Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Day of the Year

Here we are again, New Year's Eve, when we celebrate the passing of another year on an arbitrarily chosen date, (New Year was, until a couple of centuries ago, celebrated in March in the UK).  Still, I suppose the end of December is as good a time as any to mark the year's end.  So, how was 2012 for you?  For me, it was wet.  My abiding memory of this year will be rain.  Yeah, I know that lots of exciting stuff like the Jubilee and the Olympics took place here in the UK this year, but I didn't really experience them personally.  I did get soaking wet personally, though.  Indeed, there are times when I feel as if I spent a large part of the past year underwater.  Getting back to the aforementioned international events, although both were being staged here in the UK, from my perspective they might as well have been happening on the moon.  Whilst a lot was made of the fact that Jubilee-related events, like  street parties, would be happening at local level, the fact was that I didn't see any of these.  My experience of the Diamond Jubilee was watching that rain-sodden Thames regatta on TV.

The Olympics were the same.  Despite the fact that they were happening only forty miles or so up the road from me, (even closer in the case of the rowing events), I only experienced it via TV, just like people in the US, India and everywhere else in the world.  For most people in the UK the closest they got to experiencing the Olympics first hand was watching the Olympic torch being carried through their town.  (I even missed this, as I was working).  Of course, there's a pretty good chance that even if the Olympics had been happening in Crapchester, I would only have seen bits of it on TV, as I'm not really a sports fan.  That aside, maybe this all typifies what has been wrong with my life this past year - I've spent too much time on the sidelines, observing from a distance, rather than actually doing things.  So, will that change in 2013?  Probably not.  Increasingly these days, I just can't be arsed.  Which isn't to say I don't have New Year resolutions I intend acting on - I've detailed these in the latest editorial over at The Sleaze, if you are remotely interested.  All that remains now is to usher in the New Year with my customary plate of sausage rolls, beer, whiskey and some Italian exploitation movies on DVD.  Happy New Year.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Italian Job: Phantom of Death

Michael York looks bemused.  Donald Pleasance seems to be in the throes of a mental breakdown, running around the streets of Venice shouting 'Come out you bastard, show yourself' and 'I'll fucking kill you' at an unseen (and possibly non-existent) adversary.  It can only be another Italian exploitation film featuring slumming British actors.  Whilst it is no surprise to see Pleasance in this kind of Euro-thriller (he seemed to be a permanent fixture in the genre in the seventies and eighties), it's quite a jolt to see Michael York headlining Ruggero Deodato's Phantom of Death.  Surely he wasn't so desperate for work by 1988 that he was having to do this sort of stuff?  Mind you, the glory days of Hollywood and Logan's Run were more than a decade in the past and the Austin Powers movies were still a long way off.  Which isn't to say that Phantom of Death is a film that York should be ashamed to put on his CV.  In places it looks very classy, with high production values and excellent Venice locations.  It also has an interesting premise: a concert pianist at the height of his powers is suddenly diagnosed with a hereditary degenerative condition which will cause premature ageing.  He consequently goes on a killing spree.  Which is where the film's problems begin.  His motivation for the murders is never really clear.  His first victim is his doctor, whose killing he follows up with the theft of his medical records, implying that he is trying to cover up his condition.  However, subsequent victims are ex-girlfriends, implying some kind of revenge motivation.  Later on, as his condition begins to take its physical toll, York rants about how he despises the young because they still have their lives ahead of them, and the old because they've had their lives but still linger on.  Feeling cheated out of his own life, he vows to kill them all.

The situation is further complicated by his decision to taunt the detective in charge of the case (Pleasance), pushing him to the point of insanity with mocking phone calls which make it clear that York has the detective under surveillance.  As part of his campaign against the cop, he threatens Pleasance's daughter, but never actually seems to make any move against her, instead murdering a policewoman colleague of the Inspector.  The plot's lack of focus is reflected by the movie's lack of pace - the version I watched ran just under ninety minutes (longer versions apparently exist), but felt longer.  Crucially, it fails to give much sense of timescale - toward the end Pleasance mentions that he's been tracking the killer for a year, but this passage of time isn't clear from the on-screen events.  However, the biggest problem with the film is the main protagonist.  Whilst York's ageing make-up is quite convincing and his performance effective, the reality is that a wheezing and decrepit killer ultimately poses little threat and, despite the number of people he manages to kill (mainly in the early stages of his degeneration, to be fair), he just doesn't seem menacing.  Indeed, his decrepitude tends to dictate the film's slow pace in its latter stages.  All of which makes it sound as if I'm saying the film is a stinker.  But, to be fair, it has many virtues - some nice visuals, some gory giallo-style murders and the novelty of seeing Donald Pleasance in a sympathetic role, (he gives a performance and a half as the case drives him half insane).  Moreover, the film's musings on the way we perceive people on the basis of age and the way in which the elderly are treated by society, with our apparent obsession with youth, are interesting and unexpected in a giallo.  All-in-all, Phantom of Death is an interesting watch, but badly needs better pacing and plotting.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Between Two Years

We're in that strange time of the year again, becalmed between Christmas and New Year, watching the sands of time run out for the old year.  Of course, it is still Christmas, (which is, after all, meant to have twelve days, although we are usually short-changed these days), although the relentless focus upon Christmas Day itself nowadays makes the days afterwards seem like an anti-climax.  But I like this time of year, with its long lazy afternoons spent on the sofa (I spent part of today watching a Soviet-made Sherlock Holmes film).  It's an awkward time for the news media as well - newspapers fill their supplements full of trivia or end of year reviews to cover up the lack of news and, more significantly, their lack of staff over the festive period.  Even if there are big stories, the public is too preoccupied with celebrating Christmas to read about them.  Besides, withe the year rapidly drawing to a close, nobody wants to start anything new - we've all been conditioned to believe that New Year is the time for that. 

So, even intriguing sounding news stories go unremarked upon.  Only this morning I was lying in bed listening to the radio when I learned that a British expedition's attempts to drill down to a  frozen antarctic laked buried beneath three kilometres of ice, has been abandoned for technical reasons.  What better time to bury a story like this, eh?  Bearing in mind that the lake has been undisturbed for aeons, one has to wonder whether there's more to the story than this.  Maybe the scientists have actually penetrated the ice all the way down to the lake and discovered something that they want to keep secret.  A crashed flying saucer, perhaps?  Or a frozen prehistoric behemoth, like Godzilla, which they are worried might thaw out and destroy the world's cities?  Or could it be that they've discovered a whole lost world down there, populated by prehistoric creatures?  OK, the reality is most probably none of the above.  But even if it was, at this time of year I fear that the media would be unlikely to report it. 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eat, Drink, Make Merry

So, that was Christmas.  Did anyone see the Queen's broadcast?  As usual, I deliberately missed it.  However, I've heard that this year it was also available in 3-D.  Did she throw stuff at the screen to try and make you duck, like they used to do in those 1950s 3-D movies?  If I thought that sort of stuff was going to happen, I might have bothered watching, (even though I don't have a 3-D TV - who does?).  The thought of her slinging her crown jewels at the audience, or Prince Philip whipping out his favourite shotgun and blasting both barrels at the screen, is quite inspiring.  Perhaps Prince Harry could have re-enacted his naked pool playing.   But as I said, I didn't see the Queen's speech this Christmas.  It was one of several 'traditions' I gave a miss to this year.  Going to the pub on Christmas Eve, for instance.  Well, actually that isn't entirely true.  I  briefly slipped down to my local to see how crowded it was, to find it packed to the rafters with complete strangers.  There wasn't a single face I recognised.  To be fair, they could all have been regulars who simply go in there on different days or at different times than I do.  But the fact that in the brief time I was in the pub I was asked for directions to the toilets half a dozen times indicates that they were all once a year drinkers who only go out on Christmas Eve and that my local was the only pub they could get into.

Needless to say, I left without buying a drink.  Even if I had see anyone I knew in there, it would have been impossible to have any kind of conversation.  The truth was that I was looking for an excuse to stay at home.  This year all I've craved is a bit of peace and solitude after fifteen weeks of various ailments and and increasingly hellish workplace.  So far this Christmas, that's what I've achieved - lounging on my sofa, eating cheese, drinking ten year old single malt, watching old films and generally relaxing.  It's done me a power of good, as Major Bloodnok used to say on The Goon Show.  Taking time off from The Sleaze has also helped.  I feel sufficiently refreshed to think about writing an editorial, which might well have something to do with New Year's resolutions - I actually have one this year.  I'm also about to start watching another batch of Italian exploitation films which I'll duly report on here.  Indeed, watching some of those awful films showing on that shopping/film channel on Freeview I was talking about the other day, has inspired me to consider a new regular feature for next year: 'Forgotten Films'.  Not all of the films I plan to feature are bad (though quite a few will be), many will be movies which simply don't get TV showings these days and have thus faded from the public consciousness.  In the meantime, I'm going back to eating, drinking and making merry.  So should you.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012 at The Sleaze

I have to tell you that spending the early hours of Christmas Eve drinking whiskeys with beer chasers, (known, I believe, in the US as a 'boiler maker', unless old John Wayne movies have lied to me), and eating mince pies whilst watching The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour is one of the most mellowing experiences in the world.  The whole thing almost makes sense under such circumstances.  The reason I spent the early part of the Third Day of Winterval, (Christmas Eve to you), mellowing out like this was that I'd spent the larger part of the previous day feverishly putting together the Christmas edition of The Sleazecast.  By the time it was completed and posted, it was Christmas Eve. 

Actually, I have to say that things got really surreal after I'd finished watching The Beatles.  One of the Freeview shopping channels has recently taken to calling itself a movie channel, despite the fact that it still shows teleshopping programmes all day, except for a couple of hours between 3am and 5am, when it shows some obscure movies.  These are never the movies it has listed on the electronic programme guide.  Anyway, out of curiosity, I tuned in, to find them, to my delight, preceding the film with some 1960s vintage adverts.  The film itself turned out to be the incredibly obscure 1960s George Montgomery action movie From Hell to Borneo.  I lasted less than half an hour into the poorly-transferred, jerky and incredibly scratchy print.  It was like having an out of body experience, the whole thing was so disjointed.  But don't worry, I've recorded it and hope to bring you a full report in the near future!

So, here we are on Christmas Even evening.  I'm pleased to say that I'm feeling the most relaxed and festive than I have for many Christmases.  I think it helps that I have no unrealistic expectations of Christmas this time around.  Right now I'm happy and determined that nothing is going to spoil that.  I still haven't decided whether I'm even going to bother going out this evening, as I usually do on Christmas Eve.  I'm perfectly happy here on my sofa.  Besides, last year my local was packed to the rafters, making it impossible to have a conversation with the friends I met there, let alone get to the bar.  The truth is that I'm too old for that kind of shit.  Whatever I end up doing, I intend enjoying myself, be that in a hot sweaty pub or here on my sofa, watching old movies.  I hope you'll be doing the same,  A Happy Winterval to one and all.  I'll be back when it is all over!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sleazecast at Christmas

Well, here we are we with the Christmas edition of The Sleazecast.  It was touch and go whether or not I'd get this one completed on time, so many other things kept diverting my energies.  But, with more than a day to go, I finished it.  In the end I decided to drop one sequence I was working as it was just too complex to complete on time.  It would also have pushed the running time to over an hour.  Maybe next year. 

Anyway, this one features much less of me talking and far more of the re-edited archive material, original segments and the like.  Indeed, we feature several special guest stars, including Orson Welles, Monty Woolley, Lionel Barrymore, the Synthetic Voice Choir, Suzie Sleaze, Fred Allen and Ed Gardner.

But enough talk, on with the show (which runs around 44 minutes), which you can hear here:

The Sleazecast at Christmas

Alternatively, you can download it here in mp3 format. 

Here's a rough track listing:

1. Intro - Santa is dead!

2. Christmas without Santa - is it possible?  The Doc muses on the possibilities.

3. Better to give than receive - the philosophy Christmas gift giving at Duffy's Tavern.

4. Receiving the unwanted gift and what to do with it, advice from Monty Woolley and Fred Allen.

5. Seasonal overindulgence, advice from the 1940s.

6.  The tragedy of the Christmas turkey and perfect festive listening - more rudeness from Monty Woolley.

7.  Orson Welles introduces A Campbell's Soup Christmas Carol.

8. The condensed Christmas Carol - the Doc shows Charles Dickens how he should have done it.

9.  Festive News Headlines with Suzie Sleaze.

10.  Christmas in Tripoli, 1942.

11.  The replacement Santa - Monty Woolley dons the red coat.

12.  The Synthetic Voice Choir gives us their version of 'We Three Kings (Playground Lyrics)'.

13.  Wrap up - the Doc thanks everybody involved, especially himself.

14.  'We Three Kings', an early 1900s cylinder recording plays us out.

There you have it - the second annual Sleazecast Christmas Special.  I tried to make it as different as possible to last year's and, hopefully, it will provide you with some festive easy listening.  I'm pretty proud of it, the whole thing is much better than I expected.  The Sleazecast will be back next year.  Until then, have a good one!   

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Lights of Crapchester

It's time for our second annual look at the festive lights of Crapchester.  That's right, more grainy, fuzzy video footage shot from my car, guerrilla-style.  I'm afraid my pocket camcorder simply isn't suited to night shooting!  At least this year the weather was better.

I have to confess that last year, thanks to the poor weather conditions in Crapchester rendering much of my footage unuseable, I was forced to shoot large portions of it in the nearby town of Turdley.  However, this year the bulk of the footage was shot in Crapchester itself, with only a couple of shots filmed elsewhere.  Maybe by next Christmas I'll have a better camera...

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The First Day of Winterval

The beauty of Winterval is that, being a moveable feast, so to speak, one can choose to begin and end it whenever one pleases.  So I've decided that today is the first day of the all-inclusive Winter festival.  Mainly on account of the fact that I finished work for this year yesterday - I'm on leave for the next week and a half.  After going for a straight fifteen weeks without a day off (excepting weekends, obviously), I'm exhausted.  The last week, in particular, which was meant to have been a quiet week, coasting toward Christmas, turned into a trial thanks to forces beyond my control.  Anyway, getting back to this opening day of the Winterval festivities, I can't say that I've done anything particularly debauched today - just a bit of shopping.  I'm glad to see that the media have their annual 'Christmas misery' story early - every year they like to try and put a downer on proceedings with wall-to-wall coverage of natural disasters, famines, wars or just snow.  This year it is the fact that it is raining.  The torrential rain has allowed them to gleefully report on the extreme travel difficulties people are encountering as they try to get away for Christmas.  (It all makes me glad I'm staying at home).  There's nothing like the prospect of someone's Christmas being ruined to make the media happy.   


Friday, December 21, 2012

Fitted Up?

You see, my problem with these attempts to rehabilitate Andrew Mitchell in the wake of the revelation that a member of the public who apparently witnessed his altercation with police officers in Downing Street is actually another police officer, is that he doesn't actually deny swearing at the officers when they had the audacity not to let him cycle through the main gates.  The only argument is whether he called them 'plebs' or not.  Frankly, I think swearing at anyone, let alone public servants just trying to do their jobs, is pretty much unacceptable.  Of course, even without this 'witness', the actual police log of the incident still stands and hasn't been called into question.  So how, exactly, has this very unpleasant ex-Chief Bastard, sorry, Whip, been wronged?  He lost his temper and swore at someone who had the audacity not to allow him to do simply as he pleased, tried to brazen it out, was (quite rightly) publicly vilified and forced to resign.  Tough shit.  As a purely personal observation, from what I know of police officers, if they were to make up something that a government minister had allegedly said to them as an insult, 'pleb' wouldn't figure on the list of possibilities.  However, I can imagine that it is exactly the sort of thing a Tory bastard like Mitchell might say to someone he considers 'inferior'.

But none of this seems to matter to the media which, as it all too often does, is simply swallowing the Tory line that Mitchell is now the injured party and should be allowed to return to the cabinet.  All of which conveniently ignores their previous baying for his blood when they were uncritically swallowing the police line - which they also do all too often.  Most dismaying is the way some so-called satirists and comedians are also now changing their line on the issue, using the supposed injustice to Mitchell to have a go at the police instead.  For God's sake grow some balls!  Have the courage to stick to your original comic position!  But we really shouldn't be surprised as all too many of them are really spineless apologists for the establishment.  The fact is that we should be praising the police - they've obviously learned the lessons of things like the Stephen Lawrence case.  Harassing and fitting up wealthy white Tory bastards is infinitely preferable to doing it to the poor and ethnic minorities.  Not that they did fit him up.  They didn't need to - he did that himself when he decided to behave like an arsehole.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ho, ho, ho

"Get the fuck away from me, you sick fat child molesting bastard!" is what I should have said when some leery looking git in an ill-fitting Santa suit and grubby-looking fake beard said 'Merry Christmas' to me as I was minding my own business walking through Crapchester town centre earlier this evening.  I could have followed it up with: "You're no better than Jimmy Savile, you bastard!  You invented this whole Christmas thing as an excuse to get kiddies to sit on your lap and to creep into their bedrooms at night, didn't you?  Think of all the children you traumatised!  In fact, I think I'm just recalling a long-suppressed incident from forty years ago which I've never ever mentioned to anyone before - just like Jimmy Savile again!"  But I didn't.  Partly because he was accompanied by a pretty husky looking elf and I didn't want any trouble.  She could easily have kicked the shit out of me.

Apparently this red-coated bastard going around giving out unsolicited seasonal greetings was Crapchester's official Santa Claus.  Jesus!  We really are all doomed if he's the best they can come up with!  Then again, I suppose he's an apt seasonal symbol for this town: slovenly and ragged around the edges.  As if that encounter wasn't bad enough, when I was up at Sainsbury's just now - buying my Christmas beer supplies - I had to run the gauntlet of a bloody choir singing carols.  Who the bloody hell do they think they are, eh?  Anybody would think it was bloody Christmas.  Anyway, they'd thankfully gone by the time I came out, laden down with booze.  I don't know why, but I'd just have felt guilty if I'd had to walk past a choir whilst carrying nothing but beer.  Perhaps that's down to some deep repressed trauma...

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nuts in December

One of the great mysteries of Christmas, as far as I'm concerned, is the obsession with nuts.  Way back, in the far off says of the 1970s, I recall that everybody, every Christmas, had nuts in a bowl.  It was the only time of year that anybody would have the bloody things in the house and actually try to eat them.  When I say nuts, I don't mean peanuts or cashew nuts bought in neat packages from the supermarket, (and there was only one variety of peanuts - ready salted - in those days).  Oh no.  These were Brazil nuts, hazel nuts and walnuts - which were bought in plastic net bags from the supermarket.  As I mentioned before, once in the house, they were transferred to a bowl, where people would take them whilst watching Christmas TV and eat them,  Except that before they could eat them, they had to crack the bloody things open.  Which required the use of the set of cheap nutcrackers every home seemed to be equipped with in those days. 

Inevitably, of course, the nutcrackers wouldn't be up to the job - indeed, sometimes they would break, rather than the nutshell - and people would have to find alternative means of cracking their nuts.  Whilst hammers and pliers were popular alternatives other, less conventional, means were also employed.  One of my brothers once put a walnut under the leg of a chair, then jumped on the chair, in order to crack the nut.  Of course, the chair broke and the walnut remained intact.  Anyway, I've never got to the bottom of the business of eating nuts at Christmas.  Perhaps it had something to do with the war and rationing.  Whatever the reason, the tradition seems to have died out, along with buying a box pressed dates for the festive season, (those date boxes made great toy boats).  I had a look in the supermarket earlier and could find no trace of any bags of mixed nuts, let alone boxes of pressed dates.  Another Christmas tradition gone...

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Carol on Downing Street

Is Nick Clegg Marley's ghost?  I only ask because I'm sincerely hoping that we're about to see a re-enactment of Dickens' Christmas Carol on Downing Street, with David Cameron being visited by three terrifying spirits on Christmas night, whose intervention shock him into mending his evil ways to the extent that he stops persecuting the poor.  Now, I know that you are going to say that Cameron is regularly visited by at least three hideous and scary spirits in the form of bonkers Education Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chancellor George Osborne.  At every cabinet meeting, in fact.  But let's entertain the idea, the comic conceit, if you like, of Cameron as Scrooge.  Clegg's attempts to distance himself, in policy terms, from his Tory coalition partners, surely casts him firmly in the role of Marley's ghost - Marley having been Scrooge's business partner who, from beyond the grave, issues Scrooge with a dire warning of his fate if he doesn't mend his ways, and warns him of the impending visit of the spirits.

Of course, Clegg could be cast as Bob Cratchitt, Scrooge's put upon - but spineless - employee.  Which would probably make Vince Cable Tiny Tim, Bob's crippled and sickly son.  But I think I'll stick to Clegg as Marley and cast the UK itself as Cratchitt, with the economy as Tiny Tim.  Anyway, getting back to the main point, which of the terrifying trio of ministers represents which spirit?  Well, I suppose Gove would have to be the spirit of Christmas Past - he's always looking backwards in educational terms (making state schools into charity cases and extolling the 'virtues' of a 'military education') and has single-handedly set education in the UK back by decades.  No doubt he would show Cameron the glories of the feudal era he seems to admire so much and will take him back to his glory days as a member of the Bullingdon Club.  But Cameron would doubtless also be reminded of what a spineless git he was back then - always making out sure he conveniently missed the restaurant wreckings and prostitute murders - not to mention the shame of the tax-avoidance schemes concocted by his father. 

As for the other two: well, I'm guessing that Theresa May would be the ghost of Christmas Present, showing Cameron the wonders of secret courts, private security companies and the like.  Not to mention the misery being caused by Dave's enthusiasm for 'austerity' for the poor and tax cuts for the rich.  Which leaves Osborne as the ghost of Christmas Future, cackling as he shows Dave the corpse of Tiny Tim and, finally, his own political obituary - 'one term premier'.  Sadly, I don't think that Christmas Day will dawn with a reformed Cameron waking up and instructing a lackey to 'take this huge package of welfare and social justice reforms round to everyone - but don't tell them who sent them'.  I sincerely doubt that any number of ghostly visitations would get Dave to mend his ways - the heartless bastard.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Very Bad Thing?

I think that in future years the disabled will look back on the 2012 London Paralympics as a very bad thing.  Now, I know this seems counter-intuitive, as the 2012 Games rank as the most popular and successful Paralympics ever, with extensive mainstream TV (well, Channel Four) coverage, sold out venues and widespread public recognition of the athletes, but I fear that the 'normalisation' of disability it engendered will have far-reaching consequences.  None of them good.  Particularly ominous was the praise heaped on our Paralympic medallists by David Cameron, lauding their extraordinary achievements in the face of disability.  You can just bet that, as the government's position in polls worsens and the Tories search desperately for new scapegoats, Paralympic success will be used as a stick with which to beat those on disability benefit.  "Look, if these people can play rugby in wheelchairs, sprint with artificial legs and win swimming golds with no legs, why aren't the rest of you getting off your arses and working?" he will doubtless ask, before labelling disabled people without Paralympic medals as 'shirkers'.

Now, you might want to dismiss this notion as being 'ludicrous', but, believe me, such a narrative is exactly the kind of double-think this government has successfully spun in the past to divert attention away from its own economic incompetence.  Let's not forget their earlier, partially successful, attempts to demonise those claiming disability benefits, before they decided that the poor and unemployed were easier targets.  Doubtless, that decision was at least partially the result of the 2012 Paralympics giving such a positive public image to the disabled and changing public opinion - the poor and unemployed don't have a sporting event to showcase the fact that they are human beings worthy of respect.  But just as the government is pursuing its project of implanting in the public consciousness the concepts of the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor, so they will eventually return their focus to the disabled and try to establish the concepts of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' disabled, with the Paralympians as the exemplar of the former.  Sadly, we are currently living through an era where success can fatally undermine your position.      

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Goodwill to None?

It's freezing cold, Google appears to have turned off the search traffic to everyone except their own properties and their corporate buddies like Amazon, (you can see the tumbleweed blowing through my sites), and as a consequence I'm too tired and pissed off to bother even attempting to post anything today.  Just a regular winter Thursday.  It doesn't even feel very seasonal, despite the increased occurrences of garish Christmas lights on people's houses, the biting cold and the frost which has made Crapchester look like Narnia for the past couple of days.  Maybe it is because I've spent most of the week alternately rushing around in search of Christmas presents and shivering.  Perhaps it just down to the marked lack of Christmas spirit being demonstrated in society at large.

I mean, just look at the government's benefit 'reform' proposals which, even by their low standards, are pretty despicable.  Even worse are the accompanying attempts to demonise the poor, with people on benefits being characterised as 'shirkers' rather than 'workers'.  George Osborne's sanctimonious rhetoric about how it isn't fair that 'hard working people' getting up for work early should have to see the still drawn curtains of their'shirking' neighbours represents a new low in the class war.  It is clearly ridiculous, when we are in the middle of a recession precipitated by Osborne's banker pals and perpetuated by his economic incompetence, to suggest that people have chosen to be unemployed. Quite obviously they are claiming benefits because they've lost their jobs and, thanks to Tory policies, insufficient new jobs are being created.  Oh, I know all about the supposed fall in the unemployment figures, but come on - most of those jobs are low-paid part time jobs, not substitutes for real work.  Sadly, it appears that there are some people who actually believe all this shit the Tories are spouting.  Fucking incredible - where's your seasonal spirit of goodwill, you moronic bastards?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas TV Shows They Should Make...

Just for a change, you'd think that this year the BBC's Christmas Day episode of Eastenders would feature the residents of Albert Square having a perfectly unremarkable Christmas, instead of the usual diet of murder, arson, adultery and general misery.  Couldn't we just gave an hour of scenes of the various characters eating turkey, snoring in front of the television all afternoon, putting up with that obscure cousin's bad jokes all day, getting pissed on cooking sherry?   If they needed any added drama they could always include the inevitable family argument over what to watch on TV in the afternoon, everyone being gassed by Great Auntie Gertie's farts or a blazing brandy-soaked Christmas pudding getting out of control and burning down the Queen Vic.  But instead it looks from the trailers as if we're going to get the usual stuff - Alfie looking mean, Derek running for his life. 

That's the thing about Christmas on TV - the seasonal programmes all feature people doing very un-Christmassy stuff.  I mean, there's lots of tinsel adorning the regular sets, but the characters just don't behave the way real people do at Christmas - having fights, sex, murdering each other, having horrendous accidents, fighting terrorists, saving the world from alien invasions. All of which leaves me feeling that I'm missing out.  Damn it, right now in Eastenders Alfie is organising a festive German market for the Square - who the fuck does that in reality?  Organising the right presents is beyond most of us.  Can't we just have Christmas TV where people do regular boring things?   I mean, instead of facing down Cybermen or stopping a spaceship shaped like the Titanic from crashing into Buckingham Palace, couldn't the Doctor just materialise his Tardis on a peaceful planet where they do nothing but perpetually celebrate Christmas in this year's Christmas episode of Doctor Who?  The dramatic tension could come from the fact that all ten of his previous incarnations have also landed there and he's forced to spend Christmas with himself.  The highlight of the episode could involve him pulling a cracker with one of his selves and not getting the plastic gift inside.  That's what we need: realistic Christmas telly.  

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Early One Morning...

Did you know that ITV4 shows episodes of Minder at six o'clock in the morning?  No, nether did I until I came down with a bout of nasal congestion so bad that I couldn't breath through my nose over the weekend.  Unable to sleep all night, I found myself on Sunday morning watching an episode involving Billy Connolly.  It was followed by an episode of The Professionals involving John Junkin and Nick Brimble - Google them if you aren't my age and recognise them as fixtures in 1970s and 1980s crime series, (actually, Junkin was also a prolific comedy script writer who even wrote for Morecombe and Wise for a while) - which I got halfway through before the congestion eased enough for me to go back to bed and try sleeping.  Whilst I was lying there, waiting for sleep to come, I heard it again.  The 'it' I refer to is the sound of a wheelie bin or bins being shifted around in the alley way running behind the terrace of houses I live on.  Now, I know that you will say that there's nothing unusual in that, but for the past few weeks I've heard someone moving bins around not just early in the morning, but often in the evening and even late at night.  And not always on or prior to refuse collection days.

Often the bin-shifting is followed by the sounds of wood being sawn, leaving me to imagine that someone is using two bins to rest timber on before sawing it into pieces.  As I can't be arsed to actually get up and go outside to see what's actually going on, I'm left to speculate as to what is actually going on in that alley.  I'd like to imagine that my neighbour is constructing something so secret that he can only work on it at times when he thinks nobody will see him: late at night and early in the morning.  Bearing in mind the time of year, I'd like to believe that this project is some kind of tableau featuring a nativity scene.  All that sawing is the sound of him constructing life-size wooden cut-outs of shepherds, wise men, mangers and Virgin Marys.  Perhaps that's why the sawing seems to have ceased - he's busy inside the house, painting them.  I live in hope that he will publicly unveil this fully illuminated tableau and that children will queue up to see it.  Maybe it will be erected in his back garden.  However, I'm fervently hoping that it will be mounted on his roof, for the whole of Crapchester to see.  Every evening now, when I come home from work, I look hopefully up at his roof, but so far I've been disappointed.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or maybe what I'm hearing is somebody cutting up fire wood...


Friday, December 07, 2012

The Week in Sleaze

So much has happened this week and I've failed to keep up with any of it - so here's a brief round-up of the highlights:

The Chancellor's Autumn Economic Statement: 'We're fucked'.  Yup.  That's about the size of it.  The economy continues to decline, heading now for a 'triple dip' recession, apparently. So 'Gorgeous' George Osborne is taking the obvious course of action: stick to exactly the same economic policy of 'slah and burn' which created the 'double dip' recession.  'There is no quick fix' he tells us.  We're not looking for a 'quick fix' George.  Just a 'fix'.

The latest fall-out from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal - Stuart Hall.  Is there no part of my childhood which isn't tainted by this horrible sordid business?  Was every flamboyant radio and/or TV presenter in the 1970s really a slavering sex fiend (allegedly)?  Who will be next?  Tony Hart?  Johnny Morris?  Shep the Blue Peter dog?  I must admit that I was more than mildly surprised to hear that Stuart Hall had allegedly molested young girls in the 1970s and 1980s.  For some reason I'd always thought that he was gay.  Still, it makes you think about It's a Knockout.  Until now I'd always fondly remembered it as a bit of harmless fun.  But in the light of the allegations against former presenter Stuart Hall, I've started thinking that those giant costumes the contestants used to wear whilst engaging in various 'whacky' challenges looked a bit like (literally) colossal perverts, with leering faces and outstretched groping hands as they staggered along the obstacle course...

The Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy - who gives a fuck?  Woman pregnant - since when has that been front page news?  Actually, the thing which dismayed me most about this story - and the endless speculation about when she would get pregnant that preceded it - is its assumption that a woman's only role in a relationship should be to function as some kind of baby factory.   The sub-text is depressingly clear: childless women are essentially worthless.  They've wasted their lives.  The addendum to this story - the suicide of the nurse who took the 'hilarious' prank call from Australian radio DJs pretending to be the Queen - is equally depressing.  Not so bloody hilarious now is it, you bastards?  Bet you aren't laughing now, eh?  I hate prank calls by radio DJs - they are always toe-curlingly unfunny and rely upon the humiliation of some unsuspecting member of the public for their 'hilarity'.  With any luck, this tragedy will spell the end for them.

There you have it: the week in sleaze, so to speak.  I know there are still loads of bits I've left out, but these are the parts which caught my interest.  So, in the immortal words of legendary wrestling commentator and porn film producer Kent Walton, have a good week, 'til next week, grapple fans!

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Price of a Free Press

What surprises me is that anyone still believes that we have a 'free press' in the first place.  Yet that's the rallying call the newspaper moguls and editors are using in the wake of the Leveson report, raising the spectre of a state-regulated press.  Even if that's not what Leveson is recommending.  Indeed, his proposals are modest indeed, recommending legislation only in order to give a new press regulatory body teeth, and balancing that with a proposal for 'freedom of the press' to be enshrined in the constitution and thereby guaranteed by government.  None of which would threaten the 'freedom of the press'.  Rather it would strengthen it.  But, as I noted at the beginning, this presupposes that we actually have a 'free press' here in the UK.  Which is questionable.  Let's face it, most of the UK's national newspapers are owned by a small number of individuals.  More to the point, its largest selling titles are effectively owned by one person: Murdoch.

Whilst I'm not saying that the likes of Murdoch use their titles to pursue their personal interests, there can be no doubt that his titles (and many other non-Murdoch paper) have a clear political agenda.  A clear right-wing establishment agenda which involves demonising immigrants, branding the poor and benefit claimants 'scroungers' and ridiculing anything that isn't white and middle class.  To be honest, with the outrageous bias shown by the overwhelming majority of our print press, I'm amazed that anyone other than the Tories ever win elections in the UK.  Quite how this constitutes a 'free press' I don't know.  Free from what?  Compassion?  Intelligence?  Imagination?  Radical thought?  Courage?  I would question why anyone would think our so-called 'free press' - in reality one of the most reactionary institutions in this country, apparently on a mission to stifle progress, free thought and innovation - worth preserving in its present form? 

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Still Being Evil

It's been a while since I moaned about Google and its continuing abuse of its dominant position in the internet search business.  But now I have two fronts to attack them on: not only are they attempting to force smaller, independent sites off of the web by destroying their traffic, but the bastards are also avoiding paying taxes in the UK through the ruse of Google UK being a Luxembourg (or some such place) registered company (or something like that).  If ever proof were needed that they are greedy, evil corporate bastards, there it is.  So come on Google, not only do some of us want our web traffic back, but we'd also like you to pay your fucking tax bill.  The trouble is that I don't see either one of these things happening any time soon.  Google will continue to brazen it out with individual governments and organisations like the EU for as long as possible, spinning it usual bullshit about how wonderful they are and how they are benefiting mankind with their innovations and so on.  And many will continue to buy this crap, refusing to recognise that Google has become just another corporate behemoth, interested only in serving the interests of its shareholders - not the wider community - by squeezing every last cent of profit from its increasingly rigged search results.  (The latter, of course, now favour other big brands and Google's own web subsidiaries, rather than actually serving up results relevant to search queries).

Inevitably, of course, another search source will eventually appear on the web, providing what seem to be better, more relevant, search results and its popularity will increase as word-of-mouth spreads.  Eventually it will eclipse Google's search engine. It's the way things happen on the web.  It's how Google grew.  Because Google has such a dominant position in search, this could take years to happen, (pre-Google, there were a number of competing search engines, with no completely dominant).  But it will happen.  Simultaneously, Google's dominance and activities will attract more and more investigations by the EU, the US government and other bodies, which will also slowly erode its position.  But again, this could take many years.  In the meantime, those of us struggling to maintain any traffic to our non-commerce sites,(Google doesn't really see the point of anything that doesn't make money), will, I fear, find it ever more dispiriting and many will give up.  Really, what's the point of creating new content if Google won't let anybody find it through their search results, no matter how relevant it might be to specific queries?  But don't worry - they aren't evil.  Just corporate bastards.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Echoes of Christmas Past

'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' and 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' were playing in Sainsbury's this evening whilst I was doing my shopping.  After the day I'd had at work, they were strangely far less annoying than I'd normally find them.  They were also somewhat symbolic of the fact that, as I predicted last time, the start of December has seen Christmas kick off in earnest.  Driving around this afternoon, I came across several full-on external Christmas light displays in gardens - raising the possibility of another film chronicling the festive lights of Crapchester to supplement last year's effort.  I must admit that Christmas has been on my mind quite a bit over the past few days.  Not because of any new found enthusiasm for the season of goodwill, but because I'm sourcing material for the planned Christmas edition of the Sleazecast.  The initial phase of this had me trawling through the sound archives at the Internet Archive in search of anything yuletide related.  Believe me, there's a lot of it and immersing yourself in it for a couple of days makes one oddly nostalgic for Christmases past.

Anyway, I now have a repository of 'stuff', including bits of music, radio documentaries, variety programmes and old sitcoms, which I will spend the next few weeks (when I have time) shredding, so as to provide 'filler' for the episode.  These will be combined with the usual linking narrative and features such as Suzie Sleaze's news headlines and 'dramatisations' of old stories from The Sleaze.  I'm hoping to achieve a better integration of the material this time around, providing a template, hopefully, for the next batch of Sleazecasts I'm planning for next year.  Getting back to the present planned production, I'm aiming for some sort of investigation into the meaning of Christmas, aided by the audio clips.  It will probably turn out to be a disaster, but you never know.  Somebody out there downloads and presumably listens to the previous Sleazecasts.  God knows who they are, but I'm grateful to them!   Still, getting back to that nostalgia for Christmases past listening to the raw material evoked, as ever I'm left wondering whether those wonderful family Christmases around the fire, pulling crackers, eating walnuts and watching Morecambe and Wise on the telly ever really existed.  Or whether they are my memory conflating various vague childhood memories into a non-existent perfect Christmas.  Certainly, it all seemed so much simpler back then, which, I'm sure also made it more enjoyable as there seemed to be less pressure from advertisers, retailers and the media to create some kind of 'perfect Christmas'.  Like they say, the past is another country...

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