddling of the West Berkshire SS 'Enoch Powell' Division. "Unfortunately, their highly unreliable Sherman tanks broke down outside of Guildford, so they never arrived. Typical American inefficiency!"

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