Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope and Anti-Pope

It was like the exit of a long-running soap opera character, wasn't it?  The Pope's departure today, I mean.  He gives his last address before being whisked away in a helicopter.  To his Summer residence, apparently.  All worthy of Joan Collins really.  Anyway, he's no longer the Pope, but instead Pope Emeritus.  Which sounds as if it could become very confusing once a new Pope is elected.  A bit like when the Queen Mother was still alive and her official title was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, despite the fact that the reigning monarch, her daughter, was Queen Elizabeth II.  Not that her mother had been the first Queen Elizabeth as she hadn't been the monarch, despite the title, which she only held by virtue of having been married to the reigning King.  All very confusing.  Especially when I was a child.  Quite what a Pope Emeritus does is unclear.  Again, perhaps the analogy with the Queen Mother is apt.   Maybe he can spend his time wearing silly hats and being right-wing.  Actually, that's what he did when he was Pope proper, wasn't it?

I'm actually quite disappointed that former Pope Benedict hasn't set himself up as an Anti-Pope.  Time was that they were very popular.  Indeed, I'm pretty sure that the last Pope to resign did so in the midst of one of those disputes between rival Popes and Anti-Popes.  At the peak of their popularity, there were two Anti-Popes as well as the regular Pope, all competing for hegemony over the whole Roman Catholic church.  If the current Church wants to raise its profile, then a new Anti-Pope could be the answer.  They could turn it into some kind of reality TV show with Pope and Anti-Pope vying to become ultimate leader of the Church.  It would work much better, of course, if they elected some trendy radical Cardinal as the new Pope, with a reformist agenda including allowing gay priests, contraception and abortion.  Then Benedict could set up as the Anti-Pope representing traditional Catholic values of bigotry and knee-jerk reactions to any issue.  Perhaps he could advocate the return of the Spanish Inquisition as well.  If that didn't spark a debate, nothing would,  But sadly, it's unlikely to happen.  The Vatican is just too conservative.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pop Culture

I had a very trying day at work today, so I really don't feel up to making the post I was planning.  It would require too much effort.  Instead, I'd like to go back to something I mentioned last week: the project I was working on but couldn't really discuss at the time.  Well, this has now come to fruition - to cut a long story short, I was invited to guest present an episode of PQ Ribber's Pop Culture qd podcast over at the Overnightscape Underground. I managed to put something together over the weekend and it has now been posted here.  It isn't a million miles from some of the more recent episodes of The Sleazecast I've produced, albeit somewhat shorter.  I haven't a clue as to whether this will lead anywhere, but producing this episode has certainly focused my mind on the new series of The Sleazecast, which I'm due to start putting together very soon.  Perversely, although I talk a fair amount during the Pop Culture qd episode, I'm planning to appear less 'in person in the planned new Sleazecast episodes.  I firmed up my ideas for the first of these episodes whilst working on the guest hosting gig, as well as uncovering plenty of potential new raw audio material on the Internet Archive.

I'm also toying with the idea of trying to include some original music in this forthcoming series of podcasts - I know a couple of people who are self-styled musicians.  It's just a case of getting in touch with them and trying to persuade them to record something for me.  One of my greatest regrets is that I have apparently lost my cassette of The Salient Points' groundbreaking first album (only?) album, 'Snakepit of Missionary Degredation', (with cover art by me) - I've searched the house for this rare artefact and cannot locate it anywhere.  It was one of only a handful produced by this unheard of band, (which, as all Sleaze readers know, featured our own Professor Jerry Mire on vocals and penny whistle), and I would dearly love to share their musical genius with the world through The Sleazecast.  But, with the tape seemingly lost, I'll have to explore other musical avenues.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Bad Habits

It's good to see that the war on bad habits still isn't over.  Only this evening my local TV news programme brought us the shocking news that some smokers in the region could be unwittingly be smoking illegal tobacco.  The bastards!  As if smoking wasn't anti-social enough, they're also depriving the taxman of revenues and encouraging criminality with their filthy habits!  Jesus!  Next thing you know, they'll be be smoking bloody horse meat!  Don't misunderstand me, I appreciate that smoking is an unhealthy habit, but it is the vehemence with which smokers are still pursued and demonised, even after smoking has been banned from public places and cigarettes treated like hardcore pornography, locked away behind shutters in shops selling them.  Maybe it is because I'm a lifelong non-smoker that I don't have this pathological hared of smokers: unlike born-again non-smokers, I don't fear that the sight or smell of cigarettes will persuade me to lapse.  Indeed, a lot of these anti-smoking measures seem to be predicated on the idea that the only reason people smoke is because they are mesmerised by the sight of those colourful packets or because they are ignorant of the possible ill-effects of long-term smoking.  The reality, I suspect, is that people start smoking for much the same reasons that most drinkers start drinking and drug users start taking drugs - they enjoy it, it gives them a kick.

But smoking isn't the only bad habit that has been vilified of late - only the other week we had calls for a 'fat tax' to be put on soft drinks.  Once again, those of us who imbibe such liquids are well aware that they aren't really healthy - we drink them because we enjoy them.  The reality is that very few people are actually 'addicted' to things like Coca Cola and for whom the soft drink is the main cause of their obesity.  Just as there are few smokers left who chain smoke themselves into an early grave or drinkers who become alcoholics.  Indeed, there are even significant numbers of drug users who aren't addicts.  None of these things, done in moderation, will necessarily kill you.  It is when they are done to excess that the problems start.  But those who do become addicts don't do so simply because of the availability of fags, booze, drugs or soft drinks.  There are many reasons why anybody becomes an addict, ranging from psychological factors to environmental factors.  Which is why I have such a problem with these campaigns against smokers or drinkers or whatever - they refuse to acknowledge the complexity of addiction and instead opt for the simplistic 'solution' of prohibition.  Which won't ever solve the whole problem.     


Friday, February 22, 2013

No Mandate

Let's just revisit that whole gay marriage 'debate' the other week for a moment.  One of my abiding memories of the 'anti' camp's 'arguments' is of various right wing Tory backbenchers, rather than trying to advance any kind of moral objection to gay marriage, instead bleating on about how the government had no 'mandate' for introducing such a policy.  The fact that it hadn't been in the manifesto or the coalition agreement, the likes of Peter Bone contended, meant that the policy wasn't 'legitimate' and therefore they were perfectly justified in voting against their own government.  Which is a curious, if not hypocritical position for them to take.  After all, if a policy's legitimacy is dependent upon whether it is mandated through inclusion in a party manifesto, then why are Bone and his awful knee-jerk reactionary pals not opposing the government's programme of spending cuts, NHS privatisation and dismantling of the welfare state?  None of these things were in the Tory manifesto presented at the last general election.  Moreover, this government, arguably, has no mandate from the electorate.  Neither of its constituent parties could come close to gaining a majority of seats in parliament and the coalition agreement it was founded on wasn't voted on by the electorate.

So, the question arises, if it is OK for MPs to oppose policies put forward by their own government because they have no mandate for them, is it OK for us, as citizens, to defy policies implemented by a government that has no mandate?  If we were to take to the streets and, say, storm Parliament, would that be seen as a legitimate protest by these right-wingers?  I only ask because it seems increasingly likely to me that we'll be forced into such drastic action if we are to force change.  The Labour Party's abject failure to vigourously oppose many of this government's most damaging policies as a matter of principle, makes it clear to me that change won't come from above.  We will have no choice but to take matters into our own hands.  Indeed, some people already have.  The defeat of the government's attempts to force the unemployed into slave labour schemes was only dealt a blow in the courts as the result of legal actions mounted by individuals.  Individuals who appeared to be getting no support from Labour either during or after the case.  However, we will have to move fast, as avenues of legitimate protest are rapidly being suppressed in this country, if not directly by the government, then by their paymasters in big business.  Just look at the way corporations colluded with the church to get the 'Occupy' protest at St Paul's moved on.  Not that anyone seems to care - as ever, we're sleepwalking to slavery and oppression.   

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

For a while there it looked like this was all going to go horribly wrong.  But thankfully, Spurs managed to score in the ninetieth minute to rescue the tie against Lyon and qualify for the next round of the Europa League.  If they hadn't, it would have put a bit of a downer on my birthday celebrations.  That said, I should be used to that - I can't ever remember a time when Spurs played on, or close to, my birthday and won.  So perhaps I should take this momentous event as a good omen - God knows we need some of those!  Perhaps this is going to be good year.  Anyway, that late goal means the day is still on track - apart from a nagging sinus headache, I've had a stress-free day.  It's amazing how spending a few hours away from the hell of work can be so relaxing - by the time I got to the end of the working day yesterday I was pretty damn wound up, despite all my efforts to avoid problems.  

But, a morning mainly lying in bed listening to my mp3 player, an afternoon sat on the sofa eating fish and chips and catching up with some movies followed by the Spurs match and some cheese and bacon sandwiches, have gone a long way to unwinding me.  My state of mind is helped by the knowledge that I've got another day off tomorrow - one where I intend to be a bit more active.  For one thing I have to start work on a new project which, hopefully, I'll be able to talk about here a bit more next week.  For another, I really have to start making good on my New Year resolution to make more effort to keep in touch with a particular friend - something I've spectacularly failed to do.  But, getting back to today, I'm about to settle in for the late shift: beer and dodgy continental movies. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winding Down for the Weekend

I feel like I'm winding down for the weekend already.  Which, in a way, I am.  As far as the working week is concerned, I'm midweek right now, as I'm taking Thursday and Friday off, on account of it being my birthday on Thursday.  If I'm going to be forced to be another year older, I'd at least like to do it in the comfort of my own home.  Indeed, I'm feeling so anti-social this year that, even though my birthday falls on a day I'd normally go to the pub in the evening, I'm thinking of staying in all day. To be honest, I'm finding that these days the pub has lost a lot of its allure.  For one thing, we're back to the situation where most of the other regulars I once drank with have, for one reason or another, stopped coming in.  Of course, it could just be that they are deliberately going in on nights when they know I won't be there so as to avoid me.  In which case, fuck 'em!  Mind you, on the plus side, a lot of the piss heads who drank in the public bar and whose rowdy antics discouraged anyone with a brain cell from coming in, have decamped to another local pub selling cheaper strong lager.

Apart from the fact that I've reached a stage in my life where I'm entirely at ease with myself and happy with my own company, it occurred to me the other day that on those occasions when I have met friends and acquaintances in the pub for a few drinks on my birthday, I haven't actually enjoyed it.  To be fair, there have been a couple of times I've enjoyed it, but that's been down to the company - then again, those involved the presence of particular individuals I'd be glad to see any time, let alone birthdays.  But I digress.  Most of these occasions just seemed slightly forced - I always prefer social situations which occur by happenstance, without any real planning or intent.  Just bumping into people in the pub by chance is what pubs are all about, after all.  Obviously, with nobody but me going there these days, the chances of actually bumping into anyone I know by chance are pretty slim, but I live in hope of accidentally meeting someone interesting there.  But getting back to this year's birthday - I intend to doing what I secretly wanted to do on those times I was in the pub: stay at home and watch DVDs.  I have a stack of unwatched exploitation films, including the notorious Cannibal Holocaust and the Jesus Franco version of Venus in Furs, a good supply of beer in the fridge and, to top it all, there's the second leg of Spurs' Europa League tie against Lyon live on ITV4.   If only Spurs can contrive to win the tie, it'll be a damn near perfect day!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Learning Experience?

So, according to Ian Duncan Smith, failed Tory Party leader and current Work and Pensions Secretary, believes that shelf stackers are more important than geologists.  At least, that's the implication of his latest ill-judged comments.  We was, of course, responding to the outcome of a recent court case in which a young unemployed woman - who happened to be a geology graduate - successfully challenged the government's policy of forcing the unemployed to do unpaid work, typically in supermarkets, or risk losing their benefit payments.  Now, what Duncan Smith is quite blatantly trying to do is reframe the whole issue, to make it one of an unemployed graduate thinking that manual labour was somehow 'beneath' them.  Which, of course, the court case wasn't about.  The geology graduate's objection was to being effectively used as slave labour by a large commercial concern that already makes huge profits, in the guise of this being work 'experience'.  Quite apart from the fact that she learnt nothing from the experience, she, not unreasonably, pointed out that shelf-stacking had no relevance to her planned career path and that being forced onto the scheme had actually resulted in her having to give up the unpaid work experience she had arranged herself at a local museum.  But why let the facts get in the way of a bit of opportunistic Tory propaganda, eh?

Speaking as a graduate - actually not just a graduate, but the holder of a Master's degree and Post Graduate Certificate of Education - I can honestly say that I don't think that manual labour is 'beneath' me.  Indeed, whilst I've never stacked shelves, I have flipped burgers, sold double glazing over the phone and worked as a driver in my time - and was paid for doing those things.  What I learnt from those experiences was that I wasn't very good at most of them and that I wasn't interested in them.  The fact is that they are usually mind-numbingly dull, physically demanding and extremely low paid.  I have enormous admiration for the people who have no choice but to do such jobs day in and day out just to survive.  Which is why I find it completely unacceptable that anyone should be forced to do them for nothing!  The fact is that anyone, if they could, would choose to do something else for a living.  Which is why many people go to the trouble of gaining qualifications, whether academic or professional.  Curiously, as a member of a government which likes to bang on about wanting people to be aspirational, Duncan Smith seems to be saying that some people have no right to aspire to anything other than low-paid manual drudgery.  Not that he or any of his colleagues have ever done any of these jobs they think are so important - and if they are that important, why aren't they better paid?  Or in the case of this 'work experience', paid at all?  That said, I'm sure that lots of those Tory bastards did unpaid work experience - as interns at their fathers' or friends of their fathers' multi-national companies.  That must have been hell for them.     


Friday, February 15, 2013

Forgotten Films: The Deadly Affair

I found myself talking about this film on the Overnightscape Central podcast over at the Overnightscape Underground  the other day, so I thought it was about time I got around to covering it here as part of the 'Forgotten Films' thread.  The Deadly Affair is one of those films which, over the past couple of decades, seems to have slipped off the radar - I can't remember the last time it had a screening on TV and wasn't even mentioned as part of his body of work when it's director, Sidney Lumet, died.   Which seems grossly unfair.  A 1966 adaptation of John Le Carre's first published novel, Call For the Dead, it features a fine central performance from James Mason as George Smiley.  Except that, for legal reasons connected to the fact that the Smiley character - played by Rupert Davies - had appeared in Paramount's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold adaptation the previous year, (Deadly Affair was made for Columbia), the character had to be renamed Charles Dobbs.  Whatever the name, the character is still recognisably Smiley.  Younger than the Smiley of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, as portrayed by Alec Guinness on TV and Gary Oldman on film, but still Smiley.

The film is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the original novel, although Paul Dehn's script makes a few changes in order to draw a closer parallel between the central relationships of the story.  As in the book, Dobbs/Smiley is working for the Security Service, security vetting senior civil servants and government officials.  He interviews Fennan, a Foreign Office official, after an anonymous letter accuses him of having once had communist sympathies.  Although Dobbs clears Fennan, the official later commits suicide.  With his department seeking to blame him and his supposedly heavy-handed approach for the death, Dobbs finds himself at odds with his superiors and, convinced that Fennan didn't kill himself, resigns and begins his own private investigation.  In parallel with these events, Dobbs is struggling with his own marriage.  His much younger wife has embarked on a series of affairs, which Dobbs - to her frustration - refuses to react to with anger, instead stoically accepting them. Mason's performance here is superb, conveying perfectly Dobbs' inability to properly express his feelings to his wife and to bring the passion he feels for his work to his marriage.  Indeed, the film features several fine performances, most notably Harry Andrews as Mendel, the retired Special Branch Inspector who assists Dobbs, frequently falling asleep at inopportune moments.

However, the plot and performances aren't what I love most about the film.  Rather, it is the snapshot of just pre-swinging London it presents.  Filmed in muted colour by cinematographer Freddie Young, it presents us with some fantastic vistas of 1960s London, effectively contrasting Dobbs' neat Pimilico environs with the working class streets of South London.  In particular, there are some fantastic point-of-view shots from Dobbs' car as he tries to shake off a vehicle he suspects is following him, driving at speed past rows of run down houses and shops.  There are also some great sequences filmed around a murky scrap yard close to the river and a local, truly grotty, pub.  Again, Mason's performance in these latter sequences, as Dobbs finds himself far out of his comfort zone, both professionally and socially, is highly effective.  The South London scenes are neatly contrasted with several sequences in Surrey, emphasising the neat primness of the middle class home counties houses and amateur theatrical companies.  Moreover, toward the film's climax, we are treated to an excursion into the tourist territory of central London, again a stark contrast with the South of the river scenes.  Interestingly, the central London section also includes a crucial scene at the theatre, where we get to glimpse the then current RSC production of Marlowe's Edward II (directed by Peter Hall) - look out for David Warner and Timothy West amongst the cast. 

Easily worthy of an hour and forty minutes of anyone's time, The Deadly Affair, apart from being a suspenseful and atmospheric espionage thriller, also gives us a fascinating insight into middle class life in 1960s Britain, just before all of its values were to be challenged by the 'swinging' part of the decade, with its examination of the personal lives of both Dobbs and Fennan.  In 1966 it was still possible to have a film with a middle-aged hero, before the cult of youth gripped popular culture.  Oh, and as if all this wasn't enough, the film also features a great score by Quincy Jones.  Go and buy the DVD.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bad Omens

I had another one of those dreams the other day - the ones which I wake up from with tears in my eyes.  It doesn't happen often, but occasionally I have a dream so intense it creates this kind of emotional response.  To be honest, I can't really remember much about the dream itself, only that it had to do with a friend I once harboured unspoken feelings toward.   The dream had something to do with them either getting married or renewing existing marriage vows, or something like that.  Anyway, in the dream I seemed to take this as a sign not only that my feelings toward them would never be resolved, but that somehow my entire friendship with them was over, leaving me with a feeling of deep loss.  A feeling which lingered for some time after I woke up, until I shook off sleep completely and reassured myself that it was just a dream. 

I suppose that what the dream was about, (if, indeed, dreams are about anything, which I doubt), is the need to know when to let go of things in order to save oneself too much hurt.  Interestingly, of late I've been encountering the notion that when something in your life, not just relationships, but projects too, is obviously over, then you should just let it go.  Most notably, in several podcasts I've listened to over the past couple of weeks, people have talked about how they accepted the demise of earlier projects which, they felt, had run their course.  All of which leads me to wonder whether the universe is trying to tell me something - is it time for me just to give up on The Sleaze?  The sad fact is that traffic right now is dire.  Things seemed to be picking up significantly over Christmas and New Year, but then a few weeks ago the site seemed to get caught up in Google's latest 'Panda' algorithm update, (a series updates designed to punish webmasters who have committed undefined misdemeanours, which, in reality, seeks to de-rank smaller sites from their most popular searches and transfer the traffic they should be getting to either big brand sites carrying Google ads or sites owned by Google), which has all but killed our traffic completely.  Right now, for instance, I've had one visitor in two hours!  Not so long ago I would have been expecting ten to fifteen visitors an hour, generating twenty or more page views. 

What makes this situation all the more ludicrous is that the two stories I published this week were extremely popular, but today the traffic they generated has vanished completely.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - these are not normal traffic patterns, they are clearly being manipulated by Google.  Sadly, as Google dominates web search, there is little that I, or the millions of other site owners seeing their work destroyed like this, can do about it.  Once Google takes it into its head to force you off the web by stopping you from ranking for any popular keywords, there is no way back, t seems.  Cutting my losses and starting again seems the only option.  I have little to lose as, it seems, Google has put The Sleaze back to where it was thirteen years ago when I started it, in traffic terms.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Italian Job: Papaya - Love Goddess of the Cannibals

Never has an exploitation film disappointed me more.  (Actually, now I come to think of it, Jesus Franco's Vampiros Lesbos was possibly more disappointing, but I gave up on that one before the end, tired of waiting for either the vampires or the lesbians to turn up).  I had such high hopes for this movie, which promised so much: cannibals, lesbianism, naked women, sex and exotic locales.  Whilst all of these elements are indeed present, under sexploitation veteran Joe D'Amato's pedestrian direction, they never gel into a satisfying whole.  We just get what seem like endless sequences of not very interesting voodoo ceremonies characterised by lots of naked dancing and drums, punctuated by even less interesting but lengthier dialogue scenes.  Characters wander around, get seduced by the titular character, sometimes get murdered but mostly they just talk.  The whole thing is flatly filmed, but does succeed in effectively contrasting the luxurious hotels and facilities enjoyed by wealthy tourists and visitors to the tropical island where the 'action' takes place, with the run-down shanty towns the natives are forced to live in.

The plot, such that it is, concerns the local population trying to stop the construction of a nuclear plant on their island.  The key to achieving this aim, it seems, is for Papaya to seduce the various geologists, surveyors and other scientists sent to lay the groundwork for the plant, before castrating and killing them.  This seems such a haphazard way of going about it  - nobody from the nuclear plant group seems to realise that they are being systematically targeted - that I was left wondering why she didn't just organise a petition or a few protests? But then, Papaya, Environmental Activist of the Cannibals wouldn't have been such a good title, although the action would have been no less tedious. And speaking of cannibalism, there actually isn't much on display in the film.  That said, there is a lot of flesh on display, mainly of the female kind.  Whilst Papaya, played by Melissa Chimenti, might be the title character, much of the running time is devoted to journalist Sara, played by sexploitation favourite Sirpa Lane.  Both characters spend a lot of the film's running time naked and, for no other reason than the box-office, get down to some full-on hot lesbian action at the movie's climax.  It all makes little sense and is far less exciting than even this brief review makes it sound.   Unless you are really desperate to see Sirpa Lane naked - and trust me, she's taken her clothes off in far more entertaining films than this - I'd give this one a miss! 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Brief Interruption

I decided that my time tonight would be better spent coming up with a story for The Sleaze which addressed yesterday's news of the Pope's resignation.  Which means that I don't have time to post here as I would normally on a Tuesday evening.  So what would have been today's post will run tomorrow (Wednesday).  In the meantime, you can judge whether this brief interruption to normal blogging service was worthwhile, by checking out the story, subtly entitled Vatican Sex Scandal?. I think that sometimes one has to strike while the iron is hot with subjects like this.  Especially when, thanks to Google's ongoing war on websites, traffic is so poor.  But like I said, normal service will be resumes here at Sleaze Diary tomorrow.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Good News From the Vatican

So the Pope is resigning.  When I first saw that headline, I was hopeful that the resignation was due to some sort of breaking scandal.  Perhaps, I thought, a photograph of the Pope with Jimmy Savile, possibly with a group of choirboys, had surfaced.  After all, with Pope Benedict having been a long-serving Cardinal before his elevation to the Papacy, and with Savile's brown-nosing around the Vatican, (he was he recipient of a Papal knighthood), there has to be a good chance that they met.  Ideally, I was hoping that a picture of Pope Benedict smoking one of 'Uncle' Jimmy's cigars had been uncovered.  At the very least, I hoped that maybe the Papal porn stash had been discovered by a cleaning lady - if they were lucky it would just have been nun porn.  But no, apparently it all comes down to the fact that he thinks that he's too old for the job.  Not too Nazi, you notice, just too old.

But too old for what, exactly?  I can't say that being Pope looks like the most taxing of jobs - just spend half the day talking to yourself, then going and telling everyone that it was actually God's voice you heard.  It's just a coincidence that he speaks with a German accent.  Now, if I wanted to be controversial, I could speculate that he's now too old to chase those choir and altar boys.  They're just too quick for him and besides, all that activity and sexual expectation isn't good for his heart.  But I wouldn't do a thing like that.  In reality, I'd hope that his decision to resign was founded upon the realisation of how utterly irrelevant his inflexible, doctrinaire, world view is to the modern world.  His stances on the ordination of women and homosexuality belong in medieval times.  Whilst not religious myself, I found his denunciation of non-believers like myself, made during his visit to the UK, utterly offensive, particularly his claim that atheists were somehow facilitators of the Nazi regime in Germany.  A regime, incidentally, which he happily served as a member of the Hitler Youth, manning an anti-aircraft gun and shooting down British and American bomber crews.  I can only hope that the Catholic Church chooses a replacement who doesn't spout this same kind of hateful bile and remembers that Christianity is supposed to be a faith built on love.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Making a Song and Dance About It

I have an aversion to musicals.  It all comes down to a childhood trauma.  I had the misfortune, at an early age, to see the opening of the film version of Oklahoma when it premiered on TV.  Being a child, I just assumed it was a western and settled down to enjoy the usual combination of gun play, horses, brawling and cattle-rustling.  Imagine my shock and horror as this cowboy rode toward the screen and started singing!  Needless to say, I watched no more of it and have refused to watch musicals ever since.  I mean, they're bloody ridiculous, all those people bursting into song for no reason at all.  I can't think of a single musical that couldn't be improved by the removal of the songs.  However, the trend seems to have gone the other way, with perfectly good films, books and plays being turned into musicals by the addition of asinine songs.  Not that it is a new phenomena: the sixties and seventies brought us My Fair Lady, (how remiss of George Bernard Shaw was it to omit to put any songs into Pygmalion?), Goodbye Mr Chips, (which, as well as allowing Peter O'Toole to sing, unwisely updated the story to World War Two) and, worst of all, Lost Horizon, (not even the promise of immortality would make me stay in Shangri La if it meant putting up with those bloody songs). 

Anyway, to get to the point of this post, last night in the pub a friend of mine announced that he was appearing in an amateur production of one of the most famous (infamous?) of the recent trend of turning non-musicals into musicals:  Mel Brooks' The Producers.  Personally, I find this one of the most offensive examples of the genre.  Not only did they take a perfectly good and very funny film and put in tedious and unnecessary songs, but then they turned this bastardised version into a film, with the result that there are people out there who think that it is the 'real' film of The Producers and don't even realise the original existed.  Getting back to the 'narrative' - having vented my spleen - my fiend is apparently playing a tap-dancing Nazi.   Although that's not the point of this post - just an incidental observation.  The point, such as it is, is that we got to discussing which other classic films and TV series could be adulterated in a similar fashion.  The popular choice was Dad's Army - it's obvious really, when you think about it, each main character has at least one catch phrase which could form the basis of a whole song and dance routine.

Take Corporal Jones, for instance - you could have a whole number involving people running around in a frenzied fashion as he sings 'Don't Panic'.  Then, later on the platoon could fix bayonets as Jones leads them in 'They Don't Like It Up 'Em', as they mime thrusting their rifles upwards to impale imaginary parachuting 'Fuzzie Wuzzies' on their bayonets.  Then you could have Captain Mainwaring singing 'Don't Tell Him Pike!' as the German prisoner takes it down in his notebook.  See, this stuff just writes itself.  Personally though, despite the undoubted merits of Dad's Army when it comes to unnecessary musicalisation, I still have a hankering to see a musical version of Patton: Lust For Glory, although I think that would have to be an opera to do full justice to the subject matter.  Can't you just see Placido Domingo in the title role belting out 'You God Damn Sons of Bitches'?  Maybe they could get Gio Compario from the insurance ads to be Field Marshal Montgomery.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

Stuck in the Mud

So much for all my bravado about February being a month of progress last time.  I spent a large part of yesterday quite literally stuck in the mud.  Well, not me personally, but my car found itself immobilised by a saturated grass verge.  Nothing would budge it - I couldn't move it either backwards or forwards.  As it was on (or rather off) a track off of the actual road, the AA refused to help me on the grounds that it wasn't 'roadside'.  Bearing in mind the amount of money I pay them in annual subscriptions, I'd really expected a bit better than semantic arguments from them.  Anyway, the car was eventually towed out by a friend's 4x4.  All in all, just the sort of thing you want on a freezing cold February day.  One could argue that the whole sorry incident is somehow symbolic of my life at the moment - lots of sound and fury as I rev the engine and engage the gears, but absolutely no resultant action.  Other than lots of dirt flying around.

I have plenty of good intentions of actually doing things to get out of that metaphorical mud - as witnessed by the previous post - but it is the actually doing bit which is the problem.  The problem - in part - is that I find it very difficult to get motivated at this time of year.  With winter lingering and the ever-present threat of more sleet and snow, all I want to do is hibernate.  Indeed, in an ideal world I'd go to bed early in December and sleep until the beginning of March.  As it is, I'm forced to remain awake and spend most of those waking hours trying to stay warm.  The trouble with spending a lot of time working away from the office, out on the streets (or country lanes, even) at this time of year, is that I'm exposed to the elements - if it isn't torrential rain it's freezing cold gales or snow.  And there just seems to be no respite.  I keep telling myself that things have to change, that I have to take some decisive action to change my work situation.  But I just don't have the energy to do anything.  Maybe next month...


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

February At Last!

It's no exaggeration to say that it's a real relief that February has finally arrived.  Whilst I'm not one of those people who hates the month of January simply because it has the misfortune to come directly after Christmas and, more often than not, features some of the worst winter weather, this year it seemed to go on forever.  Maybe it was because I went back to work too early, or perhaps it was all the problems I had with the garage over my car early on, but January just seemed never ending.  But finally we're out of it and into February - another frequently reviled month.  However, the change of month gives the impression that the year is at last progressing, that we're going somewhere.  All too often, January feels like an overlong introductory sequence in a film - we just sit there aching for it to be over and for the action to start.  Well, hopefully now the action will start.   From my point of view, at least, February holds the prospect of taking some time off.  Just a couple of days around my birthday later this month, but welcome nonetheless.  Last year I did a fifteen week stint from September until Christmas without taking any leave and regretted it.

But what else have I got planned for February, other than spending a couple of days with my feet up eating toasted cheese and bacon sandwiches?  Well, I've obviously got another couple of stories planned for The Sleaze and I'm hoping to finally get around to reviewing more of the Italian exploitation films I watched on DVD over Christmas, not to mention another couple of instalments of 'Forgotten Films', this time covering some unjustly neglected cinematic gems rather than crud.  I'm also intending to start putting together some audio material for the first in a new series of The Sleazecast.  As I've mentioned before, I'm hoping to radically re-style the podcast for this year's run.  In non-internet activity, I'm hopeful of making some progress in reconstructing my model railway.  I've got an idea for a new layout plan that will eliminate the troublesome lifting section and allow me to make better use of the space in my spare room.  So serious am I about this project that I've taken the unprecedented step of buying some layout planning software, with the intention of creating a proper scale track plan to work from.  So, there you have it - February, a month of progress!  Oh, and before I forget, I had a couple of interesting hits on The Sleaze over the past few days.  For the first time ever I recorded a vi st from Fox News - US readers can expect to see an 'exclusive' Fox report on how a British man received a sex offender's hand in a transplant.  The other noteworthy hit was a lengthy multi-page visit from Hat Trick Productions, producers of Have I Got News For You.  Surely they can't have realised that their brand of clapped out Private Eye 'satire' has finally had its day and they're going to start cribbing my material instead?

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Monday, February 04, 2013

True Blue Bigotry

The welfare state is being dismantled, the NHS effectively sold off piecemeal to grasping private health providers, the poor are being stigmatised as 'shirkers' and the economy is in freefall.  But do any of these things bother the grassroots of the Conservative Party?  Apparently not.  What's getting them enraged is the idea of same sex marriages.  Which, they claim, will result in the collapse of civilisation as we know it if they are made legal.  Quite why the idea of gay men (and women) being able to get marries, possibly in church, bothers them so much.  They, of all people, should be open to the idea.  After all, the way I hear it, there are quite a number of married male gay MPs in the Tory Party.  OK, they're married to women and keep their boyfriends in luxurious flats somewhere on the South Bank, but apparently everybody knows about it.

Still, the Tory Party has always been in denial about homosexuality.  What goes on at Eton and other public schools has nothing to do with it, apparently.  That - along with all that homoerotic stuff that goes on in rugby changing rooms, officers' messes and the like - is simply a form of male bonding.  Just a bit of robust horseplay.  Nothing sexual about it.  You see, there's a clear difference between a prefect at Eton giving one of his fags one up the jacksie and that horrible homosexual buggery.  That's unnatural and filthy.  Done purely for perverted sexual gratification.  It's obvious really.  Just ask the blue rinse brigade, who find the very thought of gay people entering into a legal partnership, blessed by the church, utterly repulsive.  Which is understandable, I suppose, as they consider marriage a sacred institution.  They should know, most of the bastards like the institution so much they've engaged in it at least three times.  But let's not forget the religious aspect - it isn't the place of the state to go around telling religions what they should do.  Come to think of it, wasn't that the point of the reformation? 


Friday, February 01, 2013

Naturist Naturalists?

Those nude calenders, eh?  Remember when they were all the rage?  Remember when, on the dubious grounds that it was 'all for charity', the likes of middle-aged Women's Institute members, Rugby clubs and vicars used to pose starkers for calenders?  I say 'starkers', but you never actually saw anything - it was all artfully posed with carefully placed objects to cover up the naughty bits.  Apparently this sort of thing is no longer in vogue. Which is a pity.  I had assumed that the calender produced by the BBC programme Countryfile featured the presenters nude in some agricultural or wildlife context.  But it seems I was mistaken.  The annual calender competition they run is for viewers to submit photographs for the calender, rather than for them to suggest possible poses and locations for the presenters.  Which, I assume, leaves Chris Packham feeling disappointed.  I have absolutely no proof to support this, but he's always given me the impression that he'd like nothing better than to strip naked and commune with nature.  Like I said, I have no proof of this, but he just seems the sort.

I could easily imagine that the picture for March, for instance, would feature a naked Packham, full frontal to the camera, holding an alarmed looking owl in front of his groin.   August could be Julia Bradbury nude in a combine harvester, whilst I'm sure that Matt Baker would be more than happy to pose naked with a shepherd's crook for April, supervising the lambing, a strategically placed sheep dog covering his vitals.  Obviously, the programme doesn't have twelve presenters, so some doubling up would be required.  I'm sure Chris Packham would be happy to oblige.  Maybe he could do October, as well, this time sitting naked in front of a roaring fire in a country kitchen, legs crossed and caressing a ferret to cover up anything untoward.  Oh, let's not forget dear old John Craven.  I should imagine that they'd want to deploy him in January - a reassuring older figure who won't startle anyone and will help ease people into the nude theme.  I've always imagined that he'd be depicted driving a tractor naked, a three-quarters rear view, with him looking over his shoulder and just a peek of bum cleavage peeking up above the seat.  Maybe next year...

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