Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cats On Death Row

Apparently in some US prisons, inmates on death row are allowed to keep pets, including cats.  At least, that's according to a friend at work who watched a TV documentary about it the other day.  Her worry, not surprisingly, bearing in mind that she rescues cats, was what happened to the felines if and when the inmate they belong to is executed?  Do they get 'transferred' to other death row inmates?  Are the re-homed outside the prison, possibly with the families of prison warders?  Personally, I thought that such solutions would be cruel - wouldn't the poor creatures just pine after their departed owners, wandering around the prison looking miserable and not eating?  As I told my friend, I'm sure that in these prisons they have a miniature electric chair which sits next to the main one and when an inmate is executed, their cat is strapped into it.  When the switch is thrown for the main chair, it simultaneously initiates the cat chair.  It would all be quick and relatively painless, I assured my friend.  Sure, the cat's fur would all stand on end and crackle, and it would probably smoke a bit, but basically it would be quite humane.  At least, that's what they always say when they execute a human being.

When I mentioned this discussion to my brother a few days later, he came up with a new refinement: instead of a little electric chair, an electric cat basket.  Which, when you think about it, is obvious.  What could be more natural than the cat curling up in its basket - once it is comfortable it will fall asleep, then ZAP!  What better way could there be for a cat to be executed, other than fried whilst asleep and content in a warm cat basket?  Mind you, if some nutter I heard on the radio the other day is in any way indicative of the levels of cat-hating in the US these days, then our feline friends could soon be finding themselves on death row in their own right, not just as the pets of inmates.  This guy - allegedly some kind of 'expert' - was ranting on about the fact that domestic cats are apparently responsible for decimating wildlife.  This is a hoary old 'statistic' which gets dragged up every few years.  One has to bear in mind that the only 'wildlife' that cats are big enough to kill are rodents and small birds.  In the case of the latter, there are many persuasive studies which argue that, in the UK at least, it is changes in habitat due to modern agricultural techniques, which are reducing bird numbers.  Anyway, even if cats do kill lots of 'wildlife', it's called 'natural selection' - if these mice and birds are stupid enough to get caught by cats, I have no sympathy.  Getting back to the point, I was half expecting this 'expert' to end his rant by demanding the death penalty for cats caught killing birds and mice.  To get back to the original point: needless to say that my friend is deeply unimpressed by any of my suggestions and has told me that I'm sick and will probably burn in hell.  Which is better than burning in an electric cat basket, I suppose.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Health and Safety of the Daleks

While we're talking about threats to health and safety, it isn't just that bloody Roger Moore who has been setting a bad example.  What about those Daleks from Doctor Who, eh?  Not the ones in the TV series, obviously.  Their avoidance of dangerous stuff like stairs demonstrates an exemplary adherence to health and safety guidelines.  No, I'm talking about the ones in the films.  You remember the films?  You know, the two Milton Subotsky made in the sixties to try and cash in on the first wave of Dalek-mania.  They were loosely based on the first two Dalek stories on the TV series and starred Peter Cushing not as 'The Doctor', but rather a character called (and referred to in dialogue) as 'Doctor Who'.  Anyway, I was watching the second of these films - Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD - on one of the digital channels the other day, when it occurred to me what a disservice to fire prevention the aliens were doing.  Now, I know that hardcore Dr Who fans - you know, the sort who spend all their time on Twitter bemoaning how it isn't as good as it was when they first saw it in 1983 and how it isn't as well-written as it was when Sylvester McCoy starred in it - will tell me that I shouldn't enjoy either of these films as they are non-canonical and debase the brand, but I find them quite enjoyable in their own rickety way.  (I say rickety, but, to be frank, they had better production values than the contemporary TV series they derived from).

One of the things which particularly amuses me about the Dalek films is the way the eponymous villains despatch their foes.  Unlike their TV equivalents, their guns don't fire death rays which turn everything negative.  Instead, for budgetry reasons, they fire great clouds of apparently deadly vapour.  (Which means they have to get very close to their targets in order to kill them).  This not very special effect was achieved by the Dalek operator discharging a fire extinguisher down the barrel of the ray gun.  Which, when I thought about it, rather undermines the image of the fire extinguisher, by implying that, far from being a potentially life-saving device, it is actually a deadly weapon, capable of killing any living thing within range of its blast.  But the Dalek defaming of this esential piece of health and safety equipment went far beyond this.  In a scene toward the end of the film, a group of Daleks surround a shed in which Philip Madoc  is trying to shelter and blast it with their fire extinguishers.  The shed promptly explodes in a ball of fire!  The message here is clear: far from putting out fires, fire extinguishers actually cause them!  Outrageous!  It's quite obvious that the Daleks' master plan was to so undermine our faith in even the most basic health and safety equipment that the human race would end up destroying itself in fires and other accidents, thereby leaving the earth ripe for their takeover.  Bastards! 


Monday, January 28, 2013

I Blame Roger Moore

Personally, I blame Roger Moore.  No, really.  Back in 1973, in Live and Let Die, he drove that double decker bus under a low bridge, slicing the roof off.  It's quite obvious to me that the bus driver who sheared off the roof of his vehicle beneath a railway bridge in Portchester today was trying to emulate him.  What other explanation can there be for someone attempting to drive a high sided vehicle under a low bridge clearly displaying its height?  Surely you aren't going to tell me that the kind of people they put in charge of buses are too stupid to notice that sort of thing?  I mean, come on, we aren't talking about an episode of On The Buses here - this is real life!  No real bus company would employ the likes of Reg Varney to drive bus loads of passengers around!  Don't be ridiculous!  Mind you, there must be quite a few Roger Moore fans down Portchester way, as the same thing happened a few months ago, but with a different driver behind the wheel.  Maybe they've got a fan club, or something, down there.

Still, in my opinion Roger Moore and that film have a lot to answer for, not just encouraging dangerous bus driving and the perpetuation of various black stereotypes.  That bit where he turns his hairspray into a flamethrower by igniting the nozzle with his cigar and torches a snake has also encouraged many people to try something similar.  I know I have.  Not that I was trying to defend myself from a poisonous snake planted in my bathroom by murderous voodoo priests in the pay of an international drug kingpin.  No, I was just trying to fry a bloody big spider.  And I didn't use a cigar, just a lighter.  And it was a deodorant spray, not hairspray.  Anyway, I can guarantee that many a set of curtains have been set on fire by people trying to imitate Roger Moore's flamethrowing antics.  Not to mention eyebrows burned off and carpets scorched.  (No, I didn't do any of those things, although I did melt the edge of some venetian blinds when the spider made a run for it).  So, there you go: they should definitely ban Live and Let Die, for the safety of bus passengers, if nothing else.    


Friday, January 25, 2013

Horsing Around

The revelation that traces of horse DNA has been detected in Tesco economy beef burgers raises several questions - how did met of any kind find itself into the sawdust, being the most pertinent.  Obviously, the real issue here is one of trades description - if they're made of horse meat, then they should be called horse burgers, not beef burgers.  But there's no doubt that a lot of the media coverage played on this strange aversion we have in the UK to the very idea of eating horse meat.  I've always assumed that this derives from our sentimentalised view of horses, the way racehorses are lionised and ponies treated like pets by young girls from well-off families.  Not to mention our obsession with the 'romance' of cavalry regiments and their mounts.  Hell, being described as 'horsey' is considered a compliment in many social circles, particularly royalty. Horses are our sacred animals, I suppose, in much the same way as cows are sacred to Hindus.  Personally, I have no such qualms - I'll happily eat both horses and cows, I really don't see why one should be different to the other.  And it's no good trying to tell me that horses are more intelligent than, say, cattle or sheep - we're quite happy to eat pigs which are far more intelligent than horses.

Not only would I be happy to eat horse meat in theory, I have actually eaten it.  Many moons ago when I was in France I had a steak that turned out to be horse.  Which I enjoyed very much.  I can't remember much about the taste, other than that I thought at the time that it didn't taste that different to a beef steak.  Of course, the anti-horse meat brigade will undoubtedly trot out the tired old lines about if it is fine to treat horse meat like any other meat, then why not extend that to, say, dogs or cats.  Well, in some parts of the world they do.  The only practical objection I have to consuming cats or dogs is that, as they are pretty muscular creatures, you probably wouldn't be able to get much decent meat from them - it would be too stringy, in the main.  The same sort of thing applies to rats - too small, not enough meat on them.  Although they might make a decent economy burger, I suppose.  The bottom line in this whole business is that the presence of horse meat in supermarket economy burgers would represent a distinct improvement in quality and nutrition, bearing in mind that the meat they usually contain is basically cow's anus.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Have a Drink, Have a Drive...

An addendum to my diatribe about right wing nut jobs and their warped world views they attempt to impose upon the rest of us: the other day I heard a 'debate' on the radio over drink drive limits and whether they should be lowered or abolished.  The item had been sparked by a, subsequently rejected, proposal in Eire to exempt some people in rural areas from drink driving laws in order to prevent them from suffering social exclusion as a result of being unable to get to the pub.  Anyway, one of the participants in this so called debate was from the Libertarian Society and proceeded to argue that the police stopping and breathalysing drivers on suspicion of drink driving, when their driving hadn't been noticeably erratic, was an infringement of the drivers' human rights, and this outweighed any health and safety considerations.  Bizarrely, his entire argument focused on the alleged fact that most drivers stopped by the police and found to be over the drink drive limit were not driving erratically at the time they were stopped, as if this somehow made it OK that they were breaking the law.

At no point did he address the fact that, regardless of whether or not their driving was noticeably erratic at the time they were stopped, these drivers would still have been suffering from the effects of alcohol: slowed responses and impaired judgement.  The reality is that their reflexes would be sufficiently affected that their reactions to unexpected situations on the road would have been significantly slowed.  Meaning, in practical terms, that they wouldn't be able to stop in time if a vehicle pulled out in front of them, braked suddenly, or a pedestrian stepped onto the highway - to give but three possibilities - they wouldn't be able to brake  in time or take effective evasive action.  Their impaired judgement would likely increase the chances of them being the one pulling out without warning, ignoring traffic signals or not observing properly at junctions.  However, as long they could still drive in more a less a straight line, their supposed 'human rights' should take precedence over the health and safety of other road users.  At least, that's the argument the libertarian seemed to be making.  Which is bloody scary and surely indicative of how detached from reality these nut jobs are.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Right Wing Nut Jobs

So, they inaugurated Obama again as President of the USA yesterday.  Except that they didn't - he'd already sworn the oaths and been inaugurated the day before in some kind of secret ceremony at the White House.  Just what went on in this secret ceremony?  What oaths were sworn?  Did he swear allegiance to the Illuminati?  Were there human sacrifices made to ensure a successful second term?  We need to know what Satanic pacts Obama made on Sunday!   That's undoubtedly what the right wing nut jobs are saying.  Weaving yet another conspiracy around Obama in order to explain his 'unexpected' victory over Mitt Romney and call into question his suitability to be President.  Why don't they just admit that their real problem with Obama is that he's black?  But there are plenty of whacko conspiracy theories doing the rounds right now without me making up new ones.

One which has recently caught my attention is the one which claims the recent US school shootings were organised by the White House as part of a plot to disarm Americans through strict new gun controls.  Now, even these nutters obviously realise that accusing Obama of having conspired to kill young children and their teachers, so they further elaborate their theory to claim that the deaths were all faked and that the supposedly dead children are actually all alive and well.  Apparently a whole town has conspired with the Federal government to fool the media.  If anything, claiming the deaths were faked is even more offensive than claiming the incident was a government conspiracy. According to these clearly disturbed individuals, the grief of the parents of the dead children is entirely faked.  Which is a pretty disturbing thing to suggest.  Of course, this sort of theory isn't confined to right-wing nut jobs in the US.  I recall that some years ago I came across someone on a UK message board claiming that Madelaine McCann, the little girl who vanished whilst on holiday with her parents in Portugal some years ago, had never actually existed and that her disappearance was a UK government plot to divert media attention way from Iraq.  Which is pretty offensive.

What lies at the root of all such conspiracy theories is a reluctance to accept reality, especially when reality contradicts your own belief system.  Now, the vast majority of us, confronted by events which challenge our world view, will reassess our position, try to take on board the new developments and accommodate them within a modified version of our belief system.  The conspiracy theorist, on the other hand, simply create their own version of 'reality' in which any facts contradicting their beliefs are dismissed as part of a conspiracy designed to subvert the 'true' reality.   So there you have it - if you don't like reality, just make up your own version in which right is wrong, black is white and lunacy is sanity. 

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking Ahead

Last week I had to endure a horrendous run of non-traffic to The Sleaze, with visitor numbers plumbing new depths.  What the cause of this was, I have no idea, and since Friday, there has been a recovery of sorts.  When things are going so badly, one naturally starts questioning whether there is any point to continuing to run a website which is having its traffic regularly squeezed (mainly by Google).  Amidst the doom, my thoughts turned to the question of what I'd do online if I did close down The Sleaze.  Which is a very good question.  After all, the reality is that I won't be publishing The Sleaze forever and a day.  Sooner or later I'll get bored with it, run out of story ideas or simpy get fed up with the traffic situation.  So, when that day comes, will I continue to publish online with a new site?  Obviously, this blog would continue regardless, having taken on a life of its own, with its own unique content, since starting as an off-shoot of The Sleaze.  Would I even want to run another site, separate from this blog, though?  I think the answer to that is 'yes'.  The fact is that this blog alone simply wouldn't be able to accommodate all of my creative urges.  Blogs tend to be good for shorter pieces, podcasts and films, but the longer, more ambitious stuff really needs its own home.

But what would this hypothetical future site be about?  What kind of content would it carry?  Would it be another satire site?  The answer to the latter is simple - 'no'.  I really don't feel that there would be any point to in creating a new site covering the same ground as the old one.  That said, it probably wouldn't be a million miles from The Sleaze in terms of content.  The fact is that my favourite stories over there have always been the 'weird' stories: aliens, ghosts, witchcraft, conspiracies and the paranormal.  Ideally, I'd like to set up a site devoted entirely to that sort of thing.  A kind of a parody of Fortean Times and its ilk.  The question is, would there be any audience for such a I site.  To be honest, I haven't a clue.  But then again, when I started The Sleaze, I had no idea if there was an audience for a satire site.  However, in its pre 'Evil Google' prime, it pulled in some pretty impressive visitor numbers, (and still does on occasion).  Of course, it is much more difficult to launch a site and build traffic for it these days, (thanks largely to the aforementioned 'Evil Google').  But as - like The Sleaze - it it wouldn't be a commercial site, I wouldn't be looking for the big visitor numbers, just 'quality' visitors who were interested in the site, read multiple stories and made return visits.  Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves here - this is still all speculation, (although I've had a domain name for this hypothetical future site registered for a few years).  Right now, I'm still persevering with The Sleaze.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 18, 2013

White Out

Look, I've said it before and I'll say it again, stop giving this bad weather so much TV coverage - you'll just encourage it.  Believe me, if we deny it the oxygen of publicity, it will soon go away and won't return in a hurry.  But will the media listen?  Of course not.  The chaos caused by this bastard snow is just too good a story for them not to sensationalise.  Take my local BBC new programme for example:  half an hour of 'news' telling me that there had been heavy snow across the entire region.  Really?  I hadn't noticed.  Then later on this evening, the BBC gave us a whole half hour of national snow news.  Why?  We were all there.  We know it was bloody snowing.  But really, why do we allow ourselves to be held to ransom by this white bastard every winter?  It isn't as if we shouldn't be ready for it by now, yet, no matter how much warning there is, roads remain uncleared, trains delayed and airports closed.  This defeatism is contagious - today even I gave up the fight and finished work early, as it seemed that the snow had closed down the whole of Crapchester.

But what I want to know is what David Cameron is going to do about this recurring wintry weather, (apart from blaming it on the poor or the last Labour government)?  Will he pledge to reduce the snow by at least 50% by the next election?  It's no good telling me that there's nothing that can be done to avert these outbreaks of snow.  That's just nonsense.  The government should be authorising the RAF to send its jet fighters up to intercept incoming weather fronts suspected of bringing snow, and escort them from British airspace before they can cause chaos.  If they refuse to comply, just shoot the bastards down.  I can only assume that the failure to issue such orders reflects the facts that this governments defence cuts have left us wide open to rampaging cold fronts.  Tory bastards!  That said, I've yet to hear Ed Miliband make any commitments regarding snow policy if Labour were to win the next election.  We need clarity on this issue.  Write to your MP now, demanding a crack down on snow illegally freezing the nation.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forgotten Films: From Hell to Borneo

Move aside Plan Nine From Outer Space, I have seen what is truly the worst film ever made.  Certainly the worst film I've seen in a long time.  From Hell to Borneo is a film so obscure that film reference sources can't even seem to agree on when it was made, let alone its title.  It is variously dated as either 1964 or 1967 and sometimes listed under the title Hell of Borneo.   Neither title is accurate, as none of the film's action takes place in Borneo, instead having been filmed in the Philippines and set both there and on a fictitious private island somewhere in South East Asia.  Anyway, to cut to the chase, this is a low-budget action movie starring and directed by US actor George Montgomery.  Back in the late 1940s and 1950s, Montgomery had enjoyed a reasonably successful career in Hollywood as a second string leading man, mainly westerns, (although he was also Philip Marlowe in The Brasher Doubloon, a 1947 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The High Window), but by the sixties he was increasingly making this type of lower-berth action fodder.  To say the film is shoddy would be an understatement.  Apart from Montgomery the only other 'name' actor is Torin Thatcher (a British character actor specialising in villains, best remembered now for Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jack the Giant Killer).  It is murkily shot on some on some very scuzzy looking locations, particularly the Manila bar featured early on - truly a Hell hole!

From Hell to Borneo has all the hallmarks of a hastily shot low-budgeter: the abrupt opening and ending, key characters appearing suddenly and with no explanation of their motives or relationship to the story, and halting 'plot' development, which grinds to a halt every so often to show us some local 'sights' or some supposed comic relief.  Speaking of the latter, this consists of a mentally disturbed character indulging a lengthy 'comedy' song and dance sequence as he feeds some ducks.  Despite being the comic relief, this character comes to an abrupt and bloody end when he's hacked to death whilst trying to protect one of the female leads from a machete wielding villain.  The plot, incidentally, concerns the battle for the control of the private island owned by Montgomery's family, with Thatcher proving to be behind the hordes of pirates and mercenaries who have been raiding the island and who have killed Montgomery's brother - whose death forces smuggler Montgomery back to the island to take over the family business.  The pirate leader is apparently Montgomery's illegitimate half-brother, although the script isn't entirely clear on this and ultimately doesn't make much capital of it.   

The worst thing about the film is that fact that it doesn't seem to have been directed, so much as arbitrarily assembled from several set-pieces, loosely linked together by some establishing shots of trees, vehicles driving along roads, local wildlife and boats.  The fact that it forms some kind of narrative seems accidental rather than intended.  The film quality is excruciatingly poor, (exacerbated by scratches and poor sound quality on the version I saw), using mainly natural lighting, giving the whole thing a home movie feel.  Indeed, I was left feeling that I've shot better home movies than From Hell to Borneo.  No, really.  I'm not just saying that for comic effect, as is fashionable amongst smug film critics who enjoy running down bad low-budget movies.  Many of the establishing shots have the feel of having been filmed by simply pointing the camera at something  (a harbour, or local market, for instance) and hoping that something would happen.  Which is exactly the technique that I frequently use myself (along with just about ever other amateur movie maker).  the difference is that I usually edit such scenes down to a minimum, whereas in From Hell to Borneo they frequently seem to go on forever.

So, there you have it - the first of our 'forgotten films'.  In this case, deservedly forgotten.  Oh, and why do I think From Hell to Borneo is worse than Plan Nine?  Well, a no budget science fiction film directed by a non talent like Ed Wood and starring a mainly non-professional cast, couldn't help but be shit.  From Hell to Borneo, by contrast, featured at least two experienced professional actors, an experienced director and actual foreign locations, rather than being shot in the director's back yard.  Yet, even at less than ninety minutes, it is still excruciating to sit through.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Modern Witch Hunt

I heard a rumour the other day concerning the identity of a celebrity who has allegedly been questioned by police in the wake of the Jimmy Savile business.  I'm not going to repeat it here because, quite obviously, it would be libellous and also because I don't trust the source.  Suffice to say, the celebrity named was someone who was very big in the 1970s, has connections with BBC children's TV programmes and was still active in TV until a few years ago.  When I first heard the rumour my initial reaction was that it sounded like the name had been deliberately selected for shock value - whilst a large proportion of us always found Jimmy Savile creepy and consequently weren't really surprised to hear of his crimes, the celebrity in this latest rumour was always much loved, with no scandal at all ever attached to them.  Apart from the shock value, I was left suspecting that perhaps the source of the rumour simply didn't like the celebrity they were defaming and this was an extreme way of discrediting them by destroying their reputation.

The longer the fall-out from the Savile affair rumbles on, the more accusations which are made, the more questionings by police which occur and the more rumours which fly around, the more it all reminds me of the witch hunting crazes in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  These too saw accusations of wrong doing being bandied about left, right and centre, usually to discredit rivals rather than being the result of any actual belief that the accused might have been practising the Black Arts.  Back then, if you didn't like one of the village elders, or you thought that the local inn keeper had short changed you, then you accused them of witchcraft.  Nowadays, you accuse them of being a nonce.  In both cases, the most circumstantial of evidence would be enough to start an investigation: an allegation that a local school teacher spent too much time watching kids in a playground, or that your prize marrow had been blighted after that old crone who had refused to lend you her horse gave you the evil eye, for instance.  Make up your own mind which era each example belongs to.  I remember a few years ago, when this country seemed to be in the grip of 'peado-mania', when what looked scarily like lynch mobs roamed around housing estates accusing people of being 'peados' on the basis of mysterious lists of names they'd allegedly got from the internet.  (Presumably the from the same site Philip Schofield got his list).  It all looked scarily like a scene from Witchfinder General.   All it lacked was Vincent Price in a puritan hat riding around pointing at people and shouting: 'He is a peado!'

At least now it isn't just any poor bugger considered 'weird' on the basis that they're a bit of a loner, read books or wear glasses, being accused.  We've moved on to pointing the finger at any celebrity or public figure we don't like, instead.  At the end of the day, the only real difference between the witch hunting crazes and the more contemporary peadophile scares, (I do remember there was an attempt to combine them some years ago with 'Satanic Child Abuse' narrative),  is that whilst witches don't actually exist, peadophiles do.  Actually, it isn't that simple, is it?  There are people who claim to be witches, but they're simply slightly barmy eccentrics who dance around naked at sabbats or claim to be able to cure warts, rather than being the evil consorts of Satan depicted by seventeenth century witch hunters.  Likewise, the real peadophiles aren't the monsters depicted by the press. so much as rather pathetic individuals who, more than anything else, need some kind of psychiatric treatment to help them curb their unacceptable sexual urges. 

Labels: ,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Too Cold for Comfort

Jesus fuck!  It's cold!  Not as cold as it could be, this time of year, but still uncomfortably cold.  Thankfully, the snow which fell overnight didn't last long and, by lunchtime, had largely been washed away by the (freezing cold) rain.  Of course, the short-lived nature of the snow hasn't stopped the media from scaremongering.  Last week tabloid newspapers had headlines bellowing that we were about to face three weeks of heavy snow which would bring the UK to a halt and make normal life impossible.  As ever, this was utter bollocks, but I'm sure it still worried a lot of people, (apparently there are still people out there who believe what is printed in newspapers).  However, scaring their readers rather than informing them seems to be what most newspapers in this country believe their primary purpose should be.  So I'm expecting to see many more headlines announcing the onset of a new ice age over the next few weeks.

Speaking of newspapers, I noticed that The Guardian whacked its cover price up by another 20p today.  I'm beginning to suspect that The Guardian is trying to make its own predictions about the imminent demise of print media come true by alienating readers of its print edition by continuously pushing up the price of a paper which correspondingly keeps getting thinner with fewer and fewer features.  I know the paper wants us all to use its online version, but the fact is that I can't read that version in the bath, in the car or on the train.  (OK, if I had a smart phone or tablet, I could do the latter but I don't own either and have no intention of owning either.  Besides, reading something on an inconveniently sized screen is quite different to reading real print).  Perhaps I should fight back against this trend by starting a print edition of The Sleaze.  Quite frankly, the way Google is cutting off traffic to sites other those they own and those big brand name sites they get advertising revenue from, it would probably have a fair chance of getting more readers than the website. 

(Speaking of traffic, or rather speaking of measuring it, once again my main stats service has stopped counting traffic in real time.  It is currently running an hour behind.  I'll be lucky if I get any more stats from it today.  I know there is traffic by looking at the back up stats service and server logs.  I'm afraid it has got to the stage where I'm so pissed off that I'm going to name and shame:  Statcounter - it is utter shit.  'Real time stats' should mean just that, not showing the stats from two hours or more ago.  Avoid them like the plague).

Labels: ,

Friday, January 11, 2013

Driven to Distraction

After years of decrying the sort of people who drive BMWs, I found myself driving one for much of this week.  To cut a long story short, it was a courtesy car provided by the garage after they'd cocked up the MoT on my car.  The whole dispiriting experience of using this vehicle has left me even more convinced that the only reason anybody drives a BMW is because of the perceived status which derives from it.  Quite how anyone could believe that the combination of poor gear shifts, heavy steering, over-sensitive clutch, uncomfortable seats and stiff suspension represents any kind of superior automotive experience is beyond me.  Driving the bloody thing was an ordeal I have no wish to repeat in a hurry.  Indeed, despite the outrageous garage bill I ended up having to pay, it was a relief to get my faithful 2002 Ford Mondeo back.  Not only is it a far pleasanter drive but, to be frank, the standard of the interior trim isn't significantly inferior to that on the 2006 BMW. 

Perhaps I'm being unfair, judging the entire output of BMW on the basis of a few days driving a single representative of the marque.  But I don't think that I am.  It just confirms to me that the actual product BMW are selling is less important than the image - an image BMW owners obviously believe is positive and enhances their own image.  Which is my biggest problem with BMWs (and Audis, Mercedes and some VWs) - the kind of owners and drivers they attract.  Again, I know that it is grossly unfair, but as soon as I see someone driving a BMW, I think 'knob head'.  But they do themselves no favours with their aggressive and arrogant driving, clearly trying to translate their perceived superiority into some kind of 'dominance' over drivers of 'inferior' vehicles.  I made it my mission during my brief time as a BMW driver to try and undermine this image by showing consideration for other road users, not speeding and using my indicators.  Oh yes, BMW drivers, that's one positive I've taken from this experience - I now have proof that BMWs are equipped with indicators, clearly you are too stupid, arrogant or just plain lazy to use them...  


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Aren't You Revolting?

The more those Tory bastards and their coalition partners the Tory Lickspittles run roughshod over the economy, the welfare state and our liberties, the more I find myself shouting at people: Why the fuck aren't you rioting in the streets?  Why aren't you storming the gates of Downing Street and putting 'Call me Dave' Cameron in the stocks, where he belongs?  Really.  What is it going to take for people to wake up and see these bastards for what they are - profiteering scumbags interested only in lining their own pockets and those of their wealthy corporate friends?  What more evidence do you people need?  Surely the selling of access to Downing Street by a senior party official is pretty conclusive evidence that they are corrupt bastards?  And if you wanted any more proof of their class-based attitude to poverty and deprivation, look no further than this week's disgraceful capping of benefit increases, which flies in the face of all decency.  What astounds me most about this latest outrage is the fact that some people actually buy the justifications the likes of the deplorable Ian Duncan Smith make for this move.  Honestly, the very idea that it is only 'fair' to cap benefit increases because wages aren't rising at the same rate is utterly ludicrous.  If people on benefits were actually getting the equivalent of the average weekly wage, it might just be a tenable argument.  But, contrary to what the Tories and their friends in the media will have you believe, they don't.  Unemployment benefit - sorry, Jobseeker's Allowance as we're meant to call it now - is barely 11% of the average wage.  By imposing below inflation rises on benefits, the government is forcing the poorest in society even deeper into poverty.

But what should we expect from the likes of Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith, who appears to strayed into politics from the pages of some Victorian novel, on a moral mission to punish the poor for being 'shirkers'?  Because - in his antiquated world view - being poor is their own fault for not being industrious or enterprising enough, or for being born in the wrong place.  Poverty is a choice according to his Victorian values.  Of course, there's a contradiction at the heart of his misguided ideology - whilst 'anybody can succeed, regardless of their background or social class, simply through hard work' is its mantra, it also believes that there is a natural social order and that the poor are at the bottom of this order and should know their place.  The only poor people deserving of help are those who do know their place and understand that they must aspire to nothing more than a life of drudgery in low paid casual jobs, with no pension rights, sick pay or security.  Why are we sitting here taking this kind of crap?  Particularly as it is coming from a man who is, by any measure, a complete failure in his own chosen field of endeavour - politics?  Let's not forget that this is the man who performed so poorly as Leader f the Opposition that his party didn't trust him to lead them into a general election, unceremoniously replacing him with Micheal Howard.  Frankly, someone who is considered even more of an electoral liability than Howard really isn't fit to hold any form of public office.While we're at it, let's not forget that this a government that wasn't elected on the popular vote - seizing power in what amounted to a political coup - and has no mandate for its extreme right-wing agenda.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get out on those streets now and start protesting!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Flying the Flag

Flags seem to elicit strong responses in some people.  In the US, for instance, a lot of people get very upset when they see the stars and stripes being burned.  Indeed, I believe it might even be illegal to burn the national flag in the States.  I recall that, during the first Gulf War, when the WWE was still called the WWF and the Iron Sheik was pretending to be some kind of pro-Saddam Iraqi general, he couldn't burn the American flag.  Instead, to show how evil and against decent American values he was, he burned pictures of all-American Hulk Hogan.  Which was almost as bad.   Personally, I've never really understood this sort of reaction to burning a flag.  After all, it is just a flag.  Nothing more.  Destroying it doesn't really change anything or kill anyone, nor does it actually harm the fabric of the country it represents, (for all these same reasons, I think that burning flags is utterly pointless).  But, of course, it is the 'represents' part which is so important to the people who get upset by flag abuse.  For them the flag - in this case the stars and stripes - represents everything they associate with being a US citizen.  It is part and parcel of their sense of identity.

Obviously, this phenomena isn't uniquely American.  Just lately people in Northern Ireland have been going crazy and rioting over the fact that the Union flag will no longer be flying permanently over the Northern Ireland Assembly.  On the face of it, this reaction seems extreme.  After all, it isn't as if the flag won't fly at all, it is just that Northern Ireland's Assembly has now been brought into line with the rest of the UK, where the flag only flies over public buildings on a limited number of days every year, usually denoting some kind of state occasion, such as the Queen's birthday.  I mean, if these people are such fans of the Union flag, there's nothing stopping them from putting up their own flagpoles in their own gardens and flying the flag whenever they want to, (except planning laws, perhaps).   But again, it is all about what the flag represents to the rioters.  Clearly, for Unionists (who want to Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK), the the fact that it is the Union flag is crucial.  Their entire national identity is tied up in symbols such as that flag.  Without it, they feel their identities as British citizens are diluted.  Part of their problem is that, to many in the mainland of the UK, they are viewed as being Northern Irish rather than British and, unlike the Scots or Welsh, this isn't perceived as being a nationality in itself, or as having a distinctive national culture.  Subsequently, they cling to that flag as their most potent symbol of national and cultural identity.  Personally, I've always felt myself lucky never to have felt the need to identify my own personal identity entirely in terms of nationality and culture.  Which is why I neither burn flags nor get unduly upset by the idiots who do burn them. 

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Way Ahead

I really haven't got into the grooves, so to speak, as far as my postings for 2013 go.  I'm afraid that I've just had too many distractions, most of them too tedious and expensive to go into in detail.  Others are relatively minor, but nonetheless extremely irritating and time consuming.  Right now, for instance, I'm having to spend time trying to find a new, reliable and free, stats service as I'm sick to death of the unreliability of the ones I use currently.  Preferably, I'd like a 'real time' stats service that didn't freeze with monotonous regularity and delay stats reporting for up to ninety minutes, thereby rendering itself a complete waste of time.  I'll give you a tip if you are looking for web stats services yourself - avoid the ones which appear near the top of Google's results like the plague, they're the ones I'm perennially having trouble with.  They make big promises they can't follow through on.  But getting back to the point, I thought perhaps a more constructive way of getting into the right mood for blogging in 2013 would be to take a look at what I'm planning to do online this year.

The bad news for non-listeners to The Sleazecast is that I intend continuing with my experiments in podcasting.  That said, it will probably be February or March before I commence 'series three' of The Sleazecast, which, once again, have its format tweaked, to feature less of me talking and more of 'other stuff' I'm increasingly putting together.  As well as the ever-evolving Sleazecast, I'm not ruling out other audio projects.  So, be warned.  As far as The Sleaze is concerned, Google's continued 'punishment' of non-favoured, non-brand name, sites means that I see little prospect of any sustained recovery in traffic.  Consequently, I'm inclined to start experimenting with the content I post there, rather than focusing on the straightforward stories I've been publishing for the past few years.  In other words, a return to the old days of the site, when I used to publish all manner of stuff - fake competitions, fake factual articles, lots of fake reviews and special features.  The same applies here - I've already been posting video on Sleaze Diary and added podcasts to the mix over the past year or so, and I'd like to find other forms of media to include here.  Moreover, I'm working on coming up with new post formats for the new year.  We'll see if any of it comes to fruition.        

Labels: ,

Friday, January 04, 2013

Dead Man's Hand...

What about that hand transplant, eh?  There's scope for some good old masturbation gags of Hands of Orlac references there, I think.  Not that we're allowed to go in for such crude humour, of course.  According to the humour Nazis who seem to be everywhere on the web these days, telling us what is and what isn't funny, what we are and aren't allowed to laugh at.  Knob and fart gags are apparently just too typical of old-fashioned racist and misogynist working men's club comedians - if you laugh at such gags or, even worse, have ever told them, then you are clearly some kind of moronic unreconstructed reactionary bastard.  I have to say that this is one aspect of the modern left that I despise - its complete lack of humour.  Or rather, its misplaced idea that to be on the left one must conform to a narrow cultural identity, every aspect of which has to be 'approved'.  This 'approval' consists of humourless middle-class poseurs carefully scrutinising every book, TV series, joke, even every piece of meaningless banter by radio DJs to ensure that it doesn't 'offend' anyone.  Even inadvertently.  Moreover, jokes can't be told just for the sake of being funny.  Oh no.  They must have political or satirical purpose.

The fundamental problem here is that the left has increasingly become dominated by these middle class poseurs and has consequently completely lost sight of its origins as a working class movement, dedicated to the advancement of the working classes through the creation of a more equitable society.  Their 'war' on supposedly 'low' humour is simply another attempt to expunge any memory of these origins by denying the validity of traditional working class humour.  I have no doubt that's why many critics and modern day supposed comedians despise sitcoms like Mrs Brown's Boys.  It has the audacity to celebrate traditional Dublin working class life.  Sure, it's a highly sentimentalised and broadly drawn version of this culture, but it is nonetheless proud to be working class.  I know it is based upon crude, smutty and often obvious humour, but it is at least funny.  Which is probably why so many people watch it.  Much to the annoyance of middle class, right-on, liberal critics.  Which is OK by me, as I don't see why the bulk of us on the left should be made to feel ashamed of our working class culture.  Not that I'm saying we should rehabilitate the likes of Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson (both Tory bastards anyway), but we shouldn't feel guilty about laughing at knob and fart jokes.  So, about that hand transplant:  let's hope the donor wasn't a compulsive masturbator or the guy will find himself involuntarily wanking in public, but at least it will feel like someone else doing it without having to lie on his hand to make it numb...


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Back to Work

No matter what it takes, this year I'm going to take the full two weeks off at Christmas and New Year.  This going back to work part way through the week is a killer.  One day I'm happily spending the better part of the day in bed, the next I'm having to get up for work.  Whilst I'm not recovering from illness, as I was this time last year when I returned to work, it was still exhausting going in today.  It's also quite disorientating going back to work, even for two days, this week, as a lot of people are still off and still, it seems, celebrating Christmas.  There's nothing worse than driving past houses with their Christmas lights still on as you go from one job to another.  On the plus side, at least the traffic wasn't too bad, with so many people still off work and schools still on holiday. 

The problem is that we're in that other seasonal hinterland - the post new year interregnum.  Whereas I always enjoy the hinterland which lies between Christmas and new year, with its lazy days of doing nothing and feeling of normal time being suspended, the bit immediately following new year always feels awkward.  It isn't so bad if New Year's Day falls at a weekend - then the next week just starts like a normal week.  However, if, like this year, it happens near the beginning, or in the middle, of the week, we are left with a few days which nobody knows what to do with.  Should we continue with Christmas?  After all, there are still several days to go before Twelfth Night, the official end of the festival.  Not only that, but the schools are still out.  But if you do take the time off and stay at home, it always feels slightly strange - sufficient numbers of people have gone back to work to make you feel guilty about being off work yourself.  But if you do go back to work, the knowledge that many others haven't, makes it feel equally odd.

The situation is reflected in the television schedules, with the TV stations unsure whether to return to a regular schedule or whether to stick to some kind of 'special' schedule.  The result is the odd hybrid schedule we've had for the past few days, with news programmes and soaps returning almost to their normal schedules, but still interspersed with slightly seasonal special programming and premiere episodes of new series masquerading as something special before settling down to become new regular fixtures.  Personally, I just want to hibernate until the end of February.  At least by next week the Christmas decorations should have gone, which will at least make things look 'normal' again.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013!  I have to say that, so far, it looks a lot like 2012.  A little less rainy, perhaps.  Of course, this is the point where I should be speculating what the next twelve months could have in store for us, like every other media outlet and blogger is doing.  However, I don't see the point, all we ever achieve by doing this is the building up of unrealistic expectations.  Unless all your predictions are pessimistic, obviously.  In which case all you will achieve is depressing yourself before the year has even got underway.  Alternatively, I could come up with a load of 'top ten' lists about the year gone by.  Again, I don't really see the point.  What's the point of recapping things we've already experienced, reducing them to a series of meaningless bullet points?  Can we really reduce everything to a list of just ten?  And what do we include -top ten gun massacres, top ten war atrocities or top ten horrendous industrial accidents, perhaps?

Cynicism aside, there were some things about 2012 which I found very positive and which gave me reason to hope that 2013 will be a good year.  I speak, of course, about the increasing number of people, all around the world, who took to the streets to challenge the prevailing economic and political orthodoxies.  It is all too easy to write off the 'Occupy' movement as a bunch of middle class poseurs, but the reality is that large numbers of people, apparently quite spontaneously, were prepared to set up their tents and challenge the capitalist establishment.  Whilst the encampments might have largely vanished (or been broken up by police and/or corporate thugs), the open questioning of the very basis of modern multi-national capitalism continues. Just look at the way Starbucks was shamed into paying some of the taxes they owe through a consumer boycott.  This is the way ahead, folks.  For far too long people have simply accepted the relentless propaganda which tells us that corporate capitalism is the only viable economic model - at last that is being questioned.   One of my big hopes for 2013 is that the left, most specifically the Labour Party, might stop trying to appease capitalism and have the balls to recall that it used to espouse alternative economic models.  A man can dream, eh?  Even if this doesn't happen, I'm hopeful that, at the very least, the populist anti-capitalism movement will strengthen and bring more corporate behemoths like Amazon and Google to heel, as it did Starbucks in 2012.  Maybe 2013 will be a good year.