Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Disputed Territory

I woke up this morning with blocked sinuses and a headache. I'd no sooner taken something for that, than I found that the milk had gone off overnight, despite being in the fridge. Now, whilst you can get away with using slightly off milk in tea or coffee - if they're hot enough, the bad taste is masked - there is no way you can mask its sourness when you put it on Weetabix. Even if you pile on the sugar. Personally, I blame those bastard dairy farmers - they somehow made my milk curdle to get back at me over that post I wrote yesterday. Anyway, after such a disastrous start to the day, I should have known that that it could only go downhill. which it did. I arrived for only the second day in the new offices, (actually the same offices we were moved out of last September, but refurbished), which we moved into last Friday, in which, after a year of wandering like a nomad, I finally have a desk again, only to find that some IT twat had set up at my desk, leaving his shit and laptop all over it. Naturally, I exploded.

Having moved said twat on, with, I hope, the clear message that having been arsed around by work for more than twelve months desk-wise, anyone trying to co-opt my newly acquired office space is going to get short shrift, I was left to ponder just how territorial we humans are. OK, we don't go around pissing on filing cabinets and the like to mark out our territory, but we definitely get very protective as to our personal space. Especially in an office situation. Any encroachment into your territory seems like a threat to your precarious status. It isn't just desks which bring out the territorial instincts - parking spaces are, if anything, even worse for this. I speak from personal experience - it's a real relief that I don't park my car at work anymore. The lack of an allocated parking space means that there's one less piece of turf I have to defend every day. That said, I'm almost as obsessive over my personal parking space. Actually, it isn't just desks and parking spaces - today I got quite irritated when I came home to find that someone had washed down the steps leading up to the terrace my house is situated in. Those steps are actually part of my property and I resent other people taking it upon themselves to do anything to them. If I don't nip this in the bud now, the bastards will soon be emboldened enough to start pissing on my doorstep.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Milk Shake Up

So, when is a picket line not a picket line? When is a protest not a threat to public order/ The answer, of course, is when they are being perpetrated by farmers. I'm sure that, like me, you couldn't help but have noticed last week's protests by farmers over the price of milk. They blockaded dairies and set up what can only be described as picket lines outside supermarkets which had the audacity to sell us members of the public cheap milk. Now, if they had been trade unionists, say miners, for example, we all know that the police would have been all over them, cracking heads with batons and breaking up this illegal secondary picketing. But they aren't trade unionists, they are farmers, a group that traditionally supports the Tory Party and takes a reactionary line to everything from ramblers' rights to blood sports. So when they decide to protest over the failings of capitalism, they apparently don't need to have any kind of ballot, nor do they have to confine their picketing to their own workplaces.

I could, of course, mention the fact that farming receives a bigger subsidy than the rest of British industry put together. I could mention the subsidised 'red diesel' they get. But the thing which really gets me about this dispute is that represents a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism on the part of the farmers and their supporters. It's no good their whining on about how their profit margins are being cut by the supermarkets' price cutting, but the fact is that it is the market which sets the price. And in this case the market is dominated by four or five major players, (which, incidentally, seems to be the norm for any market in modern capitalism). But don't worry, as the classic economic doctrine subscribed to by the Tories (favoured party of the farmers) the market will, over time, correct itself. If the demand for cheap milk outstrips supplies, then the price will rise. Otherwise, the farmers will just have to find ways of producing milk more cheaply, or go out of business. At which point, the reduction in supply will force the price back up. That's capitalism, folks! At least, that's what us workers get told when it comes to pay and conditions. But if you are a farmer, it seems that you are allowed to say that the market is 'broken' and get the Tory government to intervene on your behalf. That's banana republics for you, folks!

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Friday, July 27, 2012

The 2012 Olympics - Whether You Want Them or Not

Well, whether we like it or not, it is finally here: the 2012 London Olympics. I really do have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, I've always thought that, in principal, London getting the Olympics was a positive thing - this country always seems to miss out on these things whilst other, often highly dubious regimes like China, regularly stage global events. (As a child I always felt frustrated by the fact all this great events seemed to be happening elsewhere, so that I had no chance of participating in them). On the other hand, the reality of the Olympics has been highly irritating, to put it mildly. I've watched with dismay as something that should have been inclusive for everyone interested, turn into what seems to be publicly funded corporate jamboree, from which the majority are excluded. Sure, you can watch it on TV, but, despite it all happening in our own country, actually seeing it live is made as difficult as possible for most people. Then there's the commercialisation of the whole thing, which I find more than a little vulgar. I understand the role of sponsorship, but need it be done with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer? And couldn't they have found more suitable sponsors for a sporting event than Coca Cola and MacDonalds?

One of the things I resent most is the way in which the whole thing is now being rammed down my throat - as of 7:00pm today, BBC1 effectively ceased to exist as a proper TV channel for the duration of the Games, instead becoming little more than a live feed from the Olympics. Which wouldn't be so bad if the BBC (or any one else, for that matter) was providing any kind of alternative to the Olympics. Sure, the BBC have thrown non-sports fans a few crumbs by graciously allowing Eastenders and Holby City to be shown on BBC2 for the duration, but that hardly constitutes an alternative. I'm sure I'm like a lot of people in that whilst I support the idea of the Games being held in London, I actually have little interest in sport as such. I certainly don't want this kind of wall-to-wall coverage. If previous Olympic experience is anything to go by, I'll probably only watch a handful of finals live. But what the heck, we might get lucky and we could have a repeat of last August's riots to enliven things for us non-sports fans. I'd like to be able to say in the years to come that whilst I didn't see the Olympic torch, I did see the Olympics torched. I would add the usual rider there that I'm obviously not advocating the burning down of the Olympic village, but I know that, by now, nobody is reading this - all attention is now on the opening ceremony. Indeed, as of about seven o'clock this evening, traffic to The Sleaze effectively halted.

Anyway, I'm bracing myself for pretty much non-existent web traffic for the next couple of weeks and, even though I know that nobody is reading this, I intend trying to make this blog an Olympic-free zone for the next couple of weeks. On that note, I'll leave you to go and watch some sleazy Italian movies on DVD - even the possibility that the opening ceremony might culminate with David Beckham sacrificing Boris Johnson on an altar in order to gain the favour of the gods for these Games and ensure good weather for the duration, can't make me watch that overblown farrago.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Sleazecast: Looking Backward

After much delay, the tenth Sleazecast is here. As promised, it is shorter than usual. A sort of pocket edition, with much less of me rambling on. This is mainly made up of bits and pieces I'd either recorded or downloaded for previous editions, but for various reasons hadn't used. The delay came in recording the new linking sections, which, for some reason, I just couldn't be arsed to do for several weeks.

But Hell, it's done now and even, despite the disparate origins of its elements, even has a sort of theme running through most of it. Namely, the dangers of always looking to the past rather than the future. But enough of the introductions, you can hear it hear (it runs 25 minutes):

The Sleazecast: Looking Backward

Alternatively, you can download it as an mp3 here.

As ever, here's a brief track listing:

1. Intro - It's That Man Again!

2. Looking Backward - Doc Sleaze ponders the Diamond Jubilee, nostalgia and the dangers of living in the past.

3. Tommy Handley vs Malcolm X - 'That Man' gets racist and meets the wrath of Malcolm X.

4. Movie Musings From the Woods - the Doc muses over the futility of origin stories and the tedium of remakes.

5. News For The Confused..

6. Wrap Up - the Doc draws things to a close

7. Suzie Sleaze Sings the Sex Pistols - our newsreader plays us out with her cover of God Save The Queen.

Well, there's another one done! Unusually, I've already got the next one planned. It should appear some when in August. Until then, enjoy this one.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tales From the Building Site

I'm not saying that not a lot happens on my street, but the demolition of a former car dealership and its transformation into a building site has provided a great deal of entertainment over the past few months. Last week, things got even better, with the arrival of the largest pieces of plant yet

These two tower cranes now, quite literally, tower over the street. Indeed, when its jib is raised, the yellow one can be seen from miles away. It is fascinating to contrast the two cranes, the yellow one is clearly of a far more modern design, with a shorter jib which, when not in use, points upward:

The green crane, by contrast, is of the more traditional design, the length of its rigid jib meaning that, when not in use, it is often rotates with the wind:

The two cranes haven't seen much action yet - they're still finishing the foundations- but now that they have arrived, I can feel confident that if the workmen inadvertently unearth a millions of years old Martian spaceship, we'll at least have the means to destroy it, (that's a Quatermass and the Pit (movie version) reference, you were wondering).


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Bang Bang Theory

One of the inevitable consequences of the shootings at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, is that the film will be forever tainted by these senseless killings. They will always be referred to by the media as the 'Batman Murders' or 'Batman Shootings', despite the fact that there is no apparent causal link between the two things. (Unless, of course, it transpires that the perpetrator is a fan of Spiderman and was trying to give the new Spiderman film a boost by wrecking the Batman flick's box-office prospects by associating it with mass murder). But that's the thing about lazy journalism - which these days seems to be mainstream journalism - everything has to be simple and joined up. Indeed, I'm surprised that the tabloids haven't drawn a parallel between the gas mask that the killer allegedly wore and Bane's costume (which includes a gas mask-like respirator) in the movie.

Early on you could see that the story was going to travel the well-worn path of lazy journalism's characterisation of lone mass murderer's. They quickly found people to describe the suspect as being a 'loner', whilst the fact that he was a PhD student and a science graduate clearly marked him out as some kind of 'nerd' or 'geek'. In lazy tabloid journalist world, it is well known that 'normal' people who do 'normal' jobs and have 'normal' hobbies like watching TV or football are never crazy killers. Only those sad friendless losers with educational qualifications go 'postal' and blow away complete strangers. If only they'd played sports, eh? Would have made 'men' of them and instilled a sense of camaraderie which precludes becoming a killer. Geeks and nerds can only ever be one of two extremes in tabloid world: sinister creeps or amusing nebbishes. Yep, either they're mad scientists or the harmless eccentrics in things like The Big Bang Theory. Mind you, there's probably an unaired episode of that, where Sheldon's research grant is cut and he goes on a murderous rampage on campus, armed with a homemade light sabre, before taking Penny hostage and demanding that William Shatner be restored as Captain Kirk in the next Star Trek film. Anything to reinforce those lazy stereotypes...


Saturday, July 21, 2012


Wow! I'm back! No big deal, you are no doubt saying - you are posting on your blog, so what? Well, the amazing thing is that, for the first time in two years, I'm using my old IBM t43 to access the web and write a post! That's right, I've finally resurrected my favourite laptop, courtesy of a reconditioned hard drive obtained for around £30 from an on line parts supplier. Actually, replacing the hard drive was the easy bit. Installing a new operating system turned out to be more problematic. However, after two attempts, I seem to have managed to install Kubuntu 12.04, (which, for the uninitiated, is a version of the Ubuntu linux distribution running the KDE desktop), from a magazine DVD. So, if you are thinking of installing linux on an older IBM laptop, I can confirm that they will run the most up to date 32-bit versions of distros - and Kubuntu was able to set up the wireless, sound and graphics cards straight 'out of the box', with no irritating manual interventions to get them to work.

The only problem so far, which I was alerted to by the OS in fact, is that after two years on non-use, the battery is knackered, holding only 42% of its charge. This isn't an immediate problem as I'l be running this laptop from the mains for the foreseeable future. That said, in the long term I'll probably try to source a replacement battery from the web. Anyway, it's good to have this laptop up and running again. The build quality on the IBM t-series is fantastic, far better than any other laptop I've used. This one is now destined to be my back-up laptop, so that I don't again find myself in the position of two years ago - when the original hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure - of being unable to access the web or do anything else for a couple of days! Fingers crossed that this hard drive stands up to the rigours of use a bit better than its predecessor.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Rogue Presenters

Well, I'm certainly looking forward to the next series of Watchdog, just to see how Ann Robinson glosses over the fact that one of the Rogue Traders team has gone down for twelve weeks for benefit fraud. I've watched this story unfold with fascination, starting with a report on the local news section of the BBC website, which simply referred to the guilty party as a 'BBC presenter', right up to the conviction of Dan Penteado. It was clear the BBC just didn't know how to cover it, with national TV and radio news trying to ignore it. The only reports seemed to be passing mentions on the local news and the BBC website. Even the newspapers seemed to want to avoid reporting on it until the trial got underway. For the BBC it must be perplexing to have one of the presenters of a consumer affairs programme exposing fraudulent traders being convicted of fraud themselves. For the rest of us there is, without doubt, a certain sense of schadenfreude when we see this sort of case.

Whilst programmes like Watchdog/Rogue Traders undoubtedly do a lot of good and serve the public interest by exposing fraudsters and sharp practices by big companies, there's always a part of me that can't help but think what sanctimonious, smug bastards the presenters are. I mean, they're so holier-than-thou when confronting miscreants, you find yourself screaming at the TV , 'For God;s sake, haven't you ever dome anything bad?'. They surely must have at least one parking ticket, or a speeding conviction amongst them, you think. So when it turns out that one of them is a benefit cheat, you just have to laugh. As I said at the outset, the best is yet to come, when the next series starts and they have to decide whether to bring the whole sorry story up again to explain Dan's absence, or whether they just try and pretend that it never happened and that Dan never existed. I look forward to finding out which strategy they choose.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Perverse Justice

Strange times indeed. That we're living through, that is. The outcomes of two recent court cases seem to have turned accepted norms on their head. I refer, of course, to the trials of John Terry and that police officer who killed that news vendor during that protest. Except, according to a truly bizarre verdict, the cop didn't kill him. Despite video evidence clearly showing him attacking the man with his baton, even though he wasn't part of the protest and was obviously walking away, this apparently wasn't the cause of the newspaper seller's death. Despite medical evidence to the contrary. What the verdict also implies is that a police officer making an unprovoked attack with a weapon on an innocent bystander, doesn't constitute 'unreasonable force'. The possible consequences of this are quite disturbing. Especially if you are planning to attend a protest - you could be beaten senseless without any recourse in law, it seems.

Turning to John Terry, all we can gather from the outcome of his trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, is that the term 'fucking black cunt' doesn't constitute racial abuse. So, knock yourselves out football terrace racists - shout that and you are apparently immune from prosecution. Except maybe the first guy who shouts it, as part of Terry's successful defence was that he was merely repeating what he thought Ferdinand had said, (who, in turn, was repeating what he thought Terry had said in the first place). But so long as everyone else says that they were just repeating the offensive phrase, they should be OK. Which brings us, naturally, to the question of why the police are apparently investigating a claim of racism against someone who tweeted Rio Ferdinand, describing Ashley Cole (who had testified for Terry at the trial) as a 'choc ice', (black on the outside, but white inside, in my day the equivalent term was 'coconut', or sometimes even 'bounty bar')? After all, if 'fucking black cunt' is OK then 'choc ice' surely has to be seen as a term of endearment, doesn't it?


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Non-Post

Well, traffic both to The Sleaze and to here has turned to shit again after some modest improvements over the past few weeks. In fact, over the past couple of hours it has dwindled to virtually nothing. Which is, quite simply, ridiculous. I've said it before and I'll say it again - these are not normal traffic patterns. They are clearly being manipulated. Once more, Google seems to be at the root of it - obviously I managed to get 'too much' traffic by their estimation in recent weeks, so now I'm being punished. It really is getting impossible for anyone other than one of those brand names Google has chosen to favour, to exist on the web any more. Anyway, the end result is that, to be frank, I really can't be bothered to post anything today.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Private Good, Public Bad?

Apparently it is quite normal for private firms to fail to meet their contractual obligations on large scale government contracts. According to the Secretary for State for Murdoch, Jeremy Hunt, that is. In yet another extraordinary statement from a government minister, the Culture Secretary came out with this as some kind of explanation for the fact that, having accepted millions of pounds of public money to provide security at the forthcoming London Olympics, G4S has now admitted that it can't provide all the security personnel required under the contract. But don't worry, says Hunt, the known inability of the private sector to deliver is why we've got a contingency plan to bale them out by using yet more public sector resources in the form of policemen and soldiers. I must admit that it is news to me that the government accepts it as given that private contractors won't fulfil their contractual obligations. Particularly as the Tory bastards are always telling us that the private sector is far superior to the public when it comes to service delivery, which is why we should be outsourcing all our public services to private contractors.

Still, if this is true, it does mean that we public service workers can legitimately take a new approach to our own work. As we're always being told that we should be emulating the private sector, we can now tell our bosses that we have no intention of meeting any of our work targets as it is perfectly normal for the private sector to do the same. If it is OK for them to take public money, then not deliver the services they have been paid for, we need feel no qualms about taking our pay and just going home. Of course, the government isn't going to admit that this G4S fiasco finally nails the myth that private is always better than public when it comes to providing vital services. This is just a temporary glitch and is undoubtedly being blown out of all proportion. Just like the reports that G4S was using unpaid labour to provide security during the Jubilee river pageant apparently were. Bearing in mind that they were supposedly using that event as some kind of rehearsal for the Olympics, alarm bells should surely have been ringing that they could only make up the numbers of required guards in this way. But Hell, we shouldn't expect anything else in this banana republic we find ourselves living in, where lucrative government contracts are viewed by money-grabbing private sector bosses as subsidies. They want the money, but know they'll get away without actually supplying any services in return.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Rock of Ages

I thought age discrimination was now illegal in this country, yet the announcement that 38 year old Chris Moyles is to step down as the host of Radio One's breakfast show has resulted in another outbreak of ageist rhetoric from the station's management. Moyles' departure is all part of Radio One's latest attempt to reduce its average listener age to bring it within the station's 'target demographic'. Apparently these young people all want to listen to young and bland DJs playing the BBC's bland playlist. Of course, the Beeb would defend itself by pointing out that Radio One champions 'new' music which, apparently, only young people are allowed to listen to. At least that's the impression they are giving. We even had the controller of Radio One on Radio Four's PM programme yesterday telling us oldies that the problem lay with all these over thirties who refuse to 'grow up' and move on from Radio One to other stations more orientated to their demographic, such as Radio Two or Radio Six Music.

There are several flaws with this argument, not least that it is downright insulting to suggest that, magically, at age thirty one's musical tastes change so drastically that you can no longer appreciate anything 'new' and instead are fit only to listen to the easy listening snooze-fest that it is Radio Two. I'll concede that Six Music plays more interesting stuff and has more interesting presenters. The trouble is that it is a digital-only station, meaning that those of us who do most of our radio-listening in cars are unlikely to be able to hear it. But the biggest flaw is that you can classify music according to the age of the listener at all. That's just ageist. Which Radio One's management clearly realises as their strategy isn't to change the music they play, but rather to sideline any presenters with personality and move their blandest DJs into the prime time slots. Inane babble between records is far more likely to drive older listeners away than anything else. I know, I speak from experience. Still, I'm thinking of hitting back at this ageism by encouraging my mother, who is 80, to listen to Radio One. I also have aunts and great aunts in their seventies, eighties and nineties I could get to tune in. If we all got our elderly relatives to listen, we could push Radio One's average listening age up through the roof. I'd like to see what they'd do then.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mel Gibson - At Least He's Not a Scientologist

This whole Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes business has, if nothing else, left me with a far greater appreciation of Mel Gibson. I mean, he might be an anti-semite, a misogynist, allegedly violent to women and a racist, not to mention a drunk, but Hell, at least he's not a Scientologist. OK, he has his own crazy religion, which seems to be based on some extremist version of Catholicism, but it isn't Scientology. Indeed, in this respect, I think Mel deserves our praise - he's not lazy like other showbiz loonies, who just jump on someone else's mad religion bandwagon. Oh no, Mel has the balls to devise his own craziness. In this respect is probably only rivalled by Charlie Sheen. Oh, and I also have to defend Mel with regard to a recent controversy: screenwriter Joe Ezterhaus has claimed that Mel's rejection of one of his scripts is down to anti-semitism. Clearly, anyone familiar with the work of Ezterhaus, the 'fucking genius' screenwriter, (as the late Bill Hicks once disparagingly described him), who gave us such classics as Basic Instinct, (to be fair, that probably is his best work), and Burn, Hollywood, Burn, would have to conclude that Gibbo, (if that isn't Mel's nickname, it should be), rejected his script because it was shit.

I'm afraid I've never understood the allure of Scientology. Celebrity Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta seem like pretty nice, intelligent people (by movie star standards, at least), so I've never understood how they got mixed up with this craziness. Do they really believe it all? Is it a career enhancing thing? Or is it just sheer craziness? Then again, all religions seem crazy to me. That said, at least things like Christianity and Buddhism, for instance, seem to be based on basically benign philosophies - the actual organised religions promoting them might not always be benign, of course - but in the case of Scientology, its basis seems to be a science fiction story L Ron Hubbard wasn't able to sell to Astounding Science Fiction magazine back in 1948. But that's part of the problem - Scientology was founded within living memory, so we know it isn't based on the teachings of the Messiah, or the word of God as transmitted via several stone tablets. Let's face it, as far as unbelievers like me are concerned, all religions are based upon stories made up by mortal men, the difference between them and Scientology is that their origins lie so far in the past that this truth is now obscured by the passage of time.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Olympic Overkill

Well. all the hype finally arrives in Crapchester tomorrow in the form of the Olympic torch. Needless to say, the local authorities and media are going into overdrive, trying to whip Crapchester's citizens up into a patriotic frenzy - there are banners up, road closures planned, the whole lot. Massive road disruption is predicted. All this, despite the fact that the torch is scheduled to be in Crapchester for only twenty minutes. That's right: twenty minutes. Which hasn't stopped the council closing roads on the route for six hours! I can't help but suspect that whilst the torch is only here for twenty minutes, the corporate sponsors will try and milk the occasion for all they can, hence the excessive road closures. It is this kind of overkill which has left me completely disillusioned with the whole Olympic circus. When London was fist awarded the games, I actually thought it could be a good thing, but that was before it turned into an overblown corporate jamboree, apparently run for the benefit of the likes of Coca Cola, Samsung and BMW, rather than for either the participants or spectators. I'm rapidly growing tired of all the attempts to talk up the torch relay with references to the 'Olympic spirit', when it is clear that it is really all about corporate greed.

So, how best to react to this 'historic' event? Should I be mounting a protest? I suppose I could follow my sometime associate Little Miss Strange's example by streaking in front of the relay. She created quite a stir with her performance in the Thames Valley earlier today. Obviously, it wasn't simply a gratuitous display of nudity, designed to cause public outrage. It was clearly a political protest - she had 'Free' written on one cheek, 'Tibet' on the other, so that the torch bearer running behind her got the message. However, I feel that the sight of me naked really would be an outrage, not just to public decency, but good taste generally. I've previously suggested standing on the route prominently drinking bottles of Pepsi-Cola but, to be honest, I've reached the stage where I really can't be arsed. Indeed, I'm inclining toward the idea that just ignoring the whole thing is the best way of protesting - deny the corporate bastards the satisfaction of having us turn up at all, thereby swelling the adoring crowds. That said, it will be difficult for those of us working tomorrow to avoid the inevitable traffic chaos. In other cheering news, I've just found out that so called 'music' event 'Crapchester Shite', sorry, 'Crapchester Live', is this coming weekend. Which, for those of us unfortunate enough to live near the park where it takes place, means two days of abject misery as we have to endure the cacophony. Still, I see that rain is forecast for the weekend so, with luck, the bastards will be washed away. God, I'm getting curmudgeonly!

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Monday, July 09, 2012

Game, Set and Utter Boredom

So, where to start with today's rant? Bloody Wimbledon? Tom sodding Cruise and his frigging divorce? Wanker bankers? Tory Bastards? Now, I know that I only ranted about the tennis last week but, damn it, this is my blog and I'll rant again about it if I want to. Besides, I covered the bankers last week in a new story over at The Sleaze and I'm working on another swipe at the Tory bastards right now, whilst Tom Cruise can wait until another day. So, bloody Wimbledon - I'm glad that sour faced Scots git lost. I haven't forgotten him saying, with regard to football, that he'd support 'anyone but England'. Well, that works both ways - if I had any interest whatsoever in tennis, which I don't, I'd support anybody but Andy Murray. However, I'm not interested in tennis, which is why I was livid to have my Saturday evening TV viewing disrupted for a second week running by by fucking Wimbledon. To add insult to injury, this time it was because of the Women's Doubles - who gives a fuck about doubles, for God's sake? This time the disruption spread to BBC 2, resulting in Henry IV (Part One) - a prestige production commissioned as part of the 'cultural Olympiad' - was treated abominably and delayed by an hour.

But what the heck, nothing's more important than Wimbledon, is it? At least, that was the impression given by the BBC's sports presenters, who bundled their way into the schedules, pushing aside scheduled news and drama, with the attitude that viewers should be grateful for having the chance to see Wimbledon forced on them. They reminded me of those 'good at sports' bullies we all had to endure at school, who would oafishly put down anyone expressing an interest in anything non-sport related. Of course, the BBC will point to the alleged viewing figures for the Men's Singles final as proof that 'everyone' likes Wimbledon. Unfortunately, I take those figures with a very large pinch of salt. I was out on the road when the final kicked off and was hoping for a quiet journey as I'd been led to believe that everyone would be at home watching the tennis, Nothing could have been further from the truth, as I had to endure a tortuous journey, plagued by hordes of Sunday drivers and other morons on wheels. Moreover, at various points in the afternoon, my attempts to watch the BBC News channel were thwarted by the BBC's habit of continually cutting to Wimbledon and showing continuous match coverage for up to half an hour at a time, doubtless inflating the viewing figures by adding unwilling viewers such as myself. Which of course is my biggest problem with this tennis shit - it wouldn't be so bad if I was being given a choice of watching it, but in reality I was frequently I was being denied any choice.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Mystery Mascot

Some advertising symbols are obvious: at a glance they tell us what the thing they are promoting is and what it is about. Others send a message about how the entity or product they are advertising wants to be perceive; warm and fuzzy, perhaps, or modern and efficient. However, there are a handful of such symbols which leave me scratching my head. Chief amongst these is the EDF mascot. You now the one I mean - that strange piece of animated plasticine which features in its current TV advertising campaign. I mean, what, exactly, is it meant to be? I'm assuming that it is intended to represent a flame which, bearing in mind that EDF is an energy supplier, would make a certain amount of sense. Sadly though, to me it looks like a perambulating turd. A turd with eyes. Even the colour, that pale brown hue, seems right for a turd

What amazes me is that they've allowed this campaign to get this far - surely somebody should have noticed the mascot's resemblance to something deposited by a dog on a pavement? Every time I see one of those EDF commercials I fully expect to see the mascot scooped up by someone with a plastic bag and deposited in a bin, (or hung in a tree if they are a really antisocial bastard). After all who would want to be represented by a living turd? What message is it sending about EDF Energy? We produce your power by burning dog shit? Maybe that's it - they're trying to establish their environmental credentials by suggesting that they go around collecting up stray dog turds and hurling them into the furnaces of their power stations. Simultaneously they are cleaning up the streets and producing environmentally clean energy. Except that I should imagine that dog shit is anything but an environmentally friendly fuel. Can you imagine the evil fumes any power station burning it would emit? You wouldn't want to live downwind of that, would you?

(After a quick bit of research, I've found that the turd even has a name: Zingy. Not a very appropriate name for a piece of shit, in my opinion, but there you are).


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Sweet FA?

Is it just me, or does the large metallic object in the photo appear to be an American diesel locomotive? Most specifically, does it bear more than a passing resemblance to an Alco FA series cab unit? I apologise for the fact that the photo isn't clearer, but the other side of the road was the closest I could get. I spotted the mystery object last week, but wasn't able to get any pictures until yesterday. Most people think that I'm insane when I tell them that I've seen an American diesel locomotive in a garden of a house beside the A340 - but now I have the proof!

Quite what this is and why it is there is still a mystery. Whilst the 'loco' seems to be a full scale replica, it is also an empty shell - the back end seems to be open. Also, it is completely lacking in detail - there are no cab doors and no grilles set into the visible side, and the headlamp housing is empty, as is the unglazed cab. I'm also pretty sure that it has no running gear behind that hedge (US freight cab units from that era typically ride on two twin axle bogies). It did occur to me that it might be part of a very elaborate carnival float, but the fact that it is constructed from sheet metal, rather than lighter materials, suggests otherwise.

Anyway, to get a bit technical, a comparison with photos of actual 1940s cab units suggest that it is a generic cab unit replica, rather than being a reproduction of a specific model. Whilst the style of the doors and windscreen and the almost flat front to the nose suggests an Alco unit, the style of the headlamp and the rounded top to the nose is suggestive of the rival EMD F-series. Here's a picture of a real FA-1 unit (below, left) and an EMD F7A unit (below, right) for comparison:

Historically, Alco's FA and FB units were never as popular as EMD's F series rivals, which out sold and out-lived them. Which is perhaps unsurprising, as Alco were a company that had originally built steam locomotives and tried to break into the diesel market in order to survive as, from the 1940s, US railroads began to abandon steam traction. By contrast, EMD were (and still are) a division of General Motors, which specialised in diesel traction and was able to utilise the diesel engines produced by its parent company as motive power for its locos.

Enough of the railroad history. It will be interesting to see what happens with the garden loco over the next few weeks - will it acquire any surface detail, or a coat of paint? If, by some remote chance, anyone reading this can shed any light on the matter, feel free to comment!

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Smart Phone Bores

Smart phone bores - they are rapidly becoming one of my pet hates. Now, don't get me wrong here - I have nothing against smart phones in principle, and my target here isn't the average smart phone user. (Indeed, I'm well aware that plenty of people read both this blog and The Sleaze on their smart phones and I have no wish to alienate them - so if you are reading this on your Blackberry, iPhone or other smart phone, you are exempt from all criticism). I know plenty of people who have smart phones but don't feel the urge to bore everyone around them with the bloody things. No, I'm talking about the arseholes who bring them to the pub and proceed to hijack every conversation to talk about their phones, or discuss technical details amongst themselves. It isn't just boring, it is downright fucking rude. Consequently, my reaction to them these days is to get out my newspaper and start reading it, completely ignoring their tedious 'conversation' and refusing to rejoin the chat until they put their toys away. Crude, but surprisingly effective.

A lot of these mind-numbingly dull technological interludes are the result of some of these individuals having bought a smart phone without having any clear idea of what they are going to use it for or, even worse, without any idea of how to use the bloody thing beyond making calls and sending texts. Which is precisely the reason I've never bought a smart phone - barely use my existing mobile phone beyond sending the odd text and I honestly can't think of any real use I would have for the enhanced capabilities of a smart phone. Indeed, watching some of these bores trying to justify their smart phone ownership is often painful. For instance, I was recently told of how brilliant it was to set up the calender function to give reminders of a series of regular hospital appointments for the phone owner's mother. They seemed a bit crestfallen when I responded that I used my mother's tried and tested method for keeping track of such things: by circling the relevant dates on a normal calender. It works just as well and doesn't crash or run out of battery life. Obviously, I'm not saying that smart phones per se are pointless, just that for many of the people who own them, they are overkill and really constitute a status symbol rather than a useful tool.

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Monday, July 02, 2012

For Fork's Sake

I'm clearly losing my mind. I'm convinced that I remember switching off my television on Saturday afternoon, before going out. However, when I came home it was still showing Carry on Nurse on Film Four. It is pretty disconcerting to open the front door and hear the murmur of voices behind the living room door. So disconcerting that it resulted in me stalking around the house brandishing a gardening fork. Obviously, there was no one there - I was still alone in the house. If you are wondering about the fork, I'd just bought it, along with a shovel and a rake, with the intention of attempting to reclaim my back garden from the chaos I've allowed to engulf it over the past few years. I actually did make a start on this Herculean task once I'd calmed down from the TV incident - I cleared most of the path and rediscovered the external stop cock cover. Ultimately, I was defeated by the large tree branch which was snapped off of one of the trees in the next door council park during the recent gales and which wound up in my garden. The council have so far been reluctant to do anything about it, (it is far too large for me to deal with), or the other branch growing from one of their trees which threatens to smash my bathroom window every time there's a strong wind.

The whole ordeal left me exhausted and aching from head to foot, with only the energy to crash out on the sofa and watch that treacherous TV. So, you can imagine my outrage when I found, instead of Indiana Jones on BBC1, bloody tennis. And it went on, and on. Eventually, bloody Sue Barker popped up, jovially boasting that they had been on air for almost twelve hours. Believe me, that's not something to be proud of. As you've undoubtedly gathered, I detest tennis and dread those two weeks every year when Wimbledon disrupts the TV schedules. Now, I feel I have the right to get angry on this subject as, for the duration of Euro 2012, I've had to listen to non-football fans complaining about the amount of time devoted to football in the schedules. But come on, it didn't take up anything like the time Wimbledon has so far - it certainly didn't cause a completely unscheduled six hour interruption to the schedules. As a licence fee payer I really do object to having to put up with what is a very minority middle class sport being rammed down my throat like this. Anyway, the upside of all this was that I ended up watching Richard II on BBC2 in its entirety (I don't usually have the energy for anything cultural at weekends), which was pretty bloody good. Similarly, the night before, more Wimbledon overspill had forced me into watching Simon Schama's Shakespeare, which was also very good. But, getting back to the point, I'm sure that I'm not alone in resenting this takeover of the BBC's prime time schedules by Wimbledon, particularly as, within a month, we'll be suffering wall-to-wall Olympic coverage across the whole of the BBC. I'm really not looking forward to that.