Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Creeping Through the Forest

It's that time again - Monthly Movie time.  Once again, this is also, effectively, a holiday film, but as the footage was shot in September, I thought I'd count it as part of the 'Monthly Movie' project.  This was shot at the Highland Water enclosure near Emery Down.  The path actually does a complete circle and it is possible to access the other side of the ford seen in the August Monthly Movie by taking one of the many paths which branch off of it.  However, I didn't get to that path.  In fact, I didn't complete the circuit of the main path.  I became so spooked as I walked around the enclosure that I abandoned the walk half way (hence the abrupt ending to the film) and hot footed it back to my car. 

As you can see, it was broad daylight, and the only other living things I encountered were two ponies, but there was something about the atmosphere of those woods which really disturbed me as I walked through them.  It didn't help that only a couple of days before I shot this, there had been a murder in another part of the New Forest, (the scene of which, coincidentally, I had unknowingly driven past several hours after the incident), and, as I rounded the bend in the path after the ponies, I noticed, deep in the trees, a tent of some kind.  Clearly, someone was living rough in the enclosure.  Bearing in mind that at this point no arrests had been made in the murder case, I became somewhat uneasy.  My sense of uneasiness grew as, after I passed the tent, I became convinced that I could hear someone or something moving parallel to me in the tees, although I couldn't see anything.  When I couldn't hear the distant crackling of fallen twigs and branches breaking as something moved over them, there was just an eerie silence.  At which point my nerve broke and I hurried back to the car (as I was the only one parked in the car park, I had assumed I was alone there), and drove a few miles down the road, to an enclosure with more people in evidence.

Not surprisingly, the film reflects my sense of unease, with some dark and foreboding music (courtesy of Kevin MacCleod), heightening the sense of tension as I creep, hesitantly, through the forest.   

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Monday, September 29, 2014

All Our Yesterdays: Reactionaries Cut

Shock!  Horror!  Pass me the smelling salts!  Jimmy Savile was seen in an old edition of Top of the Pops repeated on BBC4! Won't somebody think of the children?  Heads must roll at the BBC for this outrage!  This apparent desire to completely edit Jimmy Savile out of history and popular culture is fast reaching Orwellian proportions.  Yes, I know he was probably an evil sex offender (let's not forget that he was never actually convicted of anything) and generally just a creepy fucker, but whether we like it or not, it is fact, recorded on video tape, that he was, during his lifetime, a popular TV presenter and frequently hosted Top of the Pops.  This insistence that he be, literally, edited out of the programme's history is a disturbing attempt at rewriting history.  Not that the situation is going to get any better: now that Dave Lee Travis has been convicted of being a groper, he'll have to be edited out, too.  It's getting to the stage where future generations will think that Top of the Pops was hostless.   It isn't just Top of the Pops affected, of course.  The BBC has undoubtedly burned every recording it had of Jim'll Fix It, whilst the conviction of Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris for sex offences means that It's a Knockout!, Rolf's Cartoon Time and Rolf's Animal Hospital have joined it on the bonfire.  Not to mention footage of every guest appearance Rolf Harris ever made on other people's programmes.

Huge swathes of our popular culture archives are in danger of being lost simply because a few Daily Mail readers get an attack of the vapours whenever they see the image of a dead alleged sex offender.  Strangely, I didn't see them complaining when the bastard was all over our TV screens whilst he was alive - that's when he gave many of us the creeps.  At least now we can watch him safe in the knowledge he's dead and buried.  The worry is that this hysteria might translate to trying to rewrite history to remove any individual that the mob deems 'offensive'.  Imagine if every piece of World War Two newsreel footage had every mention of Adolf Hitler cut from them?  If Hitler couldn't be represented on stage or screen because of public outrage over his crimes?  An extreme (and probably impractical) example, I know, but it illustrates my point.  We really can't go around editing people out of history just because they've dome things we find offensive.  But sadly, this sort of thing is par for the course these days.  Let's not forget that, when he was Education Secretary, bonkers Tory Chief Whip Michael Gove merrily attempted to use the schools curriculum re-edit history to a British Empire-centric narrative, glorifying the achievements of Britain.  Not to mention his attempts tore-cast World War One as a 'just war' and glorious victory for Britain.  Hell, the Tory party has spent the past few years rewriting recent history to convince people that it was profligate government spending rather than reckless lending by the banks which caused the recession and that, consequently, public spending has to be cut in order to service the private debts run up by the financial sector and its wealthy backers.  Compared to lies on that scale, editing Jimmy Savile out of the popular memory is nothing.,

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Uninteresting Times

You know, it occurred to me yesterday, whilst writing about my sense of listlessness this week, that since I've been back at work after my Summer leave, the only remotely interesting thing which has happened to me was my car remote locking not working.  Not permanently not working. Just temporarily, at a specific location.  The other week, you see, I found myself parked in one of those strange blackspots where the signal from a car's key fob is blocked, so that the remote locking won't work and you have to lock and unlock the vehicle manually.  Which is a pain.  I've no idea how common these blackspots are - I'd heard of them, but this was the first time I'd encountered one myself.  Apparently, they are caused by some electronic device in the are putting out a signal on the same frequency used by the remote locking systems of cars so powerful that it blocks them.  Faulty TV signal boosters and wireless TV signal distributors are amongst the worst culprits, I'm told.

Anyway, I was left asking myself: is this what my life has come to - when my car not locking remotely counts as an 'interesting' or even 'bizarre' incident?  No wonder I've been feeling listless of late.  I remember the times when I seemed to encounter the strange and intriguing on a daily basis.  Perhaps the problem is that I've become too set in my routines.  I always see to be visiting the same places and seeing the same old faces (and having the same desultory conversations with them).  Clearly I need to make some changes and bring some excitement back into my life.  I used to know people who were unpredictable and, frankly, certifiably insane.  They scared the crap out of me, but they were never dull and I felt alive around them, (and scared).  I used to go out of my way to drive down roads and lanes I'd never travelled on before, just to see where they led.  I really need to get back to that.  If I can find the energy, that is.  That's the trouble with feeling listless - seeking excitement requires too much effort.  We'll see.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

On the Turn

Well, here we are, nearing the end of a listless week.  I just haven't been able to settle to anything or kindle any real interest in any of my ongoing projects, let alone work.  I knew I wanted to write a new story for The Sleaze, for instance, but, despite having a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write, I just couldn't get down to writing it.  In the end I settled for re-working some older material from here, topping and tailing it with some new stuff to provide it with a topical frame.  Lazy, I know, but I have to say that the end result was much better than I could have hoped for - not brilliant, but not at all bad.  (As an aside, the story in question has gone on to confirm that the current cabinet minister who excites the strongest reaction in people is Iain Duncan Smith - write something disparaging about him and there are a whole army of haters out there who will come and read it.  Which is fair enough.  He deserves it - he really is the epitome of the completely out-of-touch Tory bastard with his relentless crusades and against the poor.  No other minister stirs up such a hostile reaction, not even Gove).

But to return to the original point, I really don't know where his week's listlessness has come from. Maybe its down to the fact that the season is now clearly turning.  Despite the sunny start to September, it is beginning to feel more like Autumn, particularly in the evenings.  It's getting dark earlier and there's a distinct Autumnal chill in the air.  It is also beginning to smell like Autumn, as the laves begin to fall.  All of which can't help but  make one nostalgic for those balmy days of Summer (well, July, when it was sweltering, rather than the damp August which followed).  It reminds us that we're inevitably heading for Winter and will have to wait another year for Summer's warmth to return.  Not that there's anything wrong with Autumn.  I've always much preferred it to Winter or Spring, which are all too frequently ill-tempered and changeable in weather terms.  Lacking Winter's bleakness and Spring's false promises, Autumn is, I find, a far kinder and friendlier season.  But enough of these seasonal musings.  Hopefully I'll be able to shrug off this listlessness soon and get back on track.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Like to Watch, Apparently

We're going to end up watching people wanking off over pornography - and probably wank off ourselves over them wanking off.  It's the way 'entertainment' is going these days.  Indeed, it is the logical (not to mention inevitable) eventual outcome of Channel Four presenting as 'entertainment' the sight of ordinary viewers watching television.  I mean, really, is this what TV entertainment has come to - watching strangers watching TV, on our own TVs?  The worst thing is that this programme is, in some misguided quarters, considered cutting-edge , award winning TV.  Quite why anyone would think that listening to some bunch of idiots you don't know airing their opinions on the TV programmes they are watching is entertaining is beyond me.  Damn it, I don't even want to hear my own opinions when I'm watching television - I just want to watch it in peace! But to get back to the point, why should anyone care what others think about what they are watching?  Are there people out there so lacking in confidence that they feel a desperate need to have their own opinions (hopefully) validated by a bunch of strangers on TV? 

The last time I felt that way was in the playground.  You remember those days, don't you?  When, as children, there were always these TV series which were 'must watch'?  Everyone watched them, or so you thought.  So if you didn't see them, then you weren't 'normal' and weren't part of the group.  You found yourselves excluded from the conversation in the breaks.  Worst of all, all of the cool kids watched these shows, so if you didn't, you had no chance of being cool.  At least, that's how it felt at the time.  But I grew out of those feelings.  I had no choice.  My parents didn't watch a lot of those programmes so, in those days of single TV set households, I didn't watch them.  Conversely, we watched a lot of stuff which nobody else seemed to, but which was also pretty good, teaching me the lesson that just because something isn't popular, doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile and vice versa.  I was also allowed to watch some pretty weird and wonderful stuff ranging from Spike Milligan's 'Q' series (my father was a fan), through the Out of The Unknown science fiction anthology series, to various old black and white horror and science fiction movies.  None of which my contemporaries at school had seen, so I could describe these wondrous films and shows in loving detail to them, making them envious.  But to return to my original point, if nowadays we think that watching other people watch TV is, in itself good TV, then it really is only a matter of time before we believe that the most entertaining way to enjoy sex is by watching other people masturbating over internet porn.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Plague of the Living Dead

The authorities in Sierra Leone are declaring their recent weekend 'lock down', supposedly to combat the spread of Ebola, a success.  I say 'supposedly', because it is quite obviously more evidence that what's happening in West Africa is actually the start of the zombie apocalypse.  I ask you, what better way of dealing with the living dead is there than declaring that the entire civilian population are confined to their homes for forty eight hours?  Quite obviously, under such circumstances, the authorities can safely assume that anyone out on the streets during this period is a zombie and mow them down in a hail of bullets before decapitating and incinerating them.  After all, as zombies are entirely without the power of reason or free will, they wouldn't understand any of the broadcasts and posters telling them to stay inside.

Of course, there's no guarantee that this tactic will stop the spread of the zombies completely.  In fact, it could even help create more, if some of the families forced to remain in their homes already included at least one member who was already 'infected' and 'on the turn', then the 'lock down' would create the ideal conditions for them to 'infect' the rest of the group.  With the authorities focusing on destroying the zombies out on the streets, then these new zombies would go undetected, emerging only once the 'lock down' was lifted and everyone had been lured into a false sense of security.  Consequently, I don't think that we should feel confident that the authorities have got this zombie outbreak under control, just because it is so far confined to West Africa is no reason for complacency.  Unless Italian zombie movies have lied to me, it is all too easy for the infection to spread - all it takes are a few zombified stowaways or crewmembers on freighters calling at West African ports for the zombie apocalypse to go global.   You've been warned!  


Friday, September 19, 2014

Still Together

So, it turns out that we can't get rid of the Scots after all.  It isn't as if we didn't do our best to get them to go, sending David Cameron up there and everything.  But still they bloody voted 'no'.  So we're stuck with them.  Not even a trial separation.  But not to worry, in the wake of the referendum, Cameron has been telling us that it is time for us to build a better UK.  Which sounds like a great idea - when is Cameron going to resign?  Surely the resignation of him and his dreadful government is prerequisite for the establishment of a 'better' UK.   Hell, it would make me feel better.  There's been much talk today of how the UK won't be the same, despite the 'no' vote in the Scottish referendum, how it is time to transfer power away from Westminster and decentralise government.  Fine talk, but I somehow doubt that it will be translated into action any time soon.  The reality of UK politics is that parliament jealously protects its position as the UK's sole sovereign decision-making body, reluctant to concede any real power to any other institutions, even if, as with local councils, they are elected bodies boasting the same kind of democratic legitimacy as Westminster.

Sure, Scotland will likely get 'Devo-Max' as a way of staving off any further calls for independence, but I don't envisage either this government or any successor government including the Tories, giving any significant degree of power back to the other regions, let alone Wales and Northern Ireland.  Their corporate masters wouldn't like it - more democracy creates the threat of more pesky regulations, more accountability and more politicians to try and bribe, smear and coerce into subverting democracy in the interests of rapacious capitalists.  To be honest, I doubt that the Labour Party would be in much of a hurry to implement greater local autonomy in the event of forming the next government - they'd doubtless cite the economy as a priority and put further devolution plans on the back burner.  In fact, the Labour leadership seems so scared of offending the Daily Mail it refuses to challenge the current economic orthodoxy of cutting state spending, making any radical policies on the part of a Labour government highly unlikely.  So, much as I'd like to see a greater devolution of political power in the UK, I don't see it happening any time soon, despite today's outpourings.  I'm sure there will be plenty of enquiries and committees set up to explore possible structures for regional government and that these will spend years, if not decades. producing reports, but their true purpose will be to slow the process down and dampen public enthusiasm and expectations for the proposals.  OK, I know I'm a cynic, but I've seen this sort of thing happen all too often in the past.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014


Having mentioned this in the previous post, I thought perhaps this was an opportune time to present Witchcraft as a 'random movie trailer'.  I haven't seen this film since I was a child.  It rarely turns up on TV, although I believe that it has been available on DVD in recent years.  I can't say that I recall many plot details - I know that it concerns a notorious witch returning from the grave to persecute the descendants of her persecutors and that the whole thing is triggered by these descendants (who are property developers) trying to redevelop the graveyard where she was buried - but I do remembered that it scared the hell out of me.  It was the scene Vanessa, the reincarnated witch, appears in the backseat of one victim's car, first being glimpsed in the rear view mirror, which really freaked me out.  My father had an estate car, so travelling in the backseat (as I generally did at that age) meant that I wasn't immune from witches appearing behind me in the car.  For weeks after seeing that film I'd keep anxiously glancing in the rear view mirror, too scared to actually turn around and look into the tail gate section.

Atmospherically shot in monochrome by Hammer regular Don Sharp, Witchcraft was probably the best of a number of low-budget movies co-produced in the UK by the Robert Lippert and Jack Parsons.  Several were directed by Sharp (including Curse of the Fly) and most were written by Harry Spalding, (sometimes, as on The Earth Dies Screaming, masquerading under a pseudonym).  Interestingly, both producers owned small independent cinema chains, Lippert in the US and Parsons in the UK.  Lippert - who, in the fifties had co-produced a number of films with the pre-gothic Hammer Films -  had a distribution and finance deal with Twentieth Century Fox, which ensured that the pictures had decent releases, often making up double bills.  Prior to Witchcraft, Parsons' best known production was probably the notorious Cover Girl Killer, with Harry H Corbett as a murderer targeting pin up models.  In addition to its other virtues, Witchcraft is also notable for giving Lon Chaney Jr what was probably his last decent film role.

One day I really must catch up with Witchcraft again and see if it still creeps me out.  Even if it doesn't, it still stands as a minor genre classic from the days when you could still make professional-looking movies on low budgets and get them into cinemas.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Forgotten Films: The Vulture

For many, many years, all I knew of the 1967 British horror film The Vulture was one magnificent still in a book about horror movies.  It depicted a skeleton sat in front of some kind of control panel.  Details of the film were scant: a plot synopsis in Alan Frank's Horror  Movie Handbook, involving a scientist transforming himself into a half-man, half vulture creature in order to avenge an ancestor's death made it sound like a cross between The Fly and Witchcraft, whilst the cast list looked decidedly bizarre, including Broderick Crawford and Akim Tamiroff.  I tried to find out more over the years, but most reference works didn't even mention it.  Those that did were dismissive of the film, affording it only brief mentions.  Moreover, it never seemed to turn up on TV - no matter how many hoary old B-pictures BBC2 dredged up to keep their Saturday night horror double bills going, The Vulture was never among them.  However, a couple of weeks ago I finally got the chance to watch the entire movie. 

Sadly, it couldn't live up that still.  The Vulture turns out to be typical of the low-budget horror films being put out by a variety of independent producers during the sixties, looking to cash in on the success of Hammer Films.  Many of these were produced to order to make up the lower half of a double bill and I'm sure this was the case here, although I've never been able to find any details as to what it went out with when first released.  Unfortunately, like a lot of these latter-day B-movies, The Vulture's ambitions outstrip its resources.  It's running time is padded out with lengthy dialogue scenes in which dull characters recite dull plot expositions as if by rote.  Nobody expresses surprise at the bizarre ideas about teleportation being spouted by the middle-aged scientist hero - or the fact that he is able to extrapolate such theories on the basis of having heard a report that a local woman had seen a half man, half bird creature emerging from a grave in the local churchyard.  This is a B-movie world where the local mad scientist can build a nuclear reactor in his basement without raising suspicion, (or requiring planning permission).  Consequently, despite only running 91 minutes, the film feels interminable.

When the monster does appear, (and we have to wait until around the half way mark for this), all we see are a pair of giant talons coming down on the shoulders of its victim, before they are pulled off skywards, their remains to eventually be found in a giant cliff top nest.  Finally, in the closing minutes, we finally glimpse the creature - Akim Tamiroff in a bird suit, flapping his 'wings' around as he menaces the heroine at the film's (anti) climax.  Even then, the camera stays in as close as possible to try disguise the ridiculousness of the monster.  The plot, such as it is, involves Tamiroff using nuclear power to teleport himself into his ancestor's grave (where he was buried alive with his pet vulture) to retrieve some coins, but getting his molecules mixed up with the vulture in the process.  He then periodically uses his nuclear-powered teleportation device to transform into the man/vulture hybrid to take revenge on the descendants of the family who persecuted his ancestor.

The film isn't entirely without interest.  It's the last film of veteran British film and TV director Lawrence Huntingdon, (he died a couple of years after completing it).  The Cornish locations are nicely photographed, (although it is a Cornwall populated by lots of Americans claiming to be Canadian, probably on account of the fact that it was partly financed with US and Canadian money), and, like many of the British B-movie horrors of the era, provides a fascinating glimpse of sixties Britain in all its non-swinging and un-psychedelic glory.  It all looks slightly run down and seedy, an impression enhanced by the muted colours and low light levels, (in common with many of these movies, it seems to have been shot in late Autumn or Winter).  It also pulls something of a shock by killing off the biggest name star - Broderick Crawford - halfway through its running length.  Clearly, the film wasn't well-regarded even at the time of its release: in the US only a black and white print was distributed, with the colour version only being seen on TV some years later.   Oh, and that still which fascinated me?  Well, the scene it is taken from comes near the end of the movie, when the hero finds his way into the villain's nuclear reactor fitted basement, where he finds Tamiroff's assistant's skeletonised body sitting at the controls.  Quite why this has happened is never explained - presumably we're meant to assume that he suffered an overdose of radiation which, as we all know, turns you into a skeleton.  Well, it was the sixties...     


Monday, September 15, 2014

Charity Muggers

'Cancer won't care if you throw this in the bin'.  So said the back of the envelope from the charity Cancer Research which had appeared, unsolicited, on my door mat the other morning.  Good, I thought, that means I'll have no qualms about putting it in the bin.   Which I did.  Don't misunderstand me - I have no wish to denigrate the work of Cancer Research.  It's a great cause and they do great work.  But the reality is that most charities represent great causes and do good work.  But I can't support them all.  I have neither the money, the time nor the inclination.  But that doesn't stop them bombarding me with unsolicited mail.  Which would be fair enough, except that now - as witnessed by the aforementioned envelope - they are trying to guilt-trip me into contributing.  I really do object to this sort of approach.  Fine, tell me about all the good work you do, but don't try and make me feel like an evil bastard if I choose not to make a contribution.  There is no doubt that charities are becoming ever more aggressive in their collection tactics.  I've lost count of the number of times I've been accosted by various of those 'chuggers' in my town centre at lunch time.  Some weeks I dread going to the newsagent to buy a newspaper, the bastards are so persistent.  They just won't take 'no' for an answer, forcing me to be openly rude to them in order to get the message through.  No matter how good their cause, that really doesn't give them the right to invade my privacy as I walk down the street and try and intimidate me into contributing to their cause.

But nowadays you aren't safe in your own home.  They come around knocking on your door - usually when you've just got in from work and have finally sat down to catch your breath.  It used to be those bloody energy company representatives trying to get you to change suppliers making pests of themselves this way, (and, like the 'chuggers', failing to get the message that you aren't interested - I've been forced to shut the door on several of the most persistent offenders).  Only last Friday, around six o'clock, I was just settling down to watch an old episode of Kojak on ITV4, (a rare treat, as they usually show Kojak in the daytime schedules, when I'm out at work),  after a tough week at work, when there's a bloody knock on the front door.  I seriously considered ignoring it.  But it was too obvious that I was in and I was afraid that they'd just keep bloody knocking.  So I answered the door, to be confronted by someone from the Red Cross.  Somehow, I managed to remain polite in the face of his attempts to engage with me through small talk and his spiel about the organisation, until he finally got the message that I'm simply not interested and I was able to go back to trying to unwind in front of the telly.  (I have to say here that their attempts to engage you by asking what the red cross symbol means to you  comes over a simply patronising, which doesn't help). 

The proliferation of these increasingly aggressive charity collectors raises a wider issue - that of the whole role of charity.  Personally, I object in principle to the whole notion of charity.  Issues as important as cancer research, child protection,  famine relief and so on, are, frankly, far too important to have to rely upon the whim of individual donors for their finance.  The only way that progress can be made in these areas is with the full power of the state behind them.  That's what I pay taxes for.  Sadly, this government thinks differently, wanting to shift the burden of providing such services from the public sector to charitable organisations.  Hence the growth in these charity collectors harassing us every hour of the day.  Of course, some people might think that the easiest way to get rid of these charity collectors is to give them some money.  However, that could prove to be a mistake.  My mother, who is in her eighties, supported a couple of charities back in the day.  Now, when she is living on a pension, she finds herself bombarded with phone calls from these same charities, trying to get her to give yet more money she can't afford.  Something I find pretty disgraceful.  Like I said, don't misunderstand me, I've nothing against the charities themselves or the causes they represent.  But I do object to their collectors and their tactics.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Down and Out

I haven't moaned about Google and its destruction of my web traffic for a long time now.  But as, today, it seems to have decided that I should get no traffic whatsoever, I thought that I'd abandon my planned post and instead make another public attack on the tax dodging, privacy invading, copyright infringing corporate behemoth that Google has become.  The most ludicrous thing about the total lack of visitors today is that only a couple of weeks ago The Sleaze was enjoying a fantastic run of popularity.  But, as I've noted before, these days there is always a price to be paid for such success: no bit of good fortune can ever go unpunished by Google.  Part of the problem is that as soon as Google sees that you are gaining some kind of popularity, they decide that they are entitled to piece of that pie.  Which, in practice, means that they start sending you e-mails offering all sorts of deals and discounts on adwords, implying that if you activate (or reactivate in my case) this service, you'll attract lots more traffic.  They also clearly hope that you'll then start taking their ads on your site.  Either way, Google gets to make money from your site.  Now, I once ran a trial with adwords and it brought me no traffic whatsoever.  It simply isn't suited to a site like The Sleaze.  So, I shut down the account.  But, as I've indicated, they keep coming back and trying to get me to reactivate the account.

Maybe it's just coincidence - as many SEO types keep telling me - but every time they make one of these approaches and I ignore it, my traffic from Google falls off of a cliff.  And guess what?  That's right, at the height of my recent bump in traffic, I got such an e-mail, which, as usual, I ignored.  Since then, traffic has gone into rapid decline.  Today is the worst day in over a year - tonight, for example, there hasn't been a single visitor since 18:44.  That's more than three hours.  Utterly ridiculous!  To put that in perspective, only a few years ago, we were getting 15-20 unique visitors an hour.  It seems clear, that in attempt to convince me that an advertising campaign is essential for the site's survival, my pages have been deranked from their most popular keywords and buried so deep in search results that nobody can find them.  If the usual pattern prevails, in another week or so I might start to see some recovery as they accept that, once again, their bullying isn't going to work.  I'm simply not interested in using adwords again. 

Compounding this problem is that fact that Google is increasingly filling the first pages of search results with sites which aren't necessarily the most relevant, but have 'authority', in other words big corporate sites like Amazon, Ebay and the like.  In the past, search terms like 'political satire', say, for which we ranked highly, seemed immune to this trend.  Sure, such search terms don't bring much traffic, but is fairly steady.  However, when I checked these results the other day, I found them dominated by entries from non-satire sites like the Huffington Post, which simply mention political satire.  Genuine satire sites had largely been relegated to page two or three, (we're still hanging in somewhere near the bottom of page one).  If you run the same search on Bing, for instance, you'll find all the actual satire sites present and correct, as they should be.  But as  far as Google is concerned, the Huffington Post is an 'authority' site which, although it isn't a satire site, mentions the search term, so that gives it priority over more relevant sites in the results.

If this means that small, independent, non-ad carrying sites are killed off, well, tough, seems to be Google's attitude.  As far as they are concerned, they are the web and they get to decide what is and isn't relevant to your search.  Which means, in practice, that they get to decide what the average web user can or can't see.  Their near-monopoly in search means that they can effectively impose their vision of the web, which seems to be a glorified shopping mall full of bland and mediocre sites with scraped or spun content, on the world.  This latest 'punishment' they've handed out to me has, to all and intents and purposes, killed The Sleaze.  There's no point in having a site that nobody is allowed to see.  Trust me, if I relied upon The Sleaze as a revenue source, then I would have been forced to fold it two or three years ago.  However, it isn't a commercial site, so I struggle on, no matter how soul-destroying it is to see the traffic I spent years building being stripped away and original content going unread.  If nothing else, sheer bloody mindedness means that I won't be bullied off of the web by Google.  My site has been around longer than them and at least uses original material rather than ripping off other people's material to make money.  So, come on you evil bastards - you've killed my traffic, but I'm still here, what are you going to try next?  Bring it on, bastards.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Och Aye the Noo

Well, it could have been worse. I refer, obviously, to Cameron's visit to Scotland to rally the troops of the 'No' campaign.  Not that his display of mock concern at the possible break up of the Union wasn't sickening enough, (in truth, his main worry isn't the break up itself - which would conveniently get rid of lots of Labour MPs and all those pro-European Scots - rather that he'll be blamed for it).  But it wasn't as bad as I'd envisaged it.  I'd feared that we'd see Cameron, in a kilt, leading a pro-UK parade down the streets of Edinburgh, tossing a caber, with George Osborne at his side playing 'Scotland the Brave' on the bagpipes.  I feared that he'd then follow up this display of his Scottishness by delivering some stock Scottish phrases like 'Och aye the noo' and 'Hoots mon' in those plummy Old Etonian tones of his, before demonstrating that he wore nothing under the kilt by flashing his 'wee dirk'.  That really would have killed the whole 'No' campaign stone dead.

Thankfully, none of that happened and the 'No' to Scottish independence campaign still lives.  Not that I'm implacably opposed to Scottish independence - if I thought that a 'Yes' victory would forever taint Cameron as the Prime Minister who presided over the break up of the Union and precipitate the fall from power of him and his appalling government, I'd happily go North of the border and stuff the ballot boxes with 'Yes' votes.  But, sadly, I suspect that the slippery bastard would still wriggle out of taking any responsibility for such an outcome - he'd inevitably pass the blame on to someone else.  Probably the last Labour government.  Or the unemployed.  Or the disabled.  Definitely public service workers.   If the Scots do vote for independence, though, does that mean that we might see an increase in racial abuse directed against Jocks living in England?  After all, if Scotland is independent, then they'll be immigrants, coming down here, taking our jobs, claiming our benefits.  The tartan bastards - we should round them all up and deport them!


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Guns of the Living Dead

I was watching The Walking Dead the other day, when it occurred to me just what a bleak and pessimistic view of humanity it presents.  I'm up to The Governor driving his tank into the jail. (I know that if you don't watch The Walking Dead that will be utterly meaningless, but trust me, it's important to the rest of my musings.  So, for the sake of argument, just take my word for it, The Governor is the bad guy and Rick and his people living in the jail are the good guys).  This episode, like the whole of the previous series, assumes that in the face of the zombie apocalypse, the survivors will simply fight amongst each other for the remaining resources, killing each other as if the world still has living people to spare.  Personally, I'd like to believe that the survivors might co-operate a bit more.  After all, there's safety in numbers and establishing some kind of society with all its attendant support systems would surely improve everyone's chances of survival in the face of hordes of flesh eating zombies.

Of course, the series is set in the US and one could argue that it represents a dire warning as to the effects of widespread gun ownership.  Thanks to the lack of restrictions on the ownership of firearms, following the rise of the zombies, everyone is armed to the teeth with every imaginable form of gun.  Is it any wonder that the survivors end up shooting each other more than they do the zombies?  They're just trying to maintain what was normal behaviour before the apocalypse.  On the other hand, it could be argued that The Walking Dead is an endorsement of US gun culture - after all, how could the survivors have defended themselves against the slavering hordes of the living dead if every man and his dog didn't already own a gun before the apocalypse?  Nevertheless, I still think people would be more co-operative in the face of such a crisis, (and I'd argue that the historical communal responses to natural disasters or wars would bear this out).  Mind you, having established just how depressing the show's view of humanity is, I don't intend stopping watching it yet.  It's very well made and acted and, best of all, really conveys well a post-apocalyptic sense of isolation and the idea that the entire world has been knocked back to square one.  However, there is one thing which continues to bother me - why don't Rick and his people find an island somewhere (not necessarily off shore: one in a lake or large river would do) to establish their community?  Surely that would represent a far more secure location?  Straightforward to clear of zombies, easy to subsequently keep zombies off of (I'm sure they can't swim) and defensible against hostile rival groups of survivors.  I know that's what I'm going to do come the zombie apocalypse.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Nazi Business

Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  Over at The Sleaze we've spent the 'silly season' having fun with conspiracy theories, coming up with a run of stories expounding the most ludicrous and extreme conspiracies - based on current news stories - possible.  Or so I thought.  I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when, having written a story in which a crackpot conspiracy theorist claims that the true history of World War Two has been supressed and that the Nazis were really the good guys, I stumbled upon the website of some deeply unpleasant neo Nazis which was running pretty much the same story, but as fact rather than satire.  Now, as ever, I'm not going to name the site in question or provide a link as I'm not prepared to give these bastards any publicity, but take my word for it, reading even only a handful of items there was a real eye-opener as to just how deluded and detestable these bastards are.  I mean, I've always known they weren't nice people, but it isn't until you start reading their ignorant bile in detail that it become clear just how unpleasant these white supremacist neo Nazis actually are.

What really gets me is the tone of self-righteous indignation they adopt when reporting such things as: 'Jews and Race Traitors Release Plan to Shut Down Neo Nazism'.  Really?  Most sane and decent people will be congratulating them.  Believe me, many of my family fought a war to 'shut down' old school Nazism and were hailed as heroes for doing so.  Quite why you'd want to be associated with neo Nazism is beyond me.  But of course, it's all a conspiracy and World War Two was really about the Allies being stooges for those nasty Jews who wanted to oppress those nice Nazis.  Like I said: deluded.  The most disturbing aspect of the site I looked at was the pure, unadulterated hatred it exuded.  Hatred toward anyone who wasn't a white, misogynistic, racist reactionary.  Reading doesn't just make me ashamed to be the same race as these people, but ashamed to be the same species as them.  To return to my original point, the fact that what I think is ludicrous satire is peddled as serious fact by these clowns is more than slightly depressing. It just goes to show that some things are beyond satire.  Really, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

The View From the Lake

Another quick holiday movie.  This one is nothing more nor less than moving wallpaper - well, slightly moving.  It's simply the view across a lake to a stately home, (not Sleaze Towers, obviously - it isn't anywhere near grand enough).  There are lots of waterfowl making noises and flapping about, whilst various types of livestock wander around the far side of the lake.  Nothing really happens.  Which is good.  Not to mention relaxing.  Sit back with a mug of tea and watch it on a loop...


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Uncharitable Thoughts

Another day, another example of the Tories' policy double-think in action.  This time we have the 'Minister for Civil Society' (no, I didn't know that was an actual ministerial brief either) telling campaigning charities that they should 'stick to their knitting' and stay out of politics.  Now, whilst that might seem like exactly the sort of thing you'd expect a Tory minister to come out with, the fact is that this government has spent the better part of the past four years trying to involve charities in politics.  An integral part of Cameron's 'Big Society' and his government's 'Austerity' programme is to cut both state spending and the size of the state to outsourcing many aspects of policy delivery to charities, particularly with regard to things like low pay, housing and unemployment.  Now, if that isn't politicising charities, I don't know what is. 

Of course, what the minister has in mind are those charities who dare to challenge government policy, particularly their policies with regard to benefits and poverty.  Whilst, arguably, charities should be politically neutral, the fact is that in certain areas of charitable activity, it is impossible for them not to touch on politics. Poverty, as previously mentioned, is one such area where this government has become highly sensitive to what it perceives as criticism of its policies by charitable organisations. However, when you are trying to alleviate poverty, identifying and eliminating its causes are going to be core activities and the fact is that, right now, this government's own policies are steadily driving down wages and living standards.  So commenting on government policy is pretty much inevitable for some charities.  In view of the minister's comments, though, perhaps they should knit their comments and criticisms in the form of an Aran jumper.  maybe that would be more acceptable for him?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Love to Hate

Perhaps we should only follow people we don't like on Twitter.  Bear with me on this, I haven't suffered some kind of breakdown caused by being unfollowed by friends on Twitter.  My point is that we tend to follow friends, celebrities we like (but don't - and never will - know personally), and people recommended to us by Twitter on the basis of the aforementioned people we follow.  Consequently, we tend only to see opinions we agree with and things which won't offend us or challenge our preconceptions in our Twitter streams.  I'm well aware that the overwhelming majority of people simply want their social media experience to be warm and reassuring, there's no doubt that only following the like-minded results in a pretty anaemic Twitter stream at times.  Think how much more challenging it would be to have a Twitter stream full of stuff which gets you foaming at the mouth?  That said, being subjected to an apparently unending stream oh bile and hatred, (which would be the most likely outcome of following people whose opinions you dislike), would also be highly traumatic and likely to turn most people off of Twitter for life.

Whilst I don't actually follow anyone I hate, I do make a point of looking at the Twitter outpourings of a few individuals who, to me at least, represent everything which is wrong with Twitter users: self-righteous self promoters who jump on every 'right on' bandwagon to promote themselves and establish their 'liberal-intellectual' credentials.  These are the people who have an opinion on everything, especially popular culture, and just insist on letting the rest of the world know about them.  Except that they aren't just opinions: they are fact - and if you don't agree with them then you aren't just wrong, but also a misogynistic, homophobic fascist.   To be perfectly honest, I don't read their bile to expose myself to alternative views and challenge my preconceptions, but rather to reassure myself that I'm not as big a prick as any of them are.  It isn't just on Twitter that I keep up with these kinds of people - there are also a few blogs I read which are written by people I find loathesome.  Often they are involved in feuds with other individuals - I sometimes end up following their blogs as well.  Not that I like them because they hate the first undesirable, but because I think that they are a prick as well.  It's quite refreshing to watch two of these idiots metaphorically knocking seven bells out of each other.  So, there you have it - it's like they say: a little bit of what you despise does you good.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Scare Tactics

Apparently, "adhering to British values is not an option or a choice.  It is a duty for all those who live in these islands".  Is it just me, or do the pronouncements of our political leaders, particularly David Cameron, sound more fascistic with every day that goes by?  Really, this latest utterance could have come straight from the lips of Adolf Hitler in 1938.  What are these 'values' we all have to adhere to in our daily lives?  Who defines them?  David Cameron?  Conservative Party Central Office?  Rupert Murdoch? The Daily Mail?  We just don't know.  Equally poorly defined is this current terrorist threat which has caused the Home Secretary to raise the Terror Alert level to 'Pink Oboe' or whatever the fuck scale they use.  As far as I can see, it has something to do with British citizens leaving the UK to go and fight in Syria and Iraq.  They might become radicalized and try to come back here and start their Jihadi nonsense on the streets of Pimlico, or wherever.  I would have thought that if they were going to places like Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, then they are already radicalised and we're probably best rid of them.  As for the threat they might hypothetically pose if and when they return to the UK, bearing in mind the propensity for these guys to volunteer for suicide bomber duty, the chances of their return is pretty slim.

In reality, of course, this latest terror scaremongering and the accompanying political posturing and proposals for yet more oppressive legislation to curb everyone's civil liberties, has less to do with terrorism than it has with the fact that there's a general election due in less than a year.  As Josef Goebbels noted, keeping people scared is the key to controlling them.  If you can convince someone that there's an immediate threat to their lives and only you can protect them, then you can get them to agree to just about any kind of 'protective' measures on your part.  And when they don't die because you locked them in an iron box for their own protection, they'll be so grateful that they'll do anything for you.  Even vote for you.  If you can't buy people's votes with tax cuts, then the next best strategy is to scare them into giving you their vote.  Or maybe I'm just being cynical, but I don't think so - I don't think that there are any depths Cameron and his cohorts won't stoop to in order to cling to power, (and all the profits they and their friends can cream off from it in terms of sell-offs, out sourcing of services and state subsidies).  Roll on the revolution.

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