Friday, November 29, 2013

The Last Days of November

It's hard to believe that we're nearly at the end of November already.  You can practically hear the year winding down.  I always feel that November is the last 'proper' month of the year, as December is dominated by Christmas (or Winterval as we like to call it here at Sleaze Towers).  From now until January it feels as if it isn't worthwhile starting anything, as any new project will be interrupted by the festive season and nobody's interested anyway as they are too fixated on doing their Christmas shopping.  Speaking of which, this year my enjoyment of this latter part of November has been marred by the proliferation of so-called 'Black Friday' sales.  As with many other things, these are an American import.  Now, over in the States the post-Thanksgiving 'Black Friday' sales make a certain amount of sense - the previous day, Thanksgiving itself, is a public holiday and many Americans either have the next day off also, or take it as leave, to make long weekend.  It seems logical, therefore, for retailers to hold sales on the Friday to kick off the Christmas shopping season.

However, here in the UK the corresponding Friday is simply another normal shopping day in a normal working week.  Yesterday wasn't a national holiday.  The Christmas shopping season has been in full swing since at least September.  Most of us visiting a supermarket this Friday are simply trying to do our normal shopping.  However, as I found this afternoon in my post work visit to Sainsburys, today it can't be that simple, because today, apparently, is 'Black Friday'.  Parking at the shopping centre was the first hurdle to overcome, as it was packed full of by the cars of people visiting the other shops there in search of 'Black Friday' bargains, (which, by five o'clock., there aren't going to be many left).  Even once I'd found a space, I had to fight my way into the supermarket, which seemed to be full of an overspill of shoppers who couldn't find anything in the 'Black Friday' sales of the other shops, so decided to pile into the supermarket instead, even though it wasn't participating in any kind of sale.  All I bloody wanted to do was buy three items!  Still, it could have been worse, I could have gone to Asda which, being the UK arm of the evil Wal-Mart corporation, was one of the main offenders in terms of 'Black Friday'.  Apparently in some branches fights broke out over flat screen TVs.  For Christ's sake, can't we leave that sort of stuff for our own New Year's sales, where we traditionally go mad and assault each other over kettles and toasters reduced by fifty percent?     

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Post of Two Parts

There are a number of things I want to cover today.  First up: I told you so.  My regular reader might recall that, a while ago, I warned that the government's insistence on search engines 'filtering' alleged search terms for child pornography would be the thin end of the wedge as far as web censorship was concerned.  Lo and behold, today we hear that the government, flushed by its 'success' in fighting online child abuse, now wants ISPs and search engines to block 'extremist' or 'terrorist' websites.  Of course, there seems to be no actual definition of what constitutes 'extremist' material.  Just like they were vague on what 'internet pornography' actually was, the government wants to keep the definition as vague as possible, so as to be able to ban just about anything it doesn't agree with.  This time around, the ISPs and search engines seem to be more alarmed, worried about the suppression of free speech online.  Trouble is, it is a bit late to worry about that now - their kow-towing to the Tories over the porn issues set a dangerous precedent.  We really should be getting worried about the way this government is trying to censor the web - it is disturbingly reminiscent of the 'Great Firewall of China' designed to try and stop the Chinese from viewing any opinion or idea that wasn't officially approved by the Chinese Communist Party.  These are dangerous times.

Moving on, I was saddened to learn of the death of Lewis Collins today.  Like most people of my generation, thanks to his role as Bodie in The Professionals, Collins was a semi-permanent feature of my teenage years.  Eclipsed in later years by the success of his co-star Martin Shaw, some of Collins' pot-Professionals performances suggested that, given better roles, or a better choice of film and TV projects, he could have been a much bigger star.  I particularly remember his performance in the unintentionally hilarious ITV Jack the Ripper miniseries from the late 1980s, in which he played Sgt Godley to Michael Caine's Chief Inspector Abberline.  Amongst the over-the-top performances and bizarre characterisations, Collins was a model of restraint, creating a likeable and realistic character that viewers could identify with.  Like many actors of his generation, he ended up not being James Bond, having been considered 'too aggressive' in his audition by 'Cubby' Broccoli.  Which seems ironic now, in view of Daniel Craig's hard-edged characterisation in the role.  But back in the eighties, people were still used to Roger Moore's more laid-back performances as Bond.  That said, Lewis Collins would have been a better choice for Bond than many of the other names bandied about in the eighties. 

So there you have it.  A post of two distinct parts: a warning against the new age of censorship we seem to be sliding into and a reminiscence of a childhood TV hero.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Whine of Tiny Critics

I was planning to say something more about the Dr Who fiftieth anniversary and, more specifically, the so called 'fans' who seem to spend their every waking hour on Twitter bitching about how shit the programme is nowadays and how they can't bear to watch it any more.  (Although they seem to know a lot of the details of those recent episodes they claim not to watch).  However, that would involve having to read more of the ignorant, ill informed and utterly poisonous bile they pour forth on Twitter.  Frankly, I find that prospect utterly depressing.  So, instead, I'll settle for a few generalities about such 'fans'.   I think it is clear that their resentment toward the current Who lies in its success in reaching out to a wide audience.  Prior to its resurrection in 2005, the series had effectively become a cult interest, with only the fans keeping the flame alive in the face of general indifference.  Consequently, many fans could console themselves with the idea that their continued enthusiasm for a defunct TV series showed their superiority to the masses - only they were able to recognise its true artistic merit and intellectual genius.  Initially they welcomed its return as this confirmed their faith, not just in the programme, but also their own superiority.  They had been proven right.

However, as it became apparent that it was now popular with a whole new generation of viewers, who weren't die hard fans and, for many of whom, the original series meant nothing, their joy turned to dismay.  They were no longer special.  So, naturally, they turned on the programme, denouncing it for not being true to the heritage of Dr Who, for dumbing down the series, for coarsening it, for being poorly written, for any allegedly exhibiting any defect they could imagine.  And lo!  Once again they felt themselves to be special again - they were once again part of an exclusive minority: the only people insightful enough to see what the masses couldn't, that the new series was shit.  Moreover, it once more put them in the position - in their own minds - of being the true guardians of the show's heritage.  To be fair, it isn't just Dr Who 'fans' who are guilty of such delusions.  I've mentioned here before the comedy 'fans' who denounce the evils of 'modern comedy' because it doesn't measure up to, (in other words is simply different to), the comedy they used to like in the 1980s or 1990s.  (Indeed, many of these Who 'fans' suffer from the same problem - they first saw the programme when Colin Baker, or more usually Sylvester McCoy, were the Doctor and have decided that this represented the 'definitive' version of the show.  Anything which diverges from this is shit). 

They are, of course, completely deluded.  That said, to a certain extent I can appreciate how they feel.  The most recent Star Trek films, for instance, don't feel like Star Trek to me in any way.  In truth, I only bothered watching the first one - it seemed to me that it had been made by people with no idea of what had made the original series so great and clearly had no understanding or empathy with it. So I skipped the second one and any more they make.  Which is what these Who 'fans' should do.  Just don't watch the new series if it offends them so much and watch their DVDS of the classic series instead.  What they shouldn't do is bore the rest of us with their continued whining about how it isn't 'their' Dr Who any more.  Tough.  Everything changes.  That's actually one of the core themes of Dr Who, funnily enough.  As I said last week, I don't think the current Dr Who is beyond criticism.  I believe that there are many legitimate criticisms which can be brought to bear upon it.  However, these need to be articulated in a coherent and constructive way, rather than expressed as an outpouring of irrational hatred and bile.  I mean, it's only a bloody TV series, for God's sake!  Let's keep things in perspective. 

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Open Till Christmas

As people keep reminding me, we're now only a month away from Christmas.  So, to get us all in the right mood, today's random movie trailer is suitably themed, featuring the 'classic' British slasher movie Don't Open Till Christmas.  A film I know primarily by reputation, this is reportedly an utterly dismal production.  Which is a pity, as a festive-themed slasher movie featuring a crazed serial killer murdering people dressed as Santa Claus in bizarre seasonal ways, really should be a winner.  The problem, apparently, lies with the poor direction of Edmund Purdom (who also stars as a police detective), a British matinee idol of the fifties, who had starred in a few big Hollywood movies but, by the eighties, found his career on the skids.  To be brutally honest, beyond his youthful good looks in the fifties, there was little to distinguish his performances from the average tree during his heyday, so it comes as no surprise that he was equally untalented as a director.  I have read that, in reality, he directed very little of the film, with sexploitation veterans Ray Selfe and Derek Ford doing the lion's share.

Relentlessly sleazy - a porn photo session, a Soho peepshow and a stake out in a public toilet are all worked into the script - and made on a shoestring, Don't Open Till Christmas was also subjected to lengthy delays in shooting and extensive script rewrites whilst in production.  The delays resulted in some sequences having to be shot in Summer, with actors sweating away in Santa costumes during some very unseasonable weather.  Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the resulting film was a mess.  Despite all of that, I have every intention of trying to track a copy down on DVD in time for Christmas.  I mean, you just have to, don't you?  No matter how bad it is, a film involving a series of brutal Santa murders, interspersed with some sleaze, is surely the perfect antidote to all that saccharine Christmas bollocks we're subjected to at this time of year.  Besides, it is also that rarity - a British slasher movie.  More than that, it's a British horror film from the eighties, a decade from which the genre seemed to have vanished.

Finally, an obscure and utterly pointless fact is that two of the film's stars - Gerry Sunquist and Alan Lake - subsequently died by their own hands.  Not as a result of appearing in Don't Open Till Christmas, I hasten to add.  It wasn't that bad.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago...

So, it's finally upon us.  No, not the fiftieth anniversary of Dr Who, but the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination.  Could it really be coincidence that Dr Who debuted within twenty four hours of the President of the USA's death?  Probably, yes, it is.  Although I'm sure that there are conspiracy theorists out there who could find some sort of link between the two events.  Indeed, I'm sure that a close reading of the opening Who episode, 'An Unearthly Child', would reveal all sorts of parallels with the events in Texas.  What they do have in common is that they both generate a lot of chatter online, with self-appointed experts telling us what we should think about both of them, raking over detail endlessly in a quest for 'truth'.  Whilst I spend a lot of my time berating conspiracy theorists who see plots and mysteries everywhere and seek to explain every significant world event in terms of 'hidden truths' rather than known facts, I have to say that the Kennedy assassination is the only event where I suspect they might have a point.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there was some huge conspiracy involving LBJ, the CIA, Fidel Castro and the mafia, but one detail continues to bother me: the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was himself so conveniently killed only days later, before he could be tried.  Killed by a small-time hoodlum who, armed with a gun, was somehow allowed to get that close to Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police HQ.  Then again, maybe he just got lucky.

As for Dr Who, speaking as someone who remembers as far back as Patrick Troughton's Doctor, I really do find much of the so-called 'fan' activity online perplexing, to say the least.  I use the term 'fan' advisedly, as so many of them seem to spend their time griping about the current version of the programme.  I wouldn't mind, but most of them are far too young to have seen earlier incarnations of the show and often freely admit that their knowledge of previous series and Doctors is hazy.  I can assure them that the current iteration of Who is, as far as us 'old timers' are concerned, pretty much what we always wanted the programme to be - ie, with a budget which runs to half decent special effects, sets that don't wobble and a faster pace.  Not that it is beyond criticism: the plotting is sometimes deficient with far too many loose ends apparently forgotten about by the writers and left unresolved, for instance.  But, getting back to the point, of late I've found all these 'fans' bitching about the upcoming fiftieth anniversary episode, condemning before it has even aired because it only feature two of the most recent Doctors.  They just keep on and on about how it can't be a legitimate anniversary show if it doesn't have all of the Doctors in it.  Well, I've got news for you, so-called 'fans', the first three are unable to appear due to death, number nine doesn't want to and numbers four to seven are too old and/or fat.  None of them look remotely the way they did when they regenerated - which would pose a bit of a problem.  Oh, one last thing - if your only terms of reference in terms of 'classic' Who are the Sylvester McCoy years, then you really are in no position to critique the current version.  By trying to argue that current Who is inferior to probably the weakest era of the programmes history, characterised by poor scripts and B-list casts, you are just embarrassing yourselves.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sea, Skies and Shingle

Another holiday video, bringing back, on this freezing November day, welcome memories of a warm and sunny day in August.  A favourite - and usually deserted stretch of beach - the only irritation that day was someone's bloody dog, which kept coming to within a few feet of me and then yapping incessantly at me.  Its owners finally called it off after I threatened to throw the largest stone I could find at the little bastard.  Some careful editing has removed the yapping from the soundtrack.  Actually, as a brief aside, I absolutely hate that when dogs take it upon themselves to stand at what they think is a safe distance and bark aggressively at you.  It happened to me today - I was sitting on a bench in a local country park, enjoying my day off, when this bloody dog came and barked at me.  I wouldn't mind, but its owner, who finally managed to call it off after it had ignored her for a couple of minutes, didn't offer any kind of apology.

Getting back to the film, nothing much happens.  Just lots of waves crashing on the beach or onto rocks.  I look at it as moving wallpaper.  Personally, I find the sight and sound of breaking waves highly therapeutic.  I do put in a brief appearance toward the end.  Oh, and there's a final shot of my hat, sitting on the beach.  What does it mean?  I haven't a bloody clue.  But it does make for a great shot...  


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Think of the Children!

After getting back to full on, foaming at the mouth, political ranting yesterday, I thought that I'd follow it up with another anti-Tory rant.  Indeed, we're back to one of my favourite subjects: 'Call me Dave' Cameron's deepening obsession with internet pornography.  The other day I had the misfortune to hear the plummy voiced tosser on the radio, crowing about how he'd forced Google and Bing to block search terms for child pornography.  "They said it couldn't be done," he boasted.  Well, I've news for you Dave, it can't and it hasn't 'been done'.  All that has happened is that two search engines have arbitrarily blocked a number of search terms and phrases which may, or may not, be associated with searches for child porn.  However, we don't know what these phrases are - we'll only find out if we happen to use them on either Google and Bing and find our search returning either no results or a warning notice.  For all we know they could be perfectly innocent search terms which are being blocked under the pretext of fighting child abuse.  In fact, unless the government is now contradicting its earlier statements, some of them must be.  After all, wasn't one of the moral panics Cameron was trying to spin a few months ago the fear that children could stumble upon this sort of stuff by accident as a result of entering an apparently innocent search term? 

Of course, the million dollar question is whether or not blocking these search terms will stop people from accessing child pornography online.  The answer is, obviously not.  I doubt very much that peadophiles find the stuff which interests them simply by searching on Google or Bing.  As I understand it, they access it through 'backdoor' means, on the so-called 'dark web'.  As ever, though, this has nothing to do with fighting child porn.  Instead, it is about censoring the web, which terrifies this government as it represents a channel of dangerous free speech and expression.  Totalitarian regimes always try to dress up their repressive measures as being necessary for the protection of the people.  Clearly, our current reactionary rulers have latched on to child abuse as a powerful smokescreen for suppression (the war on terror having been largely discredited) - who could object to protecting children, after all?   Even as I write this, I see that Dave's 'web advisor' is calling for Facebook and Twitter to ban anonymous comments, forcing users to use their real identities, in order to stop bullying.  Never mind the fact that web anonymity is mainly employed to allow people to express opinions freely, without fear of intimidation or being sacked if their employers don't like their opinions.  Oh no, in order to protect the vulnerable from bullying, we unfortunately have to restrict free speech.  You know it makes sense.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Tory Bastards Strike Again

Those bastard unions, eh?  Bringing the country to its knees, destroying the economy and people's jobs.  Oh no, that's the bankers and their pals in the financial sector, isn't it?  Never mind, we'll just start an anti-union campaign anyway.  At least that seems to be the logic of our fascist government.  (That's right, I called them fascists.  That's how right-wing they are - they've forced me back to my teenage Marxist days of labelling anything or anyone to the right of Tony Benn fascist).  Apparently, during the recent Grangemouth dispute, that naughty Unite union had the audacity to organise protests outside the homes of some of the filthy rich executives of Ineos, the company which owns the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant in Scotland, during their recent dispute with the company.  According to the likes of posh boy Cameron and Grant 'Michael Green' Shapps, these were outrageous tactics which were nothing more than intimidation.  Not only do they want Ed Miliband (who, curiously, despite being a Unite-funded union stooge. according to the Daily Mail, is currently off of Unite leader Len McClusky's Christmas card list), to condemn such tactics, but they're going to have an enquiry into them too.

Frankly, I'd be more impressed if goose-stepping Tory twats like Francis Maude (who was spouting off on the subject on TV yesterday), were to condemn the outrageous tactics of multinationals like Ineos, which, rather than negotiate with their workforce, threaten to close down the whole Grangemouth petrochemical plant unless workers accept cuts in pay and pensions, (which weren't the source of the dispute).  If effectively holding the whole of Scotland to ransom, (the plant closure could have put up petrol prices and disrupted North Sea oil production), in order to bully your workforce isn't intimidation, then I don't know what is.  Compared to this, Unite's alleged intimidation - actually nothing more than perfectly legal peaceful protest - pales into insignificance.  Oh, and while we're on the subject of intimidation, are Cameron and cronies going to condemn dodgy ex-internet 'gurus' whose companies peddled software designed to steal other people's copyrighted material, who try to intimidate public-funded broadcaster's into reporting government policies in a more favourable light?  I mean, that's certainly what Grant 'Michael green' Shapps seemed to be doing the other week/  But what do I know?  I'm just one of those evil trade unionists outrageously trying to preserve basic rights to things like fair pay, pensions and conditions, not to mention the right to protest.  What a bastard I am, eh?   

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Friday, November 15, 2013

One More Time

Some time ago I featured swinging sixties Sammy Davis Jr/Peter Lawford comedy Salt and Pepper as a random movie trailer.  I mentioned then that, despite the film having effectively vanished, at the time of its release it had been successful enough to spawn a sequel.  Well, here's the trailer for that sequel. One More Time saw the light of day in 1970, by when the swinging sixties had played themselves out and London looked dirty and exhausted, rather than fashionable.  Which might explain the switch to a country house location from the original's Soho setting.  As this is a film I don't ever recall seeing, I can't vouch for its comedic quality.  However, it got even worse reviews than the first film.  Whilst that hadn't harmed Salt and Pepper's box office, the lack of any further instalments in their adventures would seem to indicate that One More Time didn't enjoy the same levels of popular success.

Which isn't really surprising - by 1970 this sort of star romp was falling out of fashion.  It's a curious thing that whilst decades are a purely human construct, denoted arbitrarily, they do often have their own character and the transition from one decade to the other is palpable.  This was especially the case with sixties and seventies.  The start of the new decade felt like a real jolt, as the world abruptly moved from free love and hippies to energy crises and terrorists.  In the UK the contrast was made even more stark by the change from a Labour to a Conservative government - the establishment, in the form of Ted Heath, was back with a vengeance.  Add to that the break up of The Beatles and the death of Jimi Hendrix and the feelgood sixties, with their feeling that we were all moving forward, were well and truly over.  One More Time, with its Rat Pack buddy movie high jinks, was released into the midst of all this gloom.  Even now, at this distance in time, it seems completely out of step with its era.  The trailer gives the impression that the stars had a ball making the film, which usually doesn't bode well for viewers - it often indicates a self-indulgent overblown home movie rather than a proper feature film.

One last point of interest is that the film was directed by Jerry Lewis, whose own starring vehicles I've always found unbearable.  Again, that doesn't bode well for One More Time.  Still, at least it got released, unlike Lewis' other directorial effort from this period, the spectacularly tasteless sounding The Day The Clown Cried, his infamous attempt to make a movie about a clown employed to entertain children in a Nazi concentration camp.  To this day, that one remains locked in Lewis' private vault, with orders for it to be destroyed upon his death.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blue Sky Thinking

It's amazing the difference a few days can make.  Last time I posted here, back on Tuesday evening, the cold and gloomy weather had got to me - I was feeling pretty down, on top of what seemed like days of overcast skies, I'd had a pretty lousy day at work.  I was seriously considering posting something extremely depressing that would encapsulate my mood of utter despair.  Thankfully, at the last minute, I changed my mind and wrote some toss about John Major, instead.  Then Wednesday dawned with clear skies and sunshine.  I learned a long time ago that the best cure for the kind of seasonal low-level depression I'd felt settling in over the past few days, it is a blast of sunlight.  Not only does it lift my spirits, banishing dark thoughts and preoccupations, but it also sees off the physical manifestations of depression: the aches, pains and physical exhaustion that plague me during these bouts.

So, with my batteries recharged by a couple of days of wintry sunshine, I can look to the future again - where the most pressing issue is coming up with a suitably seasonally themed story for The Sleaze this Christmas.  Over the past thirteen years I've come up with all manner of variations on Christmas satire stories, usually involving Santa Claus being involved in some unseasonal activities.  To be honest, I often wonder why I bother, as such stories rarely do that well in traffic terms, (that said, last year's Cult of The Christmas Cock, a rare non-Santa story, did OK), partly due to their relatively small 'window of topicality'.  However, I also think that you can't afford to ignore major seasonal events altogether - I feel it gives readers the impression that the site is on 'autopilot', with stories written months in advance and published on a strict schedule, rather than reflecting actual events in the real world.  But getting back to the matter in hand, I've had a couple of ideas for this year's Christmas story, neither of them exactly earth-shattering, but they do at least tie into other topical events, so we'll see what develops.  In the meantime, long may those skies remain clear!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Reinvention of John Major

It's all about reinvention these days, isn't it?  No matter how incompetent, or how much of a bastard, a public figure has been, it seems that they can rehabilitate themselves with a few well-timed public utterances which seem to cast them in a new light.  Suddenly, all of their past misdemeanours are forgotten and they are once more accepted into the pantheon of celebrities.  The rehabilitation mechanism might be something as simple as an appearance on Have I Got New For You, where, through allowing yourself to be ridiculed in person, you show that you have a sense of humour and understand the mistakes you made, whilst simultaneously turning them into a harmless joke.  Just look at the Hamiltons: from corrupt and disgraced Tory MP and his pushy wife, to Z-list celebrity comedy couple earning a nice living appearing on reality TV programmes, via an appearance on Have I Got News For You. As for their misdemeanours - nobody seems to remember or care.  Most recently we've had that misogynist, bigoted bastard of a UKIP MEP on the programmes, showing us that he's really just a harmless buffoon.  I'm confident he'll be on Celebrity Big Brother soon, or maybe hosting his own travel show on a digital TV station, where he amusingly insults foreigners in their own countries.

All of which brings us, finally, to the inspiration for this post: John Major.  He's been in action a lot lately, reinventing himself as Tory elder statesman and standard bearer for the moderate tendency of the Conservative Party.  First of all, it was his intervention on the subject of energy prices, suggesting a windfall tax on energy companies.  Most recently, he's been telling us all how shocked he is at the disproportionate influence privately educated people have in the UK.  Aside from giving the impression that he must have been in a coma for the past few years to have only just noticed this, Major's pronouncements on education are clearly designed to position him as the 'man in touch' with Tory grassroots opinion, the champion of working and lower middle class Tories.  The problem for him is that he can't actually blame the real culprits for over-priced energy and reduced social mobility - his own party, which privatised energy companies without adequate regulation, and whose leadership is made up of a bunch of over-privileged toffs - he's, rather nonsensically, blaming the last Labour government. 

Now, Major is obviously at a stage in his life where the question of how people will remember him becoming increasingly important to him.  Hence these attempts at reinvention.  They are also carefully timed - his time as PM is now so far in the past that he hopes people don't remember his shambolic administration, which was so mired in incompetence and allegations of corruption that a Labour landslide in 1997 became inevitable.  Not that he has learned anything, though.  His intervention on the question of social mobility involved bewailing the demise of the grammar school, which supposedly gave opportunities for advancement to working class children.  Which is just more of the establishment view of an England that never existed, with warm beer and cricket matches on the village green, he unsuccessfully peddled during his time as PM.  It was bollocks then, it is still bollocks now.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Wood and Water

These holiday movies are just rolling off the production line now I've got the new laptop.  This one is a record of a very enjoyable day out late last August.  I love forests and I love the sight and sound of running water, so anything that combines the two is close to paradise for me.  Despite the presence of lots of other people on the trail - you can hear children playing in the background a few times - I think I managed to capture a feel of isolation, along with the natural beauty.  It really was a beautiful, sunny day when I shot this,  Indeed, I filmed a whole load of footage, only around a third of which I ended up using for this movie.  You never know, maybe I'll be able to incorporate the rest of the footage into another film sometime.  For now, enjoy the lovely summer's day captured here.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Dyer Warnings

The clock is ticking - it is now only a matter of weeks before professional geezer and rumoured actor Danny Dyer joins the cast of Eastenders, playing the new landlord of the Queen Vic pub.  Personally, I am fervently hoping that for his character, Dyer draws. method-style, upon his own experiences and beliefs.  No, I don't mean that I expect the new pub landlord to be a violent misogynist, forever threatening to cut women's faces if they 'get out of line'.  Nor do I expect him to exhibit a pathological hatred of film critic Mark Kermode, hurling beer glasses at the TV screen every time he inadvertently tunes into Kermode's film review programme on the BBC News Channel, (he was actually trying to get Babestation, but his fingers slipped on the remote), or burning copies of the Observer.  No, no, no.  The aspect of Dyer's real-life character, (assuming his entire life isn't an elaborate performance of a 'mockney tosser' character dreamed up by an Eton-educated RADA graduate), is his belief in UFOs.  Just imagine, an Eastenders character who believes in the existence of aliens and who spends his spare time trying to contact them.  It could take the soup off into intriguing new directions.

Apart from his nightly sessions in Arthur Fowler's allotment where, armed with a telescope and a radio transmitter, he tries to contact passing flying saucers, Dyer's character closes the Queen Vic every Thursday night for the regular meeting of the Walford Ufology Group.  Consequently, Patrick Tavernier reveals his keen and apparently life-long interest in crop circles, as it is the only way he can get a drink on a Thursday evening.  Indeed, Patrick might not be the only character to reveal a surprising interest in the paranormal.  Dyer's character could, for instance, strike up an unlikely friendship with Ian Beale, who has been a keen cryptozoologist since his terrifying encounter with an 'Alien Big Cat' in the back room of his fish and chip shop - he disturbed it in the middle of its attempt to pilfer his supply of haddock and Ian was lucky to escape with his life, being forced to beat the beast off with a broom.  Ian dismissed as 'mere coincidence'  the fact that Pat Butcher's pet cat later came home with a limp and half a dozen frozen haddock.  Since then Ian has been haunting the Square at night, lurking in doorways, hoping for a glimpse of the fabled 'Albert Square Apeman' which has allegedly been sighted several times near Phil Mitchell's Arches Garage.  Sadly, bearing in  mind Dyer's fabled acting range, I fear that we are unlikely to see such storylines, as he will undoubtedly portray his character as a believable and complex human being. 

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Christmas Watch 2013

It's that time of year again, when we start our annual 'Christmas Watch', to monitor seasonal creep.  I thought this year was going well, without too much yuletide merchandise infiltrating Autumn.  Indeed, apart from the appearance of the usual mince pies and Christmas puddings on supermarket shelves, I really thought that we'd make it past Guy Fawkes night before we saw any more overt and ostentatious manifestations of Christmas.  But then last week, before even Halloween, I saw my first Christmas tree.  Fully decorated.  Lights, the lot.  And it wasn't just tucked away in some obscure corner shop or greasy spoon.  Oh no, there it was, bold as brass, sitting in the window of 'Bright House', slap bang in the middle of Crapchester's main shopping centre.  Now, bearing in mind that the main business of 'Bright House' is to extend credit to the low paid in order to buy household goods, it is entirely possible, as my brother has pointed out, that the tree had been repossessed by them after a 'customer' had failed to keep up the payments.

Whatever the reasons for the Christmas tree's appearance in the window of 'Bright House', it seems to have opened the floodgates, with other retailers apparently emboldened by its appearance to start sticking their own seasonal tat into ever more prominent positions.  That Danish shop, which stocks all manner of cheap stuff, now has one of its main window displays full of Christmas decorations, for instance.  I fear that it is only a matter of time before all the Christmas crap bursts out of the special 'seasonal goods' enclaves it is currently confined to in the main supermarkets, and takes over the stores completely.  But it isn't just the High Street which has seen the stealthy arrival of Christmas.  Only the other night I saw the first major Christmas TV commercial of the year, with Marks and Spencer conflating the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland into an excuse for some girl to pose in her underwear.  Nice to know that they haven't lost sight of what Christmas is all about: titillation.  Even more ominous, this evening I had my first sighting of Cliff Richard plugging his Christmas single.  On the one hand, I quite admire him for still putting the things out at the age of seventy three, but on the other I can't help but feel that if even Sir Cliff is debuting his seasonal offering this early, then all; is lost.  Nevertheless, I know I seem to say this every year, but really, can't we have a moratorium on Christmas appearing before the beginning of December?  Surely having a single month devoted to it is enough?

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Dr Black and Mr Hyde

I know Halloween is over, (although various of my neighbours still have pumpkins mouldering away on their doorsteps - going by past precedent they'll still be there come Christmas), I thought I'd give you another horror-orientated trailer.  A blaxploitation horror flick, at that - two of my favourite things in one package!  Perhaps one of the most ludicrous of the Blaxploitation cycle's horror offerings, Dr Black and Mr Hyde features nice Doctor Bernie Casey taking an experimental serum and turning evil - and white!  The idea of a monster in whiteface is novel, to say the least.  As with many of these things, the trailer is probably more entertaining than the actual film, particularly the rhyming narration - "Don't give him no sass, or he'll kick your ass!"

To be honest, I've always felt that the Jeckyll/Hyde story would be better served in blaxploitation terms the opposite way around to the way it is presented here.  Surely it would be more effective if the Doctor was an evil white supremacist who turns into a suave black sex machine?  One who can service the impotent Doc's wife like she's never been serviced before.  Wouldn't that be a great plot twist?  The racist finds that he is being cuckolded by a black man who is actually him!  However, that wasn't the film they made. Instead they made Dr Black and Mr Hyde which, whilst entertaining, is no Blacula.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Out in The Field

Finally, another holiday film.  This entirely uneventful stroll through some fields was edited together from the footage I shot last bank holiday, way back in August.  The reason for the long hiatus in my holiday films was down to the ongoing problems with the hard drive on my old laptop.  However, armed with a brand new, far more powerful, laptop, (purchased on Friday), post-production on the raw footage can now resume.  Hopefully, I'll be able to edit together the remaining footage into films fairly quickly now.  Video editing is something the new Lenovo laptop seems to handle with ease. Unlike its predecessor, on which the whole process could be painfully slow.  I'm also optimistic that I'll be able to resume the long-delayed next episode of 'The Sleazecast' now that I have a reliable and capable laptop once more.

Before leaving the subject of the new laptop, I feel obligated to mention Windows 8.  This operating system seems to have enraged many users, and I can see why.  The insistence on giving primacy to the 'Metro' apps screen (the one with all the tiles) and the relegation of the desktop to simply another app, even when the OS is installed on a laptop or desktop is more than mildly irritating.  It is, frankly, perverse.  For the majority of PC users the desktop is the main productivity area and shoul, obviously, have primacy.  Compounding this problem is Microsoft's decision to strip the desktop of many of its functions by refusing to install the equivalent to a 'start' menu. This results in a tedious and incessant switching between desktop and 'Metro' screen in order to access and launch various applications which should be directly accessible from the desktop.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Windows 8 is a bad OS in itself.  It certainly isn't.  But it is poorly configured for the vast majority of laptop and desktop PC users.  If I had it installed on a tablet or smartphone in this format, I'd think it was fabulous.  Luckily, most of the problems can be overcome through the use of freeware which installs a start menu and boots the OS straight into the desktop environment.  There are several out there to choose from.  Personally, I use Obit Start Menu 8.  Since I installed it, I've found Windows 8 a lot easier and more enjoyable to use.  It's just a pity I've been forced to use a third-party application to do what Microsoft should have done in the first place.

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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Poor Bastards

It's relentless, isn't it?  This seemingly endless stream of TV programmes telling us about those bloody benefit scroungers who are cheating us out of billions, I mean.  I saw yet another one being trailed the other day, this time on the BBC.  Channel Five have already shown a whole slew of this sort of programme.  To be fair, the BBC itself, a supposedly impartial public service broadcaster, has already run quite a few of these kinds of programmes already, with subtle titles like Saints and Scroungers.  Anyone watching these shows would come away with the impression that benefit fraud in the UK is rampant and that every claimant is some kind of evil criminal bastard.  The reality is that fraud actually accounts for only a tiny proportion of benefit loss in the UK - the overwhelming majority is down to administrative error.  But that isn't the narrative that our ruling elites want to spin.  They want us to believe that all benefit claimants, ie the poor and disadvantaged, are feckless layabouts for whom poverty is a lifestyle choice.

Why?  You might well ask.  Well, if you don't accept that they are idle gits stealing from hard working tax payers, then you have to accept that poverty isn't a choice, rather that those in poverty are, by and large, victims of our economic system.  Most specifically, that they are victims of a global economic downturn caused by the profligacy of the banks.  But obviously, that can't be true because the bankers are the Tories' best friends.  Not to mention paymasters.  But if we accept this counter narrative that the places responsibility for the downturn on the banks, then welfare benefits are clearly a necessity, to try and negate the impact on the poorest sections of society of the depression, rather than being an expensive luxury abused by cheats and criminals.  But sadly, all these TV programmes aren't interested in articulating such ideas, preferring instead to present nice, banker-friendly, black and white tales with clear cut heroes (government fraud investigators) and villains (the poor).

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