Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011 at The Sleaze

With 2011 rapidly hurtling toward oblivion, it's time to bring you our annual New Year's Eve celebration update. Well, as I'm still feeling bloody rough from the return of my cold earlier this week, I have every intention of staying in and drinking my own beer and watching some DVDs, (probably a couple of Hammer's early 1970s lesbian vampire flicks), this year. Last year, for the first time in an age, I was persuaded to go out and see the New Year in at the pub - I returned home at two in the morning thinking that I was definitely too old for this shit. That feeling was reinforced by my Christmas Eve drinking experiences this year - my local pub was packed to the rafters, mainly with 'young' people, and you could hardly hear yourself think, let alone have a conversation. It also took what seemed like hours to get served, as the bar staff were run off of their feet. It took until midnight before we could find anywhere to sit, and it was quiet enough to talk. I have no desire to repeat the experience tonight!

Of course, the other great seasonal convention we're meant to be observing is that of making New Year's resolutions. Now, regular readers will know my opinion of such things - why wait until an arbitrary date once every twelve months to make potentially life-changing decisions? If you want to change your life, just do it, regardless of the time of year! Some years ago I half-jokingly resolved to give up on romance, in the sense that I would make the effort to stop falling into unrequited love with every other woman I met, as it was such a waste of energy and screwed up my emotional life so badly. Curiously enough. I have actually stuck to that resolution, with fantastic results - since making it I've suffered fewer bouts of depression and felt far more emotionally stable. I've definitely been easier to deal with without the mood swings! So, if I'm pushed to make a resolution this year, I'll stick with simply renewing that one! Well, I'm off to eat some of the sausage rolls I've just baked to provide me with some fortitude as I attempt to compose an overdue editorial for The Sleaze. See you all in 2012!


Friday, December 30, 2011

The Man Who Scared Me Witless

I saw the other day that Don Sharp had died at the age of ninety. Now, unless, like me, you are an aficionado of low-budget British horror movies, the name won't mean anything to you. However, for some of us Don Sharp has a special place in our hearts. In horror-movie circles he is best remembered for the two Gothic horrors he made for Hammer in the 1960s: Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1965). The former is generally considered his best film and is one of Hammer's most inventive and atmospheric vampire films, having started life as a Dracula film, before eventually emerging as an interesting out-of-series one-off. Sharp, a jobbing actor turned director, got the picture because, allegedly, Hammer's usual resident director of costume Gothic horrors, Terence Fisher, had temporarily fallen out of favour after the relative failure Phantom of the Opera (1962). Interestingly, despite the critical and commercial success of Kiss, Sharp didn't become a permanent fixture at Hammer, and Fisher returned to the fold in 1964, to resume his position, for the remainder of the sixties at least, as the company's top director. Sharp went on to direct many other, mainly low-budget films, including the bizarre cult favourite Psychomania (1972), which mixes together black magic, teenage bikers and the undead, and the 1978 remake of The Thirty Nine Steps, before finishing his directorial career in TV.

Whilst Kiss of The Vampire is regarded by many as Sharp's best film, it is one of his non-Hammer efforts that I best remember him for: Witchcraft (1964). This film, which he made directly after Kiss, is a relatively obscure item, made on a tiny budget for Lippert Films. It rarely shoes up on TV and, to the best of my knowledge, has never had a UK DVD release. Indeed, I've only ever seen it once, when I was a child, and it scared the Hell out of me. It's hard to why it scared me so much, and it might well be that if I was to see it as an adult, I'd be disappointed. However, something about its monochrome photography and pervading air of unease deeply disturbed me. It might have been down to the fact that it had a contemporary small-town UK setting which made it seem scarily plausible to my younger self. Or maybe it was the way in which the villainous revived witch Vanessa Whitlock dispatched her victims: I recall that one woman was pushed down the stairs to her doom. Most of all, I think, it was the way in which Vanessa had a habit of suddenly appearing on the backseat of potential victims' cars - they suddenly glimpse her in the rear view mirror and are so scared they crash the car. To this day, I always check the backseat of my car before I get behind the wheel - then I check again in the rear view mirror before I drive off. The fact that a cheap horror flick has instilled a pattern of behaviour into me which has persisted for decades, must surely be a tribute to Don Sharp's directorial skills.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Colour Blind

My plans to record another edition of The Sleazecast have been stymied by the return of my cold - having had one edition constantly interrupted by my sniffing, I have no intention of repeating the experience. So, instead I've turned my attention to something I was going to write about last week, before I got caught up in the Christmas festivities. As you may recall, BBC Match of The Day pundit Alan Hansen was forced to apologise for using the term 'coloured' to describe black footballers whilst discussing the issue of racism in the game. Now, this raises an interesting matter of linguistics. I have no doubt that Hansen isn't a racist, but, as I've discussed here before, his use of language now seen as racially inappropriate is a generational issue. Whilst I'm somewhat younger than Hansen, like him I grew up at a time when the term 'coloured' was still considered a less offensive term than 'black'. For one thing, it was considered to be more racially 'inclusive', being used to describe both negros and Asian people. For some reason - I can't recall why - 'black' was seen as a more racially charged term, likely to cause offence if used in public. Ultimately, I think it all came down to the fact it was an era, (the late 1960s and early 1970s), when racial equality was still a relatively new concept. People were only just beginning to accept that the racial stereotypes being perpetuated in popular culture weren't 'harmless fun', but highly offensive, reinforcing unacceptable attitudes toward race. The fact was that even well-meaning white people didn't have a clue as how to relate to other races in terms of language.

Anyway, over time the situation with regard to the use of 'coloured' and 'black' were reversed, as it was more fully understood that both the apartheid regime in South Africa and the slave economy of the US's southern states had given the word 'coloured' so many unpleasant connotations. 'Black' was a more neutral word, being purely descriptive. Most importantly, it was the word that black people had claimed for themselves - unlike 'coloured', it wasn't applied to them by oppressors. However, for those of us who grew up being told that it was OK, indeed polite, to use the word 'coloured', it is sometimes difficult to avoid the odd lapse, where no offense is intended. So, I suppose I'm answering the question I posed a couple of weeks ago with regard to the defendants in the Stephen Lawrence trial - is it possible to claim not to be a racist, despite using language which would be considered racist? - in the affirmative. Under certain very narrow circumstances, at least. Of course the other issue this touches upon is the thorny one of the way in which the meaning of words can change over time. Usage alters them - only dead languages are unchanging, as Wittgenstein would tell you. Which is why Latin is favoured by both the scientific community and the Roman Catholic church - the meaning of anything written in it is unchanging and cannot be 'reinterpreted' as the ideas the individual words and phrases represent cannot be altered. Which, in turn, is why the claim that 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me', is utter bollocks. Words are always more than just words, they define ideas, often unpleasant ones, which is why language can be such a potent weapon.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Devil Woman - More Adventures in Italian Sexploitation Cinema

OK, so I had that bath and shave I was talking about yesterday and then settled down to watch a DVD I'd been given as a present. Baba Yaga, directed in 1973 by Corrada Farina, is another of those Italian sexploitation films I'm so fond of, or is it that simple? On the surface the film, based on a comic strip by Guido Crepax, is a simple story of a fashion photographer Valentina being reluctantly seduced by the witch Baba Yaga, who wants to ensare her in her S&M lesbian sex games. Our heroine finds herself plagued by vivid bondage dreams, (involving both WWI and WWII German uniforms for extra kinkiness), a china doll in bondage gear which periodically changes into a flesh and blood dominatrix who, when she isn't stabbing people with needles, is stripping Valentina and giving her a bloody good whipping.

Worst of all, she finds that Baba Yaga has cursed her favourite camera, with the result that whoever she photographs becomes seriously ill, or dies. The climax sees Valentina finally going to the Witch's old house and succumbing to her games, only to be rescued by her film-maker boyfriend, who smashes the dominatrix doll, at which Baba Yaga leaps into an apparently bottomless hole in the floor. The police then turn up, (called by a neighbour), and it transpires that the building is abandoned and that no one has lived there for years. Oh, and the bottomless hole just leads to the cellar.

So far, so conventional, (by Italian exploitation standards). It's all beautifully photographed and full of beautiful Italian ladies taking their clothes off. It also moves pretty slowly and you'd be left asking yourself 'is that it?', if it wasn't for an interesting sub-text. As well as being an obviously wealthy fashion photographer, Valentin is also some kind of left-wing activist. Indeed, she'd fit right in with today's 'Occupy' movement, except that she doesn't do any occupying. In fact, she doesn't seem to do much in the way of activism beyond participating in artistic 'happenings', reading Marx and decrying her boyfriend as a 'whore' because he prostitutes his film-making to shoot crass commercials. This latter point is a recurring theme of the film: a graphic artist friend finally finds a mainstream publisher for his radical comic strip, but admits that he will have to tone down its political aspects in future, whilst Valentina herself spends her time photographing semi-naked men and women in sexually suggestive poses for advertisements. The question being posed is the degree to which the economic and political system we live in forces us to compromise our principles and ideals. In the case of the characters in Baba Yaga, they are forced to turn their art into a commodity in order to survive.

All of which echoes the main plot, of course, where Baba Yaga is trying to force Valentina to subjugate her natural eroticism to her perverse and violent bondage fantasies. At the climax it is clear that the witch's pleasure derives entirely from the power she now has over Valentina, previously established as a sexually liberated and free-spirited young woman, rather than from any sexual thrill. Now, you might be thinking that I'm really stretching it trying to burden a sexploitation movie with a sub-text about the suppression and subjugation of the artistic spirit by the capitalist state, but the theme becomes explicit in two short films by the same director which are included on the DVD. These are both examinations of the history and social impact of comic strips. (or fumetti, as they are known locally). in Italy. In the second of these, Farina looks at the way in which comics are dismissed as being simply for children, who we then discourage from reading them. This, he argues, is because the world they presents stimulates the child's imagination, and the suppression of this is key to the process of capitalist society in transforming children into adult workers. Only once the imagination is relinquished, he contends, can workers be forced to accept a life of exploitation and drudgery as an inevitable norm. (Which is more or less what I was trying to say in the previous post).

Of course, the fact that it has a radical sub-text doesn't mean that Baba Yaga isn't problematical in some of its other aspects. Whilst it isn't quite as misogynistic as many other contemporary giallo movies, it does have serious problems with regard to racial stereotypes. Simply having a black character who isn't a cannabalistic headhunter and part-time bizarre murderer isn't, in itself, sufficient to establish a film's non-racist credentials. Not when it is implied that by being black means being able to sense witchcraft - a black male model refuses to go near Valentina's bondage doll, recognising it as evil - a result, no doubt of his voodoo heritage. I'd also like to believe that Valentina's comments to him that. for the photo shoot, she wants him to reconnect with his savage ancestory - 'when you used to eat white missionaries' - are intended to be ironic, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, there you have it, another Italian sexploitation flick discussed - I've still got Satan's Baby Doll to watch. No doubt that has a Marxist-Leninist critique of the sex trade as its sub-text...


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After Christmas...

OK, I've just resurfaced after what seems like several days of excessive food and alcohol consumption. Not to mention staying up to ungodly hours of the night watching old films. I think I've just about returned to some kind of functionality as a human being, although I badly need a shave and a soak in a warm bath - luckily I haven't left the house in nearly forty-eight hours, following my return from a hot, sweaty and very overcrowded pub in the early hours of Christmas Day. Anyway, I vaguely remember having an idea on Christmas Eve for a really profound and insightful post that I was going to write today. Needless to say, it has now faded in into alcohol-induced oblivion. Well, most of it. I seem to recall that it had something to do with the fact that, as children, we're imbued with fantastic imaginations, which allow us to see the wonder in life. However, as adults, we allow it to seep away, becoming so bogged down with paying mortgages, doing unfulfilling jobs and just the whole business of everyday living, that we lose sight of the wonder which still underlies it all.

That was the gist of it, anyway. I also recall that whilst watching Che, Part One on DVD yesterday afternoon, I noted the titular revolutionary's opinion that, in war, a numerically inferior, relatively poorly equipped force can triumph against superior forces if its members are driven by a clear idea of what they are fighting for - an army with a just cause, I took him to mean, will always be better motivated. Which, sort of, ties in with what I was rambling about above. You see, in my booze addled estimation, by letting go of our imaginary lives, dismissing them as being childish, we also let go of all those dreams and ambitions that used to fuel us. When I say 'ambition', I don't mean a desire to be promoted at work, or own a bigger car. No, I'm talking about those dreams we decry as being impractical and unrealistic - to write a novel, say, or to be an artist, or find true love, perhaps. Without such dreams to aspire to, be lose our motivation to do anything but just exist. So, if you have an impractical dream, no matter how trivial it might seem, you really should go for it. As a child, for instance, as a result of watching too many US films and TV series, I fell in love with American cars. Everybody told me that the idea of owning one was stupid - but many years later I did: twice. I've owned both a 1979 Mustang and 1978 Camaro Z-28 at different times. Both were wildly impractical in the UK, but I loved them and have never regretted the years I spent driving them. So, if I can do it, anyone can!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011 at The Sleaze

Well, the sausage rolls are baked, the whiskey cracked open and the last seasonal greetings delivered (via text) to absent friends, so it must finally be Christmas. Mind you it was a close run thing - for a while yesterday I thought it might all get called off this year. When I saw that Prince Philip had been admitted to hospital with chest pains I feared the worst - a Royal demise would surely usher in several weeks of mourning during which we wouldn't be permitted to enjoy ourselves. It would certainly have left the BBC with a dilemma: whether to continue with its Christmas schedule of frivolity, or switch to its contingency plan of wall-to-wall respectful mourning on all channels? I must admit, I was sufficiently worried about the situation that when I woke up early this morning, I turned on the radio and went through the BBC national stations - none of them were playing mournful music on a loop, so I assumed the Duke of Edinburgh hadn't died during the night, heaved a sigh of relief and went back to sleep. Christmas wasn't cancelled. Yet. There's still time, of course, for him to pop his clogs yet, but I think we should be OK until the New Year.

But enough of world events. What about me? Well, I'm still clearing up after The Sleaze staff Christmas party (as recorded in The Sleazecast: Christmas Special, below), Little Miss Strange's empty beer cans alone have formed a pile four feet high. Next year I swear that I'm banning alcohol, or her, whichever's easier. The only real question remaining now is to decide whether I'm going out for a couple of pints, or if I'm going to stay here and work my way through some of my own booze. Of course, these days I at least have the option of the short walk to my local pub for a civilized seasonal drink, since we got rid of 'Deke', (not his real name, but close enough), the landlord from Hell, a couple of years ago. We'll see. Before I go, an interesting seasonal fact, checking my web stats I see that the main search term bringing me traffic today has been 'Christmas cock', (mainly landing on the story Robbie's Christmas Cock). It's brought a steady stream of visitors all day. Quite what that says about people's seasonal expectations this year, I'm not sure. Anyway, all that remains is to wish you all a happy Winterval (or whatever you celebrate). I'll see on the other side folks!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Sleazecast: Christmas Special

Here it is, a record of the only Christmas party I ever attend: The Sleaze staff Christmas party. Join us in the The Sleazecast: Christmas Special, as we celebrate the season of goodwill to all men, (except carol singers). All the ingredients for a great Christmas are here: reflections on the spirit of the season, a guide to tasteful decorations, a ghost story, drunken party antics and angry fights. Why go anywhere else when you can hear it all here, in one handy package? But enough talk, you can listen to the latest Sleazecast here (it runs 32' 14"):

The Sleazecast: Christmas Special

Alternatively, you can download it here in mp3 format.

Track listing:

1. Season's Greetings: In which the Doc welcomes you to the party and ponders the meaning of Christmas.

2. Santa's Seasonal Shed: Ruminations on the perfect Christmas decorations for your house.

3. Room Sixty Nine: A seasonal tale of the supernatural.

4. Fright Christmas?: Santa under fire from fundamentalists.

5. A Pagan Christmas: The Doc examines the pre-Christian origins of our favourite festival.

I recorded the whole thing yesterday afternoon in my living room, adding the backing tracks later. For what it is worth, most of the sound effects come from, with he exception of the fight noises, which come from The carol singers are actually extracts from cylinder and 78rpm vinyl disc recordings from around a hundred years ago, which are available free from

The closest thing to a 'studio' recording I've done, it was fun to make, but I'm not sure I'd want to repeat the experience in a hurry. The simplicity of the 'on the fly' recording techniques of the previous Sleazecasts is more attractive, (they're far easier to edit, not being multi-tracked).

Anyway, I'm going to try to squeeze another Sleazecast out before the New Year, (whether you want it or not), until then, it's Season's greetings from the web's least-listened to podcast.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Party On Down

Have we ever talked about Christmas parties? I'm sure we must have, but that still isn't going to stop me prattling on about them again. I know I must have mentioned my anathema toward office Christmas parties, ( at risk of repeating myself, I've only ever attended one, when I first started working, and it was horrendous, not helped by the fact that I was on medication for a bout of flu and consequently couldn't drink; I vowed never to attend another), and yesterday felt that I'd dodged a bullet by avoiding my current work place's office party. Which is probably unfair, but that bad experience from all those years ago still colours my judgement of such things. Luckily, this year it coincided with the first day of my Christmas leave, so I didn't have to come up with some elaborate excuse as to why I couldn't attend. This year I was going to say that I had to go to Stonehenge with the other druids on the Winter solstice, to sacrifice a virgin in order to ensure the return of Summer, but thanks to the timing of my leave, I can save that for next year.

I seem to recall from when I was younger that it used to be a big deal as to how many Christmas parties you got invited to - a mark of social status. Obviously, being entirely misanthropic and anti-social, I still avoided attending the bloody things. Not that I didn't get the invites. One of the 'advantages' of working, (as I did then), in the London HQ of a major government ministry was that individual branches and offices would hold their own seasonal celebrations, and you'd frequently get invites from those you worked and liaised with most frequently. You'd also get invites from outside organisations you worked with as well. Indeed, I was once invited to a Christmas party at the US Embassy. And declined it. I'm proud to say that I turned down the Ambassador in favour of a few pints in my local pub that evening. Obviously, it meant missing out on that Ferrera Rocher he was spoiling his guests with, but I felt that was a small price to pay for retaining my integrity. These days, of course, I don't receive such invitations, let alone have the opportunity to turn them down. I can't say that I'm sorry, really. I'm afraid the Christmas party is one part of the season's celebrations that I'll never get on with.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in Crapchester

As threatened, a short film showcasing some of the Christmas lights of Crapchester:

You'd be surprised as to how tricky this was to film. People can get surprisingly sensitive about you filming their Christmas decorations. A lot of them have the strange idea that you are going to put it on You Tube and take the piss out of them...

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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Sleazecast 4: Conspiracy!

First off, I need to apologise for the state of my voice on this one. I had a cold whilst recording it, as evidenced by my constant sniffing. That said, I make no apology for the fact that this edition of The Sleazecast is somewhat more serious than its predecessors. Indeed, it is more akin to what I was actually striving for when I recorded the first one.

With modern life, and the web in particular, awash with conspiracy theories, I thought it was time for a fairly serious examination of what makes conspiracy theories and the people who perpetrate them tick. So, without further ado, on with the show, which you can listen to here:

The Sleazecast 4: Conspiracy! (Running time: 42' 26")

Alternatively, you can download it here in mp3 format.

Track listing:

1. Introduction: In which the Doc gets paranoid.

2. Anatomy of a Conspiracy: In which we dissect a conspiracy and create a new one, all from nothing!

3. The Conspiracy Lovers: Where the Doc looks at the true believers of the conspiracy world.

4. Paul is Dead and Other Popular Conspiracies: A whistle stop tour of some of the most popular showbiz conspiracies, including the Doc's own contributions.

5. Creating Conspiracies: How to concoct a conspiracy theory in one easy lesson.

6. The Conspiracy Behind the Conspiracies: We conclude by asking, 'Can you see the conspiracy which lies in plain sight?'

Again, I think this is another improvement, even though it was recorded and edited in record time. Next time, we'll be back to a more lighthearted - and possibly seasonal - tone.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Still Seeking the Seasonal Spirit

Well, my attempts to get into the Christmas spirit continue - I've finally gotten around to putting up my meagre decorations. I restrict myself to a pair of Christmas trees: my really tatty £1.99 tree I bought from Asda a few years ago, which sits, adorned with my 96p lights from the same source, in my front room, and a somewhat better one which sits here in the living room. I'm convinced those lights will eventually burn the house down, but I can't deny that they've given pretty good service over the past four years. Especially considering that I was amazed they worked the first time. I'm still not sure it has helped my mood. Maybe things will get better when I finish work next week - I'm only doing a couple of days before taking my Winter break. It's much easier to feel festive when not weighed down by the wicked world of work.

Anyway, I've got all manner of things planned for The Sleaze and Sleaze Diary next week. I'm just putting the finishing touches to a seasonal-themed story for the main site, and I'm abut to edit together another Sleazecast. I've also spent some time this week filming various garish Christmas lights on people's houses, and I'm hoping to cut all this footage together into a short film. On top of all that, I'm hopeful of recording another episode of The Sleazecast during Christmas week, for publication prior to the big day itself. If all of that doesn't get me in the right mood for Yuletide, then nothing will. Hell, I think I'll go and eat a mince pie now, that should help as well.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Black and White

Can people really change their fundamental beliefs? I'm prompted to ask this question by the testimony of one of the accused in the Stephen Lawrence trial. Now, I'm obviously not going to comment on the trial itself or speculate as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, but I have been struck by one particular development. Despite being confronted with secretly filmed footage of himself using racist language and describing violent acts he would allegedly like to perpetrate against racial minorities, one of the defendants has denied being a racist, claiming the incident filmed represented youthful bravado, as he tried to impress his friends. Which raises the interesting question of does the use of racist language actually make one a racist, or can we ever just pass it off as a momentary lapse, brought on by extreme circumstances? Wasn't that Ron Atkinson's defence? It's possible in cases, like Atkinson's, which involve older people, that the use of such language can be explained as a lapse back to a less progressive era in which they grew up, when such terminology wasn't recognised as being offensive.

But the defendant in the trial is much younger. It could be that his use of racist language reflects the environment in which he grew up - much as Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic outburst was hardly surprising when set in the context of his father's religious beliefs, such things can become deeply ingrained in the psyche and emerge under stress - but his parents seem perfectly decent people. Could someone who did once hod such views so radically change them over a period of time? I don't deny the possibility. However, such changes in fundamental beliefs are usually the result of some life-changing , often traumatic event, making them fairly rare. That said, I'd like to believe that human nature isn't immutable, that people can change their beliefs and become better people for it. After all, what hope can there be for any of us if this isn't so? But I still find such extreme journeys, from racism to non-racism, difficult to comprehend. There's still a part of me that thinks 'a leopard never changes its spots', and that the use of racist language always reflects some deeper belief system rather than simple ignorance. But things are rarely that clear cut. Unlike in soap operas, where characters can completely change their established personalities, with little or no explanation. Like Derek Branning in Eastenders, for instance, who squares away his racist past, (when he was plated by a different actor), by simply remarking that prison changed him. Which I take to mean that he spent three years in a cell taking it up the jacksie from a large black man - and enjoying it. If that doesn't constitute a life-changinng and traumatic experience, I'm not sure what would.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sleazecast 3: In Bed With Doc Sleaze

Here it is at last - the third instalment of the web's least-listened to podcast. Join me in bed to ruminate on our favourite late night activities. Recording in bed turned out to be more troublesome than I expected, so it's back to the car for the next one. In fact, I've already started recording the fourth Sleazecast and I'm hoping to have it edited and published in the next week, or so.

But enough talking, let's get on with the show, which you can listen to here (it runs 42' 28" - I'm afraid they just keep getting longer):

The Sleazecast 3: In Bed With Doc Sleaze

Alternatively, you can download it here in MP3 format.

The Sleazecast 3 track listing:

1. Intro: In which the Doc invites you to join him under the covers.

2. Ten Knuckle Shuffle: Where the Doc ruminates on some of the questions which keep hm awake at night - like, what would the advantages be to having two penises?

3. Things That Go Hump in the Night: Memories of noisy nocturnal neighbours past.

4. Late Night TV: What do you like to watch in bed? The Doc muses over the perfect late night TV line-up.

5. The Bermondsey Triangle and Other Mysteries: In which we probe the mysterious disappearance of John Noakes and South London's own Devil's Triangle.

6. Final Thoughts: Don't let the bed bugs bite!

Is this an improvement over the first two? I certainly hope so! Have a listen and judge for yourselves.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Seasonal Spirit

I'm desperately trying to get into the seasonal spirit and, so far, failing miserably. I'm not sure what the problem is, (apart from being a curmudgeonly old bastard, of course), but so far it just doesn't feel like Christmas yet. Obviously, part of the problem is that, in common with most people, I'm expecting, as an adult, to be able to feel the same enthusiasm for the season as I did as a child. Which is impossible. Quite apart from the changes in perspective and opinions adulthood brings, the crucial difference is that, as an adult, Christmas itself becomes your responsibility in terms of preparations, buying presents, putting up decorations and the like. As a child, you only had to enjoy Christmas, without thinking about the behind-the-scenes bits. Indeed, I've spent the best part of the last week, (when not at work), rushing around focusing on buying presents for relatives, rather than actually being able to enjoy the season. It probably doesn't help that I've been feeling under the weather for the past few days, which, combined with the time it took me to wrap my great nieces' presents, meant that I didn't have the energy to put up even my tatty Christmas tree over the weekend.

Having said all that, one thing that has brought a seasonal smile to my face over the past week or so has been the appearance of external Christmas lights on the houses of Crapchester. Don't worry, I'm not going soft. Whilst many of these light displays are very tasteful, a lot more are simply garish and vulgar, and consequently highly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. I particularly like those installations where the householder seems to have nailed every vaguely Xmas-related light fixture onto the front of their house, with no sense of balance or composition, in an apparent attempt to out do their neighbours. Flashing Santas sit side-by-side with animated steam locomotives, illuminated reindeer and neon bells. I'm trying to record some of them on film, but my attempts today were frustrated by poor weather conditions and picture quality (the result of the necessity of shooting them after dark). Undeterred, I'll give it another shot over the next few days. The main question I'm left asking, though, is how do these people afford the electricity bill? With energy prices still rising, I'm amazed that there are still so many of these displays this year. Maybe they're bypassing their meters, or plugging the decorations into the nearest streetlight...

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Britain's Got No Bloody Talent

I'm definitely getting old. The other day it was announced that a whole slew of night time specialist music DJs were to leave Radio One next year, whilst I actually knew who all of them were, the names of their replacements just sounded like gibberish to me. As far as I can make out Expand and Fart, DJ Saucepan and MC Gas Cooker will all be joining the station in 2012. Or perhaps I misheard. One of the other signs of my encroaching years is my increasing irritation at the continued presence on my TV and radio of people who simply won't accept that they've had their five minutes of fame and refuse to fuck off. You know who I'm talking about, all those sad deluded bastards who think that winning a 'talent' show or appearing on reality TV programmes somehow makes them worthy of interest. The problem is, of course, that they are utterly devoid of any talent or personality and have absolutely nothing of any interest to say.

Now, I know we haven't even had Christmas yet, but here's a suggestion for a New Year's resolution: let's all agree to stop encouraging these sad gits. If they're on TV, change channels. Likewise if they're on the radio. Don't buy any magazines featuring them. Don't buy any products they endorse. If we starve them of the oxygen of celebrity - attention - maybe they'll get the message and get proper jobs. Of course, it would help if the media itself would stop allowing these people to blight our airwaves. Let's face it, it's cruel to keep giving them hope that they might really be a celebrity despite their lack of any talent. A hint to Louis Spence here - mincing around and being professionally gay does not constitute artistic talent. Just because Graham Norton has been getting away with it for years doesn't mean that anyone can build a career on it, (charisma and a degree of wit helps). So, please could we all make a concerted effort to rid ourselves of these empty-headed wannabes who contribute nothing of artistic merit to our popular culture.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

All or Nothing?

An addendum to what I was banging on about on Monday - perhaps the thing I find most irksome about the 'comedy isn't as good as it used to be in the 1980s' brigade is their implied 'all or nothing' attitude. Apparently, if a comedian offends you by cracking a joke you don't like, or holding an opinion that differs from yours, you have to condemn their entire act, burn all your DVDs of them and shout abuse at them every time they're on TV. Oh, not to forget to try and harass them on Twitter. Conversely, if you happen to think they're 'right on', then you have to uncritically accept, and laugh at, their entire body of work. Oh, not to forget to send them sycophantic Tweets.

Personally, I beg to differ from this attitude. Just because Ricky Gervais chooses to use the word 'mong' now, doesn't mean to say that I have to repudiate my enjoyment of The Office, for instance. (Granted, his attitude might make me want to re-evaluate some of his stand up act, but that's slightly different). By the same token, just because I've enjoyed one thing an artist has done doesn't mean that I automatically assume that I'll uncritically accept their future output. I know that we all want the public figures we like and whose work we respect to have the same values and ideals as us, but the reality is that they are just ordinary human beings, entitled to their own views and opinions. We see only one facet of their lives - their work - and have no right to expect that this reflects their private lives. Sure, it is nice when you find some celebrity whose work you like turns out to have similar private views to your own, but it isn't essential for ones continued enjoyment of their output. I mean, I hear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bit right-wing, but that isn't going to stop me from enjoying the Terminator movies, (the first two, at least)...

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Distraction Tactics

The economy is screwed, tens of thousands more public service workers will be sacrificed to the Great God Deficit and international capitalism seems to be on its last legs - but don't worry, here are some pictures of those cute pandas arriving in Scotland. That's certainly the way it felt on Sunday if you tried watching any news programme. On the news channels, any story, no matter how important, was being constantly interrupted by newsflashes taking us to Panda-related press conferences. Now, I really don't have much interest in the sex problems of pandas at the best of times, (any species which is apparently so disinterested in breeding surely deserves extinction), but when we're in the middle of a global financial crisis and are being told that in the UK we're facing a decade of economic stagnation, I really couldn't give a fuck, (neither can they, apparently).

I would have hoped that our media would have become a bit more sophisticated in its distraction tactics by now. I'm also insulted that they think a couple of bloody pandas are enough to divert my attention from Osborne's economic mismanagement of this country. But of course, the Panda story could only provide a temporary smokescreen for the government and by Monday economics were dominating the headlines again. So, what next to try and distract us while 'Gorgeous' George tries to perform more financial sleight of hand? Can we look forward to the BBC showing us pictures of fluffy bunnies, in the hope that whilst we're all entranced by the floppy-eared furry creatures we won't notice Osborne picking our pockets to further bolster the bank accounts of his wealthy Tory friends? They must think we're stupid - but then again, we did allow this shambles of a coalition seize power...

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Taking Offence

OK, I'm back. Last week's exertions on the picket lines, on marches and at rallies left me so exhausted that i had to take three days off from blogging. But that didn't stop things irritating me and I'm champing at the bit to share my irritations with you! "I saw something on TV in 1981 that made me laugh and nothing has been as funny since - comedy ended in 1981. Modern comics are rubbish - if only they'd do what those hilarious people did in 1981, they wouldn't be shit." I encounter that sort of sentiment a lot on the web these days. There seem to be a lot of people, (particularly on Twitter), who spend their time slagging off 'modern' comedy and eulogising the 'good old days' of the 1980s and 1990s, of proper 'alternative comedy' and telling us all that some obscure sketch show that nobody but they remember was the greatest TV comedy series ever. The irony, of course, is that they sound exactly like the pub bores and middle aged newspaper TV critics of the1980s 1990s who spent their time lamenting the demise of traditional stand-ups and denouncing 'alternative comedy'.

Get with the programme guys - things change, comedy, like all other art forms, evolves. If you'd just give 'modern comedy' a chance, you might find that some of it is funny. Just like some 1980s comedy is still funny, (but not that sketch show only they remember. That was shit). But that's the problem, of course. They've decided that any comedy made after 1997 isn't funny and are determined that they will never laugh at any of it. Indeed, they proceed to demonise practitioners of the hated 'modern comedy', denouncing them as 'right wing apologists', 'closet racists', misogynists, un-PC and, well, Ricky Gervais. All these accusations are on the basis of no actual evidence at all, merely that the comic in question has expressed a view they might disagree with. It's all pretty pathetic really, watching these supposed comedy fans working themselves up into a lather of outrage at the 'offense' caused by the likes of Gervais and his use of the word 'mong', for instance. Leaving aside the arguments as to whether the word can legitimately be disassociated from its original (offensive) meaning and instead be used as general term of abuse, I'm left with the impression that it is simply Gervais they are offended by, and the fact that he's enjoyed success purveying a type of humour they refuse to acknowledge as being legitimate, because it isn't the same as 1980s comedy. Even worse, they always seem to be getting offended on someone else's behalf - those with Down's syndrome, or dwarves - rather than their own. Look, if these groups really are offended by Ricky Gervais, they're quite capable of raising the issue themselves, you patronising bastards!

The bottom line here is simple - if you like 1980s comedy, fine, just keep watching your Young Ones videos, waiting for a laugh, (oh and by the way, surely that series featured an incredibly right-wing and establishment stereotype of students as layabouts, drunks and drug takers), and shut the fuck up. If you don't like contemporary comedy, you don't have to watch it. But, of course, if they didn't, what would they have to get offended by and tweet about?

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

After The Strike

So, was it a 'damp squib', as David Cameron would have everyone believe? Well, for those of us who took part in yesterday's day of action, it certainly didn't feel that way. According to Tory propaganda, services weren't as badly affected as feared, there were no significant delays at Heathrow airport, for instance - which the media gleefully reported over and over again. What you have to remember here is that the government and their media lackeys had spent days ramping up the spectre of massive disruption as the result off the strike, so that any level of actual disruption on the day would seem minuscule in comparison, allowing the government to brand the whole strike a failure. The reality, of course, is that causing disruption was never the point of the strike. The point was to make a clear statement to the government over the pensions issue, to demonstrate the strength of our feelings, and, hopefully, to force them into proper talks.

It's also worth comparing my personal experience of public reaction to the strike and the way in which it was reported by the media. Here in Crapchester, most people were pretty supportive. OK, you had the odd wanker shouting abuse - usually taxi drivers, who are mainly Nazis anyway - and quite a few who didn't have the balls even to shout abuse, but instead rather pathetically flicked V-signs at us. However, to watch that evening's edition of our local BBC news programme, you'd have thought that people had been spitting at us in the street and hurling bricks. They seemed to have gone out of their way to interview only those members of the public opposed to the strike, (or maybe they did have positive reactions, but just chose not to broadcast them). Significantly, I thought, the interviews from Crapchester all seem to have been recorded some time after the march through the town, and involved people who hadn't seen it first hand. To be sure, there were no BBC cameras or reporters in evidence during the march and rally.

As for Jeremy Clarkson, I have no intention of getting embroiled in the nonsense surrounding his supposedly humourous comments about shooting strikers on the BBC yesterday. The overreaction to it in some quarters relay doesn't help our cause and simply gives him the publicity he craves. Look, at best he's an oaf, at worst a cunt. Either way, his opinions are of little consequence. But talking of oafish cunts, one of the pillocks the BBC used in its Tory propaganda, sorry, fair and balanced reporting of the local strike action, really got my goat with a particularly moronic comment that he clearly thought was incredibly clever. He trotted out that old standard of the reactionary right wing cretin: "We pay their wages, so should just go back to work!" Where to start with such idiocy? Well, I don't know where that particular dipshit works, but let's say, for the sake of argument, he works in a bank. Now, how does a bank make its money? By using the money I (amongst others) deposit it there to lend to other individuals and businesses and charging them interest. Also by charging for transactions involving the money I deposit there. So, quite clearly, I'm paying his wages. It would be the same if he worked in a shop, or a factory, for instance - his wages would come from the money spent by others (civil servants included) buying his stock or products. We all pay each other's wages - it's how capitalism works, fuckwit. Which leads me ask, why weren't you at work you bald bastard? Why were you on the street talking to a TV reporter? I pay your wages for fuck's sake. Get back to bloody work!

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