Monday, May 31, 2010

Pop Went the Sixties

Bank holidays are wonderful things. Especially when, like me, you end up spending a large proportion of the day on the sofa watching television. On days like this the TV companies struggle to fill the day's schedule in some way that defines it as 'special', without actually spending any money. Consequently, repeats abound. Most are run of the mill, but occasionally a truly fascinating cultural artifact turns up. Today, for instance, I caught Pop Go the Sixties, a BBC-ZDF (Germany) co-production originally broadcast on New Year's Eve 1969. An attempt to sum up the decade's most popular music through a series of studio performances by top acts, the whole thing was presented by the ever creepy Jimmy Saville and some German bird, (at least she knew she was safe with him), who appeared to be in an entirely different studio to the acts and audience. The whole thing looked suspiciously like an over-extended edition of Top of the Pops. The most fascinating thing about it was just how staid it all seemed, bearing in mind that this was meant to be the swinging sixties. I mean, I'm sure that even in my far flung corner of the provinces it was a bit more exciting than this programme would have you believe. Even the dancing seemed a bit restrained. Actually, I couldn't help but notice that the gyrations being performed by Helen Shapiro's backing dancers looked suspiciously like the contortions I put my limbs through when my bladder is full and I'm desperately trying not to piss myself. My suspicion that all sixties dance moves were inspired by incontinence seemed to be confirmed by Cliff Richard's dance 'moves' as he performed 'Congratulations'. He kept shuffling around as if he'd shat himself. Perhaps he had. Maybe those rumours are true and his colostomy bag had burst.

The programme also included one of those Top of the Pops bits where a bunch of dancers perform a routine to an orchestral arrangement of a popular hit single. In this case it was the Ascot Dancers, (I actually mis-heard Jimmy Saville's introduction and thought they were called the 'Ass Hot Dancers' until I checked the end credits), dancing to the Johnny Harris Orchestra's arrangement of the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. The arrangement succeeded in making this iconic Stones hit sound like the score for some low rent sixties James Bond rip-off movie. So low rent that it probably wouldn't even be able to get Dean Martin or Rod Taylor as the lead. The sort that would instead have to settle for Tom Adams. Or Vince Edwards. Quite dispiriting. But quite the most bizarre part of the broadcast came when the German bird announced that she wanted to take a walk in the Black Forest. With Horst Jankowski. Now, she was obviously referring to the German band leader and pianist's 1965 instrumental easy listening hit 'A Walk in the Black Forest'. Trust me, you may think that you've never heard this number, but, believe me, you have, without knowing it. To this day it is frequently used as background music in lifestyle TV programmes and as mood music in massage parlours. Anyway, getting to the point, Horst Jankowski wasn't in the studio. Instead, we were treated to what amounted to a pop video of the tune. I'd forgotten just how literal these apparently were in 1969. Basically, what we got was three minutes of Horst himself, sporting a beard, furry hat and puffing on a pipe, wandering through a snowy woodland scene, (presumably the Black Forest, although I suspect it could actually have been some woods in Surrey), to the accompaniment of 'A walk in the Black Forest'. And that's all he did - stroll through the woods. He didn't take a piss behind a tree, stumble across a stash of porn magazines and used condoms, or even spy on gay couples having furtive sex in the bushes. Damn it, he wasn't even chased by a bear! The video climaxed, if that's the right word, with Horst lying down in the snow. Presumably to die of exposure in attempt to atone for coming up with the blandness of 'A Walk in the Black Forest'. Although I have to concede that the tune was sufficiently catchy that I couldn't get it out of my head for hours afterwards. So there you have it - that, apparently, was the 1960s. It makes you wonder what all the fuss was about.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Celebrity Sex Addiction (Part Three)

In a highly innovative move, Reltney even seeks to recycle the sexual energies released by patients in his clinic. During therapy he collects this energy in “orgone accumulators” (originally devised by Wilhelm Reich), which are subsequently used to help celebrities suffering abnormally low sex-drives, or even impotency. However, his approach is not supported by all sex-therapists - Professor Juan Popazogalou, a fellow follower of Reich, believes that his colleague is betraying their mentor’s fundamental principals: “When the rich and famous cannot control their libidos the capitalist world calls it sex addiction, when it is the ordinary worker, they are labelled perverts. Reltney’s approach is typical of the exploitative western approach to sexual therapy - treat only those rich enough to pay!” This, the Professor believes, simply serves to reinforce existing sexual repression along traditional economic and class lines, noting that incidences of impotence, premature ejaculation and frigidity are far commoner amongst the economically deprived than the well-off.

“Sexual activity can only be a satisfying and pleasurable activity for the privileged elite, for the proletariat it is merely a crude act leading to procreation”, he opined. “For the ruling classes pictures of naked women and depictions of sex are labelled high art, when served up to the masses they are coarsened and cheapened into mere pornography!” Popazogalou adds: “For the sex addict the sexual act has become a mechanical, competitive act, divorced from passion and emotion, where only quantity matters. Only by releasing the patient from their social, economic, political and personal sexual inhibitions via psychotherapy, can the syndrome be treated”. He is also scornful of Reltney’s “sexual recycling” initiative. “He simply sells this excess sexual energy to other rich and privileged fools”, he told us. “Instead, he should be giving it away to the poor and underprivileged, in order to effect a true redistribution of sexual energy - only this will enable all, regardless of class, to fully enjoy the benefits of orgasm!”

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celebrity Sex Addiction (Part Two)

“The key to treating sex addiction is the proper regulation of the body’s naturally produced sexual energy”, explains Tom Reltney, a disciple of pioneering sex researcher Wihelm Reich. “Suppressing the orgasm is also essential, as the moment of climax releases chemicals into the brain which can become addictive, forcing the addict to try and achieve more frequent and powerful orgasms”. Before proper therapies for the affliction were developed, sufferers would sometimes try and control their urges themselves, usually employing very crude means. “Jack Kennedy was known to favour shoving his genitalia into a bucketful of ice”, Reltney reveals. “When he couldn’t get enough ice, he’d sometimes resort to simply sticking his knob in the fridge for half an hour. His brother Bobby reputedly used to try and literally beat down unwanted erections with a sawn-off baseball bat - it was said that several times during the Cuban Missile Crisis he could be heard in the White House toilet stalls screaming “Be gone you evil bastard!”.” Thankfully, we now live in more enlightened times, where establishments such as 'Downshires' can safely treat celebrity sufferers with scientifically proven remedies.

Naturally, the clinic imposes a strict regime on its patients - no unregulated sexual activity is allowed for the duration of their treatment, not even light masturbation. Their libidos are kept repressed by a variety of means, including traditional cold showers and aversion therapy - patients are often forced to stare at naked images of Anne Widdecombe for hours on end. They are only allowed to release their sexual energy under strictly controlled circumstances, often under hypnosis. “The aim is for them to relieve their erotic tensions in a strictly non-orgasmic manner”, says Reltney. “Usually they are hypnotised and allowed to ejaculate safely. This, combined with a form of acupuncture which helps the energy to flow safely through the body’s key nodal points, allows them to establish a self- regulated form of sexual activity, with orgasms being rationed to one a week”.

Obviously, maintaining this pattern of behaviour outside the clinic is the real challenge for many patients. Sometimes a keyword can be hypnotically implanted in the patient’s subconscious - when sexual energy levels become dangerously high, the patient is triggered to speak the word out loud this, in turn, will set off a safe, non-orgasmic, ejaculation. Reltney believes that President Clinton may have received such therapy - although he suspects that too obvious a keyword was used: “If you watch footage of him at his last arms summit with Yeltsin, you’ll notice how he grips the edge of the table so hard his knuckles go white, every time anyone mentions the words “ballistic missiles”. Also, when he’s asked a question about “ballistic missiles” at the press conference, he suddenly doubles up, clutches at his groin and shouts “Jesus!”. However, I could be wrong on this one”. Aversion therapy can be also used outside the clinic to reinforce the treatment regime, although Reltney denies that he ever advised Robbie Williams to go out with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a means of putting him off of sex.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TV Cop Outs

Apparently TV can damage your health, as proven by that bloke who recently shot himself after Nick Knowles and his DIY SOS team had given his property a makeover. I ask you, just how bad a job could they have done? Still, at least his sacrifice hasn't been in vain - they've pulled the programme from the Bank Holiday schedules. Not that TV programmes usually have such an extreme effect. At worst, they simply obsess people, dominating their every waking hour, making them slaves to the schedules and destroying their social lives. The number of times I've been stood up by friends and acquaintances who'd rather watch the latest episode of their current TV obsession than come out for a pint. Haven't they ever heard of PVRs, or even VHS recorders? What's surprising though, is how often the people who obsess over these things, don't actually seem to understand what they've seen. You wouldn't believe the number of people I've encountered who have had to have the ending of Ashes to Ashes explained to them. They were all dead! All along, they were all dead!

It really shouldn't have come as a surprise. The clues were all there, throughout three series of Ashes to Ashes, not to mention the two series of Life on Mars which preceded them. If you were a fan, surely it would have been obvious? Mind you, I always thought the outcome of The Prisoner was obvious - they told you who 'Number One' was in the opening sequence every week: "Who is Number One?", "You are Number Six". The implication is clearly that Number One is Number Six. I always assumed that the Patrick McGoohan character had been the head of the facility he found himself in, but had suffered some kind of breakdown, resulting in his incarceration. All the weird shit he encounters was his interpretation, via his psychosis, of the facility's attempts to investigate the causes of his breakdown. But I could be wrong, and your interpretation is, ultimately, just as valid. Getting back to Ashes to Ashes, if you watched all the way to the end of the closing credits, you would have been treated to a vintage clip of Dixon of Dock Green.

Now, whilst the obvious reason for this excerpt's presence was to make the point that, ultimately, Ashes to Ashes was just another TV cop show, the latest in a long line, it was also citing the old show as a precedent for the current one. After all, the character of PC George Dixon was killed in his first appearance (in the film The Blue Lamp),gunned down by Dirk Bogarde, only to be resurrected, without explanation, a few years later for the TV series. Just like Gene Hunt. And,just like Gene Hunt, he proceeded to uphold the law in an idealised world of the 1950s, mentoring many young coppers and setting them on the right path. Clearly the inspiration for Ashes to Ashes, except that they neglected to give us the concluding episode revealing that Dock Green Police Station was actually some kind of limbo that the souls of dead coppers spent some time in, before passing over to either heaven or hell.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Celebrity Sex Addiction (Part One)

Michael Douglas, Robbie Williams, Charles Hawtry, - all of these men have, at one time or another, been described in the press as “sex addicts”. But just what is this alleged affliction? Is it a genuine disorder, causing real distress and requiring expensive treatment, or is it merely a convenient excuse for libidinous celebrities to justify their increasingly empty sexual excesses? Dr Tom Reltney, Director of the 'Downshires' Sex Clinic, firmly believes that sex addiction is a very real, and very serious, problem. “People may like to laugh about it”, he says. “But its a very serious matter for the sufferers. If they fail to regularly satisfy their sexual urges, they can suffer serious physical damage, including ruptured testicles, grossly inflamed penises and even severe internal bleeding and muscular strains, as they try to hold in dangerously high levels of sexual energy!”

In severe cases the damage can become permanent. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt ended up confined to a wheelchair as a result of his sexual urges being repressed”, Reltney reveals. “His wife Eleanor was either unwilling or unable to satisfy his gargantuan sexual appetites, but worse than that, she prevented him from finding other physical releases for it. Consequently, FDR tried to divert his sexual energies into other avenues, taking the US into World War Two in 1941. But even that wasn’t enough, and he finally succumbed to his affliction in 1945!” However, the very act of satisfying their urges can also prove harmful to the sufferer. “Over-indulgence can result in extreme exhaustion, premature ageing and even death”, warns Reltney. “Take the case of Errol Flynn, he never held back from relieving his inherent erotic tension. Consequently, by the age of fifty he had literally shagged himself to death! On the night he died, his partner had become too physically spent to satisfy him, so Flynn indulged in a marathon twelve hour masturbation session - its been said that by the end he was ejaculating blood from his flaccid penis!”

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Making a Spectacle of Myself

I finally got my very expensive new glasses from the opticians yesterday. This is the first time I've had entirely new glasses in five or six years, so it's pretty exciting for me. I've finally had to concede to the fact that the years are taking their toll on me, and that in addition to needing glasses for distance work, I also need reading glasses. In order to minimize the numbers of pairs of glasses I have to remember to carry with me, I was persuaded to try varifocal lenses, which is why they were so bloody expensive. I must say that they are taking some time for me to get used to after years of wearing single focus lenses. It's all too easy to forget the existence of the segments intended for reading and find everything going blurry at the edge of my vision.

My new prescription sunglasses (which are single focus for driving), are fascinating me for entirely different reasons. In the past, I've always had a green tint on my sunglasses. However, this time around, the frames I wanted were only available with a brown tint. On putting them on yesterday, I found that, when the sun is out, the tint on the lenses gives everything a warm golden aura. It really is quite amazing - I walk around in a wonderful glowing world every time I put them on. Everything seems somehow heightened. The world seems surreal, yet more friendly and welcoming. It's like being on some kind of permanent high. It's better than drugs. But probably more expensive.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Dreams

Dreams always perplex me. The ones I remember, that is. Most, I don't. That said, amongst the most perplexing are those which seem vivid upon waking, but whose details fade immediately, leaving you with the infuriating sense of there being some profound experience lurking just out of your reach. But getting back to ones that we can actually recall, the problem with dreams is that we always like to think that they're trying to communicate some fundamental truth to us, even though, at face value, hey are utterly unfathomable. My favourite ever dream - which I might have mentioned before, in which case skip over this bit - involved Burt Reynolds. I dreamt that the star of such classics as Smokey and the Bandit had been drinking in my local pub. Not particularly off beat by dream standards, but the thing was that it seemed so vivid, that even after I woke up, for several minutes I treated it as a real memory. For a blissful, but brief, period I fondly imagined that I'd actually met Burt Reynolds, as he stood at the lounge bar of my local, sinking a pint with him. Then reality kicked in, and I asked myself just what a Hollywood superstar would be doing drinking in back street pub in the South of England? But it was just so real! To this day, I can show you the exact spot in the bar he was stood at, and the bar stool he was sitting on.

All of which brings me, finally, to my latest perplexing dream experience. This one involved a very good female friend of mine who I haven't seen in some time. (No, it wasn't that sort of dream, you filthy minded swine - get back to your own beds!) Whilst some of the details have faded, I recall that it started with me walking down a street of terraced houses. Where this street was, I don't know. I didn't recognise it. Anyway, I stopped outside a front door and knocked. The door was answered by my friend. However, she didn't look as she did the last time I saw her. Instead, her hair was short and spiky, as it was when we worked together, nearly a decade ago. Having entered the house, I found myself in a very narrow front room, which my friend and myself were apparently decorating - it was bare save for a sofa covered in a sheet. Whose house this was, whether it was mine or my friend's, wasn't clear. We proceeded to climb some uncarpeted stairs to a completely bare upper area, where I was apparently doing some kind of carpentry. Now, during the course of this carpentry, I somehow managed to embed the bit of an electric drill in the back of my left calf. How this happened is, once again, unclear. Nevertheless, it was painful, particularly as the drill kept running. I kept shouting at my friend to switch it off, but she took her bloody time about it, apparently finding several other DIY activities more important. After she finally switched it off, (laughing, I might add, at my predicament as she did so), I pulled the bit out and found the wound wasn't as bad as I thought. Relieved, I woke up. So, what did it all mean? What conclusion can I draw from this strange episode, apart from the fact that my friend's dream self is as dippy as she is in real life, that is? Who knows.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A 'Better' Service?

At the outset of the election campaign, (which seems an eternity ago now), I found myself, for no good reason, perusing the department's intranet. Clearly, I must have been bored and was probably simply trying to put off going out onto the streets and dealing with the great British public. I don't recall. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that in the usual patronising message we in the public sector get from our chief executives every time there's an election - basically it reminds us of our duty to be impartial, etc., which we are all the bloody time anyway - one phrase leaped out at me. It warned that whatever the outcome of the election, we would undoubtedly be looking to provide a 'better' service with fewer resources. Now, bearing in mind that we've been cut to the bone, staff wise, already, I was left wondering how exactly this was going to work? For several years now, following the mantra of 'reducing costs', we've been shedding staff. Not just any staff, but generally the most experienced staff, whose skills we really can't afford to lose if we are to have any chance of maintaining anything like a satisfactory standard of service. But, of course, these are also the most expensive staff, on the highest pay bands for their grades.

But then it struck me, it was obvious how we were going to provide 'better' services. We'd simply redefine what's meant by 'better'. Not a lowering of standards, you understand, just a redefinition. After all, what the public sector currently considers a satisfactory level of service is what most of us who have worked there long-term would, a few years ago, have termed 'piss poor'. So, there's the solution - make what we used to call 'unsatisfactory', 'better'. The fact that we don't have sufficient experienced staff to maintain satisfactory service levels need no longer be a problem - just drag what constitutes 'satisfactory service' down to a level which matches the skills of our current inexperienced work force. Hell, it has the advantage of enabling further cuts in expenditure - why bother spending money on staff training when you've effectively de-skilled all of their work by lowering the standards to which they have to perform? Trust me, I'm not joking. This is actually happening. Increasingly, people are having their work activity defined in terms of 'job cards' which spell out exactly what they have to do at each stage of the process. It's cheaper than training them. It also removes any necessity for exercising 'initiative', (something that used to be prized in the public sector, but is now frowned up). The consequence of all this is that staff can no longer deal with any unexpected development, resulting in frequent chaos and log jams. But not to worry - it's a 'better' service, isn't it?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Still More Overheard Conversations

Another fragment of conversation recently overheard - this time on the top deck of a number fifty-seven bus:

Bald bloke: "That Buzz Aldrin guy became a total fruit-loop after he came back from the moon - he once arrived at a NASA party dressed in a kitchen roll and wearing a plastic plant pot on his head. He reckoned it gave him protection from the moons rays."

Youth with earphones: "Yeah, I heard about that - didn't he stir the punch bowl with his penis?"

Girl with pierced lip: "I once met this guy who said he'd been in space. I asked how farts behaved in zero gravity. He didn't answer me but he did attempt to touch me up."

Woman with shopping bag: "It's all bollocks - they never went to the moon at all. My Gran reckons she saw them filming it on the beach at Weston Super Mare back in 1969. She says if you look closely at the TV footage of the first landing, you can see the kiddies being given donkey rides reflected in Neil Armstrong's visor."

Youth with earphones: "Nah, they deffo went to the moon, at least the first one was real, anyway. When they got there they found the Nazis had already set up a colony there. The CIA had to brainwash them when they got back - that's why Aldrin went bonkers."

At which point a tramp evacuated his bowels on the lower deck, forcing the abandonment of the bus.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Bondage of Robin Hood

With Ridley Scott's new Robin Hood movie, featuring Russell Crowe, opening in the UK, I thought I'd treat you all to another, somewhat more radical, interpretation of the old legend, from my personal DVD collection - Bondage of Robin Hood.

A curious film made in 1970s France, Bondage is perhaps the only example of a homo-erotic attempt at the Robin Hood legend. For the most part it follows the traditional version of the oft-told tale, its only new addition to the myth being a strange sub-plot concerning the very gay Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff becomes more and more obsessed with capturing Hood and bending him to his will. Whilst I'm not sure about the portrayal of homosexuals in this film as sado-masochistic bullies, it does make for a much more interesting take on the old stories than the plethora of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, which seems to be the staple fare of this genre.

At the start of the film we find a weary Robin Hood escaping from the Turks after suffering terrible abuse at their hands. It is this that underpins the film, giving Robin flashbacks to the Turkish prison and receiving what would appear to be a sound buggering from the guards. Teaming up with some fellow inmates, including Will Scarlet, he forms his band of merry men. Perhaps 'merry' is the wrong word to describe them. 'Dysfunctional and pervy' might be a better description. Friar Tuck, for instance, appears to have been excommunicated for some ecclesiastical irregularities concerning a parsnip and a novice nun, whilst Little John joins only after being given a good thrashing with a quarter-staff by Hood. Stranger still is the relationship between Robin and Will Scarlet - as former prisoners of the Turks they posses a close bond that is threatened by the arrival of Maid Marion, whose presence at Robin's side seems to cause Will considerable distress.

It is later in the film that we get the first face to face meeting between Sheriff and outlaw when Robin wins the archery contest and becomes a guest of the Sheriff. At dinner the Sheriff realises who Hood is and offers to allow him to continue his merry ways as long as he will submit himself to him. Robin’s refusal leads to the bondage of the title in its most obvious sense as he is subjected to torture and sexual humiliation before his merry men rescue him. In the escalating violence the Sheriff becomes more and more insane as he brings in people to hunt down Hood, including a band of Turkish mercenaries who eventually kill Will Scarlet. It is this that finally convinces Robin to kill the Sheriff, begging the question of how deep is the bond between him and Will - another bondage for Robin? Again, after the torture at the hands of the Sheriff there does seem to be some strange relationship between the hero and villain as they descend into a self-destructive homo-erotic confrontation, eventually leading to both their deaths after the final sword fight on a very suggestive tower.

A strange example of a European co-production that rises above most Robin Hood films by examining the underlying close male relationships, not unlike some westerns such as the excellent Warlock, this is probably one of the most original takes on the legend since the Marxist retelling of Arrows of Robin Hood, and the revisionist reworking of Robin And Marion.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

For Better and For Worse?

Like everyone else, I seem to have been somewhat election-obsessed for the past couple of weeks, leading to this blog being dominated by politics. As this isn't actually a politics blog, I'm aiming to try and give the subject a rest for a while now. However, before leaving the topic, I'd just like to offer a few final thoughts on recent events, (Jesus, I'm sounding like bloody Jerry Springer). First up, this Tory-Liberal coalition. Whilst I remain implacably opposed to it, I recognise that this position represents a degree of hypocrisy on my part. After all, if things had turned out differently, and it was a Lib-Lab coalition, I'd be hailing it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. That said, such a coalition would, at least, make some ideological sense. My greatest problem with this 'government of none of the talents' lies not with Dave and the Tories, but rather with 'Calamity' Clegg and his band of merry illiberals. I mean, you know where you are with Dave and his cronies - they're a bunch of over privileged bastards. But the Liberals, have we ever been sure what they actually stand for? Are they just opportunists? Well, I certainly think that's true of Clegg. If it had been someone like, say, Charles Kennedy, or David (now Lord) Steel, leading the Lib Dems into this coalition, I'd feel a lot happier. I'd feel reassured that they really were going into it with the intention of trying to implement some of their principles, rather than just to gain the power which has eluded them for so long. Sadly, after seeing the footage of various senior Lib Dems leaving the meeting which had ratified the coalition, it is clear that they wee simply hungry for power. You could see it in their eyes - they'd been dazzled by the bauble of power dangled in front of them by Clegg and Cameron.

Having said all that, it isn't all bad. If nothing else, this coalition might see the end of the ID cards scheme and various DNA databases. That alone is worth the price of admission. I'm afraid that civil liberties is an area where Labour really lost its way whilst in government. And that's the other good thing to come out of this - an opportunity for Labour to get back in touch with its roots and true values whilst in opposition. Finally, I feel moved to address the issue of The Sleaze's latest story, Well Hung Parliament (an expanded and rewritten version of 'In Bed With David Cameron' from a couple of posts ago). I'm not saying that I think either Cameron or Clegg are gay, for God's sake! Rather, I'm trying to parody the tone of the media reporting of the coalition. The negotiations behind it were presented as some kind of flirtation between the two men, a situation which hasn't changed now that they are in government. Just today The Guardian has a front page headline referring to them as 'The Happy Couple at No 10', whilst the theme is continued on the inside pages with headlines like 'After whirlwind romance, the big day', and 'Love, cherish and obey?'. That was just one newspaper. The TV channels have been just as bad. Personally, I think this tells us more about the sniggering, furtive attitudes to sex and relationships of the middle-aged, middle class men who dominate our media, than it does about Cameron and Clegg. So, there you have it. My final words (for now) on the subject of the election!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dave New World?

So, it's finally happened. That oily little git Cameron has finally wheedled his way into Downing Street. But only, apparently, with the support of Nick Clegg and his band of mercenary 'liberals'. But right now I don't want to talk about him, I'd rather pay tribute to Gordon Brown. God knows, I've disagreed with him on a whole slew of issues, but I have to say that, in these last few days of his Premiership, he's played a blinder. I have nothing but respect for the way he's taken this election, not just down to the wire, but beyond it. His refusal to be hustled out of Downing Street in the wake of the hung parliament by the right wing press was admirable. His last minute announcement that he was prepared to step aside to accommodate a possible coalition with the Lib Dems was pure genius, throwing a spanner into the works of the Tories' attempts to negotiate with the Lib Dems. The subsequent revelation that the Lib Dems had already been two-timing Cameron by secretly talking to Labour will, with luck, sow the seeds of mistrust in the new coalition government, even before it takes office. Finally, his sudden resignation, forcing Cameron's hand, before he'd completed his negotiations with Clegg, was quite brilliant.

These past few days since the election have been fun - watching the growing frustration of the Tories and their media cronies as they were forced to observe the constitutional niceties of the situation has been a fine sight to behold. I particularly enjoyed Adam Boulton's meltdown on Sky News in the face of Alastair Campbell's reasoned arguments. I think Campbell's overheard off-screen comment - "Adam, you are a pompous little arse" - just about sums up the feelings of millions. Whilst, since the election, Brown has conducted himself in a dignified manner, the press have been a downright disgrace. But what's new? Anyway, getting back to Dave, (reluctantly), what can we expect? Well, if his new Lib Dem buddies honestly think that they will, in any way, be able to constrain the Tories' worst excesses, they are deluded. I suspect this coalition has more to do with Nick Clegg's personal ambitions than it has to do with actually implementing any of his party's core policies. Indeed, I can see him crossing the floor, when push comes to shove and the grass roots of his party finally rebel. Who knows, he could the next Tory leader. I think the most telling thing I heard today was supposed Lib Dem moderate Simon Hughes telling the BBC why talks with Labour failed. According to him, the Labour party was unwilling to budge on any of its main manifesto pledges, whilst the Tories had been far more flexible. Well, Simon, that tells us everything we need to know - that labour still has some principles it is unwilling to compromise, whilst the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are simply a bunch of unprincipled bastards who will do anything to gain power. But that really shouldn't surprise anyone.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

In Bed With David Cameron

New details of the negotiations between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over a possible Conservative-Lib Dem coalition have emerged. "No deal's been sealed yet, but there's undoubtedly a strong mutual attraction," says Dan Pitcher, political correspondent of top gay magazine High Greek. "It was obvious even during the election campaign, when Cameron discreetly squeezed Clegg's left buttock as they left the stage after the Sky News Leaders' Debate." According to Pitcher, Cameron's flirtation continued during an initial meeting between between the Consevative and Lib Dem leaderships in the aftermath of the hung parliament. "It was when they got onto the subject of fiscal policy - Cameron apparently leant forward and stroked the inside of Clegg's thigh as he looked him in the eye and earnestly discussed banking regulation," says the journalist. "Everyone present was left in no doubt that a connection was made." A series of one-on-one meetings between the two ensued, with the aim of cementing the union. "Cameron took him to a candle lit dinner in a private room at one of London's top restaurants," claims Pitcher. "They spent all evening playing footsie under the table as Cameron tried to convince Clegg of the virtues of his 'Big Society'." However, according to Pitcher, rumours that the dinner ended with a kiss are wide of the mark. "Clegg's an old-fashioned guy, and he doesn't kiss on a first date," he says. "Mind you, there's no doubt that by this stage Cameron was getting tired of making all the running - after that dinner and the flowers he'd sent Clegg, he felt he was entitled to expect Clegg to put out, and commit to swallowing something firm and concrete."

Consequently, the venue for the next meeting was a luxury suite in one of London's top hotels. "Cameron originally wanted something more subtle, like a weekend at a small country Bed and Breakfast," observes Pitcher. "But the Tories' Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Grayling, just didn't approve of it." Although Clegg was clearly overawed by his surroundings, much to Cameron's frustration, he still refused to consummate the deal. "Cameron had actually managed to get Clegg into bed with him, silk sheets, the lot, but he point blank refused to go all the way without a promise of some kind of protection," Pitcher explains. "Without a commitment to, at the very least, a referendum on proportional representation, there was no way he was going to agree to a full union. Well, there's no way a traditionalist like Cameron was going to agree to that - he sticks to the principle that if he comes first then he shouldn't have to pull out. Of forming a government, that is." However, the whole relationship has now been thrown into doubt, following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's latest propositioning of Clegg. "Initially Clegg had rejected the craggy charms of the older man, obviously being more attracted by Cameron's smooth charms," says Pitcher. "But with Brown now offering to stand aside and leave the field open for David Milliband, the game's changed completely. My sources are telling me that he's very open to a back door approach from the Foreign Secretary." Not everyone is convinced by Pitcher's analysis of the situation. "Everybody knows that Clegg originally knocked Brown back because he can't handle a real man," opines Jimmy Nance of rival publication Sugar Mama. "But as it turned out, Cameron was too much for him to handle - according to my sources, a deal foundered on Cameron's demands that Clegg black up and dress as a prostitute. He ran screaming from the room, straight back into the arms of Brown!" The claims of both correspondents have been roundly rejected by both the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Well Hung Parliament

I've been waiting so long to use that headline - if only I had a story to go with it! But hey! Was I right, or was I right, with regard to the election outcome, that is? A couple of posts ago I predicted the most likely outcome as a minority Tory government, and it looks like that's the way we're heading. However, it hasn't been a complete disaster for those of us on the left. Not only wasn't the Labour result anywhere near as bad as predicted, but the fact is that, despite all of their money and the fact that they had most of the media backing them up, the Tories still couldn't get a majority. My faith in democracy is - partially - restored. Not that all of our politicians and media commentators appear to have a firm grasp of the form of democracy we have in the UK. Once again we have the Tories and their media cronies moaning on about the fact that Labour has a disproportionate number of seats compared to its share of the actual vote. Which is a bit disingenuous, considering that the existing first-past-the-post system which produces these results, is the very electoral system which the Tories are apparently so enamoured of that they refuse to contemplate any reform of it. The drivel I keep hearing as to how any Lib-Lab coalition would lack 'legitimacy' as neither was the largest single party, is utter bollocks, and betrays a fundamental failure to grasp the principles of Parliamentary democracy.

The fact is that we elect a Parliament in the UK, not individual parties, or a government, or a Prime Minister. Parliament, in turn, effectively elects a government, in that, anyone who can command a majority in the lower house, regardless of the party political composition of that majority, has the constitutional right to form a government. Consequently, a government's legitimacy derives from its majority in Parliament, not from its nominal share of the popular vote. The 'popular vote' argument against a Lib-Lab coalition government is doubly bollocks, as such a coalition would represent a majority of the popular vote - more people voted against the Tories than for them. Anyway, politics lesson over. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I couldn't stomach watching the TV election results coverage. Nevertheless, I still didn't feel like going to bed when I got home from the pub, so I put on my DVD of Patton, (as I'm prone to do at times of stress), and fast forwarded it to the battle scenes - North Africa, Sicily, France and the Ardennes. Stirring stuff. It also resulted in strange dream in which cigar chomping Gordon Brown, wearing a GI helmet and heading a column of tanks, beats an effete Dave (complete with Monty-style speech impediment), to Downing Street, before triumphantly slapping that 'bigoted women' across he face, and ordering her to go back to the Polish delicatessen across the road. Ah, if only it had all played out like that...

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Battle of Britain?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has refused to comment on allegations that UK Independence Party (UKIP) MEP Nigel Farage's light plane - which crashed early this morning - was shot down by a world war two vintage Messerchmitt Bf 109 fighter. "He came out of the sun at them, guns blazing," says UKIP party activist Bunty Loon, who claims to have witnessed the attack, which allegedly took place in the skies over Buckinghamshire. "It was definitely a German fighter plane - I've seen enough war films to know one - although instead of Luftwaffe markings, it seemed to have European Union symbols on its wings." The forty-one year old divorcee, who has been campaigning for Mr Farage in support of his attempt to win election to Westminster, believes that the attack provides further evidence that the European Union (EU) is actually an evil fascistic organisation, hell bent on destroying British sovereignty. "There's no doubt that Nigel and UKIP have got them rattled," she told a local newspaper. "They obviously fear that Nigel's brilliant oratory is on the brink of opening the British electorate's eyes to their true beastly nature!"

Loon, who was out leafleting for Mr Farage when she allegedly saw the attack, believes that it is significant that the attack was carried out by a German aircraft. "Those bloody Kraut bastards failed to beat us in the Battle of Britain, so now they're trying to subjugate us by stealth, under cover of the EU," declares Bunty, who is adamant that the Messerscmitt even performed a 'victory roll' as it flew over the smoking wreckage of Farage's plane, before strafing rescuers trying to approach the crash site. "Them and the bloody French. They both lost wars to us - the EU is just revenge for that!" Despite Loon's claims, local police say that they have had no reports of any aerial attacks by vintage aircraft. Indeed, preliminary reports indicate that the crash - which left Mr Farage with non life-threatening minor injuries - was actually caused by the 'Vote UKIP' banner it was towing becoming entangled with its tail.

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Vote, Vote, Vote...

So, have you voted yet? There's still time - as I write this there are still more than two hours until the polls close. I've little time for those who don't vote, particularly those who use the excuse that the parties are "all the same". That just shows a complete lack of awareness of the issues at hand. Personally, I cast my votes in both the General and Local elections this afternoon. So, for me, the election is over, until the results come in. But what will the outcome be? If you want my personal opinion, (and you are going to get it, so I don't know why I'm asking that), I think it will most likely be a either a minority Conservative government, or the Conservatives with a very small majority. Not my choice, but in many ways the minority Tory government might actually be the best result in the long-term. Let the bastards take all the flak and the unpopularity for the spending cuts any government will inevitably be forced to introduce, whilst at the same time being constrained from doing anything too extreme by the need to gain cross-party support for legislation. it would also give the Labour Party time to regroup and try to regain its moral compass.

Of course, from a purely selfish point of view, it would be good to have a government I can hate in good conscience again. Moreover, I can't help but feel that the Tories in power will provide plenty of satirical material. I don't think I'll bother staying up for the results - I can't take any more wild speculation by political pundits. I'm off down the pub instead, to celebrate Spurs' qualification for the Champion's League. Before leaving the subject of the election, the other day I was complaining that the last couple of election-related stories on The Sleaze hadn't drawn much traffic. However, since then, both have put in very respectable performances. As has The Two Faces of David Cameron - who'd have known there'd be so many people using the search terms 'David Cameron evil' and 'David Cameron rumours'? Not to mention the highly mysterious 'David Cameron black prostitute' queries - that's a rumour which has clearly passed me by. No doubt it will resurface if Dave gets into Number Ten.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

At a Loss for Words...

So, what to write about today? This is one of those days when whatever it is I had in mind to post about, I've forgotten. On top of that, it has also been one of those days where nothing has happened to enrage me enough to come up with a bloody good rant, and there's been nothing in the news that particularly inspires me. Not that I have to write anything of course. It's just that I like to be regular, so to speak. Also, I like to reassure people that I'm still here, that I haven't fallen under a bus, or anything. Getting back to the lack of inspiration, I think that a large part of the problem lies with the fact that 'election fatigue' is really beginning to set in. I know that we're nearly there now - less than forty eight hours to go and its all over - but it seems to have been going on forever. The relentless TV coverage doesn't help. Particularly as it all seems the same. There's no focus on policies or anything else of substance. Instead we get an apparently endless parade of talking heads, correspondents standing outside various doors, opinion polls endlessly pored over by 'experts' and lots of computer graphics showing us what a hung parliament might look like.

For my part, I published the last of The Sleaze's three election-related stories today. I can't say I've particularly enjoyed coming up with them - it's not been the most inspirational campaign, satire-wise - and, to be frank, I'll be glad to get back the original roster of stories I had planned for this issue. Of those three election stories, one has generated a fair amount of traffic, one has sunk without trace and the latest is yet to create any ripples. By contrast, a couple of older stories with themes relevant to the election that I put back onto the RSS feed have done pretty well. Indeed, one of them even drew in some traffic from the Labour Party. I'm honoured. And if I see a Labour smear campaign claiming that David Cameron has a bestial alter ego that caused the financial collapse, I'll be asking for royalties. Beyond posting the latest stories on Humorfeed and the RSS feed, that's my lot as far this election is concerned. Hopefully, I'll finally be able to get around to writing that story about police corruption I'd originally planned to kick the current issue off with.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Pressed for Choice

With election day looming, all the newspapers are scrambling to endorse the various parties. For many, this just means trotting out their tired old 'Vote Tory or it will be the end of civilisation as we know it' editorials. For others, such as the Murdoch press, it means reverting to tradition and endorsing Cameron whilst simultaneously doing their best to undermine the campaign of the Labour Party which, only a few short months ago, they were still happily supporting. Mind you, desperate to show that it is still hip and trendy, even The Guardian has decided to be a turncoat and dump Labour for the Lib Dems. Of course, it is highly questionable as to whether the political affiliations of newspapers actually does have any influence over the voting intentions of their readers. I'm guessing that, by and large, most people with an interest in politics tend to read newspapers they know are sympathetic to their own views. In general, a large proportion of people probably don't care who their newspaper of choice supports - they read it because of other factors: the like its sports coverage, or financial reporting, for instance. The fact is that you can't tell how somebody is going to vote on the basis of which newspaper they read.

The same is true of membership of political clubs. My late Grandmother was, for many years, a member of the local Conservative club. On election days she even used to take advantage of the car service they provided to get to the polling station. However, she never voted Tory in her life, being a long term Liberal voter, (in the days when it was simply the Liberal Party, not the modern Liberal Democrats), mainly on account of the fact that the Labour Party didn't stand a chance in our local constituency. Her membership of the Conservative Club was explained by the fact that they had the best snooker table in town. As for accepting a lift to the polls in the Tory car - why not? In my Grandmother's reasoning, it meant that one less Tory voter could get there. Anyway, finally getting to something resembling a point, with all these newspapers declaring for their favoured parties, is it time for The Sleaze to make an endorsement? If so, for which party? Well, I'd hope that by now my own political affiliations should be pretty obvious. However, I'm not egotistical enough to presume to tell anyone else how to cast their vote. Other than to say, for God's sake, vote for anyone but Cameron. Or the BNP. Or UKIP, for that matter. Or any of the nutters. I think that about covers it...

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