Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New and Improved

OK, if you linked here from The Sleaze and are a regular reader, you will have noticed that we've finally made the switch to the 'new' Sleaze. I finally managed to engineer it in the early hours of the morning and, so far, so good. Visitors are still finding the site, search engines are happily indexing it. Whilst I'm glad to finally make the switch, after so many months of planning and preparation, the move is tinged with a little sadness, as it marks the point where I have effectively relinquished control of the site's design and back end to third parties: I bought the theme from eleganthemes (it's called 'The Style'), and the whole thing is now powered by Wordpress. However, the fact is that my hand crafted flat pages just couldn't cut it anymore - visitors expect a far more professional look these days, and my coding skills just aren't up to that.

The switch to dynamic pages and a Wordpress back end means that the site is now far easier to update - it now takes just one click to publish a new story. No more farting about with HTML editors and manually updating menus and tags. The only thing I'm still manually updating is the RSS feed - it's the only way I can guarantee it is formatted exactly the way I want it. Of course, the big question is whether all these changes will help the site regain some of its lost traffic. The jury's still out on that. Whilst today's traffic is well up, (both in terms of visitors and page views), part of this is down to a Norwegian aggregator service reindexing what it sees as 'new' pages. Interestingly, I've noticed that when someone uses the search facility, the results pages count as page loads in their own right. (Virtually as soon as the 'new' site went live, a visitor used that site search facility, and others have continued to use it throughout the day - clearly there's a demand for it). It only remains to point out that the 'new' site comes complete with a new story. I promised Nazis for the 'silly season' batch of stories and I've delivered with the Health and Safety Nazis! Actually, there are a couple of other things - I skipped the testing period using invited visitors to save time, so some aspects of the site are still unproven. So, if you've got a smartphone, can you let me know if the mobile-friendly version of The Sleaze is working? Also, if you click on the facebook button in the 'follow' section of the sidebar, you'll be taken to the site's facebook page - give us a 'like' if you're feeling generous!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Coastal Capers

I know, I know. August is rushing to a close and still there's no sign of the 'new' version of The Sleaze. The reality is that it exists in a sub folder on my hosting account, but I'm having some difficulties in making it 'live'. An attempt late last night ended in disaster with the whole site off line for the better part of an hour. Consequently, I was forced to revert to the old site. By the time everything was sorted out, it was three in the morning. The knock on effect was that I woke up today feeling exhausted and with a splitting headache. I ended up going back to bed and, for a while, it looked as if my planned coastal trip would have to be postponed. However, later than intended, I finally managed to set out for the sea.

Having spent the better part of the afternoon wandering around an old sea fort, I'm feeling a lot better. I also now have huge amounts of footage of the fort. Unfortunately, I was forced to revert to hand-held filming with all its disadvantages, as it just wasn't practical to set up a tripod there. I've had a brief look at it, and a fair amount looks usable, (albeit with some severe editing), so, when I've made sense out of it all, I'll try and splice it all together. Indeed, I might be able to get a couple of films out of it. Which would be logical, as the fort is divided into two distinct areas: Tudor and twentieth century. Getting back to the website issues, I'm going to make another attempt at switching over to the new site later on tonight. Fingers crossed.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

August Bank Holiday

Look, I'm as much in favour of the disabled competing equally at sports as the next man, but we all know where allowing that Oscar Pistorius - the fellow with the blades instead of feet - to compete alongside able-bodied athletes will end, don't we? If he starts winning medals , then every two-legged athlete out there will start having their own legs amputated and replaced with blades in order to keep up. Next thing you know, high jumpers will be cutting off their feet and replacing them with springs and shot putters will be having one arm replaced with a slingshot. Trust me, this isn't a path we want to go down - it will make a mockery of the sport if we start allowing athletes to use prosthetics. You might as well legalise the use of performance enhancing drugs. But enough of my thoughts on the current state of athletics, did you enjoy your Bank Holiday?

As my regular reader(s) know, I'm much enamoured of Bank Holidays, particularly the August Bank Holiday. Not that I ever do much on them. I just like the concept of everyone having the same day off as a communal experience. Except that these days, not everyone does have the day off - all the shops seem to be open as usual. Anyway, as ever, I spurned the opportunity to go to the Notting Hill Carnival, (every year I succeed in forgetting that it is on over the Bank Holiday weekend), or the Reading/Leeds Festivals, (although I could have watched most of them on BBC3, but couldn't be bothered), or attending a 'beer festival' at my local pub, (I find real ale enthusiasts tedious when they are sober, let alone when they're drunk). Unfortunately, with the weather looking more like late Autumn than late Summer, going anywhere didn't seem very appealing. However, faced with the prospect of another repeat of Diamonds Are Forever on TV, I forced myself to go out for a walk. I can't deny that I felt better for it. That said, I can only hope that you had a more exciting Bank Holiday than me. Still, it's back to business as usual tomorrow, with another trip to the coast planned. Although that could easily go awry...

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Man and His Fringe

It's just occurred to me that I've been telling people that I'd be performing my one man show at the Edinburgh Festival fringe this week - so I suppose I'd better post an update about that, rather than posting films of me on a beach at the other end of the country. Well, what can I say? It's all been going brilliantly, and I've been playing to packed houses. Last night I had twelve people in - which is actually over-capacity for the upstairs room at the Dropped Bollock. It was bloody lucky we didn't have a health and safety inspection, or we'd have clearly been breaking fire regulations. Anyway, I've been getting rave reviews from the local press as well: the Midlothian Free Advertiser gave me a great write up - 'Puerile smut'. That was it, just 'Puerile smut'. That's the best print review I've ever had. In fact it is the only print review I've had. Of course, I've had the professionals watching me as well. Only two nights ago I saw some bloke who'd had a gag cut from an edition of Have I Got News For You, (on the grounds that he'd stolen it from the Beano annual), in the audience. Clearly, TV beckons. Still, last night tomorrow, then it's back to the reality of trying to repair my kitchen sink.

Which, of course, I wasn't doing today, as I was in Edinburgh. Just as I didn't go to the dentist or get my car serviced. Mind you, when I talk about repairing my kitchen sink, whilst it is true that I had to install a new outlet pipe due to the old one falling apart, the most frustrating work has, so far, been an attempt to replace the taps. I feel as if I've wasted half the day under that sink, vainly trying to loosen the nuts connecting the water supply to the taps, with no success. The trouble is that there's insufficient space under the sink to properly wield any of my spanners, let alone the basin wrench. I've calculated that a smaller, six inch long, adjustable spanner might just do it, (although it still won't give me much leverage). Of course, I don't have such a tool, so operations will resume when I acquire one. Boring domestic details aside, I feel I need to say something about The Sleaze's long promised revamp. The fact is that I would have liked to have implemented the new site this week, but there were some teething problems. Most significantly, it was extremely slow loading in Internet Explorer, (all other browsers were fine). This seems to have been partially solved by updating Wordpress to the latest version. It is still slower to load than I'd like, but this seems to be an Internet Explorer problem, which is beyond my control. Anyway, fingers crossed, by early next week, the 'new' Sleaze should be up and running.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Part of The Beach

Well, here it is: my first holiday film of the season. This one was shot on Monday, on the same beach as 'On the Beach' (Parts One and Two), 'A Walk on The Beach' and 'Back to The Beach'. However, this time I filmed on a relatively inaccessible section of beach I discovered by accident. As ever, it is filmed with my usual flagrant disregard for continuity, (think 'hat' in the bit where I climb down the ravine).





Not a bad little film. Unfortuntely, I didn't get to shoot as much matrial as I would have liked, but the end result captures the atmosphere of the beach quite well.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The World Gone Mad?

What strange times we are living through, old certainties seem upended and logic thrown to the wind. I give you two examples to illustrate this contention. Example one: a few weeks ago, in the wake of the US having its credit rating downgraded by one of those unelected and unaccountable agencies, we were treated to the spectacle of China, Communist China, lecturing the US on how to run a capitalist economy. Incredibly, we had Beijing telling Washington that it needed to cut back on government spending and reduce its deficit. Damn it! It wasn't so long that the Chinese would have been rejoicing in such a crisis capitalism and denouncing the US for failing to spend money on its citizens by guaranteeing employment, health care and so on. But no, now the Communists appear to be better capitalists than the capitalists!

Example two - we have our very own Chancellor of the Exchequer, 'Gorgeous' George Osborne, pondering over whether it is worth keeping the fifty per cent tax bracket because - and this is the mind-boggling bit - too many people are evading it. So, basically he is saying that if people can evade, (or 'break' as I prefer to describe it), a law, then we should simply throw up our hands, declare that it's all too difficult, and abolish the law. Now, bear in mind that, simultaneous with his public musings, the government was busy insisting that anyone arrested in connection with the recent riots, no matter how minor their offence, should be prosecuted and given disproportionately harsh sentences. Who says there isn't one law for the rich and another for the rest of us? No wonder people are rioting in the streets...

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Spontaneous Revolutionary Activity?

So, much to David Cameron's relief, the Libyan rebels have finally entered Tripoli. The sooner the whole Libyan debacle is over, the better for Dave - it will save him a few hundred million pounds in the ongoing military campaign to prove that William Hague isn't gay. I couldn't help but notice that they have a 'gang' problem in Tripoli though - as soon as the rebel forces entered the city, there was lots of news footage of looters cleaning out shops. Just goes to show, those spontaneous outbreaks of criminality aren't confined to England. Still, I have no doubt that Dave will be urging the new Libyan government, (if and when it is installed), to instruct their courts to deal very severely with these criminals. I think that the firing squad wouldn't be an unreasonable punishment for stealing bottled water - after all, we have to take into account the circumstances under which the crime took place, don't we? What would simply be a petty crime under normal circumstances would obviously be a capital offence when it takes place in the context of serious social, political and military unrest.

I can't help but feel that the London rioters should have taken a few lessons from the Libyan rebels. If only they had set up a 'National Transitional council' and declared that they were part of a spontaneous uprising against a despotic government which was victimising its own citizens, then they might have gotten some foreign governments to recognise them as the legitimate government of Britain. A UN resolution would have followed and, before they knew it, NATO warplanes would have been bombing strategic government-controlled facilities - like Downing Street - and strafing the Metropolitan Police as they tried to oppress the rioters. Obviously, they wouldn't have actually targeted David Cameron himself, but his constituency offices in Witney would undoubtedly have been considered a legitimate target. But sadly, none of this was to be. If only I'd taken my East European tank-buying holiday earlier...
(Again, for the benefit of any idiots reading this, that last reference is a joke, I'm not inciting the violent overthrow of the UK government. This post is merely a humourous story told for satirical effect.)

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Friday, August 19, 2011

A Woodland Walk

Well, today was my last day at work for a few weeks, (I've a lot of time off owed, so I'm taking a long late Summer break). So, to celebrate my freedom, and to give a foretaste of what I'll undoubtedly be subjecting you to over the next few weeks, here's another of my films:



This was cut together from footage I shot back at the beginning of June, but that I just haven't had time to edit until now. Sadly, the picture quality is somewhat lacking, with a lot of blockiness and jerky frame rates in places. Despite being shot on exactly the same camera as the last few films, something seems to have happened when the file formats were processed for editing. A pity, as it mars a record of a pleasant early Summer afternoon. I'll have to look into the processing issue before I shoot the next one.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Satire With Balls

I feel like I've spent a large part of the day underwater. The other part I've spent sat in the car vainly waiting for the downpour to ease off, whilst the moisture from my rain-sodden clothes fogs up the windows. Listening to the rain drumming on the roof of the car has given me plenty of time for thought, particularly about the nature of satirical humour, and online satire in particular. I mentioned in a recent editorial that I'd been lurking around the message boards of another satire site, in the hope of finding some kind of satire community to replace the one at the now defunct Humorfeed members forum. Sadly, I was to be disappointed, finding only a bunch of middle class smart arses instead. Anyway, I found myself back there the other day, only to left somewhat nonplussed by a recent thread in which one of the members, apparently in all seriousness, admitted to having no idea as to what the phone-hacking scandal was all about. Now, bearing in mind that this is one of the biggest news stories to break in years, with the potential to completely reshape the UK media landscape, not to mention its political impact, it really is quite worrying to find someone associated with a satire site claiming ignorance of it.

It raised the question, in my mind at least, as to whether it is possible to write satire if you have no interest in, or knowledge of, current affairs. Ultimately, I suppose, it all hinges on how one defines satire. For many, the only real satire is political satire. The lampooning of politicians, ideologies and political institutions is what distinguishes satire from mere 'humour', they would argue. If we accept this principle the, clearly, no satirist worth their salt could possibly dare to claim ignorance of major news stories. However, the reality is that satire, as defined by the dictionary, has always encompassed more than just the parodying of politics. It is about making fun of and challenging all established mores, whether they be political, social, cultural or economic. It's about being iconoclastic and undermining the status quo. By this reckoning, it is entirely possible to write satire without any interest in politics and current affairs. It just wouldn't be political satire. You could quite easily bang out stories satirising popular culture, celebrities, religion, even royalty, without ever reading a broadsheet or watching an edition of Newsnight. Which might explain why so much of the UK satire I encounter online is so bloody whimsical, never going for the jugular, instead dancing around its subject matter, ineffectually jabbing at it with the sort smart-arsed quips celebrities on panel shows have scripted for them. Their humour might, technically, be clever, but its shallowness betrays a lack of real passion about the subject matter. Whilst there's nothing wrong with a bit of whimsicality, when writing satire you not only need balls, (metaphorically speaking, in case anyone thinks I'm implying that women can't write satire), but every so often you have to be prepared to kick your subject in the balls.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beyond the Fringe?

It's that time of year again when I'm getting demob happy and counting down the days to my annual long Summer holiday. It seems to get later every year, but I always insist that it must take in at least one week of August - quite apart from the fact that I think I'm entitled to take some of my Summer break in a month classified as a Summer month, as we've previously established, I have an abiding love for August and late Summer. It's also the time of year when people start asking me what I'm going to do with my time off, where I'm going and all that other intrusive questioning, and I tell them I'm taking my one man show to the last week of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year I'm being a bit more elaborate than usual, in that the fictitious show has a name: 'Contempt of Court', based on my 'hilarious' experiences working in the civil justice system. I've even told some people that one of the District Judges (we're talking 'proper' District Judges here, not the glorified magistrates you sometimes find in magistrates courts) I used to work with is lending me his spare wig and gown.

As ever, nobody I tell really knows whether to believe me or not. Which is the way I like it. I've never understood why people always seem to have such a fascination with what their colleagues do when they're on holiday. Personally, I don't think that I've ever asked anyone where they're going on holiday. Frankly, I don't care. Obviously, I hope they do something they enjoy, but the details really are of no interest to me whatsoever. I feel much the same way about any other non-work aspects of their lives - it's none of my business what people do outside of the workplace. I suspect that much of this interest emanates from the idea that everybody else is leading a more interesting life than you - people want to believe that life really isn't as mundane as their own seems, they need to believe that there are more exciting lives to live out there somewhere. Sadly, I learned a long time ago that the majority of lives are pretty mundane and uneventful. Which doesn't mean they are uninteresting, just not that they aren't the way the media tells us they should be. However, the less people know about your private life, the more exciting they imagine it to be. So, by playing out this fantasy about the Edinburgh Festival every year, I like to think that I'm enriching my colleagues' lives and reassuring them that there really are more exciting lifestyles to aspire to.

Obviously, the whole lie will fall apart when someone spots me drinking in my local pub when I'm supposedly at the other end of the country, entertaining a bunch of students. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Some years ago I told some acquaintances that I was going to Tibet for two weeks. It took some fast thinking to explain how come I'd been seen in a local supermarket and several pubs during this period. "Have you never heard of Tulpas?" I asked. "The thought forms some Tibetan monks are believed to be able to project that are indistinguishable from the real individual or object they are based on? Well, it just happens that I spent my Tibetan holiday in a monastery, studying with a group of Buddhist monks..." Anyway, for anyone interested, I'll be performing 'Contempt of Court' in the assembly rooms above the 'Dropped Bollock' in Nipple Lane, Edinburgh between 22-26 August. Tickets available in the saloon bar.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

The War on Looters

I was intending to try and move away from writing about last week's riots, but hell, the aftermath is turning out to be almost as bizarrely entertaining as the actual events. Cameron's latest explanation for the riots now seems to be that it was all down to gangs. And single mothers. Oh, let's not forget the lack of discipline in schools. In other words, he is as clueless as Dr David Starkey - who thinks that it is all down to rap music, patois and white people behaving as if they are black - as to the causes of these disturbances. Which isn't really surprising as, like most of the people commenting on the riots are middle class, privately educated professionals from comfortable backgrounds. So, instead of seeing any attempt to get to grips with the actual roots of this problem, we're instead subjected to the spectacle of Cameron's equivalent to the 'Bloody Assizes' as Magistrates Courts sit twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, presided over by a series of publicity-hungry District Judges, (note that these aren't real judges, just glorified magistrates), all happy to audition for the part of Judge Jeffries, sending teenagers down for six months for stealing six bottles of water, for instance.

Of course, if I was a conspiracy nut, I'd tell you that it was the government and their shadowy extreme right-wing backers who are actually behind these riots - it's their 9/11 and 7/7 rolled into one: an excuse to impose all sorts of repressive measures in the name of 'freedom'. The 'War on Terror' superseded by a 'War on Looters', and yet more of our civil liberties taken away. Either that, or the police were behind all the mayhem in an attempt to stave off cuts to their budgets. But I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Although both the conspiracies I've outlined present more credible explanations for the riots than any of the cobblers our government are spouting. Quite frankly, they might as well put it all down to demonic possession resulting from our increasingly Godless society. More exorcists - that's what we need! Put more priests on the streets! But enough of my negativity - what can we do to combat this kind of civil unrest in the future? I was watching the film adaptation of Watchmen over the weekend, and it occurred to me that if only Dave had had a superhero like Dr Manhattan to call upon, he would have been able to deploy him against the rioters in much the same way as Nixon deploys Dr Manhattan against the Viet-Cong in order to win the Vietnam war. Indeed, Dr Manhattan would represent an ideal opportunity to save money on defence, foreign policy and the police - they'd all be rendered obsolete by his very existence. And he's blue. So, my advice to Dave is to start irradiating someone - probably Ian Duncan-Smith - right now in order to produce a bald, blue British equivalent to Dr Manhattan - Dr Sizewell B, probably - then blame the next round of riots on the machinations of a super villain, before having the rioters disintegrated.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Riot Round Up

As 'riot week' here at Sleaze Diary draws to a close, I'd like to reflect on the events of the past few days, (I'm sounding like Jerry Springer here, I know). Disappointingly, and unsurprisingly, our politicians and media still seem to be intent upon trying to write off the civil unrest as being merely opportunistic criminal activity. Apparently we're not allowed to say that, whilst it might have been criminal activity, it undoubtedly has its roots in social and economic deprivation, a sense of political disenfranchisement and the rise of our consumerist society with its emphasis upon acquisition and materialistic values. To be fair to Dave, it isn't entirely his fault - we're reaping the bitter harvest sown by successive governments, both Labour and Tory, since the late 1970s. That said, I have no doubt that his Godforsaken excuse for an administrations mean-spirited and economically illiterate policies provided the final straw. The riots were an expression of a deep seated anger at the way those of the bottom have been treated. Unfortunately, those involved this time were unable to articulate this anger in any form except mindless violence and destruction.

But, of course, our political leaders can't admit this - they can't admit responsibility. It scares them. You can see the fear behind Cameron's preposterous macho posturing and name calling. These riots have clearly demonstrated that when a large enough section of society decides it doesn't want to be governed, there is very little the state can do. They're just lucky that this time the unrest was unfocused and didn't have clear leadership or a political agenda. Next time, they might not be so lucky. Which is why I think it is important that the Labour Party finds some balls and tries to tap into and harness this simmering resentment in the service of legitimate political protest, before some extremist rabble rouser does. Sadly, I don't see it happening. Instead, the only solutions being offered are idiocies like 'turning off' Twitter and texting when there is civil unrest. Sorry, but isn't that what we were criticising those 'nasty' regimes in Egypt and Libya for doing only a few months ago? As for the notion of stopping the benefits of convicted looters and evicting them from their council houses, (not that anyone is stereotyping looters and rioters), what do you think they'll do for money and shelter instead? That's right, they'll burgle a few more houses, mug a few more grannies, sell more drugs and squat in someone's house.

Still, thanks to Dave we now know that the riots were all down to the police failing to be tough enough on looters. Actually, I think the police got it right - their focus seemed to be more on preventing death or injury than protecting property. Which I think is laudable. Not to mention effective - the loss of life was kept mercifully low. That said, it's significant, I think, that the main emphasis on the part of both media and politicians has been the terrible destruction and theft of property. The people who died or were injured are mentioned only as an afterthought. Such attitudes are sadly indicative of what's wrong with with our society. But let's look at the positive side of these riots for a minute - Michael Winner is reportedly threatening to leave the country and hundreds of thousands of music CDs belonging to independent record labels were destroyed when a warehouse burned down. Let's face it, we all know that most of the stuff put out by independent labels is just as shit as stuff out out by the majors. But more pretentious.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fighting Fire With Fire

"When they talked about fighting fire with fire, I don't think this was what they had in mind," says Peckham resident Arthur Piddle as he watches a mob of so-called vigilantes hurl firebombs through the windows of a local house. "I know they're saying that the lad who lives there is one of the little bastards who was rioting the other day, setting fire to buildings in the shopping centre, that's actually his Gran's house. She's eighty two, for God's sake!" However, the leader of the mob - who wears a mask and hoodie and will only identify himself as 'Ron' - is unrepentant, even as the house's elderly occupant attempts to escape the blaze, hampered by her walking frame. "These little gits have brought on themselves," he declares. "Running around, wrecking the neighbourhood, terrifying old ladies and families - well, let's see how they like it when we do the same to them!" This isn't an isolated incident - already there have been reports of gangs of angry shopkeepers breaking into alleged looters' homes and ransacking them in Hackney, whilst in Lewisham a youth centre has reportedly been burned down and local teenagers assaulted by a mob of elderly men.

"We're just taking back the streets for ordinary, decent, people," says 'Ron', as he directs several of his mob - wielding baseball bats - to prevent firemen from fighting the blaze. "The police and justice system are clearly inadequate, so we're administering our own justice - an eye for an eye. That's only fair." With bands of vigilantes springing up all over London, there have already been clashes between rival groups. In one particularly ugly incident, a group of Turkish shopkeepers found themselves confronted by a mob of English nationalists in Croydon as they prepared to defend their properties. "I don't know who the bloody hell they think they are - trying to stop English people from rioting in their own country!" bellowed English Justice League leader Nigel Griffiths after police intervened to try and prevent violence. "I can guarantee that if a load of black or Asian rioters came here, they'd let them loot any businesses belonging to white people to their hearts' content!" Griffiths explained that he and his gang were on the streets of Croydon exclusively to protect any shops and businesses owned by white English people, but denies that he approves of white rioters burning down ethnically-owned businesses. "Obviously, we don't want to be seen to be condoning lawlessness," he says. "But there's no doubt that if a poor, unemployed white Englishman was to throw a brick through the window of an Indian restaurant or kebab shop, it would be a political, rather than a criminal act."

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From the Mean Streets of Crapchester

Another late night update from riot-stricken Britain. Don't worry, I'm calmer now. Not to mention less drunk. Nevertheless, i remain unrepentant over yesterday's rant. The fact is that the whole thing left me feeling exhilarated. Although the disturbances seem to have died down, (in London, at least), I've been left feeling young and hopeful again. Once more, I'm not condoning the violence and lawlessness, but the fact that such anger and frustration exists amongst at least some of the population makes me hopeful for the future - if only someone can find a way to tap into this and harness the anger at the current political, economic and social situation into a legitimate political campaign, then perhaps we might finally get some real change in this country. Moreover, it was good to see the negative reaction Clegg and Boris Johnson got when they took to the streets in a damage limitation exercise. They showed just how out of touch they really are, with no understanding of what's happening in the inner cities, far from their cosy public schools.

Anyway, I've been out on the streets of Crapchester myself all day, working in some of our roughest housing estates. I'd like to say that the atmosphere was electric. Except that it wasn't. The only young people in evidence were ten year olds out on their bikes. That said, I heard that someone kicked an empty beer can at a police car in the town centre and that some kids let off a couple of fireworks in the War Memorial Park. To be fair, Two Ton Toby from the chippie tried to instigate a bit of urban unrest this morning. It all started as a protest about the council's failure to empty his recycling bin. At least, that's what he claimed. He started by shouting at the refuse collectors, before it all escalated when some local kids joined in. Before he knew it, Toby found himself helping them turn a car over and set fire to it - it was only when it was well ablaze that he realised it was his car. Even worse, it was still in his driveway, with the fire threatening to spread to the garage. Although he dialled 999 on his mobile and called the fire brigade, Toby admitted that he was still caught up in the moment when they arrived, and found himself throwing bricks at them.

If nothing else, we thought, Toby's one man riot might at least give the local regional news programme something to report on. We thought they'd be feeling a bit left out, as all the riots had taken place outside of our BBC region, meaning they'd be forced to report on the latest cattle stampede whilst there was a revolution breaking out just up the road. We needn't have worried. I caught the lunchtime broadcast - despite there having been no riots in our area, the whole bulletin was devoted to scaremongering about how there might be riots here tonight. Apparently people were in the grip of fear and shopkeepers were busy barricading their premises. Not round here, though. That said, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference if a riot did break out around here. Although I doubt there'd be widespread looting - most of the shops have already been stripped of their stock by shoplifting kids by this point in the school holidays.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Burn, London, Burn!

I'm writing in this in the early hours of the morning, as I watch the events in London unfold. Please bear in mind that much of what I write is alcohol fuelled as I've just got back from the pub. But I have to say that the main emotion I'm feeling is frustration. Frustration that I'm stuck here in Crapchester whilst, less than forty miles away the capital is ablaze and the revolution is apparently starting in earnest. Look, I don't want to seem as if I'm condoning lawlessness and criminality, but we can't keep trying to write this off as simple criminally-motivated rioting. This has been coming for a long, long time. The news channels are full of middle class voices wringing their hands and bewailing these awful events. The common themes emerging are that the underlying causes are 'youth'. 'lack of respect for authority' and that the solution is 'getting tough on these people'. These middle class tossers - a lot of them small business owners who have seen their premises go up in smoke - clearly don't have a fucking clue.

Really, what did they think was going to happen after decades of an increasingly unfair and unjust society, where wealth was increasingly concentrated into the hands of a privileged few? What did they think would be the long term result of an ever more materialistic society which teaches that success and happiness can only be measured in terms of material possessions? What did they think would be the consequences of ever greater restrictions on people's civil liberties and increasing powers for the police and security forces? What did they think was going to happen when people at the bottom were told that not only were their jobs now at risk, but that their benefits, pensions, social services, schools and libraries were going to be slashed, because wealthy bankers had fucked up the global economy? Sooner or later, something was going to give. I'm not condoning the looting going on, but I can understand it - people have been told that ownership of all this shit is what they're meant to aspire to, but suddenly they've been told, tough, there's no way we're going to allow you any opportunity to attain those goals legitimately.

Like I said, something was going to blow. Clearly, the shooting in Tottenham was a catalyst, another example, so many local people obviously thought, of the authorities, in the form of the police, exercising their power arbitrarily. The poor morale of the police in London and the damage to their moral authority in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, clearly left many of the rioters feeling that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I've heard some of the reporters prattling on about how some of the rioters are walking around with an air of empowerment, in the face of police powerlessness, characterising this as a 'bad thing'. But, you middle class twats, that's the fucking point! These are people who feel that they've been shit upon by the state for all their lives and, finally, they feel that they;re in control. As a society, we need to be asking ourselves how we could ever allow so many people to feel so embittered and disaffected.

But, of course, that isn't the reaction of our politicians, (except Ken Livingstone who, so far, has spoken the only sense I've heard during this crisis). I've already heard various senior Labour figures condemning these disturbances out of hand. For fuck's sake, try and remember that you are meant to be the party of the disaffected and powerless! Grow some balls and start looking for ways you can harness all the anger underlying these riots to legitimate political campaigning! Stop pandering to the Daily Mail! As for all those small business owners calling for the return of the birch - I'm afraid my sympathy for them is limited. Let's face it, most of them have spent years ripping off their local communities with their inflated prices and poor service, then complained when the big supermarkets moved in and had the audacity to offer consumers lower prices and better service! It's no good, I've got to go to bed. Like I said, I don't want to condone violence, theft and destruction of property, but really, this shouldn't be coming as a surprise. Yes, I know people are being scared shitless by all this. But that's actually a good thing - these middle class bastards need to be shaken out of their complacency. Welcome to the fucking revolution!

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Wild in the Streets

So, this rioting started after a Polar bear attacked some teenagers in North London? Because he was white and all his victims black, it was taken to be a racial attack and the police shot him as he tried to get away in a taxi? Or am I getting my news stories confused? It's all too easy in this twenty four hour instant news culture we inhabit. I must admit that I first became aware of the riots when I saw 'Tottenham' trending on Twitter - at first I thought it had something to do with the friendly against Althletico Bilbao we'd just won at The Lane. It wasn't that good a match to be trending, I thought. My next thought was that maybe Harry had signed someone amazing, so I checked the BBC News site, only to find that Tottenham was ablaze. That's out of order, I thought, I mean, we won, for God's sake! It all got even more confused when people started claiming that 'outsiders' were behind it all. Clearly those Athletico Bilbao supporters were more disappointed at losing that friendly than we'd all thought.

I remember the last time we had inner city riots like this, back in 1981, when Brixton, Handsworth and Toxteth erupted. I was a teenager back then and for a few delirious weeks it seemed, to my radical young mind at least, that the country was teetering on the edge of revolution. But in the end it all died down. I'd like to think that we're living in a similar moment, but I doubt it. That said, the way this latest unrest has spread across London and now, apparently, to Birmingham, is quite impressive. Nevertheless, it just doesn't seem to be on the same scale, in destructive terms, as the 1980s. The trouble is that these rioters just don't seem to be well enough organised. The police always seem to be able to disperse them with mounted cops - you'd have thought by now the rioters would have organised their own mounted division. A well organised cavalry charge by a troop of hoodies on horses, (probably looted from the nearest stables), would be able to disperse a line of coppers with shields and batons. (For legal reasons, I should point out here that I'm most definitely not advocating that anyone assault the police, loot commercial premises or engage in civil disorder. This is all being told for comic effect).

To be slightly serious, the way the reporting of these disturbances is being slanted, it is clear that there is a concerted effort to characterise the whole thing as simply criminal activity. All the emphasis has been upon the looting and destruction of property. Consequently, the underlying causes of the unrest aren't being highlighted. Clearly, in a healthy society, people don't take to the streets and indulge in an orgy of criminality. It's clear that this civil disorder is simply a manifestation of far deeper problems within these communities, which they feel aren't being addressed by those in power. As for the incident which appeared to spark the initial problems in North London, the shooting by police of a local man in Tottenham, it's interesting how quickly the 'official' version has begun to unravel. This is in direct contrast to the police shooting of the Brazilian guy on the Tube in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks. Then the police were able to maintain a sustained campaign of disinformation and character assassination against the victim via the press. Of course, now that the Metropolitan Police's unhealthy relationship with News International has been exposed, it isn't so easy for them to engage in such propaganda.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Bear Terror

So, was that Norwegian Polar bear actually an al Qeada operative, or just an extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalist acting alone? Whilst I'm sure that the press are itching to label it as the former, it has all the hallmarks of being the latter. I mean, it attacked a group of teenagers on a Norwegian island, but didn't seem to be part of any organised terror network. That said, I'm sure that the press will lose no time in finding pictures of the bear attending a mosque and wearing traditional Muslim dress. Actually, there's a ready made headline for them: 'Bear-kha Terror!' Obviously, the fact that the group of teenagers it attacked were all British, and not ethnically diverse, will be see as significant. To be honest, I'm quite surprised that the news channels haven't cleared their schedules to follow this story, wheeling on endless bear experts to assess the risk of further ursine attacks.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that al Qeada has tried deploying animals as terror weapons. If we're to believe the tabloids, that is. I vaguely remember stories about monkeys being trained to use guns, so that they could be used as assassins. I'm sure there have been others - suicide bomber pigeons, perhaps. Or seagulls trained to fly into the engines of airliners in order to bring them down. How about terror trained attack dogs? That generates another instant headline: 'Bark-ah Terror!' But hang on - there's news coming in that they've uncovered evidence that the killer Polar bear had been in contact with bears in zoos all over the world, including the UK! Apparently he posted a lengthy screed on his blog before the attack to justify his actions - it quotes Paddington Bear at length...

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

"I Want to See Them Swing!"

So, MPs can't ignore the sentiments expressed in e-petitions says top Tory tosser George Young MP. Which I take to mean that he's one of the hanging and flogging brigade, who seem to spend their time starting e-petitions calling for the return of the death penalty. It came as no surprise that the e-petitions published today were obsessed with capital punishment. Frankly, I find the idea that these should be used to 'prompt parliamentary debate' dismaying. It completely undermines the whole concept of the UK having a representative democracy. We decided a long time ago that allowing direct rule by the general public just doesn't work. Even allowing them to suggest topics for parliamentary debate - as these e-petitions show - a recipe for disaster. Issues of real importance will always be ignored in favour of 'populist' issues like the death penalty or pulling out of the EU, which interest groups and the media can build campaigns around. The most compelling argument against these e-petitions, of course, is that they are entirely unrepresentative of general opinion - only people with a pre-existing agenda are likely to start one, let alone put their name to one.

Having brought up the subject of capital punishment, it has to be asked - just why are the right-wing so obsessed with restoring judicial murder in this country? Leaving aside the compelling moral argument that it simply wrong to take a life, whether you are an individual or the state, there is absolutely no evidence that it acts as a deterrent, nor can it be argued that it represents 'justice' in any meaningful way. Let's face it, a significant proportion of homicides are so called 'crimes of passion', committed in the heat of the moment with no premeditation, many others are the result of drunken brawls, or are committed by people who, for want of a better term, are insane. None of these groups is likely to be deterred by the knowledge that their actions could be punishable by death. Moreover, executing them for a momentary lapse, or a psychological condition over which they have no control, would hardly be just. Then there are murders carried out in the course of another crime, or for financial gain - would the potential perpetrators of such crimes be deterred by the death penalty? They certainly weren't for all the time that we did have capital punishment in the UK. Then there's the issue of miscarriages of justice - you can't release and compensate someone wrongly convicted of murder if you've killed them. But then I've heard some of the 'I want to see them swing' mob saying that it doesn't bother them if an innocent person is occasionally executed by mistake - it is a price worth paying. What they never say, though, is whether they'd be happy to be hanged themselves if wrongly convicted. Funny that.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Organ Snatchers

So, the government are changing the rules on organ donation, forcing everyone applying for, or replacing, a driving licence to 'opt out' of organ donation, or it will be assumed that they want to have their vitals whipped out if they're in a car crash. Now, what's that all about, eh? It can't be altruism - these bastards don't do anything unless there's something in it for them and their grasping pals in corporate Britain. So, what's the ulterior motive? Just why are they so keen that car accident victims be so willing to give up their organs? Well, consider this: one of the casualties of the government's spending cuts in many parts of the country have been speed cameras and other traffic enforcement schemes. Moreover, with swingeing cuts in police budgets on the horizon, one of the things forces will undoubtedly end up cutting will be their traffic divisions - fewer patrol cars, less speeding tickets, fewer dangerous drivers taken off the roads. The inevitable result of all this: more road accidents, more fatalities and more available organs.

Who will be the beneficiaries of these organs? NHS patients? I think not. These bastards want to increase the supply of organs available for transplant in order to keep themselves alive. Not satisfied with economic and political hegemony, they now want to maintain that control in perpetuity. Imagine how frustrating it must be for Rupert Murdoch, say, to spend a lifetime building up a commercial empire, only to find himself old and frail when it reaches its zenith. Rather than enjoy the fruits of his labour, he has only the prospect of eventually handing it over to his son, Mini-Roop. But just imagine if he could carry on for a few years more? Or, even better, rejuvenate himself? Wouldn't it be worth snatching a few working class organs to realise such a dream? It's the same for politicians. Do you really think Dave relishes the thought of eventually being pensioned off to the House of Lords when he gets too old to cut it in the Commons? Of course not. Let's face it, if Winston Churchill was willing to try the old monkey gland treatment in the 1950s to try and stay in Downing Street, you can bet your life that Cameron will steal a few organs.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Glorious August

August at last! My favourite Summer month, as I've mentioned before, in which everything seems becalmed. The world seems to have gone on holiday and nothing seems to be happening. Back in the good old days this was the 'silly season', when there was so little news around that newspapers were filled with stories of UFOs, the Loch Ness monster and Hitler being found alive and well in Sidwell. Indeed, so little happened that when he was Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan used to take the whole of August off to go grouse shooting in Scotland. The Foreign Office used to shut up shop as well, confident in the knowledge that nobody would start a war in August. Traditionally, of course, August is also 'silly season' for The Sleaze, when I run a full slate of stories about Nazis, spacemen and lost civilisations. This year will be no different, although the ongoing project to revamp the site means that the first story will be delayed slightly. I should have something posted by the end of the week at the latest. Hopefully sooner.

To make up for this delay, I'll probably be running extra new material this month, particularly once the 'new' Sleaze is up and running in the latter part of August. If nothing else, a relaunch should be accompanied by lots of new stuff, in order to try and bring in new readers. Indeed, with new format for the site making updates easier, I'm hoping to step up the publication of new stories somewhat. I'm afraid that posting a new story on the current static pages is so time-consuming that I can only face doing it three times a month! But getting back to the 'silly season' stories, I'm afraid that I don't have any stories about spacemen or flying saucers planned, (at the moment, anyway), hopefully there should be some Nazis, not to mention a strange tale of lost civilisations and mysterious islands. Whilst I'd quite like to give the whole phone hacking business a bit of a rest for a few weeks, (there's always the danger of flogging it to death if you keep publishing story after story about a single subject, with no relief), I do have a Murdoch-related story idea that might fit in to 'silly season'. Then again, I might leave it until next month. Anyway, onwards and upwards!

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