Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fear and Self Loathing on the Left

I know I shouldn't do it, as it just winds me up, but I've been foolish enough to try looking at what pass for political blogs again. Aside from the fact that the level of discourse on these things, (even the ones which are widely touted as being 'heavyweight'), is shockingly poor, (I've heard far more informed debate amongst 16-18 year olds in AS level politics classes I've taught), it is the level of negativity and apparent self-loathing on display in the left of centre ones which really gets to me. They are characterised by a constant criticism of everything Labour does - every stance it takes on government policy, every proposal it makes, every pronouncement by a leadership candidate, they're all attacked and dismissed as being wrong. It's as if they want Labour to fail. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that their attitude probably contributed to Labour's recent defeat at the polls. But not satisfied with seeing the party lose the general election, they still want to trash it now we're in opposition. A lot of their animosity seems to be fuelled by a continuing hatred of Blair and 'New Labour'. God knows, I had enough problems with 'New Labour' and many of its policy choices, but the fact is that it still achieved a hell of a lot of positive social reform. Not to mention over a decade of economic stability and prosperity. But that, of course, is never going to be enough for the bloggers. Everything 'New Labour' is forever tainted by the decision to invade Iraq. We have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I've no doubt that a large part of the problem with these blogs is that they aren't truly 'leftist', they try and also curry favour with 'liberals'. As I've argued before on this blog, it is these 'liberals' that are the problem. They are predominantly middle class and secretly loathe the lower classes they profess to want to help. Relief of the poor and the provision of welfare is merely a duty to them, not a moral imperative. They do it out of self-interest - they want to avoid social unrest which might upset their cosy middle class lives. That and the fact that it helps salve their Christian consciences. They might want to give succour to the workers, but they wouldn't want them to actually have their grubby hands on the levers of power. Basically, liberals are people who vaguely want reform, but are unwilling to commit to any kind of coherent ideology. Frankly, I don't know why they are even being tolerated at left of centre blogs. They've made their position clear. They're sustaining a Tory government in power, showing their contempt for the poor and disadvantaged. They should be told to fuck off to Conservative Home, or wherever it is the Tory twats hang out. But of course, they won't do that. On the one hand they want to keep a foot in both camps, just in case the coalition fails. On the other, it provides them with a continuing opportunity to undermine Labour even while it is in opposition, with their constant negativity. So, left of centre political bloggers, try ditching the 'liberals', weak-willed, hand-wringing group of C of E do-gooders that they are, and you might, just might, have a bit more credibility. Not to mention relevance.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Death of a Housing Project

video

Another one of my films. This one simply shows the demolition of some 1970s social housing on one this town's housing estates. The housing in question consisted of several blocks of pretty run down brick built maisonettes. They'd been a landmark for many, many years, gaining a reputation for being one of the least desirable places to live locally. In their 'prime', I recall their communal parking areas being full of half-dismantled (and sometimes burnt out) cars, interspersed with broken furniture and rubbish bins. The interiors were every bit as tired as the exteriors - dingy rooms and cigarette-scarred formica tops. Nevertheless, they provided homes to hundreds, possibly thousands of people on low incomes during the decades they stood.

So, why did I film part of their demolition and post it here? Well, not only were these maisonettes, despite all their shortcomings, part of the fabric of my local town, but they also formed a significant part of my professional life for the past decade. I've been in more of them than I care to remember and seen some truly horrendous living conditions there. Indeed, I was involved in clearing out the last of the residents. I only wish that I had thought to film them before they came down, when they were derelict and empty, and regret that I didn't capture more of the demolition. After all, if I don't record their passing, who will? They may not have constituted great housing, but, whether we like it or not, they formed an integral part of this town's community for a long time.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Limited Intelligence

Our inside source in the UK's intelligence community - the mysterious 'Deep Stomach' - has made further worrying revelations as to the sanity of the country's senior intelligence analysts. Speaking from his exclusive South London drinking club, the 'Dog and Pickaxe' in Lewisham, he told us of the recent disturbing antics of the Defence Intelligence Staff's (DIS) top arms trade expert, Bill Christopher. "To be fair, he is obsessed with security," says the rotund mole. "He keeps his office door permanently locked. The only way in and out is through a large cat flap cut in the lower panels. It can only be opened by the magnetic device he wears on a collar around his neck." Whilst such conduct might simply be dismissed as eccentricity, it is Christopher's bizarre conviction that he is a master of disguise which is causing the most consternation in senior intelligence circles. "He recently spent an entire meeting with the Chief of Defence Intelligence and other senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) staff pretending to be a hat stand," sighs 'Deep Stomach'. "For an hour and a half he stood in the corner, with hats and coats draped over his out stretched arms, before finally leaping out five minutes from the end, shouting 'Hah, now I have you, you bunch of pesky cake stealing molluscs'. After which he walked out."

Bill Christopher's disguise fetish - which seems to be getting worse; he recently attended a bilateral conference with the CIA dressed as a Thanksgiving turkey, saying only 'gobble, gobble' - would be more understandable if he were a field agent. However, he has spent his career working exclusively behind a desk. "The closest he's ever been to field work was back in the early nineties, when he was sent on a fact-finding trip to the former Yugoslavia," says our source. "He was just meant to be visiting factories, looking at tanks. That sort of thing." However, the analyst seriously exceeded his brief. "For some reason, known only to himself, Bill decided to ride a moped into the Yugoslav Federal Parliament in Belgrade," recalls 'Deep Stomach'. "He proceeded to declare to the assembled politicians 'I am the god of hell fire!', before setting his top hat alight." Whilst no direct causal link was ever established, many DIS analysts suspect that in this incident lies the genesis of the Yugoslav civil war. Not surprisingly, the MoD has never allowed Christopher to undertake any similar expeditions. "We're dreading what he might do next," says 'Deep Stomach'. "Only last week he was standing in the registry pretending to be a filing cabinet - he kept trying to get young female clerks to stick Top Secret files down his pants."

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sleaze is Afoot

OK, let's get the admin stuff out of the way first. I've finally got a new story up over at The Sleaze. This is a reconstruction, (based on a surviving rough draft and memory), of the incomplete story which is currently trapped on the inoperative hard drive of my old laptop. I think that the published version is an improvement over the original. I certainly hope that it is, having spent a significant part of my weekend putting it together and posting it. That, and burning the various back-up and system recovery discs this new laptop seems to need. Whilst waiting for them to complete, it occurred to me that if we were just supplied the Windows install disc, as we always used to be when buying a new PC, we wouldn't have to waste so much time burning new discs. After all, a large part of the cost of a new PC or laptop derives from the operating system (if it's Windows or Mac OS), and the expense of having it installed. Believe me, Microsoft and Apple don't just give away their products. Operating systems aside, I still don't have this laptop set up the way I want it - I just haven't had time to install all the software I usually use, what with burning recovery discs and writing new stories. Maybe by the end of the week I'll have it sorted. If I'm lucky.

Obviously, I didn't spend my entire weekend with my laptop. I did find time to catch up with the BBC's new-fangled modern day take on Sherlock Holmes. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing really new about the idea of updating Holmes. It's only since World War Two that we seem to have had an obsession with filming Conan Doyle stories in period. Before then, most Holmes' films had a contemporary setting, (with the notable exception of the first two Basil Rathbone pictures, which were made for Twentieth Century Fox and had Victorian settings, the subsequent Universal-produced Rathbone series all had 1940s settings). The BBC version wasn't a bad attempt at placing Holmes and Watson in the Twenty First Century. Although the absence of that old London smog shrouding everything, and the lack of a background of Victorian grime and poverty, did take way some of the menace which I always remember as being inherent in the stories. Whilst I enjoyed it, I think I still preferred my version of an up to date Holmes story, with a sports car driving Watson trying to capitalise on the notoriety of his association with Holmes by moonlighting as a TV celebrity doctor, and Mrs Hudson appearing on Ready, Steady, Cook, and publishing her 'Baker Street Cook Book' (fifty recipes inspired by the sleuth's most celebrated cases). Holmes himself could look highly uncomfortable appearing on Crimewatch, or being interviewed by Graham Norton, (cue lots of double-entendres about 'pipe smoking' and 'lemon entries'). Who knows, maybe all that will feature in future episodes of Sherlock. In which case, I'm suing!

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Comrade Vampire

Another visit to my personal DVD collection yields a Marxist take on Dracula in the 1973 Soviet classic Comrade Vampire:

Another intriguing Soviet-made movie compromised by criminal dubbing. As with many other films from the former Soviet Union,it seems to have escaped into the West with criminal dubbing, leaving it sounding like a seventies porn movie. Which would be fine if it was a seventies porn movie - Confession's of a Collective Sex Commissar perhaps - but this is meant to be a horror film. A horror flick with a novel twist - it's set in Communist Russia. Granted that might not sound much but this is an ideologically sound horror movie with vampires representing nasty capitalist and Nazi elements of society, and the forces of order and good being represented by sound communists and members of the Red Army.

Things begin briskly with a Romanian castle being excavated and, sure enough, vampires are found by the Russian archaeologists. Naturally, before you can say 'Bela Lugosi', they have inadvertently revived them. All pretty routine so far. However, in Moscow a few months later, a power struggle is beginning in the Kremlin and our hero, a young officer in the Red Army, begins to uncover the threads of the mystery with help from a young female Archaeologist. Discovering that some influential party members are never seen in daylight anymore and that they have overnight gained an almost hypnotic power over key members of the state including the prospective new Soviet Leader. Yes the undead leading Russia! Impossible? Well, lets face it, Breshnev was effectively a walking corpse for his last few years in power, as were several of his successors, so it's not that far fetched.

Having uncovered this plot, they encounter an strange old man who, it transpires, was Stalin's vampire hunter. Back in the 1950s he'd wiped out the last of the decadent blood suckers afflicting the revolution. After all, they were all aristocratic landowners with titles like 'Count' and 'Baron', and were clearly exploiting the workers, by, quite literally, bleeding them dry. After taking out the lead vampire in Moscow, the action moves back to the castle, where we find that it had been occupied by the Nazis during the war, and the king vampire inevitably turns out to be a some SS colonel hoping to rebuild the Reich. While more unusual than your average horror flick, the terrible dubbing allied with atrocious editing, renders parts of it highly confusing. Indeed, at one point I wondered if I had missed a bit, or had fallen asleep - I'm sure that there is something more about that Nazi vampire, but most of the explanation appears to be missing. People refer to events I can't recall having happened and characters who seem important inexplicably disappear, one person does turn up later, but as a vampire. Was he always one, or had he been taken over in some deleted scene? Moreover, rumours from Russia claim that there was originally a flashback scene revealing the true fate of the Romanovs - they were staked after the Empress attempted to vampirise Lenin. Apparently, it also showed how Rasputin was assassinated by the Royal family after being revealed as an undercover vampire hunter working for Trotsky.

Sadly, all this contrives to undermine what might be a fantastic film, and it is a great pity that a subtitled restored version has never appeared, in spite of the fall of the Soviet Union surely making the original negatives freely available. Nevertheless, the style and photography is excellent and there are memorable scenes, including a vampire decapitated by a chainsaw. Fascinatingly, crucifixes don't work on the undead in this movie, whereas the hammer and sickle is seen as a symbol of fear by the decadent forces of darkness.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back From The Dead

Yes folks, I have returned from the metaphorical grave. In more ways than one. I swear to God that the searing temperatures of the past few days left me on the verge of heat exhaustion. Believe me, being in a car for large parts of the day when temperatures get that high is no joke. Couple that with high overnight temperatures which made it near impossible to sleep, and I found myself on the verge of collapse. It was a real relief when I woke up in the early hours today to hear the rain pouring down outside and a cool breeze blowing through the open windows. I know many people will have been disappointed by today's overcast sky and lower temperatures, but for me it was a Godsend. Of course my continuing IT problems really didn't help over the past few days. To cut a long story short, my old IBM laptop is dead. After being given an estimate for attempting to extract the data on it's hard drive, I decided that there wasn't anything on there worth £160.

Anyway, I'm back on line now, having bought a brand new laptop, (having grown tired of cheap second hand ones which last barely two years). I can't deny that this particular laptop wasn't (nor would ever be), my first choice, but it was available from stock and within my price range. Compared to the IBM it seems shockingly lightweight - flimsy keyboard, plastic casing and less than compact shape. But it does have a dual core processor, HD widescreen display, (I actually hate widescreen displays on laptops, but you can't seem to get anything else these days), lots of memory and Windows 7. The fact is that just about every laptop I looked at had the same flaws (particularly with regard to keyboards), to get quality like the IBM I would have had to pay a far higher price than I was prepared to fork out. Despite my reservations, this new laptop is pretty damn fast with nice graphics.

Anyway, getting onto the important issues - viewing The Sleaze in widescreen has given me a lot of food for thought. Basically, if I ever manage to get this bloody redesign underway, I'm now inclined to abandon the fluid design and go for a fixed width layout. It would solve several problems at a stroke and considerably simplify the development process. Mot fundamentally, it will make it easier to retain the site's current basic layout, which I'm keen to do. In the meantime, thanks to this week's shenanigans, the existing site is so far behind schedule in terms of updates, I'm now facing the prospect of writing three stories back-to-back. Including the half completed one which is now inaccessible on the IBM's hard drive. Luckily I have a rough draft and will shortly be attempting to use this to rewrite it from memory. So, hopefully by early next week I'll have a new story posted. Fingers crossed!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Limping Along

Well, not only has my main laptop gone tits up, but the old one I was using as back up followed suit shortly after I used it to make the previous post. Right now, I'm back to using the linux partition on my decade old steam driven PC. It's slow, it's cumbersome, it's bloody frustrating, but at least I'm online! I'm currently waiting to hear if anything can be salvaged from the laptop. It doesn't look good. I'm pretty much resigned to having lost a lot of data, including the part-written next story for The Sleaze. Luckily, I have quite a bit of the 'lost' data scattered across other devices and the web, including a very rough draught of the story. So all is not lost. It just means more delays and attempting to rewrite stuff from memory. With luck, I'll know the worst about the laptop tomorrow. I'm probably going to have to buy a replacement and start again.

With regard to The Sleaze, traffic is still in freefall thanks to Google. Unable, as I am, to update the site until I'm back online with a decent computer, I have no option but sit by and watch years of hard work in terms of traffic building go down the toilet. It's all very frustrating. I'm actually pretty much resigned to having to start from scratch with The Sleaze again, if I'm to have any chance of recovering any traffic. But, as I said before, Until the laptop issue is sorted, I'm dead in the water. I feel like I'm in one of those episodes of Star Trek where the warp engines have failed and they're forced to crawl along on impulse power. "Planets which had been only days away, were now months away", as Kirk lamented.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

More Tech Woes

I am completely unable to make a proper post today, as my regular laptop is completely fucked. I say fucked - it boots into XP, looks normal, but nothing responds. Clicking on icons has no effect, the 'Start' menu is inaccessible - I just get that bloody 'hour glass' if I hover the cursor over it, or anything else on the task bar. An absolute bloody nightmare, as I have The Sleaze's next story 90% complete trapped on its bloody hard drive. So, it isn't just this blog that's screwed at the moment. The main site can't be updated either. Currently, I'm being forced to use my old, malfunctioning, laptop to access the web and carry out the most basic functions. The problem is that this laptop is so old and has so much wrong with it, (the touchpad doesn't work properly and several keys are coming off of the keyboard, for instance), that it is virtually impossible to use it for anything else. If I can't get the other laptop going again, I really don't know what I'm going to do. That said, following my sceptical comments about Google last time, traffic has taken another downward plunge. So this could be a blessing in disguise, forcing me to finally abandon a dying site which Google has clearly decided isn't worthy of traffic. We'll see.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Being Evil

So let's round off a week of ranting with another rant. Now, the question is: "Am I being paranoid?" No, I don't think I'm being followed by men in black, or spied on by the CIA. This has to do with an entity even more pervasive and secretive than the CIA - Google. I've ranted at length about Google's 'Mayday' algorithm changes which have all but destroyed the traffic to The Sleaze which I had spent years building up, observing Google's webmaster guidelines and avoiding black hat SEO techniques. Again and again this year I've seen traffic from Google suddenly decline for no apparent reason. I wouldn't mind if I was getting fewer, but better quality visitors. But the opposite has happened. Rather than people searching for terms such as 'political satire', virtually everything I'm getting from Google currently is 'trash traffic' - mainly poorly phrased porn searches. I'm not the only one seeing this sort of thing. On webmaster forum after webmaster forum, I'm seeing disgruntled site owners and developers telling the same tale of traffic being decimated and search results now being dominated by spammy mash-up sites with no original content, but lots of 'doorway' pages and, perhaps most significantly, Google ads.

Earlier this week, completely out of the blue, I got an e-mail from Google Adwords offering me £100 credit if I reactivated my account and started advertising with them again. Now, the reason I stopped using Adwords after a brief experimentation with the service, was that I found it utterly ineffective for publicising a site like The Sleaze. For the amount of money I was having to spend on ads, the amount of traffic generated was minuscule. A couple of clicks a day, if I was lucky. Of course, it didn't help that Google kept trying to tell me that I was wrong about my keywords, that 'satire' and 'sleaze', for instance, weren't closely enough tied to my content! Mind you, according to Google Webmaster Tools, my keywords should include things like 'say', 'new' and 'claims'. All of which indicates that the 'analysis' which underpins Adwords is hopelessly simplistic. If we're simply classifying as 'keywords' those words which appear most frequently in your text, then you might as well suggest 'the', 'and' and 'that'. Anyway, getting back to the point, the paranoid part of me can't help but ask whether the crash in traffic I experienced has anything to do with my dropping of Adwords? What will happen if I decline this latest offer - will my traffic vanish altogether? Isn't it just too much of a coincidence that this new offer comes at a time when traffic seems - as a direct result of Google's algo changes - to be hitting an all-time low?

But hey - this is Google, whose motto is 'Don't be Evil'. Surely they wouldn't do something like that, would they? Prior to the last couple of years, I wouldn't have harboured such suspicions. But I'm afraid the constant moving of the goal posts, culminating in 'Mayday' - which seems designed mainly to benefit Google's commercial interests by maximizing the exposure Google's own ad network via distorted search results - have made me very cynical. The inescapable fact is that Google is now putting it's own profits ahead of producing decent search results. The evidence is there for everyone to see: Google's search results seem to have regressed back to situation where you have to wade through acres of spam sites before you reach anything relevant. Sad to say, Bing is currently returning far more relevant results for most searches. All this would be fine if only Google would be open about of it, instead of continuing to perpetuate this image of being everyone's friend. Don't be evil - don't make me laugh!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stalked by the Banks

So, let's resume the ranting. This time let's turn our attention to the banks. Now, I'm not talking about 'the banks' in the 'evil bastards who wrecked the economy' sense. Nor am I going to bang on about the obscene level of bonuses they're still giving themselves. No, I'm just interested in your common-or-garden high street banks. To be precise, my bank. I've mentioned before the number of unsolicited phone calls I get, none of which leave a message on the answer phone and which usually also conceal their numbers. Well, a letter I received the other day has offered an explanation for at least some of these calls. Said letter was from the bank, explaining that they were having difficulty in contacting me about all their wonderful offers, and inviting me to provide them with an e-mail address! It's like having a crazy stalker. That said, it is notable that, since receiving this letter, the phone calls have ceased.

Whilst the respite from the cold calling is welcome, the letter highlights one of my pet hates - utilities which seem to think that they have some sort of 'relationship' with you. What the bank can't seem to grasp is that I'm not remotely interested in their 'offers'. Our 'relationship' is simple, they look after my money in my current and deposit accounts. That's it. I don't want, or need, anything more. The only regular contact I want with them are my monthly bank statements. I don't want them to move in with me, or have my children, or get married, or anything like that. Finance really doesn't interest me, so those fancy accounts and products which will allegedly pay you tons of interest, just so long as the financial sector doesn't collapse, are no good to me. It isn't just the banks. My mobile phone company is just as bad, forever sending me texts about this or that offer. Again, I'm just not interested. The primary function of my mobile is to allow me to call the AA if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Just bloody leave me alone!

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ruling Class

OK, it's Tuesday and I'm still ranting. David Cameron. Isn't he a nice man? Doesn't he speak well? Isn't it nice that he knows all the correct etiquette, like which spoon to use for the soup and how a gentleman always removes his hat before before striking a woman? Doesn't he make a good impression of foreign leaders? Gosh, I know he's only been in office two months, but, like, isn't he quite possibly the best Prime Minister of the modern era? Not my opinion, you'll be relieved to know, but a fairly accurate summing up of a recent article by Martin Kettle in The Guardian. I know that The Guardian's writers have been all over the place since the election, not really knowing what tack to take after the paper endorsed the Lib Dems, thereby helping to usher in a Tory government which is anathema to them and their core readership, but really, this particular article really took the biscuit. Leaving aside the possibility that Kettle has some kind of homoerotic fixation on Cameron and that his article constitutes a love letter, one has to assume that it is actually another crude attempt to justify the paper's colossal error of judgement in supporting Clegg and his illiberals. That said, there's always been a worrying tendency amongst those on the left to look up to toffs like Cameron. They seem to be dazzled by the accent and the fact that they went to the 'right schools'. Perhaps they find it reassuring. Maybe, after centuries of being oppressed, their self-confidence has been so eroded that they have no faith in their own ability to govern - they feel safer if those nice public school types take charge, as usual. It's a class thing.

But, of course, class doesn't matter anymore, does it? Unless you are John Prescott, obviously. Really, the tone of the press coverage accompanying his elevation to the House of Lords was like a throwback to the 1930s, with him being portrayed as some kind of uncouth working class oaf, completely unsuited to having a peerage. Not that there's anything new in that. It's really quite depressing the way the fact that he was once a steward on cruise liners is brought up every time Prescott is mentioned in the media. For God's sake, what's so bad about the fact that he once did a real job? Indeed, the very fact this man managed to go from being an unskilled worker to being Deputy Prime Minister is an incredible achievement? Regardless of anything else Prescott may or may not have done, that fact alone surely makes him a shining example to the rest of us? But hell, he was a waiter, for goodness sake! There's an element of this snobbishness in Kettle's article about Cameron, in which he compares Brown - who he clearly views as being too uncouth and lower class to have been Prime Minister - unfavourably with Posh Boy. Apparently the staff at Chequers are happy to let Dave use the good crockery - they were always afraid that Brown might smash it in one of his rages, according to unsubstantiated tittle-tattle related as fact by Kettle. That's another problem with the left - it includes too many middle class liberals who actually loathe the lower classes they purport to want to help. Whilst the poor might be deserving of relief, but they don't deserve to actually hold power, apparently. They should leave that to nice, privately educated, middle class types, who know what's best for them.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil?

I know it's only Monday, but I'm starting the ranting early this week. Let's kick off with that idiot in Northumbria who shot himself after terrorising the North East for what seemed an eternity. Unbelievably, there seems to have been a wave of sympathy for the bastard over the past few days. In the town where killed himself, local residents have apparently been placing flowers on the spot where he blew his head off. Most bizarrely, I heard some woman on the radio going on about how this Raoul Moat character was 'misunderstood', a 'gentle giant' who had been pushed over the edge. Not that she'd known him, but 'we all do and say things we shouldn't when we're put under pressure.' What is the matter with you, I thought, are you fucking stupid, or something? This pillock wasn't 'misunderstood' - he was a demented idiot with a gun who threatened to kill every police officer he saw, simply because, wrongly, he thought his ex girlfriend was now shacked up with a copper. He subsequently extended his threats to include the wider public. There's nothing 'misunderstood' about that. Oh, and he didn't just 'do and say' a few bad things, he fucking well shot people! Let's not forget he seriously wounded the ex girlfriend, apparently to teach her a lesson, killed her current partner and may well have blinded a police officer.

But, of course, we should save all our sympathy for the perpetrator. According to his brother, at least. Moat was 'executed', apparently. I can't say that I've ever heard of an 'execution' where the 'victim' shoots themselves. For God's sake, let's not lose sight of the fact that Moat was just another pumped up mach moron. The type of bully boy you can see swaggering around just about every estate in Britain, intimidating their neighbours, bellowing at strangers over perceived 'slights' and 'lack of respect' and treating their wives/girlfriends and children as property. Even when they're no longer with their women, they still seem to think they have the right to control their lives. They're the 'big men' who resent any form of authority, but still want to use threats and violence to establish their 'supremacy' over their 'manors'. In short, another pathetic loser. A loser undeserving of any sympathy. Really, has our world so lost sight of its values that murderous oafs like Moat are now held up as some kind of downtrodden folk heroes? Believe me, there's nothing admirable about being a bully and a cowardly killer of people who can't defend themselves. The people trying to canonise this evil bastard should be ashamed of themselves.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Eight Tentacles of Fate

So, the octopus was right. Again. Not that I believe in such things, of course. Let's face it, the average octopus isn't even going to know that there's a world cup on, let alone have any idea who is playing. To the best of my knowledge, octopuses aren't renowned for being football supporters. I can't say that I've noticed many on the terraces at White Hart Lane. But what about this supposedly psychic octopus? For a while it seemed like Germany's secret weapon, demoralising opponents with its uncannily accurate predictions. I mean, how could England be expected to play with any confidence against Germany when they already knew that their downfall had been predicted by an invertebrate? My brother was of the opinion that we should have countered the psychic octopus by coming up with a clairvoyant squid. After all, he reasoned, wouldn't those extra two tentacles make its predictions more accurate? Now I think about it, maybe it could have made its predictions in terms of clouds of ink? Black for defeat, white for victory? Imagine the panic that would have engendered in England's opponents - "It's been shown the German flag, it's straining, oh my God! It's the black cloud! This means doom! The Bundestag will fall!"

But, of course, the octopus finally let Germany down, predicting defeat against Spain in the semi-final. After suffering that kind of psychological blow, knowing that the creature had never been wrong before, is it any wonder their players couldn't perform on the night? Nevertheless, I'm afraid that I'll have no truck with either psychic octopuses or clairvoyant squid. Frankly, I'm surprised that the Germans went along with it for so long - they're generally a pretty level headed bunch. Except, of course, during World War Two, when various of the Nazi leadership apparently spent a lot of time consulting astrologers. Which makes me wonder whether Hitler's downfall resulted from paying too much attention to the antics of an allegedly psychic octopus? Perhaps they were using it to predict the outcome of various campaigns? Did it go for the Swastika food container prior to the Blitzkriegs against Poland, the Low Countries and France? Did Rommel get the green light for the North African campaign when it rejected the Union Jack? Most significantly, did it give the hammer and sickle the 'tentacles down' prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union? Perhaps that was the reason for Hitler's descent into madness - the infallible octopus finally chose the Allied food jar. Maybe we don't owe victory to the leadership of Churchill, the sacrifice of the Soviets and the unstoppable resources of the US, but rather to the eight tentacles of fate?

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

An Ill Wind

'Two Ton' Toby from the chippy has been having a bit of trouble with the neighbours lately. When I say 'trouble', I don't mean threats of violence, drunken parties, naked tree surgery, or any other sort of anti-social behaviour. No, it's more that 'Two Ton' is feeling a bit victimised - not by poison pen letters, dog shit through the letterbox or similar stuff, you understand, he just feels the local community is over reacting to something he has no control over. Cutting to the chase, old Toby's bowels have been somewhat over active of late. Particularly so early in the morning. It's not so much a dawn chorus his neighbours have been hearing of late, more of a twenty-one bum salute. Except that it's all from one bum. Now, 'Two Ton' claims this is all down to genetics - he reckons his old mum used to regularly blow his old man out of bed every morning, one day the poor bugger mistimed lighting up his early morning fag and a huge fireball blew out the bedroom window and brought the ceiling down - and has nothing to do with his diet. There's no way ten pints a night, rounded off with an Indian has any bearing on the behaviour of his lower intestine, he maintains. Mind you, he has agreed to lay off the bar snacks. I know from personal experience that a couple of pints of Whitbread Best Bitter and a packet of Scampi Fries can have an alarming effect on the digestive tract - stomach bubbling like a cauldron, followed by what felt like a series of miniature nuclear devices being detonated in my underpants. Thankfully, these proved to be low yield in terms of fall out, although they generated an alarming amount of heat.

Getting back to Toby and his neighbours, though, 'Two Ton' didn't think his early hours eruptions were a problem until he noticed that most of the neighbouring houses had started sporting X-shaped tape on their windows. You know the sort of thing - you'll have seen them in war movies. During the blitz they used to have X's of tape on the windows to prevent them from being shattered by the shockwaves from exploding bombs. I told him he was being paranoid, it was probably just that his neighbours were a bunch of World War Two re-enactment nuts. A theory which seemed to have some credence when they started putting sandbags up outside their windows and doors. However, when the bloke next door set off a hand cranked air raid siren a couple of mornings later, a few minutes before 'Two Ton' usually let rip, he got really upset. He reckoned that when he looked out of the window, he saw most of his neighbours diving into an air raid shelter the bloke from number twenty-four had built in his back garden. He didn't see any more as his arse began to quiver as the the first stirrings of that morning's bum rattler manifested themselves. Since then, Toby says he's tried to muffle his anal announcements - he tried sitting on the crapper as he let rip, but the porcelain chamber seemed to act like a megaphone and just amplified the noise. What upsets 'Two Ton' most is that, in his opinion, he's the only one who is actually suffering as a result of his over active bowels. He reckons that the vibrations have dislodged several tiles from his roof and cracked two window panes. I'm not convinced, though. I have tried to point out to him that he's regularly been setting off car alarms up to half a mile away with his bottom trumpet antics. To be honest, I told him, he should think himself lucky that his neighbours haven't bought time on TV to broadcast a 'fart alert' during the seven o'clock commercial break on GMTV. He wasn't amused.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Another Landmark

Another landmark missed, it seems. I'm referring, of course, to the fact that this blog apparently passed the nine hundred post mark a while ago. (It was the Wacko Jacko post, for what it's worth). How do I keep coming up with cobblers to reach these targets, eh? It's not easy, I'll tell you that. Actually, just when I feared I was running out of steam, I seem to have found a second wind, creatively speaking. The past couple of stories over at The Sleaze have been developed from posts here, and I'm pretty confident that the previous post will go the same way. It's been quite a while since I've had that good a hit rate! Not that having a constant stream of original material seems to do you any good as far as Google is concerned these days. In fact, it's become a mystery to many of us exactly what does get you organic search results from Google these days. As far as my long mooted rebuilding of The Sleaze around a CMS is concerned, it is progressing very slowly. After being hampered by a series of IT-related problems, I'm currently trying to get to grips with the minutiae of coding Wordpress themes. It's pretty tedious.

Whilst we're doing admin type things, I'd just like to reiterate my policy on comments. All comments here are moderated. This is to stop spammers and jerks from posting their crap on my blog. Not that the prospect of moderation seems to deter them. Within twenty four hours of posting anything here, I usually find a comment posted. These always turn out to be anonymous, to contain either no intelligible text, or be in a language other than English, and include links to highly dubious websites which have no relevance to the post or this blog. Guess what? I delete them. Any one of the things I just mentioned will get your comment deleted, even if you aren't a spammer. So remember, if you want to make a genuine comment here, you can't do it anonymously, it must be relevant to the post, it cannot contain links of any kind, and it must be in English. I have a funny feeling, though, that nobody is going to take any notice of those guidelines, and that I'm going to have to continue deleting spam comments. Trust me, you'll get tired before I do!

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Porn to Be Wild

"I really thought we'd got it this time, but it just isn't working," declares a greased up Dennis Jigger, as he disengages himself from a pair of female adult movie performers. "I honestly believed that giving it to her in the navel, whilst slapping her buttocks like bongo drums, with the second girl simultaneously giving her oral whilst sticking her left toe up my butt, was going to be the next big thing." Top porn movie producer and performer Jigger has been chasing the Holy Grail of an entirely new sexual position for the past two years, with no success. "It's absolutely essential that we come up with something fresh and exciting," he explains, unclipping a pair of clothes pegs from his nipples. "If we don't, there's a very real danger that the porn-viewing public will become bored and start deserting the industry!" According to Jigger, with the advent of internet porn, demand for ever more extreme sex is soaring. "People just aren't interested in the traditional one on one conventional shagging stuff anymore," he says, adjusting his leather thong. "They just get off on it - they need something more exotic for their fix nowadays!"

Jigger claims that most of the sex acts currently featured in pornography - and generally accepted as being normal - were actually invented less than ten years ago. "Look, until 1971 there were only two sexual positions: missionary position and doggy-style. Everyone was satisfied with that, nobody suspected that anything else was possible, or could be satisfying," he says. "But then porn movies started becoming legit and reaching a wider audience - they had to come up with some new stuff to pad them out. I mean, ninety minutes of just two positions alternating would bore the arse off of even the most ardent porn hound!" At first, these new positions were little more than mid variations on the existing techniques - a quick 'knee trembler' performed standing up, for instance, or the woman on top - but the advent of the video cassette led to even greater demand for variety. "I mean, people could watch these things over and over again in their own homes - to stop them getting bored we needed to come up with ever more innovative sex," declares Jigger. "So, in the eighties they came up with anal. It was a sensation, and remains popular to this day!" However, back door sex alone couldn't meet the insatiable demands of porn consumers. "To keep them buying and renting those videos, we had to keep giving them something new," he recalls. "So after anal, we came up with oral. Then in the nineties we started giving them girl-on-girl action - they loved that!"

With the advent of the web, pornographers really found themselves under pressure to keep coming up with new forms of sex. "Jesus, it's been a nightmare," admits Jigger. "With porn now effectively 'on demand' twenty four hours a day, accessible on lap tops, mobile phones, the whole shebang, it's become a non-stop race to fund the next kinky thing before the punters get bored." The consequence has been an explosion in extreme pornography. "Hell, the stuff we've had to come up with - bondage, machines, electrical torture, spankings, underwater vibrator sex - it's enough to tax the imagination of even the most depraved pervert," he laments. "Then there's the pay-offs for this stuff we have to come up with - ejaculating over the girls tits, their faces, up their noses. Frankly, we've run out of orifices to pleasure!" With porn consumers apparently becoming ever more jaded and desensitised to whatever new types of sex the pornographers can devise, sex has increasingly been mixed with violence. "We're not talking about your regular bondage or chastisement stuff," says Jigger. "We're talking about real hardcore stuff - people having sex whilst bare-knuckle fighting, that sort of stuff. It seems nowadays the punters just can't get off without seeing a woman physically abused." Worried by this rise in violent porn, Jigger believes it is essential that the industry come up with entirely new exotic, but non-violent - sexual positions and forms of intercourse to keep the punters interested. "Trust me, if we can't do this, then things are going to get worse," he opines. "Before you know it, internet porn won't just involve guys getting of by killing women, but they'll be shagging the corpses, as well!"

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Godzilla Against Al Qaeda

Let's round off the week with another DVD from my private collection of cinematic obscurities. This time, we're looking at a monster movie classic from 2002 - Godzilla Against Al Qaeda:

This film has nothing to do with the successful Toho classics, instead involving an up to date story pitching the man-in-the-lizard-suit against Osama bin Laden. Condemned throughout the Western world as tasteless, it is frankly amazing that it was even awarded a certificate by UK censors. That said, it's damned lucky for us that they did, as this is a very funny, if very black, movie. Sending up the hyping of Osama and his band of criminals post 9/11, it features America’s Most Wanted - following the US invasion of Afghanistan - using Middle Eastern magic to summon up a huge flying monster which breathes fire and shoots laser beams from its eyes. He directs the creature against the US in a series of terror attacks on landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco naval yards. Memorable scenes include the Al Qaeda monster taking down a Stealth bombers and B-52s.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, US forces are being held back from bin Laden’s HQ in a hollowed out mountain, by an evil army of the undead. With America’s military might apparently helpless in the face of bin Laden’s sorcery, help comes from an unexpected quarter- Japan. An eccentric Japanese scientist suggests that they can reanimate Godzilla with the help of: "...the radiation from an American nuclear bomb, after all that's what made him!". The swiftly resuscitated Godzilla homes in on the evil Al Queda monster and cripples it before it can destroy the White House, although the Capitol Dome and the remains of the Pentagon are destroyed in their titanic struggle. In a blackly humourous touch, King Kong makes a guest appearance, discovered in the rubble at Ground Zero in New York (where he was buried at the end of the King Kong remake in 1976 - he looks none the worse for wear and an explanation tells us that he must have simply been in a coma ), and revived by bin Laden as his Plan B. It is the subsequent fight between King Kong and Godzilla in NYC that truly captures the spirit of those old monster flicks from Toho, whilst simultaneously sending them up in a good natured way, as they rip the tops off sky scrapers and smash them over each other's heads, and generally cause massive destruction in downtown New York. King Kong is despatched by drowning in the Hudson, with one general observing; "An ape of that size would be weighed down by water soaked fur, and large apes are not good swimmers." (Although he apparently survived falling off the World Trade Towers with only a coma!) Still, the sight of a giant ape emerging from the remains of the WTC is amazing.

Tasteless this may be but it is funny and is a fine satire on the American presentation of the whole terror attacks and the over playing of the power of Al Qaeda and the creation of bin Laden as a Bond style super-villain. As with so many of the films in my personal collection, this will most likely be withdrawn as a law suit is pending over the illegal use of the Godzilla name. So, buy this before it is banned.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Out Foxed

So, why is the BBC running prime time documentaries about those children who were allegedly bitten by a fox? Whilst I'm sure it was very traumatic for them and their family, it is hardly newsworthy, particularly several weeks after the event. So what's going on? Is this a slow news day? I mean, I know there were no World Cup matches on today, but bloody Wimbledon is still going on, and, as far as I'm aware, peace hasn't broken out in Afghanistan, there's still a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico and the Greek economy is still turning to shit. So, why is the BBC running prime time documentaries about those children who were allegedly bitten by a fox? Whilst I'm sure it was very traumatic for them and their family, but it is hardly newsworthy, particularly several weeks after the event. But then this is all part of an anti-fox agenda, isn't it? After all, "fox bites baby" isn't exactly the most newsworthy of pieces in the first place. Sure, it was unusual enough to get on the news, but not as the lead item, surely? Then there were all the follow-up items in the papers and on local news. It was almost as if someone who didn't like foxes was orchestrating it all. Which they might well have been. According to one rumour I've heard, the story was only picked up news outlets after it was relentlessly pushed by the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance.

Their attempt to make the fox public enemy number one was reminiscent of their smear campaign against badgers a few years ago. You remember that - they planted stories in the press about how badgers were disease-ridden carriers of TB. And that they hung round outside schools, peddling drugs to kiddies. When they weren't mugging pensioners, holding up sub-post offices and burgling houses. Now the poor old urban Fox is being described in the same terms as illegal immigrants. The papers have been full of stories of how they're "coming into our cities and living under our sheds". Not to mention the fact that they're "stealing the bin contents which rightfully belong to our feral cats". Next thing you know, the papers will be full of stories of foxes going on killing sprees. That's where Derrick Bird went wrong. If only he'd waited a couple of weeks before going on his shooting rampage in Cumbria, he could have blamed it all on foxes and got away with it: "Honestly officer, I thought these two foxes were just normal fares, but then one of them put a gun to my head and forced me to drive for hours while the other one blasted random people with a shotgun! Finally, they got me to drive into the middle of nowhere, where they jumped out and ran off, leaving their guns on the back seat!" No jury would have convicted.

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