Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keeping Abreast of Fashion

Now, I know that I don't ordinarily comment on such things as women's fashion, (despite my status as one of Crapchester's leading metrosexuals), but I read something on the subject in the paper the other day that left me perplexed. It seems that cleavage is out. Well, front cleavage, so to speak is out with designers. Instead, the new trend is for 'side cleavage'. In practice, this means dresses that expose the side of the breast. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. Indeed, such a flash of 'side breast' can be highly attractive, if not erotic. My problem with this new development is that it appears to be inspired by an episode of Family Guy. You know the one: where Peter Griffin sets up his own local TV channel. Anyway, his idea of classy programming turns out to be the 'Side Boob Hour', which celebrates "all those episodes of partial nudity network TV used to show".

This, in turn, reminded me of the phobia US TV networks always seemed to have toward the female breast. Indeed, still do have, if the Janet Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction' is anything to go by. It seems that they fear that the sight of a bared breast will turn the entire male population into slavering sex fiends. Actually, to be precise, it is certain areas of the breast they have problems with. I recall reading once that back in the 1960s the costume designers on Star Trek were told by the network that they could expose as much of the top breast as they liked (apart from the nipple), but under no circumstances could they have costumes which exposed the lower part of the breast. How true that is, I don't know, but it does seem somewhat bizarre. Did they really think that the bottom of a breast is a more arousing sight than the top? Perhaps they had the idea that seeing the bottom of the breast exposed implied that the woman it belonged to was bra-less, and therefore a feminist. Who knows? Anyway, perhaps this repression of everything except the tops of women's' breasts by US popular culture is what's now fuelling this side boob fashion fetish - designers see it as 'daring'. From a personal point of view, I don't have a problem with the side boob fashion. Indeed, much as I appreciate cleavage, speaking as a man, it can be distracting. I'm afraid that I find my eyes instinctively drawn to it, despite my metrosexuality. The side boob, by contrast, can only be glimpsed from angles at which the lady displaying it is unlikely to see you staring.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Sleazecast: Stalking With Doc Sleaze

Here at last - the ninth Sleazecast! As ever, my attempts to maintain a monthly schedule for these podcasts is barely met! For some reason, it took me forever to record the talking bits of this one. Part of the problem was that I'd originally planned to record these sequences 'on location'. In the event, the logistics proved too much hassle, so I faked it all, instead. With the exception of the first part, which was recorded in my back garden, all the other 'locations' were recorded in various rooms of my house, with appropriate sound effects added to simulate environments such as the street or my car. The bit set in my bathroom was recorded in my bathroom, though. But enough explanation, you can listen to it here (I've kept the length down to around 35 minutes this time):

The Sleazecast: Stalking With Doc Sleaze

Or download it in mp3 format here.

As is now customary, here's a brief track listing:

1. Intro - 'Crime Does Not Pay'

2. Stalking With Doc Sleaze, in which the Doc gets an eyeful whilst engaging in some Sunday afternoon peeping.

3. When I'm Cleaning Windows - George Formby enjoys the fruits of his anti-social behaviour.

4. Tailing the Tail: Doc Sleaze follows a potential target whilst musing over the age of living vicariously and reality TV as legitimate stalking, but the tables are turned.

5. The Saint Strikes Camp (Part One), with Vincent Price. Simon Templar has man trouble.

6. Movie Musings From My Car - the Doc ponders cinema as voyeurism, whilst engaging in some surveillance.

7. The Saint Strikes Camp (Part Two), with Vincent Price. The Saint takes his problems from behind.

8. Room With a View: The simple pleasures of spying on your neighbours and other obsessive behaviours.

9. Personal Electronics, by Steve Ball.

10. Conclusion.

So, there you have it, quite a neat little programme, even if I say so myself. Which I do. Hopefully, I'll have another one ready some time in June.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

God Bless Her Majesty (And Her Fascist Regime)

Well, are you all set to celebrate sixty tears of Her Majesty (and her fascist regime) on the throne? I haven't a clue as to whether there are any Jubilee street parties being organised on my road. If there are, nobody's told me. I think I'm generally regarded as a miserable bastard. Which I am, I freely admit. I slept through the last Royal Wedding and the Golden Jubilee passed me by. However, there's a part of me that does want, in some way, to be part of this event, and not just watch bits of it on TV. As I've undoubtedly mentioned before, my late father was an ardent republican, so we weren't allowed to celebrate the Silver Jubilee or the wedding of Charles and Diana. As he was still alive at the time of the Golden Jubilee, in deference to his views, I avoided the whole thing - and regretted it, I really felt left out, even more so than I had as a child when I hadn't been allowed to take part in the Silver Jubilee, (there was a street party in our road, but we went to the beach, instead). Which is why I'd like to do something vaguely Jubilee-related over this coming long weekend.

As I've also, I'm sure, mentioned before, I have a far more ambivalent attitude toward the monarchy than my father had. The fact is that, whilst they have wealth and privilege and indeed are an anachronism, they have no real power and therefore are, to me, irrelevant. Moreover, if we really must have a monarchy, then I can't deny that old Liz hasn't been a bad one. Certainly, she has represented the UK on the international stage with a dignity we often haven't deserved. That said, out of respect for my father's memory, I obviously can't just embrace the monarchy and the Jubilee uncritically. Which is why I insist on quoting the Sex Pistols every time I mention Her Majesty (and her fascist regime), by adding the 'and her fascist regime' suffix. Not that she has run a fascist regime, obviously. But it is a great lyric. But I still have the question of what I'm actually going to do to get into the Jubilee spirit - suggestions on a postcard (or in the comments). Bear in mind that, for me, the Jubilee starts early, as I'm taking Friday off of work, as well as next week's double bank holiday. So, if anyone I know personally is reading this and wants to meet up for a Jubilee-themed drink, I could be free on Friday, (you know who I'm talking to). In the meantime, I've got to get back to editing the latest Sleazecast.


Monday, May 28, 2012

The Mis-Education of Micheal Gove

I'd like to think that bonkers education secretary Micheal Gove was getting more bonkers, but sadly, his latest bit of apparently knee-jerk reactionary-ness is simply part of a greater malaise that afflicts the right. Last week Gove was busy condemning the AQA exam board for a GCSE question which, he claimed, seemed to be seeking to justify anti-semitism. Cue the usual political huffing and puffing and the predictable outrage from all the usual suspects. The trouble is, of course, that the exam question was doing no such thing. It was merely trying to get students to explain the reasons why, in much of 1930s Europe, large numbers of otherwise sensible people held such views. It wasn't asking for a value judgement on them, it was merely trying to ascertain whether students understood how such obnoxious creeds come to have political credence under certain circumstances. But the right-wing never sees it that way, to them, trying to understand something is the same as trying to justify it: just look at their hostility to any academic work which seeks to explain the Russian revolution and the rise of communism in economic, social or political terms. They'd rather stick with the tried and tested old idiocy of ascribing such things as the rise of dictators and genocides to 'general wickedness'.

Except that 'general wickedness' simply isn't very helpful in any attempt to stop history repeating itself. It suggests that these things are inevitable and we should simply endure them when they occur. In reality, though, we have to try and understand the origins of such things as fascism, anti-semitism, Stalinism, racism and all the other ills which continue to afflict us, if we are to have any chance of stopping them from recurring. Take Hitler, for example, there is always a tendency to dismiss any attempt to analyse his rise to power in terms other than simply condemning him as evil, as being some attempt at apologism for the Nazis. Similarly, any attempt to analyse the man himself is condemned as an attempt to 'humanise' him. But the fact is that he was a human being, just like you and I, and it is also a fact that his rise to power didn't occur in a vacuum. He was elected to power in Germany using a democratic system - people didn't see him as a dictator from the off. Obviously, otherwise they wouldn't have voted for him.

Most dictators start as charismatic democratic politicians, using the existing system to build a power-base. Which is, sort of, the point I was trying to make in the Assassination of Boris Johnson story. Johnson has twice been elected as London mayor on the basis he's 'a bit of a character' and is some kind of iconoclast - he's been careful to avoid campaigning on a platform of actual policies, because if he revealed the true extent of his hardline right-wing views, he'd have lost. Just bear in mind that they used to describe Mussolini in similar terms, as a 'bit of a character' and so on - and look how that turned out. So, it's important that we try to understand the rationale behind unpleasant belief systems and the ways in which totalitarians can subvert the democratic process if we are ever to stand a chance of stamping them out. But the likes of bonkers Education Secretary Micheal Gove are, for some strange reason, reluctant for young people to develop the critical faculties necessary to do this - I wonder why?

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Night's All Right for Rambling

I missed a trick this week - I missed the chance to pretend I was at the Cannes Film Festival with my new film, the same way I tell people I'm at the Edinburgh Fringe with my one man show every August.  Ah well, there's always next year.  Mind you I did read a story set around the Cannes Film Festival this week.  It was in the Saint in the Sun collection by Leslie Charteris.  It was one of the last original Saint stories Charteris wrote, in the early 1960s, whilst the Roger Moore TV series was being shown for the first time.  It was typical of the later Saint stories: an exotic setting, Simon Templar getting involved with a beautiful woman in distress who leads him into an ultimately inconsequential adventure with a wealthy and obnoxious villain.  They're basically fluff, but very entertainingly written.  Indeed, the Saint stories are surprisingly meta-fictional (I think that's the right term), in that Simon Templar is well aware that he is a character in a series of stories, whilst his chronicler, Charteris, often spends the opening paragraphs of stories explaining why it isn't an unbelievable fictional conceit that one man can have so many adventures.  I've reread quite a few Saint stories this week, mainly late at night when the heat made it difficult to sleep.  Ah, that heat, it's given me a good excuse to be an idle bastard - I've completely failed to record the talking bits of the next Sleazecast, as I'd intended.  Mind you, my choice of late night reading was largely inspired by one the bits of the Sleazecast I have created.  Suffice to say that The Saint is scheduled to make a guest appearance.

Getting back to that unseasonable heat: bloody wonderful.  After weeks of miserable weather, including that desultory May bank holiday, a taste of Summer.  All we can hope for now is that it lasts for the next couple of weeks, so that we can have nice weather over the forthcoming double bank holiday, which commemorates the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen's fascist regime, (as the Sex Pistols might have said).  Not that I'm a royalist, of course, but as we get an extra Bank Holiday, on this occasion I'll say 'God bless Her Majesty (and her fascist regime)'.  That said, I notice that the other day, as part of the Jubilee celebrations, the great and the good of the UK arts and culture scene were all invited to meet Her Majesty at some do at Buck House.  Needless to say, I wasn't invited.  I do think that, in my capacity as editor of The Sleaze, I've made an outstanding contribution to UK culture over the last twelve years.  But there you go - another snub from the Queen, to match that time she ignored me when I was walking down Whitehall as she drove past in her Daimler, accompanied by Nelson Mandela (who did wave to me).  I should be used to it by now, I suppose.  But there's part of me that still looks at the New Year's Honour list every January, to see if I've got an OBE.  Ah well, I think I've rambled on enough for now, it's the weekend, so I'm going to have a few beers.  You should do the  same.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vigilante Vicar

I've had enough of celebrities and faux-celebrities for one week.  So, for today's post I'm going to look at one of those heart-warming stories about real people.  Namely, the 'Vigilante Vicar', who bravely protected his church roof from thieves trying to steal the lead from it.  Actually, this was another of those local TV stories which promised far more than it delivered.  When I heard about this clergyman defending his roof, I immediately had visions of a black-clad (save for his dog collar) ninja fighting a desperate karate battle with an unshaven thug with a receding hairline, on top of some country church, the fight raging across the roof and onto the tower, climaxing with the vicar using the church bell clapper to incapacitate the raider.  Before forgiving him and saving his soul, naturally.  It could be the start of a whole series of such ecclesiastical adventures, I mused, as our masked clerical hero protects Britain's churches from various thieves, each week foiling the the thefts of candle sticks, crucifixes and the like from churches.  Perhaps it could be a TV series, where, each week, the pre-credits sequence shows his boss - The Bishop - sending him off on his next mission, with the words 'Bless you my son, and may God go with you', before the opening titles (featuring a montage of action sequences accompanied by an up-tempo action-orientated arrangement of 'All Creature Great and Small', performed on a church organ), plays out.

Of course, the actual story turned out to be far less exciting.  It turned out that there had been no dramatic roof-top fights.  Instead, the vicar in question had just hidden out in his church overnight and, when he spotted the thief going up on the roof, had simply called the police to make an arrest.  You'd have thought that he might at least have tried praying for a bit of divine intervention - resulting in the thief being struck by lightning as he stood astride the roof, rolling up the lead.  So, really he wasn't much of a vigilante vicar, after all.  Very disappointing.  Which is how I feel about the church generally.  I mean, they sound like they have this really radical agenda about the meek inheriting the earth, eschewing materialistic values and the like, but when it comes down to it, all they ever do to try and implement it is preach, run the odd soup kitchen, make tea and generally wring their hands whilst saying 'Oh, how awful'.  It's just like their founder, Jesus, they build him up as this radical preacher, defying the Jewish establishment and the Roman Empire, but when push came to shove, all he did was turn the other cheek.  And look where that got him - nailed to a cross.  Really, with a revolutionary manifesto like the teachings of Christ, you need to be more kick-ass in your approach.  Trust me, if the Church of England actually did have some real Vigilante Vicars then the decline in church attendances would  rapidly be reversed.  Remember, you heard it here first.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moronic in Chelsea (and Essex)

Have you seen any of those 'structured reality' shows (they also call them 'scripted reality')?  I know, I'm sounding like one of those elderly judges who ask defendants things like "What are The Beatles?", (I know, using a Beatles' reference makes me seem even more out of touch).  Anyway, getting back to the point, the sort of thing I'm talking about are programmes like The Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea, which feature 'real' people (ie, not professional actors) in what are (to me, at least) clearly staged situations.  OK, I'm well aware that the official line is that they are merely 'recreating' scenes which have actually happened, but it all looks completely staged to me.  For one thing, people's lives don't progress in terms of the neat storylines you see on these programmes. 

As you can guess, I'm not really a fan of these kinds of programmes, but every so often force myself to sit through an episode in an attempt to understand their appeal.  When I say 'force', I really mean that - I have to constantly stop myself from changing channels, I find these things so mind-numbingly dull.  On top of that, they're populated by some of the most vacuous, self-absorbed and generally obnoxious people I've ever seen.  Quite why anyone would want to follow their incredibly tedious existences is beyond me.  However, to be fair, the makers could well edit the footage to ensure that they all look like colossal cock ends in the name of entertainment.  Moreover, taken together, The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea at least confirm that social class has no bearing on boorishness.  They're all equally unbearable, (although, in fairness, at least the people in Essex appear to be engaged in some kind of gainful employment, whereas those in Chelsea seem to be the indolent rich).

But what is the appeal of this drivel?  As far as I can see, it's similar to the fascination that soap operas exert, in that it allows us to peer into other people's lives - lives which appear to be more interesting, or glamourous, than ours.  The added appeal of these 'structured reality' programmes is that the people we're watching are supposedly real, ordinary people.  This, in turn, implies to viewers that excitement, glamour and drama aren't just things which are created by script writers, but can exist in our everyday lives as well.  You don't have to be a celebrity to be glamourous, they tell us - even people from Essex can live such lives.  It's also another manifestation of the modern obsession with the notion that you don't actually need to have any kind of talent to be famous - just living out your 'normal' life in front of cameras is enough.  That explains The Only Way is Essex, but leaves me still somewhat mystified as to the appeal of Made in Chelsea.  After all, it features people who are anything but ordinary, leading lives of relative wealth a privilege.  Perhaps its appeal lies in showing viewers that rich people's lives are just as empty and meaningless as everyone else's and that having money seems to guarantee that you are a colossal cock end.  Then again, maybe it is just all the posh totty on display that gets the viewers?  Who knows. 

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Unfollow a Celebrity Today

You know how you sometimes read something which prompts the reaction "No shit, Sherlock"?  Well, I had one such experience over the weekend whilst reading a Twitter conversation between several people I neither know nor follow.  I suppose I should elaborate a bit here - I often poke around Twitter, monitoring random conversations.  It can be quite enlightening. Indeed, it is far better than actually following a whole bunch of people who you just know will, on a day-to-day basis, clutter your timeline up with the boring minutiae of their lives.  So I just skim the highlights from their accounts.  Besides, these are invariably people who irritate me intensely with their pretentiousness but who, nevertheless, still exert a terrible fascination over me.  If nothing else, following their conversations helps reassure me that I'm not a pretentious bore.  Anyway, getting back to the matter in hand, this particular conversation involved a bunch of these people I don't follow bitching about how rude and dismissive of non-celebrity tweeters some celebrity tweeters were.  They seemed shocked by the fact that these celebrities want to use Twitter to promote their products to their followers, but didn't want to treat them as equals, either ignoring their comments or, if they had the audacity to be critical, being abusive to them and blocking them.  This is where I had the 'No shit, Sherlock" moment.  I mean, the clue here is in the way Twitter is structured - you are a follower of these people, like the follower of a cult, you are of no individual interest to the godhead you follow.  They have no interest in you as an individual, you are just meant to passively hang on their every profound announcement and boost their egos by adding to their 'followed by' statistics.

The fact is that the only people celebrity tweeters want to talk to on Twitter are other celebrities.  Ricky Gervais' first take on celebrities with Twitter accounts - they just wanted to show off by having public conversations with each other - was spot on.  Celebrity is an exclusive club - once people have achieved it, they don't want to have to deal with the great unwashed any more.  Who can blame them?  They've undoubtedly had to humiliate and compromise themselves over and over again in order to gain celebrity status.  Besides, they are keenly aware of the fact that the only reason that non-celebrities want to get close to them is in the hope of finding some way into the world of celebrity themselves.  Even some reflected glory from the fact of having tweeted a real celebrity is often enough.  Consequently, the only people they can trust are other celebrities - only they can understand the tribulations of being a celebrity and are guaranteed not to be trying to 'steal' some of their celebrity 'aura'.  Why else do you think the world of celebrity is so incestuous?  Haven't you noticed how only celebrities are allowed to go out with, marry and impregnate other celebrities?  Ordinary mortals are not welcome on their Mount Olympus - their place is to worship from below.  In the course of the conversation I was reading, the term 'feudal' was used to describe the relationship between celebrities and non-celebrities on Twitter.  Well, not quite feudal, I'd say.  After all, we're not indentured to these celebrities and have a choice as to whether we follow them or not. 

However, they are rather like the old feudal aristocracy, in that they mostly hold their 'positions' as a result of patronage and accident of birth.  Well, not quite 'accident of birth', but rather by being in the right place at the right time. Because that's the reality of modern celebrity - no matter how talented you might be in a particular area of entertainment, you still need to be 'discovered' by people with the power to put you in the spotlight, and only a handful of non-celebrities ever get that sort of break.  Luck plays a huge part in the process.  Which is why, once people achieve celebrity, they quickly adopt all of its conventions: they become aloof, arrogant and dismissive of 'ordinary' people.  They have to continually convince themselves that they have achieved their success purely through their own talent - they can never admit the degree to which chance plays a part.  They especially can't ever admit that, thanks to modern media, anyone can be on equal terms with them, that would negate their 'achievement'.  The other side of the coin, of course, is that the people upset by their treatment at he hands of online celebrities have fallen into the trap of believing that the web can give them instant 'celebrity'.  Believe me, 'web celebrity', as the result of having a lot of Twitter followers, or a successful blog or website, isn't the same as 'real' celebrity -web achievements count for nothing in the 'real world' as far these 'real' celebrities ae concerned.  As I intimated earlier, we do have a solution to this situation: don't follow celebrities on Twitter, don't read their blogs, boycott their websites and podcasts.  That's the only language they'll understand - depriving them of all that implied adulation.  It's not as if you'd really be missing anything through such a boycott: none of them are going to make their best work freely available on the web.  The fact is that by far the best and most entertaining websites, blogs and podcasts out there are actually produced by non-celebrities.  They're the ones we should all be following - they're certainly friendlier and more accessible than 'real' celebrities.  It's certainly what I'm trying to do these days.  So, unfollow those celebrities today and start taking back the web for us 'ordinary' people!  

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Broadcast News

You've probably been thinking (hoping, more likely), that I'd given up on The Sleazecast.  Whilst disappointed by the reception (or lack of reception - nobody listened to it) met by the last Sleazecast, you can rest assured, I haven't given up on internet broadcasting yet.  Indeed, I've finally finished editing the bits which aren't me talking for the next edition of the web's least listened to podcast.  Actually, I think we should drop the term 'podcast' - it links the whole enterprise to a specific Apple product and implies that it should only be listened to on an iPod.  Perhaps I should follow the BBC's lead and refer to The Sleazecast as a 'free download' instead.  Or maybe a 'webcast'.  Clearly something I'll have to ponder over.  Anyway, getting back to the point, as I've mentioned before, it's the editing of the non-speaking bits which takes the time with these broadcasts.  I'm hoping to record the bits with me talking next week and get the whole thing edited together and posted here before the end of the month.

Whilst I'm also already planning the next Sleazecast but one (number ten), I'm also currently considering putting together another, completely different, podcast/webcast/free download (delete as applicable).  Indeed, as it would be so different from The Sleazecast, I'm even considering spinning it off onto its own blog.  Basically, I'd like to take full advantage of all the vintage creative commons stuff over at to fully indulge my love of the popular culture of yestertear, to create a podcast that basically repackage some of the shows there into a sort of late-night radio type programme, linked by me musing on pop culture.  Whether anyone would listen to it is another question.  Obviously, each broadcast would be considerably longer than the current Sleazecasts, but there are plenty of much longer podcasts out there, and it wouldn't just be me droning on - most of the content would be professionally produced.  We'll see.   

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Daytime TV Depression

Daytime TV has to be amongst the most depressing things any human being can experience.  No wonder the long-term unemployed are so miserable if they spend their mornings watching this dreck.  I was reminded of this when I was off work over Easter.  As if the abominable Jeremy Kyle (should we be surprised that this egotistical cock-end is a supporter of David Cameron) on ITV isn't bad enough, the 'alternatives' the BBC serve up are no better.  Take Homes Under the Hammer, for instance, whilst it doesn't include any baiting of hill billies from East Anglia like Kyle, its celebration of greed and profiteering is pretty repugnant.  It's parade of would-be property developers buying properties cheap at auction and then, after the minimum of remedial work, renting them out at extortionate prices to students and poor people are a pretty depressing bunch.  Get a real job, I always want to scream at them - they're the same sort of people who think it is possible to make a passive income from those internet get rich quick schemes.  Those buying properties to actually live in themselves are treated as if they are mentally deficient.  OK, I'm exaggerating somewhat and making some sweeping generalisations here, but you get the idea. An equally depressing aspect of the programme is the idea that you ave to decorate everything in dull colours as that makes properties easier to sell.  Individualism?  You don't want that - apparently avocado bathrooms are a deal-breaker when it comes to selling your house!

However, surely the most depressing of all the BBC's morning TV offerings has to be Heir Hunters.  This is the one where these rival companies vie to find the heirs of people who have died intestate and with no immediate family.  Obviously, they aren't doing this out of a sense of civic duty, I'm assuming that they get some kind of commission from the estates of the deceased for doing this.  Which seems pretty distasteful in itself - profiting from the lonely deaths of recluses.  Right from the off this programme is deeply depressing, introducing us to some poor dead person in the most downbeat manner possible:  "Arthur Cobblers died alone.  In fact, nobody even knew that he had died for seven months, until police broke into his squalid flat, after complaints from the neighbours about the smell.  'At first I thought the smell was down to the hundred pints or so of milk that had accumulated outside his front door and were going off,' Jim Arse, who had lived next door to Arthur for several years, told us. 'I just assumed he was one of those idle old gits who was too lazy to bring his milk in.'  His funeral was attended only by a lollipop man who happened to be passing the crematorium and had come in to shelter from the rain.  Arthur had lost touch with his friends and fallen out with his family following his arrest for possession of child pornography, ten years earlier.  Although he was later exonerated - the offending magazine having been delivered to his house as a result of a mix-up at his newsagents - he was never reconciled with his family, after they refused to post bail for him and had spray-painted the word 'Nonce' on his car.  The team's challenge now is to track down his remaining close family before his estate of £32.76 in a national savings account and his vast collection of pornographic magazines is claimed by the state."


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jumping Through Hoops

The French, Greek and Germany's North Rhine Westphalia election results are threatening seismic upheavals in Europe's political landscape, JP Morgan bank is reeling from huge financial losses, the Eurozone is teetering on the verge of collapse, the phone hacking scandal is edging ever closer to forcing ministerial resignations, but are we worried?  Hell no - we've got the distraction of a performing dog!  Yes indeed, Britain's Got Talent was apparently won by a canine which performed some kind of act, so I'm told, (I'm proud to say that I've never actually watched the programme, or any of Simon Cowell's other programmes, for that matter).  If ever there was a classic case of distraction, surely this is it - the world's going to Hell, and we're all fixated on a sodding dog that performs tricks, (magic tricks, for all I know - it could be the canine Paul Daniels).  You can't escape it - even the bloody Guardian has wasted precious column inches on it.  Bearing in mind Cowell's Tory sympathies, one can't help but extrapolate one of those 'convenient conspiracies', where all of his various 'talent' shows are actually designed to distract the public from what's really going on and instead get us to focus on the meaningless 'narratives' of the contestants and the 'heart-warming' story of their 'successes' as his shows pull them from obscurity to instant fame.

Not that I'm saying that Cowell is manipulative when it comes to the media and public opinion, but his most recent attempts to garner public sympathy have been both obvious and preposterous.  You remember - all that stuff about learning some humility after the US X-Factor got lower than anticipated ratings. Utter bollocks!  In fact, almost as big a load of bollocks as the supposed embarrassment that 'unauthorised' biography caused Cowell.  Yeah, like he's ever embarrassed by anything that gives him publicity.  I don't know whether it's because Cowell has grown tired of being a 'heel' (to use wrestling terminology) and fancies some time as a 'face', or whether he just thinks that there's more appeal and therefore more potential viewers to be had as a sympathetic character, I don't know, but it's clear that Cowell is trying to make like a WWE wrestler and switch from 'heel' to 'face'.  He clearly thinks that the key to garnering sympathy lies in allowing the public to see a more #vulnerable' side to him, which, in practice, means showing some 'weakness': admitting to disappointment over ratings, conceding he might have made a mistake in thinking it would be easy to break the US and, most of all, that biography.  The biography is key, by allowing himself to be portrayed as vain and insecure, he believes he is allowing the public to see him as 'human' and imperfect and therefore more sympathetic.  By then claiming the biography's 'revelations' had caused him embarrassment, he's trying to have his cake and eat it: I'm not just flawed but, I'm even more human because I know to be embarrassed by these flaws. Pathetic!  He just wants us to jump through emotional hoops like bloody performing dogs.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Five Year Plan

Going back to my failure to go on strike last week due to financial considerations, I have to admit that a lot of my attitudes toward work these days - including workplace disputes - is shaped by the fact that I'm within five years of paying off my mortgage.  The knowledge that I only have to keep working at this lousy job for another five years has, without doubt, made me very risk averse.  The fact is that all I want to do now is keep my head down, keep my job and pay off that mortgage.  When it comes to industrial disputes and political campaigns that affect me work-wise, I'm caught between my desire to uphold my principles and the need to just get through these next few years with as little hassle as possible.  Whilst there's no guarantee that my current job will continue to exist for the next five years, there's a pretty good chance it will, and even if it doesn't, they'll have to offer me some kind of redundancy package or redeploy me to similar work on the same pay scale.  Ideally, of course, I'd like to see out these five years, pay off my mortgage, then get offered a redundancy pay off!

Obviously, things are unlikely to work out so neatly, so I'll be happy to pay off the mortgage.  With my biggest monthly expense gone, I'll suddenly have options again.  Now, if I was sensible, I'd just keep working and save the money I would otherwise be paying out for my mortgage for my old age.  However, I'm sick of working.  I don't enjoy it, it doesn't stimulate me intellectually and, to be frank, it's pointless.  Whilst it is unlikely that, even without the mortgage to pay, I'd be able to afford to give up work completely and live on benefits, I love winding people up by telling them that this is my plan), I will have the option of working fewer hours, or trying to find a more satisfying job, even if it pays less.  Then there's the possibility of reactivating my plan to use my teaching qualification try doing some supply lecturing.  But what will I do with the time I hope to have on my hands in five years time?  Well, I could always go for that old stand-by of travelling, but as I've mentioned many times before, my wanderlust wore out many years ago.  No, I intend staying put and doing more of the things work stops me from doing: reading, tracking down and watching obscure films, writing, maybe doing a bit more film-making and podcasting.  And lots more.  Like I said, all I have to do is get through these next five years, and the promised land will be in sight!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Hare Today

Did you see that bloody coalition 'relaunch' attempt the other day?  You know, that fiasco with Cameron and Clegg in the tractor factory.  Quite frankly, I don't know why Cameron didn't just bend Clegg over the back wheel of one of the tractors, pull his trousers down and give one up the arse, it surely would have been a more accurate summation of the coalition is really about.  OK, this isn't going anywhere, is it?  I mean, I've already done the political rant for the week, haven't I?  What else can I talk about?  Let me think.  Oh yes, earlier this week I saw a hare.  I know that doesn't sound exciting, but believe me, you don't often see a hare out in the open these days.  They're usually quite shy and retiring.  Anyway, even by hare standards, he was a pretty big bugger, (I'm assuming it was a he, I'm no expert when it comes to sexing hares).  The point, if there is one, is that the hare is an ancient symbol of the moon goddess (Diana or Selene, depending upon whether you were Roman or Ancient Greek).  Now, bearing in mind that a few days before I saw the hare, we experienced the so-called 'Super Moon', (or as I like to call it, 'the moon'), I'm left wondering, was it some kind of portent?

Popular opinion amongst people I've mentioned this to (aside from thinking I'm deranged) is that it is a sign that someone I know is going to reveal themselves to me as a moon goddess.  Assuming, not unreasonably I think, that this person would be of the female persuasion, this narrows down the number of possibilities as to the identity of this possible goddess.  However, so far, I'm still waiting, despite keeping a close eye on various female acquaintances.  Which raises the possibility that it could be someone who isn't close at hand.  Which narrows the number of suspects quite considerably.  I'm going to text my friend Little Miss Strange (assuming she can get a signal in her cave) and ask her if she is a secret moon goddess and if so, is she likely to reveal herself to me any time soon.  Actually, I know bloody well that she reads this blog, so if you are a moon goddess and about to reveal yourself, let me know in the comments.  Of course, the hare could have been a portent of something else altogether.  Indeed, bearing in mind that my sighting of the beast preceded my shitty forty eight hours, perhaps it wasn't such a good omen.  In which case, I'll be avoiding hares in future.   


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not On the Picket Lines

I daresay that you are expecting me to give more blow-by-blow accounts of life on the picket line during today's public sector strike.  Unfortunately, I can't, as I wasn't on strike myself.  The reason for this quite simple: I couldn't afford to lose another day's pay.  As, for various reasons, I couldn't take the day off, I had little choice but to become a strike breaker for a day.  Luckily, there was no picket line to cross today but, nonetheless, I felt lousy about it.  One of the worst aspects of today was that people who saw me at work, (non-union members, those opposed to industrial action and, for all I know, Tory voters), assumed that I was on their 'side'.  Believe me, that hurts.  But the sad fact is that, despite talking a good revolution on these pages, I'm as subject to financial realities as everyone else, and when push comes to shove, paying the bills wins out over principles.  To be fair to myself, I also have serious issues with the union's strategy and, to be honest, I really don't see the point of today's action.  We've effectively lost the battle over pensions - if industrial action was going to alter the government's plans, then it would have happened last November when we went out.  All that continued one-day strikes achieve now is to cost members money in docked wages - money we can ill afford with a pay freeze and increased pension contributions.  It seems clear to me that we need to be smarter, this kind of brute force approach just won't work and risks alienating public opinion.  New strategies need to be deployed, we need to win the argument - in the eyes of the electorate - through using the media to our advantage.  We also need to be prepared to play dirty, take a few leaves out of Malcolm Tucker's, sorry, Alistair Campbell's book when it comes to PR.

But then again, all these reservations on my part could just be my subconscious trying to justify my failure to support the strike.  Like I said, it has left me feeling lousy, the perfect end to a dismal couple of days, in fact.  Yesterday, in particular, was a nightmare from beginning to end.  I woke up to find that my watch had stopped.  I then wasted time searching the house for a non-existent replacement battery for it which I thought I had.  Of course, I didn't have such a thing and had to get through the morning without a watch, then waste part of my lunch break finding someone who could sell me - at well over the odds - a new battery.  To make things worse, I also found, at lunchtime, that I'd lost my hat, (not the straw one you can see me waring during the summer in a lot of my films, but a cap I wear to keep the rain off).  Despite retracing my steps, I could find no trace of it, so had to buy a replacement.  There was no respite when I got home in the evening as I found that Microsoft Office had stopped working on my laptop.  No reason, I just kept getting a message saying it couldn't load any of the applications in the suite.  Which was a bit of a problem, as I was trying to complete a new story for The Sleaze and needed to use Word.  In the end, I was forced to download Office again and make a new installation.  Which took forever.  Which, in turn, meant that I couldn't complete and post the story until much later than I had anticipated, resulting in getting to bed later than planned, waking up tired and being in a foul mood this morning.  Truly, a shitty forty eight hours.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Scent of New Mown Grass

I was suddenly hit by the scent of newly mown grass this afternoon, as I walked past a garden.  All sorts of childhood memories came flooding back, triggered by the smell.  For me, this scent is forever associated with summers in the 1970s, when I was a child and suffered badly from hay fever.  For me, it always heralded the onset of a season I dreaded as I knew it would trigger my allergy, leaving me congested, wheezing and gasping for breath.  Because of the debilitating effect of the hay fever, I never really enjoyed my childhood summers, dreading them, in fact.  But eventually I outgrew the hay fever, which barely troubles me these days, and have learned to love summer, looking forward to its arrival every year.  Nonetheless, today's unexpected encounter with the scent of new mown grass brought all the bad memories back.  It's fascinating how we associate particular sensations with, not just past events, but also past emotional states.  The smell of wet tarmac, for instance, always takes me back to happier childhood feelings, reminding me of rainy break times at infant school, waiting for the rain to ease enough to go out into the playground (which were inevitably covered in tarmac back then).  I can still feel the excitement and expectation when that smell hits my nostrils.

Of course, the question arises as to just how accurate the memories these stimuli evoke actually are - did damp break times always make me happy, was every summer an ordeal for me, or am I latching on to particular powerful fragments of memory and magnifying their significance?  There's no doubt that we view our memories through all manner of filters, often influenced by the way in which popular culture portrays the era we are recalling.  In The Guardian recently, Charlie Brooker highlighted how some cinema goers had received a trailer for Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie negatively, complaining that the 48 frames per second process used to shoot it, (it's twice the normal speed for feature films), made the footage look too 'real', like 1980s videotape.  As he noted, the problem is that audiences are so used to seeing the glossy 24 framers per second  footage of contemporary movies, they assume that it represents cinematic 'reality'.  The videotape images familiar to those of us who watched TV in the 1980s is, arguably, a better representation of 'reality', with its over lit look and its apparent lack of depth (both foreground and background seem to stay in focus simultaneously).  Indeed, its the way I remember the 1980s looking.  But do I only 'remember' them looking this way because every moving image of them presented on TV looks that way due to the video systems used back then? 

Despite living through them, and knowing that the world looked no different than it does now, I still have trouble remembering that the 1970s didn't look as if it had been shot on grainy film footage or the flat (and slightly out of focus) videotape used then.  It's even worse when it comes to imagining eras you didn't experience personally: I have to constantly remind myself that the 1930s and 1940s weren't in black and white. It was just cinema photography, not real life, that lacked colour back then.  What's really interesting is that we're able to make the distinction between the two with regard to life as we experience it in the present.  Nowadays everything is shot digitally on tape and filters are applied to it in post-production to replicate the frame rate of film and give it that 'glossy' look we associate with modern cinema.  Yet we 'know' that the cinematic looking news reports and contemporary TV dramas we see aren't 'real' - we don't expect to step outside of our front doors and find everything looking like it was shot on film.  Or do we?  Maybe that's why so many people these days seem so dissatisfied with the reality of their lives, and are always striving after wealth and/or fame.  Perhaps they think that if they are rich enough, or famous enough, their perceptions of life will suddenly be shot on 70mm film?  Who knows?  

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Gay Marriage Blues

So what have we learned from last week's local election results?  Apart from the fact that the Tories and their lickspittles are deeply unpopular, that is.  Well, according to all the usual Tory backbench rent-a-quotes, who apparently had nothing better to do over a bank holiday weekend than sit in radio and TV studios pontificating, their electoral setbacks were all down to gay marriage.  This was the theme they kept returning to - not an interview went by without reference to the the 'fact' that people hadn't voted Tory because their Lib Dem coalition partners had forced them to support gay marriage.  Which left me confused.  Were they really suggesting that when going to the polling booth to cast their votes, undecided voters said to themselves, 'Well, I'm not supporting legalised bumming - I blame those Tory bastards for the increase in buggery in the UK, you can't walk down the street without running the risk of being the victim of a drive-by sodomy - so I'm going to vote Labour'.  But apparently they were.  Sort of.  Their argument seemed to be that the Lib Dems have had too much influence, resulting in government policies being too liberal, which alienated many voters, who wanted them to be more right-wing.

Quite how a supposed unfulfilled yearning for right-wing policies amongst the electorate translates into an increased Labour vote still isn't clear.  Moreover, the only evidence for the pernicious influence of the Lib Dems is the afore-mentioned gay marriages and the proposed reform of the House of Lords.  Both of which, confusingly, were described by one of the rent-a-quotes as policies which the electorate didn't care about.  In which case, why would their voting intentions be affected by them?  It's troubling that the response of Tory backbenchers to rejection at the polls should be to retreat into some reactionary fantasy-land where there's some silent majority craving extremist policies.  After all, they are part of one of the most reactionary governments we've ever seen, using financial recession as an excuse for the effective destruction of the welfare state and curtailment of civil liberties.  Clearly, the idea that the electorate might be beginning to see through them, and recognise that they are simply the agents of corporate capitalism, hell-bent on squeezing every ounce of profit from us before moving on to suck some other state dry, is so troubling to them that they've gone into total denial.  Still, come the revolution we'll stick them all up against the wall and shoot them.  Either that, or force them into gay marriages.      


Friday, May 04, 2012

Too Hot to Handle?

I can confidentally predict that we'll soon be seeing several top Hollywood stars arrested for their involvement in bizarre Satanic rituals, involving wild sex and human sacrifice.  I mean, why else would the LA County Sheriff's Department have been looking at The Sleaze the other day, most specifically the story Hollywood Satanists?  Clearly, they were trying to do some in-depth research as they built their case against these celebrity miscreants.  That said, as everyone I mentioned in the story is now dead, they might have some trouble making arrests on the basis of the information they gleaned from it.  Unless they dig up Sammy Davis Jr, that is.  Of course, it was undoubtedly just a bored office worker at the Sheriff's Department killing a few minutes of a dull work day visiting the page, but I do love it when I get a visit like that - it makes such a change from all the regular ISPs I see in the search results: Virgin Media, BT and the like.  Actually, I've had a few out of the ordinary visitor origins of late.  Around the same time as the LASD's visit I also had a visit originating with the BBC in London.  This isn't the first time I've had such a visit - some variation on the search term 'UK political satir' always brings them to The Sleaze.  I've not yet discerned for sure whether they represent bored office workers or actual researchers.  That said, the fact that I've never been invited to either write satire for the BBC or had the site featured on a BBC programme makes me think they are probably from the former.

Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility of the BBC visits being 'official' - it would be no surprise to me if they recoiled from the site, appalled.  I'm afraid the The Sleaze is just too hot for mainstream media like the BBC to handle!  The BBC's idea of radical satire, in particular, is very different to mine. Actually, their entire concept of humour, these days, seems to be very different to mine.  Particularly on Radio 4 these days.  I had the misfortune to hear the first ten minutes or so of a long-running Radio 4 comedy the other day.  Just the voices of the actors it featured made my heart sink - there's a particular 'sound' they seem to favour for radio performers in both comedies and dramas which renders the characters they play bland and two-dimensional.  Just like the writing.  Even a few minutes of this particular episode clearly telegraphed to me the script's lack of ambition - it was quite obvious that it was going to be content to follow all the tired sitcom conventions, reinforcing the audience's preconceived prejudices and eschewing radicalism in favour of safety and whimsy.  It's hard to believe this was the best that the same station that once broadcast The Goon Show (when it was the BBC Home Service, that is), could come up with.  The problem is that Radio 4 seems to rely upon the same limited group of writers (often stand up comedians) to write their comedies, which are all aimed firmly at the station's staid, middle England, middle aged, middle brow audience.  Innovation is not required, let alone encouraged.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Easily Amused

I'm easily amused.  The other day in the supermarket I looked down an aisle to see a sign saying 'Frozen Breasts' - I felt like shouting "Well don't stand so close to the freezer cabinets!" at the female shoppers standing near it.  (Obviously, it was referring to frozen chicken breasts).  It's not often that I get given a feed line like that - especially by a supermarket.  Many years ago, not one, but twice, colleagues in the office I was working in at the time responded to something I'd said by saying "You jest", to which I was able to respond (twice) with the old Spike Milligan line "I jest what?"  I was laughing so much I had to hold my sides.  Like I said, I'm easily amused.  Then there was that time, when working in the same office, that I saw a security door emblazoned with the words 'This door is alarmed'.  Of course, I couldn't resist appending it with my own notice: 'Yes, I was pretty surprised myself!'  Ah, happy days!

 But it isn't just unexpectedly receiving classic feed lines that delights and amuses me - it's also those surreal moments that come from left-field, with absolutely no warning.  Like yesterday, when a colleague poked a fox with a stick.  Actually, to be fair to her, it was a long-handled feather duster rather than a stick.  She claimed that it was a man from the RSPCA who told her to poke the fox with a long stick, but she couldn't find one, so used the feather duster instead.  I'm still not entirely clear what it was all about, but apparently it had something to do with the fact that the fox (which was loitering around the back of the office) had been seen limping by the security guard, who was worried it might be injured.  So my colleague called the RSPCA who advised that she should poke the animal with a long stick - if it was sick or injured it wouldn't move far, but if it was healthy it would run.  Anyway, as it was last seen sitting on the wall behind the building, facing off against a local cat, it was assumed it was OK.  All very strange, but it amused me greatly.  It remains to be seen whether my colleague is going to make a habit of harassing local wildlife.  Perhaps she'll bait a badger next...


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Unfit Persons

I know what you've all been thinking: that Sleaze Diary has been a bit light in terms of full-blown political rants of late.  Well, don't worry, I'm still simmering away, building up to another eruption.  In the meantime, I was both cheered and dismayed by today's Commons Select Committee report which condemned Rupert Murdoch as being unfit to run a major firm.  Cheered, because this verdict is long overdue - it's high time that the UK's political classes found some backbone and started standing up to the likes of Murdoch.  Dismayed, because of the pathetic attempts of the Tory members of the Committee to undermine the report, by claiming the final verdict is politically motivated and refusing to endorse it.  This in the same week that Cameron had to be forced to attend the Commons to explain his refusal to to launch an immediate inquiry into any breaches of the ministerial code by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt during Murdoch's SKY TV takeover bid.  He was very angry about that.  God forbid that members of the government should be held to account by our country's supreme sovereign body.

But getting back to the Select Committee report, all the usual suspects are there, trying to undermine it - most notably the awful Louise Mensch, perhaps the most intellectually challenged person I've ever seen serve as an MP, (and that's saying something), basking in the publicity it brings her.  It really is so depressing, after everything that has come out about the conduct of News International during the course of the phone hacking inquiry and the Levenson inquiry, that there are still so many apologists for Murdoch out there.  Not just on the government benches in the Commons, either.  I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on this story as reported on the BBC News website. Bad mistake.  Lots of ranting loons denouncing a communist plot against Murdoch.  Still, I suppose all those former News of The World hacks have to do something to fill up their days now they're on the dole. But really, what is it that Murdoch and his minions have to do before these morons stop worshipping at his feet and, even worse, buying The Sun?  Clearly, attempting to subvert the government, corrupting the police and invading people's privacy isn't enough for them.  Perhaps if he had dropped his trousers and taken a huge dump on the desk during his testimony to the Leveson inquiry these clowns might have stopped defending him.  But somehow I doubt it - they'd probably have filled Twitter with comments about how his shit didn't stink.

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