Friday, April 29, 2011

Not The Royal Wedding

So, how was the Royal Wedding for you? As you can imagine, it held absolutely no interest for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the extra day off work and I hope it all went well for Prince Whatsisname and Kate Thingy, (I never can keep track of who those involved are). The fact is that I don't like weddings at the best of times - most of my friends and acquaintances have finally realised that I really won't be offended if they don't invite me to their weddings, it saves all embarrassment of me having to make up an excuse as to why I can't come, which we all know is patently false - so why on earth would I want to spend most of the day watching the wedding of complete strangers? As for those Royal Wedding street parties - well, I didn't notice any taking place in my street. Which doesn't mean, of course, that there wasn't one. I wouldn't put it past my bloody neighbours to organise such a thing and neither tell me about it, nor invite me. Not that I'd want to be invited, but it's just the principle of the thing, you understand.

That said, I didn't spend the day in denial that the event was actually happening, as I'm sure many people did. My late father was far more of a republican than me, and went out of his way to avoid all Royal celebrations. I remember a family outing to the beach at the Silver Jubilee in 1977, which meant we missed the local street party. I have no recollection of the Charles and Diana wedding a few years later. I suspect another family outing or function was involved. The only Royal event I actually went out of my way to avoid as an adult was the funeral of Princess Diana. I remember that I drove down to the New Forest on the morning of the funeral. The roads were deserted and, in the 1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 I owned at the time, I did the ton on the steep uphill section of dual carriageway as you leave Romsey for Ower. It was very satisfying - the 5.7 litre V-8 under the hood didn't even break a sweat. As Princess Di had spent part of her honeymoon at Broadlands in Romsey, I dedicated the moment to her, as the Princess Diana Memorial Speed Run. After all, her car was probably doing about the same speed when it crashed in that Paris tunnel.

But today, I just couldn't be bothered to put myself out to avoid the Royal Wedding. I decided that I could not watch it in the comfort of my own home just as easily as I could by going for the day. I sometimes think it odd that, although probably more left-wing than my father, I don't share his fervent hatred of the Royal Family as symbols of our archaic class system. At the end of the day, I just can't be bothered wasting my time on them - they may have the wealth and hereditary positions but, in truth they have no real power. Consequently, they are irrelevant and not worthy of my attention. So, instead of watching the wedding, I've spent most of the day working on my fabled revamp of The Sleaze. Yes, it's finally happening! I've started moving the back catalogue of articles over to a database on a Wordpress installation. Sadly, as I'm having to do this manually, one story at a time, it is incredibly time-consuming, and progress is slow. However, today I felt that I really made some progress. That said, the relaunch of the site is still some months away. But it is finally underway, thanks to the Royal Wedding. So three cheers for the happy couple!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Sorry State of British Satire

The other week the author Jonathan Coe, writing in the Guardian Review section, made some pertinent points about modern day British satire. The gist of his comments is that most satirists tend to be politically centre-left, slightly sneery, middle class, Guardian-readers, as are their primary audience. Consequently, they simply preach to the converted, reinforcing, rather than challenging, their prejudices. This, he argues, simply generates a low-level cynical chuckling which allows the political powers-that-be to simply carry on doing what they want to do, unchallenged. (Coe puts it a lot more eloquently than my paraphrasing would indicate). I was fascinated to read his comments, as they put into words my own growing frustration with what passes for satire in the UK's media. Too much of it is effectively 'institutionalised', being produced by people from exactly the same background as our political masters, with, not surprisingly, many of the same prejudices as them, too. It all operates at the level of 'sniping' at anyone in a position of authority, seizing on whatever the current headline political story/scandal is, without ever engaging in any deep critiques of the prevailing political and economic system.

But, of course, they don't want to engage in any deep analysis. What they really want to do is preach, to use 'satire' as a way of pursuing their own moralistic crusades. Just look at the way the default form of TV 'satire' as become the to camera rant - no actual analysis or thought, just a stream of abuse. One of the worst offenders in terms of moral crusading masquerading as satire is Private Eye and it's editor Ian Hislop. Their attempts to always take the moral high ground with regard to politicians, the media, sex scandals and so on, are, frankly, nauseating. Hislop's recent rants (there's that word again) on Have I Got News For You about Judges effectively creating a privacy law by the back door by allowing the use of injunctions to prevent the reporting of politicians', sports personalities and celebrities affairs, was unbelievably pompous. Presumably, in Hislop's world, there's no need for a privacy law, as if people act 'immorally', by his standards, then they are fair game for the media, regardless of whether there is any public interest in raking their private lives across the media. If you act 'morally', then you've got nothing to hide. It's obvious that he's less interested in using the information he's being denied for satirical purposes, than in pursuing his personal crusade against 'immorality'.

He and Private Eye are also responsible for another aspect of modern UK satire I despise - the 'pox on all your houses' approach, whereby, in the interests of 'balance', they attack all targets indiscriminately, regardless of political ideology, social class or economic wealth. Since when has satire been required to be 'balanced'? Indeed, by denying themselves a clear ideological perspective from which to launch their satire, they are removing any chance of meaningful analysis. Basically, they're just interested in the quick cheap laugh, rather than any long-term comic enquiry of the issues at hand. This approach also undermines a fundamental plank of satire - that it focuses on those who have power, whether that power be political, economic or social, and calls them to account. So, having condemned the rant as a satirical form, that's my rant on the subject. I'm not saying that I'm exempt from these criticisms myself. All too often I feel that I'm preaching to the converted. All too often I go for the easy targets and the cheap laughs. All too often I pursue my own personal agenda to the detriment of any satirical purpose in my stories. However, I like to think that I've never lost sight of the real enemy - the powerful - and that, by tackling subject matter the likes of Hislop would never deign to touch with a barge pole, I try to push the boundaries and challenge the received wisdom and inherent prejudices of readers. And I try not to be smug and sneery. Rant over!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On The Trail

Time for another bout of poorly-lit shaky hand-held shots, punctuated by low-level tripod shot sequences. Yes, it's another one of my films. We're back at the location 'A Fool on a Hill Fort' was shot last year. This time I follow a somewhat different route, taking in the top part of the so-called 'Circular Walk'. There are also some sheep wandering around. Oh, and it's all in HD and widescreen, So, without further fanfare, here's 'On The Trail':

As with 'Back On The Beach', I was rather restricted in my filming by the fact that more people than usual were on the hill fort that day. There was one numpty in particular, who kept wandering into shot. (No, not the prat in the hat, that's me). I've manged to edit out most of his appearances, but you can still glimpse him in long shot two or three times.

This film was intended as a dry run for filming me doing the 'Circular Walk'. However, as I quickly discovered, after a Winter of relative inactivity, my fitness levels simply aren't up to this gruelling physical task yet. Consequently, the project has been postponed until the Summer. Nevertheless, shooting 'On The Trail' was a valuable experience, and has pretty much decided me in terms of the shooting style I'm going to use for the 'Circular Walk' - a minimum of hand held stuff, and more tripod mounted shots.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Policier Brutality

One of the pleasures of being off work is that I get the chance to sit up half the night watching favourite films on DVD. We're not talking classics here - just various films which, for one reason or another, I've grown fond of and never seem to tire of watching. The other night, armed with some beer and peanuts, I found myself watching my all-time favourite French policier starring Jean-Paul Belmondo: Le Marginal. An edited English language version of this used to turn up quite frequently in the all night TV schedules under the title The Outsider back in the late 1990s. It's typical of the kind of action movie Belmondo was turning out in the 1980s. As usual, Belmondo is a tough rogue cop who is prepared to break all the rules to put his adversary - a smarmy drug baron played by veteran Hollywood bad guy Henry Silva - behind bars. It features everything you'd expect from such an outing: Belmondo beating up suspects, romancing prostitutes, being shouted at by his boss and exiled to the worst precinct in Paris, plus a great car chase involving a 1969 Mustang.

All highly entertaining - especially the sequence where Belmondo takes time out from his investigations to hunt down and beat the shit out of a pair of pimps who had cut his hooker girlfriend for consorting with a cop, they appear to be the only people in Paris who have never heard of Belmondo's character and his reputation for violence - but this time around, something about the film kept niggling at me. You see, I've also been watching the third series of Spiral on BBC4, which has reminded me that in France police investigations are directed by an Examining Magistrate. Curiously, at no point during Le Marginal does Belmondo ever consult a Judge before beating the shit out of a group of Turkish immigrants he suspects of being drug mules. Consequently, I couldn't help but imagine Judge Roban, the relatively mild-mannered Examining Magistrate in Spiral, having to deal with Belmondo's Commisaire Jordan. The image of Belmondo swaggering into Roban's office in his black leather jacket, before slumping in a chair and resting his feet on the edge of the Judge's desk, is strangely compelling. He'd probably end up slapping the Judge around in order to get a warrant allowing him to beat up a suspect. That said, Judge Roban himself has been turning a bit rogue himself in recent episodes - staging a break-in at his office to cover-up the fact that he'd leaked information about a case to the press. Next thing, he'll be beating up the Chief Prosecutor...


Monday, April 25, 2011

So That Was Easter?

So, here I am on a bank holiday Monday, wondering whatever happened to Easter. Yes, I know that this is Easter Monday and that yesterday was Easter Day, but what I'm getting at is the fact that, this year, it didn't feel like Easter. Maybe it was the fact that Easter was late this year, so late that it is in danger of bumping into the May Day bank holiday. Or perhaps it's this unseasonably (but very welcome) good weather we've been having, making it feel more like Summer than Spring. I don't know. One of the things absent this Easter seems to have been religion. Now, I'm not a religious person - quite the opposite, in fact - but Easter is meant to be a religious festival. Usually, in the weeks leading up to Easter the media is full of re-tellings of the crucifixion, re-enactments and reinterpretations of the Passion are everywhere. This year, such events seem to have been absent from our airwaves, newspapers and TV screens. Indeed, it wasn't until Saturday afternoon that a crucifixion-related movies turned up on TV in the form of Barabbas. Hardly a classic.

Back in the day, no Easter could pass without The Greatest Story Ever Told turning up on our TV screens. Where was it this year? The closest we got was Channel Five's screening of King of Kings this afternoon. The Jesus film nobody really remembers. Although we should - it has some magnificently eccentric casting. Robert Ryan as John the Baptist? Rip Torn as Judas (surely amongst the worst people to have hanging out with a guy who can turn water into wine)? Harry Guardino as Barabbas (he was Dirty Harry's boss a couple of times)? Frank Thring as Herod (mostly forgotten now, he was once a sought after star character actor, who ended his days appearing in an episode of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo)? Best of all - Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus (to quote Stewie from Family Guy: "You might remember him as the actor replaced by William Shatner in Star Trek - apparently, he was good enough to die for our sins, but not to romance green-skinned women."). But getting back to the original thrust of this post - why didn't it feel like Easter this year? Well, on top of all the other factors, I can't help but feel that Easter weekend has been seriously overshadowed by the Royal Wedding weekend, which immediately follows it. It's clear that the media have focused their attention fully on this event, to the detriment of Easter. Which is a pity, as I prefer Easter to Royal Weddings. Or any weddings, for that matter. At least at Easter I get to eat chocolate.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Back On The Beach

At long last, a film - rather than just a slideshow - made using my new camera! As the title implies, this one was shot on the same location as last year's 'On The Beach'. This time, however, the weather was much nicer and the sea calmer. The fine weather also meant that there were more people about, rather restricting the scope of my filming. Nonetheless, I managed to get enough footage to produce a reasonable demonstration of the quality of the moving images the new camera produces. So, without further ado, here it is:

The only thing I find disappointing about making this film is the reduction in image size after the whole thing had been edited in Movie Maker and processed into a publishable format. Believe me, in it's original full HD and widescreen format, the footage is pretty spectacular. Anyway, I've got some more footage I shot yesterday, which I'm hoping to edit into a longer film in the near future and, hopefully, if the weather permits I'll be out and about next week doing some more filming.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beer and Tattoos

Beer and tattoos - twin symbols of the British summer. I was struck by this thought the other day when - in the midst of this spring heatwave we're currently enjoying - I drove past and individual dressed - if that's the word - in shorts and sleeveless t-shirt, proudly displaying his tattoos as he nonchalantly swigged from a can of strong lager. That's one of the drawbacks of sunny weather, it encourages men of a certain age to start taking their clothes off and showing us all their beer bellies and awful tattoos. Not to mention body piercings. They also seem to think that once the temperature climbs above seventeen Celsius, it's OK to wander around in public swilling alcohol from the can. Now, I know that I'm sounding like a Daily Mail reader here, and maybe it's an age thing, but standards of public behaviour really do seem to be declining alarmingly.

Trust me, I'm not calling for a return to the days when men all wandered around in suits and ties, regardless of the weather, but I feel that we should take some pride in our appearances when in public. If not for the sake of your own self-respect, then simply for the benefit of anyone else you might encounter. I can't be alone, surely, in having no desire to see other people's grossly obese wobbling bellies and grotesquely fatty thighs on public display? As for tattoos, well, I've never understood why anyone would want to mutilate their skin in such a way. I remember the days when only sailors had tattoos. Which, I suppose, was understandable - once you've exhausted the possibilities of rum, buggery and the lash, you have to find something to entertain yourself with on those long sea voyages. What happened to the days when tattoos and body piercings were seen as the sign of savagery? Isn't it about time we started to reassert some civilised values? (Jesus, at this rate I'm going to be writing Daily Mail editorials before the month is out...)


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yet Another One Bites the Dust

Barely two months after lamenting the death of one childhood icon - Nicholas Courtney, who had played the Brigadier in Dr Who - I now find that another one has sadly gone. The death of Elizabeth Sladen, who played the Brigadier's contemporary Sarah Jane Smith in Dr Who, and more recently in her own spin-off series, was announced yesterday evening. I learned via Twitter, although I should have had an inkling that something was up when traffic started to be driven to the story Dr Who over on The Sleaze by variations on the search term 'Elizabeth Sladen naked'. I mean, really? What kind of person does that? Somebody dies, so you search for naked pictures of them on line? Jesus, some of you people out there are sick fucks. No, really. I'm quite serious. It takes a lot to disgust me, but you are just sick.

Anyway, setting aside my repugnance at the moral decadence of some of my readers, I'd just like to say what a sad loss Miss Sladen is, especially her, relatively, young age. As with Nicholas Courtney, I have many fond memories of her appearances opposite first Jon Pertwee, than Tom Baker as the Doctor. It took a while for her to win me round, as she replaced a particular favourite Dr Who assistant of mine, Jo Grant, played by Katy Manning. Nevertheless, along with millions of other fans, I came to like her portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith. Consequently, I was glad to see her back opposite David Tennant a few years ago, which resulted in her spin-off series, which, although officially a children's programme, was still extremely well made and entertaining. So, there you have it, another one of my childhood idols gone. Where will it all end, eh?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"What's the Bleeding Time?"

Popular fiction can often provide a fascinating insight into the prevailing attitudes of times past. I recently bought a job lot of Richard Gordon's Doctor novels from a charity shop. In their day, these were enormously popular, with a series of seven films made between 1953 and 1970, and a long-running TV series being spun off from them. Nowadays, apart from TV screenings of the movies, they're largely forgotten. Reading five of the books more or less in sequence, it is interesting to note how Gordon changed the series over time in order to reflect the most popular aspects of the films, with characters' histories and even names changing from book to book. Most notable in this respect is the character of Sir Lancelot Spratt, the senior consultant surgeon at the series' fictional St Swithin's hospital. In the first book, he appears in only two chapters, and retires after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He comes over as ill-tempered and arrogant, rather than eccentric but brilliant, and with no sense of humour. When the book was filmed a couple of years later, the magnificent James Robertson Justice, (one of my favourite British actors of the 1950s and 1960s, a truly larger than life character), was cast in the role. Not surprisingly, the character dominates the film, with Justice turning in a career-defining performance, as Spratt terrorises his students. His version of Spratt comes over as a brilliant surgeon who doesn't suffer fools gladly, rather than simply being rude and arrogant. Most significantly, Spratt doesn't retire in the film, and reappears in subsequent films in the series, regardless of the fact that the character didn't appear in the source novels.

With Justice's version of Sir Lancelot proving popular with the public, Gordon eventually wrote him back into the books, this time in Justice's image. In Doctor and Son, the fifth book in the series, bored with retirement, (his terminal illness conveniently forgotten), he's trying to find a way back into St Swithin's hospital. This book makes another concession to the films by changing the narrator's name from 'Richard Gordon' to 'Simon Sparrow', the equivalent character in the early films, played by Dirk Bogarde, although he retains - more or less - the same personal history, and wife. Most interestingly, in this book the character has also acquired Sir Lancelot as a Godfather, something never mentioned in the films. But it isn't just characters which Gordon alters over the course of the books. As well as reacting to the popularity of the films, he is also clearly influenced by the growing popularity of the National Health Service (NHS). When he began the series in the early 1950s, the NHS had only recently been created and there was still both scepticism and resentment directed toward it by many in the medical profession. This is reflected in the early books, with doctors complaining that the NHS is turning them into administrators - it is clear that the socialisation of health care was seen as demeaning their professional standing, reducing them to the level of mere civil servants. Moreover, the whole underlying concept of the NHS - that health care should be free at the point of delivery - is dismissed by a GP character in the second book, who tells the narrator that people "won't value what they don't have to pay for."

However, as the series moved into the 1960s and it became apparent that the NHS was not only here to stay, but also hugely popular with the public, the tone begins to shift, with even Sir Lancelot Spratt declaring that he's in favour of the NHS. A reflection of the fact that the old guard of the medical profession - who had trained before it was established - was realising that the NHS was now their main source of employment, and that a whole new generation of doctors who had only ever worked in the NHS, and who happily embraced its egalitarian ethos, were now coming to the fore. As I said, popular fiction can provide an interesting insight into social attitudes and opinions of the era in which it was written. But time does move on, and the Doctor books are now badly dated in their portrayal of medical training. Or so I am led to believe, both by the recent BBC3 series about junior doctors, and a friend whose eldest son is in medical school. Sadly, the likes of Sir Lancelot Spratt no longer stalk the corridors, terrorising their alcohol-fuelled students. Personally, I can't help but feel that our modern NHS would be better for his presence, bellowing "Don't be impertinent" at students who answer his question of "What's the bleeding time?" with "About half past four, sir". Perhaps the BBC could use digital technology to resurrect James Robertson Justice, so that Sir Lancelot can bring his reign of terror to Casualty and Holby City...


Monday, April 18, 2011

Fame Is The Spur?

Some months ago I was in the pub when the subject of a local singer came up. Now, personally I really don't see her appeal - it seems to me that she just wails rather than sings. Anyway, the comment was made that this individual was known all over Crapchester, as if that proved that they were talented, or something. I indignantly pointed out that The Sleaze was known all over the world - surely that means I'm more talented? I can't deny that, in large part, my outburst was motivated by pique at the fact that somebody who spends their time ruining other people's drinking experiences by wailing in pubs, apparently gets more acclaim than someone like me, who regularly produces satirical stories which are - apparently - enjoyed worldwide. I was reminded of this incident yesterday, when I posted a new editorial over at The Sleaze, decrying celebrity culture and boldly stating that I didn't want any part of it.

Having recalled that earlier incident, I couldn't help but feel that my new editorial was a little hypocritical. Why else would I have been jealous of even a local 'celebrity', if I didn't, at some level, crave 'fame' myself? Well, I've thought long and hard about this issue. I think part of the problem here is the way in which the concept of 'celebrity' has gradually replaced the idea of 'fame'. As I mention in my editorial, when I was growing up, we didn't really have anything along the lines of modern 'celebrity'. Instead, people were 'famous' - their fame was, primarily, a recognition of their achievement in a particular field, be it acting, singing, literature, surgery or even nuclear physics. Fame had to be earned. 'Celebrity', by contrast, seems divorced from any idea of achievement. It's about notoriety, about being seen in the right places or moving in the right circles. Just being on TV can be enough to confer 'celebrity' status on someone.

What my outburst was about was my perceived lack of recognition for my artistic efforts. In the sense that I'd like such recognition, I suppose that it can be argued that what I desire is old fashioned 'fame', rather than 'celebrity'. In my defence, this goes beyond simply a personal desire for recognition. I think I was also irked by the fact that people who make an exhibition of themselves in pubs and clubs are taken more seriously as creative artists than those of us who create web content. The latter is still seen as being 'just' a hobby, and of no real importance. Despite the fact that, unlike the amateurs singing in pubs, we do have a global audience which reaches beyond our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances..


Friday, April 15, 2011

Closed Minds

One of the criticisms I often face as a result of my reluctance to travel abroad anymore is that I'm denying myself the opportunity to expose myself to new experiences and cultures. Possibly true, I'll concede. However, I can't help but notice that most of the people who make this criticism are themselves being somewhat hypocritical. Time and again, in my presence, they have displayed a remarkable reluctance to open their own minds to the possibility of new experiences. Every time I mention anything to do with my love of Italian exploitation cinema, I'm curtly dismissed, with the clear assumption that these films are culturally worthless and not worthy of serious discussion. Frankly, if I tried to initiate a conversation about porn, I'd have more luck. The problem is that these films fall so far outside of the cultural and intellectual experience of these much-travelled and obviously therefore culturally sophisticated individuals, that they simply cannot grasp their virtues.

I daresay that if I tried to talk about more 'acceptable' cultural artifacts, such as the films of Visconti, the paintings of Michelangelo or the music of Beethoven, for instance, that would be OK, as these are all 'high art'. The problem is that 'high art' is frequently inaccessible to most people, both economically and intellectually. When I say that it is intellectually inaccessible, it isn't because I think that most people are too stupid to appreciate it. On the contrary, the problem lies with the artifacts - they are frequently tied up in allusions to other obscure art or texts, available only to a privileged minority. They are also, usually, incredibly pretentious, being primarily a 'statement' by their creators of their own 'brilliance'. The end result is that they are, deliberatly, only accessible to a minority, who can consequently congratulate themselves on their cleverness. Of course, this cognoscenti want to maintain their elite status, so define as 'true art' only that which excludes, on as many levels as possible, as many people as possible.

No, at the end of the day, I'll take my 'popular culture' any day - it's ultimately far more honest, it's 'art' isn't self-conscious and it makes itself accessible to everyone. It' essentially egalitarian. A film like the Italian giallo Strip Nude For Your Killer is ultimately far more informative about the cultural attitudes toward women, sex and even birth control in 1970s Italy than a hundred films by Fellini. It's also far more watchable and entertaining. So, I'd like to say to my friends, open up your minds to a new experience and watch What Have They Done to Your Daughters. But they won't, of course. So I won't waste my breath. Instead, I'll spend part of my upcoming Easter break enjoying a retrospective of Lucio Fulci zombie movies...


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Out in the Cold

Leading Conservatives have expressed surprise at Vince Cable's criticism of Prime Minister David Cameron's recent speech on immigration. "To be honest, we we'd pretty much forgotten about him," a top Tory source confided. "Let's face it, since that Daily Telegraph debacle, he's been a cabinet minister in name only, hasn't he?" Business Secretary Cable found himself in hot water after telling two journalists posing as constituents, that he had 'declared war on Mr Murdoch', after they asked him about Rupert Murdoch's proposed takeover of SKY TV - an issue Cable was meant to be responsible for overseeing. With responsibility for making a decision on whether or not to allow the takeover swiftly taken away from him, there was much speculation that the hapless Liberal Democrat would quickly be on his way out of government. Indeed, in recent months Cable has cut a forlorn figure, wandering aimlessly about Westminster, with no clear ministerial brief.

"We don't know why he doesn't just do the decent thing and resign," says our source. "We thought he'd get the message after we moved his desk into the lift. But no, he sits there going up and down, pretending to take important calls from colleagues. For God's sake, his phone isn't even connected." Forced out of his office due to essential lift maintenance, Cable has recently taken to wandering the streets between sittings of the Commons. "It's pathetic - he's like one of those men who doesn't have the nerve to tell their wives that they've lost their job, and pretends to go off to work every morning," the source opines. "Still, at least by closing all those libraries, we've forced him to sit on park benches instead. That's all very well in this milder weather, but come winter surely he'll be forced to resign - I mean, how much freezing cold temperatures and snow can a man of his age stand?"

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A Public Service Announcement

For the benefit of anyone who has been foolish enough to contact me by e-mail over the past month or so, (and it's quite a few, I've unaccountably become highly desirable of late, it seems), I must apologise for not having replied to you so far. I'm afraid that I've been distracted by a plethora of non-web related stuff of late. I've also been busy trying to knock some new material for The Sleaze into shape. With three stories in various states of completion, I finally had to bite the bullet today and pick one to finish. In the end I plumped for 'True Confessions', which should appear on The Sleaze soon. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I'll endeavour to get back to all of you who have been in touch over the next week or so. Oh, and before I forget, good to see you back West Country Stalker - haven't seen your IP on the logs for a few days.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Punched Out

So Nick Clegg isn't a human punch bag, eh? More proof, if any were needed, that he and his chums in the Tory Lickspittles are basically rank amateurs when it comes to professional politics. Really, what did he think was going to happen once he attained a position of authority? I know that he was used to simply being leader of the Tory Lickspittles, a party seen as a bit of a joke and unlikely ever to gain power. Consequently, the kind of criticisms he experienced whilst in opposition were pretty limited. But the fact is that he's in government now, and that means having to take the flak, fairly or unfairly, for the decisions made by that government. It's a fundamental principle of British parliamentary democracy: collective cabinet responsibility. As soon as he went into coalition with the Tories, as soon as he accepted the thirty pieces of silver in form of the job title of Deputy Prime Minister, he assumed responsibility for every policy decision, whether he agreed with it or not. But, it seems, Nick isn't very good at accepting responsibility, let alone criticism.

Still, all the signs were there in the general election campaign: whenever Clegg was put under pressure by voters asking difficult questions, he reacted badly. It was quite obvious that he isn't good under pressure. An impression reinforced by his stumbling performances when standing in for Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Time. So I'm not really surprised to see him whining on about how unfair it is that he takes all this crap from protesters. But why is he so surprised that a lot of the abuse is directed at him personally? If you effectively abandon most of your manifesto promises in return for the promise of a referendum on electoral reform, (a referendum, mind, not actual reform itself), and a fancy job title, what do you expect? Nobody forced Clegg to sign that pre-election pledge on student fees, yet now he doesn't see why he should take any criticism, let alone responsibility, for reneging on it. That's the other aspect to Clegg's whining that sticks in my craw: the implication that this 'personal' criticism he has to face is somehow unfair. The reality is that there's nothing 'personal' in it - it's not his family being targeted, or his private life being splashed across the front pages. On the contrary, it all stems from his failure to deliver on the promises he made in opposition and the way in which he is apparently prepared to compromise his principles for power. All perfectly legitimate lines of attack. But Hell, what else should we expect from 'Calamity' Clegg?


Monday, April 11, 2011

Daylight Robbery

"Quite frankly, we decided that this was the easiest way to recover the debt," Prime Minister David Cameron today told the Commons, as he defended the recent actions of his Chancellor and First Secretary of the Treasury. "Once the Icelandic people had voted against repaying the money their banks owe us, we felt that we had little choice but to send George and Danny round in person to get satisfaction for our own citizens." The Prime Minister's statement followed press reports of Chancellor George Osborne and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander's daring raid on a Reykjavik bank earlier today. "These two guys just came bursting in waving sawn off shotguns and demanding that we handed over the money," a still shaking bank teller, who came face-to-face with the raiders told an Icelandic TV station. "They both had ski masks covering their faces, but they were wearing pinstripe suits and wanted the money put into a red box."

Problems ensued when bank staff told the raiders that they couldn't meet their demands. "They said that they wanted three billion euros, in small bills," recalls the teller. "Obviously, we don't carry that kind of cash. The fat robber then got really angry and tore of his mask - revealing that he was that English politician George Osborne - before firing his gun into the ceiling. The other one then got upset with him, calling him an idiot, the fat one shouted back 'For God's sake shut up, Danny, you didn't even have the nerve to bring a loaded gun, you liberal wimp'. After that, they just grabbed what cash we had and ran out of the bank." Frustrated by the bank's lack of cash, the robbers proceeded to hold up a nearby newsagent, before stealing an old lady's hand bag. By now pursued by the Icelandic police, Osborne and Alexander made good their escape, running to the docks and leaping into a waiting rowing boat. "We would have preferred a submarine or a fast jet, but, as the House will understand, we are currently operating under austerity conditions," Cameron explained to MPs. "Despite a disappointing haul from the bank itself, I'm pleased to announce that George and Danny have recovered a total of thirteen thousand euros, forty cartons of cigarettes, a whole stack of very explicit Scandinavian porn magazines and a very nice leather handbag. Sadly, they weren't able to get the old biddy's mobile, which we might have got a few quid for."

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Hacked Off

So News International has apologised to various public figures for hacking their phones and is going to set up a compensation fund. I guess that makes all that law-breaking - which they first denied ever happened, then tried to say was just down to one 'rogue' reporter - OK, then? Of course, the fact that this follows the arrest of two News of The World hacks earlier this week is mere coincidence. Not that they're admitting to all of the phone hacking allegations - they still deny that they hacked Steve Coogan's phone, for instance. Perhaps they don't think he's a big enough star anymore, so it would demean them to be seen admitting to having spied on him. Whilst we know about all the celebrities and politicians whose phones they tapped (allegedly), what about the non-celebrities they could have hacked?

I mean, it seems obvious to me that they must surely have been monitoring the phone calls of some very senior police officers. How else can the Metropolitan Police's reluctance to take action over the growing number of allegations of phone tapping, be explained? Clearly, the journo's had gotten the goods on some top cops through tapping their phones, and were threatening to go public with their goat-sex ring - or whatever it was they stumbled upon - if they didn't co-operate. But did it stop with the police? What about the clergy? After all, I would have expected a bit of moral condemnation from them, but not a word. Could it be that the News of The World hackers had recordings of the Archbishop of Canterbury making sexist comments about women priests to one of his top Bishops? Perhaps joking that most female priests can't even tell the difference between an immaculate conception and a virgin birth? Hell, that would certainly undermine Rowan Williams' liberal credentials, wouldn't it?

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

To AV, or not to AV?

Well, I got a letter from Eddie Izzard, Joanna Lumley and Tony Robinson, amongst others, urging me to vote 'yes' in the forthcoming referendum on electoral reform. What I'm being urged to vote 'yes' to is, of course, changing our system for electing MPs from a simple majority - the so-called 'first past the post' system - to the Alternative Vote (AV) system, which takes into account the 'alternative choices' of voters whose preferred candidate has been eliminated from the contest early on. Actually, that's a gross over-simplification of AV, but I have neither the time nor the patience to go into it in detail. The question is, should I vote 'yes'? Now, cards on the table time here, for me this isn't a debate as to the pros and cons of reforming our electoral system - it's clear to me that reform is badly needed. But simply agreeing that there should be change still isn't the same thing as supporting the actual proposals on offer in the referendum.

The most obvious reservation I have is as to whether AV actually represents a significant improvement upon the current arrangements. To be frank, it's quite clear that the main reason that it is being offered up is because it the 'easiest' option, preserving the existing constituency system. In truth, it still wouldn't really return a parliament which reflected the way people had actually cast their votes, although it would be an improvement on the existing arrangements. The fact is that better electoral systems, based upon true proportional representation of votes, exist, and are successfully used throughout the democratic world. Indeed, one such system already exists even in the UK - the single transferable vote system is used for some elections in Northern Ireland. This has the advantage of retaining a constituency system - thereby retaining the much vaunted 'link' between MPs and local voters - but making them larger and having them return more than one MP. On the debit side, it does involve a system of vote counting which is possibly even more complex than that used by AV. But it does return fairer results. However, other, simpler, proportional representation systems do exist.

There is another important consideration, which has less to do with the case for constitutional reform than political tactics. The reality of this referendum is that it exists only as a sop to the Tory Lickspittles, sorry, Liberal Democrats, by the Tories to try and buy them off - it allows the Lib Dem leadership to justify its unholy coalition with the Tories to its rank and file leadership by holding out the prospect of finally attaining their Holy Grail of electoral reform. Consequently, a failure to achieve this goal could help to undermine this dreadful government - if electoral reform is no longer on the horizon, then it's possible that the Lib Dem rank and file will begin to exert pressure on their leadership. After all, if there's no prospect of AV, then what's the point of being in the coalition any more? Now, I know there are a lot of people out there, particularly the ones who hang around political blogs, who will label me as 'cynical' for even considering such a thing. For them, principles must come above politics. To which I reply: grow up. Politics is a dirty business and we're playing for high stakes here - anything which could shorten the life of this dangerous government is worth considering. Even voting 'no' in the referendum, despite my personal convictions on electoral reform. So, what will I do? To be frank, I still haven't decided.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In The Churchyard

I'm not feeling very inspired today, posting-wise, but I was downloading some stuff from my camera, and found a collection of stills from another churchyard. Naturally, I decided to put them together as a slideshow:

Unlike my previous graveyard slideshow, I'm afraid I don't have any stories to tell about the occupants of this one. They're just ordinary people. Like you and me.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Doomsday Cock

With Britain in the grip of terror, following the news that Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant worker Derrick Panhandle has gone on the rampage after irradiating his knackers with radioactive waste, (see Great Balls of Fire), Sleaze Diary can bring you more of the inside story of what actually happened at Sellafield that afternoon. Despite the strange state of his genitals, Panhandle seemed otherwise unaffected by his self-inflicted ordeal. “His groin was steaming for a while, but he was quite lucid,” reveals eyewitness Reg Wildarse. “He just zipped his flies up and went back to work as if nothing had happened.” This façade of normality was quickly shattered when, half an hour later, Panhandle went to relieve himself. “We heard this scream and all rushed to the Gents, where we were greeted by a horrible sight – the whole urinal he’d been using had been reduced to a few chunks of smoking porcelain,” the technician recalls with a shudder. “Derrick was just staring at it, his old man still in his hand, gently pulsating with this strange light!” An obviously traumatised Panhandle was taken to the staff room, to await the arrival of the plant’s medical officer.

“That’s when things really kicked off,” Wildarse says. “There was this girlie periodic table up on the wall - I know it's not very PC, but it's just a bit of fun, isn't it, birds with their norks out, demonstrating each atomic element? Anyway, when Derrick saw that, this weird look came over his face and he let out this low moan – it made my hair stand on end! Then I saw that his old man was standing to attention and was lit up like a glow stick. The end went purple and what felt like waves of energy seemed to start coming from his nether regions – you could feel the whole building shaking. Finally, he threw his head back and screamed, at the same time what I can only describe as huge white sparks shot out of his todger and blew a hole in the wall where the calendar had been! At that point, I just legged it out of there!” In the ensuing chaos, Panhandle escaped from the facility, burning a hole in the security perimeter with his radioactive manhood, before vanishing into the Cumbrian countryside. "He just blasted his way through solid walls," says Wildarse. "He seemed to be cocking his glowing fuel rod like a shotgun, bolts of energy ejaculating from the end, accompanied by miniature mushroom clouds."

There has been much speculation that Panhandle could raid other nuclear facilities in order to 'top up' his genitals' energy level - perhaps by thrusting them into the core of a nuclear reactor, with potentially catastrophic results. However, Wildarse believes that his former colleague only requires regular supplies of porn to keep his 'Doomsday Cock' primed. "A couple of hours after he broke out of the plant, a newsagents in a local village suffered a break-in," opines the nuclear technician. "The police tried to tell everyone it was just a normal robbery, but the whole place was cordoned off by blokes in white anti-radiation suits. A bloke in my local pub reckons the place was 'nuked' - radiation levels were through the roof, the only trace of the newsagent was an outline on the wall behind the counter and the windows had all melted. as far as anyone could tell, the only stock missing were the jazz mags!"


Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Foolishness

Well, here we are again, April Fool's Day. I think I managed to avoid all of this year's 'hilarious' japes in the press. That said, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell the 'real' stories from the 'jokes' in most of the UK's media. Everyday is beginning to feel like April Fool's Day. I mean, the other day it was being reported that Nick Clegg was considering 're-branding' the Liberal Democrats with a change of name. To 'Tory Lickspittles', presumably. (Now there's a word I don't use often enough - Lickspittles. It has a certain ring, doesn't it?) Getting back to the point - that has to be joke, doesn't it? As if by calling his bunch of unprincipled, power-hungry bastards by another name can erase the scale of their betrayal from the collective memory of those who were deceived into voting for them. More evidence - if any were needed - of just how deluded Clegg really is these days.

Then there was the return of that bloody diagram. You know the one I mean - it professed to show a cutaway of one of the Japanese nuclear reactors damaged in the recent earthquake and Tsunami. In reality, it looked like a huge cock and balls. Last time I glimpsed it on Japanese TV, this time it was in The Guardian:

I mean, really, did no one at the paper notice this? Did it not occur to them that they had been made victims of some smutty schoolboy humour, (of the kind The Guardian always likes to be snootily disapproving of, like some prim, middle class maiden Aunt)? The again, perhaps they thought it was a profound comment upon the way in which the male-dominated nuclear power industry oppresses women with its huge doomsday cock...

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