Tuesday, May 30, 2017

More Local Matters

It occurs to me that some reader(s) might have felt that I was being overly harsh with regard to local TV channel That's Crapchester's output last week.  After all, they had only just started broadcasting.  Well, those feeling that way might have a point.  After all, the local news output I've seen so far on the channel is no worse than that in the local newspaper.  Only the other week the Crapchester Chronicle had a story declaring 'Man Collapses in Crapchester' - in fact, they were so proud of it that it was the headline story on their website for over twenty four hours.  Unfortunately, the headline was the whole story.  No, really.  It was just a few sentences telling us that a man had, indeed, collapsed in the town centre.  Nobody else was involved, the police weren't called as there were no suspicious circumstances.  He was taken to hospital but released shortly afterwards.  That was it.  Sadly, this sort of non-story is all too typical of what passes for 'news reporting' in a large proportion of Britain's local press.  It represents a sad decline: if you look back at local papers in the sixties and seventies, even the eighties, in fact, you'd find local papers giving detailed report of council meetings and  publishing proper investigative reporting on matters of local interest,

But that was before most of them were bought up by publishing conglomerates which put the papers out in standard formats and on shoestring budgets.  Consequently, unless the story comes to them - someone collapses in the street outside their office - it just isn't going to get reported.  Which, based on what I've seen, is pretty much the situation with regard to That's Crapchester - it's one of a string of local franchises run by a single owner, clearly on a tight budget.  By accounts all of them - and, to be fair, the local franchises run by other companies, also - struggle to generate sufficient local programming to fill their schedules.   Several of them have now entered into agreements with Talking Pictures TV to provide programming for their daytime schedules.  But things might yet improve on That's Crapchester - I learned today that they are already commissioning local programming from a local production company.  Whether any of it will be any good remains to be seen.  I live in hope.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Another Bank Holiday Weekend

Last bank holiday Monday I seem to recall moaning that, as I tended not to do much on bank holidays, I had nothing to post about.  This time around, if I hadn't been off of work, it would have been difficult to tell that it was a bank holiday.  Certainly, the TV schedules of the main channels simply didn't acknowledge the fact that the majority of people had the day off, sticking to their regular week day schedules.  Moreover, as has increasingly become the norm, all the shops seemed to open as usual, for their regular hours.  All of which is a pity.  I remember the days when bank holidays were a communal experience: everywhere was shut, encouraging people to go and do something other than shop.  And if the weather was too poor to go out, then the TV stations all had special bank holiday schedules to keep people entertained. 

But to get back to my bank holiday, when I was younger, I would have been out somewhere, trying to enjoy the countryside.  These days, though, I'm far more sedentary, preferring to enjoy my day off work and the long weekend it crowns by relaxing at home.  Besides, this bank holiday the sky looked constantly threatening of rain and I'd completely knackered myself by doing some 'gardening' yesterday.  A couple of hours weeding and turning over the soil on what used to be my short-lived lawn (the weeds swallowed it up over the winter - when I traditionally ignore the garden - so I'm going to have to start again, or maybe pave it over), was enough to leave me aching from head to foot.  So today I went back to this weekend's main preoccupation: laying the track on my model railway.  I've got quite a lot done: the main station area and the complex junction at its throat now has its track in place - it just needs ballasting and fixing down.  People are always surprised at how time consuming laying model railway track is, but everything has to be aligned correctly, otherwise derailments will ensue when you try running trains.

Now, I know laying model railway track doesn't sound an exciting way to spend a bank holiday weekend, but I've been waiting a long time to get to this stage of the project.  Other things just kept interrupting my attempts to get started, so it is hugely satisfying to get things moving at long last.  Besides, the railway and the gardening weren't the only things I've done this bank holiday weekend:  I've caught up with my reading, I've watched some old movies and I've drunk some beer.  Best of all, I haven't thought about all the crap going on at work which stresses me out so much.  so, all-in-all, a pretty successful long weekend.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Local Matters

I really must congratulate one of my local charity shops for the speed with which it moved to try and exploit the death of Sir Roger Moore.  When I walked past the Crapchester branch of the British Heart Foundation Shops on Tuesday, I was surprised to see that it's window display has changed since the previous day, to feature a selection of James Bond DVDs featuring Roger Moore.  These were accompanied by several Ian Fleming Jame Bond novels.  (I have to admit that I can't fault their selection of bond novels: all were made into films starring Roger Moore).  I know that it's 'all for charity', but I still couldn't help but feel that it was in pretty poor taste.  But it's all par for the course these days.  I'm only surprised that it didn't feature as a story on our new local TV station: That's Crapchester.  Or, as I like to call it, on the basis of its first few days of broadcasting: That's Crap.  On their first night of broadcasting (on Tuesday), they appeared to have only three stories: A charity fun run in Fartley, something about allotments and a priest whose shed might be Britain's smallest cathedral (don't ask).  In addition to these was a vox pop involving getting the reactions of local residents from across the county to the previous night's terror attack in Manchester.  Well, they claimed it involved people from across the county, but they actually interviewed three random Crapchester residents in the town's main shopping centre, (only a few yards from that charity shop window display).

This report also involved an interview with a local Tory councillor on the same subject.  All of which leads one to inevitably ask: why should anyone care what people in Crapchester think about what happened in Manchester?  We're nowhere near Manchester and, as far as I'm aware nobody from here was directly affected by events there.  Sure, it was a terrible tragedy, but it didn't happen here.  I'm especially not interested in what some Tory twat thinks about it.  Anyway, these three stories were cycled continuously for more than twenty four hours, until that added something new: a report on Crapchester winning some kind of award, accompanied by another vox pop.  Except it was actually the same vox pop, in that it had clearly been shot at the same time as the previous one, using the same three people and the same Tory councillor.  Other stories have been added since then but they all seem so bloody trivial.  It also doesn't help that they clearly don't have anyone monitoring the channel out of hours: last night, one report ran without sound at least half a dozen times.  Mind you, I get the impression that nobody is watching the channel at all.  Except me.  Every time I tune in I get the feeling that I really am the only person watching.

Clearly, they are in need of my services to help them create better content.  (Actually, according to the postal address they give on air, they are only a couple of streets away from me).  Perhaps this could be the new direction I've been looking for?  Producing no-budget local TV that nobody watches.  A bit like running a website, in fact.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Those Convenient Conspiracies Strike Again

Well, that didn't take long, did it?  The conspiracy theories, I mean.  Most specifically, the conspiracy theories which have sprung up around Monday night's bomb attack in Manchester.  The surprising source of the main theory seems to have been someone who was once on the X Factor (as a contestant, he might even have won it, but I'm afraid I wouldn't know as I hate 'talent' shows), who, via social media, seemed to be implying that the whole incident was a 'false flag' operation, masterminded by the government to draw attention away from their recent poor performance in the General Election campaign. I have to say that, while the timing might seem convenient, it really is a bit of a stretch to claim that the government would be prepared to kill twenty two innocent victims, including several children, just because Labour had started closing the gap in some opinion polls and Theresa May had just had a nightmare of a televised interview with Andrew Neill. 

I can think of several terror incidents which appeared to be incredibly conveniently timed for those in power at the time.  The July 7 attacks on the London Tube spring to mind - just as the Blair government was encountering resistance in trying to push through more repressive security measures, including compulsory ID cards, along comes a major terror incident which would appear to justify their proposed policies.  Then there was 9/11 itself, which seemed conveniently timed for George W Bush, as it could be used to justify declaring war on Iraq.  But I think that we have to accept that these things are simply coincidences - the supposed linkage only seems apparent in retrospect.  Moreover, whilst Bush did succeed in using 9/11 to push forward his aggressive policies in Iraq, the fact is that if it hadn't been 9/11 then he would have seized upon something else as justification.  The invasion of Iraq was an inevitability from the moment Bush took office - 9/11 just allowed him to achieve it sooner rather than later.  In the case of Blair,let's not forget that, ultimately, he wasn't able to bring in all of his extreme security measures: in the end he still lost the argument on ID cards, which, thankfully, we still don't have in the UK.

The only one of these 'convenient conspiracies' I'm minded to give any credence to is the alleged attempted military coup in Turkey, which allowed President Erdogan to award himself more exedutive powers and repress critics in the press and politics.  That had no massacres of innocent civilians, instead it was based around Erdogan calling upon the public to oppose the supposed coup attempt, thereby making it look as if it was a populist victory.  He was then able to manipulate public anger to consolidate his position.  That said, I don't think that there is any proof that he orchestrated the whole saga.  It's just my unfounded suspicions.  But to get back to the issue in hand: the fact is that some politicians simply have the luck of the Devil, in that, when they are in trouble, something always comes along which they can exploit to try and dig themselves out of their hole.

And that's the key thing - their willingness to exploit disasters, wars and terror incident to their advantage, the ability to see these things as opportunities rather than tragedies.  I have no doubt that May will seek to use this to push her hardline security agenda, justifying more restrictions on civil liberties, more invasion of privacy, more monitoring of the web.  I'm sure she'll use it to ramp up the 'fear factor' in the last couple of weeks of the election campaigning - we've already got armed troops in evidence -which always tends to favour the ruling party, as a frightened electorate tends to stick with the status quo.  Better the devil they know.   None of which means that the government actually orchestrated the attack in Manchester.  They're too incompetent, for one thing.  But you can be sure that they'll exploit it to the hilt.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exit The Saint

On top of everything else, Roger Moore died.  Sorry, Sir Roger Moore.  He was one of those people who become a fixture in your life.  You expect him to always be there.  Of course, in a way he always will be with us - one of his Bond films always seems to showing somewhere.  Right now, The Persuaders is being re-run, yet again, on True Entertainment channel.  Then there was his tenure as The Saint - the colour episodes are regularly repeated on ITV4.   It's actually with The Saint, rather than James Bond, that I most associate Moore - probably because I saw him in the role long before I saw him as Bond.  The series was one of my earliest and fondest TV memories - the bit at the end of the pre-title sequence, when the name 'Simon Templar is first uttered and the halo appears above his head, was an eagerly anticipated weekly highlight.  (Back in those days, even a special effect that simple had novelty value. Especially as it was similar to the Colgate 'ring of confidence' in the toothpaste brand's then advertising campaign, resulting in all sorts of jokes).

Simon Templar was a role Moore was far better suited to than James Bond:  whilst his 007 bore little resemblance to the character from the Ian Fleming novels, his Simon Templar is pretty good equivalence to the character in the Ian Charteris stories, particularly the later entries in the series.  His relaxed, devil-may-care, acting style and ability to effortlessly deliver smart one-liners seemed a perfect fit for the character who, like Moore, never seemed to take himself and his adventures entirely seriously.  As with Bond, Moore wasn't the first to essay the role of The Saint - Louis Hayward and George Sanders had played him in the RKO film series and Vincent Price had been a notable Simon Templar on US radio - nor was he the last, but, unlike Bond, he is pretty much the definitive version of the character.  Indeed, it is his performances which make episodes of the TV series so entertaining, even when seen today.  (Although frequently ridiculed, the reality is that it takes more acting skill than generally appreciated to maintain the sort of nonchalant, unflappable performances Moore was associated with).  Without him, it would simply have been another cheap sixties ITC action/adventure series, where the back lot of Elstree Studios masqueraded as various exotic foreign locales, with the aid of rubber palm trees.  Just try watching episodes of The Baron, with Gene Barry, if you doubt me - even at half the length of an episode of The Saint, every episode seems interminable.    

Of course, Roger Moore did much more than just play Simon Templar and Jame Bond.  Even before The Saint, he'd enjoyed success in US TV, most notably in Maverick.  He also made some interesting stand alone films - The Man Who Haunted Himself, which gave us two Roger Moores for the price of one, springs to mind as a particularly fascinating oddity.  He was also the man who, in the seventies and early eighties, made the safari suit fashionable.  Well, if not fashionable, then at least popular.  Even my dad sported a safari-style jacket back in those days, (he often wore it whilst doing the gardening - it had lots of pockets for carrying all those clippers, trowels and the like that he apparently needed to carry in the garden).  Every summer I find myself frustrated by my inability to obtain a safari suit - once Moore stopped being Bond, clothes retailers stopped stocking them.  Finally, we shouldn't forget his work as a UNICEF ambassador over the past couple of decades.  So, on this thoroughly miserable day, I'd like to remember the great pleasure that Roger Moore has given me over the years, whether as Bond or Simon Templar.  Long may they keep repeating his films and TV shows.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Back on Track, Again

So, after all the disruption caused by boilers needing to be replaced, mortgages paid off, digital TV recorders failing, yet more hatefulness at work, not to mention that bout of tinnitus (now seemingly passed), I'm finally beginning to get stuff back on schedule.  Or back on track, even, with regards to that model railway I've been talking about building for an age now.  The baseboards are finally complete and assembled and I'm hoping to be able to start laying the track this coming weekend.  Indeed, I have high hopes for the weekend as, not only is it a bank holiday weekend, but it is one of those rare weekends I get entirely to myself.  So, with luck, I'll be able to get most of the track down on the station side of the layout.  The best thing about all this model railway activity is that it isn't actually costing me anything other than time.  Just as the baseboards were salvaged from a previous layout, so all the track I'll be using comes from previous layouts.  I should have more than enough points (always the most expensive item of trackwork) to complete the project.

I'm also hoping to get back to the schlock movies soon.  Despite having lost a whole load of unwatched stuff when the video recorder died, not only have I started filling up the hard drive of its replacement, but I also have a couple of Pete Walker movies on DVD to catch up with.  I also really need to buckle down and get on with producing, at the very least, a pilot for that new podcast series I've been mumbling on about both here and over at the Overnightscape Underground for more than a year now.  Funnily enough, whilst searching my archives for unused material to try and fashion into some kind of contribution to this week's Overnightscape Central group podcast, I discovered a complete, twenty five minute piece of narrative audio I recorded last year but, for some reason, never used.  So, with a bit of editing and expansion, this has become my contribution for this week's Central.  It isn't, however, quite what I have in mind for my proposed new series of podcasts, (it's in the same ball park, though), so it won't act as a 'back door' pilot.  Of course, the 'elephant in the room' in all of this is my work situation. I'm afraid that things are rapidly reaching a point where I'm going to have to make the decision whether to jump ship now, or try to tough it out for a while longer.  I might have to start looking for some kind of alternative employment , just for the short term, while I try to work out my long term plans in more detail.  We'll see.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Searching for Votes

Apparently people are asking Google 'Who should I vote for?'  Clearly, things are worse than I feared if Britain's voters are so confused/thick, that they think they can get any kind of coherent guidance from a notoriously bad search algorithm run by a tax dodging multinational corporation.  Leaving aside, for one moment, the frightening fact that there are, apparently, people among us who are entitled to vote, yet incapable of making a decision how to cast this vote themselves, the fact is that Google's search results these days won't help them as they rarely, if ever, actually return results on the first page which are actually relevant to the user's query.  Below half a page of adverts about voting machines and second hand ballot boxes, they'll probably get several links to Amazon, selling books with the word 'vote' in the title, a You Tube video of someone doing something 'whacky' outside a polling station and a couple of eBay auctions of old political manifestos and rosettes.  That's if they are lucky.  There's also a fair chance they'll get a page of results full of links to the websites of various extreme right wing groups who have been gaming the search results.

But why would any prospective voter be so desperate/stupid as to delegate their decision making to a search engine on such an important issue?  The excuse which is always given is that 'there's no difference between the parties'.  Which, whilst never actually true, is a particularly spurious argument when it comes to the current general election.  With the publication of the party manifestos, there is clear water between Labour and Tories.  Although the Labour manifesto has been lazily characterised by the right wing press as being 'back to the seventies' because of its commitment to restoring public ownership of various privatised assets, I have to say that there is a lot of stuff in it that I like.  The problem, I fear, is the presentation: like it or not, 'Nationalisation' has become a dirty word in politics today and, thanks to decades of right-wing propaganda, now conjures up images of monolithic and inefficient state owned institutions.  And, like it or not, in the modern world, you have to be able to 'sell' policies to the electorate.  Most won't buy 'nationalisation', but they might well buy 'public ownership', especially if the latter can be defined in different terms than the former.  Following a popular continental model, where things like railways are reconstituted as commercial ventures in which the government holds 51% of the shares, for instance.  This ensures that the state retains control, ensuring the venture is run in the public interest and can, if necessary, use public funds to finance infrastructure projects, or subsidise loss making lines, but the company would also still be able to seek private investment.

Unfortunately, under Corbyn's leadership, a much needed debate on issues such as how to define public ownership, simply hasn't occurred. which brings us back to the main problem with Labour's manifesto: in the public consciousness, it is inextricably linked with Corbyn.  The fact is that elections aren't won or lost on how left or right wing a manifesto is perceived to be - it is factors such as trust and credibility which ultimately sway voters.  And, like it or not, Corbyn simply isn't trusted or seen as a credible Prime Minister by large swathes of the electorate.  My great fear is that if Labour lose badly, then Corbyn will inevitably (and rightly) be blamed and the policies in the manifesto most closely identified with him will also be branded vote losers and abandoned for another generation.  Which would be a pity as a lot of those policies are, fundamentally, good policies which try to reconnect Labour with its core vote.  They just need to be refined and recast in a 'modern' idiom, so that they can more easily be 'sold' to the wider electorate.  So, there you go - we had my political ranting on a Friday rather than a Monday this week.  Makes a change, doesn't it?.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Murder From Beyond the Grave

Police are apparently guarding the body of 'Moors Murderer' Ian Brady, day and night.  Presumably because they are worried that he's going to spring back to life, just like the crazy serial killers in all those slasher movies, and continue his murderous activities from beyond the grave.  Actually, I'm surprised that at least one of the tabloids hasn't run a story claiming that Brady had a team of acolytes, all trained in occult rites, on standby to resurrect him as soon as his death was announced.  No doubt some kind of human sacrifice would be involved.  Or maybe it would involve crazy scientists reviving him with a shot of their experimental life-extension serum - resulting in him becoming an even crazier serial killer.  Like in that Chuck Norris film, Silent Rage.  Then again, he could be revived by a gang specialising in secretly reviving executed gangsters and killers.  That was a popular theme in thirties and forties movies and pulps.  Sometimes the revival process would result in the subject needing constant infusions of blood, (like Humphrey Bogart in The Return of Dr X).  Then the tabloids would have a new evil to add to Brady's crimes: 'He craves the blood of young children!'.

Then there's all that business about people wanting guarantees that Brady's ashes won't be scattered on Saddleworth Moor - are they worried that an army of Bradys will spring up if that happens?  Could it be that his victims, buried on the Moor, will act as some kind of ritual sacrifice to make this occur via black magic?  Whatever, it all fills pages and provides sensational headlines for the tabloids, which have been full of Brady since his death.  This continued exploitation of his notoriety and, by extension, his victims to sell newspapers is depressingly familiar.  Yet another example of  Britain's gutter press on the one hand trying to take a high moral stance - highlighting the depravity of his actions - whilst, at the same time, reveling in raking over the gory details of these crimes for the titillation of their readers.  I can't help but feel that it would have been sufficient merely to take note of his death, rather than allow him to continue his notoriety from beyond the grave.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere...

I heard today that a recent MacDonald's advert had been pulled after some people objected to it's content.  The commercial in question was the one with the boy asking his mother what his deceased father was like - inevitably, they end up in a branch of MacDonald's, where it is revealed that the one thing they had in common was a taste for fast food that tastes like cardboard.  The objection raised about this ad was that it was exploiting bereavement to sell burgers.  Well, obviously.  That's what advertising is about: exploiting our emotions to try and sell us essentially trivial products.  Personally, I found the sickly sentimentality it was trading in objectionable.  My dislike for other series of ads is less easily pinned down.  I detest, for instance, those Sainsburys 'food dancing' commercials.  In part, I think it is because they seem such a desperate attempt to create a 'trend' (note the hashtag they ran with the ads, in the hope that they could get #fooddancing trending on Twitter).  Moreover, the kind of people doing the 'dancing' in the ads, far from appearing to be ordinary supermarket customers of the kind I might relate to, just seemed like the kind of exhibitionists desperate to get on TV, that I generally run a mile to avoid.

But there are some commercials which, even over a distance in time of forty years, or so, still have a special place in my heart.  In particular, the Martini Bianco ads which played on British TV in the seventies.  These were incredibly glossy mini-movies with a catchy jingle, which aimed to show how, simply by drinking Martini, you could enjoy the international jet set lifestyle.  As I've noted elsewhere, as a young child, these seemed to represent the epitome of adult sophistication and believed that they were a reliable guide to how adult life would be: flying planes to rendezvous' on remote Caribbean islands with other beautiful people, or riding horses along a beach.  Of course, things haven't quite turned out like that, but I still have warm memories of the vision they created.  So, here's the Martini ad which, I feel, best encapsulated the dream they were selling:

Hell, I enjoyed that so much, here's another one:

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Cyber Defence

Those bloody Cybermen, eh?  They've been at it again, this time attacking the NHS.  It wasn't so long ago that  they were satisfied with just bullying people online.  But it seems that now they've gotten more ambitious, holding hospitals to ransom and, presumably, subverting them to turn their patients into more Cybermen.  I want to know what the government is going to do about these 'Cyber attacks' - this really should be an election issue.  Why isn't Jeremy Corbyn pressing Theresa May more on the matter?  Surely this is all down to spending cuts?  If the coalition government hadn't withdrawn funding from UNIT, then we wouldn't be suffering all these alien attacks.  They're clearly targeting the UK because they know that we're vulnerable, having withdrawn from the world's main international alien defence organisation.  I mean, this time we got lucky, thanks to the intervention of this mysterious individual who fortuitously registerd the right domain name to trigger the 'kill switch' on this latest attack by the Cybermen.  But we can't keep relying on rogue Time Lords turning up to foil alien invasions.

I ask you, have they even done a study into the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of Cybermen?  Knowing the government, they'll probably commission a study from some bunch of chancers, sorry, outsourcing company, which will cost the taxpayer millions, when all they have to do is watch a few episodes of Dr Who.  Of course, the key thing is identifying which type of Cybermen are involved in the attack: at least three types have appeared since the sixties.  The original ones - with their cloth faces and searchlights on their heads - came from Mondas (Earth's long lost twin planet which was destroyed at the end of the story) and were vulnerable to radiation.  When they reappeared, they had metal heads and lots of hydraulic tubes all over their limbs - these came from Telos, a Cyber colony.  All sorts of things killed this type: they used to wear lace up boots, so the Second Doctor devised a ray which destroyed boot laces, resulting their feet dropping off.  In the seventies and eighties they developed a vulnerability to gold, (indeed, I've heard that one Cyber attack on a hos[ital last week foundered after they tried to convert a patient with gold fillings in his teeth, which resulted in a rogue Cyberman, which went berserk and destroyed several other Cybermen before exploding).  Then there were those alternate universe Cybermen who turned up in David Tennant's era.  As I recall, the way to deal with them was to create a space-time vortex which sucked them into the space between universes.  Or something like that.  Anyway, the government needs to start taking this threat sriously and start allocating proper funding to cyber defence, or the metallic bastards will overrun us.


Friday, May 12, 2017

In Ruins

In Ruins from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

Another slideshow made up of stuff from my photo archives.  The main part concerns a ruined farm building I sometimes walk past.  These used to be hugely obscured by impenetrable foliage, but when I visited them last year, most of this had been cleared away.  Now that I can see them more clearly, I'm guessing that they were once used to store farm equipment and possibly temporarily hold livestock.  Whatever their original purpose, they haven't been used for that, or anything else, for at least two decades now.  The latter half of the slideshow is some footage taken in the New Forest in Spring a few years ago.  The bleak, leafless scrub land constitutes another sort of ruin, whilst the bridge (which has featured in an earlier film) if not ruined, is certainly of some vintage.

I'm afraid that I resorted to another slideshow of vintage material for today's post for reasons of speed.  I ended up wasting a lot of my evening trying to get my digital TV recorder to work after it unexpectedly died in the middle of a playback.  Unfortunately, it appears irreparable, meaning that I've lost several movies I'd recorded but not yet had time to watch.  It also means that I'm going to have to buy a replacement tomorrow, which means that my plans to replace this wheezing old laptop will have to be put off yet again.  To say I'm annoyed is an understatement - the bloody recorder was only a couple of years old (but conveniently out of warranty).  Modern manufacturing standards really are shit.  


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Phone Etiquette

I've clearly got my phone etiquette all wrong.  The other day I was walking through Crapchester town centre when I heard this rough looking bloke, thuggish, if we want to be accurate, shouting into his mobile phone.  I say shouting, it was more bellowing really.  A very angry bellowing.  Anyway, what's important is what he was bellowing into his handset, which was as follows: "Answer your fucking phone, YOU FUCK!"  The last part being bellowed several decibels louder than the first bit.  I assume that he was leaving a message on somebody's voice mail.  Now, I don't know about you, but if were to check my voice mail and encounter a message like that, I'd pretty much be disinclined to answer.  In fact, I'd probably delete and block the sender's number.  Indeed, maybe that's why the recipient of this outburst apparently doesn't answer his phone when he sees this particular caller's number come up.

On the other hand, assuming the bellowing man was calling somebody he knew - although we can't entirely rule out the possibility that he dials random numbers and shouts scary and sweary messages at strangers' voice mails - this would seem to be his normal method of communication with his friends and acquaintances.  Perhaps using these tactics are how he ensures that people do return his calls - by scaring them.  Which leaves me pondering as to whether I've got it all wrong - I'm too polite when I leave voicemails, or even send texts.  People assume I can be safely ignored, as I won't make a fuss about it if they can't be bothered to respond.  Maybe I need to be more assertive - perhaps, when my boiler died the other week,  I would have had more success in getting heating engineers to call me back if I'd left messages along the lines of: "My fucking boiler is fucked, so fucking call me back you stupid fuck."  (I'm pretty sure that the repeated use of the word 'fuck' is key to improving my communication skills to the level of the bellowing man).  Maybe I'll try that with the garage next tie I book the car in for a service...


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Comfort TV

I know I've talked about this before, but it's something I keep coming back to - the fact that, as I get older, I find myself watching less and less of what might be called 'mainstream' TV.  Thanks to the plethora of digital channels we can get, even free-to-air on Freeview, I find myself spending evening watching some highly esoteric programming.  I've just spent the last hour, for instance, watching a guy trying to locate the parts he needs to restore a World War Two German Panther tank that he's bought.  Along the way, he also tried to find out the tank's provenance, including what had originally knocked it out of action in 1944, which involved firing anti-tank guns at metal plates to try and match the shell hole in the Panther's side.  (They concluded it was probably a British 6 pounder anti-tank gun which did the damage).  Following that, I've switched channels to watch an old episode of The Man From Uncle, which is even camper than I remember it from when I first watched it as a kid back in the late sixties and early seventies (it was a repeat, even then).

These two programmes are typical of my viewing fare these days: a mixture of eccentric restorations and childhood nostalgia.  If it isn't someone restoring tanks, then it is Wheeler Dealers and Shed and Buried, (which are pretty much the same thing, except with cars in the case of the former and, well just about anything they can find in a shed or barn, in the case of the latter).  And if I'm not opening channel D with the Man From Uncle, then its The Avengers, The Saint, Minder, The Persuaders, The Sweeney, or any other action series I remember from my childhood.  Then there are all the old movies they show on Talking Pictures TV, the shows involving people buying and selling stuff, be it at storage auctions, pawn shops or out on the road, not the mention the 'reality' series about car repossessions and the like, and you get the picture when it comes to my TV viewing.  Oh, not to forget the off beat documentaries on BBC 4 (I was watching one about motorway service stations the other day).

Of course, it's really the TV equivalent of comfort eating: these TV shows are all nice and reassuring for a middle aged geezer like myself.  I already know the outcome of the dramas, I've seen them all enough times, so there are no nasty surprises.  Likewise the 'reality' and restoration type programmes - the end result is never really in doubt.  Besides, nothing in them is actually life and death.  It is all comfortingly trivial.  I should add here that I do watch some 'modern' TV as well - I still follow Doctor Who and I've been watching The Line of Duty since the beginning, when nobody else was.  But as I've mentioned before, I do find that contemporary TV dramas with their long-running story arcs which making missing an episode impossible if you are to keep up with the story, far too demanding upon my time.  I just find that I am no longer willing to make the commitment that watching them demands.  At least with Line of Duty, for instance, I know that it is a finite commitment of no more than six episodes a year.  I miss the good old days of TV when dramas has entirely self contained episodes, which meant that you could afford to miss them or watch them out of order without ruining the viewing experience.  I also have a problem with the fact that so many TV series these days are either on platforms I'm not prepared to pay to watch.  Especially as many of these shows are just rehashes of pre-existing material (Westworld for instance, is, after all, just Westworld, I'm not prepared to spend several hours of my life watching a story which was originally told perfectly adequately in ninety minutes).  Whatever happened to originality?  I'd rather watch the original.  Which is undoubtedly why I find myself watching the likes of The Man From Uncle again.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Disaffected, Disengaged and Deradicalised

With only a month to go before the general election, I would have expected to feel more engaged than I actually do.  It might be because everyone assumes the result is a foregone conclusion that I feel so disinterested.  Then again, it might simply be middle aged cynicism setting in: I've been through enough general elections now to start believing that they don't actually achieve anything.  Nothing ever changes. Except, of course, that it does.  General elections like that of 1945, which delivered a Labour landslide, affected the shape of post war Britain profoundly, bring us the National Health Service, the welfare state and universal state education.  Similarly, the 1979 election, which brought us Thatcher, had profound consequences also - for the worse for many ordinary working people, it also helped create the mess we are in now, with its deregulation of the financial sector and and credit services.  The outcome of this election will, likewise, have profound consequences: if it goes as predicted, then things are likely to get very much worse.  Yet still I'm not engaged.  Perhaps I'm just feeling complacent, having just paid off my mortgage:  my home is secure and, financially, I'm in the best position I've ever been in.  I have no dependents, no debts, no other financial obligations.  At the back of my mind is the feeling that, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what the election result is, I'll be OK.

Nevertheless, I still have a conscience and  there are a lot of people who are likely to suffer if there is a Tory landslide, (even though many of these people will vote against their own best interests by voting Tory).  So, in spite of Corbyn and his delusional followers, I'll be supporting Labour.  Not with much enthusiasm, mind you.  But I feel that I can support them safe in the knowledge that Corbyn, waste of space that he is, won't actually get into power and discredit Labour as a credible electoral force even further.  The important thing is to keep the aggregate vote up and try to minimise any Tory majority.  Sadly, I think that is he best we can hope for.  The thing I find most frustrating about Labour's campaign is that, despite all of Corbyn and his cronies' claims to be true left-wing radicals, I have so far not heard any radical policies proposed by them.  New Labour's 1997 manifesto contained more genuinely radical left policies (most of which, incidentally, were actually implemented).  Why are they being so cautious?  After all, if the polls are to be believed, they've got nothing to lose, so why not present some kind of radical reform programme?  Surely, if you are likely to take a pasting at the polls, it is better to at least fight the campaign on your own terms, with policies true to the Labour traditions Corbyn claims to represent?  Indeed, it might even attract otherwise disaffected Labour voters from the likes of the SNP and other fringe parties.  Ah well, that's what is fast becoming my regular Monday night political rant over for another week.!

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Walking into Spring

Walking into Spring from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

I haven't made a home movie in a while, so I decided to cobble together some footage I shot a couple of weeks ago with some last Spring which I'd never used.  I say footage, in truth it's really a slideshow of a collection of stills, with a video sequence in the middle.  Anyway, it all chronicles some country walks I've made during Spring over the past couple of years.  Sheep feature quite prominently in the latter half.

As it turns out, I've got quite a few collections of stills and even footage for a film shot three years ago which I never got around to editing together.  So, I'll probably be putting together a few more of these home movies over the next few weeks.  You have been warned.


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Zombie Spice

I keep hearing about Zombie Spice, but I don't recall her from the Spice Girls line up.  If I recall correctly, there was Posh, Ginger, Sporty, Scary and Baby Spice, but no Zombie Spice.  I did think that perhaps it was just an alternative nickname for Scary, But I thought that she was Scary because she was, well, scary.  In the sense that she seemed like a psychopath, rather than that she looked like an animated corpse.  And I'm damn sure that there was never a sixth girl in the group, whose gimmick was looking like the walking dead: pale skin and rotting flesh, with bits hanging off.   I suppose that they could have reanimated a corpse using voodoo, to create a real zombie, as some kind of publicity stunt.  The gurgling produced by its vocal chords as it tried to sing would have been no more discordant than Posh's singing.  But ultimately, such a thing would have proven highly impractical - you'd have the risk of the odd hand or leg flying off during the dance sequences.  I'd definitely have remembered that.

But apparently it has nothing to do with nineties girl groups.  All the media headlines about 'Zombie Spice' are to do with the latest drug the press want to scare is about - spice - turning its users into what are described as 'Zombies'.  Which, to me, implies that they wander around town centres attempting to eat people.  But I don't think that this is what the media mean.  'Zombie' is one of those terms the media likes to apply to various groups of individuals in order to effectively dehumanise them.  Using the term neatly labels drug users as shambling sub-human wrecks who, by extension, are not worthy of our sympathy or compassion,  They are instead seen only in terms of the potential threat they might pose to 'regular' citizens.  As non-humans, of course, we don't have to accord them any of the rights or respect we'd give to 'real' people.  So, if drug users are now Zombies, then I shudder to think what the media is going to start calling immigrants or the unemployed.


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Short Subjects

Remember how yesterday I was saying that I was half minded to tell work where to go when I returned from leave today?  Well, curiously enough, that's almost what happened.  I got back to find myself confronted with changes to my job (which would effectively double my work load) which hadn't been discussed with me.  So, I just told them that I wasn't going to do it.  That simple.  I've left the ball in their court.  It's entirely up to them how they want to proceed, but I've made clear that I'm quite prepared to walk, if necessary, pointing out that they've already got two vacancies they can't fill and two more of my colleagues on long term sick leave.  So, good luck with potentially replacing me and dealing with the chaos which will ensue if I leave.  Obviously, I'll also be speaking to my union.  Watch this space.

But let's move on to more interesting things.  You might recall that a while ago we spent a week here looking at those 8mm 'digest' versions of feature films which were available for home viewing in the days before VHS, DVDs and streaming.  Well, some of the Castle Films digests have started turning up on Talking Pictures TV, shown as part of the 'Glimpses' series of newsreels, public information films and shorts which the channel use as 'fillers' between feature films.  Last week I caught an eight minute black and white sound version of  Dr Cyclops, the 1940 'scientist miniaturises rivals' movie which was originally released in colour.  I also caught part of a digest version of a 1940s western, the title of which currently eludes me.  Hopefully, more of these will turn up in future.

I suspect, however, that, despite Talking Pictures TV's predilection for showing seventies British sex comedies, that they won't be showing any of the 8mm 'glamour shorts' which proliferated in the fifties and sixties.  These were basically eight to ten minute, usually black and white, short films featuring a female model undressing, exercising, getting out of bed, taking a bath - you get the idea.  Essentially, they were the earliest form of home pornography films.  They all seem pretty tame and quaint by today's standards.  The late, great Harrison Marks was a prolific producer of these shorts.  Many of his were styled in the manner of old silent movies, complete with intertitles and rudimentary plotlines.  He also appeared in a lot of these.  I've been considering looking at some of them in more detail here, but I'm worried that Google will decide I'm a pornographer (again), slap a warning on the front of the blog and probably threaten me (again).  After all, if they think that satire is porn (when posted on Google Plus), then what are they going to make of ancient black and white films featuring bared breasts and bums?  


Monday, May 01, 2017

Leave, Interrupted

Another bank holiday and the last day of my leave - tomorrow I have to go back to work for the first time in just over a fortnight.  I can't say that I'm looking forward to it.  For on thing, I feel like I've only just started on my leave, so much has happened to blow what had been my plans off course.  The major distraction has, of course, been replacing my ailing old boiler, which finally gave up the ghost at the same time I paid off the mortgage.  Replacing it hasn't come cheaply, but I have to say that, on the basis of the new boiler's performance since it was installed, it has been worth every penny.  The old boiler was thirty plus years old and, it is now clear, was struggling badly to keep the heating and hot water systems going.  The new one does it all effortlessly.  I have to tell you, after over a week without heating, this weekend has been paradise.  Anyway, installing the boiler took a couple of days out of last week, (there's still some minor work to be carried out later this week), the weather took at least one more day, a dental appointment I'd forgotten about another chunk.  Not to mention having to wait in for the heating engineer another day, so that he could diagnose the old boiler.  Of course, I wasted a lot of time the previous week just trying to get any heating engineers to even return my calls about the boiler.  On top of all that, there was the actual paying off of the mortgage in the first week, plus all the stuff connected with this that I had to sort out which continued into last week.

So, I didn't get to make that trip to the coast (it nearly happened, but the day I was going to go was the day the heating guy said he could start work on replacing the boiler), nor did I get up to London, as I was hoping, (again, it nearly happened, but the dentist intervened).   But that isn't to say that my time off has been a wash out.  I'm now mortgage free, I caught up with a lot of old movies , revisited some old favourite films and caught up with some reading.  I've also been able to get out into the fresh air and do some walking, which always helps me to think.   I've also made a bit of progress putting together the baseboards for my new model railway layout (although not as much as I would have liked).  The biggest bonus was not being struck down by a bad cold, as I was in February, when I last took some time off work.  But now, I'm facing going back to work.  Which has left me, once again, pondering my future, work-wise.  There is part of me which is severely tempted to just go in tomorrow and tell them where to get off.  After all, I have no mortgage and sufficient money in the bank to survive for a couple of years, at least, without working.  On the other hand, I don't really want to use up my savings this way if I can avoid it.  Reducing my hours, perhaps down to three days a week, could be an option, providing me with sufficient income to leave my savings intact whilst I review my options further. We'll see.  But right now, I feel that, at long last, I have the upper hand.