Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Dunwich Horror (1969)

When AIP started running out of Edgar Allan Poe stories to base their pulp horror movies on, it seemed only natural that they should turn their attentions to that other American cult favourite, H P Lovecraft, for inspiration.  They'd already tried mixing the two authors together in The Haunted Palace, which took its title and little else from Poe and most of its plot and characters from Lovecraft's The Case Charles Ward Dexter.  Passed off as part of their ongoing Poe series, and directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price, it was actually a reasonable attempt to bring Lovecraft to the screen.  It was followed by two more Lovecraft adaptations, the UK shot Die, Monster, Die in 1965 and The Dunwich Horror in 1969, (another UK-based adaptation, The Shuttered Room in 1967 was made by Warner-Seven Arts).  The Dunwich Horror is undoubtedly the best of these sixties adaptations.although taking some liberties with the original story and updating it to the late sixties, it nonetheless captures something of Lovecraft's obsessive mythology - all the key elements are present: the ancient evil text of the Necronomicon, musty libraries, the creepy old back woods house with something nasty in the attic and its associated isolated rural community gripped by old superstitions,and the invocation of old gods like Cthulu and Yog Sothoth.

The main changes included making the main protagonist, played by Dean Stockwell a relatively normal human being (In the story he turns out to be, well, something else) with a fiance in the shape of Sandra Dee.  A long way from the wholesomeness of the Gidget films, Dee provides both a touch of glamour and a sympathetic character for the audience to identify with. Assuming, correctly, that general film audiences wouldn't be familiar with the works of Lovecraft, Dee's character, thrust into the strange back woods world of the Whately familyas a result of her engagement to Stockwell, acts as a proxy for them as she is gradually introduced to the various weird goings on there.  The other key character from the original story, Professor Armitage, is translated to the screen reasonably faithfully, in the form of Ed Begley Sr.

For Lovecraft purists, though, the film is fatally flawed by its infusions of swinging sixties psychedelia in the strange and disturbing dreams experienced by Dee's character, (not to mention some of the hair styles and costumes), and the implication of sex inherent in her relationship with Stockwell's character.  Whilst such things might, at first glance, seem at odds with the dank, patriarchal and deeply conservative world of HP Lovecraft's horror stories, in the context of the film, they provide a counterpoint to the ancient horrors being invoked by Stockwell.  The introduction of the possibility of actual sex into Lovecraft's notoriously repressed universe (sexual symbols, especially tentacles, abound, but actual sex is never contemplated) helps drag the often abstract nature of Lovecraft's horrors into the real world, confronting them with a tangible reality.  The fact is that Lovecraft is an exceedingly difficult author to translate to the screen - his stories are simply not visual, steeped in arcane and archaic language, frequently lacking any characters for the reader to identify with. Their pace is often deathly slow and their horrors obscure.  Yet there is no doubt that often they are genuinely disturbing, hinting at  cosmic horrors beyond the full comprehension of mere mortals, with darkness and madness lurking just below the surface of human civilisation.

Translating this to the screen is no easy thing, but, as directed by Daniel Haller (a former art director on the Corman Poe series who had previously directed the aforementioned Die, Monster, Die) The Dunwich Horror does a reasonable job.  The film certainly looks good, with, not surprisingly, excellent art direction, and moves at a good pace.  There are decent performances from the main cast and the thing in the attic is surprisingly well realised. Despite the modernisation of the story, the film follows the original's plot reasonably closely, with all of the key scenes included.  It is also reasonably atmospheric, conjuring up a feeling of underlying evil in the New England back woods community of Dunwich, this rural community, essentially unchanged for decades, contrasting sharply with the more sophisticated world of the Miskatonic University in Arkham, not to mention the big city glamour represented by Dee's character.  The general sense of unease is stoked up by Les Baxter's musical score and a rather creepy animated title sequence.  

Following this brief cinematic interest in Lovecraft during the sixties, there wouldn't be another film adaptation until 1985 and the release of Re-Animator.  Since then there has been a steady trickle of other movies either adapted from or inspired by Lovecraft, of greatly varying quality.  None of those that I've seen have managed to overcome the problems of adapting the source material to the screen any better than The Dunwich Horror.  Indeed, most have ended up straying much further from their source material than the AIP film.  For a while a late night TV regular, The Dunwich Horror is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

Christmas Watch 2017

Yes, it's that time of year again, when we start watching for the encroachments of the festive season upon the High Street.  At the weekend I spotted my first Christmas trees of the season - in the Marks and Spencer food hall.  There were two of them, fully illuminated, sat beside the escalators.  Now, I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm a regular customer at Marks and Sparks - I'm certainly not: they are far to twee and middle class for me.  More importantly, in general, I can't afford their prices.  No, I was only in there because of the bloody 'Day of the Dead' event they've been holding in Crapchester town centre for the past couple of years.  I mean, if that isn't 'cultural misappropriation' (or is it 'cultural appropriation?'), I don't know what is?  After all, it isn't as if we have an indigenous Mexican population in Crapchester.  (Actually, I think 'cultural misappropriation' as a concept is utter bollocks, but I'm happy to be a hypocrite and use it when it suits me).  Anyway, coinciding with the end of half term, this meant that the town centre was overrun by hordes of school children dressed as skeletons and the like.  It also means that the shelves of all the shops (which I had to make a detour to reach) were stripped bare.  Which, in practice, meant that the only place I cold find which still had doughnuts on their shelves was Marks and Spencer.  And they were overpriced.

Believe me, at the end of a working week which had left me so exhausted that just putting one foot in front of the other was an effort, the last thing I wanted was to have to navigate crowds of idiots then be forced to buy inferior doughnuts in the most expensive and pretentious high street store.  So seeing those Christmas trees was just about the last straw.  I ask you, Christmas decorations going up before we've even had Halloween?  It's bad enough that the Christmas puddings and mince pies have been creeping onto the shelves for the past few weeks, without the decorations appearing.  But it got worse.  On Saturday I wandered into Debenhams and found that it was tinsled up like Santa's bloody grotto.  Now, again, I wouldn't want anyone thinking that I frequent Debenhams on a regular basis - I really can't afford their prices, but they do occasionally have sales.  Sadly, they didn't have one on Saturday.  As I wandered around the menswear department in search f a new jacket, recoiling from the ludicrous prices, I felt like asking the sales assistant if they had a designer label for cheapskates  like me.  But to get back to the point, I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm being anti-Christmas here - but for God's sake, it's still only October!  I'd really like to enjoy the Autumn before I get bombarded by Christmas!  But that's the trouble these days, we're simply not allowed o enjoy the moment we are actually living in - we must always be forced to be planning for the next 'big thing' instead.  Just enjoy the Autumn and don't worry about Christmas until December.  There'll be plenty of time then to prepare for it.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

A while ago I posted one of those 8mm digest films you used to be able to buy in the pre-video era, which compressed Curse of the Crimson Altar into eight minutes.  That somewhat disjointed collection of 'highlights' is probably no less confusing than the ninety odd minutes of the full movie.  With a plot which seemed, in part at least, to have been borrowed, uncredited, from H P Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House, the film seems largely to have been an excuse to bring together three name horror stars:  Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and Barbara Steele.  Whilst the idea of trying to accommodate horror icons representing three different generations of the genre, (forties classic horror star Karloff, fifties and sixties Hammer icon Lee and Steele representing the nascent Italian horror movie which was beginning to make its presence felt in the English language market), might seem intriguing, the execution leaves much to be desired.  Of the three, Steele's role feels perfunctory - she appears only in a series of dream sequences, covered in lurid green make up and wearing a bizarre head dress - while Lee gets more screen time, his role is badly underwritten and he seems on auto pilot.  Only Karloff seems to be relishing his role, giving a full blooded turn as the local wheel chair bound eccentric academic with an interest in medieval torture devices.

The plot sees antique dealer Mark Eden visit an isolated village in search of his missing brother, only to stumble into the middle of the villagers' annual celebration of the burning of a notorious local witch several centuries earlier.  Most of this takes the form of a Guy Fawkes-like burning of an effigy in the Village green, but there's also some debauchery going on up at the local Manor in the form of another of those tedious swinging sixties parties where bearded young men pour champagne over the breasts of semi naked women.  Which all sounds rather more exciting than it actually is.  It turns out that they are friends of the owner's niece - Virginia Wetherall - her uncle being none other than Christopher Lee, who seems only mildly annoyed by all the commotion as he sits in his library smoking his pipe and wearing a tweed jacket.  Invited to stay at the Manor - his last address for his brother, although Lee denies any knowledge of him - Eden experiences a series of dreams involving Steele as the witch Lavinia, who presides over his 'trial', and finds himself sleep walking.  The crazy butler (another lunatic performance from Michael Gough) tries to warn him off before himself vanishing, whilst Lee's friend Karloff (who also has a weird sidekick, a black clad mute), hints at mysterious forces being at work.

As it turns out, Lee is a descendant of Lavinia and is hypnotising people with a spinning lamp shade and some strobe lights (yes, really) into hallucinating the visions of his ancestor, with the aim of revenging her by luring the descendants of her accusers (of which Eden and his brother are two) to the Manor and murdering them.  Karloff is onto him and, as it turns out, has been using Eden as bait yo try and unmask Lee.  It all ends in a fiery conflagration with Lee chased onto the roof of the blazing manor, where he turns into Lavinia, who cackles maniacally before the credits roll.  As I said, none of it really makes much sense, especially the final image of Christopher Lee transforming into Barabara Steele (although I'm sure that some people will see it as being symbolic of, well, something).   But, despite the deficiencies of the script, it's all very nicely put together by veteran director Vernon Sewell (who also directed the barking mad Blood Beast Terror for Tigon).  Although the pace is sedate and the plot meanders all over the place, Curse of the Crimson Altar does, at times, manage to conjure up a degree of atmosphere and sense of weirdness (particularly in the early scenes at the Manor, when Eden witnesses a semi naked girl being chased by several young men in a sports car).  In essence, it is the cinematic equivalent of the kind of pulpy potboiler you might have found in the pages of Weird Tales or similar horror magazines of the thirties and forties, promising all sorts of lurid thrills but, in reality, full of lots of padding, over complex plotting and cliched characters.

The film is a curious mix of traditional horror (witch's curses, spooky old houses, Boris Karloff and the like) and swinging sixties permissiveness, (wild parties full of bright young things, hallucinogenic dream sequences and some brief nudity), which isn't atypical of horror movies of its era.  The number of horror films being produced in the UK in the late sixties would seem to indicate that the genre was in rude health.  But the truth was that times and audience expectations were changing.  The tropes of traditional Gothic horror successfully exploited by Hammer were beginning to wear thin and audiences were looking for something new.  Consequently, companies like Amicus and Tigon began to experiment with the form, the former enjoying success with films with a much more 'realistic' portrayal of their horror elements.  Even Hammer were trying to diversify, putting as much effort into its psychological horror films as it was its Gothic shockers.  Curse of the Crimson Altar occupies a curious place in Tigon's eclectic horror output, coming hard on the heels of the much harder edged and non-supernatural historical horror Witchfinder General, but replacing that film's realism and violence with the supernatural.  The use of supernatural agencies to propel its plot also sets the film aside from other contemporary set Tigon horrors like Michael Reeves' The Sorcerers (which uses a science fiction device and features an especially scuzzy version of 'Swinging London') or Michael Armstrong's Haunted House of Horror, a proto slasher movie which eschews the supernatural in favour of human agency.

Although far from being a classic and a minor entry even in the inventory of Tigon, I retain a soft spot for Curse of the Crimson Altar.  For all its faults, it does capture something of the feel of small town, non metropolitan England in the swinging sixties, where ancient traditions and rituals sit side-by-side with mini-skirts and pop music.  Its wintry looking locations add atmosphere and a surprisingly realistic feel (it was shot mainly on location rather than in the studio), while its creaky script provides several unintentional laughs.  Most of all, it was to be Karloff's last UK movie and, despite clearly being in poor health (the wheel chair, sadly, wasn't a prop), he gives the impression that he's enjoying himself, easily switching between avuncular and genial village eccentric and steely witch hunter.  Curse of the Crimson Altar was, for several years, a regular feature of the BBC's late night schedules and, lately, has turned up as part of the Hooror Channel's regular rotation, so is relatively easy to catch.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Real News

Outsourcing the recovery of NHS patients by paying private citizens to allow them to occupy their spare rooms - not something I've made up for The Sleaze, but a policy apparently considered (and rejected) by an NHS trust.   It's getting that you just can't make up political satire more bizarre than the kind of shit going on for real.  Where is it all going to end?  But, as Sherlock Holmes once remarked to Dr Watson, fact, by its very nature must always be stranger than fiction as it knows no bounds, whereas fiction is always bound by how far its audience is willing to suspend its disbelief.  It is easy to reject extravagant fiction as being ridiculous, but impossible to do so when something similar is actually occurring in front of us.  That said, reality seems to have been going out of its way to make us doubt what is going on around us for the past couple of years.  As if the Brexit vote and the election of Trump weren't unbelievable enough, we now have stuff like those NHS outsourcing proposals, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the sky turning yellow.

It's as if someone, or something, were running an experiment to test the credulity of the human race, trying to see how far they can go before our suspension of disbelief is shattered and we realise that reality isn't reality and that we're all living in a computer simulation.   Which seems to be a popular theory in some quarters.  I've even read some commentators claiming that this is, in fact, the most likely probability, that we're all a history project for our far future descendants.  Personally, I find it far more likely that we're living in the early twenty first century, for real.  But what do I know? Some seriously wealthy people seem to buy into this computer simulation nonsense.  Crazy man billionaire and Trump enabler Elon Musk, for instance.  I have a theory about why the rich and powerful are seemingly so attracted to this idea (other than the fact that they've obviously seen The Matrix too many times).  They are so used to being able to use their power to bend individuals, institutions and political processes to their will, that when they find that there are actually limits to their power, that there are things about the world they cannot change, they retreat into a fantasy about how it isn't real.  This is the only explanation they can countenance for not being able to manipulate the whole of reality: they are being constrained by externally imposed parameters, which could only happen if the world wasn't real, but just a computer programme.  Unbelievable, really

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Developing Stories

I was going to get back to the schlock movies today and even started writing up a piece about Curse of the Crimson Altar, but found that my heart just wasn't in it, so I shelved it for another day.  Instead, I thought that I'd return to the business of the news, after yesterday's excursion into the origins of so called 'fake news'.  Aside from 'fake news', the other news phenomena of the modern age is the 'developing story'.  A function of the advent of rolling TV news channels, an example of a 'developing story' was witnessed on Sunday, as the hostage situation in Nuneaton unfolded.  I was watching the BBC News Channel s it broke.  I say 'broke', nut initially it was just a report of the police descending on a leisure park in Nuneaton, evacuating it and sealing it off.  At this point the studio anchor hadn't a clue what was going on, just citing 'reports' of a gunman.  The fact is that at this point, the story could have 'developed' in a number of directions.  Personally, my money was on it turning out that aliens had landed at the leisure park.  Either that or a strange drill-like machine had emerged from beneath the ground, right in the middle of the crown green bowling pitch, disgorging a number of subterranean 'mole men'.  Based on the lack of concrete 'facts', these two possibilities seemed as likely as any others.

Which brings me to the crux of the problem: by their very nature rolling news channels have twenty four hours of air time to fill every day, hence the emergence of the 'developing story', where some incident is seized upon in the hope that it might turn into a major story. Which means, in practice, constantly cutting their reporter 'on the scene'(actually well away from the incident for safety reasons) who just repeats the fat that the authorities aren't telling them what is happening, but they have spoken to some people who claim to have seen something, but they aren't sure what.  The story is then further 'developed' by going back to the studio to report on stuff people have posted on social media (usually highly sensationalised and without any corroborating evidence), even though they can't confirm that these actually are eyewitness accounts.  If there still isn't any hard and fast information from the authorities, they might try to fill more time by bringing in some 'experts' to peddle some wild speculation passed off as fact.  Now, I can remember the 'good old days' before dedicated news channels when TV news was only available in scheduled bulletins, which meant that the viewer was presented with actual news stories based around verified facts.  Facts which came from credible sources.  Unlike today when postings on social media are treated as reliable sources. In reality, of course, such postings are usually nothing more than rumour and uninformed speculation.

In the end, of course, Sunday's Nuneaton story eventually 'developed' into a fairly mundane small scale armed siege (traumatic for those directly involved, but with no repurcussions outside of the local area).  Despite all the build up on the news channels, by Monday it had pretty much vanished from the news schedules.  But it had served its purpose: it filled several hours of air time on a slow news day.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Back Page Fakes

Look, if you want to see 'fake news' then just look on the back pages of most British tabloids.  They call it 'football  news' or 'transfer speculation' but, in truth, it is fake news in its purest form.  Day in, day out, the sports pages of the likes of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Star are just chock full of completely made up stories about how this player or that is going to move from club A to club B for a huge transfer fee.  All presented as fact.  As someone who follows the Spurs, (I can't in all honesty describe myself as a Tottenham 'fan' in the trues sense, as these days my support is confined to the armchair), I'm very familiar with this sort of fake news: these newspapers seem to be trying to sell our best players on a daily basis.   Most frequently, of course, it is Harry Kane they are linking with big money moves to Manchester United or, since the Champions League match with them, Real Madrid.  But, of late, they've also been busy selling Deli Alli and Danny Rose (even though he's still recovering from a long term injury) to every leading club in Europe.  They never let the facts get in the way of their stories: how many times does Harry Kane have to say that he wants to be a 'one club player' and isn't looking for a move, how many times do Mauricco Pochettino and Daniel Levy have to say that their best players aren't for sale?

But it is all to no avail, because these kinds of stories aren't based upon 'facts' in any established understanding of what the term means.  Sometimes they take their cue from articles in Spanish or Italian newspapers - which they then cite as 'sources'. The trouble is that these 'sources' are themselves notorious for completely making up stories.  Sometimes they are 'extrapolated' from comments someone in the game has made.  Hence, Real manager Zinidane Zidane praising Harry Kane before and after the Champions League fixture last week is spun into the 'fact' that Real are going to make a bid for Kane that Spurs can't possibly turn down.  Indeed, some of the more creative back page hacks brought in the 'fact' that former Spur Gareth Bale's days at Real are numbered to report that the Spanish club were prepared to offer him to Spurs as part of cash plus player exchange for Kane.  All completely baseless. Many stories, though, have even less foundation in fact, seemingly constructed off of the back of some rumour someone 'In the Know' tweeted on Twitter.  They always turn out to be fantasy, though.

The point of all this is that commentators always go on about 'fake news' as if it is some new phenomena, unique to the internet age.  The reality is that it has been going on for as long as anyone can remember on the back pages of our tabloids.  And, let's face it, if they are happy to make up sports stories, then they aren't going to have any qualms about making stuff up for their front pages, as well.  It's no coincidence that these self same tabloids which keep making up football transfer stores - complete with sensational headlines - are simultaneously running breathlessly pro-Brexit stories on their front  pages - complete with sensational headlines.  These front page stories, upon examination, are as bereft of actual facts as those on the back pages.  So, let's stop blaming the web for 'fake news' and place the blame where it belongs: the back pages of right wing tabloids.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Self Revelations

You ever have one of those moments when you read something or someone says something and you think: that describes me?  I've had this twice in recent weeks.  The first time was when discussing with a colleague from another organisation someone we'd been dealing with work-wise who clearly had a problem with alcohol.  My colleague characterised this person's life as effectively having stopped at some point, probably in reaction to some kind of adverse circumstance, with the crutch of alcohol replacing any attempts to move their life forward, or even perform the most basic of tasks.  Now, I'm not an alcoholic (if anything, my alcohol consumption had been in decline over the past few years), but the description of life effectively stopping could equally be applied to the ennui which gripped me for months, which I described in a recent post.  All my motivation to carry out even routine tasks seemed to evaporate.  On reflection, I realised that I could trace the onset of this ennui not to a trauma as such, but an emotional set back I'd suffered (which I'm not going to go into here).  The result was this retreat from life (just not accompanied by a dependency on alcohol). 

The second time I experienced this sort of 'revelation' was when I was reading a recent newspaper article about people who described themselves as 'aromantics'.  Basically, they are individuals who don't develop what would ordinarily be described as 'romantic' feelings for others.  They might feel friendship or companionship with partners and others close to them, but these do not develop into romatic love.  They don't seek to fall in love with a partner for life.  It isn't that they don't have relationships, just that they aren't based upon romantic attachments.  Again, I realised that this was a pretty good description of my relationship history.  In truth, I've never really had any desire for a permanent commitment.  I'm not sure I've ever felt that strongly about anyone. Sure, there have been women I've liked, really liked.  There have been women I've felt very strong feelings for, but beyond the obvious physical desire, what I've felt is friendship. Sometimes a very deep and profound friendship.  In retrospect, I don't think I've felt what would be termed 'romantic love'.  Which isn't to say that there haven't been women I've loved, but not romantically. 

A while ago I thought that I'd had an epiphany of sorts while watching Love Actually during one of its 'rare' non-Christmas showings on ITV 2.  It was the sub plot involving Andrew Lincoln being unable to express his feelings to Keira Knightly (who had married his best friend), so he ends up doing it via a series of cue cards he holds up while pretending to be a carol singer.  (Right now, anyone reading this who hasn't seen the film is going to convinced that I'm making this up).  Anyway, reflecting on my history with a woman I'd liked, but who had ended up with someone else, I decided that, like Lincoln's character, it had been my inability to communicate my true feelings to her which had resulted in my failing to establish a romantic relationship with her.  (Just to reassure you, I didn't go out and write these feelings on cards and hold them up outside her living room widow).   Therefore, I thought, it was all my fault, my emotional cowardice meant that I didn't deserve her love.  But now, in the context of reading the article about the 'aromantics', I realise that the reason I could never express these feelings was because, in truth, I didn't feel them.  I liked her, for sure, but not romantically.  She wasn't 'the one', because, deep down, I know that there isn't someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.  Other than myself, obviously.  All of which made me feel a lot better about myself.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ups and Downs

My Great Aunt's funeral yesterday reminded why I stay out of churches (apart from the fact that I'm a non-believer, obviously): they are so bloody depressing.  OK, I know that funerals themselves aren't meant to be a barrel of laughs, but believe me, when they are being conducted in an ancient, cold and draughty church, they seem even more downbeat than usual.  And believe me, it was an ancient church, parts of it dating back to the eleventh century.  It didn't help that my Aunt was High Church, which meant that it was akin to being in a Roman Catholic church - the vicar even wore one of those hats you usually associate with Irish priests in sitcoms.  To be fair, though, he did deliver a good eulogy - it helped that he actually had known my Aunt and had regularly visited her over the past couple of years when she was largely house bound.  Nevertheless, it still wasn't enough to lift my gloomy mood.  All that talk of life everlasting didn't help - surely we deserve a break from the rigours of life?  The thought of having to go on forever having already lived one life just seems so daunting.  It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to do it as yourself, if you could be someone else. I mean, after one lifetime I think I'll be tired of being me.

Perhaps that's the attraction of reincarnation - it offers you the chance of survival after death and multiple lifetimes, but all different, all lived as someone else.  (That said, I've always thought the flaw in reincarnation is that you apparently don't remember previous lives.  Surely that makes it pointless as, without continuity of consciousness, you might as well be an entirely different individual each time round - you could never learn from your mistakes or try to improve yourself as a human being).   Quite apart from such musings on  the nature of mortality, my mood wasn't helped the grey, overcast sky and continuous drizzle.  It really was one of those days where I could feel that miasma of misery descending on me.  By the time I got back home yesterday I felt thoroughly depressed.   I can't say I felt any better today, with the weather giving a repeat performance of yesterday for most of the day.  It was an effort just to go through the motions at work today.  Thankfully, my mood has lifted somewhat this evening.   So, hopefully, by tomorrow I'll have shaken off these blues completely and it will be back to business as usual.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dearly Departed

My recently departed Great Aunt (whose funeral I'm attending tomorrow) was clearly looking down on me today.  Or my car, at least, as it passed its MoT on the first attempt this morning, thereby saving me a lot of money.  Still she was ninety six - my Great Aunt, not the car - and hadn't been in the best of health for the past few months, so her passing away didn't come as a great surprise.  That said, her demise has been a sobering existence, as she was the last member of that generation of my family still standing.  (I still have an extant Aunt who is slightly older, but she is that last of my father's siblings, making her a generation later than my Great Aunt, who was my maternal Grandmother's sister).  Which means that myself and my siblings shuffle forward toward being the oldest family members, (at the moment that honour falls to my mother, her sister and the other aforementioned ancient Aunt).  Which is pretty scary and makes me feel old.  Damn, it's bad enough that I'm already a Great Uncle myself, with what seems like hordes of Great Nieces, (there are actually only three, but they seem like more). 

Without wishing to sound morbid, it's all another reminder of one's own mortality and that we only have a finite amount of time and perhaps should be using it more constructively.  Certainly, it leaves me questioning ever more why I'm still wasting my time with my current job. I really could be using my time more wisely.  But that's a whole different topic which I don't want to revisit in this post.  But the idea of being some kind of elder statesman in my family is a daunting one.  It implies that I should be more responsible and be setting an example for younger family members.  So far I've done my best to be a bad influence, with the various highly unsuitable birthday and Christmas presents I keep giving my two older Great Nieces, including chemistry sets with explosive experiments, fake dog turds and whoopee cushions.  They enjoyed them, but I had to suffer death threats from their mother.  Actually, the eldest Great Niece has a birthday coming up and, with the car's MoT costing me far less than expected, I'll be able to look to giving her something really dangerous.  There's the added bonus that as she and her sister are currently living in the US, I'll have the entire Atlantic Ocean between me and potential reprisals from my Niece.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Sex Press?

I've remembered what it was that I was originally intending to post about on Friday.  But I'm not in the mood to try posting it today.  Later, perhaps.  Having survived the beginning of the end of the world today, (a red Sun, yellow sky and Crystal Palace winning over the weekend surely can't portend anything else), my thoughts have turned back to Harvey Weinstein and his alleged sexual misconduct.  Or rather, the way it is being presented in some quarters of the press.  I'm befuddled over the way that he is being presented as a unique case, a one man sex crime wave, let alone the way in which much of the media professes mystification as to what fuels such attitudes to women.  Really?  Have you seen your own content of late?  One of the main uses my tablet has is using the news aggregator app to 'read' the papers before I get up.  A wide variety of news outlets are represented on the app and the 'Entertainment' section is a real eye opener as the UK sources (mainly tabloid newspapers) present a never ending stream of 'stories' focusing upon the amount of cleavage being shown by various female celebrities, or whether they've suffered a 'nip slip'  (of late the Mail has been seeming obsessed with Victoria Beckham's nipples).  Best of all, as far as they are concerned, are those features consisting of voyeuristic photographs of bikini clad female celebrities and reality TV 'stars' cavorting on the beach.

If this objectification of women on an industrial scale doesn't play some part in the normalisation of the sort of misogynistic attitudes lie behind the sexual misconduct that the likes of Harvey Weinstein find themselves accused, I'd be very surprised.  After all, it is a short step from the sort of breast groping these papers 'tsk tsk' about on one page to clandestinely taken photos of women in their underwear that they have on a subsequent page.  These newspapers' obsession with certain female celebrities is truly creepy - Rachel Riley, for instance, is a favourite for the attentions of the Mail, which gives virtually daily updates on what she was wearing on Countdown and how much leg or cleavage was on display.  If I was doing this with regard to a female neighbour -giving online updates of their attire and so on - it would undoubtedly be classified as stalking.  Again, I can't help but feel that this another case of the media effectively 'normalising' an aberrant behaviour.  Overall, their message seems clear: these women are public property, to be ogled over by men at will. Is it any wonder that some men consequently think that it is OK to routinely sexually abuse women for real.

But, I hear some of you say, how can you condemn the tabloids for the objectification of women when you spend so much time here discussing exploitation films which frequently do the same thing?  Well, the answer there is, I feel, quite straightforward.  Such movies make no bones about what they are doing: they don;t pretend to be art (some do pretend to be documentaries, granted) or 'news'.  The people involved in making them fully understood what was going on and willingly participated in their production.  My problem with the media is their hypocrisy on the issue.  They want to have their cake and eat it too - condemning the antics of sex offenders on the one hand while effectively encouraging their attitudes and behaviour on the other.  

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Friday, October 13, 2017

More From Our Sponsors

It's been a tough week.  I'm exhausted and can't for the life of me remember what that brilliant post I was going to write for today was going to be about.  So, until normal service can be resumed, here are some TV commercials from my childhood, taken from an ITV franchise that no longer exists (the once mighty Thames TV lost the London franchise to Carlton TV back in the nineties).  There are some classics here, including one of the Brentford Nylons adverts with a voiceover from Alan 'Fluff ' Freeman.  They also had longer ads in which Freeman appeared on screen, plying those wonderful nylon products.  WAs it any wonder that there was so much static electricity around in the seventies?  (It seems a much rarer phenomena nowadays, when we don't wear and sleep in 100% nylon products). 

The Harp Lager advert is another classic (is Harp even brewed any more, I remember seeing it on sale in Ireland in the nineties, but can't recall the last time I saw it in the UK).  Back in the seventies it was advertised on TV relentlessly, along with other seventies beers like Watneys Red Barrel and Double Diamond.  They were universally disgusting.  Later, of course, Harp adopted the slogan 'Stays sharp to the bottom of the glass'.  Not as catchy as 'If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club'.  Now, Club biscuits are definitely still on sale, but in a much restricted range of flavours.  Then there's the Daily Mirror with a tie in for the John Wayne film Brannigan, which was largely shot in London.  Clearly it was a big release in 1975 but wasn't a particularly good film.  The Duke was pushing seventy and looking decidedly unwell in it.  As a matter of interest, I did part of my PGCE course with a guy who, as a child, had met John Wayne when he was shooting Brannigan in London.  He said he came over as a pretty nice guy.

Finally, that advert for Smith's Twisters - this marked the point at which crisp manufacturers decided that traditional crisps just weren't enough and started coming up with all sorts of weird shit.  What were they thinking?  Traditional crisps remain the superior savoury snack.  Especially with beer.  I mean, could you imagine yourself eating Twisters as an accompaniment to a pint of Speckled Hen or Tanglefoot?   Exactly.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Groping for Power

I feel that I must offer my thanks to Harvey Weinstein for molesting so many women.  Not that I approve of such behaviour, but he's revived 'Hollywood sex pest' as a popular search term, which has resulted in the story of the same name on The Sleaze receiving a lot of extra traffic for the past few days, giving the whole site a boost.  But I feel that I should apologise for not groping all those women I had a chance to molest in the past.  I feel that I'm letting the male gender down and frustrating women's low expectations of men.  I find it hugely frustrating that I've spent years, decades in fact, trying to be respectful toward women, not groping or harassing them, yet still find myself tarred with same brush as the likes of Weinstein and Trump.  Maybe it is a sign that I've been doing everything wrong - after all, no less an eminence as the President of the USA says that the way to treat women is to 'grab them by the pussy'.  I've been respectful, yet remain as insignificant as ever, whilst these gropers prosper - is that the key to their success, an utter contempt for women?

In reality, of course, it is the other way around - their wealth allows them to be contemptuous of women, treating them as objects.   It isn't just women either.  They can afford to be contemptuous of anyone on any grounds: race, wealth, sexual orientation, belief system.  They can use their wealth to buy off accusers or, failing that, intimidate them with threats of legal action. They can manipulate the pres, buying themselves favourable publicity and covering up misdemeanours.  They can derail investigations through their influence with the establishment.  That's the thing about sex crimes - whether they are committed by the wealthy or the ordinary - they are all about power rather than sex.  For the wealthy it is all about exercising their power, bending others to their will.  For the non0wealthy sex offender it is all about feeling empowered by forcing someone to your will.  The difference is that it easier for the wealthy rapist to get away with it.

But to get back to Weinstein, one of the most perplexing aspects of his exposure as a sex pest is the reaction of some of the right wing crazies on the web, who have been triumphantly declaring 'Hah, how do you like it now liberals, now that one of yours has been exposed as a sex offender?  Aren't you all hypocrites for accepting his support and donations?'  Well, unlike you douche bags us 'liberals' aren't conflicted when 'one of ours' is unmasked as a sexist bastard - we condemn him.  As for 'liberal' candidates and causes who accepted money from him:  what's worse, accepting donations from someone who you only subsequently discover to be a sex pest, or voting for someone in the knowledge that he thinks it is OK to grab women 'by the pussy'?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

King Kong Lives (1986)

What can one say about King Kong Lives?  Most people aren't even aware that there was a sequel to Dino di Laurentis' 1976 remake of King Kong.   I must admit that its existence passed me by for many years and I've only recently caught up with the film in its entirety.  Now, despite having become the subject of considerable disdain and ridicule, the 1976 Kong was, in its day, a very successful movie. The hype that di Laurentis created around the film paid off, getting big audiences into cinemas to see it.  The problem was that it could never live up to that hype.  Di Laurentis had promised a fifty foot tall mechanical Kong striding through the streets of New York: what audiences actually got was a man in an ape suit wandering around a large scale model of New York. (To be fair, the mechanical Kong did exist, but was hopelessly ungainly. It can be glimpsed in the scene where Kong breaks out of his cage in New York, but for the most part all that is seen of it are its giant hands and feet).  But if you can set aside the disappointing nature of Kong's appearance, the 1976 film has a lot in its favour: a cast which includes Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, an intelligent and surprisingly witty script which cleverly updates the story to address environmental concerns, a great score from John Barry and, Kong aside, some pretty good special effects.

King Kong Lives, unleashed on unsuspecting cinema audiences ten years later, is sadly lacking in most of these departments.  The cast - including Linda Hamilton and John Ashton - is strictly B-list.  But solidly B-list, the sort of performers who always do a good job.  In King Kong Lives' script, however, they met their match.  Nobody could make an impression working from such a farrago:  it is dull, unimaginative, repetitive and utterly uninspiring. Both characters and plot are perfunctory.  Worst of all, it can't seem to make up its mind if its a straightforward sequel, parody, comedy or homage. Many sequences border on the surreal.  In fact, the whole scenario is surreal.  It seems that Kong didn't die after falling from the Twin Trade Towers and has been in a coma for ten years, kept on life support in a warehouse in Atlanta.  His main injury seems to have been to his heart, (obviously, it was broken by Jessica Lange in the previous film).  But don't worry.  Leading giant ape cardiac expert Linda Hamilton has developed a giant mechanical heart.  The only problem is that, to successfully transplant it into Kong, she needs to secure an adequate supply of blood for a transfusion. Of course, no known living animal has blood compatible with Kong...

At this point the film takes a left turn, as we cut to a guy wandering through Borneo when, with no build up or warning whatsoever, he encounters a giant lady ape.  This development is completely perfunctory and highlights the script's problems: dramatically it falls totally flat - the ape's hand (the first we see of it) literally comes from nowhere.  There are no preceding sequences setting the scene, explaining who the explorer is, what he's doing there or that there might be local legends hinting at the ape's existence.  It all just comes out of the blue as a huge deus ex machina.  (We'll gloss over the fact that there are no gorillas, giant or otherwise in Borneo - they have Oran Utangs - in the interests of suspension of disbelief).  Of course, the ape is captured and shipped to Atlanta, where Kong's transplant takes place, involving a bizarre surgical sequence featuring giant-sized instruments.  Back on his feet, Kong soon gets wind of the lady ape, escapes, breaks her out and goes on the run with her.  The rest of the plot unfolds much as you'd expect it to: the Army chase them, Kong romances  lady ape (yes, there really are sequences of Kong flirting with his consort), after an attack Kong is presumed dead, lady ape is imprisoned by the army, Kong reappears, breaks her out and is eventually mown down by the army just as his lady friend gives birth to his son.

Sadly, none of this is executed in a particularly interesting way.  The low budget (a fraction of that accorded the 1976 film) precludes any of the large scale set pieces featured in the King Kong remake.  Instead of making his last stand at the World Trade Centre, swatting down helicopter gunships, for instance, this time Kong meets his end at a rural barn dance, facing off a few armoured personnel carriers and jeeps.  The nearest equivalent to his encounters with the oil company crew trying to capture him in the earlier film, which included fights with a giant snake, the business with the log and the ravine a huge chloroform filled pit, is an encounter with a bunch of hick hunters.  Instead of New York getting trashed, it is a backwoods fishing village which gets stomped on.  Indeed, the whole thing, shot largely in Tennessee, has a backwoods feel about it, like Hill Billys Meet the Ape.

As mentioned before, the characterisations of the main players are wafer thin.  The problem being that the actors all look as if they know they are in a turkey of a film and can't really be bothered. That said, John Ashton - playing the kind of military knucklehead that exists only in bad movies - gives a suitably over-the-top performance as the Colonel in charge of the Army's Giant Primate Apprehension Unit (or whatever it is called).  But even this is problematic.  We are given no indication of why he has such a pathological hatred of giant apes.  Because he really does seem to hate them and be hell bent upon destroying them for no particular reason.  Some back story might have helped.  Maybe the script should have included a flash back showing that, during Kong's New York rampage ten years earlier, Ashton's pregnant wife had been so frightened by the giant ape she gave birth to a marmoset.  It would have been in keeping with the film's overall vibe.

But the film does have a few redeeming features.  Although the ape suits seem cruder than the one used in the first film, they are better proportioned and the actor playing Kong actually tries to move like an ape.  (The face masks don't seem as expressive as in the 1976 film, though).  A lot of the process work, allowing Kong to interact with the rest of the film, is of a very high standard, with none of the 'blue halo' effect often seen in low budget blue screen work.  The film also features one genuinely affecting moment, when the dying Kong, tears streaming down his face, sees his new born son, before expiring.  it sounds hopelessly tacky, but is actually surprisingly moving.

Sadly, the good points are drowned out by the lackluster pace, poor script and ill judged scenes like the giant ape romance sequence.  The film's cheapness is too obvious: it looks like a direct to video movie, not even John Guillerman, returning as director from the 1976 film, can't seem to raise any enthusiasm, his direction looking flat and TV film-like.  But it wasn't released straight to video.  Instead, King Kong Lives was put into cinemas where it bombed badly, failing to recoup its production costs.  Audiences in 1986, it seemed, just weren't ready for a King Kong sequel.  They still aren't, but if you feel a burning desire to watch two giant apes falling in love and trashing parts of rural USA, King Kong Lives is currently a regular feature on the Horror Channel.


Monday, October 09, 2017

That Autumnal Feeling

It definitely felt like Autumn today.  Granted, it still feels abnormally mild, but there was that hint of dampness in the air, not to mention the smell of fallen leaves.  In fact, it is the fallen leaves which are key to the Autumnal feeling: they seem to have reached a critical mass now - there are so many that it is possible to kick your way through them, the way we used to do when we were children.  There's nothing quite like that rustling sound you get when wading through piles of crisp fallen leaves.  The main thing missing at the moment is the smell of leaves smouldering on bonfires.  Back in the day they used to dispose of the leaves that way, after they swept them up.  It was the aroma of Autumn.  It probably isn't allowed nowadays - bonfires are generally frowned upon.  I've always liked Autumn, it lacks the glamour and laziness of Summer, or the freshness and optimism of Spring, but it is far friendlier than Winter. 

I suspect that my affinity for Autumn stems, at least in part, from the fact that it also ushers in the start of the academic year.  I have fond memories of the return to school, the nights gradually drawing in as you walked home afterwards, to the warm haven of your centrally heated home.  I spent so long in the academic world that, to this day, September feels as much like the start of the year to me as January does to everyone else.  I still take my holidays with half a mind to the academic year, timing the end of my Summer break to coincide with the start of the Autumn school term.  September always feels like a new beginning to me.  Which may be why, as the year starts to wind down, I find myself starting what is, in effect, an 'Autumn clean'.  The ennui which has gripped me for so long has left my house in a state of chaos.  To be brutally frank, it has left my entire life in a state of chaos, as I've found myself incapable of making any significant decisions.  That said, even if I had made a decision, I doubt that I would have had the energy to act upon it.  Anyway, over the weekend, I finally forced myself into action, carrying out some minor tidying up.  I'm determined to keep this momentum going and start clearing out a lot of the junk that has accumulated, room by room.  It could take some time.

I'm also forcing myself to make a decision on my car.  Its current MoT has less than two weeks to go and I have to decide whether I'm even going to try and get the car through it.  You might recall the problems and massive bill which resulted from the last trip to the garage.  What should have been a straightforward service turned into a nightmare.  I was left trusting neither garage nor car.  I can't face another bill like that, so I'm going to have to find someone to look the car over and give me an estimate to get it through another MoT.  If it seems exorbitant, then I'll have no choice but to part company with this car and buy a replacement.  If it doesn't seem too bad, then I'll still be looking for a new set of wheels, but will be able to take more time about it.  Obviously, I want to minimize outgoings on the current car, as anything I have to spend keeping it on the road will reduce what I can afford to spend on a replacement.  Once the car situation is sorted, I really must turn my attention to reviving various friendships and relationships I've neglected and allowed to lapse during my ennui.  Watch this space.

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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Have You Ever Been Molested by a Former Prime Minister?

I had another rant about the crapness of modern life lined up for today, but, in the end, I just didn't have the energy to write it up.  Besides, there are far too many other interesting things going on that we should be discussing.  Ted Heath, for instance, and the allegations that the late Tory Prime Minister was a paedophile.  Actually, the allegations went further than this - they claimed that he didn't just bugger boys, but that he also murdered them and disposed of their bodies at sea, using his yacht.  Anyway, this week Wiltshire Police, in attempting to defend their investigations into these allegations, announced that if Sir Ted were still alive, they'd probably be interviewing him under caution in regard to some of the claims made against him.   Knowing Wiltshire Police as I do, (I grew up in Salisbury and for a while lived next door to one of the Force's finest), I'm surprised that they'd let a little thing like Heath being dead prevent them from interviewing him. 

Of course, many of the allegation - most of which have now been discounted - resulted from the police's appeal for alleged victims of Heath to come forward.  Surely it should have occurred to them that publishing ads in the local press asking 'Have you ever been bummed by a former Prime Minister?' - was likely to bring all of the nutjobs out of the woodwork?  Moreover, you would have thought that that they would have discounted the twelve who named William Gladstone as an abuser, and the three who admitted that they had mistaken Stanley Baldwin for Heath from the outset, instead of setting up new lines of enquiry into these dead premiers.  At least they didn't pursue the allegations from one 'victim' that Winston Churchill had abused hm by shoving lit cigars up his jacksie.  All of which isn't to say that the police shouldn't have investigated allegations against Heath, despite what various 'outraged' Tory friends of his think. After all, they are the same people who lambasted the police and BBC for not pursuing similar allegations against Jimmy Savile when he was alive.  But hey, we never want to believe these sort of claims when they are directed against someone we know.  Or think we know. After all, none of us wanted to believe that one of our childhood icons, Rolf Harris was a sex offender rather than a harmless eccentric who liked playing the stylophone, did we?


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Dissenting Views

I suppose it's really the 'Emperor's new clothes' syndrome, really.  You know, when there's some film or TV series everyone is raving about but you just don't get it.  You can't see what all the fuss is about.  I'm like that with Blade Runner.  One of the most overrated films ever made, in my opinion.  Central miscasting, confused story telling and weak dialogue, all image, no substance - clearly the studio agreed with me, as it was extensively re-edited and had an explanatory voice over added before release.  So did audiences, as it was a flop on release.  Over the years, the blame for its failure has been put down to studio interference, but no number of subsequent re-edits and director's cuts have improved the film.  It's current reputation is the result of a confidence trick: decades of a tiny number of pretentious film critics have brainwashed people into believing that Blade Runner is some kind of unfairly maligned classic.  Sadly, the film has rather defined how people think Philip K Dick adaptations should look (never mind that it is a travesty of his source novel): grungy.  Certainly, it seems to have informed the look of the first couple of episodes of the current, woefully misguided, Philip K Dick anthology series Electric Dreams, which is currently showing on Channel 4.  

So what has set me off on this rant of dissenting opinion?  Is it the release of a completely unnecessary Blade Runner sequel that nobody asked for, (it is notable that Philip K Dick never felt it necessary to write a sequel to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)?  Partly, perhaps.  But mainly it derives from a newspaper article I read which effectively derided Liam Gallagher because he claimed never to have seen Game of Thrones.  Make no mistake, I think that Liam Gallagher is a twat, but not because he hasn't watched an over hyped TV series.  This is the kind of media snobbery I hate, the idea that people can be judged on the basis of whether or not they watch whatever the current 'in'TV show is.  The problem is that the people who come out with this crap are living a bubble - a bubble much smaller than they think - where everybody they know has Netflix or Sky or Amazon Prime or Virgin or whatever and watches all of these shows.  But they are atypical,  They'd probably be shocked to discover that, like me and Liam Gallagher, a majority of people in the UK have never seen Game of Thrones.  They don't grasp that these are niche programmes, appealing to a relatively small audience.

And the appeal of a lot of this stuff is lost on me.  My reaction is simply to shrug and say 'Meh'.  Even if I did have one of the steaming services or pay TV, I still wouldn't watch them as they just don't interest me.  I watched most of season one of History Channel's Vikings when it was repeated on Blaze.  Whilst it was undoubtedly very well made, it was historically questionable and slow moving.  There's only so much moodily shot scenery I an stand without anything actually happening.  To be honest, I preferred the 1958 Kirk Douglas film The Vikings: it was just as inaccurate historically and told much the same story, but things happened in it and it only took a couple of hours of my time.  And there's another problem with a lot of these series: like Vikings, they often seem to over extended episodic retreads of old films - Westworld, I'm looking at you here.  Where will this end?  an epic thirteen part 'reimagining' of They Saved Hitler's Brain?  OT a TV series based on The Blood Beast Terror, but telling the story from the perspective of the moth woman, thereby giving it a 'feminist' twist?

Anyway, we seem to have strayed from the original intent of this post: pop culture stuff I 'don't get'.  Let's start with another Ridley Scott film: Alien.  Totally derivative tn every department other, perhaps, than its art direction.  Otherwise, it doesn't contain a single original idea, it just retreads a dozen old science fiction stories and films. Yet they built an entire franchise upon it.  Lord of the Rings - a trilogy of utter boredom.Characters with silly names running around just about the dullest fantasy world ever thought up.  As I could never get past the half way point in the books, I thought it pointless to ever try watching the films.  How about TV series?  The Young Ones - reactionary faux zany wank perpetuating and reinforcing establishment stereotypes of students and the working class.  Absolutely Fabulous? Absolutely Shite.  That's another thing I don't get: French ans Saunders.  Is there no start to their talents?  The same goes for Mel and Sue - what are they about?  THey certainly aren't funny.  Ant and DEc - bever understood the appeal, even when they were on kids TV.  Talking of kids TV: Tiswas.  What a load of self indulgent wank.  I'm sure Chris Tarrant and his pals had a great time making it but, as a kid it left me cold.  It never seemed aimed at real children, just Tarrant and his adult mates.  As for the adults who are still fan boys of Tiswas and keep arranging re-enactments of it - for God's sake grow up.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Gun Law

While the media speculates as to the possible motives of the gunman who killed nearly sixty people in Las Vegas, I have just three words for them: 'Country Music Festival'.  As someone who has to endure living in close proximity to a self styled music 'event' - Crapchester Shite, sorry, Live - every year, I can well understand how being forced to listen to a relentless cacophony for an entire weekend might drive you to the edge of insanity.  However, living in the UK, the most aggressive retaliation open to me is writing a sternly worded letter to the local council, complaining about the noise levels.  Whereas, if I lived in the US, I could instead just open fire on the crowds with an automatic weapon.  The apparent easy availability of firearms in the US always seems bizarre to outsiders.  To be fair, the types of firearms available and the restrictions on ownership varies enormously from state to state, but there are, nonetheless, places where it is legal to own such things as fully automatic weapons.

Now, I can actually understand why some people might want to own things like shotguns, or hunting rifles - quite apart from their sporting use, there are a lot of remote places in the US where you might want to feel protected.  I can even understand some handgun ownership - I used to know a guy in DC who, although in favour of gun control, owned a handgun and actually had some kind of carry permit (he was ex-military and worked for the government).  He carried while out jogging, his rationale being that gun control was so poor, there were already too many crazies with guns out there and wanted to protect himself from them. (To be fair, at the time gun crime, particularly street robberies, were pretty high in the DC area).  He thing I don't understand is why anyone would have any legitimate need to own an automatic, or even a semi-automatic long gun.  It surely can't be for hunting purposes.  I mean, the bears aren't that heavily armed, are they?  Yet people do own such things, perfectly legally, and we're all shocked when they use them to mow down other people by the score.  Then we all say how terrible it is and how it should never be allowed to happen again. But then nothing changes and we're all horrified when it happens again.  And again.  But I stand by my theory as to the Las Vegas shooter's motivation: I've even heard tell that he was heard shouting "In the name of God, shut that fucking row up!" from the balcony of his room shortly before he opened fire.  


Monday, October 02, 2017

Up the Amazon Without a Package

I'm one of those people who, at any one time, can tell you exactly what goods I have on order and when I'm expecting them to be delivered.  So, when I come home and spy a package lurking behind the railings which separate my front garden from the bit of council parkland which borders it, I'm immediately suspicious, as I'm not expecting a delivery.  Which is precisely the situation I found myself in last Thursday.  On entering my house, I found a card stuck in the letterbox from 'Amazon Logistics' telling me that my delivery has been left 'behind the fence', except, as I've indicated, it isn't a fence, it is set of railings.  The problem is, of course, that it isn't addressed to me.  Sure, the address appears identical to mine - right street, right house number - but the post code is wrong and, most crucially, the name of the recipient isn't mine.  Now, the next logical step, normally, would be to ring the courier firm and tell there's a mistake and they need to collect the package and find the right address for its delivery.

And was where the problems really started.  There was no contact number or address on the card, nor on the packaging of the parcel.  The only contact 'details' given was the Amazon website address.  Even then, I found that you can only contact Amazon via the website if you have an account.  So, after logging on, I emailed them, outlined the problem and told them they needed to collect the offending parcel from outside my property, where I left it.  Now, I got a reasonably prompt reply, basically blaming the courier and telling me that they would try and get someone to collect the package.  Fast forward twenty four hours: the package is still there.  Worse still, another one has been delivered with all the same details.  Naturally, I was livid.  Another email is sent.  This time the reply effectively tells me that it isn't their policy to collect misdelivered items and that, instead, I should dispose of them myself, by keeping them, donating them to charity or throwing them away.  Which seems extraordinary to me.  I assume that their idea of 'rectifying' the situation is simply to find out the correct address and send replacement items.  Anyway, I chose the third option and put the two packages (one of which was a sodden mess having been out in the rain overnight) in the nearest waste bin, unopened.  I've no idea what was in them and don't care.  It couldn't have been anything of value or I'm pretty sure that they would have sent someone to collect them. 

But why did this exercise upset me so much?  Well, most obviously, I resented the fact that I was forced to take time out, when I was extremely busy, to try and rectify a problem which, essentially, had nothing to do with me.  The whole mess had been created by Amazon (and its agents), whose reluctance to give out simple contact details clearly indicated that they aren't interested in rectifying their own mistakes, expecting third parties like me to do their job for them, instead.  Is it any wonfderthat they make such huge profits?  Not only do they do their best to avoid paying their taxes, but they get other people to do their job for them.  But what really annoys me is the sheer wastage involved in Amazon's approach to wrongly delivered goods.  The world is going to Hell in a hand cart because were so busy polluting the atmosphere producing crap then transporting it halfway around the world, yet here we have a multi national corporation pursuing a policy of simply dumping said crap if it isn't delivered and making more crap to replace it.  If nothing else, this seems hugely inefficient.  Worse, it encourages profligacy.  It is the ultimate expression of the throwaway society, where nothing has value any more.  It is wasteful and bad for the planet.