Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Sleazecast 6: Following Through

At last, Sleazecast 6: Following Through has arrived! As you may have gathered,I finally obtained a suitable USB cable to connect my voice recorder, (on which the elements of this podcast were stored), to my laptop and was finally able to edit the whole thing together over the weekend. It's something of a 'back to basics' edition following the the slickness of the 'studio' produced Christmas schedule, recorded in my car over several days and presented without sound effects or backing tracks. That said, a slight change in format again - this one consists of three seperate 'episodes' packaged together to form a thirty minute programme. Enough talk, you can hear it here:

The Sleazecast 6: Following Through

Alternatively, you can download it here in mp3 format.

Track Listing:

1. Intro: Confusion over numbering and apologies up front.

2. Pat Butcher RIP: Ponderings over the passing of a popular soap character, revolving bow ties and the hereafter.

3. Following Through: The Doc faces one of man's primal fears - the 'follow through' and explores strategies for dealing with unexpected anal accidents.

4. All At Sea: Musings on national stereotypes, maritime disasters and innovative cruise products. (Warning: this segment contains another of the Doc's 'accents' - this one's supposed to be Italian).

5. Closing Thoughts.

I'm not sure when the next Sleazecast will be - it's a question of finding the time and the inspiration. The two seldom coincide! I'm also pondering more format changes. We'll see.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 30, 2012

Christian Values?

I'm trying to ration myself to one political rant a week here on Sleaze Diary, on the basis that there's a limit to how much rage readers can take. But it isn't easy, I can tell you. Not a day goes by without the Tories and their partners in crime the Tory Lickspittles, sorry, Liberal Democrats, doing, saying or proposing some thing that sends me apoplectic. A bit like a left-wing Daily Mail reader, perhaps. But it isn't just them, last week, in the wake of the House of Lords' defeat of the government's abominable attempts to cap welfare payments to the poor and disabled, we had the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, weighing in with some ill judged, idiotic and decidedly un-Christian opinions. Incredibly, he criticised his fellow Bishops for their part in defeating the proposed measures. According to Carey, we need to cap welfare payments as the deficit is all down to the excessive benefit claims of the lower classes! Oh, not to forget that the welfare system is "fuelling vices and impoverishing us all".

I find it extraordinary that someone who presumably follows the teachings of Christ, (he was once the most senior cleric in the Church of England, after all), can believe that the UK's debt is the "greatest moral scandal" facing the country and support measures which put the burden of paying off that debt on the poorest members of society, rather than on the wealthy bankers and financiers who precipitated the current economic crisis. But of course, Carey is one of those 'happy clappy' evangelical idiots who bang their tambourines and believe that the spirit of the Lord is all you need to sustain you. Try telling that o the unemployed. Doubtless Georgie-boy would like to go back to the days when the only poor relief came from the Church, thereby allowing them to ensnare the poor and needy and indoctrinate them with their hypocritical creed. Carey is clearly a throwback to the days when the Church of England was the 'Tory Party at prayer', reinforcing the establishment line and social order under cover of giving succour to the masses. The present Archbishop might be some kind of beardy weirdie hippie, but he's a vast improvement over Carey. I honestly find faux-Christians like Carey amongst the most appalling excuses for human beings I've ever encountered. Frankly, someone needs to take his tambourine and shove it up his holy arse.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sick and Twisted?

Sometimes you find yourself doing or saying something that reveals you as having a sense of humour regarded as 'sick' or 'twisted' by your friends and acquaintances. An example: the other week I was in the pub when someone asked whether anyone knew what those things you get in Christmas crackers that you blow and the curled up end straightens out, are called, (they're apparently called party blowouts). His eight year old niece had asked him over Christmas and he didn't know. I suggested that he told her it was called a 'tallywhacker'. He called me a sick bastard, but I was too busy laughing at the mental images flashing through my head to care. I could just imagine an eight year old telling her friends in the school playground how, over Christmas, she'd blown a tallywhacker - "I just put my lips around the end and gave it a good blow and it went long and rigid."

The consequences of this imagined conversation were - to me - even more hilarious. I had visions of shocked teachers frantically calling social services and hordes of social workers and police descending on the poor child's house. I could just see her unsuspecting and uncomprehending parents being dragged into the street in handcuffs, as their gathered neighbours shouted "You sick bastards", or "Filthy perverts like you need stringing up". OK, I know that getting someone falsely accused of paedophilia shouldn't be the cause of such mirth - I was holding my sides, I was laughing so much at my private comedic fantasy - but I just can't help it. If it happened for real it certainly wouldn't be funny. But that's the point - it didn't happen. It was just a comic construct, a humourous fantasy trip, and it's surely OK to laugh at a hypothetical situation in such a context. Indeed, it is the way in which some of us can deal with the unthinkable - by making fun of it. Then again, maybe I'm just a sick bastard.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Whiter Shade of Confusion

It seems that I'm not the only one prone to mishearing or misreading news reports and imagining a whole alternative story. Last weekend my younger brother told me that he had found himself confused by reports from Nigeria, which seemed to claiming that sixties proto-prog rockers Procol Harum had turned to terrorism and were engaged in a bombing campaign against Nigerian churches. He eventually realised that the reports were actually referring to the Islamic sect Boko Haram. Mind you, it's an easy mistake to make, confusing Procol Harum with Boko Haram, as I realised when watching a report about the Nigerian President's reaction to the bombings. For instance, he claimed that Boko Haram had links with other groups - just like Procol Harum, with its constantly-changing line-up, recruited from other groups. He also said of the terror group: "They operate without a face, they operate without a clear identity, so it is difficult to interface with such a group." Again, a fair description of Procol Harum in their heyday.

Of course, there are plenty of differences, too. I don't recall Boko Haram ever supporting Jimi Hendrix on tour, for instance. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge no Islamacist terror group has ever had a top ten hit, let alone a number one single. One also has to ask as to whether it is at all credible that 1960s pop act would be engaged in a campaign of terror in Africa. Well, one has to say that their most recent output hasn't exactly set the world on fire and they haven't released an album since 2003. If I didn't think that I might be sued, I could speculate that the bombings are part of a publicity campaign gone badly wrong. I might also point out that the lyrics of their first and best known hit, 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', could be construed as having racist connotations. But that would be ridiculous, so I won't do either of those things. If nothing else, this whole Procol Harum/Boko Haram business has reassured me that this sort of semantic confusion isn't unique to me. It clearly runs in the family.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tory Bastards - Again!

I've got to hand it to this shambles of a government we're having to suffer under, they're very adept at diverting everyone's attention from the real issues. Right now they are, successfully it seems, shifting the blame for the current economic disaster from the very rich, to the poor. Yes, that's right, in Cameronland it is actually the victims who are to blame for their own plight! I'm referring, of course, to the current benefit cap that the government is trying to impose and which, for the time being, is having blocked by the House of Lords, mainly thanks to the intervention of the Bishops who sit there. The implication of the government's proposals to cap benefit payments at a maximum of £26,000 for a single family is quite clear: It's these idle scrounging bastards, taking taxpayers cash who are to blame for the situation we're in - is it any wonder we're having to cut public spending elsewhere if we have to support these work-shy shits? And the public eats it up. Not least because, on paper, it all seems so reasonable. After all, can it be right that some people on benefits claim more than many people in work earn?

Except that it isn't that simple. People living on benefits are not a homogeneous group. Their circumstances vary considerably. Many non-working households are the result of one adult member having to become a full-time carer to a sick or disabled partner, often with child dependents as well. Others are single parents left, by bereavement or other circumstances beyond their control, to look after small children. Frequently, much of what they claim goes in rent on the larger properties they require for their families and/or disabled dependents. Thanks to the running down of stocks of social housing, they often have no choice but to rent from private landlords at the current exorbitant market rates. I'm not naive enough to think that there aren't some people who abuse the benefits system for their own gain. But they are the exception rather than the rule and an indiscriminate and arbitrary cap on benefits won't stop them. It will only hurt the majority of genuine claimants.

But Dave and his lynch mob know all this and don't care. They are only interested in shifting the blame for the economic mess we're in away from the real culprits: the rich who just keep getting richer. The amount being claimed in benefits pales into insignificance compared to the amount of taxpayers money the banks have received (and not paid back) in the form of bail outs. And their executives just keep giving themselves pay rises and huge bonuses. It's the same across the private sector: bosses pay skyrockets whilst workers are laid off, or have their pay frozen and pension funds raided. These are the bastards who are robbing us blind, lining their own pockets whilst the rest of us suffer. But Cameron doesn't care because they're his friends. More than that, they're the Tory party's paymasters. So, instead of addressing the real problem, he gives us a few platitudes about needing to reform capitalism, then turns to attacking the poor again. And the public eats it up.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dog Bites Child...

I may not be able to bring you the scheduled edition of The Sleazecast for the reasons I've explained in the previous post, but I can offer a brief aside on a recent news story. I was watching the news report yesterday about the small child who had been savaged by a dog in an unprovoked attack in a Chingford park, when a couple of things occurred to me. One was the way in which the opening and closing shots of the report were framed by the BBC, focusing on a mildewed street sign with the park's name on, which had clearly been knocked over by a car, or vandals - the message seemed clear: you shouldn't be surprised at such an appalling turn of events in an obviously run down, crime ridden and deprived area. Of course, for all I know, it could be a wonderful area with a low crime rate, the street sign simply being an aberration, but that wouldn't be such a good story. The second thing that occurred to me was that the whole complexion of the story could be further changed if a video of it was to emerge on YouTube. Especially if it showed the child being attacked by a golden retriever, whilst its owner ran into shot shouting "Fenton! Fenton! Oh, Jesus Christ!", before the dog ran off toward the children's playground and attacked a group of five year olds. It would be bound to go viral, people are so fucking stupid.

Labels: ,

Due To Technical Difficulties...

I was planning to bring you another edition of our podcast, The Sleazecast, today. However, I'm afraid that there have been some technical difficulties. The whole thing has been recorded with no problems, but unfortunately I can't get the recording off of my voice recorder due to the fact that the USB cable has, quite literally, fallen apart. Of course, being a cheap generic Chinese voice recorder cum MP3 player, the B end of the cable seems to be of a design unique to these devices. Certainly, none of the other USB cables with a mini-B type plug at one end will fit the socket on the recorder. So, you'll imagine my relief at finding an online seller who could apparently supply a replacement cable. Except, it turns out, they can't. Despite listing the cable on their site, and despite being able to order one, I've now had my payment refunded with no explanation. A check on the supplier's site shows the item removed. All of which leaves me severely pissed off - if you can't supply something, then don't bloody have it on your site!

Obviously, I'm left with the problem of the inaccessible files. Despite the fact that none of the USB cables I've seen online seem to have the right type of B plug, I'm going to take a chance on a couple of cheap cables from Amazon. As far as I can see from the poor photos, these might just fit. If they don't, well at least they are very cheap. Some of the other cables I looked at cost more than I paid for the voice recorder itself. The only other alternative I can see is to buy another cheap Chinese voice recorder, as they all appear to use the same type of USB connector, (probably because they are all made in the same factory, I assume). Another advantage of this alternative is that I could actually 'upgrade' my voice recording capability, as some of the devices currently available at low prices have rechargeable batteries and far better laid out displays and controls than my current cheap recorder. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the already delayed sixth dose of The Sleazecast will be further delayed.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Street Names of Shame

It became clear to me today that, here in Crapchester, the council is running out of names for new streets. In the past we've had estates with road name themes including composers, poets, islands, birds, rivers, artists, even cricketers. However, today I had cause to visit part of a new estate which I hadn't previously ventured into and found possibly the worst street name theme I've ever come across, inspired, it seems, by the fact that the roads in question back onto our main post sorting office. Here are some of the street names I managed to record:

I think that the last one, Parcel Drive, is possibly the very worst residential street name ever. There were a couple I didn't get pictures of - Pillar Box Avenue and Penny Black Lane. It's quite clear that Crapchester Borough Council will have to stop the building of any more housing estates due to their lack of imagination when it comes to street naming policy. Why have they never used fish as a theme? It seems like an obvious one to me - there are so many species of fish you could have a huge estate and still not run out of names. But no, they prefer the likes of Recorded Delivery Road. Idiots.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baker Street Beat

Is it just me, or was the ending of Sherlock the other night remarkably similar to that of the most recent series of Doctor Who? Genius hero forced to fake own death to get hordes of enemies off back and enable them to go back 'undercover' after becoming too high profile. That just about sums both endings up. Of course, some similarities were inevitable. Quite apart from the fact that key creative personnel - Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss - were involved with both series, Holmes himself is clearly one of many characters from British fantastic fiction, (I use that term in the widest possible sense), that inspired The Doctor. Indeed, The Doctor even has his own Moriarty equivalent in The Master, a character who, like the Professor, is his polar opposite. Not that I'm criticising Sherlock for these similarities in plot details - it is just an observation.

There was much to enjoy in the episode for committed Baker Street geeks like me, from the brief cameo by Douglas Wilmer, (who had played Holmes for the BBC back in 1964-65 and in the Gene Wilder movie The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother in the seventies), as the old gent Watson encounters at the Diogenes Club, to the oblique references to Nicholas Meyer's Seven Per Cent Solution. (In the latter the real Moriarty is revealed to be Sherlock's former maths tutor, only becoming an evil genius in Holmes' cocaine-induced paranoid fantasies; in Sherlock Moriarty convinces a newspaper reporter that he's really an actor hired by Holmes to play an evil criminal genius). The real genius of the series is that, through its skilled use of contemporary settings and references and witty reinterpretation of the Conan Doyle originals, it also appeals to a far wider audience than just us Holmes fans. The 'in jokes' and references I've noted are an added bonus for the likes of me but aren't essential for non-hardcore fans to understand in order to enjoy the series. Great stuff.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Call to Arms

It's time we took things into our own hands. It is clearly the only option. I feel I've now no choice but to grow a beard, wear a beret and set up a guerrilla training camp behind the bandstand in my local park. The two Eds depressing display at the weekend has made clear that Labour just can't be bothered to mount any kind of opposition to this shambolic government, instead cravenly embracing an economic policy of cutting spending and services which has already been shown not to work. Their reasoning - if we can grace such a betrayal of core political values with such a term - seems to be that the Tories have 'won' the economic argument in the media and that people will perceive Labour as lacking credibility if it disagrees. In other words, they appear to be whining that it is just too difficult to present an alternative economic strategy and convince the electorate of its validity.

So they've just given up, handing the political initiative, incredibly, to a floundering government. This really is pathetic stuff, with Miliband compounding this disastrous change in approach today by basically saying that public sector workers should accept effective cuts in pay if it would save their jobs. Yeah, we should just think ourselves lucky to have a job, should we, Ed? What happened to that 'living wage' you were banging on about when you became Labour leader? I am just flabbergasted that Labour are effectively surrendering in this way - by alienating most of their core vote (which they surely have with these announcements) they've already lost the next election. Which is ludicrous - they should be walking it right now. Faced with an obviously incompetent and unelected government, which lurches from one crisis to another and whose own economic policy is in tatters, Labour should be racing ahead in the polls. Of course, Miliband and the Blairites will tell you the reason they aren't is because they've been in 'deficit denial', opposing spending cuts and therefore losing public credibility. The reality is that they have been hobbled by a complete lack of effective leadership and a lack of courage in actually putting forward a coherent alternative economic plan.

However, rather than address these issues, the Labour 'leadership' has now completely hobbled its own campaigners who, as many commentators have pointed out, now have no answer for potential voters who complain to them about the cuts. Apparently, they now have to say that they agree with savage cuts in services! We now have a situation where we, as voters, have no alternative - all the main parties now seem to be saying the same thing. So, what are we supposed to do? With no apparent democratic means of opposing the ruling regime, does that mean that other avenues - civil unrest, revolution, armed insurrection - would now be considered legitimate expressions of opposition? As I said at the beginning, if our political classes aren't prepared to represent the interests of the electorate they are supposed to serve, instead preferring to prop up a discredited and unelected economic system, we would seem to have no choice but to take things into our own hands.

And I'll tell you where we should start - those bloody credit ratings agencies: Moodys and Standard and Poor. They represent everything that is wrong with the current system - unelected, unaccountable bodies not just dictating economic policy to elected governments, but also making large profits of the back of a global recession they played no small part in precipitating. Make no mistake, this is crucial battle which has to be fought and won. The very concepts of democracy and national sovereignty are at stake. So, brothers and sisters, I urge you to take up your pitchforks, cudgels and flaming torches and march on the offices of these ratings agencies, chanting 'Kill the monster', (for they truly are monsters, just ask the Greeks) as you advance on them. Now is not the time for peaceful protest - these bastards will just ignore you or have you evicted. Occupying Wall Street and the City of London is all very well, but we're fast approaching the moment when there'll be no alternative but to burn them to the ground if we're to curb their evil influence on our governments. Of course, there might be an alternative, (in the UK at least): the Labour Party could remember who it is supposed to be serving and find an effective leader. Right now we need a street-fighter to counter the public school bullies filling the cabinet. Instead we've got Ed Miliband, But it isn't too late for a change. That said, I'm not holding my breath and, in the meantime, I'm sharpening my pitchfork...

Labels: ,

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Last of Christmas

Well, that's it. I've just eaten the last piece of the Christmas cake my mother baked for me, and with it has gone the last remaining vestiges of Christmas 2011. I know it all ended officially on twelfth night and I did, indeed, pack away the decorations then, but I never quite feel the festive season is truly over until I've finished that cake. I can finally move on and face the new year! Actually, it was always something that bothered me as a child - the indecent haste with which we always seemed to leave Christmas behind. Back then it seemed a magical time of year and, as a child, you wanted it to last for as long as possible. Yet, come January, just as the weather always seemed to be even colder and miserable than it had been in December, we were expected to forget about the recent time of joy and warmth. It seemed that you weren't even allowed to mention Christmas, even though it had occurred only a week or two earlier.

In recent years, I've felt those feelings returning, with the abrupt return to work straight after New Year feeling ever more jarring. The strength of the feeling is undoubtedly proportionate to my increasing dislike of my job. It also probably has something to do with my encroaching years - forcing my aching bones back out into the hostile environment of January seems less appealing with every passing year. Sadly, they keep putting back the age I can retire at, so there's no relief in sight on that front! Don't get me wrong - I'm not one of those people who gets depressed at the prospect of another January and I definitely don't buy any of this 'Blue Monday' crap. It's just that I'd rather not be working during it any more! Maybe if I had a more fulfilling job I'd be less reluctant to let go of Christmas. In the meantime, I'll just have to look forward to Easter.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Hoots Mons, Old Chap

You have to imagine the following being said in an English public school accent by some toff: "Hoots mons, chappies and och aye the noo, old boy!" That's pretty much the level of David Cameron's attempts to woo the Scots into staying in the Union. "Look at me, och aye, I'm Scottish - I'm wearing tartan underpants, old fruit. You can trust me!" he might as well have said., as he tries to convince them that he isn't anti-Scottish. It simply confirms, to me at least, that the man is utterly incompetent. If he really wants to head off Scottish independence, then the way to do it isn't by risking alienating the Scottish people by being seen to threaten and bully its government. Because that's what all this posturing from Cameron over the fact that it is Westminster, not Holyrood which has the power to schedule a referendum looks like. It comes over as a direct challenge to the (limited) sovereignty of the Scottish parliament.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no particular fan of Alex Salmond and the SNP and wouldn't like to see the break up of the United Kingdom. However, I also believe that you can't deny people the right of self-determination: if the Scots want independence, then we would be wrong to try and stop them. But the reality is that there isn't a majority for independence in Scotland right now, and it is highly unlikely that there would be in 2014, (when the SNP wants to hold a referendum), either. That said, one thing which could mobilise opinion in its favour is some English toff of a Prime Minister appearing to bully the legitimately-elected Scottish government. Of course, what Cameron is really afraid of isn't Scottish independence, but the more likely prospect of a referendum returning support for what's been termed 'devolution max', under which the Scottish parliament would assume more or less full powers for Scottish domestic policy, leaving things like defence and foreign policy to Westminster. This would create a powerful, democratically elected body within the Union, which could conceivably challenge Westminster on some issues and act as a focus of opposition to an unpopular Westminster government. The fact is that Westminster jealously guards its powers and resents potential rivals - just look at the way Thatcher emasculated local government in the 1980s. Which is why, dismayingly, we've had a parade of prominent politicians from across the spectrum broadly supporting Cameron. Personally, I feel that 'devolution max' is concept well worth exploring. I'm in favour of anything that increases democratic representation for people. As their proposed constitutional reforms show, (fewer MPs, bigger constituencies), this government most certainly isn't.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Keep Taking The Pills

Apparently my brother's Christmas was ruined by the presence of Jedward on every TV chat show and panel show. He's one of the millions of people driven to the brink of insanity by the gibberings of the Irish twins. Personally, I have nothing against them. I'm not sure what they're for, or why they're considered celebrities, but they seem nice enough, albeit excitable, lads. The main reaction they invoke from me is to shout at the television or radio, "For God's sake, take your bloody medication!" Because that's my theory about Jedward - that they're suffering from some sort of behavioural problem, hyperactivity or attention deficit syndrome maybe, and they've stopped taking their pills. If they were to go back on their medication they'd probably have greasy flat hair, wear drab sports jackets with leather patches on the elbows and sport thick-lensed glasses with black plastic frames. But they wouldn't be famous, because to be a celebrity these days, it seems, you have to indulge in the kind of 'outrageous' behaviour ordinarily associated with psychological disorders.

Whilst Jedward don't tend to irritate me that much, someone who did last week was Zooey Deschenal in the first episode of her sitcom New Girl on Channel Four. I only tried watching it because of the number of poor reports about it I'd read online. It surely couldn't be that bad, could it? Within the first ten minutes I was shouting at my TV, begging for someone to give her a slap, her character was so irritating. Once again, I was screaming for her to take her medication and spare us all the 'kookiness', or, as I like to call it, psychotic behaviour. The fundamental problem with the series' scenario is that, having cast Deschenal in the lead, the makers have to explain why she has such problems attracting men, after all, she's an obviously attractive woman. So, they make her weird. Clearly, somebody must have pointed out that actually, many men aren't put off by slightly odd women. The makers' answer was simply to ramp up the character's weirdness to the point that she comes over as either having extreme learning difficulties and behavioural problems, or being crazy serial killer type woman who probably stalks her victims, before kidnapping and castrating them. Which probably isn't the effect they're going for - I'm sure they think she comes over as 'cute and kooky', rather than 'crazy and homicidal'. Anyway, the end result is that I have no intention of watching another episode, otherwise I'll be the one forced to pop pills, to keep my blood pressure down, if nothing else.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bad Reporting

I was listening to Radio One the other day, (I like to keep down with the kids and get a handle on what the young people are listening to, you see), when I heard a news item that left me astounded. It was about a report which claimed that immigrants from the EU to the UK were the cause of the high levels of youth unemployment in the UK. The impression given when this was first reported was that this was some kind of official report, commissioned by a government department or, at the very least, one produced by a reputable source, such as a university, charity or even a thinktank. However, in subsequent reports it became clear that it was actually produced by the notorious Migration Watch, a shady right wing anti-immigration pressure group which clearly has a vested interest in pushing anti-immigration propaganda, (facts not mentioned in any of the reports run on Radio One that day).

Even worse, in later news bulletins they admitted that the report couldn't actually produce any evidence of a causal link between immigration and youth unemployment, but was sure it existed anyway! This is Brass Eye territory, for God's sake - "It's been scientifically proven that peadophiles have more in common genetically with crabs than human beings, there's no evidence to support this, but it is a scientific fact"! Effectively, the BBC provided a decidedly dodgy pressure group with free publicity, not to mention spurious credibility, for the better part of a day. Worse still, it was giving this 'report' full of non-facts prominence on a radio station aimed primarily at a youth audience. This is pretty poor journalism by any standards. That said, the vox pop sections they accompanied the item with was equally woeful, my favourite bit being where an unemployed youth, who admits he has no qualifications because he couldn't be arsed at school, tries to put the blame on immigrants taking the only sorts of jobs he could aspire to. Incredibly, he seemed to think that he could have found work as an electrician if it wasn't for those bloody Poles - I've news for him, you need qualifications to be an electrician. He does concede that his unemployment might just be partly his fault! No you dick, it's all your fault! You can't blame immigrants for not bothering at school, (unless they spent all their time distracting you in class). I really do despair sometimes...

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 09, 2012

Back in the Old Routine

Before we go anywhere else, I feel that I have to say a word or two in defence of self-styled celebrity chef and Tory supporter Anthony Worral Thomson, who has received a police caution for shoplifting cheese and wine from his local Tesco. Whilst, obviously, I would never condone such criminal activity, to be fair to Worral Thomson he was only following the example set by the Conservative Party's paymasters in the City by blatantly taking other people's property with no intention of paying them for it. Indeed, I think we should all be lenient with the beardy gnome bastard, after all what are a couple of packets of economy cheddar-type cheese and a few bottles of low-end fortified wine stuffed down the front of your track suit bottoms compared to the billions of taxpayers money bankers and their ilk have trousered?

As you might have gathered, I've recovered somewhat from my post-Christmas torpor of last week. Spending the weekend mainly in bed, only getting up to imbibe various generic energy drinks, seems to have, at least partially, restored my energy levels and banished the worst of the vestiges of my cold. I'm still not feeling one hundred per cent fit, but I'm getting there. I think the fact that I only worked three days last week didn't help - the sudden switch back to work routines after two weeks off was, on top of everything else, extremely disruptive, both physically and mentally. Mixing work and non-work routines is never a good idea. Hopefully, this week will be easier as it represents a full return to 'normal' routines. That's the sad thing, though. No matter how much we rail against 'routine' and seek to break free of it, the truth is that we need routines. They're comfortable and reassuring. Not only do they give a rhythm to our lives, but they give meaning to our leisure time - we know that we're enjoying ourselves because we are no longer conforming to a routine. In truth, of course, what happens when we are released from our work routines is that we rapidly settle into another, non-work, routine. Just as I'm doing now: writing this post is part of my Monday night leisure routine, after this I'll go to the pub, then come back home, eat low fat cheese on toast before going to bed. It makes a real change after a couple of weeks of Christmas routines.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 06, 2012

Crappy New Year

If the past three days are any indication of how 2012 is going to be, then it is going to be a long, hard slog. Going back to work is always Hell, but doing it whilst still suffering from the aftermath of last week's cold proved near suicidal. I was already exhausted through the lack of sleep caused by the bad nasal congestion I'd suffered, but going back to the mundane grind of the office has left me feeling wrecked. I'm now planning to spend the weekend in bed, in the hope of getting sufficient rest to recover. The prospect of a full week at work fills me full of dread. The whole experience has left me more determined than ever to find some way out of this soul-destroying job, recession or no recession. I known, I know - I've been saying that for years, but if I say it enough I might actually succeed.

Meanwhile, in events not directly related to me, (though why you would be interested in such events is beyond me), the media is awash with non news stories, as they desperately try to fill their column inches in these dreary post-Christmas days. '"A black Labour MP called white people white - that's racist!" says white supremacist.' Or something like that. The storm in a tea cup surrounding Diane Abbott's allegedly racist tweet really are that pathetic - I just hope this 'story' isn't going to set a trend for the quality of news story we can expect to see in 2012. Still, at least there was a result in the Stephen Lawrence case - twenty-odd years too late, but a result nonetheless. Still, it could hardly be reassuring for the family of the young Indian man murdered in Salford on Boxing Day - our police and justice system take racially-motivated killings so seriously that it only takes us two decades to actually convict the perpetrators of such offences.

Anyway, thee you have it - my rocky start to 2012. So, if you know me personally and I haven't wished you a 'Happy New Year', now you know why - I've been too bloody tired and ill. Sorry.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dead Serious

I blame the Nazis for giving euthanasia such a bad name. I mean, if only it wasn't associated with genocide then it would be so much easier for proponents of assisted suicide to get the law changed. If it wasn't for those goose-stepping bastards offing anyone they thought might be a burden to good Aryan society - the sick, the mentally ill, Gypsies, Jews, communists, etc - then it wouldn't be such an uphill struggle to persuade the public that it is actually a good idea to allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients in topping themselves and walk away scot-free. After all, not all doctors are like Dr Mengele, or Dr Harold Shipman, or Dr Crippen, for that matter. At least, that's what Lord Falconer and the other members of the Commission on Assisted Dying seem to think, with their recently published report calling for a change in the law on assisted dying, to allow it as an option for some terminally ill patients. Indeed, their report seems very reasonable, until you realise that it isn't an independent report, but rather something commissioned by the pressure group Dignity in Dying, which clearly has a vested interest in the issue.

Whilst I'm well aware that it is grossly unfair of me to draw a comparison between the concept of assisted dying and Nazi euthanasia programmes, I'm afraid that any attempts - no matter how well meaning - to legalise the killing of other human beings, makes me very uneasy. The trouble is that it sets a precedent: you start off by saying it is OK to help the terminally ill die, with their consent, but where does it end? Once people get used to that idea, it is a small step for some unscrupulous future government or group to persuade public opinion that it wouldn't be so different if you allowed the termination of, say, people in long-term comas, with just the consent of their families - it would save health resources and free up organs for transplants, after all, they would doubtless argue. There have to be some moral absolutes in any civilised society. As I said earlier, I know that advocates of this sort of thing are well-meaning, but I'm afraid that they are misguided. Indeed, the name of the pressure group tells me that - the whole concept of 'dignity in death' is off centre. The sad reality is that death is rarely dignified, for many of us it could me expiring of a heart attack in the canned fish aisle at Tesco, or choking on our own vomit after a drinking session. The circumstances, I'm afraid, are something that few of us will have any choice over - by allowing a tiny minority a supposedly dignified death won't change this sad fact.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

To Love a Lesbian Vampire

It is the question which has perplexed horror movie fans for decades: which is superior, Hammer's 1970 lesbian vampire opus The Vampire Lovers, or its 1971 sequel, Lust For a Vampire? Opinion is sharply divided, even amongst the titans of British horror movie criticism, with Johnathan Rigby of English Gothic fame giving the nod (just) to the earlier film, whilst David Pirie author of Heritage of Horror favours the latter. The general consensus seems to be that Vampire Lovers represented an attempt by Hammer to strike out in a new direction, adapting a literary classic, (Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla), in order to breathe new life into its horror product, which was still dependent upon its increasingly tired Dracula and Frankenstein franchises. By contrast, Lust for a Vampire, is seen as a cheap cash in on the success of its predecessors, rushed into production with indecent haste and an inadequate script. Having recently watched both of these movies for the first time in years, I thought I'd add my views to the debate.

What is clear from this viewing is that Hammer certainly saw Lovers as some kind of prestige picture marking a bold new era for them. Not only does it clearly have a reasonable budget, (it was co-financed by AIP), but it also has an above average cast including Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, George Cole and Ingrid Pitt. Hammer also assigned a 'name' director to the film; Roy Ward Baker who, in addition to his earlier work for Hammer, had directed several big budget British studio pictures in the 1950s and 1960s. The whole thing comes over as some sort of BBC historical drama - with added bared breasts and lesbianism. Being a fairly straight adaptation of LeFanu's novella, it has a reasonably well-structured plot, which progresses more or less logically. But it does feel slow, with its strongest male lead - Cushing - vanishing for a large part of the film.

Lust, by contrast, does feel like a hastily assembled cash-in, with a B-list cast and crew and a script that feels as if it was scrawled on the back of an envelope. It's also hampered by a bloody awful song - 'Strange Love' - which plays over some of the seduction scenes. The whole thing looks noticeably cheaper than its predecessor. To be fair to Hammer, it does seem as if they started out with the idea of this also being a 'prestige' picture. However, they lost both legendary gothic horror director Terence Fisher and star Peter Cushing shortly before production began, whilst Ingrid Pitt turned down the opportunity to recreate her role as the vampiric Carmilla. Fisher was replaced by Jimmy Sangster, (who later admitted he didn't have a clue what he was doing), and Cushing by Ralph Bates, (who later described the film as one of the worst ever made), whilst Yutte Stensgaard, (who couldn't act for toffee but looked very beautiful), took over as Carmilla. Watching the film again, I couldn't help but feel that it could have survived these set-backs if only the script had been stronger.

Its lack of consistency, either internally, or in terms of the previous film, is surprising, considering the same writer was responsible for both. For instance, quite early on, the script gets into an unholy mess on the simple matter of its protagonist's name. In the first film we clearly establish that Carmilla is simply one of her aliases, (she also calls herself Marcilla), and that she is really the undead Countess Mircalla Karnstein. However, in Lust, she enrolls at a ladies' finishing school under the name Mircalla, and Ralph Bates' character, (a supposed expert on the Karnsteins), identifies her from an old portrait as really being the undead Countess Carmilla Karnstein! (By the third film, Twins of Evil, she's back to being Countess Mircalla, played by yer another actress, Katya Wyeth). The portrait also poses problems, it looks just like Yutte Stensgaard, yet later in the film a character states that the Karnsteins change their appearance every time they are revived so that no one will recognise them, (presumably explaining how come they are all played by different actors than in Lovers). But even these problems wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't for the fact that most of the script seems to consist of sub-plots designed solely to pad the film out to feature length. These sub-plots meander all over the place, often amounting to nothing. Worst of all, some are patently ludicrous - the whole business with the police inspector, for instance: surely someone would have noticed his disappearance? Add to that a conclusion which seems perfunctory - villagers waving flaming torches and assisted by a passing bishop burn down Castle Karnstein - and you end up with a film which seems very lightweight, to say the least.

However, when all is said and done, I can't deny that I actually prefer Lust to Lovers. Despite its virtues - decent production values, solid script and top-notch cast - Vampire Lovers does come across as terribly po-faced, seeming slightly embarrassed by its central lesbian vampire scenes and nudity. By contrast, Lust For a Vampire is much more fun, with no pretensions to art or seriousness. It gleefully embraces the lesbian themes, using them as an excuse for as many gratuitous topless scenes as possible - young women seem to be whipping their knockers out at the drop of a hat! No, the plot doesn't make much sense, but the truth is that we all know that nobody is watching it for that! The final reason for me favouring Lust is entirely personal - to be quite frank, I fancied Yutte Stensgaard more that I did Ingrid Pitt. There is no doubt that the late Miss Pitt was a far more talented actress than Yutte Stensgaard, but ultimately I felt no sympathy for her Mircalla, I just felt intimidated. By contrast, despite her limited acting skills, (she plays the part entirely impassively for the most part, with barely a flicker of emotion crossing her face), Stensgaard is somehow more sympathetic - we're sorry to see her staked at the end, whereas in the previous film it was a relief. Not only that, but how can you not like a performance in which sexual ecstasy is indicated by the actress crossing her eyes?


Monday, January 02, 2012

Looking Forward

A New Year dawns and I'm still feeling as sick as I did at the end of the old one. If I was superstitious I'd think this a poor omen for 2012. Luckily, I'm not, but I really need to shake off this nasal congestion which is lingering after the cold I had last week. It left me barely able to sleep for several nights and is now creating pressure in my sinuses. None of the decongestants I've tried seem to be able to shift it, so at the moment I'm forced to let it clear of its own accord. It has eased over the last twenty four hours and I was able to sleep properly last night, (and again this afternoon, on the sofa). Nevertheless, I still feel bloody awful. Not a good way to usher in a new year. Worst of all, I'm meant to be back at work on Wednesday, and I'm feeling even less like going back than usual.

But enough of my ills, what does 2012 have in store? More recession, economic hardships, job losses and spending cuts, according to most commentators. It certainly will for me, being subjected to another public sector pay freeze, whilst inflation runs rampant and the government takes even more from my pay packet to supposedly pay for a smaller pension - which I won't be able to collect until I'm at least 67. But don't worry, that tosspot Cameron tells us that 'I get that' with regard to the hardships facing most people, and the he's going to do something. Like fiddling with himself whilst Britain burns in a new wave of riots, perhaps? Still, at least we'll have the Olympics to distract us from the ongoing collapse of capitalism. Oh, and not to forget that this is the year the digital TV switchover is finally completed. Oh what joy! So much to look forward to, eh?