Having stuck it to the man yesterday by refusing to fill up my petrol tank despite it being less than half full, I'm now faced with trying to find a petrol station which: a) has fuel and; b) doesn't have idiots queueing round the block, as my fuel gauge is now down to the red. I'm hoping that things will have calmed down by tomorrow, although, despite an announcement from Unite that would be no strikes by fuel tanker drivers over Easter, the morons were still going mad filling up their cars at the few filling stations in Crapchester that still had fuel after yesterday's madness. It's all left me feeling exhausted. That and the constant bot attacks on The Sleaze that I had to spend part of yesterday evening dealing with - these attacks are part of web-wide attempts to exploit a security weakness in a popular image sizing plug in used on many Wordpress sites. Despite the fact that I don't use this plug in, the attacks keep coming. Whilst they can't actually harm the site, at times they become so intense that they threaten to swamp the server and also make the site seem sluggish and unresponsive to genuine visitors. Another side effect is that they render the server logs useless as a measure of genuine traffic, as they become inflated with these bots' visits.
Whilst this latest wave of attacks seems to have subsided, I'm now seriously considering using a service like Cloudflare to try and neutralise the effects of any future attacks. A lot of site owners who have used it seem to have had positive results and it is free, so it's worth a try. Apart from trialling Cloudflare (or something similar), I'm hoping to make some more progress on the next Sleazecast this weekend. I had hoped to get this one up before the end of March, but I've had a lot of distractions, so early April is more realistic. I've almost finished editing a couple of the inserts and hope to get the final one recorded tomorrow. Then it is just a case of recording my spoken bits and putting it all together. I'm also aiming for a more manageable running time of 30-35 minutes this time. The other thing I'm hoping to do is finish the story I was writing for The Sleaze which was originally slated for last week, but which instead I decided to hold over for next week. The reasons for this are simple - my output rate, both here and on The Sleaze, has been significantly higher than usual since last year's switch to the new format. However, it has had no effect on traffic, so I've decided to ease up a bit, particularly in view of the impending Easter holidays, when I'll be taking some time off work. So, there you have it, another rambling Friday night round up! Enjoy the weekend folks!
Now, I know I said that I would confine myself to only one political rant a week and that I've already met my allowance for this week, but- tough! I'm going to indulge in another one! Ha! It's my bloody blog and I can make and break the rules as I please. How do you like them apples, eh? Anyway, getting to the point, not only has this pitiful excuse for a government shown itself as utterly venal and corrupt this week, but now it has underlined its utter incompetence and inability to manage the simplest of situations. I refer, of course, to the current panic it has whipped up with regard to the possible strike by fuel tanker drivers. Thanks to the government's idiotic advice to people to fill up their cars in advance, despite no strike dates having been set, we are now teetering on the brink of a crisis, with petrol stations running out of fuel and road congestion as idiots queue for miles at filling stations. As someone who was delayed getting home tonight because of such congestion, I have one thing to say to any of you who were queuing up to panic buy petrol or diesel: you are fucking morons.
Personally, I'm refusing to be panicked by these aresholes. My fuel gauge dropped below halfway today and do you know what I did? That's right, I kept on driving. Now it is reading slightly over a quarter full. And I'm still not panicking. I'm also not filling up cans of petrol and storing them under my house. Actually, I would urge people to fill up cans of petrol - you'll need them for making firebombs once the revolution gets under way. After all, if this doesn't prove the need to remove these bastards from power, I don't know what does. Really, we need to start getting out onto those streets and making our feelings known. The time for being reasonable is long over and it is clear that change isn't going to come from above. We have to take matters into our own hands. I know that I've upset people at work and in the pub with my declarations that I'll only be satisfied when I see David Cameron and George Osborne's heads bouncing down the steps of parliament, but I stand by my belief that the French revolutionaries had the right idea: execute the entire ruling elite. Although rather than a guillotine, I'd be inclined to shoot them all. Believe me, after the revolution, I'll be lining the bastards up against the wall and shooting them. Indeed, that will be one of my first job creation schemes - building enough walls to line all those Tories, bankers and CBI members up against. They say that construction is the key to kickstarting the economy, after all.
(Once again, as you never know who reads these things - this is satire, I'm not actually inciting anyone to make or throw firebombs, or to decapitate members of the cabinet. Even if they are corrupt incompetent bastards).
Ha! Didn't I tell you they were corrupt bastards, eh? Now there's unequivocal proof - pay the Tories half a million quid and you don't just get to meet the likes of Cameron and Osborne, but you get the chance to influence policy as well. Don't worry if your moolah comes from an overseas company, which can't legally make donations to a UK political party, they have a 'compliance unit' that can launder the cash for you. This is damning stuff. Yet, does anyone except the Tories' top fundraiser Peter Cruddas, the man caught on camera soliciting the money, resign? Are there calls for Cameron and his cronies to resign? No. Instead we get people actually trying to defend the corrupt Tory bastards! Apparently Labour were just as bad when in power, the fact that they accept funds from the Unions make them just as corrupt, etc., etc. Actually, whatever the last Labour government did or didn't do is irrelevant. Besides, they weren't caught on film soliciting illegal donations. But the Tories are in power now and they were caught at it. Oh, and Labour's Union funding is actually quite different - taking open and above board donations from the very organisations which originally founded the party as a political platform to promote workers' rights is quite different to taking bribes from dodgy businessmen who will benefit directly from tax changes and privatisations.
Another key issue here is the fact that Cameron admits to meeting these donors (perfectly innocently, he says) at dinners held in his Downing Street flat and Chequers. Now, as both of those properties are actually Crown property and the functions were purely party political fundraisers, isn't that an abuse of his position and government assets? But hey, perhaps I'm being too harsh? After all, if we're to believe the Tory Party Chairman, the despicable Michael Fallon, (I actually shout 'cunt' repeatedly at the TV every time he appears - I've been banned from Comet for life as a result), Peter Cruddas was barely known to him and wasn't a very important part of the party machine at all, definitely not a key player with links to the PM. Of course not. He was only the party treasurer and chief fundraiser, after all. We've heard similar shit from the unspeakable Francis Maude, whilst Cameron's initial reaction was to arrogantly dismiss it all and start going on about how this government had inherited billions of pounds worth of deficit, etc., etc. How that is relevant to allowing wealthy donors to dictate policy isn't clear. Unless, that is, he's planning to use these donations to pay off the deficit? If nothing else, this corruption scandal has shown us a way ahead for combating this government's disgraceful policies. It seems I've been barking up the wrong tree with my calls for mass civil disobedience and citizen uprisings to seize back power. None of this is necessary - all we need to do is bribe the corrupt bastards. So, I'm going to start doing the lottery again, and when I win the jackpot I'll be making a big donation to the Tory party and demanding my meeting with Dave. During which I'll lay it out for him - if he wants to keep getting my money, I want socialism in return! Hell, if we're going to be a banana republic, then we might as well all play by the same rules.
I'm a sucker for the lost world type of film, where unlikely bands of adventurers stumble across even unlikelier hidden valleys and plateaus full of dinosaurs and the like. Most are dreadful. Which, obviously, is part of their charm. This weekend I was able to catch up with one that I only vaguely remember seeing on TV as a child and which I've been unable to catch up with subsequently, with no UK DVD release no TV screenings in decades. However, last week I found that someone had uploaded the whole film (presumably from the US DVD release - the picture quality is excellent) onto YouTube. Quite clearly, such uploads of copyrighted material are illegal and I don't condone it. That said, it's the uploader at fault and as I'm only watching it online and not downloading it, I'm not actually breaking the law, so I had no problems watching the film. (To be honest, I'm amazed that it has been up on YouTube since last October. As the film is still copyright to Universal, I'm very surprised that they haven't got YouTube to take it down. I've only included the non-copyrighted trailer here, so as not to be seen to be encouraging illegal uploads to YouTube).
Shot in gleaming black and white, The Land Unknown is typical of Universal's 1950s output - not quite an A feature but somewhat better budgeted and staged than most B movies, I'm guessing it went out as the lower part of a double bill back in 1957. Also, like many science fiction and horror flicks of the time, it takes a recent scientific development as a jumping off point in order to give the impression of topicality and credibility. In this case it is the 1947 Byrd expedition to the South Pole, which had discovered, amongst other things, a warm water lake. The film posits an entire tropical valley , unchanged since prehistoric times, hidden in the ice. Obviously, the main attraction of all films of this genre is the promise of dinosaurs and other prehistoric monsters. Back in 1957 there were three main ways you could depict dinosaurs: stop motion animation, photographically enlarged lizards with fins and horns stuck on them, and men in suits. Not surprisingly, The Land Unknown eschews the first option (whilst the most effective special effect available at the time, stop motion animation is expensive and time-consuming), opting instead for a combination of the other two types of effect.
I have to say that the Tyrannosaurus is positively the worst man-in-a-suit dinosaurs I've ever seen, completely unconvincing on every level. The photographically enlarged lizards are also disappointing, featuring none of the glued on horns, spikes and frills you usually see in this kind of film. Their use is also pretty disturbing, as the fight between two of them looks unpleasantly real, with the loser appearing to be in genuine pain. That said, I can't deny that the matte work used to combine all of these dinosaurs with the actors is actually of quite a high standard. But the film still has something up its sleeve - a life size mechanical creature! Nearly twenty years before Dino di Laurentis was to claim the use of a life size mechanical gorilla for his King Kong remake, (actually, save for one brief scene, Kong is actually a man in a gorilla suit in the finished movie), The Land Unknown features a mechanical elasmosaurus (a type of plesiosaur) which actually works! After a fashion, that is. You only see the head, neck and front two flippers, but they all move, and the creature regularly submerges and resurfaces in the lake, as well as chasing a boat. Make no mistake, it is no way realistic, but it is quite a feat of mechanical engineering!
But the question is, of course, whether the film was entertaining on any level? Well, if you forget the wooden acting by a cast of second string contract performers, the dreadful script and the large amounts of stock footage used to represent the Antarctic expedition, then The Land Unknown is actually quite good fun. At only 78 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome and it does feature a truly barmy plot development part way through with the discovery of an insane survivor of a previous expedition who wants to kidnap the only female member of the current expedition. He even tries to swap her for some spare parts for the heroes' helicopter. Interestingly, it doesn't all end with a volcanic eruption which destroys the lost world, implying that the studio might have had hopes for a sequel. At the end of the day, it's a damn sight more entertaining that the far more expensive (and colour) remake of Conan Doyle's The Lost World, made by Irwin Allen three years later.
Actually, I realise now that as a child I confused these two films, convincing myself that I'd seen a black and white version of the Irwin Allen production. Re watching Land Unknown the reasons for that confusion are clear: both films feature the heroes reaching the lost world by helicopter, both have lizards pretending to be dinosaurs, a token female character, a half mad survivor of a previous expedition and a climax featuring an aquatic monster. Both also include carnivorous plants that seem to like groping women with their tendrils. However, despite the starrier cast, the more numerous fake dinosaurs (complete with horns, etc.) and colour photography, The Lost World is an overlong bore - and doesn't have that magnificent mechanical elasmosaurus!
I think I need to clarify something I was talking about a couple posts ago. When I made observation that the series of podcasts I'd been listening to during my last weekend obsession were light on actual content, I didn't mean to sound as if I was being critical. The fact is that the episodes I listened to were quite enjoyable, albeit inconsequential. However, I should add that this inconsequentiality was intentional on the part of the guy making the podcasts. That said, it does highlight a problem that many podcasters face - having made the decision to produce a podcast, what the Hell do you fill it with? What should it be 'about'? Actually, it was the same with websites in the early days of the web - people set lots of them up and many looked really good, but more often than not, it was painfully obvious that their creators then had little idea what to 'do' with them.
Luckily, I knew what The Sleaze was going to be about from the outset and I had plenty of material to set it up with, mainly salvaged from its brief existence as a low circulation underground print publication. But The Sleazecast was different - when I started I didn't have a clue as to what the format should be, let alone content. And it shows in the first six I put together - it's mainly just me rambling on monotonously, usually with some vague theme linking the segments of talk. It was after listening to other people's podcasts I enjoyed (particularly PQ Ribber's Bug Out) I finally decided that The Sleazecast should reflect my fascination with the more esoteric corners of popular culture. I also decided that there should be less chat from me and what there was should be broken up by examples of the pop culture I loved. All of which, I hope, is reflected in the new format I recently piloted here with the seventh Sleazecast. But getting back to my original point, there's no reason why being 'lightweight' in content terms should prevent a podcast, or website, for that matter, from being enjoyable. Indeed, some try so hard to fill themselves with content that is 'significant' and 'meaningful', that they lose sight of the fact that they are meant to be, in some way, entertaining.
It's Thursday and still no sign of my weekly political rant. I bet you were just beginning to relax, thinking that I was going to skip it this week. I should coco! I've just been biding my time until after the budget - and if Osborne's latest demonstration of his economic illiteracy isn't enough to convince you of this inexcusable government's true intentions, then all hope is lost. I mean, he cuts the top rate of tax, benefiting only millionaires. whilst continuing to slash public spending on services for the poorest, robs pensioners of their tax breaks, all against a background of destroying the NHS - how could he be more blatant? If that doesn't convince you, what about the reports that the cabinet were banging the table with glee when the new Health Bill became law? The very fact they were jubilant at the passage of an act whose sole purpose is to allow Dave's private sector friends to get their noses into the potentially hugely profitable NHS trough, so that they can rip off taxpayers when they are at their most vulnerable in order to boost their profits, should tell you everything about these bastards.
Just remember, when the country is going down in flames - what am I talking about, when, we are going down in flames already - I warned you what would happen! I seem to remember from my days studying history that the main criticism the Nazis levelled at western democracy was that it was a corrupt system run by the wealthy for their own benefit. Sound familiar? I don't know what's worse - the fact that this government is mired in corruption and obviously being run for the benefit of wealth asset strippers, or the fact that they don't seem to care who knows it. That's the most disturbing thing about the government's mismanagement they don't seem bothered by the fact that it is creating an environment which allows extremist political philosophies like fascism to breed. Not, of course, that you'll see Dave slipping on the swastika armband. I suspect that we'll get the dictator we deserve - some fat dandy who acts like a buffoon, but who is actually a vicious right wing bastard. Trust me, just when it looks as if we're on the brink of collapse, Il Duce Boris Johnson will step up to save us, deposing Dave, suspending democracy and creating a dictatorship of national unity. So, when you've got the oaf in your cross hairs and are wondering whether you can go through with squeezing that trigger, just remember that I warned you!
I get these obsessions. Have I ever mentioned that before? Anyway, something catches my interest and I then focus upon it intensely, until I become an expert. Or lose interest. These obsessions can last for months, years, decades even. Or just a few days. I had one of the latter type over the weekend, (two, actually, if you include Sunday's Mantan Moreland marathon). To cut to the chase, on Friday, whilst searching for material for the next Sleazecast, I stumbled across someone else's podcast, with a similar name. Being an obsessive git, within minutes I'd located the podcaster's homepage and had listened to several of his programmes. The most striking thing about them was their level of professionalism in terms of production values and editing. Plus, the guy doing them has a terrific 'radio' voice, far better than mine. Indeed, some of the later ones sounded like very slick local radio broadcasts - he has that kind of voice. That said, the problem with them was, to be frank, a lack of any really substantive content. Clearly, he had the means to produce a podcast, but having made the decision to start recording them, realised he didn't have a clue what they should be about. Consequently, they consist of bits of trivia involving his friends, sandwiched between well produced idents and links. This lack of focus had obviously become a problem as, since he started the podcasts in 2005, their frequency had declined, with the last being dated last Summer. Or so I assumed.
But obviously, with my determination to become an instant 'expert' on these podcasts, I couldn't leave it there. Reading the site and listening to the podcasts wasn't enough. I had to know more - about their creator, the context in which they were produced and exactly why they had become less frequent. Which is where social networking comes into its own - from the website I was able to read his Twitter feed and Facebook pages, both of which revealed a wealth of information. First off, it confirmed the guy was still alive. However, his Twitter feed revealed that he's spent several weeks in hospital before Christmas as a result of a prolapsed disc. Following surgery, he was now recuperating at home in Berkshire, where he'd recently moved. Which explained the lack of recent podcasting activity. Older Tweets indicated that, for the past couple of years, he'd been going abroad for work quite frequently, possibly explaining the declining frequency of his podcasts. Looking at some of the other Twitter accounts he linked to allowed me to find out that he worked for an educational charity with various projects in the developing world - hence the overseas trips. I also found that he ran his own business on the side, producing corporate podcasts for clients - which explained the level of professionalism displayed by his podcasts. By the end of the weekend I knew which football team he supported, the town he'd been born in, his birthday and the names and professions of several of his friends. At which point, I lost interest.
Now, whilst I know that this looks like borderline stalking on my part, the real point I'm trying to make is how much information about themselves people put on line, and just how easy it is to access it. Bear in mind also, that most of the personal information I gleaned came from Twitter - the social networking tool that asks for the least personal information from its users. Yet they still give out these details willingly! Personally, I've never understood this urge to 'share' your entire life with complete strangers via social networking sites. For one thing, most lives are incredibly dull and of no possible interest to me. For another, it's potentially dangerous. Trust me, being anti social has its advantages! The fact is that I do 'share' stuff, in the sense that I publish my creative activities here and on The Sleaze. Frankly, that's more than enough. You people don't need to know my personal details, or what I had for lunch. Which is why I'm bloody useless when it comes to social networking _ I just don't see the point.
The Best Mantan Moreland Movies I've Ever Seen on a Sunday Afternoon
Thanks to the day from Hell at work, I'm running extremely late with no clear idea as to what I'm going to post about today. So, I thought that I'd ramble on a bit about some of the things I watched over the weekend. In between catching up with hours of TV programmes I'd recorded, I also wound up watching several Mantan Moreland films. Now, if you don't know who Mantan Moreland was - look him up. I have to say that, despite the fact that the movies in question dated back to the 1940s, they were amongst the most enjoyable things I watched. Having established who Mantan Moreland was with a quick Google check, (as I'm sure you've just done), you are probably wondering why I was watching several of his films. Well, the answer, I hope, will become clear in the next Sleazecast, (for which I actually managed to record about two minutes of audio yesterday).
But on to other things I watched, most notably a Quentin Tarantino film. Now, if not exactly a fan, I have enjoyed most of the Tarantino films I've seen, so I was mildly surprised to find that, when I finally got round to watching it yesterday, I didn't really like Inglorious Basterds. It wasn't that it was badly made, or anything. I just found it unengaging and, well, dull. I think that pert of the problem was that Tarantino's style just didn't suit the subject matter. Like all of his films, it was dialogue-heavy, with lengthy scenes of characters just talking, (which I don't have problem with as he generally writes engaging dialogue), which are severely hampered by the fact that too many of them are conducted in subtitles. Whilst I have nothing against subtitled films (I own quite a few), the fact is that Tarantino's dialogue just doesn't sparkle when rendered in a couple of lines of text at the bottom of the screen. Consequently, these sequences simply drag. Add to that the fact that the film has no real sense of time or place, (both of which are crucial for movies with historical settings, in order to encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief) - it all seems to take place in some kind of vaguely 1940s limbo - and you have two and a half plus hours of a few good scenes punctuated by long stretches of stuff that can't hold my attention. Which is a pity, because I was quite looking forward to watching it. To be honest, I found my umpteenth viewing of Kelly's Heroes the previous weekend more entertaining!
I had the most extraordinary conversation last night. If you could call it a conversation, it was all pretty one sided and left me somewhat confused. But, as ever, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning: I was in the pub being depressed by a conversation with Techno Barry, when, somehow, the subject of my home town came up, (as I may have mentioned before, I'm not a native of Crapchester, I moved here for work some years ago), and this bloke at the bar, who I vaguely remember seeing in the pub before, suddenly says that he's originally from the same town as me. Nothing unusual in that. But he then goes on to say that, as this is the case, he's surprised that he doesn't know me. Now, the town, (actually, it's a city, one of the oldest in the country), that I come from had a population of around 40,000 when I last lived there. It's probably more by now. Curiously enough, I don't know all of them. Indeed, despite living there for twenty eight years, I probably never met more than a tiny percentage of the town's population. So the chances of me knowing some random fellow inhabitant I encounter by chance in a Crapchester pub on a Thursday evening in March, are pretty remote!
Not that such statistics seemed to deter this guy, who clearly felt he had to account for the fact that we were complete strangers despite having, by coincidence of birth, come from the same city. He started to question me as to which school I had been to, specifically if I had been to the town's main comprehensive. Now, as it happens, I'm a grammar school boy. So was he, he claimed. Which simply reinforced his opinion that he should know me. He seemed amazed that I couldn't remember, off the top of my head, the year I left the school. (Strangely enough, I don't have perfect recall of the exact years things happened to me - other than the year of my birth - I couldn't for instance, tell you what year I had my first wank, I just don't think it essential to know these things. After all, my personal history is never likely to be the subject of an exam, is it?) Anyway, it eventually transpires that he left three years before I did. Again, this seemed to fuel his belief he should recognise me. Quite why he thought that I should know someone who was three years ahead of me at school (a school with 800+ pupils) I don't know. Like most people, I only tended to know people in my own year. Besides, I always thought the older kids were arseholes. Getting back to the point, he was, by now, quite clearly doubting that I was telling the truth! Before it could all get nasty, Techno Barry butted in and changed the subject. Never before have I felt grateful for those waves of depression washing back over me!
After this the bloke loitered for a while, before finishing his beer and buggering off. For which I was also grateful. The fact is that I'd found the whole experience somewhat disturbing. His clear implication that I was lying about my past left me beginning to doubt my own memories. Had I, in fact, invented my entire self history, possibly as a result of some psychological trauma in my past? Or were they all implanted memories, to cover up some secret past life as a government assassin? Or was I just delusional? Mind you, I have to say that if I was going to completely fabricate a past, surely I would have come up with something more exciting than attending the grammar school in a provincial English market town, wouldn't I? I'm sure I would have made up a past which involved me being some fabulously wealthy rock star, who had spent their days snorting cocaine and shagging supermodels. (Actually, would that be a good thing - shagging the supermodels, I mean - they all look so miserable and skinny, not fun at all). Then again, maybe that's the kind of guy I am - so dull that even my fantasised past lives are boring!
Well, I finally got another story up on The Sleaze - Lord Lucan: Found? Yep, we're as topical as ever, he only vanished in 1974 after all! Of course, this story is inspired by the recent news reports claiming Lucan had fled to Africa. An interesting thing about the story as written is that I've found that you can rearrange most of the paragraphs in almost any order and it still makes some kind of sense. The only proviso is that you need to keep the first paragraph where it is, otherwise, the running order of the others doesn't seem to matter. I realised this when I was assembling it prior to publication. I often write the paragraphs of stories out of order (the beginning isn't always the best place to start a story), although I always know what their eventual running order will be, but in this case, the last four seemed interchangeable. I spent quite a while deciding how to put them together. Personally, I'm not convinced that my version is the best order. So, cut and paste the story to your word processor and play with it yourself until you come up with a version you like! Who says we're not interactive?
Anyway, in other news, I'm beginning to think about what's going to go into the next Sleazecast. In fact, I'm hoping to record some stuff for it over the weekend. Indeed, I have high hopes of this weekend in terms of productivity. I usually visit my dear old mother on a Sunday, but this week she's at my sister's (they're going to the ballet apparently), meaning that I have both days of the weekend entirely to myself. So, in between catching up with hours of TV programmes I keep recording but not watching, I'm hoping not only to make a start on the new Sleazecast, but also make some progress on a couple of new stories I'm working on. There might be some beer drinking in there as well. Is it sad that this is my idea of a good weekend? Is the lack of human contact involved in it a bad thing? Can I help it that the older I get, the more anti-social I seem to become? The fact is that after a week of dealing with the human race, all I want at the weekend is to be left alone, (there are exceptions to this, but none of them are likely to turn up on my doorstep). Preferably in a darkened room.
Finally, the seventh Sleazecast is here! It's been a long hard slog, but, I feel, worth it. As promised, this is a completely revised version of the podcast, with a new format, featuring slightly less talking from me, and lots of additional features. There's sort of a theme of popular culture and its relationship to real life running through it, although it isn't too overt. Whilst I'm far happier with this particular podcast than I've been with previous editions, it has ended up running, at around forty five minutes, somewhat longer than I'd originally intended. However, as it represents a relaunch of The Sleazecast, I'm treating it as another pilot - individual 'production' editions probably won't feature all of items this one includes. But enough talk, on with the show, which you can hear here:
Alternatively, you can download it here in mp3 format.
As usual, here's the track listing:
2. Life Imitating Art? Italian sexploitation, the debt crisis and celebrity bollocks
3. Showbiz News with Suzie Sleaze
4. The Devil's Bathroom (with special guest appearance from Ernest Borgnine)
5. Movie Musings From my Kitchen - Zombie movies and the illusion of narrative
6. How to Survive a Zombie Attack
7. On My Sofa - Thoughts on Homosexuality in Australian Soaps
8. Bold Venture with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall - Bogey goes cruising for Uncle Sam, Bacall gets upset
9. Spade Cooley Drum and Bass Remix
10. 'Wherever You Are, Whoever You Are' - conclusion and credits
Hopefully, you'll enjoy this new incarnation of The Sleazecast and spread the word. As many as, oh, two people listened to the last one. I'm hoping we can improve on that this time around. Fingers crossed that I can put together another one before the end of the month.
So we should all take our holidays in the UK. 'Staycations' are the new Costa del Sol. At least, that's what the government is telling us. Apparently, it's all in aid of boosting the British economy in this time of austerity. Everyone going to Blackpool or Skegness and buying an ice cream, a stick of rock and a 'Kiss Me Quick' hat will get the economy back on its feet in no time - much quicker than any direct economic stimulus by the government. I bet Gordon Brown is kicking himself, wishing he'd thought of that, rather than going to the expense of bailing the banks out. This one ranks up there with Cameron's exhortations for everyone to pay off their credit card bills to pay off the deficit. We clearly have a government full of economic geniuses.
Call me cynical if you like, but I suspect those government ministers encouraging us to stay at home for our holidays have an ulterior motive. Personally, I think that hey just want to make out sure that they and their fabulously wealthy banker friends don't have to risk rubbing shoulders with the lower classes when they're on their foreign holidays. I mean, if you were them, would you want to risk bumping into some horrible oiks from Scunthorpe, who actually have to work for a living, as you stroll down the beach in Barbados? Or risk the possibility of encountering your children's maths teacher on the ski slopes in Austria? Obviously not. Of course, it's all part of their wider plan to re-establish what they see as the proper social order - where only the 'right' sort of people go on foreign holidays, whilst the rest of us plebs have to be satisfied with a couple of hours in deckchair with a knotted hanky on our heads during a works outing to Littlehampton. I daresay that once they've completely asset-stripped Greece and personally own all of the good holiday resorts and islands there for their private use, the wealthy bastards might make a few concessions and allow the rest of us to go as far as the Isle of Wight on holiday.
I had a different post scheduled for today, until I realised that it would constitute a political rant and I've already had my permitted single such rant for this week. So instead, I thought that I'd talk a bit about what's going on with The Sleaze and Sleaze Diary. As I've just renewed the domain name for The Sleaze again, it looks as if it will be around, in some form or other, for a couple more years at least. This is despite Google's ongoing efforts to turn the web into one big shopping mall by warping their search results to favour either big brand names or their own products. I'm not going to launch into another rant about the evils of Google but, in a nutshell, its algorithm currently seems to rank web pages on the basis of all manner of off-page criteria, rather than on the basis of their actual content and its relevance to the searcher. Add to that the fact that they've 'devalued' 'long tail' (ie older) pages, and you have the current situation where many perfectly good non-commerce sites are being starved of traffic, despite their quality, (Google seems to have a different concept of 'quality' to everyone else - basically they don't seem to place any value on pages that don't have making money as their primary motivation).
Getting back to my plans, I'm still working on a new, radically restyled, Sleazecast. What's proving time-consuming is the production of new non-monologue segments (which will punctuate the stretches of me talking). The raw material for these is currently coming from archive.org. Whilst sourcing the stuff can be time-consuming, the editing and remixing is taking even longer. That said, the end results, so far, have been pretty promising. I've so far completed two of these segments and I'm editing a third. The final two should be fairly straightforward (famous last words). Of course, further delays are being incurred because of the necessity of periodically putting the project on the back burner for days at a time so that I can write new material for The Sleaze. However, I think that wait will be worth it when the new format Sleazecast finally emerges. If nothing else, it will feature a fine roster of guest stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. So, stay tuned!
The other day I was left thinking that I'd overslept by a month and that it was 1 April. I'd just got up and had read on Ceefax that the UK's entry for this year's Eurovision Song Contest was going to be performed by Engelbert Humperdink. Yes, Engelbert Humperdink! Why? Trust me, my reservations aren't based on ageism, (to be honest, I was mildly surprised to learn that he was still alive), but rather the fact that even in his heyday, (when I was a kid), he wasn't really seen as being the 'real deal'. Now, Tom Jones, he was the real thing. Even as a child I could see that Tom was manliness personified, with his leather trousers, hairy chest and swagger. Not to mention the voice. But Engelbert? he was strictly second division. You always suspected that he had to put a couple of pairs of rolled up rugby socks down the front of his trousers to generate any sex appeal.
But, on reflection, perhaps that's what Eurovision wants. After all, nobody really takes it seriously and it's way past its prime, (like Englebert). Moreover, pretend, non-threatening sexy is what they seem to like in a successful act. Let's face it, those Eastern European countries that seem to dominate the contest these days just wouldn't be able to handle the full-on sex bomb that is Tom Jones - the waves of raw sexuality he emanates whilst performing would probably blow all the valves in their ancient ex-Soviet TVs. And I'm not saying they are behind the times in places like Latvia, but they've probably only just caught up with 1968 in terms of popular culture. In which case Engelbert is still a big star to them. So, maybe picking Engelbert to represent us is really a stroke of genius. That said, I still think we should try and persuade David Hasselhoff to represent the UK - at least we'd get the German vote.
Now there's a surprise: Vladimir Putin won the Russian presidential election. Of course, according to the media it was all a fix and his supporters somehow rigged the vote. Even so, I think he deserves congratulations - at least he managed to rig an election to give himself a clear majority. Unlike the Tories at our last General Election, who, despite having the overwhelming support of the press and other media, which ran all sorts of disinformation against Brown and the Labour government, still couldn't manage to get a majority in Parliament and instead had to cook up a shady back room deal with Nick Clegg to steal power. Oh, I know that you'll say that the two things aren't at all the same, but I beg to differ. Whilst the kind of things Putin's supporters allegedly did to rig the vote were far cruder than the Tories' efforts, the fact is that having such a vast propaganda machine at your disposal gives any party a huge electoral advantage.
Make no mistake, much of what is passed of as news stories in this country are no more than propaganda. I'll give you an example: remember all those news stories about how ill-equipped UK soldiers in Afghanistan were that the press used to run during the days of the last Labour government? Sure you do - hardly a day went by without the likes of The Sun and the Daily Mail splashing yet another relative's anguished denouncement of the government for causing their son/father/brother's death through a lack of body armour, or helicopters or some other equipment. These, in turn gave ammunition for Cameron and his cronies to attack the government. Seen anything similar since the Tories seized power? Of course not. Despite the fact that defence spending and procurement are being slashed and that troops are still in Afghanistan, lack of equipment suddenly doesn't seem to be a problem. If those relatives are still complaining, the press certainly doesn't care any more. All of which means what? That the whole 'issue' was simply Tory agit-prop? You bet it was.
But don't worry, Dave is cleaning up his act and isn't planning to repeat this trick next time around. Instead, he's planning to rig the vote through constitutional changes: reducing the number of MPs, flooding the Lords with new Tory peers, redrawing constituency boundaries to give the Tories an inbuilt advantage and fixing the conventions on votes of confidence to try and ensure his coalition from Hell a five year term. But don't worry, it's all legal. Or at least, it will be, once he's finished tearing up the constitution.
My friend Little Miss Strange tells me that she is currently living in a cave. I'm assuming that it has something to do with that horse punching incident from a few years ago - she's already had to leave the country once to try and evade that nag's vengeful mates. I'm also guessing that, despite her claims that she doesn't have a TV there (poor reception apparently - get cable, I say) it's pretty well appointed. Like the one in the photograph, in fact. I'd also guess that she has more considerate cave neighbours than I do.
Well, I say neighbours, but it is a bit more complicated than that. I'm at the end of a terrace, so I only have the one neighbour, which is a rented property. The last tenants did a runner back in September, since when it has been empty. Empty, that is, save for an army of decorators, tradesmen and assorted handymen and builders, who come and go at random, it seems. None of which is a problem, except when some of these itinerant individuals decide to hammer, drill and use assorted power tools at anti-social times. Usually in the evenings or before eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, when I'm trying to sleep in after a working week. We're not talking about minor noises caused by, say, putting up book shelves, but major disturbances.
I've already had cause to complain after an incident of loud hammering after nine o'clock on a Sunday evening. Whilst the hammering stopped that time, it seems that the entities next door have no concept of civilised behaviour, as since then the weekend disturbances have gotten worse. It all came to a head this past weekend when they started up some kind of noisy power tool in the back garden after eleven o'clock on Friday night. I was trying to relax in the bath at when I was rudely disturbed by this racket. My circumstances, naturally, precluded me immediately storming outside to complain. So, instead, I shouted out of the bathroom window. As my first, semi-polite, shout was ignored, I followed it up with 'Do you know what bloody time it is? Shut that fucking row up now, you evil bastards'. Which seemed to do the trick. But only until the next morning, when I was awoken before eight o'clock by more racket from outside. An entire day of various loud noises ensued. I felt I had no choice but to retaliate by playing my stereo at full volume for several hours, with the speakers up against the party wall. By six o'clock they seemed to get the message and fucked off. It's been quiet since.
I know that my tactics have limited effectiveness as my antagonists aren't actually living next door, just making noises there. But I don't really have many alternatives. Other than sticking dog shit through their letterbox, perhaps. The fact is that I don't know who actually owns the property now, whether they, personally, are turning up to make the noise, or whether it is their contractors doing it, possibly without the owners realising the hours at which their people are 'working'. All i know is that, generally speaking, those working next door completely ignore me. Today, for instance, when I was coming home from work at about six o'clock this evening, I saw someone coming out of next door as I approached my own front door. He completely blanked me and walked off when I tried to speak to him about the weekend incidents. Sadly, I suspect that I'm going to be forced to go down the route of reporting them as nuisance neighbours and seeing if I can get any action from the council. Certainly, if there's a repeat of the late night disturbances, I'll be inclined to report to the police as a disturbance of the peace and see if they take any action.
I'm hoping that when they finally finish working on the place, they'll try to rent out next door again. In which case, I'll do my damnedest to play death metal at full blast every time prospective tenants are shown around. Petty, but it's all I've got.
So Lord Lucan fled to Africa, with the aid of his wealthy friends, after murdering his children's nanny. At least, that's the claim being made by a former employee of the late John Aspinall, one of those wealthy friends. Apparently she was involved in arranging for Lucan's children to travel to Africa 'on holiday', where they could be seen by their father. Sadly, she didn't say whether he blacked up or not as part of his disguise. After all, by the 1970s a posh white Englishman might have seemed a bit conspicuous in some parts of Africa. Indeed, such a person could even have become a target for African nationalists and the like. Bearing in mind that Aspinall's former aide also claimed that the children never actually met their father during these visits, but that he simply observed them from a distance, I should imagine that he did apply the boot polish to, at the very least, his face.
Personally, I'd like to think that his disguise was far more extensive - head to foot boot polish, an afro wig, grass skirt, spear and perhaps even a bone through his nose. Little did those young children realise, but that proud Masai warrior they saw dancing wildly around a fire, vigourously waving his spear and shouting 'Umbongo, Umbongo, they drink it in the Congo', was actually their father. With a disguise that effective, is it any wonder that the British police could never find Lucan? Mind you, having seen an interview with the retired police detective who headed the hunt for Lord Lucan, I wasn't surprised that Lucan evaded capture. To be frank, he looked like they'd found him sleeping on a park bench and had probably paid him for the interview with a bottle of meths. But what of Lucan's eventual fate? Is he still alive? Did Nelson Mandela actually die in hospital last week, to be replaced by the still blacked up Lucan? Who knows. Certainly not the UK police.
You know, for the sake of my health and because I've been in a good mood lately, I was going to skip this week's political rant. However, the recent furore over the government's 'workfare', (or as we civilised people call it, 'slave labour'), scheme culminating in a humiliating climbdown on their part, has moved me to drop tonight's planned post for a brief rant. In a desperate attempt to disguise the scale of their defeat, we've been treated to the spectacle of several senior members of this pathetic excuse for a government denouncing anyone who opposed the scheme as 'Trotskyites' and 'Communists'. Clearly, this childish name-calling is now a cornerstone of government policy, as it follows bonkers Education Secretary Micheal Gove similarly denouncing parents who opposed the conversion of their school into an academy as 'Trots'.
Lest we forget, what this argument was about was forcing young unemployed people into 'work experience' schemes with large corporations, on threat of losing their benefits if they didn't comply. Now, I don't have anything against the concept of 'work experience', except that what the participating firms were offering was no such thing. Instead, young people were being used to stack shelves and other menial tasks, alongside paid full time staff, whilst receiving no pay themselves. Moreover, there was never any prospect of them actually getting a proper job at the end of this period of forced labour. If opposing this kind of exploitation makes me a communist then I'll happily state my love for Lenin and his policy of collectivisation here and now.
But, I'm not just a communist, but also, according to 'Call me Dave' Cameron, I'm also 'job snob', disparaging those who perform low paid work. I'll plead 'guilty' again. Whilst such jobs are essential and I have the utmost respect for the people who toil way in them (for low pay and long hours), the reality is that, given the choice, nobody would choose to do them. Unlike Dave and Co, I can speak from experience here as, unlike these millionaire bastards, I've actually done a few of those low paid jobs when I've needed the money. Incredibly, despite the fact that the government was forced to back down on the issue as a result of public opinion (which, in turn, had forced several large firms to leave the scheme), there were still some idiots amongst the masses who decried the derailing of the scheme. "People should have to work for their benefits, just like I have to work for my pay" and "once again people on benefits are getting something for nothing" were amongst the choicest moronic comments I heard on news programmes. Yeah, I think you're missing the basic point that benefits are paid to people because there is no work for them. But, let me put it another way for the doubting morons out there - do you think it right that huge corporations, (including Tesco, Burger King and Marks And Spencer), should have their payrolls subsidised with taxpayers money, when they already make huge profits off of us? Because that's what was happening under this scheme. It's about greed - the greed of corporations who want to take our money any way they can. And this government can't wait to help them.