Friday, September 28, 2012

Turning a Page

Is it time for tabloids to stop printing pictures of topless models on Page Three?  I see the old debate has raised its head again, with a new petition calling for an end to this dubious British 'institution'.  Leaving aside the arguments over whether it demeans or objectifies women, surely the most pertinent question is what purpose does Page Three serve these days?  Back in the early 1970s, when The Sun inaugurated this 'tradition', Page Three represented practically the only way a young man could glimpse an honest-to-goodness set of bare female breasts.  The only alternatives were to go through the social embarrassment and humiliation of buying a porn magazine, going to see a X-rated porn movie at the cinema (also a terrible social stigma back then) or, worst of all, attending a live sex show.  That was the attraction of Page Three, why it boosted the paper's circulation so much - it delivered bared knockers, (and occasionally bums), to your letterbox (papers tended to be delivered in those days), in a semi-respectable, non-porn format. 

Nowadays, of course, you can get far, far more than just naked tits on tap 24 hours a day via your laptop, tablet or smartphone, delivered direct to the privacy of your own home, thanks to the internet.  Every kink and perversion is catered for, even in the world of free internet porn, and nobody need ever know that you are looking at it.  No more furtive trips to the the top-shelf of the newsagents or a specialist 'bookshop'.  That said, many regular magazines these days make the top shelf content look tame - porn has become the norm.  It's the same with TV and films - nudity and sex have gone legit and become mainstream.  Page Three was undoubtedly one of the key catalysts for this gradual legitimisation of what we once called porn.  Once bare boobs were available at breakfast in the pages of a newspaper, it started to become acceptable, part of the fabric of daily life - a 'bit of fun'. So, really, why do we still have Page Three girls?  The 'institution' has surely sowed the seeds of its own destruction, appealing now only to computer illiterate porn fiends who need something to whack off to.  Hell, get rid of it and force them to go online for their sexual stimulus like the rest of us - if push comes to shove, they can always go and use the public internet access  in their local library, (if the Tories haven't already closed it),  to whip their tops to.  It's the Big Society, you know.  

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Uphill Struggle

Just lately everything has felt like an uphill struggle. Nothing seems to go easily or smoothly.  Obstacles proliferate.  Maybe it is down to the after effects of the 'flu from a couple of weeks ago.  Certainly, going back to work before I was fully recovered has left me feeling exhausted.  Unfortunately, I had little choice - after three weeks away on leave the work was piling up, (nobody does my job for me while I'm away, not even the simplest tasks), and if I'd taken any more time off as sick leave, things would have continued to pile up and, by the time I got back, it would have been virtually impossible to catch up with it all.  Then again, perhaps it is down to my increasing dissatisfaction with my job.  Feeling this lousy has made the sheer futility of my work even more apparent.  Moreover, the apparent indifference of management to my health problems, (no offers to help out with the workload, for instance), has done nothing to lessen my loathing of it all.  Even telling myself that I've only got five more years of my mortgage to go, isn't helping anymore - it just seems too long, I'm really beginning to doubt that I can hold out that long.

The slow recovery of my voice isn't helping things, either.  I'm growing weary of having to explain that, thanks to the damage done to my vocal chords by the violent coughing that accompanied the 'flu, then the throat infection which struck once I was over that, it could take weeks for my voice to return to anything like normal.  That said, my voice is growing stronger, day by day.  It is best early in the morning and tends to fade as the day goes on.  I'm also gradually recovering the upper part of my vocal range, meaning that my voice no longer sounds quite so low and gravelly, and that I can get more intonation into my speech.  The key to this recovery has been the use of honey to break down the phlegm and mucus that had accumulated in my throat, and gargling with diluted TCP in order to kill off the last vestiges of the original infection.  Not raising my voice is also important.  Sadly, I suffered a setback in my voice recovery when I did raise my voice.  Twice.  Both times at inanimate objects that wouldn't do as they were told.  The result has been a noticeable deterioration in my voice.  Hopefully, another weekend of resting my voice by not speaking for forty eight hours will repair the damage.  Like I said, everything seems to be an uphill struggle these days.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Scenes From The Forest

I've finally gotten around to editing together some more holiday films. We're back in the forest for this one. In fact, part of last year's 'Back In The Forest' was shot nearby. Anyway, this one has an emphasis on the various bridges and streams I encountered during my walk, (which was constantly interrupted by bloody cyclists - I had to abandon one sequence because of them).


Monday, September 24, 2012

Britain Broken - From the Top Down

According to Boris Johnson - speaking at a Tory Party conference of yesteryear - people who swear at the police should expect to be arrested.  Unless they are the Tory Chief Whip, of course.  In which case they have the Prime Minister's full support.  Not that he did swear at Downing Street police, or call them 'plebs', so he claims.  Although the officer in question disagrees.  Mind you, whilst the Chief Whip is keen to tell us what he didn't say, he remains somewhat vague as to what he did say.  What I find interesting about all of this is that it surely symptomatic of one of the things that Cameron keeps telling us is wrong with 'broken Britain': lack of respect.  Regardless of whether or not Andrew Mitchell, the Tory Chief Whip, actually swore at a police officer who wouldn't let him through the main gate at Downing Street, he certainly failed to demonstrate any respect for the officer or what they represented.  Now, according to the likes of Cameron, it's people at the bottom - plebs - who fail to show sufficient respect.  especially if they are young and unemployed.  Which might be true, but if so, surely they are only following the example being set by our rulers?

Because let's face it, this Tory-led government appears to have nothing but contempt for most of the UK's population.  They haven't shown the disabled much respect, practically demonising them as benefits cheats.  They haven't shown much respect for the less well off generally, for that matter, with cuts to housing benefits, slashing public services, closing down libraries and the like.  You can't expect any respect if you are ill, either, as witnessed by their treatment of the NHS, which is now simply seen by them as a cash-cow for private sector profiteers.  Education?  I have five words for you: bonkers Education Secretary Michael Gove.  They certainly have no respect for the concept of democracy if their attempts to fix the next election by redrawing constituency boundaries in their favour and trying to guarantee themselves five years in power (despite not having a majority) by fixing the term of this parliament.  Oh, and if, like me, you are a public employee, you'll know that they certainly have no respect for their own employees or the very concept of public service.  But, of course, we're meant to respect them  Their sense of entitlement undoubtedly stems, in part, from the fact that most of the cabinet's backgrounds as wealthy public school and Oxbridge graduates.  As far as they are concerned, they are the rightful ruling class, just as the Conservative Party is the natural party of government - non-Tory governments aren't 'real' governments as far as they are concerned,  So we shouldn't be surprised that a top Tory doesn't see why he should have to pay heed to a mere police officer who, after all, is just an employee and should know their place.  Laws are only for the plebs, not the privileged.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Art of Conversation

I'm beginning to suspect that conversation is a dead art.  Certainly as far as pubs are concerned.  The problem is that when other people say they want to have a conversation, what they really mean is that they want to engage in a monologue, where you are simply expected to nod or murmur words of agreement at the appropriate moments.  Even if other participants in the 'conversation' make the mistake of trying to actually engage in any kind of discussion not directly related to the original monologue, then its originator will simply keep butting in and derailing the discussion until they can get it back to the subject they want to pontificate about.  What's clear to me is that a 'conversation' no longer represents an exchange of ideas, but is rather a one way street, with one party forcing their 'ideas' on everyone else.  Maybe I've just been unfortunate in my recent conversational experiences, but everywhere I look, I see the same thing - people just want to talk at me instead of to me.  Indeed, I've lately witnessed too many pub conversations which have consisted of three or four of these monologists simply shouting at each other, each hoping that they can drown out the others.  Conversation as competition - none of them has any interest in what anybody else is actually saying, they just want to be the loudest and therefore the dominant voice.

To be honest, I've recently been shocked by the lengths some people will go to in order to guarantee dominance of the 'conversation'.  Only the other night I was in the pub, enjoying a couple of pints and reading the paper, making clear to anyone who approached that, due to my ongoing vocal problems, I was trying to rest my voice, so had no intention of engaging in any conversations.  Yet at at least one acquaintance seemed to see my self-imposed silence as an opportunity to talk at me without interruption.  They then got annoyed when I broke that silence to tell them to 'Fuck off'!  But where does it come from, this trend toward non-conversation?  Is it another manifestation of the increasingly self-centered society we live in?  Perhaps it is all down to the growth of blogging, texting and tweeting as the main mediums for communication.  All of them involve the individual engaging in a one-sided 'conversation'.  In the case of blogging, the only interaction comes via the comments and can be tightly controlled by the author.  Both tweeting and texting are effectively a form of 'stream of conciousness' communication, pouring out ideas, musings and the like to an audience, be it an individual in the case of texting or an amorphous cloud of 'followers' in the case of tweeting.  None of them involves a true exchange of ideas.  Misanthropic as I am, I really think that, as a society, we need to start working on our communication skills and start trying to talk to each other again.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lost Memories

A few weeks ago (when I could still speak), I recorded a segment for the Overnightscape Central podcast in which I discussed an old TV programme which had a very profound effect on me when I saw it as a child.  Indeed, that episode of the science fiction anthology series Out of The Unknown, The Yellow Pill, is one my earliest and most vivid TV memories.  It might, in part, be down to the fact that it was an early BBC colour production (which I saw in colour), but I'm sure it was the subject matter of the story which entranced me at the tender age of six.  An adaptation of Rog Philips' short story of the same name, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in the late 1950s, the story concerns the nature of reality and our perception of it.  Basically, it concerns a psychiatrist confronted a patient - a murderer according to the police - who clearly has a radically different perception of the situation, insisting that they are crew members on a spaceship in the future and that the psychiatrist - really the ship's captain - suffering from a space sickness which causes him to suffer complex and highly realistic delusions.  If only the psychiatrist would check the drawer of his desk - actually a chart table - the patient insists, he will find his vial of yellow pills, which will bring him back to reality.  Over the course of the next fifty minutes or so, the two men engage in a battle of wills, each trying to disprove the other's interpretation of reality.

Like many programmes of its era (the late 1960s and early 1970s), it no longer exists, having been wiped by the BBC.  (Programmes were often wiped by TV companies in this period for a variety of reasons: partly because at that time they simply didn't have the space to archive everything, partly because of a desire to cut costs by re-using the then very expensive videotape the programmes were recorded on).  Consequently, this programme now exists only as a memory in the heads of people, like me, who saw it at the time.  (To be honest, aside from my father, who I watched the programme with, I've never met anybody else who recalls watching it, which leaves me with the frightening prospect that, since my father died a few years ago, I'm the only person left who remembers this broadcast).  These 'lost' pieces of my pop culture past have been weighing heavily on my mind of late.  Unlike the Yellow Pill, which I can recall vividly and in some detail, most of these memories exist only as tantalising snatches of dialogue, or individual scenes.  I've spent many years trying to work out what programmes they belonged to in order to try and understand them in context.

Of course, before the internet, it was virtually impossible to research these things - there were few reference books which even admitted the existence of series like Out of The Unknown, let alone provided any kind of episode details.   However, thanks to the web, over the past few years I've been able to place many of these memories - a vividly recollected robot sequence, for instance, I now know to be from another Out of The Unknown episode, an adaptation of an Asimov robot story.  Nevertheless, some remain elusive - the climax of a colour production set in a US missile silo, for instance and, most perplexingly, a macabre scene from an early 1970s one-off drama involving a covert attempt to take the fingerprints of a corpse in a morgue.  All I remember from this is that the body was too badly burned or mangled for visual identification and the protagonists, (one of whom was, I think, the daughter of the supposedly dead man), suspecting that the corpse wasn't who the authorities said it was.  I seem to recall that the supposedly dead man had been seen after his alleged demise.  I also know that I didn't see the end of this one, increasing the intrigue.  In recent weeks I think I might have identified this one as an episode of the Dead of Night supernatural anthology series shown by the BBC in 1972, entitled Death Cancels all Debts.  Frustratingly, this is yet another wiped episode, but what little I've found online in terms of synopses, episode content and broadcast details - doppelgangers, originally shown on a Sunday night on BBC2 - seem to point to it being what I vaguely recall watching all those years ago.

But why does any of this matter?  Well, as I indicated before, these are all important early memories for me - they undoubtedly helped me shape my world view.  Especially The Yellow Pill, which, at an early age, taught me that seeing isn't believing, and that the apparently mundane world around us was, perhaps, just a thin veil concealing something far more wondrous.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


So, whilst the symptoms of last week's 'flu have gone, my voice still hasn't returned to normal. Which is becoming increasingly irritating. Although it is undoubtedly better than the croak which was all I could manage this time last week, it still isn't my voice. It is too deep, too raspy and keeps cracking. Nothing I say sounds right any more. Worse still, people hear my voice and assume I must still have a sore throat (I don't) and that I've still got 'flu, or, at the very least a cold. Neither of which is true. I'm tired of having to explain these facts. I'm tired of having to explain and apologise for the state of my voice. But, most of all, I hate this disorientating sensation of hearing my words being spoken by a voice I don't recognise.

Apart from the fact that the state of my voice apparently means that I no longer speak English, (this is the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that I seem to have to keep repeating myself over and over again at work before even the simplest thing gets through to some people), it also means that I'm in no position to record any podcasts, either my own, or contributions to other people's. Consequently, I've been trying all manner of methods for recovering my voice. Unfortunately, none of them bloody work. Lots of people seem to think that gargling with salt water helps. Well, it makes you thirsty. But it doesn't seem to have done anything for my voice. I might try doses of honey tomorrow, (although I have to be careful, as too much honey can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction which leaves my face swollen). If that doesn't work, God knows what I'm going to do.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Whom The Gods of Shopping Choose to Destroy...

You know, there was a point last week where I'm sure I actually went mad, with all the hassle being caused by the bout of 'flu I'd had earlier. Indeed, I can pretty much pinpoint that moment to around 18:32 last Thursday, when I found myself in the centre of Crapchester ranting wildly about the unavailability of McCain's Crinkle Cut Microwave Chips. OK, I know that it probably seems bizarre that a fast food could be the tipping point for a man's sanity, but it had been a long week and this was just one frustration too far. It's not as if I was being unreasonable: I just wanted a four pack of Crinkle Cut Microwave chips. But could anybody sell me something that, only the week before, they had huge stocks of in every supermarket? No, of course they bloody couldn't. It all started on the Monday, to be honest, when Sainsbury's only had the straight cut variety. It was the same story the next day in Tesco. Which was strange and irritating. So I decided to bide my time until Thursday evening.

But my quest started badly - whilst Iceland had crinkle cut chips, they were only selling them in a three pack, which, at £1.25, compared to £1.49 for a four pack, represented very poor value for money! The Crapchester town centre Sainsbury's were even worse - they were only selling the crinkle cut chips in a two pack! For a pound! A pound for fuck's sake! That's two-thirds the price of a four pack! That's shockingly poor value for money! Is it any wonder I was fast becoming unhinged? The final straw came at the Tesco Metro, which didn't have any variety of McCain Microwave Chips in any multiple packs of any description. That's when I ran back out into the shopping centre, cursing the gods of retail and shouting 'WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO SELL ME CRINKLE CUT CHIPS?' Actually, I might just have thought that last bit, rather than screaming it out loud. Anyway, I was left vowing to try Morrison's the next day - they were bound to have crinkle cut chips in a four pack.

Needless to say, they didn't. So I had to settle for the straight cut variety. You know something - they don't taste anywhere as nice as the crinkle cut ones.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Extreme Overreaction

They don't make it easy for themselves, do they, those Muslim extremists? I mean, if you or I were offended by a video on You Tube, we'd give it a 'dislike', or maybe send Google send them an e-mail asking for it to be withdrawn. There's a clear procedure. There's really no need at all to burn down the US Embassy in Benghazi and murder the Ambassador. Trust me, You Tube won't accept that as a complaint. But these guys just don't get. Hell, we'd love to embrace them as brothers in the global struggle against corporate imperialism and commercial pop culture hegemony, but you just can't rely on these crazies. If they overreact like this to some amateur video, imagine how ape shit they'll go when something really bad happens? Obviously their mothers never gave them the valuable advice mine imparted to me - namely that one should always rise above insults like those in allegedly perpetrated by this film. Not only that, but as it was Mohammad supposedly being insulted, shouldn't it be for him to strike down the infidels responsible?

But seriously, the sight of hordes of heavily-bearded religious maniacs running around the Middle East burning down embassies is a public relations disaster. Not least for the extremists themselves, of course, as it reinforces every Western stereotype of crazed suicide bombers. But it is also a PR disaster for those Western governments trying to tell us that all those costly and unpopular interventions in the Middle East can be justified by the fact they've put the region on the path to democracy. Clearly, that's going well. But at the end of the day, it comes back to the fact these guys have to stop being so sensitive. I mean, just how offensive could a film called Ramadan-a-Ding-Dong: How The Mullahs Stole Christmas, possibly be? Damn it, that action finale where Jesus whips Mohammad's arse in a martial arts fight which demolishes half of Jerusalem is a knock-out.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

RIP Stanley Long

So it is that we have to mourn the passing of another icon of low-budget British exploitation movies, with the announcement that film maker Stanley Long has died. Long was the man behind such seventies smut classics as Adventures of a Taxi Driver and its sequels, On The Game and the amazing Eskimo Nell. Before turned his hand to directing and/or producing such slices of British filth as these, Long had been cinematographer on two of my favourite barmy 1960s horror films: Blood Beast Terror (which features Sherlock's mum as a giant moth that turns into a woman) and The Sorcerers, both for Tigon. Much of Long's seventies output might have been smut (or 'sex comedies' as their distributors preferred to call them), but at least they had decent casts and reasonable production values. Most of all, they were fun rather than really erotic. Indeed, compared with the sort of poorly produced showcases for porn magazine models, with their threadbare production values and non-existent direction and scripts, which came to dominate the British porn market from the late 1970s, Long's output looks incredibly classy.

Bearing in mind the contribution to British cinema that Long made, (not least, in terms of the amount of money his films made in their day), is it too much to hope that we'll see a season of his movies on TV as a tribute? Damn it, back in the good old days Channel 5 used to show them every Friday night. However, there remains a tremendous snobbery in this country toward some sectors of our film industry. Whilst some genres, most notably Gothic horror and the Carry On series, have been critically rehabilitated in recent years to the extent that it is considered OK to say that you enjoyed Plague of the Zombies in a non-ironic way, the further reaches of exploitation still remain beyond the pale. The fact that, back in the seventies, sex comedies were, to all intents and purposes, the British film industry, providing gainful employment to countless actors and technicians, is now conveniently swept under the carpet. The reality is that these films were mainstream back then, attracting huge paying audiences and the financial backing of major studios like Columbia. But nowadays we have to accept that none of that ever happened - the British film industry in the 1970s was really all about arty, worthy but shite movies that nobody ever watched.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fever Dreams

Perhaps I should rename this blog 'Flu Diary', as the fall-out from the weekend's bout of the evil virus continues. If nothing else, my masterplan yesterday of drinking a pint and a half of beer before going to bed seems to have worked. You see, I'm convinced that they key to beating 'flu is to 'break the fever' and, whilst I'd woken up bathed in sweat a few times over the weekend, I'd just ended up feeling dehydrated and full of flu. I therefore reasoned that if I could avoid the the dehydration, I'd have a better chance of breaking the fever - hence the idea of taking on additional liquids to sweat out overnight. (You understand that I have no scientific evidence whatsoever to support any of these beliefs). Anyway, it seemed to work as I woke up several times smothered in sweat last night, but come morning I felt neither dehydrated nor as full of flu as before. Indeed, the main symptom I had left was an aching ribcage and raw throat as a result of all the coughing I'd done. A situation which reduced my voice to a croak.

But getting to the point, sort of, during the course of last night I experience some truly weird fever dreams. Waking up tangled in sweat-soaked sheets with strange memories of being Canada, (yes that's right, I dreamt I was Canada), and having been involved in some kind of tectonic shifting around, is not an experience I want to repeat. (And why Canada? I've never been there in my life or have any connection with the land of the maple leaf). That said, on Sunday afternoon when the 'flu was at its worst and I was lying on my sofa aimlessly flicking through the TV channels, I might have been forgiven for thinking that I was in the grip of a particularly delirious fever dream as stumbled across one of those episodes of Murder, She Wrote supposedly set in the UK, (you know, the one's where Angela Lansbury pretends to be Jessica Fletcher's English cousin, for which she bizarrely, bearing in mind she's a Brit, affects a bad mockney accent). I have a profound love for episodes of 1970s and 1980s US TV series which combine some judiciously deployed stock footage (a routemaster bus to denote we're in London, for instance), a sprinkling of ex-pat actors, (serial Dr Watson impersonator Bernard Fox being a great favourite), and sunny California locations pretending to be in rural England. (Of course, years later, Mike Myers would successfully spoof these conventions in Austin Powers films).

This episode was particularly demented, featuring Anthony Newley as a Scotland Yard Inspector, Richard Johnson (presumably in between Italian 'video nasties' - scarily, he once had a career: he could have been James Bond), as the victim and that girl from Frasier. Whilst the stock footage was actually quite well-matched, the studio interiors, especially the pubs, looked like something left over from a 1930s horror movie. Which they probably were. Best of all was Newley's office, which appeared simply to be a quick redress of the office occupied by DA's or Sheriff's in regular episodes. Far too grand for a mere Inspector! But they got the usual two things wrong - light levels and telephones. Trust me, even on the brightest, hottest Summer's days, the sunshine in the UK is never as bright as it appears in California. Moreover, back in the days when all phones had rotary dials and there was only one ring tone for a landline - a bell - British and US phones used distinctly different chimes, something rarely reflected in US TV shows and films. But hey, they were made primarily for a US audience who, in the 1970s, were unlikely to have visited the UK, (unless doing military service). And when all is said and done, UK films and TV programmes that tried to recreate a US setting in the UK at this time were equally hilarious. Indeed, in this respect I'd enthusiastically recommend the 1959 science fiction horror movie First Man Into Space - its attempt to recreate New Mexico in Surrey is astounding. Unfortunately, the US distributors apparently didn't bother watching it, as they seemed to assume it had been shot on location and premiered the film in Albuquerque. It wasn't well received.


Monday, September 10, 2012

New Season?

So there you have it - Summer's over. I know this for a fact because I went back to work today and the weather, very appropriately, turned horrible. Which, actually, I'm quite pleased at. There's nothing worse than returning to work after a holiday and finding the sun still beating down. Unfortunately, I was also down with a bout of 'flu over the weekend and still feel terrible. I thought I was getting better as the day went on, but now I'm back at home I'm running a temperature and everything I try to eat tastes like cardboard. Will it never end? Anyway, I was going to take the opportunity to usher in a 'new season' here and at The Sleaze now that Autumn has decisively arrived. Unfortunately, all my creative plans have had to be put on hold whilst I battle this 'flu. Very frustrating.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Scenes From The Shore

Another holiday film - I shot this footage early last week, but have only just got around to editing it together. This is the same location as one of the castles from last year, but further down the shore line.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Tory Bastards Strike Again

One can only assume from David Cameron's recent Commons taunting of Ed Miliband for not being 'butch' enough in his relationship with the shadow chancellor, that he is attempting to make some kind of gay marriage analogy. You know - Miliband's the bitch, Balls is the butch. Apart from being childish, this reveals a disturbing degree of homophobia on the Prime Minister's part if he thinks that likening a working relationship to a gay relationship is demeaning. That said, it's sexist on any level, equating femininity with weakness. But none of this should be surprising bearing in mind Cameron's privileged public school background - he has clearly never encountered either real women or homosexual men. He'd probably be shocked to learn that there are also homosexual women.

But homophobia is very much 'in' after the cabinet reshuffle where, disturbingly, Chris Grayling, who supported the right of B&B owners to discriminate against gay guests, becoming Justice Secretary. A man with a homophobic record in charge of the department responsible for human rights and equality legislation? Was it coincidental that one of the junior Justice Ministers who left the department was openly gay? Then there's Theresa May, (who, incidentally replaced Grayling at the Tory Home Office brief after his pre-election faux pas), who has somehow kept her job as Home Secretary and apparently also has a history of comments that could be construed as homophobic. But what the heck, we also now have a climate change denier as Environment Secretary and an anti-abortion homeopathy (or, as I like to call it, quack science), enthusiast in charge the Health Department! Tory bastards strike again!


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Lost in the Woods

An eventful day which hasn't left me much time to think about a post. I spent part of the day lost in the woods, then later I was building Lego houses with my great nieces. They weren't in the woods, obviously. They were down at my mother's, which is where the house building took place. I have to say that my oldest great niece seems to have the makings of a property developer - she has a penchant for demolishing perfectly good Lego houses and building several more on the same base. Clearly, she's spent far too much time watching Homes Under The Hammer during the school holidays. Anyway, this post - I suppose I could always comment on Cameron's cabinet reshuffle. But really, what's the point? This government is so bereft of talent and in so much trouble that it is like playing musical deck chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

So, instead I'll give you a brief introduction to the world of Unmann-Wittering. To cut to the chase, Unmann-Wittering is the webmaster of a series of blogs I recently stumbled across and enjoyed. The blogs in question, Island of Terror, Mounds and Circles and This Is Not The Universe, are basically a celebration of the kind of pop culture trivia I revel in. Island of Terror seems to focus mainly on old British movies and TV series from the 1960s and 70s, whilst Mounds and Circles is a heady mix of Graham Green, Brit smut and seediness, whether represented by old paperbacks, films, TV series, post cards or art. The third site is less easy to summarise, other than to say that is a collection of interesting 'stuff'. It's probably easier if you just go and read it. So, there you have it, from wandering around the woods to Brit smut, via Lego houses. Just an average day.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Definitely Still Not a Football Blog

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is not a football blog. That said, on certain rare occasions I find myself moved to comment on the goings on at Tottenham Hotspur. Now, I'm not making any claims here to be a die hard Spurs fan. I don't have a season ticket, I don't spend rainy Saturday afternoons standing on the terraces cheering the Lilywhites on against the likes of QPR or Wolves. But I have been an armchair supporter for more years than I care to remember. Now, at Spurs, we like to pride ourselves that we play with a style and flair (the 'Spurs way') which is rare in English football. No long ball game for us, no crunching tackles and physicality, just an elegant passing game. Which is fair enough, but I've noticed that in recent times this pursuit of elegant football has become equated, in the minds of many fans, with having a continental coach. No English manager, they say, can possibly inspire the team to play the 'Spurs way'. I can't help bu feel that this has been fuelled by the success of supposedly sophisticated Frenchman Arsene Wenger over at Arsenal.

Consequently, we end up with the kind of snobbery on the part of fans toward managers who don't fit this mould: just look at the venom directed toward Harry Redknapp by certain sections of the fanbase during his tenure and their rejoicing when he was sacked. How awful, eh? Having some obviously working class wheeler dealer running our club! But far more significantly, our chairman seems to be gripped by this same delusion. He seems obsessed with the idea that Champions League success can only be achieved by having a continental manager - hence the replacement of 'Arry with Andre Villas-Boas. An interesting appointment bearing in mind that 'Arry had delivered two fourth and a fifth place league finishes over the past three seasons, whereas Villas-Boas had been sacked by Chelsea after barely half a season. Indeed, the unpalatable reality for both Chairman Levy and those fans who crave the continental touch, is that our most successful managers, not just in terms of trophies and league finishes, but also stylish and entertaining football, haven't been European maestros - Bill Nicholson, past his glory days but still winning trophies in the early seventies, no-nonsense Yorkshireman Keith Burkinshaw with back-to-back FA Cups and a UEFA Cup in the 1980s, Terry Venables (another wheeler dealer) with an FA Cup in the 1990s, Martin Jol with two fifth place finishes in the 2000s and most recently, 'Arry, with Champions League qualification. (OK, I know Martin Jol is Dutch, but he doesn't come over as a sophisticated continental manager so much as a thug).

In fact, some our worst runs have been under supposed continental geniuses: Christian Gross, Jaques Santini and Juande Ramos. Indeed, it was the failure of the latter that forced Levy to bring in 'Arry to bail us out. Which he did. spectacularly. But the problem was, no matter how successful 'Arry was, it was clear that Levy simply saw him as a stop-gap until the next continental footballing genius turned up to bedazzle the chairman with his talk of tactics and squad rotation. Martin Jol found himself in much the same situation, having been forced to step up to the plate after Santini did a runner. So, here we are again, with yet another continental footballing genius at the helm and another disappointing start following an underwhelming transfer window, in which we seemed to sell better players than we brought in. Already some fans are calling for Villas-Boas' head. I'm not so sure it's entirely his fault, despite his attempts to impose a 'system' on the team which had already failed during his time at Chelsea. In large part the problem is still Levy and those fans who clamour for these foreign managers, yet seem to think that simply appointing one will solve all our problems. The fact is that you also need to provide them with the players they need, but this is where Levy has been lacking over the past many seasons, with an erratic performance in the transfer market. But that's another post entirely...