Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Rant

Well, that's all come to a juddering halt, hasn't it?  My plans for postings this week, that is.  I'm afraid I'm about to go on one of my Google rants, instead.  Clearly, I continue to displease the Great God Google as traffic to The Sleaze continues to dwindle to virtually nothing.  I really am growing weary of their continued assault upon small independent sites - they've buried most of my pages so deep in the search results that nobody will ever find them in any relevant search, (they can find lots of spam sites, irrelevant Wickipedia pages and You Tube videos, though).  I'm not the only one suffering because of Google's apparent war on the web.  Thousands, probably tens of thousands, of smaller sites are being punished in this way for unspecified 'crimes' against Google.  Unlike mine, many of them used to generate revenue for their owners, who are now left, through no fault of their own, without one of their income streams.  Many of them won't even know why their traffic is plummeting, they'll assume there's something wrong with their site and probably spend large amounts of money on fruitless alterations and consultations with SEO 'experts'.  Luckily, I follow a number of webmaster forums, so I'm aware that many others are sharing my plight and that it has nothing to do with the quality of our sites.

Well, I've had enough.  Fuck you Google!  FUCK YOU!!!!  Yeah, that's right, I'm telling you - via a Google owned platform (Blogger) - to go fuck yourself!  So what are you going to do about it?  You've already destroyed my main site by preventing anybody from finding it, so you can't hurt me any more that way.  So, like I said, what are you going to do?  Try and literally 'de-index' me from real life?  I wouldn't put that past you bastards - you already think you own the web, it is surely only a matter of time before you try to claim ownership of reality. Having established that there's little more you can do to me, there are things I can do to you.  For a start, I can start using non-Google properties wherever possible - certainly for web searches, I could also switch this blog over to Wordpress and my videos from YouTube to Vimeo, for instance.  I could also urge everyone I reach, either in person or online, to do likewise.  In fact, I'll start right now:  use Bing, Duck Duck Go or even Blekko for searches instead of Google.  You might find yourself surprised by the lack of spam and the relevancy to your search query of the results.  So Google, you tax evading, copyright infringing, site destroying arseholes, take your shitty search engine, with its crappy non-relevant results, and shove it, because I'm mad as Hell and I'm not taking it any more!  Ah, I feel so much better for that!      

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Monday, April 29, 2013

More From the Right Wing Nut Jobs

After the frivolities and whimsies of last week, it's back to the usual business of ranting.  It is with sadness, but little surprise, that I've noticed the conspiracy nuts are all over the Boston Bombings.  According to one whacko web site I've seen, it's all another plot by the Obama White House to, well, do something.  The details of this supposed conspiracy isn't clear, but there are plenty of photographs floating around allegedly showing how the two bombers were set up by the authorities and one of them executed, rather than dying in a gunfight with the police.  There was even an attempt to tie it in with the New England school shootings 'conspiracy', with one photo supposedly showing the head mistress of said school in the crowd at the Boston marathon finish line, despite having been reportedly killed in the shootings.  I must admit that I increasingly find these kinds of conspiracy theories offensive, with their obsessive claims that every horrific incident in the US has actually been staged by the authorities, and that all the people killed or injured in these violent incidents are fakes.

Whilst currently these nuts are predominantly right-wing fruit cakes trying to pin all the ills of the world on the Obama White House, the conspiracy theorists aren't necessarily politically partisan.  Remember how 9/11 was all staged by the Bush White House?  Which is just as offensive as the current conspiracy theories.  Whatever else I think about Dubya, I refuse to believe that he and his cronies would have gone as far as murdering thousands of innocent people for political advantage, (the Iraq war excepted, obviously).  But obviously, I'm the kind of na├»ve dupe who allows the conspiracy to take place, the theorists would say.  Perhaps.  But apart from the offence they cause me, these theories present another problem for me, in that they simply serve to obscure the real issues.  The incoherent conspiracies being spun around the Boston bombings, for instance, serve only to distract from some of the aspects of the authorities' reaction to the events which I, and may others, found disturbing.  The sight of hordes of paramilitary-types in body armour, brandishing automatic rifles, swarming over the streets of a city under what amounted to martial law, in search of two men, was very troubling.  What ever happened to quiet, measured police work?  I know that the city authorities in Boston would counter that, at that point, they didn't know whether they were dealing with a full-on organised terror campaign, or just a single nut job, but with the conspiracy theorists shouting that the whole bombing was just an excuse for the state to impose a military dictatorship, any debate is effectively stifled.  If you question the authorities' tactics , they can now all too easily dismiss you as a conspiracy nut.  But maybe that's the conspiracy - the government is behind the conspiracists as well, as a way of neutralising debate!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rear Browser Window?

Am I becoming a website voyeur?  Not in the sense of looking at porn sites as a substitute for real life Peeping Tom antics, obviously.  It's just that, of late, I've found myself looking forward to lurking around other people's forums, hoping to witness some kind of massive online bust-up between members - like on that other satire site's message boards last weekend.  Before that, there was this amazing row on a webmaster's forum, which went on for several days - it really was spectacular and fuelled largely by one member who didn't have English as a first language, but kept raging at other members using syntax, grammar and vocabulary which made him sound like a comic strip caricature of an angry World War Two Japanese soldier.  Brilliantly entertaining stuff - and all free!  But after watching Rear Window again the other day, I'm left with the growing suspicion that I'm turning into James Stewart in that film: obsessively and anonymously monitoring the activities of my web 'neighbours', in order to gain some vicarious pleasure from their affairs.

Yep, before you know it, the arguments over Google's algorithm changes and breakaway satire groups founding their own rival sites, won't be enough for me and I'll find myself pointing my telephoto lens, sorry, browser, at all manner of dubious message boards, in the hope of spotting someone murdering their wife.  From there it will be a short step to sending them anonymous messages telling them that I know what they did, as part of a ploy to expose them.  At which point they'll undoubtedly work out who I am and come hammering on my door, hell bent on killing me.  But, joking aside, there is an analogy to be drawn between my lurking in forums and James Stewart's activities in Rear Window.   Confined to his apartment by his broken leg, the frustrated Stewart finds the full range of life going on behind his neighbour's windows: romance, despair, friendship, artistic creativity and even murder.  His rear window is, quite literally, a window on the world.  In microcosm.  It's the same with those forums.  Trapped in my parochial existence by work and other responsibilities, those message boards provide me with a window onto the life activities and interactions I no longer have.  With the added advantage that I can just be a spectator and not be forced to actually participate in all those passionate arguments and debates.   

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Five Famous People from Swindon



 
 
 
 







I feel that we don't celebrate the hothouse of British showbiz talent that is Swindon enough.  So, to remind ourselves of what the North Wiltshire town - home also to the now defunct railway works - has contributed to the arts over the decades, I give you five of Swindon's best.  Do you recognise them all?  Just in case you didn't they are, in order, lovely Diana Dors, equally lovely Billie Piper, acerbic comic Mark Lamarr, magnificent Melinda Messenger and, of course, seventies singing icon Gilbert O'Sullivan, (remember him?). 

Do you know of, or come from, a much ridiculed and unfashionable town which has, unheralded, nurtured a plethora of great British celebrities during their formative years?  If so, let us know and we might run an item similar to this one.  But probably not.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

You know what I did last weekend?  Bugger all.  That's what I did.  Well, that's not entirely true - I did some long overdue Spring cleaning and, consequently, I can now see what colour the kitchen floor is meant to be.  Anyway, getting back to the point, (a digression so early in the post, surely a bad sign), when I say that I did bugger all, I mean that I did bugger all in terms of the web.  I didn't work on any stories for The Sleaze, I didn't record or edit any audio for podcasts and I didn't do any 'back office' work on any of my sites.  It was a wonderful experience which reminded me just how much of my bloody time my various web projects take up.  It was great just to spend a couple of days crashed out on the sofa, drinking beer and watching old films.  When I did go online, it was great to just be a surfer again for a couple of the days, catching up with various reviews of obscure horror movies on equally obscure, but fascinating, blogs. 

I also took the opportunity to gloat over someone else's online problems.  I was greatly entertained by the infighting and back-biting unfolding in the forums of a rival satire site.  Now, I'm not going to name the site, as I don't want to get involved in one of those tiresome internet slanging matches, but it is run by a well known UK novelist and comic writer who recently stood as a candidate for the Labour Party in a parliamentary by-election.  Which should be sufficient information for anyone interested to work out the identity of the site in question.  To cut to the chase, it seems that some of the would-be writers had set up their own 'side project', but, by not accepting submissions for their new site, had, in the eyes of those not invited to write for the site, created an exclusive club.  There were also all sorts of allegations from the breakaway group of declining standards at the parent site, which 'justified' their actions. 

What fascinated me was the sub-text going on in the 'debate'.  Now, I might well be misjudging the individuals involved here, but the impression I got was that the breakaways were predominantly conservative in their political views and the real trigger for their move was the realisation that the site's owner was a socialist and a paid up member of the Labour Party, (which, in my book, is very much to his credit).  Horror of horrors!  They'd been writing for a real life leftie!  Undoubtedly fearing that he might also be a horrible working class person they obviously felt they had little choice but to bale and set up their own whimsical 'satire' site set in a cosy middle class English village.   Like I said, I could be being completely unfair here, but they just struck me as typical of the conservative 'satirists' I've had the misfortune to encounter elsewhere - terrified of real satire.  Ultimately, the whole business just server to vindicate my decision to close down my own site's message boards years ago and exert an iron grip on content.  But hey, this very public dispute at least provided me with some amusement on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Memory Lane

I found myself back in my hometown on Friday.  Which isn't that unusual, I suppose - I'm back there most weekends visiting my mother.  However, on these weekend visits, I don't venture into the city centre, I just go to my mum's house.  On Friday I was there on a training day and travelled down by train.  The railway station and my training destination are on the opposite side of town from my usual destination.  Anyway, the training event ended very early and, with time on my hands, I decided to take a look at the city centre before returning home.  The experience wasn't exactly uplifting.  The main street which links the station to the city centre was its usual ramshackle self - various small businesses and shops that seem to come and go at an alarming rate, growing ever seedier and more run down the closer to the station you got, culminating in a sex shop.  In the opposite direction, there's more of an attempt to raise the tone, the old infirmary hospital has now been converted into upmarket apartments, whilst the ground floor of the clock tower currently hosts Argos. 

But it was the city centre itself which depressed me the most.  So many of the old established shops and businesses I'd grown up with and had assumed would always be there had gone, replaced with bland chain stores or coffee bars.  Even the SPCK bookshop had vanished, following the nearby Beech's Bookshop, a one time fixture which had succumbed to 'progress' a few years ago and whose site is now occupied by a trendy restaurant, into oblivion.  Even that shop which used to sell assorted crockery - which was on that corner ever since I could remember - has gone, replaced by number of instantly forgettable smaller businesses which will be lucky to see out their initial six month leases.  Not to mention that grotty fish and chip hop by the taxi rank which had been there since the dawn of time - also missing in action, or gentrification, to be more accurate.  I suppose what really bothered me was that it was all yet more evidence that things keep changing whether I like it or not.  It's disturbing.  It reminds me I'm getting old.  Still, just as surprising were the things that hadn't changed: that furniture shop whose only branch is in that city centre and has served generations of residents; the luggage shop opposite, where I bought numerous travelling bags over the years' and that bloody sports shop which survives, I'm sure, simply because it has the games kit concession for most of the local schools.   Oh, how I still hate that shop because of its association with being made to play rugby on freezing cold Monday afternoons!  

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Not Unusual?

Veteran entertainer Tom Jones has been sensationally accused of decades of sexual abuse by a Glamorgan pensioner.  Sixty nine year old Grandmother Myfanwy Rogered has claimed that the sex bomb of the valleys has consistently abused her over a fifty year period, with his blatant displays of male sexuality during television appearances.  "Every time he was on the telly he did it," she told the South Wales Farmers' Gazette.  "Strutting around with his bloody shirt undone, showing off his hairy chest, wiggling his hips in those tight leather trousers and thrusting his groin at the camera - it was bloody filthy!  I was left feeling dirty and ashamed after every performance!"  At first, she alleges, the singer would only perform his outrageous antics when she was alone in the room watching TV.  "He never actually warned me not to tell anyone else what had gone on, but I know he meant it - what else could that conspiratorial wink he often gave to camera at the end of a performance have been about?" he told the newspaper.  "But then he started to get quite brazen - I remember once seeing him on a TV special in the 1970s when he was on this yacht singing, dressed only in a pair of speedos and a captain's hat!  I couldn't take my eyes off of his package, which he kept thrusting right at me, even though the rest of my family were in the room watching him with me!  I was so embarrassed, but luckily nobody else seemed to notice!"

In addition to these displays of disgusting and blatant sexuality, Rogered claims that Jones also used subliminal messages in his songs to force her to abuse herself whilst watching him on TV.  "I distinctly remember hearing him tell me stick my hand down my knickers whilst he performed 'It's Not Unusual'," she claims.  "It was the same with his other songs - during 'Delilah' he told me to stick my finger up my bum.  The worst was 'What's New Pussycat' - I can't begin to tell you the terrible things he made me do when he sang that.  The worst thing was that I was sat on the sofa with my parents at the time.  It was so embarrassing!"  She is adamant that during these episodes Tom Jones was definitely watching her and deriving enjoyment from her predicament.  "I could see him smirking," she says.  "Luckily, over the years he appeared less and less on TV, so he had fewer opportunities to abuse me and I was able to repress my terrible ordeal."  However, with Jones' return to regular prime time TV as a judge on The Voice, she found herself confronted with her past.  "I couldn't believe he was still at it, despite his advanced years," she claimed.  "The first time he swivelled round in that chair, he gave me such a leer I had an involuntary orgasm so powerful that I dropped my knitting!  It was horrible - all the past abuse came flooding back and I knew I had to speak out about it, before he uses his sexual power on other innocent viewers!"  Tom Jones and his management have so far declined to comment on the newspaper article, although a spokesperson for his fan club described the allegations as 'utter bollocks' with no foundation in reality.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Post Thatcher

So it's finally all over - they've cremated Thatcher at last.  Which means, of course, that whilst the lady wasn't for turning, she was for burning.  Sorry.  Couldn't resist it.  I'll try and shut up about Thatcher now, (well, just so long as the right shut up about her and stop trying to canonise her through a blatant rewriting of history).   I did get a couple of stories out of her demise for The Sleaze, though, so I shouldn't complain.  Actually, I will complain.  The most recent Thatcher story was scheduled to be published at eight this morning, to catch the early surfers and cash in on the fact that at that time Thatcher's funeral might just be still topical.  Did it auto post?  Like fuck it did.  Mysteriously, Wordpress chose this story to suddenly decide not to auto post.   Consequently, it didn't get published until this evening when I got home from work and realised what had happened.  Consequently, it has missed its window of topicality and remains unread by anybody, leaving me feeling that I've completely wasted my time.  Gee, thanks a lot Wordpress, you crock of shit - I was sold on you as a new platform for my site partly on the basis that it was possible to schedule posts. 

But was it a coincidence?  I think not.  I think those right-wing Thatcher groupies somehow 'got' to my Wordpress installation in an attempt to supress this story.  It's just like the way they nobbled the BBC to stop that Wizard of Oz song being played, even though it was at number two in the chart, because they claimed it was an anti-Thatcher protest.  Bastards!  But really, I do expect better of such a widely used application as Wordpress.  Simple functionality and the ability to actually do what it claims to be able to do surely isn't too big an ask, is it?  Still, to put it all in perspective, although the first Thatcher story, (the one which auto-posted when it was scheduled to do so), did well, the reality is that the biggest story in traffic terms so far this month has been the Dr Who sex scandal story, which was actually published last month.  The fact is that Dr Who has a longer shelf-life than Thatcher - the Who story, after its first burst of popularity when it was published was then linked to by a fan forum, giving it a second wave of traffic.  I thought that was it, but this month it first of all became popular on Facebook, (presumably in Who-related groups), before being linked to by another fan forum, boosting its traffic again.  The sad fact that many online satirists never grasp is that political stories have a very limited period of topicality, whereas stuff about pop culture can continue getting traffic as long as its subject has fans.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Sleazecast: Unlucky For Some

Here it is at last!  The first Sleazecast of 2013, the first in a new series and the first of a new style of Sleazecast.  It's been a long time in the making, but I think the wait has been worthwhile.  This edition of the Sleazecast represents a huge leap forward in terms of both format and content.  All of the segments in 'Unlucky For some' have been manufactured by me: some are entirely original, others are cut-ups and re-editings of old radio programmes with new material added to them.  I'll be the first to admit that some segments work better than others, but this is still a learning experience for me and the lessons I've learned from this one will be incorporated into the next Sleazecast.  Anyway, I've talked enough - on with the show itself, (which runs just under thirty minutes, which, I hope, will be the standard length for series three of The Sleazecast), which you can listen to here:

The Sleazecast: Unlucky For Some 

Alternatively, you can download the mp3 here.

As always, here's a rough track listing:

1.  Intro

2.  The Couple Next Door, December 1960 - 'Johnny Sexbot Calls'.  Classic radio soap opera.

3.  Sherlock Holmes and The Whips of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Episode One.  Rare 1936 78rpm recording of this classic.

4.  Practical Conspiracies, October 2011 - an edition of the popular conspiracy podcast featuring Joe Dobbler discussing his controversial new meta-conspiracy theory.

5.  News Headlines with Suzie Sleaze.

6.  Practical Conspiracies, October 2011 - Joe Dobbler explains how President Kennedy was assassinated to cover up his gay affair with J Edgar Hoover.

7.  The Couple Next Door, December 1960 - Johnny Sexbot settles in with the family.

8.  The Synths - a rare surviving episode of the sitcom from 1971, in which the truth behind the US Space Programme is discussed by the family.

9.  Practical Conspiracies, October 2011 - Joe Dobbler exposes the shocking conspiracy which lies behind conspiracy theories.

10.  The Couple Next Door, December 1960 - Johnny and Aunt Effie suffer a setback in the bedroom.


So, there you have it, another edition of the web's least listened to podcast in the can.  Hopefully, the next one won't be quite so time-consuming to create - look out for it sometime next month (hopefully).

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Monday, April 15, 2013

They're in Love with Maggie Thatcher

I find it deeply ironic that whilst condemning the cult of personality which rules North Korea, here in the UK the right-wing media are simultaneously colluding with the government in creating our very own cult of personality around the late (and, by me, unlamented) Maggie Thatcher.  Indeed, the right's refusal to brook any criticism of their idol is now reaching ridiculous proportions.  Over the weekend I've encountered some truly ludicrous 'articles', (as they are written by barely literate Thatcher-lovers, I hesitate to dignify them with the term article), online in some kind of 'anti-leftie' backlash by the witless.  One of my favourites was 'How will the left feel if the right has a go at Nelson Mandela when he dies?'  Actually, I'll answer that one: it would simply confirm all our prejudices against them.  You see, there is simply no equivalence between Thatcher and Mandela.  One was a deeply divisive and partisan politician who helped to undermine a system beneficial to the disadvantaged, whereas the other promoted unity and racial harmony and attempted to create an inclusive new society in his country.  Whilst it is easy to despise Thatcher, with good reason, it would be difficult to find similar grounds to attack Mandela.  Unless, of course, you are a racist - who were the people most disadvantaged by Mandela.

On the same site, (one of those right-wing propaganda sites which tries to masquerade as a satire site, but undermines itself due to the fact that right-wing nut jobs have no sense of humour), was another rant about how 'the left' were trying to smear Thatcher by claiming she had links to Jimmy Savile.   Which she did.  She even invited him to Chequers on several occasions, which goes beyond the normal sort of showbiz chumminess between politicians and celebrities.  But according to this dolt, Savile was 'the toast of the Labour Party'.  No he wasn't.  He was a Tory supporter, or more accurately, a Maggie supporter.  Oh yes, then he tries to draw some moral equivalency with Tony Blair, implying left-wing hypocrisy for 'the left' not treating him the same way as Thatcher.  Except that Blair isn't left-wing in any conventional sense.  Indeed, most of his critics are on the left, rather than the right, who actually admire him.  You see, right-wing nut jobs, when we on the left have our own 'Thatcher', we at least have the decency to criticise him when he's both alive and in power, rather than uncritically praise his every work.  I'd also be fascinated to know who these 'lefties' are who are supposedly trying to besmirch the memory of Saint Margaret by pointing out that she was friends with a notorious sex offender?  I haven't see such allegations anywhere other than...The Sleaze.  Not only do these clowns have no sense of humour, they apparently have no critical faculties either and can't tell the difference between serious reporting and satire, (a bit of a handicap when you are meant to be writing 'satire' yourself).

But hey, I don't blame these 'righties' for making such a fuss about the passing of Thatcher - I mean, they've lost their primary masturbatory fantasy.  No wonder they're upset - after all, they can hardly keep wanking off over her picture now she's dead, that would be tantamount to necrophilia, wouldn't it?  Who else have they got?  Louise Mensch?  Theresa May?  William Hague?  Nah, no true Tory boy could possibly get it up, let alone shoot their load, by thinking of any of them.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Right to Offend

So, now we can't even play songs from the Wizard of Oz, for fear that they might offend the increasingly rabid supporters of Mrs Thatcher.  At least, that's what the BBC seems to think, having cravenly decided not to play in full the song 'Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead', (it runs less than a minute as it is), on Radio One's Chart Show on Sunday, even though it is likely to chart in the top three, as its chart rise is allegedly part of a campaign by those awful lefties who hated The Great Leader.  Indeed, the BBC even appears to have an opinion of its own on the (entirely manufactured by right-wing nutters) 'controversy' - with the head of Radio One saying that the corporation finds the campaign 'distasteful'.  Really?  Since when did the BBC hold what are clearly partisan political opinions?  As one of its many licence fee payers, I don't find this supposed campaign distasteful - last time I checked, we still had the right to hold and express opinions contrary to those of the Tory Party and Daily Mail.  And the BBC, as a supposedly impartial body, shouldn't be censoring such expressions. 

I really am growing weary of the Thatcher apologists who keep telling me, at every opportunity, that they aren't actually admirers of Thatcher herself, you understand, but it's really pretty awful that people are celebrating the death of an old woman and they should all show some respect for the sake of the family.  Which would be fine if we were talking about any ordinary old lady, but, in reality, the 'old lady' in question can't be separated from the poisonous legacy she has left behind.  Most old ladies haven't had such devastating effect on the lives of millions of people.  Most old ladies didn't destroy entire industries and the communities which surrounded them.  As for 'the family', let's not forget that her son Mark has been involved in all manner of shady arms deals and was involved in trying to organise a coup in Equatorial Guinea.  (I can only assume that he intended presenting the country to his mother as some kind of retirement present, so she could keep busy during her 'Golden Years', without such things as democracy, parliament or even the rule of law to constrain her).  Hardly a son to be proud of, I think.  The bottom line here is that we have a perfect right to dispute the warped version of history the right are trying to spin in the wake of Thatcher's death and to point out the fact that she wasn't some kind of infallible demi-God.   She was just a politician - a politician with a highly dubious track record.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gone, But Not Forgotten

With all the hyperbole and manufactured outrage at criticisms of her, it is easy to forget that Maggie Thatcher wasn't the only notable person to shuffle off this mortal coil of late.  Indeed, I managed to miss the most significant death - at least as far as this blog is concerned - that of legendary Spanish director Jesus Franco.  Almost as divisive a figure as Thatcher, Franco was either a terrible hack with no directorial talent who churned out exploitation pictures on a production line, or he was a misunderstood cinematic genius working in the low budget milieu of exploitation.  My experience of Franco's movies encompasses both extremes.  Vampiros Lesbos and The Bare Breasted Countess count as two of the most tedious movies I've ever tried to watch, (I couldn't finish the first, whilst I found myself fast-forwarding through endlessly repetitive scenes of a naked woman flailing about on a bed in the latter), whilst Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein and The Erotic experiences of Frankenstein were enjoyably demented pieces of surrealism.  According to the late producer Harry Alan Towers, for whom Franco directed many of these films, the Spaniard was originally a jazz trumpeter who tried to make movies as if they were jazz compositions.  Which explains the strange, free-wheeling style of his films, where narrative takes a second place to a barrage of often barely connected imagery. 

Sometimes this technique worked, more often than not it failed, leaving the finished films disjointed, unable to establish any real rhythm or momentum.  However, on rare occasions it could produce a minor classic.  A few weeks ago I watched what is often considered to be Franco's masterpiece, Venus in Furs, made for Towers in 1969 and released in 1970.  As I intend to eventually cover it as part of the 'Forgotten Films' thread, I won't go into detail, but suffice to say that, for once, Franco's fragmented style perfectly suits the narrative, producing a off-kilter, dream-like feel, which is entirely apt for the subject matter.  Never as dull as Vampiros Lesbos, or as demented as The Erotic Experiences of Frankenstein, Venus in Furs is an intriguing and entertaining picture.  But Franco wasn't the only notable to die, almost unnoticed, in the past week, or so.  The fine Irish actor Milo O'Shea also recently passed away.  I can't believe that his death hasn't stirred more comment than a few obituaries.  Familiar from both TV sitcoms and films, possibly O'Shea's most relevant performance as far as we're concerned was as the scientist Duran Duran in Roger Vadim's film adaptation of Barbarella.   Unusually playing a villain, it's a highly enjoyable performance from O'Shea.  So there you have it - two people probably worthier of state funerals than the milk snatcher, but who, sadly, have slipped away virtually unnoticed by the world.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Legacy of Evil

It's the elephant in the room, isn't it?  The demise of Thatcher, that is.  I've refrained from commenting on it so far, which I know some people will find strange.  They will have been expecting me to be rejoicing over her death.  After all I'm one of those 'horrible leftie socialists' the sanctimonious wankers in the Daily Mail and elsewhere online have been wailing about.  Yeah, like I don't remember the way you bastards reacted to the recent death of Hugo Chavez, someone who actually worked to help the poorest of his people.  Anyway, I decided that I wasn't going to dignify the evil old witch's foul legacy with a display of joy on my part - she really isn't worth wasting a good drink on by toasting her passing.  Sadly, her apologists haven't been so restrained and I've had to endure what seems like an endless barrage of rewritten history casting her as some kind of saviour. Frankly, I had enough of their sycophantic worship of Thatcher when she was in power.

The thing is that I lived through the years during which she blighted this country with her premiership.  Unlike those seeking to canonise her, I have a clear memory of what went on and I'm afraid it is somewhat at odds with the way they want to cast it.  They bang on about Thatcher's legacy.  I agree she's left a legacy - our still unbalanced economy, shorn of its manufacturing base by her adherence to the crackpot economic theories of Milton Friedman.  Oh yes, then there's her mantra about society not existing, instead it's all down to individuals looking out for themselves - still our society is blighted by this selfish attitude.  It is the mind set that enable people to think it is OK to demonise the poor and disabled.  I also haven't forgotten that Thatcher was a staunch supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa, not to mention a friend of General Pinochet, (and mass child molester Jimmy Savile, let's not forget).  But, of course, they always end up coming back to 'her' victory in the Falklands War, how it showed her 'bravery' and resolve.  Except that none of it would have been necessary if Thatcher's defence cuts, including the proposed scrapping of the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance,  hadn't been taken by the Argentinians as a signal that their invasion wouldn't be opposed.  So, there you have it, Thatcher may be dead, but I won't be celebrating until we've finally killed off her poisonous legacy.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

The Logic is Inescapable...

So, Mick Philpott lived in a council house and claimed benefits.  He was also had a history of violence and was responsible for the deaths of six of his children.  Therefore, anybody who claims any form of benefits is a violent criminal.  The welfare state is the root cause of criminality.  At least, that's the crude reductionism the Chancellor of the Exchequer, (backed up by the Prime Minister) has been promoting over the past few days.  But before dismissing this out of hand as arrant nonsense, the crudest form of opportunistic propaganda designed to justify the government's relentless assaults against the disadvantaged, let's look at another example.   It's generally accepted that Lord Lucan, a hereditary peer, one of the aristocracy, murdered his children's nanny and attacked his wife before fleeing justice, never to be seen again.  Lord Lucan was a very wealthy man with a seat in the Lords. It clearly follows that all members of the House of Lords, all aristocracy with inherited wealth and titles, are also violent criminals.  Their wealth and titles are the root cause of criminality.  Therefore they should be stripped of both and the House of Lords abolished. 

You know, I'm beginning to like Osborne's brand of logic!  Let's try applying it to other scenarios.  This weekend I was subjected to the sight of a BBC interviewer reducing a teenage girl to tears over things she posted on a now defunct Twitter account three years ago, (if only they'd apply the same rigourous technique when interviewing Tory politicians).  The 'justification for this was that the girl is currently 'youth crime commissioner' for Kent and the likes of the Mail on Sunday have dredged up tweets she made when fourteen, arguing that they show she is unfit to occupy this publicly funded post.  So, on the basis that anything you did or said, no matter how long ago it was or how immature you were at the time, should be used to judge your fitness to hold public office in later life, why aren't we revisiting Cameron and the allegations he tried drugs when a student?  Previously, he has refused to answer these allegations when questioned about them on the grounds that when he was a student, he hadn't then decided to go into politics, so anything he did before that decision was irrelevant.  But apparently not, it seems.  So, Dave, did you inhale? 

Still not convinced of the value of Osborne's reductive reasoning?  One last example then.  The right keep telling us that it should be lawful to use torture on terrorist suspects if the information obtained could avert further terror attacks.  Because, obviously, information obtained under duress is always accurate.  In which case, we must also admit to the existence of witchcraft.  After all, those confessions of witchcraft which led to the execution of many 'witches' back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were obtained using pretty much the same sort of techniques favoured by those the CIA 'outsource' their interrogations to - so they must be true.  Matthew Hopkins was fully justified in his campaign of persecuting half the population of East Anglia - the are was clearly full of old ladies and ill-educated young girls having sex with the devil and blighting their neighbours' crops with their magical powers.  So let's not condemn Osborne for is ill-informed views - let's credit him with legitimising a whole new form of logic we can use to twist the facts against him and his ilk! 

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Friday, April 05, 2013

More Right Wing Bastards

I thought I'd tie up some loose ends from earlier in the week: principally the fact that Paolo Di Canio now isn't a fascist.  Which is good to know, although it still doesn't explain those fascist salutes, statements of admiration for Mussolini, or the fact that, only a few years ago, he said that he was a fascist.  But as he has now said he isn't, I think that we're supposed to forget all that earlier stuff ever happened - which would explain why he hasn't actually recanted his fascist past, as it apparently now didn't happen.  Except that it did.  The other thing I was going to write about this week was the culmination of the Philpott trial and the way the whole sorry business was being used by the right-wing press to further demonise benefit claimants.  However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 'Gorgeous' George Osborne, so crudely used the trial verdict to openly link Britain's so called (and non-existent) 'welfare culture', with wife-beating, arson and the killing of children, that I thought there was little point. 

That said, it is worth noting that, according to the Department of Work and Pensions', there are less than two hundred families with eight or more children claiming benefit in the whole UK, so Mick Philpott is hardly typical of benefit claimants.  Moreover, claiming benefits isn't what made Philpott a bastard.  Rather it is the other way around, because he was an evil bastard, he exploited the benefits system by exploiting his children.  The reality is that he would have been doing this even if the benefits system didn't exist.  Back in Victorian times, for instance, I'm sure that he would have exploited his children directly, by sending them up chimneys as sweeps, putting them on the street begging (or worse) or, most likely, sending them out, Fagin-like, to commit crimes for him.  At least with the welfare state, he was only exploiting them indirectly by claiming benefits for them.  Not that the likes of Osborne and his Tory bastard colleagues give a damn about that - they're just determined to exploit even the deaths of children in order to justify their continued destruction of the welfare state and demonization of the poor.  In the meantime, it is notable that Osborne has remained silent over the damning report into the conduct of his millionaire banker pals' mismanagement of HBOS, which brought the bank to it's knees in 2008. 

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sounds of April

With the weather forecasters constantly assuring me that the temperatures were slowly returning to normal, I had high hopes for this latter part of my week off of work.  That was until I got up this morning to find it snowing again.  I went back to bed.  So far this year, every time I've taken a few days off of work, hoping for some relaxing outdoor activities, the temperatures have nose-dived and the wind speed rocketed.  Anyway, when I did get up, I decided to spend the day inside, (the only problem with this is that of late it has often been so cold during the day that it is necessary to put the heating on early, which costs money), and put some more work into the next edition of 'The Sleazecast'.  In this respect, the day has been a success.  Whilst it took the better part of the day to complete a segment running less than two and a half minutes, I now have around a third of the total planned running time 'in the can', so to speak.  Luckily, the remaining two thirds of planned material will require far less complex production and I should be able to complete it fairly quickly.

The bit I completed today is comparable to the 'Santa is Dead' segment of 'The Sleazecast' at Christmas', but three times as long.  Moreover, whereas the complicated bit of that segment was ensuring that the various sound elements were properly layered, with the new one it was a case of correctly ordering the dialogue elements and correctly placing the background track in relation to these.  As you can gather with all this talk of numerous segments, the forthcoming edition of 'The Sleazecast' will represent a radical overhaul of the podcast, with a completely new, 'fragmented', format.  I have high hopes for it - the segments I've so far recorded have exceeded my expectations in quality terms.  Anyway, you'll hopefully be able to hear for yourselves fairly shortly, (especially if this foul weather continues and I'm forced to spend more time indoors). 

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Kick Fascism Into Touch...

So, what has sport got to do with politics?  Well, everything, actually.  The whine from some 'sports fans' to the effect that one has nothing to do with the other, which they come out with every time a sporting personality becomes involved in a political row, is one of the most tiresome sounds in the known universe.  It also conveniently avoids the fact that organised sports are all about politics.  On the one hand the international sporting federations indulge in various complex political manoeuvres every time they arrange their next major tournament or event: national governments are expected to jump through hoops for the honour of hosting these sporting events.  As we've seen with Fifa's convoluted procedures to award the next few World Cups, the choice of host nation has more to do with politics than football.  Certainly, having a rich footballing history and tradition seems to be a hindrance for potential hosts these days.

On the other hand, politicians are only too happy to use sporting events for their own partisan purposes.  Most obviously, Hitler made full use of the 1936 Berlin Olympics to showcase the Third Reich and demonstrate the superiority of good Aryan athletes.  More recently, let's not forget the way in which Boris Johnson was keen to make capital of the London Olympics, attempting to take credit for every aspect of them, (despite the fact that he had nothing to do with securing the games for London or their organisation).  Then there was the apartheid regime in South Africa - a pariah state desperately trying to legitimise itself in the 1980s by organising those 'rebel' cricket tours, where various (white) international cricketers were induced by huge wads of cash to play fake international test matches against an all-white South African side.  I remember that was the first time I heard the whine about sport not having anything to do with politics - even if that sporting 'event' was effectively endorsing a political system which institutionalised racial prejudice. 

All of which, of course, brings us to the controversy surrounding the appointment of Paulo Di Canio as manager of Sunderland AFC.  Apparently local MP David Miliband was overreacting by resigning from the board because the club had appointed a fascist as manager.  Apparently, Di Canio's political views are irrelevant and a private matter.  Apparently, sport has nothing to do with politics.  All of which statements are completely wrong.  As a serving politician, there is no way in which Miliband can afford to be associated with anyone who supports an extreme political philosophy.  Which Di Canio apparently does.  I'm afraid that claiming his politics are an entirely personal matter cuts no ice when he has, in the past, been quite happy not only to admit to fascist sympathies, but to describe himself as a fascist, express his admiration for Benito Mussolini and give fascist salutes to fans in Italy when he played for Lazio.  But, he assures us, he isn't a racist.  Which apparently makes his fascism OK.  Except that it doesn't.  Quite apart from the fact that his historical fascist hero Mussolini, whilst originally not pursuing racist policies, was quite happy to embrace the doctrines of anti-Semitism and racial purity when he wanted Hitler's support, whether Di Canio likes it or not, fascism, in the public mind, is inextricably linked with racism.  With racism still an issue in football (just ask John Terry or Luis Suarez) having a self-confessed fascist in charge of a Premier League football club is an issue.  A political issue as well as a footballing issue.  The two can't be separated.  Like it or not.  

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Monday, April 01, 2013

"I Shovelled Shit in Louisiana"

"At least when your grandchildren ask you what you did in the great World War Two, you won't have to say, 'Well, I shovelled shit in Louisiana'."   Or so Patton allegedly told his troops during one of his speeches designed to stiffen their resolve before going into battle.  Yep, I've been thinking a lot about the film Patton since I rewatched it on Friday.  The opening few minutes consist of George C Scott as Patton directly addressing the camera with an amalgam of his most infamous speeches.  The bit about shovelling shit in Louisiana has stuck in my mind.  Mainly because I've never really understood why not having fought in a war is considered to be something to be ashamed of.  Speaking personally, I give thanks on a daily basis that I have had the good fortune to have lived through a period of history when the UK hasn't been involved in a major conflict which I would have been required to fight in.  War should always be a last resort and really shouldn't be glorified.  Dying for your country shouldn't be seen as something noble when, in reality, it is simply tragic.

The fact is that, unlike many right-wing militaristic types, I don't think that aggression, conflict and violence are man's natural state.  Interestingly, as Patton's pep-talks to his troops indicate, he also realised that most people have to be psyched up in order to go out and fight their fellow men.  Unlike professional, career soldiers, they don't see battle as something exciting and noble, rather, for them, it is a terrifying ordeal.  Believe me, it doesn't make you less of a man if you've never been 'tested' in combat.  The fact is that I shovelled shit in Louisiana, metaphorically speaking (the closest I've ever been to Louisiana is reading a James Lee Burke novel), and I'm proud of it.  I'm proud never to have killed another human being, proud not to have bombed other people's cities and proud not to have occupied someone else's country.  Which isn't to denigrate people who have fought in the defence of their countries - sometimes war is an unavoidable necessity, but it isn't man's natural state and we should surely be celebrating the absence of war more than we do the wars themselves.

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