Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Matter of Opinion

So Gordon Brown thought that a woman he spoke to in Rochdale was 'bigoted'. Well, he's entitled to his opinion. As are we all, as the press keeps telling us. However, despite their apparent enthusiasm for allowing people to air their opinions, no matter how ill-informed and offensive they might be, the media is suddenly shocked that a politician, the Prime Minister at that, actually has an opinion about a member of the public. Even more bizarrely, they seem taken aback by the fact that whilst he was polite to her in public, he expressed a different opinion in private, (or when he thought he was in private). What a two-faced lying bastard! Well, not really. We all do the same sort of thing on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time dealing with some of the most ignorant and obnoxious members of the public it is possible to encounter. But all the time I'm dealing with them, I smile sweetly and remain polite, occasionally even nodding slightly, as if in agreement. Of course, all the time I'm actually thinking "You are a moron", or worse. And when they've gone, I frequently discuss them in less than complimentary terms with colleagues. Don't try to deny that you've done something similar. Probably frequently.

So, what did the media expect Brown to do? Actually say to this old biddy's face: "You are an ignorant bigot. Now fuck off"? Actually, I think he should have. Indeed, I think he should have punched her in the face while he was about it. Damn it, she probably is a bigot. People who bang on to politicians about immigration generally are. Oh, I know, I've heard the old refrain about how you can't have a sensible discussion about immigration because as soon as you mention the word you are branded a racist. Well, that's probably because the only people obsessed with the subject are racists. Besides, the old crone in question seemed to be confusing migrant workers from Eastern Europe with illegal immigrants. Two completely different things. Unless you are a bigot, of course. Still, the damage is done now. Brown's faux pas let the Tory press off the hook and allowed them to divert attention away from actual policy discussions for another day. Frankly, I think that as Brown clearly has nothing to lose now, he should just take his new attitude into tonight's televised leaders' debate. He should just punch Cameron out and knee Clegg in the groin. Perhaps he already has. I'm not actually watching the debate. The reality is that the media don't really want to hear policy discussions, so Brown might as well go all out and try and win this debate by two falls and a submission - it's clear he could easily take the other two with one hand tied behind his back. Mind you,even if he leaves Cameron a bleeding heap, begging for mercy, the Daily Mail will still hail Dave as the victor.

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More Traffic Woes

It seems I was right - the good traffic of a few days ago was just a blip. As of yesterday we were back to square one. Not just an unbelievable crash in visitor numbers compared to the day before, but also we seem to be back to irrelevant porn search terms bringing this desultory traffic from Google. Oh, and Google appears to have stopped indexing my pages. Again. Today's results were even worse. To say that I'm disappointed is to put it mildly. I really am sick and tired at seemingly being at the mercy of the Great God Google's whims. It's obsession with the idea that webmasters are somehow trying to 'game' Google's search engine for better results is making traffic building damn near impossible for smaller sites like The Sleaze. I wouldn't mind, but most of the problems experienced with search results are, arguably, the fault of Google anyway. The relentless focus its AdWords scheme places on identifying and targeting 'keywords' is what drives more and more webmasters to pack their sites with what they are being told are he best keywords for their niche. Not only does this distort search results, crowding out those of us actually producing original content designed to be read by humans, but it also ensures that the web is increasingly dominated by sites full of poorly written and uninformative content, designed purely to rank highly in search results.

The irony, of course, is that far from us 'gaming' Google, it is them who are 'gaming' us by constantly moving the goal posts and forcing us to jump through hoops just to get our sites indexed properly. All we want, and all, I'm sure, that the average web surfer wants, is a search engine that returns results purely on the basis of relevance to the search term used. I really don't think people care about page rankings, the 'authority' of linking sites (a purely subjective judgement), the fact that a site takes a fraction of a second longer to load than the result above it, or any of the other increasingly meaningless 'metrics' that Google apparently uses to produce what it claims are 'better' results. If Google's algorithms really are making search results 'better', why is it I still have to wade through acres of crap before I find a relevant result when I search? (Yeah, I know that in the last post I promised not to bang on about traffic again for a while, but I'm afraid that Google has really pissed me off this time...)

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Searching for Visitors

Back to the thorny business of traffic. As regular readers will be aware, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in recent weeks ranting about the seemingly unstoppable drop in traffic to The Sleaze. Well, I think, at long last, I have an explanation for the situation. Tired of just moaning, I decided to actually do some research and found that I wasn't the only one experiencing this phenomenon. Since the beginning of the year a lot of sites have seen a significant decline in referrals from Google searches, particularly at weekends, and a reduction in the number of pages they had indexed by Google. The consensus of opinion seems o be that Google has been tweaking its search algorithms in preparation for Google Caffeine, the new version of their search engine they've been developing for some time, going live, which was expected to happen sometime in April.

Well, last Wednesday, traffic took another massive dip. However, by Saturday there were signs of recovery and for the last couple of days it seems to have returned to pre-January levels. Moreover, since Wednesday Google seems to have been busily re-indexing my pages. I can only assume that Caffeine has now gone live, replacing the old Google search completely. Perhaps the most interesting thing I've noticed is that search results now seem to be much more focused on the relevance of keywords, meaning that fewer people seem to be visiting The Sleaze as a result of poorly framed searches for porn, and more are reaching us for terms like 'political satire' and 'British satire'. Which isn't to say that I'm not still seeing some very peculiar search terms in the stats. Indeed, some, like 'How to murder my wife and get away with it', are downright scary. If the result of all the traffic fluctuations I've suffered over the past few months is better targeted traffic for the site, then I'm all for the new Google. I've always maintained that getting better 'quality' visitors, (ie people who actually want to read The Sleaze), should be our aim, even if it means lower traffic levels overall. Of course, this apparent improvement in traffic could prove to be just a blip, and it could all come crashing back down tomorrow. But I remain optimistic. And promise not to bang on about traffic for a while.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Shouting at the Television

Over the years I've gradually managed to wean myself off of my bad habit of arguing with the TV. One of the advantages of living by yourself is that you can shout abuse at people on television out loud, without anybody thinking that you are a nutter. There was a time when I'd argue with anything or anyone on the box. It was quite exhilarating, really. When Late Review was on BBC2 on a Thursday, I'd regularly come home from the pub and argue with Germaine Greer, I'd also frequently disagree with football pundits and sometimes have stand up rows with party political broadcasts. It all came to a head several years ago, when I was watching Top of the Pops, (which dates it a bit), one Friday night. I can't even remember which act was performing - probably some awful dance music outfit - but I suddenly heard myself loudly declaring "They call that music?" to an empty room. Now, the fact that I was posing a question to a non-existent audience was disturbing enough, but what really bothered me was the fact that I had just uttered the self same phrase that my father had come out with whilst watching Sweet on Top of the Pops back in 1972. It was a shocking moment of self-revelation for me - just as Glam Rock had presented my father with a Rubicon of youth culture he could never cross, so I had finally been forced to face the limits of my youth by a piece of crappy dance music. In that split second, not only did I fear that I was turning into my father, but I also had to accept that I no longer understood youth culture. My own youth was finally over.

However, this weekend, my youth, or at least my predilection for shouting at the TV, briefly returned. It actually started, not with shouting, but laughter. An item on the news sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, and left me, once again, reflecting that truth really is stranger than fiction. The report in question concerned the leaking of a Foreign Office memo which floated various ideas for activities the Pope could perform on his upcoming visit to the UK. Quite brilliantly, these included opening an abortion clinic, endorsing a brand of condoms and presiding over a gay wedding. Sadly, the civil servant concerned has been reprimanded and demoted. A travesty, this is the kind of 'blue sky thinking' we need more of in the public sector. Really, I'm so jealous tat I didn't come up with these ideas - they'd have made a fine basis for a story over in The Sleaze. Indeed, right here and now, I'd like to offer this individual a job writing for us - there's no money on offer, obviously, but he would have the satisfaction of seeing his work published to a more appreciative audience.

But my laughter was short-lived as, only minutes later in the same news broadcast, I found myself shouting "Why don't you just go and suck your Tory pal Cameron's cock, you tosspot?" at Richard Branson. Now, whilst my dislike for Branson is no secret, I've never before felt moved to heckle him, either in person, or virtually. I'm not quite sure exactly what set me off this time, but I suspect it was his obvious attempt to exploit the flight disruption caused by the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, to make political capital during the election campaign by criticising the government. According to the bearded tit, the government had completely overreacted by grounding all flights for days due to the safety threat posed by volcanic ash. The long and the short of it was that he wasn't happy at having to pay compensation to customers and, like all capitalists when the going gets tough, wanted a hand out of public money. OK, I know that the flight ban caused disruption on a scale not seen since Luciano Pavarotti's cremation sent clouds of ash several miles into the air over the Mediterranean, but the fact of the matter is that aircraft manufacturers and airlines (including Branson's) have steadfastly refused to finance tests to establish the effects of volcanic ash on aircraft engines, on the grounds that the threat posed was so unlikely it wasn't worth the expense. Consequently, when faced with a massive volcanic eruption, aviation authorities across Europe had, in the absence of any data or risk assessments, no choice other than ground all flights until they were able to conduct tests to obtain the data required. Which means, of course, that the likes of Branson have no one but themselves to blame for this fiasco, making his crocodile tears highly offensive. Ultimately, I suppose it moved me to anger because it so clearly illustrated that, when it comes down to it, multinational corporations will always put profit ahead of public safety. Surely that's something worth shouting at the telly about?


Friday, April 23, 2010

Debatable Value

I was hoping to avoid talking about politics or the General Election again this week. However, the latest of these bloody televise 'leader debates' has moved me to vent my spleen once again. I'll be quite frank, these debates are a complete waste of time. On the simplest level, they completely misrepresent our political system - we're electing a parliament, not a Prime Minister. Furthermore, they give an entirely false impression of the candidates involved - they offer only the most superficial of criteria upon which to judge them. Just because a party leader is good in a debate, it doesn't mean that they'll be any good at running the government - that involves a completely different set of skills and will expose them to entirely different pressures and challenges. Nick Clegg, for instance, might be riding a wave of popularity because of his popularity in the two debates so far screened, but I've also seen him involved in other discussion programmes where he's been faced by an audience of ordinary voters - he hasn't looked so good. He seemed easily flustered when put under pressure and incapable of defending his policies when faced with persistent questioning.

But perhaps my greatest problem with these debates is the way in which the media insists upon proclaiming one or other of the candidates as a 'winner' after each one. It's all part of their apparent desire to turn the whole political process into some kind of tawdry talent contest. It wouldn't be so bad if they were using any kind of objective and consistent criteria in order to decide upon a 'winner'. Looking at today's newspapers, it is quite clear that the Tory press, (which, realistically, is most of Fleet Street), are going to declare Cameron the victor, regardless of what actually happened in the debate. Quite frankly, yesterday he could have whipped out his penis, masturbated in Adam Boulton's face and taken a dump on live TV, and the likes of the Sun would still be praising him for his innovative approach to debating and the fact that he'd blown away Brown and Clegg by showing that he had a bigger dick. The level to which the reporting of these debates is being manipulated was made clear last night, by the way in which the headline in the Murdoch-owned and Tory supporting Times changed, within an hour from 'Neck and Neck', to declaring Cameron the outright winner. Hopefully, the electorate won't be so gullible as to swallow this cobblers.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome to the Rectum Bar...

We're back in the 'stranger than fiction' category with this, the 'Rectum Bar' in Vienna. What seems like an eternity ago, I wrote a story entitled When Art Attacks for The Sleaze. Inspired by a real incident of a giant inflatable sculpture which broke free of its moorings and was blown into the air with several visitors aboard, this story told the tale of a giant inflatable sculpture of Robbie Williams' genitals, which runs amok. Now we have a giant sculpture of the human digestive tract which doubles as a bar. I don't know if it is modelled on a celebrity's rectum and intestine, but it's surely only a small step from this to a sandwich bar modelled on a pair of breasts.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Talking Politics

I'm trying to avoid politics at the moment, which is a bit difficult when there's General Election in full swing. It might also seem a strange thing for someone who has a degree in politics and sometimes teaches politics to say. But quite apart from the fact that this particular election campaign has singularly failed to engage me, the level of public discourse on it is dismal. The public seem to have been locked into a mindset of hating politics and politicians and consequently dismissing them as being 'all the same'. Which, of course, misses the point. Ultimately, elections aren't about who promises what in their manifestos. Manifestos mean little, anyway. Governments can't be held to any of the promises made in them, (for good reason, governments are hostages to fortune, unforeseen events will always conspire to confound the plans of any government). No, elections are about choosing a government, it means deciding what political philosophy we want to have guiding our public life for the next five years. What principles we believe should underpin our society. Now, I'll conceded that in recent years it has often seemed that there isn't that much to distinguish the two main parties, that both have, at times, seemed equally unprincipled. But that would be to perpetuate a gross misrepresentation of British politics.

There is still a clear difference in underlying philosophy between Labour and Conservatives. The Conservatives are still the party of privilege, promoting the interests of big business and the powerful. It still puts profit and self interest ahead of social responsibility and the welfare of the underprivileged. Deep down, Labour is still the party of the less well off, champions of the exploited and powerless. Sure, they made some wrong turns in the Blair years, supporting reckless foreign military adventures, pursuing a pointless 'War on Terror' and spending too much time trying to cosy up to big business. But they delivered on other issues, such as the minimum wage and funding the NHS. There are definitely areas where they must do better, such as human rights and education. But I'm confident that the party's core principles will always draw it back on course. OK, party political broadcast over and on to an issue which has really been troubling me of late. In virtually every discussion of politics I hear, whether in the pub or on TV, there seems to be a growing tendency for the public to try and distance themselves from the actions of politicians, blaming the state of society solely upon 'them', the politicians, as if 'we', the electorate have no responsibility for them. The reality is that they are our servants, not the other way around. However, the sad fact is that we get the politicians we deserve. They only gain power because we vote for them, and they often gain those votes by appealing to our basest instincts.

I really am tired of hearing people moaning about the 'obscene' bonuses paid to bankers, the 'outrageous' pay of footballers and the 'ridiculous' expenses claimed by MPs. The only reason we ended up living in a society that allowed these things to happen is because, back in 1979, we listened to Thatcher when she told us that naked self-interest was actually good for the country, that the pursuit of profit without regard for its consequences was desirable and that the acquisition of material possessions was the only meaningful measure of success and happiness. By voting her in and further endorsing her in 1983 and 1987, the country was legitimising those bonuses, those expenses claims and Wayne Rooney's wages. You only have yourselves to blame. You all wanted that piece of prosperity she promised and happily agreed with her that anything which stood in the way of getting it - credit controls, financial regulation, spending on public services - should be bulldozed out of the way. It was your naked greed which put the Labour party in the position of effectively having to embrace the world of finance and deregulation and self interest, in order to gain power in 1997. Trust me, the collapse of the banks, the recession, the whole lot - you are just as much responsible for it as the bankers, financiers and politicians are.

Let's not forget, we do have the power to hold politicians to account, at every level, from local councils to parliament, through the ballot box. It's all very well to moan on about politicians, but when was the last time you attended a council meeting? Or one of your MP's regular constituency 'surgeries'? Indeed, did even bother voting at all in the last election, local or national? Of course, the problem was that throughout the 1980s and 1990s and into this century, we were all too busy pursuing our own private accumulation of wealth, that we didn't bother asking the pertinent questions of our representatives, or try to hold them to account. Just so long as they told us what we wanted to hear, we kept endorsing them. So, next time you are at the polling station, before you cast that vote, think long and hard about exactly what it is you are voting for, what kind of world do you want to live in. It's your responsibility.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Doctoring the Stats...

It's funny the things that can drive traffic to a site. I recently noticed that late on Thursday night, whilst I'd been in the pub, there'd been a sudden surge of traffic to The Sleaze. Further investigation revealed that it was one particular story - Dr Who? - which had generated the traffic, via variations on the search term 'dr who assistant naked'. I thought nothing more of it at the time, this particular story regularly attracts traffic whenever Doctor Who is on TV. However, on Saturday evening I finally got around to watching Charlie Brooker's Channel Four panel show You Have Been Watching, in which he showed a picture of former Dr Who assistant Katy Manning posing naked with a Dalek, (this was from a 1970s photo shoot for a men's magazine). Brooker commented that the picture shown was the only one they could show as the rest were too raunchy, (I've seen them and they are pretty hot stuff, actually). Lo and behold, no sooner had he said this, than thousands of geeks had obviously hit the search engines looking for said pictures, and finding my story in the process. Indeed, when I checked the timings of the original broadcast and compared it to my stats, they matched up perfectly with the surge in traffic. I suppose I should thank Charlie Brooker. Perhaps I'll tweet him. Although probably not - the idea of me tweeting celebrities is pretty ludicrous. As a footnote, (and I could be mistaken on this), Katy Manning, (who, of course, played Jo Grant back in the Pertwee era of Doctor Who), later married Australian singer and actor Barry Crocker, Barry McKenzie himself, who is probably now best remembered for having been the original singer of the Neighbours theme song.

All of which brings me, inevitably, to the new series of Doctor Who, featuring Matt Smith. I've refrained on commenting on this until having seen three episodes, not wanting to base my reactions upon an opening episode (which is often atypical of the series as a whole, particularly when, as here, it has to introduce a new regeneration of the Doctor). From the outset, I have to say that I like Matt Smith's Doctor. Sure, he's not David Tennant, but that's the point. Every Doctor is different. I thought his debut episode was pretty magnificent, very fast paced and with a great performance from Smith, who succeeded in making his Doctor likeable and engaging right from his first dialogue. I do, however, have some reservations about the subsequent two episodes. The Beast Below was, I thought, based around a great idea and was generally well executed. Nevertheless, the pace was too slow, which seemed quite jarring after the frenetic series opener the week before. Victory of the Daleks, by contrast, was, if anything far too fast paced, zipping through its somewhat slight storyline in around thirty minutes, filling the remaining fifteen with padding. It left me feeling very unfulfilled. Which is a pity, as the central conceit really seemed to have legs, but, for whatever reason, its development was completely abandoned about fifteen minutes in and replaced by a hurried story chronicling yet another resurrection of the Daleks. And what's with the new-fangled Daleks? They really don't look as menacing as the originals and smack of a cynical merchandising initiative. But my biggest problem with the episode lies with the soundtrack - at times I found it very difficult to discern dialogue as the background music and sound effects were too loud. There had been similar moments in the preceding two episodes, but this was easily the worst instance. I think that part of the problem is that Matt Smith is far more softly spoken than either David Tennant or Christopher Ecclestone, making him more easily drowned out by obtrusive background effects. This, above all else, really needs addressing! Either turn the background music down or get Matt Smith to project more! That aside, despite reservations about pacing and the quality of scripts, I still think Matt Smith's Doctor has a lot of potential.


Friday, April 16, 2010

More Overheard Conversations

Another train journey and another fragment of conversation from fellow passengers:

Bloke in baseball cap: "I've heard that the Queen Mother didn't really die in 2002 -apparently she only kicked the bucket last year in an old people's home in Hove, and was buried in a pauper's grave."

Geezer in trilby "That's just bollocks, innit? Why did they say she was dead and have that state funeral and everything if she wasn't brown bread, eh?"

Bloke in baseball cap: "Apparently she was tired of being waited on hand and foot, running up massive overdrafts and having her every trivial whim accommodated, so she faked her own death. She wanted to spend her last days living like an ordinary person, didn't she?"

Man picking his nose: "Well, my mate reckons he saw her living as a bag lady near Waterloo station in London, sleeping in a cardboard box and swigging meths with the other winos. He said the big floppy hat she was wearing and the crown wrapped in Tesco carrier bag in the trolley she was pushing were dead giveaways. When he approached her, she launched into a tirade of abuse at him before demanding money for a "cup of tea". When he last saw her, she was snogging some hairy old tramp with matted snot and dog crap in his beard."

Train guard: "Oi, stop disrespecting the Queen's mum! She was a top lady! Don't you know she single-handedly saved Britain from Hitler in World War Two? And she had affairs with Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix and probably had Princess Diana assassinated. I know towards the end, she smelled of wee, but that's no reason to take the piss. Now, tickets please."

At which point it turned out none of them had valid tickets and a huge row ensued, killing the conversation.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pirates of Men's Pants

Jim Thrapster confesses he is somewhat disappointed with life as a pirate. "It's nothing like it's shown in the movies," the thirty-one year old Londoner laments, sitting in his dank hut on the Somalian coast. "I thought it would be all sun, sea and excitement, seizing gold and busty women from passing ships and carousing wildly in Caribbean taverns! Instead, it's all rum and buggery! " Thrapster, who gave up his job in credit control for a life on the high seas, has found the reality of modern piracy to be very different. "For one thing, I had to come all the way to this African hell hole to get work as a pirate - they told me in Jamaica that they hadn't had pirates there for centuries," he says. "When I got here I found they didn't even have proper ships with sails! All they've got are these bloody dinghies - you try boarding an oil tanker from one of those."

Thrapster was dismayed to find that the pirate dinghies didn't even mount guns. "There isn't enough room for a cannon on them - if we're lucky we'll have a bloke with an AK-47 standing at the sharp end," he reveals. "It's even worse when we board ships - there are no flintlock pistols or even cutlasses! Machetes are usually the best we have. Last week, I had to make do with a piece of wood with a nail in it whilst trying to take a container ship." The booty to be had from such raids has also disappointed the would-be pirate. "All we got from that bloody container ship was a cargo of cheap Chinese-made garden ornaments," he says. "There's no point in burying that crap on a desert island - you might as well just dump it at sea."

His fellow pirates have also proven sorely disappointing to Thrapster. Far from the band of colourful characters promised by the likes of Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, he instead found himself in company with a band of murderous cut throats. "It's outrageous, not a single one of them has a huge beard, let alone a tricornered hat," he declares. "Not only that, but their personal hygiene is terrible - they all stink to high heaven and none of them seem to have heard of toilet paper." The night life has also fallen short of Thrapter's expectations. "Homosexuality seems to be the main entertainment around here. Mind you, as the only women appear to be toothless crones, it is hardly surprising," he reveals. "You have to join in, or get your throat cut. But I don't mind telling you that being buggered senseless by fifteen roaring drunk pirates every night isn't really what I had in mind when I signed up. I mean, I didn't see Johnny Depp getting jolly rogered up his windward passage by his crew in Pirates of the Caribbean. That film was highly misleading."


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the Battle Buses

You could tell that it was a bank holiday on Easter Monday - ITV 3 was showing those bloody On the Buses films on a continuous loop. They do that every bank holiday. Or so it seems. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about those films is the fact that the first one was the biggest grossing UK film of 1971. It made more money than Diamonds are Forever in the UK, apparently. What does that say about us as a nation, eh? Anyway, having bumped into one or other of the films several times during the course of the day, whilst channel surfing, it occurred to me that the reason I'd always disliked both the films and the TV series was the way in which they stereotyped the working classes as sex obsessed and work shy. Every episode seemed to revolve around Stan and Jack ogling and trying to pull 'birds' - who were always treated as sex objects incapable of doing any job as complicated as being a bus conductor, let alone a driver - and generally avoiding work if that got in the way of their libidos. Indeed, I always felt sorry for Blakey, the Inspector, who was made out to be the bad guy, when all he was doing was trying to get Stan and Jack to actually do the jobs they were being paid for and provide fare paying passengers with a proper bus service.

Eventually, I set to thinking whether this hoary old format could be updated for the modern age. Perhaps they could have a contemporary satirical version, set on the general election 'battle buses'. David Cameron could be the lustful driver and shadow chancellor George Osbourne could be the dodgy conductor, always fiddling the fares to try and make the books balance. Always deviating from their route to ogle 'birds' at meetings of the Bullingdon Club, the pair are constantly harassed by Inspector Gordon Brown, who wants them to deliver value for money public services. "I'm going to have you, if you don't demonstrate fiscal prudence - you see if I don't," he says at least three times every episode. Eventually he has to break some bad news to the leering bus crew, telling them that, thanks to the need to make economy savings, the bus company is downsizing. "I'm afraid you are both sacked," he tells them. "That's made my day, that has." Obviously, in the interests of political balance, Nick Clegg would also have to be in there somewhere. Probably as the passenger who leaves his hat on the bus.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

A Hunt for Votes

So, after a week's campaigning, how's the election been for you, so far? Pretty unexciting, I think. When the best the media can come up with is the tedious row over National Insurance contributions which, judging by the polls, the electorate really doesn't give a toss about, and a story about how Labour's 'Gene Hunt' poster campaign had supposedly backfired, you know it is shaping up to be a dull campaign. With regard to that poster - which showed 'Call me Dave' Cameron as Gene Hunt with the caption "Don't let him take us back to the eighties" - I can't help but feel that Labour got the emphasis wrong. Surely they should have been contrasting foppish Dave unfavourably with manly Gene Hunt, implying that Labour was the tough go-getting party the country needs to lead it through the recession. I had a go at putting together something along those lines and came up with this:

It's a bit crude, I know. But I think it puts the message across. I was thinking of sending it to Gordon Brown to see if the Labour Party would be interested in using it. I think it would look quite striking plastered across billboards all over Britain...

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Turn Me On, Dead Man

Being off work, I've taken the chance to catch up with a few DVDs. Amongst the various French crime movies I've watched, I also found time to check out this forgotten gem from 1987, which I picked up from the bargain bin at my local Poundland:

A film for conspiracy theorists everywhere, Turn Me On, Dead Man delves into the strange rumours of the death of Paul McCartney. The title of the movie is apparently what you will hear if you were to play the White Album backwards. Allegedly based on real events, the movie employs a fictitious lead character - Jack Molloy - investigating the supposed discovery of the McCartney conspiracy by DJ Russ Gibb, in the wake of John Lennon’s murder in 1980.

Pursuing claims that it was actually a symbolic spiritual death and rebirth, or even a hoax for publicity purposes, our intrepid investigator finds himself plunged into a world of weird tales and threats by shadowy people. Molloy encounters the predictable list of crazed theories including that McCartney was taken out by fundamentalist Christians from the USA, assassinated by Elvis Presley and the CIA, or even murdered by an enraged Lennon. This is all total lunacy, but nevertheless makes for entertaining viewing, despite the low production standards, (and it has to be said that it is a lot better than Down On Us, a Hendrix/Joplin/Morrison conspiracy thriller so bad that Leonard Maltin called it "utter shite"). Indeed, if you are unfamiliar with the world of the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracies, then you might find it quite amusing. A personal favourite in the mix is the idea that many rock stars did deals with the devil and that Paul was sacrificed in return for the Beatles’ phenomenal success, much as it was claimed that Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had been.

The scenes exploring of this particular theory have truly electric atmosphere, as the viewer is taken into the side alleys of life, where normal members of society suddenly turn out to be Satanists and occultists. The sense of unease is remarkably well handled. However, the problem with all of these theories is that they are reliant upon the viewer believing that McCartney could have been successfully replaced by William Campbell - a winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest - without his fans, family, the press or the general public ever noticing!

This is a curious film which has long been kept out of the public domain by legal complications. However, it is now yours to own and I recommend the DVD format, as it contains the documentary Paul Was The Walrus, which charts the history of this obsession. Nevertheless, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that on John Lennon's Glass Onion he sings "The Walrus Was Paul", and ‘walrus’ apparently means corpse in Greek, implying that Lennon had some involvement in the "death". Did he? Watch the film and find out!


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Election Fever

I know that it is very remiss of me, but I haven't yet acknowledged the fact that a general election has been called. In large part that's down to the fact that I didn't want to contribute to the level of media election overkill that we've been subjected to since it was made official on Tuesday. However, as I found out today, you just can't escape the bloody thing. Being off work this week, (did I mention that I was off - well, I have been since last Wednesday), I decided to get out and about and enjoy the Spring sunshine. The trouble was that no matter where I went, no matter how remote the spot, there seemed to be bloody huge 'Vote Conservative' posters up everywhere. I drove past a spot I had intended to eat my lunch at due to the presence of such an eyesore affixed to a fence. I can only assume that it is one of the local landowners abusing their obscene affluence to try and influence the election by sticking these posters p everywhere. No doubt their forelock-tugging minimum wage employees will all dutifully vote Tory, under threat of eviction from their hovels. Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas.

Anyway, I see that, only a couple of days into the campaign, we've reached the point of celebrity supporters being wheeled out. Well, by the Tories, at least, who today unveiled veteran film star and class traitor Sir Michael Caine as a supporter. I'm guessing that they're trying to demonstrate how even working class types who would traditionally be expected to vote Labour, now support posh boy Cameron. In reality, the message it sends is that once they get vast amounts of money for doing non-work, (let's be honest, acting doesn't really compare with nursing, say, as a high pressure occupation making a vital social contribution), many members of the working class become corrupted by their wealth and decide they want to pull the ladder up. Why should they pay taxes and make any contribution to the welfare of the less fortunate, upon whose labour their success has been built? No, celebrity endorsements are a dangerous thing in politics - for both the party and the celebrity. It can alienate fans who vote the other way to their idol, and can bring the wrong image to the party. Indeed, the fact that Danny Dyer is apparently a Labour supporter is enough to make me rethink my socialist values. Luckily, like the overwhelming majority of voters, I don't base my voting intentions upon which celebrity supports which party.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Even Stranger Than Fiction

April Fool's Day might be long gone, but the bizarre news stories just keep on coming. Today we had two women apparently attempting to re-enact Weekend at Bernie's by attempting to check a dead relative on to a flight to Berlin. They'd already got him as far the airport in a taxi. Sadly, they didn't go quite as far I had hoped - they merely pretended he was asleep and had him in a wheelchair, rather than operating his arms with strings, or propping hi up with a broomhandle up his backside. Nor did they try any ventriloquism. Mind you, Weekend at Bernie's wasn't the only movie being re-enacted in recent weeks. Out in the Far East, a South Korean warship was mysteriously and suddenly sunk near North Korean waters, ramping up tension between the two countries. Was it a covert act of aggression by those crazy North Koreans? Or was it part of a wild scheme on the part of a mad media tycoon to cause war between the two Koreas and sell the exclusive TV rights? Can we expect to see a North Korean missile test go wrong next, apparently as a result of South Korean sabotage? Have I seen Tomorrow Never Dies too many times?

Whatever is going on out in Korea, I'm sure we'll send our top man out to deal with it, doubtless on some flimsy pretext that something happening on the other side of the world somehow presents a direct threat to British interests. A bit like Afghanistan. Or Iraq. Anyway, whatever the reason, we'll dispatch our best undercover agent, booking him into several top hotels under his own name and making out sure the villain knows exactly who he is and what he's up to well in advance. Doubtless it will all end with several large explosions but, incredibly, no diplomatic incidents. Frankly, I'm always mildly surprised that most James Bond movies don't climax with him giving the villain a good seeing to up the jacksie, before zipping up his fly and leaving the bad guy nursing his stinging arse and reflecting on how foolish he was in taking on Britain's mighty manhood. I mean, it all makes sense - the fact that 007's a public schoolboy, all those exaggerated displays of macho heterosexuality, the obsession with his 'weapon', the male bonding with the likes of Felix Leiter and the obligatory torture at the hands of the villain. If all that doesn't point to closet homosexuality, I don't know what does. So, I'll be watching the next Bond movie, waiting for the denouement, when Daniel Craig drops his trousers and takes some North Korean warlord roughly from behind.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Bed and Buggery

"B and B is meant to stand for 'Bed and Breakfast', not 'Bed and Buggery' for God's sake," declares John Dickler, spokesperson for a group of militant B and B owners seeking the right to refuse to rent rooms to gay couples. "What right-minded person would want two men getting up to that sort of thing under his roof?" Dickler's stance - , despite being in direct contravention of anti-discrimination legislation, has unexpectedly gained support from the shadow Home Secretary, has drawn a hostile response from gay rights groups. "It's utterly ridiculous - why just pick on male homosexuals?" asks James Floundly of the Gay Defence League. "Believe me, straight couple could be getting up to all manner of lewd and depraved sexual acts in their rooms - including buggery! Then there are the lesbians to worry about!" However, Dickler is unrepentant. "Look, this is a moral issue - I have every right to decide exactly who it is that I spy on in my own B and B," he retorts. "As a heterosexual man, I find it completely impossible to masturbate whilst watching two men going at it - straight couples and lesbians are completely different. If you can't get your end away to them, then you are impotent or dead!" Dickler quickly added the proviso that he would only allow beautiful lesbian couples to stay at his establishment. "None of those fat dykes in comfortable shoes," he mused. "They're guaranteed to make the old tallywhacker go limp in your hands."

According to Dickler, being forced to accommodate gay couples could see the profits of many B and Bs slashed. "There's just no market for this sort of gay porn," he claims, explaining that many of his fellow B and B owners regularly film their guests with hidden cameras. "There's no way that most of these establishments can survive on the money generated by putting up travelling salesmen and bird spotters. There's a big market, though, for this candidly shot porn. It's a victimless crime really, the guests being filmed are never likely to see it, and the footage is sufficiently grainy they're unlikely ever to be recognised by anyone else. So who's being harmed?" The Gay Defence League has responded by announcing a boycott of B and Bs' run by overtly Christian owners. "Many of these people claim their objections to our members staying under their roofs is based on religious conviction," explains Floundly. "Well, we have moral objections to their religion. I mean, they could be Catholics, in which case we could be staying under the same roof as kiddie fiddlers! It's outrageous!"


Friday, April 02, 2010

"You Are Jesus Christ, and I Claim My Five Pounds.."

Jesus Christ’s father - Our Lord God Almighty - is worried about His Son. The Saviour of Mankind was due back on earth for the new millennium over ten years ago, however, no-one has so far seen him. “He left my mansion - which has many rooms - promptly at midnight on 31 December 1999”, God told us through his appointed intermediaries here on earth, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. “But I haven’t seen or heard from him since . There have been no authenticated miracles reported - usually a sure sign that he is around. Whilst I don’t think that anything really terrible has happened to him - I haven’t heard of any crucifixion’s lately - I would like him to get in touch, just to put my mind at rest”. Well, with Easter here, we Sleaze Diary have decided to give The Almighty a helping hand. We’re asking all of readers to look out for the Messiah and, just to provide an extra incentive, we’re prepared to give a fiver to whoever successfully spots him!

However, just to make it interesting, when you approach the Son of God you must be dressed in religious garb, be holding a copy of the Bible, and you must say “You are Jesus Christ, Saviour of Mankind, and I claim my five pounds!” Remember, this challenge is not as easy as it sounds - Jesus is clearly determined not to be found and may be in disguise. Simply looking out for any bearded thirty year olds wearing sandals will not suffice - he could have trimmed that facial hair and now be sporting a neat goatee beard! The sandals could have been replaced with Reeboks and the flowing robes with a sharp suit. Perhaps he has adopted the guise of someone famous - UK Garage star Craig David, for instance. After all, who had ever heard of him before 2000, eh? Just why Jesus has gone into hiding is not clear. Perhaps the pressure of being Messiah was all too much for him and he’s decided to drop out for a while. We’ll only know the true answer if you find him! And remember, we’ll need proof of his identity - stigmata, water into wine, raising the dead - that sort of thing. Good luck and God be with you!

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ten Glorious Years

Well, here we are, ten years to the day since I first put The Sleaze online. And what a bloody miserable anniversary it is turning out to be - traffic is still hitting rock bottom (and has been since the beginning of the year - it took a further nosedive at the start of February and has never recovered), and the official tenth anniversary story has been all but ignored by readers. All par for the course for the past couple of years. On what should be a day of me celebrating what is quite an achievement - keeping any website active for more than a few months these days seems miraculous - I instead find myself wondering even more than usual why I even bother. Others have already given up. The Daily Redundancy has apparently shut up shop after three years, (as the site is down, I'm assuming the announcement isn't an April Fool's joke). If their traffic has been anything like mine of late, then I don't blame them. It really is dispiriting, putting in the effort, only to see it completely ignored. It's like being Tim Westwood doing the afternoon shift on Radio One Extra.

Anyway, getting back to this tenth anniversary issue of The Sleaze, I'm quite proud of the latest story - Christ the Kink? - even if nobody else seems to be interested. It was a relatively last minute choice, replacing the planned story which, I decided, just wasn't offensive enough. The resulting story is a throwback to the good old days of the site - it was conceived and written quickly, with a minimum of editing. Whilst giving it a rough and ready feel, this process also lends the story a certain feeling of immediacy, I think. I rather miss the days when most of the stuff I produced for The Sleaze was written 'on-the-fly' like this. It was still fun back then. The web was still young and a novelty to us all - website owners and surfers alike. Everything online seemed ephemeral and disposable then. Indeed, I didn't think The Sleaze would last past ten issues, when, I calculated, I'd run out of material. Then I revised this to three years, then five, then ten. Well, I've reached ten now, so I'm not sure what the next target will be. I've still got plenty of story ideas, whether anyone wants to read them, or whether The Sleaze is the best platform for them, is another question.

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