Friday, June 29, 2012

Pitch Perfect

I'm afraid I've really been off the ball this month - until yesterday I hadn't even realised that the Edinburgh Film Festival was already underway. For some strange reason, I had the idea in my head that it ran concurrently with the main Edinburgh festival. Clearly, I was wrong. Anyway, the point I'm groping blindly toward is that this represents yet another missed opportunity. As you might recall, about a month ago I mentioned my regrets at having missed the opportunity of pretending to attend the Cannes Film Festival, seeing if I could convince people that I was off in France pitching a movie. Sadly, I've now missed the opportunity to try this same gag with regard to Edinburgh. Which is a real pity, as the other day I even came up with an idea for the fake film I would allegedly have been pitching - The Magnificent Seven, but with zombies instead of bandits.

That's right, I'm going for that cross-genre thing that seems popular right now, (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter - need I say more?). The set-up is pretty straightforward: Mexican villagers being terrorised by zombies, or even zombie bandits - actually, I like that even better, the idea of a local bandit leader raising an undead private army - but the neither the authorities nor the Catholic church will either believe or help them. So, instead they send a delegation to a border town to recruit some bad assed gunfighters to protect them from the living dead. Cue the recruitment of two star actors and five other mildly well-known performers, all portraying characters with a variety of personal problems and character quirks. Heck, as this is a horror movie, one of them could even be a priest who has lost his faith! Leave no cliche unturned, I say! Anyway, I think sounds a reasonably plausible movie to claim to be pitching, all I've got to do now is wait for another film festival, then take a couple of days off work and see if I cam convince anyone I'm there making a pitch. It's worked a few times during the Edinburgh Festival, when I often tell people I'm performing a one-man show at the Fringe.

(And if I hear of anyone trying to develop a film along these lines, I will be suing, you plagiarising bastards!)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer?

I don't know about you, but this month has been a lazy one for me. I just haven't been able to motivate myself to do anything much. The stories I've managed to get up onto The Sleaze have all been an ordeal to write and I still haven't recorded that mini-Sleazecast I was talking about earlier. Even though I started the month posting like a mad man over here at Sleaze Diary, I've pretty much run out of steam here, too. Maybe its the weather, swinging from one extreme to the other at a moment's notice - I certainly can't blame my torpor on the long lazy days of Summer. Indeed, I have to constantly remind myself that this is Summer and that we've already had the longest day. It was so bloody cold at the beginning of the month that my thermostat-controlled central heating came back on, for Christ's sake!

All of which makes me glad that, as is usual, I don't plan on taking my main Summer holiday until late August. It might have warmed up a bit by then. Of course, taking my leave in August risks another complication: the 2012 Olympics. However, I think I've timed it so that they'll just be ending as I go on leave. Plus, I'm not planning to visit Weymouth, where the sailing events are taking place. I was, on the other hand, comtemplating visiting London, but by the time I plan to do this, it will only be the Paralympics on and, whether we like it or not, they simply don't generate as much interest as the rest of the games. (A fact confirmed by the fact that they're shown on Channel 4 rather than the BBC). Anyway, getting back to the original point - my lack of inclination, not to say inspiration, to do anything creative this month - I'm hoping to do better in July. Certainly, I've scraped together some story ideas, none of which are exactly exciting me right now, I'll admit, which I might be able to make something of. I've also got various ideas for podcasts (starting with the mini-Sleazecast I keep failing to produce) which might get recorded if I can stir myself into action. We'll see.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Muppet Heaven and Hell

Did you know that the Muppet's hit song 'Mah-Na Mah-Na' was originally part of the soundtrack of the notorious 1968 mondo movie Sweden: Heaven and Hell? It was composed by Piero Umiliani, (who also scored another Luigi Scattini directed mondo, Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri, which I wrote about at length last week), to accompany a sauna sequence. Suddenly Kermit the Frog doesn't seem so innocent does he? Admit it, you are now wondering about Jim Henson's movie viewing habits in the sixties and wondering if Sesame Street and the Muppet Show are actually full of hidden filth inspired by seedy sexploitation films. Should children be exposed to this kind of depraved smut? It does make you wonder whether Jim Henson turned up at the studios one day and announced, "Hey guys, I was watching this erotic fake documentary about Swedish sexual depravity over the weekend and heard this piece of music I thought would be perfect for Kermit and the other Muppets to perform."

Sweden: Heaven and Hell is another example of the fascination Italian exploitation film makers in the sixties and seventies had with the supposed sexual permissiveness of other European countries. As I mentioned when covering Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri, they seemed to think England exotic, which seems bizarre to a resident like myself. But that's the thing, familiarity makes our everyday surroundings seem commonplace - most people here in the UK find Italy 'exotic' compared to Britain, but I daresay that for Italians it seems mundane. Perhaps not so bizarre is the Italian mondo movie fascination with Sweden, which, to this day, is viewed here in the UK as being a synonym for sexual permissiveness. In 1960s Catholic Italy it must have seemed even more exotic. Indeed, as the film's title indicates, the intent is clearly to appeal both to those Italians seeking the thrill of glimpsing a permissive sexual paradise, and those horrified by the thought of all that sin. The film's box-office receipts would indicate that this strategy of appealing to the prejudices of both the repressed and the repressors was highly effective. I have to admit that, so far, my knowledge of the film is largely academic, based on reviews, excerpts and trailers. Indeed, mondo movies as a whole aren't a genre I'm hugely familiar with - they can be difficult to obtain on DVD these days and, when they are available, are often pretty expensive. However, at the moment I'm trying to track down some examples on line (starting with Sweden: Heaven and Hell) with a view to producing an edition of the Sleazecast on the subject later this year. Until then, just have a think about what Jim Henson had that Swedish chef getting up to between shows...


Monday, June 25, 2012

Doc Sleaze's Daredevil Festival Fun

Did I mention that the Crapchester Festival had started? Apparently it kicked off last Friday and will go on until the middle of July, culminating in the ever awful 'Crapchester Shite' event. (You know, the one where lots of local 'musicians' stoke up their egos by unleashing their cacophonous lack of talent at a free live event - let's face it, nobody is going to pay to be subjected to that sort of thing - in the park across from my house, ensuring that I get to have a thoroughly miserable weekend). Apart from this closing 'event', I'm still none the wiser as to what else the Crapchester Festival is meant to encompass. That said, today I saw some signs up for 'Scott May's Daredevil Show', you know the sort of thing - it involves monster trucks crushing cars and the like - which is to take place in the park this evening. Maybe this is part of the festival? Actually, I think it would be quite apt - other towns and cities might have annual festivals focusing on local arts and the like, but it is only fitting that Crapchester's should concentrate on mayhem and destruction.

Anyway, as with many of these things, the 'daredevil' show is billed as being 'The Greatest Show on Wheels', with the poster featuring that monster truck and several motorcycles flying all over the place. I have no idea who Scott May is, or why he is staging this show, although I suspect that, unlike the rest of us, he is someone who didn't get the urge for automotive thrills out of his system by jumping his pedal car over a couple of dustbins when he was a kid. Oh come on, you know that you did something like that when you were nine or ten. It couldn't have just been me. Actually, the trouble with kiddies' pedal cars is that it is bloody difficult to get any speed up in them, making it near impossible to get up the launch ramp to clear those dustbins. Unless, that is, you have a very long run-up down a long, descending path. Unfortunately, whilst I grew up in a house with a very long garden, the path was neither straight enough, nor wide enough to achieve this - it also didn't help that the garden was divided in two by a wall with a gate in it.

Our neighbour's garden, by contrast, had a relatively straight and wide path, running, uninterrupted, the entire length of the garden. I often used to dream of racing down it in the pedal car. Sadly, by the time I was able realise this dream, taking opportunity of the neighbours being on holiday, I was fifteen and far too big for the pedal car (which by now had been passed on to my younger brother). As I could no longer get my feet into the pedals, I had to free wheel down the patch, perched precariously on the back of the car, (I couldn't get into the seat either), my hands gripped tightly on the tiny steering wheel. I hadn't given much thought to stopping the car, however, and ended up having to steer it into our neighbour's borders. I have to admit, it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped it would be. Nevertheless, unlike Scott May, I've subsequently never had the desire to set up a daredevil stunt show.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Fuck 'Em

Fiction, self-help gurus and astrologers would have us believe that our lives are changed through sudden revelations, in which we suddenly see where we've been going wrong and now recognise the right path to true happiness. I beg to differ. The most significant changes that occur in our lives, our beliefs or our attitudes are the result of a long series of minor incidents which chip away at our existing certainties, slowly but surely sowing the seeds of doubt. Finally, we find ourselves in a situation, often involving making a choice, where we realise that the things we once thought important to us, we now value less. Indeed, we might suddenly be forced to realise that we are now completely indifferent to them. I had one such moment last night in the pub. I arrived to find a number of people I know and often drink with there already at the bar. Now, maybe I'm being paranoid, but I got the distinct impression I was being cold shouldered for some reason unknown to myself. The fact that I was pretty much excluded from any conversation was one clue, the fact that any of my greetings to various individuals were met with what can only be described as indifference, another.

Anyway, most of them then vanished outside to the garden, which I thought was pretty stupid as it was raining, (I've actually never seen the attraction of pub gardens, even when it isn't raining - for one thing, I spend a lot of my working day outside so, by the evening, I want to be inside). I noticed that no invitation was extended to me. At this point I thought 'Well, fuck them, if that's their attitude', and settled down at an empty table to read the paper, which, actually, had been my original plan. As I was variously ignored by members of this group as they periodically came back into the bar to buy more drinks, it occurred to me that I was glad I wasn't outside with them, being forced to listen to the same boring conversations they always seem to have. The truth, I had to admit to myself, was that as the years have gone by, I've had less and less in common with any of them,that, in reality, we had nothing of significance to say to each other. For years now, it was clear to me, we'd been having the same bloody conversations, telling the same jokes and stories, over and over. Any of my attempts to steer discussions onto other topics were always derailed in favour of the usual bollocks. Indeed, the fact was that it had got to the stage that I dreaded seeing any of them in the pub and being faced with the prospect of another meaningless repeated conversations.

So, where do I go from here? Am I a bad person for thinking that my so-called 'friends' are a bunch of intellectually challenged bores? I daresay they think the same about me. However, I don't think it unreasonable to want to discuss things other than football, rugby or social events I didn't attend. You know, it would be nice to be able to discuss, for instance, the sexual politics of Italian exploitation films, without being regarded as a freak and talked over. Sadly, I don't think I'm likely to get any of this in the bars of Crapchester. Perhaps I need to revisit my idea for the 'World Wide Pub' online.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

I For Illusion - A Sleazecast Special

As threatened, here's an extended version of the segment I recently contributed to the Overnightscape Central podcast over on the Overnightscape Underground. It's a bit of a throwback to the 'old days' of the Sleazecast, with just me talking, which is why I haven't included this as part of the main Sleazecast series, which nowadays has a somewhat different format. However, unlike those earlier podcasts, this one does, at least, feature me talking in a variety of locations, so it could also count as a travelogue, I suppose. Anyway, the topic of the day on the Overnightscape Central this was originally recorded for was 'illusion', so I spend the podcast ruminating on the subject of the illusion of film and the suspension of disbelief which is required in order to sustain it.

So, without further ado, here it is, for your listening pleasure (it runs around 39 minutes):

I For Illusion - A Sleazecast Special

Alternatively, you can download it in mp3 format here.

Hopefully, this won't be the only podcast I post this month. I'm planning to put together a sort of mini-Sleazecast, running 15-20 minutes, as a stop-gap until I gather the material I need for the next full-length Sleazecast. Also, it is a way of using up some material I recorded, but didn't use, for an earlier podcast. So, until then, enjoy I For Illusion.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

White Angel, Black Witch (Part Two)

The different narrations are the key to the re-framing of the surviving footage from Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri used in Witchcraft '70. It isn't so much the content of the narration, (indeed, much of the US narration clearly uses the same script as the UK version of the original), but rather the tone. In the UK version, the narration takes on a somewhat mocking tone, making clear the film's intent to present its subject matter of suburban witches and satanists as figures of fun, rather than menace. (In a side note, I find it somewhat ironic that narrator Edmund Purdom takes such a condescending, even facetious tone, making clear his disdain for the whole project, when he ended his once illustrious acting career a few years later appearing in - and directing - dross like the slasher flick Don't Open 'Til Christmas. Trust me, that was nothing to be smug about). The US narrator, by contrast, takes on a far more hectoring and judgemental tone, making clear that whilst these people might appear bizarre, they are actually highly dangerous. There's absolutely no doubt that the US reconstruction of the film is aiming to tap into the unease and fear in the US created by the activities of Charles Manson and his 'family' at the time of its release. Indeed, at its climax it makes an overt link between the supposed hippie black magic orgy and Manson.

Interestingly, the UK version also seems to make an attempt to tap into then contemporary British fears about the activities of black magic adherents, opening with a segment concerning grave robbing in Highgate cemetery. I'd be interested to know whether this sequence (which feels as if it was rather arbitrarily inserted) is also in the continental versions of the film, as it seems to be a reference to the alleged activities of amateur occultists in their hunt for the 'Highgate Vampire' in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Obviously, this sequence, like just about everything else in the film, was staged for the cameras, (the 'police car' is simply a Ford Zodiac with a blue light stuck on the roof - there is no 'police' lettering on the side and it isn't even white, as most police cars were at the time), as was the norm for mondo movies. As I intimated in the earlier post, this is another reason that Witchcraft '70 goes to such lengths to reframe this material, so as to emphasise its 'authenticity'. The staging, or the 'recreation of certain scenes for the purposes of drama', though once reviled, and used as a critical stick to beat the mondo genre, has, interestingly, now become semi-respectable. A whole genre of TV 'reality' programmes like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea are now built around it. Sadly, I find them far less entertaining than the more honest fakery of the mondo movies. Now, if they were to do a 'reality' series about the activities of a witches coven in Chelsea, or satanists in Essex, I might watch...


Monday, June 18, 2012

White Angel, Black Witch

This weekend I finally tracked down not one, but two, versions of an Italian mondo movie I've been trying to see for several years now. I say, 'two versions', but it would be more accurate to describe them as two different films based around the same core footage. Indeed, this fact has caused much confusion amongst critics, (even those specialising in mondo movies), with regard to the film(s) over the years. The film in question was directed by mondo veteran Luigi Scattini and originally released in Italy in 1969 under the title Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri (literally White Angel, Black Angel). It was also released in the UK with an English narration under a variety of titles, including Occult Experience (the title I saw this version under). The US distribution rights were bought by Trans American (a subsidiary of B-movie kings AIP specialising in more 'adult' material). However, instead of simply releasing the English language version of the original, or having a US narration dubbed onto the film, they chose to have exploitation director R L Frost completely re-edit the film, insert newly filmed material and add a completely new musical score and narration. The resultant movie was released in the US in 1970 under the title Witchcraft '70.

Having now seen the two films back-to-back, it is clear that the US version should be seen as a completely separate entity. It isn't just that Frost re-edited and re-ordered much of the material from the original, (dropping many sequences and replacing them with newly filmed material), but that, through the new narration, he completely re-frames and re-contextualises this footage. As the two different English-language titles - Occult Experience and Witchcraft '70 - indicate, the original was concerned with presenting a series of vignettes of occult practices and beliefs from around the world, whereas the US film focuses on the supposed resurgence in witchcraft in the modern world. (Of course, as with all mondo movies, in both cases these 'investigations' are mainly an excuse for showing much female nudity). But Frost doesn't just cut all the sequences not directly concerned with witchcraft, he actually modifies the remaining original footage. Not only does the uncredited US narrator laboriously tell us at the start of each new sequence that it has been shot with the permission of the participants, or illicitly filmed with a telephoto lens, but he reframes some of the Brazilian footage as a secretly-shot amateur film purchased by the producers, even going to the lengths of degrading and reducing the images in this segment. Just as significantly, in a lengthy sequence concerning a ritual by some UK witches, he goes to the length of claiming that two of the naked (female) participants wanted to keep their identities secret, crudely scratching out their eyes on the film, (which, of course, makes them no less recognisable). A comparison with the Italian original reveals that the two women were apparently quite happy to have their faces visible when the movies was only to be shown in the UK and Europe! (Frost also mysteriously moves the location of the ritual from the London suburbs the original movie places it in, to Brighton).

Another significant piece of reframing occurs in Frost's treatment of the segment about the initiation of new member of a satanist group. Whereas the original simply shows us the events (involving, inevitably, much female nudity), Frost insists on inserting an 'interview' with the female initiate, in which she tells the unidentified narrator why she finds satanism so attractive. This 'interview' simply plays over the original footage as audio, and has to include an explanation of why the supposed initiate speaks with an American accent when the scenes we are watching have been clearly established as having taken place in London. The purpose of these reframings is clear - to add 'authenticity' to the footage, to give them a veracity the original presentation lacked and also to make them seem more sinister. The Italian original presents its spectacles in a slightly detached, amused fashion. The intent of Witchcraft '70 is quite different, as its opening scenes, composed of newly shot footage, make clear. These focus on a US policeman telling us about the rise in witchcraft rituals amongst young Californians. He pops up several more times in the course of the film, to deliver further warnings on the potential evils of modern witchcraft, likening it to the threat posed by drugs and free love. Significantly, another of the new sequences involves alleged hippie black magic rituals.

The US film's determination to be sensational are emphasised by the footage it drops from the original: all but one of the sequences involving Scandinavian occultists, (the Scandanavian countires' supposed sexual permissiveness was a recurring theme in Italian mondo movies), the American psychic who can imprint images on photographic film, the Hare Krishna segment, the British ghost hunter and the girl trying to contact her recently deceased boyfriend through mediums, (a lot of the 'occult' sequences were filmed in the UK -Italian exploitation film makers seem to find Britain very exotic). All of these are either esoteric or downright whimsical pieces which would do nothing to convince US audiences that their children were engaging in naked satanic rituals on a nightly basis. The only truly sensational sequence omitted is the original opening concerning grave-robbing at Highgate cemetery. Also gone is the original closing segment which concerned, somewhat puzzlingly, cryogenics. Actually, I think here Scattini was trying to make the point that cults don't have to be based on magical beliefs. They can also have their basis in pseudo-science, like the cult of wealthy Californians who have their dead bodies cryogenically frozen in the belief that they can be resurrected by future science.

As I said at the start, there is much confusion surrounding these films. Most reviewers and film historians treat them as if Witchcraft '70 is simply the English-language version of Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri, when it patently isn't - there was already an English language release of the Italian original. This confusion even extends to the identity of the narrator. Most sources claim that British actor Edmund Purdom narrated Witchcraft '70. However, he clearly doesn't - the unidentified narrator on this version is obviously American. Purdom does narrate Occult Experience - the English-language version of the Italian original - though. In part, I suspect, this confusion stems from the fact that just about the only thing left unchanged from the original in the US version are the opening and closing title sequences, (the US movie simply substitutes the new title for the old, and adds the US distributor's name and the 'additional footage by R L Frost' credit, leaving all the other credits in the original Italian)! Nevertheless, so many alterations and additions have been made to the US film, including the replacing of the original's magnificent psychedelic musical score with what seems like something from an AIP horror movie, that I feel Witchcraft '70 should be treated as a separate film in its own right.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Generating Hope

I thought I'd take some pictures of the generator truck which, since last Saturday morning, has been supplying me (and several of my neighbours, Kwik Fit, the Royal naval Association and several other businesses) with electricity. I took these photos yesterday evening, as the electricity company was due to do finally carry out repair work on the sub-station today and restore our mains connection. However, confusion still reigns as to what has actually happened today. Whilst there was a brief power outage this morning, which I assumed was when they switched from generator to mains, as of this evening, the generator truck is still there and still running. Whether my power is coming from it, or the mains, I don't know. The repair crew and their mini-excavator have departed, without, it seems completing the repairs to the cables, some of which are still exposed. Actually, let's have a close up of the cables connecting the truck to the supply cables:

Pretty neat, huh? It took them until Wednesday to get them like that. Before that, they were sprawling all over the place, with no cone and a piece of yellow plastic, rather than the walkway you see there, over them. But I mustn't complain - if it wasn't for the truck and its cables, I'd have had no power for the past week. So, let's take another look at it, this time from the 'business end', showing the control panel and rear platform:

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rating the Raters

On a day that saw one of those unaccountable ratings agencies downgrade Spain again, thereby pushing the lives of ordinary Spanish citizens ever closer to economic chaos, it occurred to me that what we need right now is an agency to rate the performance of the ratings agencies. After all, if these entirely unelected and unregulated bodies, which are answerable to nobody, are to go around making economic pronouncements which can undermine democratically elected governments, shouldn't we have some way of knowing how accurate their advice is? Let's not forget that, before the big financial meltdown, these agencies were giving positive ratings to many of the investments and financial products which subsequently went belly up. So, it could be argued that, encouraging banks and financial institutions to put their/our money into these bad investments, the ratings agencies were actually pivotal in precipitating the current financial crisis. A crisis they are worsening with their continued threats to downgrade banks, national debts and the like.

It's this kind of information we need to have access, so that when a ratings agency next makes a threat to downgrade a country's debt, the government in question can come to our rating agency to see how we rate the original ratings agency's ratings. They can then make an informed decision - based on the agency's past performance - as whether to take the threat seriously. When it comes to the ratings structure itself, I think we need to keep it simple. None of that complicated 'triple A', 'triple A plus', 'B minus' and 'double D' bollocks the credit ratings agencies use. I propose we just stick to 'High Grade', 'Medium Grade', 'Highly Speculative' and 'Utter Shite'. I'm guessing the last will be the most prevalent, based on what we already know. But seriously, it really is about time we did something to start fighting back against these bastards. The sooner the, and all the other grasping corporate bastards, realise that capitalism has failed, the better.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Getting to Know You

Well, here we are again, I'm writing a post, you're reading it. But just who are you? Why are you here? OK, I know that some of you are just random surfers, passing through as a result of some search term which brings this blog up in Google or Bing, but I also know from my various web stats services that some of you are recurring visitors. It isn't so much that I recognise individual ip addresses, rather that I notice recurring patterns of page views, times of visits and locations of visitors. So, naturally, I'm curious as to who these people are - do I know them in real life, for instance? Actually, I do know at least one of you personally. Yes, Blackberry-user from Oxford, I mean you. Don't think I don't know it is you, (and I'm still convinced that you were also the 'West Country Stalker' in a previous existence). But there are others who visit regularly, whose identities remain enigmatic.

Who, for instance, is the regular visitor from Reading, using Talk Talk, who always clicks only on the The Sleaze's home page, then here? I say Reading, but the stats services aren't always hugely accurate when it comes to visitor location - they tend to go by the location of the originating server. Which, in practice, means that this visitor could be anywhere in the Thames Valley. Indeed, they could be the same person as Slough, who visits the same pages, or Maidenhead and Windsor, who also has the same surfing patterns. Not that I hold out any hope of any of you revealing yourselves. Nobody has ever come forward as a result of any of my previous attempts to get to know my visitors. From which I can at least deduce that you are all terribly shy...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eternal Flame

It's only a little over a month now, before the Olympic torch comes through Crapchester. What local luminaries will be given the honour of carrying the flame proudly through the town's crumbling streets, you are no doubt asking? The answer is: none. Despite offering my services, the task of bearing the torch has been allocated to some American guy with no connections to the town, but with connections to Coca Cola (coincidentally an official sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics) instead. Which is pretty much par for the course - we've seen a parade of celebrities and corporate stooges carrying the torch through various communities they have no connection with over the past few weeks. But how can we protest at this crass commercialisation of the Olympics? Well. my friends, I'd urge to get out there and line torch's route, making out sure that you are in full view of the TV cameras, then conspicuously eat a Burger King flame grilled Whopper, or drink from a large bottle of Pepsi Cola. Yes, I know that those two brands are also evil corporate giants, but they don't have exclusive contracts with the London Olympics, which means that their appearances on the torch route will really piss off the likes of Olympic sponsors Coca Cola and McDonald's. (If your house is on the route, I would also suggest putting up conspicuous banners saying things like 'Remember Bhopal', or flying Palestinian flags, in your front garden).

Trust me, this is the way to defeat these corporate bastards - set them against each other, just like SPECTRE were always trying to set the superpowers against each other in the Bond movies. (Most of my knowledge of strategies for world domination comes from watching Bond films). Once they've wiped each other out, we can move in and steal their market share with our ethical burgers and soft drinks. Of course, the Olympic Committee would tell you that it would be impossible to stage such an event as the Olympic Games without corporate sponsorship. I beg to differ. Sure, in order to stage something as overblown as the Games have become requires that kind of cash (not to mention the massive taxpayer subsidy from the hosting nation in the form of the facilities they build for the event). But isn't that part of the problem/ The Olympics seem to be less and less about sport, and more about spectacle. Only today, we got our first glimpse of the opening ceremony for the London games - who on earth needs that kind of bizarre bollocks, recreating the English countryside in an athletics stadium? Is it any wonder they're allegedly having difficulty in selling tickets for all the events? People just don't feel that the games are 'theirs', it just looks like some corporate jamboree. Like many other global sporting events, the Olympics really need to get back to basics and focus on what it is really about - the sport - if they are to have any hope of reconnecting with the public.

(A quick electricity supply update: it looks like we'll be reliant on the generator truck until at least Friday, when Southern Electric are going to attempt to reconnect the sub-station to the mains. Which means that after twenty hours without any electricity supply between Friday and Saturday last week, we'll have had a week of being supplied from a mobile generator. Not that we live in a third world country, of course).


Monday, June 11, 2012

Not What She Seems

I finally figured out the whole Jubilee business - it was a sham. My problem was that I didn't want to feel like a bystander during another cultural 'event', instead wanting to feel that, for once, I had actually participated in a national celebration. I was tired of being an outsider. However, what I've come to realise is that, despite all the TV coverage of cheering crowds and street parties, the truth was that, over those four days last week, the majority of people were actually completely indifferent to it all. Only royalist fanatics and invited (rich) sycophants were on the banks of the Thames for the pageant, watching that awful concert on big screens on the Monday or lining the Mall on Tuesday. Indeed, the whole thing was London-centric. For those of us outside the capital, it was just something happening on TV. As for those street parties, well, I still haven't met anybody who actually attended one, let alone organised such a party. I suspect they only took place in those bunting-clad villages full of middle class interlopers I drove through the other day. Actually, even those were the exception, rather than the rule. Bunting was in short supply in most of the villages I've subsequently driven through.

So, I don't feel bad about having been repulsed by the orgy of toadying to that bastion of inherited wealth and privilege that is the Royal family. Like I said at the outset, it was all a sham, a hollow spectacle to try and divert attention from the crisis of capitalism currently engulfing us, whilst simultaneously reasserting the traditional class structure. This latter point was epitomised by the revelation that some of the stewards 'employed' by the company with the contract for stewarding the event were actually unpaid unemployed people. (despite the attempts of the Tories and their lackeys in the right-wing press to dismiss this story and contest its facts, the fact remains that we, as taxpayers, were effectively subsidising this firm, which was already in receipt of a lucrative government contract, through their use of slave labour). Still, we did learn some things from it all - mainly that the defence cuts have been far deeper than originally thought: if that fly past was anything to go by, the entire strength of the RAF now consists of two Spitfires and a Lancaster bomber. (Incidentally, where were the Messerschmitts and Heinkel bombers to commemorate the Royal family's German origins?) Oh, and I was, of course, incorrect when, in an earlier post/rant I said that we only had the Olympics to get through now - we have Euro 2012 first. Already we've had to endure the manufactured 'controversy' of John Terry's selection for England, whilst Rio Ferdinand is left at home. If I was a cynic, I could speculate that, in view of the allegations of rampant racism levelled at tournament co-host Ukraine, the favouring of Terry is an obvious move - he'll feel right at home there. Allegedly.

(As you may have gathered, this is the post postponed from Friday due to the twenty-hour power outage I had to endure. Indeed, repairs to the power cables still haven't taken place, and we're still receiving power courtesy of a generator truck).


Saturday, June 09, 2012

In The Dark

I was on a good run there - for the second week running I was on course for a full five-day run of posting every week day. However, Southern Electricity decided this wasn't to be: a power outage started at 14:15 yesterday and, despite me reporting it at 14:30, on my way out of the house after my delayed lunch hour, power was only restored at 10:15 this morning. I say restored - to be clear we aren't actually back on the mains yet, power to my part of the street is being provided by a generator truck until those mysterious 'underground cables' (which seem to be behind most power outages) are repaired. Now, if I lived in Outer Mongolia during the Middle Ages, I might think that twenty hours without electricity, (and, consequently, no hot water or internet access, let alone TV or radio), was acceptable. However, I don't. I live in a major population centre in one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world during the Twenty First Century.

Anyway, over the past few hours I've finally managed to have a hot meal, drunk several cups of tea and coffee, done my washing and, most importantly, had a bath. Now that I finally feel clean again, I'm gradually catching up, via BBC iPlayer, with various things I'd intended watching on TV last night, (when, instead I had an exciting evening in the dark watching DVDs on my laptop, until the battery gave out, and listening to stuff I had stored on my mp3 player. Whilst the electricity company assure me that the generator truck will remain operational until the cables are repaired, but I'm still expecting another outage. So, for the time being I'm making the most of my current electrical connectivity and trying to do as much as possible while it lasts. I've got a whole load of TV programmes and films I recorded last week (some of which I'd planned to watch yesterday evening) to work through this afternoon, not to mention the post I was going to write yesterday and starting work on a new story for The Sleaze. Oh, and there's that podcast based on my recent Overnightscape Central contribution to re-edit. What's the betting that the power goes off again half way through it all?


Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Host With the Most

There have been some major changes behind the scenes at The Sleaze although, hopefully, they shouldn't be apparent to visitors to the site. You might recall that a few weeks ago the site was off line for several hours due to the idiocy of my web host, who apparently couldn't tell the difference between a surge in traffic due to the popularity of a new story and 'suspicious activity'. As this had come within a couple of weeks of someone hacking my site, apparently by using my login details, which were known only to me and my host, (and I didn't share them), I had been left feeling that there had been a fundamental break down in trust between myself and the hosting company. With the renewal date for the hosting account looming, I embarked on a search for a new host and, last week, I transferred The Sleaze to a new home. When I say 'I' transferred it, I really mean that the new hosting company did the transfer for me as part of their excellent service. I know it has only been a week and is therefore a little early to be making judgements, so far I've been very pleasantly surprised by the new web host. Of course, the real test will be to see if I still feel as satisfied after six months or a year, but so far, so good.

Indeed, even over the course of a week or so, the contrast between the two hosts is very noticeable. For one thing, the new host's server status page isn't lit up like a Christmas tree with servers down or experiencing time outs. Another major difference is the swiftness and effectiveness of the technical support. With the new guys, nothing seems like too much trouble - the migration of the site, for instance, was effected, within an hour after raising a single ticket, which was responded to in less than ten minutes. Actually, on the subject of technical support, I and several other customers of the old hosting company had long suspected that, despite being a UK registered company and advertising themselves as a UK based web host, the technical support was actually based in India. The giveaway was the names they used on support tickets - 'Albert Kent', for instance, sounds like the sort of name a foreigner might think sounds English, but patently isn't. By contrast, my site migration was handled by someone called 'Darren', which is a far more convincing name for a UK-based IT support person. I really believed in 'Darren', in a way I never could in 'Albert'. Best of all, the new host didn't suspend my account when, earlier this week, a new story - The Abdication of Queen Elizabeth II - proved incredibly popular (can't think why). So, if you are looking for a new web host, you could do a lot worse than Vidahost, (with whom I have no connection, other than being a satisfied customer).


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

He Who Hesitates

I'm someone who hesitates. It might be linked to my increasing risk aversity, (a function of growing older and seeing the end of my mortgage heave into sight), but lately I've become much more keenly aware of my hesitation. I did it today, whilst driving. I was coming onto a roundabout, the only car coming from the right was indicating to go off at the exit before me. but did I move boldly onto the roundabout? No, I hesitated to make sure that the aforementioned car really was going where he was indicating. Consequently, I had to really put my foot down when I did move, as other cars had now appeared from the right and weren't indicating to exit before me. Now, arguably this hesitation was born of experience of other motorist's inability to correctly use their indicators, the fact was that, even if he hadn't have taken that exit, I still would have had time to get onto the roundabout before him. But still I hesitated. It seems ingrained into my psyche, this instinctive desire to minimise risks by sitting back and over-analysing the simplest situation, rather than just acting. The end result, of course, is that I frequently let opportunities slip between my fingers.

It happens with relationships, too. I spend too much time analysing what the other person has said to me and whether this indicates that they actually like me, etc. Once again, it's all about risk aversion - subconsciously I'm trying to avoid the risk of rejection by assessing its likelihood. Inevitably, my hesitation, (or even procrastination, or maybe prevarication, if you prefer), resulted in me missing the moment by giving the other person the impression that I wasn't interested. I think I did it again recently. I say, think, because it involved someone I've always had feelings for, which I've never articulated to them because I've never thought them reciprocated, so had instead settled for friendship with them. Anyway, over the past few weeks I'd begun to wonder whether things had changed from their perspective as a result of things they'd done and said but, as ever, spent too long thinking about it and the opportunity to act seems to have passed, and we're apparently back to normal. I should add here that I'm not fishing for sympathy - I'm simply trying to explain something about myself. Indeed, on a related note, a while ago I was pondering why I'm so afflicted by unrequited love, (in that the objects of my desire don't reciprocate my feelings, rather than the other way around), when, in an amazing piece of synchronicity, a programme came on the radio in which an academic discussed the medieval literary tradition of unrequited love. Apparently, to the medieval mind, the enduring of the suffering caused by unrequited love was seen as being ennobling - it was seen as a kind of knightly trial which strengthened a knight's virtue. So, maybe I'm subconsciously seeking these situations as part of some kind of spiritual quest. An interesting thought to leave you with...


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

No Future in England's Dreaming

So, my sincerest wish didn't come true - all those people cheering in the Mall today, waiting for the Queen to appear on the balcony of Buck House, weren't shocked to instead be greeted by the appearance of the Sex Pistols hammering out 'God Save The Queen (The Fascist Regime)'. I just think that would have been a more fitting climax to the Jubilee than yet another fly-past and hours of sycophancy on the part of TV commentators. Apparently, Doctor David Starkey (the emphasis is his) was crying on ITV, overcome with emotion, as he commentated on today's events. Twat. Still, I daresay he was weeping with joy at the fact that the Queen doesn't behave like a black person. If ever we needed more riots and civil unrest, then it was over these past few days. I know, I know - I really should stop ranting about the Jubilee, but it seems to have stoked my revolutionary radicalism, just as it seemed to have subsided. You know what? I even shouted 'Fuck off!' at the TV when I turned it on to be greeted by the sight of David Cameron toadying on screen.

I've just found it so bloody depressing by the whole sub-text of these 'celebrations'. By celebrating hereditary wealth and power, we just seem to be endorsing the established order - which is exactly what Cameron and his cronies seem to want. Indeed, you could virtually hear the sigh of relief from them on Sunday, as people turned out in the rain to watch the Queen ignore them at that river 'pageant': "Thank god for that - the true social order is reasserted and everyone knows their place in it." But hey, we got a couple of bank holidays out of it, though, didn't we? Well, actually, we got one additional holiday - yesterday was simply a rescheduled late May bank holiday. Arguably, had it stayed in its proper place - the last Monday in May, we would have got that rarity - a blazing hot public holiday. As it was, thanks to the Jubilee, all we got on our day off was wind and rain. That said, at least the extended break has allowed me to get a few things done: I've managed to write a new story for The Sleaze and record and edit another contribution to the Overnightscape Central podcast. Actually, I might also re-edit this latter piece into a podcast for this blog. I'm not sure if it will be part of the 'Sleazecast' series or a one-off special. We'll see. Ah well, at least the bloody Jubilee is over now - we've just got the Olympics to endure!

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Jubilee Non-Jubilation

Well, here we are, three-quarters of the way through the extended Jubilee weekend and I still haven't really engaged with it all. I mean, even as I write this, I'm simultaneously flicking through the TV channels trying to find something other than that bloody Jubilee concert to watch. Damn it, even Prince Philip has had himself admitted to hospital in order to avoid the ordeal of sitting through Gary 'Tory Twat' Barlow's attempt to get a knighthood. I always thought that popular music was meant to be edgy and represent the voice of rebellious youth, yet these bastards just can't wait to be drafted into the service of the establishment, helping to validate and prop up our discredited class system. Really, anybody who performs, in any capacity, at this bloody concert has completely discredited any claim they might have had of being somehow 'radical'. As for Gary Barlow, someone needs to kick him in the balls. You see my problem? I started this Jubilee weekend determined to prove that I wasn't my republican father, but instead seem to have ended up even rantier than he ever was.

I really tried to get into the spirit of things over the weekend, even though I never got to that anti-Jubilee party, mainly as a result of my laziness. But I did watch the Royal rive pageant on TV yesterday and, to be frank, was bloody disappointed. When they said that lots of boats would sail past the royal barge carrying Her Majesty (and her fascist regime), I didn't think that they meant, quite literally, rowing boats. I was honestly expecting some proper boats, even ships, in the pageant, rather than the motley collection of vessels that actually turned up. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I'd hired a boat myself and gatecrashed it. I needed something like the one the Bond-villain Largo used in Thunderball - it appears to be a conventional motor yacht until the Navy turns up, then the front part turns into a hydrofoil and races away from the rest of the boat. Just the thing for the moment that the river police realised that I was an interloper. It was a nice fantasy while it lasted. I did wonder, whilst watching this so-called pageant, whether surface-to-air missiles had been located on the roofs of local blocks of flats to protect our head of state from possible airborne attacks? After all, if such a thing is considered necessary for the Olympics, then why not for the Queen (and her fascist regime)?

I think my main problem over these past few days is that I can't help but keep thinking of how all this expensive pageantry and celebration is going on against a background of economic austerity and savage attacks upon not just our public services, but also our civil liberties, by our right-wing government. Here we are, being urged by this same government and its friends in the media, to celebrate the fabulously wealthy and over privileged anachronism that is the Royal family, whilst many of us our losing our jobs, having our wages and pensions cut or seeing the public services we rely on being slashed. Yet, at the same time, whilst we proles are being told to 'tighten our belts', these living symbols of our feudal past, (a past the government seems determined to recreate), are not just unaffected, but are having millions of pounds of public money showered on them to fund these 'celebrations'. Ah well, there's still another bank holiday to go before it's all over. Maybe tomorrow I'll find something about this Jubilee to enjoy.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Friday All by Myself

Well, as nobody took up my offer to do something Jubilee-related on my day off, (which just goes to show either that nobody I know personally reads this, or they do and don't give a toss), I went out and did something on my own. Not that it was actually Jubilee-related. I did think about driving to the coast, but really couldn't be arsed with driving that distance. So I went to my favourite hill fort instead. Driving back through several picturesque English villages, I was struck by the fact that virtually every building was festooned with Union Jacks and bunting in preparation for the Jubilee celebrations. This presented quite a contrast with Crapchester, where there's nary a piece of bunting to be seen. My own street is bereft of such decorations and, as I've mentioned before, there appear to no plans for any street party here. Once again, a stark contrast with the villages I drove through, which all had posters up, proudly proclaiming their forthcoming festivities in honour of Her Majesty (and her fascist regime). I'd like to think that this indicates that Crapchester is a hot bed of republicanism, but I suspect it just confirms the rest of the world's impression of the town: that the population just can't be arsed.

Still, the Jubilee long weekend is only just beginning, so there's still plenty of time for things to change: perhaps I'll wake up tomorrow morning to find the town in the grip of Jubilee-fever. Indeed, I've already been invited to an 'anti-jubilee' party, which could be exactly the sort of event which would satisfy my desire to be involved in the celebrations, whilst not compromising my principles. If I remember when it's on - I have a poor track record for remembering to attend things I've been invited to if they fall on a Saturday, the day of the week when I generally lose my bearings and sleep to all hours after going to bed in the early hours of the morning. Not that my nocturnal habits are down to spending the night clubbing or hanging out in illegal drinking dens. I'm too old for all that shit. No, it is just that Friday night into Saturday morning is generally when I catch up with all the stuff I've recorded off of the TV down the week. Whilst drinking a few beers. Which is what I'm aiming to do now, so I'm wrapping this post up without further ado.