Friday, June 28, 2013

Getting the Bird

Am I a terrible person?  I only ask because, the other day, I heard something on the radio which was meant to be tragic, but found myself laughing uproariously at it.  In fact, I was laughing so much that I had to stop the car.  I'd like to say that I felt ashamed at finding something so traumatic mirthful.  But I didn't.  But let's back up a bit here.  Obviously, you can't possibly judge just how bad a person I might be unless I explain the source of this fit of hilarity.  As I said, I was in the car listening to PM on Radio Four, it was the bit near the end where they usually have some kind of human interest story.  Anyway, this particular day we're treated to an interview with some bird-watcher, telling us about how he travelled half way around the country after hearing that some rare bird, last seen in the UK four hundred years ago, (or something like that - it might only have been ten years, but you get the picture).  After he and several other bird-watchers had observed and photographed the bird, which is renowned for its aerobatic capabilities, tragedy struck. 

Now, by this point it was clear that the denouement of the story would be the bird's sudden demise. My money was on the bird-watcher revealing that, as he and his fellow hobbyists watched, a domestic cat leaped out of nowhere and caught it mid-aerial manoeuvre, before proceeded to mark the bird off in its 'Observer's Book of Extremely Rare Birds', that every cat carries.  (I'm convinced that all felines have copies of this or a similar tome and try to complete sets of rare bird species they've killed and eaten.  Indeed, when The Guardian was going through that phase a few years ago of issuing free wall charts on every subject under the sun, I ended up giving the garden birds one to a local cat in the hope that it would help him improve his bird-killing rate).  But I was wrong.  Instead of falling prey to a cat attack, the bird-watcher described, in mournful tones, how, as it performed some complex aerobatics, the bird flew straight into the blades of a wind turbine.  It was at this point that I started laughing uncontrollably.  I'm sorry, but it was a combination of the mental picture this conjured up and the sombre tones in which the story was delivered which just made it seem hilarious to me.  I'm clearly a very bad person.   


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Non-Opposing Opposition

These truly are depressing times.  As if  'Gorgeous' George Osborne's latest admission of failure, sorry, spending review - which, as usual, targeted public services, public servants and the poor - wasn't bad enough, we also find ourselves faced with the prospect of an opposition which doesn't oppose.  I'm finding Labour's economic strategy hard to fathom - by basically acquiescing to the Tories' false narrative on the economy, (that public spending has to be cut in order to address a recession caused by excessive private debt), and saying that they therefore would match Osborne's cuts if in power, they are not only fatally undermining their ability to criticise the government on the economy, but also forfeiting their right to be considered a viable alternative by the electorate.  Really, Labour's leadership seem so terrified of upsetting the right-wing press, they instead pander to them by engaging in a contest with the Tories to show which of them is the most right-wing and 'hardest' on the poor and underprivileged.

Consequently, they seem to have lost sight not only of their own founding principles, but also of the fact that an opposition is meant to providing an alternative to the sitting government.  If both sides sing from the same - completely discredited - economic song sheet, then the electorate have the right to ask what the point of even voting is?  The weakness of Labour's approach to opposition is astounding.  The very idea of challenging the Tory narrative seems to terrify them.  Instead, they've effectively conceded the argument to the government, shrugging and saying that the Tories have obviously persuaded the public to their version of events through their friends in the media and it is just too difficult to try and change their opinion!  With defeatism like that when you are in opposition, how can you ever hope to win an election?  It is for politicians - particularly those seeking power - to lead public opinion and make the argument for their alternative.  But seems to be just too difficult for this Labour leadership.  I really do despair for the country's future.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Getting the Dirt on The Filth

Bear in mind that only a couple of weeks ago the Foreign Secretary was telling parliament - in response to The Guardian's revelations about the NSA's Prism programme and GCHQ's involvement in this mass surveillance project - that if you weren't doing anything wrong, you had nothing to fear from state surveillance, then consider the latest allegations that the Metropolitan Police spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence in the hope of getting some 'dirt' to smear them with.  Is it any wonder that it took so many years to secure a conviction in the Lawrence case when the police seemed more concerned with defaming the victim's family (who had been critical of their handling of the case) rather than finding his killer?  Sadly, this isn't an isolated case.  Let's not forget the Met's campaign of disinformation in the aftermath of their shooting of that Brazilian guy on the tube, the one they mistook for a terrorist.  According to the stories their friends in the Murdoch press ran, the victim made himself a suspect by running away from police and leaping over the ticket barriers at the station.  Moreover, he was apparently an illegal immigrant and God knows what else. All untrue, as it turned out.  The facts, as presented at the inquest, were quite different: he entered the tube station normally and it was only his work permit which had expired.  However, by then it was too late: the lies had taken root in the public consciousness and the inquest was barely reported by those papers that had defamed the victim.

They were at it again in the wake of the London riots a couple of years ago, presenting multiple versions of what supposedly happened when they shot dead the guy in North London, whose death sparked the unrest.  Was he pointing a gun at the police when they opened fire on him?  Was he just holding a gun?  If so, why was it found several yards from the body, behind a wall?  Could it be that he had thrown it from the taxi window when he saw the police?  Who knows?  Certainly not the Met, who seem to be too interested in damage limitation to actually bother investigating anything any more.  Actually, that isn't entirely true.  Their undercover officers seem to have spent a lot of time over the past couple of decades infiltrating and investigating environmental groups, anti-capitalism protestors and the like.  Their investigative technique seemed to involve having relationships with female suspects, fathering their children and acting as agents provocateurs.  But as we found out through the Levenson enquiry, the Met also seem to be in cahoots with the right-wing press, thereby ensuring that the reporting of these kind of activities has, until now, been minimised, with the newspapers in question perpetually banging out the line that the police are beyond criticism.  Even the most hardened conspiracy theorists couldn't have come up with a web as tangled as the one the Metropolitan Police have woven over the years.  So, do you still think that you have nothing to fear just because you are innocent?

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Asylum Seeker About The Embassy

Learning that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden was to seek asylum in Ecuador reminded me that Julian Assange is still holed up in Ecuador's London embassy.  Surely the staff must be getting fed up with him by now?  He's been there for months.  It must be like having one of those house guests who don't seem to realise that they've outstayed their welcome.  You know the sort - the 'friend' you let sleep on your sofa after a night at the pub who is still there six weeks later despite all your subtle hints - such as spending all evening farting on the sofa they plan to sleep on - that they should go.  There's no doubt that the Assange embassy situation has all the makings of one of those mismatched housemates flat share sitcoms.  If only it was still the seventies we could have Asylum Seeker About the Embassy.  It would have been a perfect fit for Thames TV's schedules.

Every week we'd see another attempt by the increasingly frustrated Ecuadorean ambassador (played by Brian Murphy) to eject Assange from the embassy by nefarious means, as he still owes six months rent for his room.  "Just step through here for that audience with the world's press we've arranged," he'll undoubtedly say, ushering Assange (Geoffrey Davies from the Doctor series) towards a set of doubles doors.  "They're just through here..."  Of course, at the last minute, with one foot hovering over the threshold, Assange realises the doors lead to the street and a posse of waiting policemen.  "Whoa - nearly got me there," he chuckles.  "Better luck next time!"  The whole situation is complicated by the ambassador's under-sexed wife (Yootha Joyce) continually making advances to Assange and frustrating her husband's plans, and the fact, due a lack of space at the embassy, he is being forced to share a room with two girls: one a dizzy blonde (Sally Thomsett), the other a smart brunette (Paula Wilcox).  Tensions arise as they are naturally wary of Assange because of the Swedish rape allegations hanging over him.  Many hijinks involving sexual innuendo and misunderstandings ensue.  This stuff just writes itself!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Longest Day

Well, that was it - the longest day of the year.  It's all downhill from here - the nights will start drawing in and, before you know it, we'll be back to Winter.  It always feels somewhat odd to me that the Summer solstice, equinox or whatever the right term is, what we like to call mid-Summer, comes so early in the season.  The reality is that we still have more than two months of what are classified as Summer to go.  More, if the season straggles into September, as it sometimes does.  Indeed, the hottest and sunniest days of the season often occur in July and August.  But this the day that everyone celebrates.  By everyone I mean, of course, that bunch of loonies who dress as druids and congregate at Stonehenge, despite the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that druids had anything to do with the site.  But that doesn't deter them. As ever, their self-styled leader, 'Arthur Pendragon', was on the local news burbling his usual bollocks about Stonehenge having been built by the druids as some kind of solar observatory, or some such cobblers. 

I wouldn't mind so much if these so-called druids actually did something interesting every mid-Summer's day, like a human sacrifice, or some naked dancing involving attractive young women.  You'd think they'd at least have some kind of fertility ritual involving wild copulation on the stones as the sun comes up.  But no, all they bloody do is wander around in their bloody robes and chant a bit.  Where's the entertainment in that?  As for 'Arthur Pendragon', he's just another one of those self-aggrandizing fantasists with no visible means of support.  He's something of a rent-a-quote on local TV news programmes, commenting on anything vaguely connected to druids and ancient monuments, regardless of his lack of qualifications.  I remember a few months ago he turned up prattling on about how displaying the excavated bones of Iron Age people in museums was disrespectful.  Really?  Have any of them or their close relatives complained?  And how does styling yourself as a druid and naming yourself after a mythical English king qualify you to comment on such matters?  The fact is that I know a thing or two about 'Arthur Pendragon' - which, unfortunately, I can't repeat here - which cast him in a very unfavourable light. 

But getting back to the point, every year I tell myself that I'm going to do something to mark the longest day.  Not running around Stonehenge naked, obviously.  Something less flamboyant - a trip to the coast, perhaps.  Or some other kind of outing.  But I never do.  And this year was no different.  As usual, I worked through it.  Still, next year it should fall on a Saturday.  So, maybe next year...


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jaguar Lives!

No, not the car manufacturer, but the almost forgotten martial arts movie from 1979.  I mentioned this one last week when I inaugurated the 'random movie trailers' thread and, as with the oppressive heat, general sweatiness and the fact I'm too distracted to come up with anything original, I thought we'd take a look at the trailer.

This is another of those films I vaguely remember showing in late night slots on ITV, but which I never managed to see. If you are wondering who Joe Lewis was, he was another of those martial arts champions promoted as an action movie star in the wake of Bruce Lee and the Kung Fu craze. A contemporary of Chuck Norris, he never enjoyed Norris' level of success in movies, despite being no worse an actor and probably a better martial arts fighter. Jaguar Lives! was clearly intended to launch a globe-trotting James Bond-style franchise starring Lewis. Indeed, the supporting cast read like a who's who of Bond alumni, with Christopher Lee (The Man With the Golden Gun), Donald Pleasance (Blofeld in You Only Live Twice), Joseph Wiseman (Dr No himself) and Barbara Bach (who had only recently been The Spy Who Loved Me). Unlike Golden Needles, this one is available on DVD (from the Czech Republic), so I really should order it. Then I'll be able to tell you exactly why it failed to spawn a series and remained Jaguar's only outing.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dangerous Obsession

I must admit that I was somewhat disturbed to see the headlines claiming that the government was to hold a 'web porn summit' today.  It conjured up truly horrendous images of cabinet ministers gathering at Number Ten and spending hours hunched over their laptops drooling over the most disgusting smut they could find.  The idea of the likes of Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt swapping bald bondage sites or horse spanking forums is just too foul for words.  I mean, I know that this government has a dangerous obsession with internet porn, but really, do they honestly need to hold a summit on the subject?  Can't they just peruse it in the privacy of their own bedrooms, like everyone else?  It's not as if it is an issue which needs publicity - surely everyone knows where it is and how to find it?  Perhaps most surprising was o find that the whole thing had been organised by a woman - Culture Secretary Maria Miller.  I thought she objected to internet porn?  Still, I suppose running this sort of event gives her another excuse to avoid spending any time in her constituency: Basingstoke.  Who can blame her? 

But getting back to the summit - it tells you something about this government's breadth of vision that it holds a summit meeting about pornography.  Back in the day we used to have summit meeting called to discuss such weighty topics as nuclear arms reduction. This government, by contrast, seems to think that pornography represents the greatest current threat to global security.  Anyway, at this summit they were apparently trying to discover how easy it is to find child porn online.  Or something.  Actually, I should imagine it is pretty easy if you are a paedophile - you probably wouldn't even have to search.  But according to the government people are tripping over child porn every time they use a search engine.  Even for innocent search terms like 'fluffy kittens'.  Presumably they had banks of civil servants sat at work stations, putting search term after search term into Google in the hope of dredging up some kiddie filth.  But why are they so obsessed with internet porn, and internet child pornography in particular?  Well, I did hear one of those nutters protesting outside the recent Bilderberg Group meeting in Watford claiming that 'peadophilia is the glue binding them together' - referring to the evil elites who really run the world, obviously.  So, maybe that's it - this summit is all about feeding the evil bastards' insatiable thirst for child porn, thereby ensuring that 'they' (the bankers, Jews, lizards, etc) can maintain their secret hegemony over the world.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Miscellany

Monday and so many things are going on that I can't make up my mind what to post about - so I'll just ramble randomly about a few of the things which have caught my attention.  Morris dancers, let's start with them.  Apparently Morris Dancing is on the decline.  Which can only be good news, surely.  The media have advanced several theories to explain its decline, with The Guardian claiming that it is down to a shortage of 'irons' - the bits of metal they have on the soles of their shoes so that they can make that clicking noise when they prance about with their sticks and silly hats.  This, in turn, is down to the declining number of blacksmiths in the UK, who, apparently, are the only people capable of manufacturing these 'irons'.  Personally, I think that's a load of old bollocks.  I'm not convinced.  Surely tap-dancing shoes would produce the same effect and, as far as I'm aware, there is no shortage of those.  The explanation advanced on TV sounds more convincing - that the number of venues, particularly pubs, are declining.  However, they are wrong when they claim that the lack of pub venues is the result of increasing pub closures.  No, it is down to the fact that increasing numbers of pub-goers are fed up with having an evening out ruined by a bunch of pillocks with bells and sticks prancing around the public bar.

I've had the misfortune to have been in a pub when it was invaded by a bunch of Morris Dancers.  It was Hell, I can tell you.  I was with a group of friends trying to celebrate my birthday when these bastards turned up - we were forced into a side room in order to get some peace and be able to talk.  Getting a drink from the bar became a hazardous operation, as you had to time it so as to avoid the flailing handkerchiefs and silly hats.  Trust me, Morris Dancers, like folk musicians, are a sure way to ruin a night at the pub.  Moreover, if, like me, you are old enough to remember seeing the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story The Deamons back in the early seventies, then you'll know that Morris Dancers really can't be trusted. We must keep our pubs free of such evil.  OK, so that's Morris Dancers dealt with, what next?  Oh yes, Stuart Hall.  Or 'Sex Attacker Stuart Hall' as we apparently must call him.  Certainly, that's what the BBC News website and digital text headlines have been labelling him since he was sentenced this morning.  Presumably to divert attention from the fact that he was, until fairly recently, a BBC employee.  I love the way that the media always seek to define people in the news by a single aspect of their character: 'sex attacker', 'wife beater', 'former nude priest', 'serial killer' - you get the idea. 

It all helps to reinforce the dangerous idea that criminals and deviants are somehow extraordinary and that their criminal or sexual proclivities constitute their entire characters.  Whereas, in reality, they are just like the rest of us - most sex offenders are otherwise perfectly respectable citizens.  You can't rely on an outward veneer od respectability as a guide to character, as the media would have you believe.  So, what else has caught my attention lately?  Oh yes, the establishment's attempts to fight back following the 'Prism' revelation in The Guardian.  According to various US Congressmen, that whistleblower is a 'traitor' and in the pay of the Chinese and has damaged US security.  Apparently, the Boston Bombings could have been prevented by this programme.  Except that they weren't, of course.  This claim really does highlight the utter bullshit being spoken by those trying to defend the indefensible,  The fact is that Prism was running before, during and after the bombings in Boston, yet failed to identify the bombers as potential terrorists.  Like I said, utter bullshit.  One last thing before I wrap this up - it happened again, when I posted a new story last week Google News once again re-listed for a few days a whole slew of older stories from the same category, giving a mild boost to my traffic.  Well, that's all for now.  Just need to think of a topic for tomorrow...

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Golden Needles

It's Friday, it's late and I don't have the energy to come up with a proper post.  Instead, I thought I'd give you a random obscure seventies move trailer:

The fact that Golden Needles was an AIP production probably tells you everything you need to know about the movie's quality, (that and the fact that it has such a bizarre cast). AIP were, for a good quarter of a century, simply the greatest producers and distributors of exploitation movies the world has ever seen. They produced everything from grade Z drive in horror and biker flicks to near art house exploitation items like Witchfinder General.  This film, an attempt to cash in on the Bruce Lee/kung fu bandwagon, sits somewhere in the middle of this range, and is fairly typical of AIP's seventies output, as they tried to move away from the horror genre. 

I must admit, I've never seen the movie, although I vaguely remember it being on late night TV, probably in the early eighties, (but I could be confusing it with some other low-budget exploitation movie with a similar theme).  It sits, alongside other, now forgotten, seventies action flicks like Jaguar Lives on my list of exploitation titles I really must eventually track down and watch.  As far as I'm aware, Golden Needles has never been released on DVD in the UK (a region 1 DVD was available in the US from MGM a couple of years ago), but you might be able to get a second hand VHS copy from eBay.   (I think my VHS player still works, so maybe I should try that).

So, there you are - a random obscure movie trailer.  Maybe this could become a regular feature?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dream Home

We're back to that old question of whether dreams have any actual meaning.  Personally, I doubt it.  I think that we give them significance at our peril.  That said, it is always tempting to do so when the same motifs appear over and over again in one's dreams.  I have a couple of recurring dreams.  One is fairly easy to explain: for many years, every June I'd suffer a series of dreams in which I found myself completely unprepared for a series of exams vital to my future.  Clearly, these derived from anxieties dating back to my schooldays, triggered by the subconcious realisation that the time of year when exams roll around had once more arrived.  I seem finally to have outgrown these activities as I haven't experienced this dream, so far, this year.  The other recurring dream is somewhat more mystifying.  In this dream I remember that I own another property, apart from the house I'm living in.  I also recall that this other property is meant to be my primary residence, so I travel there and find it run down, musty and full of rubbish.

In the most recent manifestation of this dream, I arrived at the second property only to realise that it was this house, that I'm currently living in.  This time I couldn't even bring myself to open the front door, such was the sense of dread I felt.  Interestingly, there was some kind of funeral procession emerging from a gateway (which doesn't exist in real life) across the road.  The dream has several variations, several involve the interior of the house being like some kind of time capsule, stuck in another era.  Another version of the dream involves me actually living in another property, different to this one, which has a set of rooms I never use.  The dream usually charts my attempts to switch my living arrangements so as to start using these rooms - usually a living room and a bedroom - rather than my regular living spaces within the house.  The reason I don't use these rooms generally has to do with their isolation from the main part of the property.  Also, they just don't 'feel' right.  Another version of the dream involves me living in my real house, except that it has an extra room - one that couldn't possibly exist in reality as it would involve knocking down the party wall to the next house in the terrace.

So, what does it all mean?  Does it have something to do with anxiety over the maintenance of my property?  (Is it significant the dream's recurrence has coincided with me doing major work in the garden and carrying out repairs to the exterior paintwork?)  Does it reflect subconscious insecurities about the area I live in?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Answers on a postcard to anyone but me... 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Demonic Dornier

The fools!  Don't they realise what they've done?  Those bungling meddlers who have raised that crashed Dornier Do17 bomber from the seabed. I mean.  Obviously.  There was a reason it crashed in the Channel during the war - and it had nothing to do with the RAF shooting it down during the Battle of Britain.  Believe me, it was put there deliberately by the Germans.  I have no doubt that Himmler had sealed some demonic evil force he had summoned during one of his regular black masses in Berlin, but realised he couldn't control, into the bomb bay, then sent it on a one way trip to the deeps, where he thought it would remain forever.  The crew doubtless baled out after setting it on course, then were picked by a U-boat, before being shot so that they couldn't reveal Himmler's dreadful secret.  You'd think the authorities would know all this - it's as if they've never read a cheap 1970s paperback horror novel!

Anyway, as soon as they start poking about in the fuselage of that bloody bomber, now that they have it back above the surface, that evil force will be released and all Hell will break loose.  For starters, the Dornier will probably regenerate itself, then fly off to bomb London.  They'll be wishing that they'd left those anti-aircraft missiles on top of those tower blocks after the Olympics, before this is over!  Not that they'd do any good against the phantom Dornier, of course.  Being demonically possessed it would be impermeable to all mortal weapons.  The authorities will probably end up having to melt down a load of crucifixes and use them the build a Spitfire which, piloted by an ordained priest and firing bullets containing splinters of the True Cross upon Our Saviour was crucified, will be the only thing capable of destroying the Satanic war artefact.  So, just remember, when that demonic Dornier is terrorising London, you were warned!   


Monday, June 10, 2013

Innocent Until Snooped On

We have nothing to fear from our own intelligence services snooping on us - unless we've got something to hide.  So says our illustrious Foreign Secretary, (and failed Tory Party leader who was so crap he couldn't win an election, yet still holds high office), William Hague.  Yes folks, we're back to that age old piece of idiocy - If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear from surveillance.  In which case, can we expect Mr Hague to allow us to view a live video feed from his bedroom?  After all, if he has nothing to hide, he has no reason to hide what he gets up to in bed with his wife.  Unless, of course, there's some secret there - maybe they don't share a bed, perhaps they have separate beds like Fred and Wilma in The Flintstones?  Could that be what Hague's defence of GCHQ for allegedly circumventing the UK's legal restrictions on snooping on the electronic communications of UK citizens by simply using intelligence gathered by its US counterpart the NSA is really about - he wants to know who is speculating about his sexual orientation in e-mails, texts and phone calls?  Is he really that fearful that somewhere on Facebook there's a 'Is William Hague a Bender?' group that he finds it necessary to launch mass electronic surveillance of the UK's population?

Obviously, William Hague isn't gay, (he and his supporters have told us that enough times), but if he was gay, isn't about time he embraced his true sexuality and accepted that it is perfectly natural?  I mean, there's no stigma attached to it these days.  These really are extraordinary lengths to go to in order to keep such a thing covered up.  (Which obviously he isn't doing as he isn't gay).  But to get back to the original point, such as it was, I thought that both here and in the US there was a presumption of innocence?  Surely it is fundamental principal of our justice systems that the authorities don't start rummaging through my life unless there is some evidence I might be implicated in criminal activity?  Indeed, Hague seems to be saying this still is the case as only the 'guilty' are targeted by secret surveillance.  Except that they can't be 'guilty'.   Only a court of law can determine 'guilt' or innocence after hearing all the relevant evidence in a legal trial.  In which case there'd be no point in watching them, as they would already have been tried and sentenced.  The problem, of course, is that in reality the intelligence and security services, whether here or in the US, have little idea of who they should suspect.  So, instead they just monitor everyone, indiscriminately, just in case any of us commit a crime.  In which case, conveniently, they'll already have all the information they need.  The next logical step, I suppose, would be a lurch into Minority Report territory, where they use the information they glean from your communications to predict whether you are even thinking about committing a crime or doing something anti-social, and intervene to prevent you from doing it.

The bottom line here is that we seem to be slipping back into medieval notions of justice. You know, ducking suspected witches, then declaring that if they survive it is the work of the Devil and they are therefore guilty, but if they drown they're innocent.  Except nowadays it isn't witchcraft it is 'terrorism' and the argument is that if you aren't a terrorist you have to give up all your civil liberties in order that the state can prove you aren't by snooping on you, but if you protest and invoke the very civil liberties the state is professing to protect, you must be guilty.  Welcome to the 'free' world!

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Friday, June 07, 2013

Under Surveillance

I'm reluctant to post anything any more, now that I know for sure that 'they' are monitoring all our web and phone activity.  It clearly isn't safe to use the net.  Or the phone, for that matter.  The NSA and, it now seems, GCHQ, are listening and monitoring our every move.  Here's something for them to think about: back in a previous existence, when I commuted to work everyday, wearing a collar and tie and sat behind a desk in Whitehall, I visited both the NSA at Fort Meade and GCHQ in Cheltenham as part of my job.  They were liaison visits, way back in the day.  I was a different person then.  Part of the system.  Actually, I'm still part of the system, in my day job, just much lower down the scale and nowadays working actively to subvert the system from within.  Although that last bit might be a lie - it's more like subverting the system through utter indifference. I just do my hours and come home, where I lead this alternative existence online. 

Getting back to the point, it was dismaying to see Obama defending the indiscriminate secret surveillance of perfectly innocent US citizens by trotting out all the tired old clichés about the need for security sometimes having to outweigh the need for privacy and civil liberties.  It's all bollocks.  If you have to start invading people's privacy on this scale in the name of fighting terrorism, then the terrorists have quite clearly won.  The most depressing aspect of this whole story is the number of morons out there who buy Obama and co's schtick and happily collude in their own repression by the state.  I seem to recall that back in the dark days of the Cold War, this was exactly the sort of thing we in the West used to condemn the Soviets for.  We smugly crowed about how free from state surveillance and monitoring our citizens were in contrast to those of the Soviet bloc.  Or perhaps I just imagined that - they're probably busy re-writing that bit of history to better reflect current policies as I type this.  Anyway, I'd better go before they spot me - remember, they're watching you!

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened...

A funny thing happened earlier this week: traffic to The Sleaze started to rise again.  Sure, it wasn't anything like the levels we were enjoying a few years ago, but a definite improvement over the trickle we get nowadays.  Most surprisingly, the increase seemed to be originating with Google referrals!  What had happened?  Had Google abandoned its mission of the past few years to destroy the web as we know it by rigging its search results to divert traffic away from smaller, independent, but relevant sites, to big, but less relevant to the search query, brand names?  Sadly not, but a quick investigation revealed something interesting.  When the most recent story - Send 'Em Back - auto-published early on Monday morning it was quickly picked up by Google News.  So far, so normal.  But then something strange happened.  Instead of just indexing the new story, Google News proceeded to index about forty old stories, (which it had already run on their original publication), from the same category, 'Politics', as the new one.  A further check of the stats confirmed that it was these stories which were generating most of the new traffic.

Now, I knew this wouldn't last and, as I expected, Google has spent the past couple of days feverishly removing as many of these stories from the News listings as they can.  Traffic, naturally, declined and, today, is back down to the trickle of referrals we've become used to over the past few months.  (Although, a lot of other site owners have reported big Google traffic declines today, so maybe something else is also going on).  But I think we've learned something important from this incident.  Firstly, that there is clearly something wrong with Google's web crawling and indexing system.  Secondly, it has confirmed that The Sleaze's pages are, in the regular search index, being buried so deep in the results by Google that searchers can't find them.  As the past few days have shown, when stories are allowed a more prominent position, searchers can find them with relevant search terms.  Moreover, the fact that many of these new visitors proceeded to stay on the site and read other stories implies that there is still an audience online for our kind of content.  Which is reassuring, because the way traffic has been apparently ebbing away, I was beginning to doubt this.  However, it seems that Google has to 'fix' its index in order to suppress our traffic.  It isn't us, it's them

Anyway, I'll hopefully be posting another new story early next week, probably in a different category - I'll be interested to see if we get a repeat performance of this week or whether, as I suspect,  Google has fixed this indexing bug.  Whatever happens, I renewed the site's hosting package the other day, so I'm afraid Google will be disappointed - The Sleaze will be around for at least another twelve months.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Porn Free?

I see the right-wing puritans are at it again, attempting to exploit recent horrendous sex-related murders to try and force their anti-porn agenda onto the internet.  Once again we have calls for ISPs to implement web filters for 'adult content' which customers would have to opt out of, thereby branding themselves horrible perverts.  That's undoubtedly how they see it - a prime opportunity to 'out' all those evil porn users.  The fact is, however, that pornography is not, in itself, illegal.  Nor should it be.  For sure, pornography depicting illegal acts, or sexual acts where there is no consent by at least one of the participants, is illegal and should be.  If people want to look at pornography then they have every right to do so.  If parents don't want their children to see online porn then it is surely their responsibility, not their ISP's, or the search engines' responsibility, to ensure that they aren't able to see it, either by implementing filters on their computers or by restricting their children's web access.  Just as it is their responsibility to ensure that their children can't access porn through other media, such as TV or DVDs. 

It never ceases to amaze me, the way in which these right-wingers, who are always condemning the 'nanny state', want to use the state to restrict people's freedom.  Because that's what this is all about.  You notice that they never say they are trying to restrict 'porn',  Oh no, they always use the amorphous term 'adult content', which could include a lot more than pornography - sexual health education, for instance, some brands of satire and political humour, for another, not to mention various political and philosophical discussions and quite a lot of what constitutes 'art'.  AS for their justifications for restricting some types of pornography - that some convicted killers and sex offenders were known to have viewed child porn or so called 'violent porn' (usually consensual S&M sites) - this patently bogus.  Viewing this kind of stuff didn't make them killers and deviants - they were looking at it because they were killers and deviants.  The bottom line here is that I'm not saying porn and the exploitation of women is OK, but the reality is that these attempts to effectively criminalise porn are simply a Trojan horse used by the right to try and further restrict our wider freedoms.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Summer of Speculation?

OK, let's see if we can address of the big issues perplexing the popular press at once.  It seems obvious to me that the BBC should pay Tottenham Hotspur £85 million for Gareth Bale.  Not only would this end the transfer speculation surrounding the Welsh winger, but it would also solve the BBC's problem of how to replace Matt Smith in Doctor Who. This move would also leave Matt Smith free to join Spurs and play wide left for them.  A perfect solution, I think you'll agree.  The thought of Gareth Bale using his left foot to battle the Daleks with a curling shot to their eye-stalks is bound to attract a whole new audience to the venerable science fiction series.  Obviously, it would be boycotted by Arsenal fans, but I'm sure it can afford to lose half a dozen viewers or so.  But apart from them, I've no doubt it could attract most of the Match of the Day audience with Bale as The Doctor.  Conversely, Match of the Day would benefit by the influx of a whole new audience of geeks, nerds and science fiction fans eager to keep abreast of Matt Smith's latest exploits - and see whether he uses his sonic screwdriver to put off opposing goalies.

Sadly, though, I don't think this obvious solution will happen, (although, as a Spurs fan, I'd rather see Bale go to Doctor Who than Real Madrid or, worse, Manchester United), and we'll be subjected to endless speculation as to Bale's transfer plans and who the next Doctor will be, for the entire Summer.  The fact that Bale has so far not put in a transfer request and nobody has actually made a move for him doesn't bother the press, who continue fabricate stories about his 'inevitable' transfer from Spurs based on highly dubious 'facts'.  It's the same with the Doctor Who situation.  Matt Smith had barely announced his departure from the series before the media started giving odds on 'likely' replacements, despite there being nothing to base such speculation on.  Oh yes, then there's the hoary old chestnuts the press like to bring up every time The Doctor changes:  will the next doctor be female/black?  No and probably not.  Criticising the series for always having The Doctor portrayed as a white male is rather akin to accusing, say, Sherlock of racism because it didn't cast an Asian woman as Holmes. Or Tottenham Hotspur for not making Gareth Bale black.  But wait, we have some media outlets claiming that there have been hints from the 'production team' that the next Doctor will be a woman.  Oh really?  When did anyone currently connected with the show say anything like that?  Oh, that's right - you made it up.  If afraid we're going to get a lot more of that before this Summer is over.

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