Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another Overheard Conversation

Another fragment of conversation recently overheard on a train:

Bloke in bowler hat: "The other day I did a dump at work so humongous that I thought it was going to block the pipe! As I flushed, the water - turds swirling around wildly in it - climbed further and further up the bowl! Luckily, it finally managed to flush away. A few days later, this time at home, I laid a single log so long that the end poked at least four inches out of the water. When I flushed it away, it twirled round and round in the bowl, like a huge brown shark's fin, before it finally slid away. Spooky, eh?"

Guy in glasses: "I wish mine flushed away so easily - they're always bloody floaters and u-stoppers! Bloody embarrassing when you do them at work. I swear the cistern there is specially rigged, so that it takes at least fifteen minutes to refill after flushing, thereby guaranteeing a hair-raising ordeal for anyone experiencing flush-away problems."

Tweed jacket: "Personally, I tend to favour fishing the culprits out and ejecting them from the nearest window. That's why I always carry a small fishing net (for floaters) and a pair of marigold rubber gloves ( for beached torpedoes). I recall having once flung a stray floater out of my bathroom window into next door's flower bed one hot summer night. By midday the following day, the stench had grown unbearable. Luckily, next door's tom cat (notorious for not covering up behind himself), got the blame, and was whisked off to the vets on suspicion of having feline gastroenteritis, for a series of painful tests."

Bloke in bowler hat: "Yesterday I dropped another humongous turd at work - it so huge it stuck at least six inches above the water. It would have sat up even higher, except that the end was bent over. This had the effect of making it resemble the Loch Ness monster - you've seen the photos: long plesiosaur-like neck and small head poking out of the water. Makes you think about Nessie, eh? For years I suspected she was simply a whale lying on it's back with an erection, but now I'm beginning to think otherwise..."

At this point the train reached their stop and they all got off, depriving me of further toilet-related revelations.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Losing the Plot

One of my secret pleasures is reading those one-line synopses of soap opera episodes you get in newspapers and TV listings magazines. Their attempts to sum up twenty-five minutes, or so, of plot and character development in under thirty words is frequently unintentionally hilarious. In their attempts to summarise without giving away plot twists, the writers of these synopses often become masters of understatement. Some years ago an episode of Neighbours was summarised as: "Jim suffers a setback." He certainly did. He died. Some seem to be worded so as to actually put you off of watching the episode in question. I once read a synopsis of an Eastenders episode which told me: "Phil gets romantic". Quite frankly, the horrible image of that overweight, bald headed thug wheezing away as he fumbled to get some poor woman's clothes off, which that summary conjured up, guaranteed that I didn't tune in that week.

Of course, most of these summaries rely upon the fact that the reader is familiar with the ongoing plot and characters of the particular soap, otherwise they are completely meaningless. Indeed, they can seem quite surreal or, still worse, contrive to make the episode seem utterly uninteresting. Take, as an example, the Radio Times' synopsis of today's episode of Neighbours: "Kate sprains her ankle". As far as the casual reader is concerned, if the highlight of an episode is someone twisting their ankle, then it must be a pretty dull soap. For that synopsis to have any impact, it is necessary to know that Kate is a professional dancer, thus a twisted ankle could have serious consequences for her. Personally, I'd like to see more intriguing episode summaries. How about: "Toadie breaks wind in court, but thinks he's got away with it." The impact of that is undiminished, even if you don't know that Toadie is a lawyer. It could be followed up the next day by: "Toadie faces the consequences of his outburst when the judge finds him in contempt." How about that for a cliffhanger?


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Illusion of Power

"Thank God he's real - I was beginning to think that I'd suffered a psychotic episode and that he was an hallucination that only I could see," revealed shadow foreign secretary William Hague after learning that Tory leader David Cameron was, in fact, real. "I mean, I was really beginning to doubt his existence - it seemed that nobody else could hear a thing he said. How else could you explain the fact that we seem to be going further backwards in the opinion polls the closer the election gets?" According to the former Tory leader, he only accepted Cameron's reality after his successor had an egg thrown at him by a heckler during a recent public appearance. "Obviously, if someone could throw an egg at him, they had to be able see him, didn't they?" Hague says. "Either that, or we're both suffering the same delusion!" Hague hadn't always doubted his leader's reality. "I was a firm believer when he was first elected and had absolutely no doubts as we moved ahead in the polls," he muses. "But as our popularity began to slip, I started to question what was really happening. After all, looking back at his early days as leader, it did seem like a dream, didn't it? We finally choose a young, charismatic and dynamic leader who, despite his complete lack of experience, was able to constantly outmanoeuvre a Prime Minister who had formerly been the most successful Chancellor for decades!"

Hague admits that he began to harbour suspicions that he might have imagined Cameron's accession to the leadership. "I thought that, after all those years of humiliation at the polls and bitter infighting which had made the Conservative Party a laughing stock, perhaps the mental strain had caused my mind to crack. Maybe I was experiencing an extreme wish fulfilment fantasy," he says. "I even started to think that perhaps I was still Tory leader, that the Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Howard regimes were just another nightmare in my disturbed brain!" Cameron's apparent inability to come up with any concrete policy proposals reinforced Hague's suspicions that the new leader was merely a fantasy figure. "The fact that nobody else in the party seemed to listen to anything he said fuelled the fires of my doubts," he reveals. "All his talk of cleaning up the party and improving our image seemed to fall on deaf ears as everyone just carried on as before, fiddling their expenses, accepting company directorships, taking contributions from non-doms!" However, confirmation of Cameron's reality has set the politician's mind at rest. "It really is a relief," he declares. "Our election prospects might be turning to shit, but at least I'm not going bonkers!"

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Overheard Conversations

A fragment of conversation recently heard on a train:

Youth in hoodie: "What about sleazy TV? In my opinion, the most embarrassing TV moment was on Noel Edmonds' House Party in 1995, when he cut to that unsuspecting guy who had been set up by his 'friends' to have a camera secretly installed in his TV, only to find him with his tackle out jerkin' his gherkin to Pamela Anderson on Baywatch! I tell ya, if some mother fucker did that to me, I'd kick 'em in the knackers, for sure!"

Bloke in suit: "I distinctly remember watching The Late Show that featured a man who claimed to be able to make a pint of milk disappear, he had performed some mild magic tricks with a satirical edge but then whipped out his johnson and proceeded to suck the milk up it. As people tried to grab him he attempted to consume a double whopper with cheese and fries with his anus."

Youth in hoodie: "Motherfucker! I remember that dude! Didn't that fucking bitch Germaine Greer respond by showin' how she could fire ping pong balls outta her fanny?"

At this point, the train reached my stop, so you'll just have to imagine the rest of the conversation for yourselves...

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Touting for Business

It's strange, the analogies people chose to employ. Take former Transport Minister Stephen Byers - when being canvassed by bogus lobbyists (actually investigative journalists) as to his availability as a parliamentary 'consultant', he described himself as being like 'a cab for hire'. A curious turn of phrase which implies that people climb inside him and he then overcharges them for taking them by the longest possible route to their destination, all the while regaling them with his opinions on immigration, the EU, the state of the economy and how it's political correctness gone mad that they let those darkies drive cabs now. Which is probably not quite what he had in mind. A more accurate analogy that he could of made would have been to describe himself a prostitute touting for business on a Soho street corner. Of course, if he'd described himself that way, he would have run the risk of being propositioned by half the parliamentary Conservative party.

Whilst half the media and sundry opposition politicians are running around wringing their hands, and proclaiming that this latest cash for questions-type 'scandal' demonstrates how sleazy and untrustworthy our politicians have become, the reality is that it is simply another manifestation of the avaricious society we have become. MPs thinking that they have a right to supplement their salaries by moonlighting as 'consultants' or 'advisers' to lobbyists, exchanging their 'expertise' and 'influence' for cash, is no different than bankers expecting mega bonuses for just doing their jobs (or not doing them, as the case may be). The notion that we should be rewarded for our labour with a reasonable wage has gone out of the window over the past three decades. Nowadays employers want to pay you the bare minimum and then hold out the prospect of 'performance related bonuses' if you actually do your job. I preferred the old system of 'performance related' pay - you got a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and if you didn't do the job properly, you were sacked. At the other end of the scale, you have the notion that in order to attract the 'best' people to jobs in, say, banking, you have to offer over-inflated wages, and to keep them there you have to give them obscenely large bonuses every year. Madness. Sheer madness.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

A Host of Troubles

Let's start the week with a bit of a moan. On Friday I received an e-mail from the company who host The Sleaze telling me that they had been bought out by another company, a company that I'd never heard of and that I've found it very difficult to obtain any accurate information on. Although they describe themselves as one of the UK's biggest providers of web services, the impression I get is that rather than going out and actually attracting new customers with their competitive pricing and excellent support, (the normal way of attracting business), they've instead based their expansion upon buying out existing web hosts and their customer bases. Which, looking at their prices, doesn't surprise me. They seem to want customers to pay a lot more for a lot less in hosting terms. If I was to renew my hosting with them when my current contract ends in September, I'd have to pay at least twice what I'm paying now to get anything like the features I now enjoy. Now, I know that their defence would be that they're far more reliable than my existing host, etc. But, the fact is that in five years or so of being hosted there, I experienced no problems whatsoever.

My dislike of the new owners has been increased by the way in which the sale was conducted. A couple of weeks ago I noticed some problems trying to update the site. Basically, updates weren't showing. It turned out that the IP address for the ftp account had changed. I now know that this was because, unbeknownst to customers, our sites were being transferred to the new company's servers, before the sale had even been announced. Failing to inform customers of something as significant as a change of server, which obviously affects our ability to maintain our sites, doesn't strike me as representing good customer service. Moreover, I've already lost some of the features from my account that I was paying for under my existing deal. I don't think I'm being unreasonable in expecting the new owners to fully honour the contracts of the existing customers they've inherited. I know that I don't actually use most of these features, but it's a matter of principle. And I'm very big on principles. (In principle. In practise, I often can't be arsed). Add to this the fact that since the takeover was announced, we've been left with no customer support or server status updates, and you can see why I'm not impressed.

Now, I could take this development - combined with the site's plummeting traffic - as a sign that it's time to wind The Sleaze up. However, as I've mentioned before, I've recently renewed the domain for another two years, so I've got money invested in it! Besides, I love a challenge, and restoring the site's fortunes is certainly that. So, the long and the short of it is that I'm looking for a new host. I've already identified a few likely candidates, but if any of you have any suggestions for a reasonably priced, reliable web host, preferably UK-based (but that's not essential), please let me know. I'm looking more to the budget end of the hosting market. Not just because I'm a cheapskate, but also because with a site like The Sleaze, which is non-profit and has relatively modest traffic (even at the height of its popularity it was never going to threaten Google), it simply isn't worth paying big bucks for commercial hosting. So, there you have it. I'll probably keep the site where it is until my current deal expires in September, then move it. Unless, of course, service deteriorates badly, in which I'll look to move to a new host as quickly as possible.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Still More From the Inbox of Doc Sleaze

It seems my recent piece about the extreme right colluding with David Cameron to launch a military coup using Nazi World War Two re-enactment enthusiasts, has touched a nerve in some quarters. I recently received this missive from one 'Ulrich of England', complaining that I was misrepresenting neo Nazis and trying to set the record straight:


I fear that you have completely the wrong impression of the far right's activities - racism and bigotry are only a very small part of what we do. Most of our energies are devoted to social activities - we regularly run children's camps, where inner-city youth are taught useful outdoor skills, such as knot tying and cooking over camp fires. I'm proud to say that may of these kids have gone on to successfully participate in lynchings and arson attacks all over Europe.

We're also dedicated to the preservation of traditional ethnic music. Indeed, along with two like-minded friends, I've formed the Aryan Folk Trio, and we regularly perform traditional Nazi odes in private clubs and residential rest homes the length and breadth of Britain.

I hope you'll agree, there's far more to the white nationalist movement than mere bigotry!

Ulrich of England"

Food for thought, indeed. I wonder whether the Aryan Folk Trio is available for Barmitzvahs?

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preaching to the Indifferent

While I was walking through the town centre the other day I saw this guy preaching. There he was, giving his spiel, regardless of the fact that absolutely no one was paying any attention to anything he said. These guys usually attract some sort of crowd, even if it is only a couple of kids playing truant and a stray dog. But this guy had nobody. It was a bit like Tim Westwood doing the afternoon shift on Radio One Extra - all the noise and fury was there, but nobody was listening. It must be soul destroying. I mean, one minute you are a top rap DJ on national radio, next thing you know you are stuck in a digital back water without an audience. It must have been pretty dispiriting for the preacher as well. Perhaps Westwood should try doing his show on a soapbox in a town centre. He'd probably reach more listeners.

I can't help but feel that they were both taking the wrong approach - rap is never going to work in the drive time slot and trying to remind harried shoppers of their mortality will likewise never be a winner. Trust me, just as I don't particularly want to have my eardrums assaulted by some gangster rapper telling me about his ho's and bitches whilst I'm stuck in traffic, neither do people struggling home from Sainsbury's, laden down with shopping, want to be told that they're inevitably going to die. For this was his message: that no matter how much you tried to ignore it, the grim reaper would catch up with you. I'm guessing that he went on to emphasise that, as a consequence of our mortality, we must follow the righteous path to ensure our place in heaven, (I was quickly out of earshot, so I can't be sure what he said exactly). Which, of course, is the big flaw of most religions: they concentrate far too much on promising you rewards after you are dead. I'd be more impressed if they focused more on improving the situation here and now. Besides, surely the promise of posthumous rewards in return for following the creed undermines the whole point of most faiths - that your motivation for doing good should be purely altruistic? Which is why I've long been convinced that it only atheists who can act in a truly altruistic manner. We're not expecting eternal life in return for our efforts. Just some ho's and bitches...

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To Be Sure, To Be Sure...

St Patrick's Day again. How I loathe this day! To be accurate, it isn't the day itself, or St Patrick I loathe, but rather the way in England the non-Irish try and co-opt it as an excuse for yet more binge drinking. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, there's nothing more dispiriting than watchingroups of drunken English people in pubs wearing those bloody stupid hats and drinking Guinness in an attempt to seem 'Irish'. Why do they do it? St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, not England. It has bugger all to do with us! Damn it, I'm of Irish descent, (my maternal Grandfather, for what it's worth), so I have more claim on this day than most of my compatriots, but I've never felt the desire to celebrate it. Mainly because I'm British, not Irish. It wouldn't be so bad if the celebration of St Patrick's Day was indicative of England's embracing of the cultural traditions of our neighbours. But you don't see many English people celebrating St David's Day by having leek-eating parties, or wearing kilts (or whatever it is they do in Scotland) on St Andrew's Day, now do you? Perhaps the worst thing about this English St Patrick's Day is that it simply perpetuates stereotypical English views of the Irish - drunken idiots who dance jigs.

Leaving dubious Saint's day celebrations to one side, the other thing which has been perplexing me of late has been the future of The Sleaze. With the site's tenth anniversary just around the corner and continued problems with traffic, this subject has been vexing me more and more. Mind you, having just renewed the domain for another two years, I guess I'm committed to keeping the site going for the foreseeable future. The question is - in what form? I can't deny that - particularly with the ongoing low traffic to the site - I find myself increasingly resenting the amount of time I devote to updating it. To be fair, it isn't so much the writing of the stories which takes the time, it's the actual updating of the site which I increasingly find tedious. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, The Sleaze is based around static pages, requiring manual updates of all the menus and index pages. The alternative is to switch the site over to dynamic pages generated by a content Management System (CMS). I've always resisted the use of a CMS because of the design restrictions most CMS's have traditionally placed upon sites created with them. There's a certain generic look to many sites as a consequence of this. However, things have moved on and many CMS's are now far more flexible with regard to page templates. So, the possibility of reworking The Sleaze as a dynamic site is back on the agenda. The main obstacle is the amount of time this will take. Whilst the current page templates were designed with an eye to using them with a CMS, I've subsequently decided that I really need to start from scratch again - not in terms of their appearance, just their underlying code. So there you have it - in the quest to spend less time with The Sleaze, I'm contemplating engaging in a major and highly time-consuming project!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Bizarre Murderer Strikes?

According to self-styled 'consulting detective' Don Prickler, top designer Alexander McQueen's death was certainly not suicide, as reported in the press. "For God's sake, it's so bloody obvious - a fashion designer found hanged in a wardrobe amongst his latest creations? This can only be the work of a bizarre murderer of celebrities," he declares. "The authorities are trying to cover it up in order to prevent mass panic amongst Britain's rich and famous." Indeed, Prickler is confidently predicting further bizarre murders, as the elusive killer continues his murderous spree. "It's only a matter of time before they find a celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsey baked in his own oven," he muses. "Or maybe Russell Brand shagged to death by a deadly sex machine."

According to Prickler - famed for solving the affair of the Camden cat molestations and for bringing the notorious 'Jack the Flipper', the underwater pervert who terrorised swimmers several South London public baths, to justice - the killer is driven by the desire to make each murder more bizarre than its predecessor. "Clearly, he is jealous of his victims' fame and talent," he muses. "He obviously believes that by killing them in bizarre fashions, he will attract a level of attention to himself to rival their celebrity. Completely untalented himself - I doubt he can sing, dance or simply be famous - he sees his murders as a creative statement!" Although Prickler's theories have been dismissed by the police as 'utterly ludicrous', the detective is determined to pursue his investigation and bring the bizarre murderer to justice. "If this fiend isn't stopped, it could spell disaster for Britain's entertainment industry," he opines. "The supply of celebrities will simply dry up - who on earth would want to be famous if it meant being targeted by a crazed killer hell-bent on murdering you in the most bizarre way possible?"

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Monday, March 15, 2010

David Cameron: Definitely Not a Nazi

Well, I'm back. I must apologise the absence of postings here recently, but I was a bit preoccupied with getting a new story completed and up onto The Sleaze. Now, on paper, Cameron's Coup should have been a pretty straightforward story to write, being based on an earlier post here at Sleaze Diary. In the event, it turned out to require much more re-writing than I expected in order to make a coherent piece of satire out of it. The finished article is probably sixty percent plus new material, whilst the text which survived from the original post was extensively rewritten. All-in-all, a time consuming process. Nevertheless, I'm pretty pleased with the finished product. That said, it's the kind of story which is killing my traffic. The sad fact is that a properly satirical piece like Cameron's Coup will never attract the same level of visitors as a lightweight piece of smutty humour, or a celebrity scandal parody. Unfortunately, I just don't seem to have sufficient interest in the latter types of story to keep churning them out, as I did in the past. I like to think, though, that the satirical stories attract a better class of reader.

I do feel I need to caveat Cameron's Coup - although it features the Tory leader and groups of World War Two re-enactment nutters who like dressing as Nazi soldiers, I'm obviously not saying that Dave is a fascist. Such a claim would be quite ridiculous. I mean, it isn't as if Dave could ever be accused of being a front for discredited big business interests, is it? Nor could his banging on about 'Broken Britain' and the need to heal our fractured society, possibly be equated with Hitler's claims that German society had been fragmented by the traumas of World War One and the Great Depression, and that it was up to the National Socialist Movement to build new social structures to bring the German people back together. It's hardly likely we'll see a Tory government setting up an equivalent to the Hitler Youth, now is it? Although if there was a 'Cameron Youth', they'd doubtless be given instruction on the right kind of popular music to listen to on their iPods, (no subversive Lily Allen, for sure). So there you have it - Cameron is definitely not a Nazi. Just an over privileged public school plonker.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Internet is Evil!

The internet is evil! Or at least, Facebook is, according to the Daily Mail in its latest knee-jerk reaction passing as investigative reporting. Spurred on by the widely reported convictions of two killers whose crimes had involved the social networking site - in one case the victim had been contacted by her eventual murderer via Facebook, in the other the victim's ex-boyfriend was so enraged at seeing a picture of her with another man on the site, he flew to the UK and killed her - the Mail set out to 'prove' the site was populated entirely by potential rapists, murderers and general perverts. However, the trouble with getting an adult male reporter to pose as a fourteen year old girl on Facebook in the hope that 'she' will be accosted by perverts proves very little about the site itself. She could equally well be wolf-whistled at by builders as she passes a building site. Does that mean building sites should be closed down? Sadly, the perverts will always be amongst us. Similarly, the unfortunate girl murdered by a sex offender she befriended on Facebook could equally well have met him through a dating agency, in a pub or in a bus queue. Just as the jealous man who killed his former girlfriend could have been shown that photo of her with another man by a friend, rather than seeing it on Facebook .

Ironically, of course, the object of the Mail's current ire, Facebook, is fast becoming a hub for exactly the kind of people who read the paper. As a Guardian journalist this week observed, nowadays a Facebook group exists for every form of hate. Of late groups have inevitably sprung up to bring together like-minded idiots who want to see John Venables hanged, for instance. Indeed, this is one of the things that I hate about the web - the way in which it enables the mob mentality to be so easily harnessed by extremists. There's no doubt that the web makes it so much easier for bigots and hate mongers to find their own kind and to mount their distasteful campaigns. In that respect, perhaps the internet is evil. But, once again, the truth is that all this hate and bigotry existed before the web. Until recently local radio phone-ins seemed to be the preferred vehicle for these morons to disseminate their bile. Before that there were newspapers, pamphlets, public rallies and marches. If the Daily Mail succeeded in getting the internet shut down tomorrow, the sex offenders, murderers, racists, bigots and general idiots would still be there. They'd just find another means to pursue their ends. But until then, the web remains a convenient scapegoat for the ills of society.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Adventures in Soap Land

Ah, the wonders of those digital channels which seem to show nothing but repeats of old soap operas! Thanks to UK Bollocks, I've just been able to catch up with a 1998 episode of Eastenders. How good it was to see again such well-loved characters as Roy, Barry and Mark. The big news in the episode was that Fat Pat has got back together with Roy. However, the trauma of her affair with Frank and the stress of their separation had taken its toll on poor old Roy, who was suffering a recurrence of his impotence problems. The man whose stunning virility once turned Pat away from lesbianism was now reduced to stuffing vegetables from Mark Fowler’s market stall down his trousers in a vain attempt to impress his wife. After the two onions and a carrot he had down his Y-fronts embarrassingly came loose and rolled down his trouser leg in the cab office, Roy decided to think big - trying first a cantaloupe, then a huge melon. This produced a bulge in his trousers so impressive that the women of Albert Square started hurling themselves at him - he’s groped by Mo Slater in the Vic, whilst Dot Cotton has an attack of the vapours and has to be given a warm bath and a rub-down by Jim Branning. It also put a frisky Pat in the mood for love, however, limp Roy was still unable to get it up. In a final act of desperation, hapless son Barry helped him strap a wooden spoon to his flaccid knob in an attempt to simulate an erection.

After that classic episode, I settled down to watch an equally enthralling episode of Emmerdale Farm, this time from 1996. It was the one where Viv Windsor’s marriage to wandering lingerie salesman Bob was thrown into chaos even before it had started. When the question, “Does anyone here know of any lawful reason why this man and woman should not be wed?”, a mysterious one-legged stranger leaps up from the back of the registry office and shouts: “Yes, Viv Windsor is actually a deserter from the Scots Guards and I am carrying his baby!” There was further disruption when the police arrived and arrested Bob - it seems that his lingerie samples were actually the result of a series of daring burglaries from women’s bedrooms and washing lines. He was, it transpired, one of Yorkshire’s most notorious pantie sniffers. Another regular having a brush with the law in this vintage episode was Seth Armstrong, who was questioned in connection with the disappearance of former gay lover Amos Brearly. Seth found himself accused of murdering Amos and stealing his amazing Noddy Holder-style sideburns in order to wear them as his bizarre handlebar moustache. Police feared that he might also have set his sights on Zak Dingle’s incredible beard. Meanwhile, the vicar was called to perform an exorcism at Emmerdale Farm after strange nocturnal lights were seen streaking across the fields and Jack Sugden was seen digging a thirty foot long grave. It turned out that nobody had told Jack that his foot and mouth ridden sheep had to be dead before he burned them. His blazing flock had started at least nine rural fires as they tried to flee. The riddle of the grave remained unresolved - I guess I'll just have to watch again tomorrow.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Unhealthy Reporting

A while ago I found myself looking at the Drudge Report. I'm not sure why I was looking at it. Probably to check whether it still existed. I seem to recall that when I first started surfing the net, you couldn't escape mention of Matt Drudge and his site, both on and off line. It was pretty much flavour of the month with the media for quite a while, and was considered, in some circles, to be pretty influential. However, these days it never seems to get mentioned. Other political sites have appeared and the Drudge Report seems to have fallen out of favour. Looking at it, that hardly seems surprising. The site's 'design' (if one can call it that), doesn't seem to have changed since 1998. Whilst I'm well aware of the concept that 'content is king' and that its presentation is essentially irrelevant, the fact is that contemporary web users have certain expectations when it comes to web design. Easy to read fonts, for instance. Straightforward navigation, for another. Oh, and easy to understand layouts, with the key information easily accessible. Needless to say, they won't find that at the Drudge Report, which seems to be as conservative in its approach to web design as it is in its politics.

Not that better design would make its contents any more digestible. When I looked at it, the site had screaming headlines, (above the title banner, not a good idea design-wise, particularly when the title is pushed so far down as to no longer be in the browser 'safe area'), about our own National Health Service (NHS). Specifically, it was regurgitating the story about the NHS trust in the midlands which was recently censured for its lamentable approach to patient care. Of course, Drudge seized upon the declaration that staff had made some patients lives 'hell', as proof that Obama's healthcare plans would result in the creation of death camps. The irony here is that the NHS trust in question ended up treating its patients this way as a result of chasing targets, which had been set as an attempt to make the NHS more 'market orientated'. The only lesson, surely, which can be drawn from this, is that health care is better delivered when it isn't left to the workings of the market. Which is undoubtedly the opposite of what Drudge is trying to prove. Such sloppy research and failure to properly think through all the associated arguments is, quite possibly, another reason why the Drudge Report's stock seems to have fallen so much.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rough as a Dog's Arse...

...was how I felt yesterday evening, hence the lack of a post. There was no particular reason for my feeling that way, as far as I could see. I certainly wasn't hungover. Trust me, it takes more than two pints of Courage Best to make me feel unwell. Mind you, there was that half pint of Guinness I had in my still not-open-under-new-management local. But that's another story entirely. Still, after about twelve hours sleep, I feel a lot better. Certainly not as rough as a dog's arse. Not that I have any idea whether dogs' arses are rough or not. In fact, why do we even use a dog's arse as a point of reference for how we feel? It's like when people are described as being 'drunk as a skunk'. Why a skunk? Are they notorious for their alcohol abuse? Have you ever seen an inebriated skunk?

But then, people do say the strangest things. The other week, seeking refuge from the charity-related celebrity bollocks on BBC1 and the regular bollocks on ITV, I found myself watching the curiosity known as 'Russia Today'. If you haven't seen this 'news' channel, it's basically a post-communist Russian propaganda channel. It's slightly disconcerting to watch, as, whilst broadcast from Moscow, it's English-language service is presented by British anchors. Anyway, getting back to the point, when I saw it, the top story was the 'discovery' by locals, of hundreds of T-72 tanks and other armoured vehicles in a forest in Russia, apparently abandoned by the army. Local villagers had been all over them (undoubtedly making off with anything remotely saleable), and told TV reporters that nobody seemed to care that they had access to the vehicles, which appeared to be unguarded. One villager even declared that "you could drive off in one and nobody would notice". Now, I beg to differ with this extraordinary statement. I think that if I was to drive o my local supermarket in a fully functioning tank, people might notice. They might even find it worthy of comment. But perhaps things are different in Russia. Maybe they have drunken skunks there. Maybe they even test dogs' arses for roughness...


Thursday, March 04, 2010

"I've Still Never Voted Tory..."

The other day The Guardian was running a headline about the 'Tories' Dirty Secret'. Naturally, I got my hopes up that they were about to reveal that David Cameron loves nothing better than donning black face, putting on women's clothes and singing 'Old Man River', whilst being whipped by a large man dressed as a slave overseer. Not, obviously, that a clean living guy like Dave would do a thing like that. George Osborne, perhaps. But no, the story turned out to be about Lord Ashcroft, his non-dom status and the millions he's pumping into the Tory Party. I'd like to believe that these revelations might help open people's eyes to the Tories' true nature prior to the election. Sadly, I think it will pass most people by. Even if they understand all the nuances of the issue, the reality is that the majority of the Tory-controlled press simply won't report it.

Perhaps the most depressing thing I've seen this week has been the BBC's capitulation in the face of a hypothetical Tory election victory, announcing cuts and the closure of two radio stations in the vain hope that this might appease Cameron's puppet masters, Murdoch and Son. I wouldn't mind, but not a single vote has been cast yet. Hell, we don't even know for sure the date of the next election, let alone whether the Tories actually will win. Indeed, the way the polls are going at the moment, a hung parliament seems increasingly likely. But what else should we expect from the current BBC Director General, Mark Thompson? Time and again, he's shown himself to be utterly spineless in the face of manufactured media opprobrium toward the corporation. That's why he got the job, of course, and why his predecessor, Greg Dyke, had to go. Dyke had shown his willingness to defend the BBC and stand up to the government during the whole 'dodgy dossier' business. It's not even as if Thompson's current proposals make much sense. Closing 6 Music, for instance, is hardly going to bring big savings, bearing in mind it has an annual budget of less than ten million pounds. If they must lose a radio station, what about Five Live, which has degenerated into nothing more than a glorified local radio phone in, where neo Nazis, bigots and the plain ignorant air their moronic 'opinions' on a daily basis? Even better, how about cutting a few of those vastly overpaid BBC executives who, as far as anyone can see, make no creative contribution whatsoever?

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

"I've never voted Tory..."

OK, I know it's puerile, but I really couldn't resist it! If you want to come up with you own (hopefully wittier) Tory poster, I suggest that you go to andybarefoot.com and deface their propaganda to your heart's content. Many thanks to Ian Vince for alerting me to this excellent service.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Dead Fashionable

"It's absolute fashion genius," squeals fashion designer Rob Boong-Moll, as he prepares his controversial new collection for Scunthorpe Fashion Week. "To be found hanging in a wardrobe, amongst your latest creations - it's so chic!" The twenty-six year old is claiming recently deceased fashion guru Alexander McQueen's suicide as the inspiration for his new collection. "Trust me - nooses are going to be the next big thing in neck ware," he declares. "They're just so versatile - you can have them in any colour and a whole variety of materials from rough hemp to silk!" Indeed, Boong-Moll's new show will feature cadaverous models in blue face make up emerging from a coffin, before gliding down the cat walk. In addition to nooses, the models will be sporting outfits inspired by burial shrouds. "It's what Alex would have wanted," says Boong-Moll, in response to critics who have branded his plans 'sick' and 'disrespectful'. "He lived for fashion, so it's only fitting that he died for it too!"

The designer also points out that McQueen's suicide was, itself, a post-modern celebrity death. "Post-Jade Goody, every celebrity death is public property," he says. "Just look at the way Sky News had exclusive coverage of McQueen's last journey in the mortuary van. Apparently the crime scene photos had already been sold to OK magazine, and the post mortem was outsourced to Hello." Many TV companies and celebrity lifestyle magazines have now set up their own crime scene investigation units and teams of forensic investigators. "It's the best way of securing an exclusive," opines Boong-Moll. "Plus, by outsourcing, the police save money!" Hello is said to possess the most modern mortuary in the UK, with some of Europe's top pathologists under contract. "The public sector just can't compete with the level of care they can give celebrity corpses," the designer says. "That's why Alex signed up with them - he didn't want just any Tom, Dick or Harry poking him around after he topped himself!"