Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another New Year's Eve

Here we are, New Year's Eve again.  Despite having an invitation to see in the New Year at my local pub, once again I've decided to stay at home.  That's right, it's me, some beer and a big plate of sausage rolls seeing out the old and seeing in the new again.  (These sausage rolls are from Tesco - Sainsbury's didn't have any, because, presumably, those bastards I nearly had the fight with had bought them all).  I'm going to be completely honest here - I don't really like New Year's Eve, never have.  Sure, when I was younger I always used to go out to celebrate it but, in truth, I never really enjoyed all the forced bonhomie.  I couldn't wait for the year to turn so that I could get away.  So, nowadays, I tend to stay at home.  I'm not alone in feeling this about New Year's Eve, I know.  If I was Scottish, I might feel different, (as Billy Connolly once observed, in Scotland Hogmany is like Christmas, but without all the religion to spoil it).

Speaking of Hogmany, I remember the days when the TV channels, even South of the border, used to see in the New Year with televised Hogmany celebrations - basically a lot of B-list celebs with some vague Scottish connection wearing kilts, playing bagpipes and singing supposedly traditional, yet still shit, songs.  It was absolutely abominable.  If viewers in Scotland are still subjected to such crap, they have my deepest sympathies.  Nowadays, the TV companies make as little effort as possible to mark the turning of the year: the bongs of Big Ben and ten minutes of fireworks.  I always avoid these as, inevitably, the commentator feels obliged to make some patronising comments to us sad bastards who are home alone at New Year.  Fuck off!  It's our choice, fuck wits!  The other thing I always avoid are New Year resolutions.  They are utterly pointless.  I also tend to avoid all those programmes offering retrospectives on the outgoing year and trying to make predictions about the future.  I don't need to know about what has happened in 2017 - I was there.  As for the future, it is unknowable, so why worry?  All I will say is that I found 2017 far too stressful and I intend remedying that in 2018.  My only 'predictions' are that The Sleaze will continue, this blog will continue and I aim to do more podcasting.  It only remains to wish everyone a Happy New year.  See you in 2018.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

That's More Entertaining

Last night, in the pub, I was talking to a friend I hadn't seen in a while and we both observed how crap this year's seasonal TV offerings had been.  The lack of effort on the part of the main networks was spectacular.  I know that we're living in the era of multi channel, on demand, make it up as you go along TV, where the massive Xmas viewing figures of yore are a distant memory, but that really is no excuse for not being bothered to try and provide entertainment for viewers during the period when they are most likely to be viewing en masse.   Besides, I don't really believe all this nonsense about how people these days don't watch TV by watching TV.  The majority of people, in my experience anyway, still mainly watch TV the traditional way: on a TV set as it is broadcast.  I do sometimes watch on other devices (usually catch up services when I've forgotten to record something), this laptop. my tablet, even my phone, but none of these offer the same experience as watching TV on a proper sized screen.  Besides, unlike my TV, which is a dedicated single purpose device, none of those other devices have the primary purpose of screening TV programmes.  I always find myself distracted by their other functions when I try to watch TV on them.   It's not the same as watching something on TV whilst simultaneously surfing the web or writing something on the laptop.

Getting back to the point of the crap Christmas TV this year, the other day I stumbled across the most entertaining seasonal schedule I've seen this year.  By chance, I discovered that my local news channel, That's Crapchester, had decided that there simply wasn't sufficient news happening over Christmas and New Year and has instead given over its schedule to showing obscure old movies and cartoons.  All public domain and all of considerable vintage.  (The most recent I've seen have been from the early seventies).  The majority also seem to use the scratchiest, poorest quality prints available (in truth, many are probably derived from third or fourth generation video copies), their poor quality compounded by the low bit rate used of Freeview by the local TV services.  But hey, why gripe when it is all free and some of the movies they are showing haven't seen the light of day in decades?  I caught Dr Kildare's Strange Case the other night, sandwiched between a couple of Mr Wong movies with Boris Karloff, while the non-RKO Tarzan movie, Tarzan's Revenge (made as a rival to the Weismuller starring RKO series by producer Sol Lesser in 1938) was on the other day.  A couple of the post war Sol Lesser Tarzan movies have also turned up.  The Arch Hall oddity Nasty Rabbit was on in the early hours the other day, while this evening I caught the Bert I Gordon sword and sorcery 'epic' The Magic Sword.  All-in-all, their schedule has, so far, been far more entertaining than anyone else's this Christmas.  (As far as I'm aware, all of the That's TV local channels are currently running this schedule).

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Seasonal Fatigue

You know, I think that I've finally recovered from the sense of exhaustion I've been feeling over Christmas.  I know what you are thinking: how exhausting can Christmas on your own be?  Well, a lot of it was a hangover from the unwelcome amount of work-related stress I suffered in the run up to Christmas, but a lot of it was related to the stress of trying to make sure that I'd got the right presents for the right people, had sufficient beer in the fridge, etc. But just doing routine things became incredibly stressful due to the Christmas shopping madness which descended upon the UK's high streets.  It got to the stage that I nearly had a fight over some frozen sausage rolls.  It would never had happened if Iceland hadn't have sold out of the ones I usually buy. So, instead, I was forced to go to Sainsburys.  Anyway, just as I was about to open the relevant freezer cabinet, this bloke and his wife shoved in front of me, wrenched the door open and started shoveling bag after bag of frozen sausage rolls into their shopping basket.  After a while they realised that I was still stood there, glaring at them, and they backed off, looking sheepish.  Luckily, they'd left a bag of sausage rolls in the freezer cabinet.

The whole encounter left me angry and depressed.  Angry at the the sheer rudeness of their behaviour, depressed that people will resort to such behaviour just because there's a religious festival imminent.   But this and other seasonal shenanigans, including my attempts to get home on Christmas Eve, combined with problems sleeping, left me feeling exhausted.  A feeling which persisted through Christmas Day and Boxing Day. So, yesterday, I spent most of the day in bed and, I have to say, I've felt a bloody sight better since.  I'm still somewhat confused as to exactly what day of the week it is - apparently, today is Thursday, but I'm not feeling tired any more.  So much so that I've even managed to do a bit more work on my model railway (a baseboard extension which will finally allow me to complete the storage yard) and record part of another in my new series of podcasts for the Overnightscape Central.  All that and a lot of lying on the sofa, drinking beer and watching films has left me feeling a lot better than I did a week ago.  And we've still got New Year's to come.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Between Bank Holidays

Boxing Day is traditionally the day of recovery, when we can all take a breather after all the frantic activity of Christmas Day.  OK, so my Christmas Day wasn't frantic, but the fays leading up to it were.  I was so tired that I started flagging yesterday evening and started to fall asleep on the sofa.  So, today I've done even less than I did yesterday.  Which isn't to say that I've been completely inactive - by my standards, this Boxing Day has been a blur of action.  I actually left the house, for one thing.  Some Boxing Days I've spent mainly asleep in bed, or crashed on the sofa all day watching TV.  Whilst I still did spend a fair amount of time doing those things, I also managed to do some shopping.  Interestingly, despite Boxing Day traditionally also being the day of sales, the shops weren't as crowded as I'd expected.  In fact, more than usual, for a bank holiday, remained closed.  So, maybe everyone else were too knackered to do anything this Boxing Day.

Indeed, the fatigue seems evident elsewhere: the news is certainly devoid of anything earth-shattering.  No wars breaking out, no new plagues or natural disasters, not even any celebrity deaths.  Or new reports of celebrity gropings.  Like I said, everyone is just too tired.  Too tired even to do anything on social media.  My Twitter timeline is unusually quiet (OK, I know I don't follow that many people, but nonetheless, it is, if anything, even quieter than yesterday).  None of which is a bad thing.  We should be making the most of these lazy days between bank holidays.  We're entering that strange limbo between Christmas and New Year, where normal time feels suspended and it seems like most people are off work.  Even if you are at work, it feels strange, with, for the most part, late starts and early finishes and a sense of complete unreality in the workplace: during the times I've worked all or part of this period, it just feels like you are going through the motions, treading water until reality returns with the new year.   So relax, chill out and enjoy this strange interregnum. 


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Last Train Home on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve - less than two hours to go until Christmas Day and I'm finally home.  I've endured a fraught journey back from seeing family, having just caught the last train home before the entire railway network shuts down until Wednesday.  It's amazing, things were meant to improve with privatisation, yet I recall that under British Rail trains ran on Boxing Day, to a modified Sunday schedule.  (Go back far enough and you'll find a time when a limited teain service ran on Christmas Day - in the days before widespread car ownership, those who had to work Christmas Day had to get to and from work somehow).  Don't think that these 48 hour Christmas shutdowns have anything to do with the current franchise owners wanting their staff to have Christmas off.  I'm sure that there are plenty of railway workers who would be prepared to work at least Boxing Day.  But it would cost the railway companies money in terms of the overtime payments they'd have to fork out.  So, to Hell with maintaining public services if it means paying extra wages.

But you are probably wondering why I was using the train today instead of my car. Well, my aim was to avoid the Christmas Eve traffic and, when coming back in the evening, the increased numbers of drink drivers who will undoubtedly be on the roads.  But with the rail companies being coy as to what would actually be the last service to run on my line, the rail option turned into something of a game of Russian roulette.  But, I've made it home, I've got some sausage rolls baking in the oven, I'm about to open a bottle of Milk Stout and I've got a DVD lined up to watch.  While I remember, I've got a couple of new podcasts up over at the Overnightscape Underground.  One of them is even seasonally themed.  They are, hopefully, the start of a new series which will get into its stride as next year progresses.   So, it just remains to wish everyone a Happy Winterval.  Or Festivus.  Or Christmas.  Or whatever else you might celebrate at this time of year.  See you all on Boxing Day.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Merry Christmas From Crapchester

A Merry Christmas From Crapchester from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

Yes, it's that time of year again: our annual visit to the Christmas lights of Crapchester.  You wouldn't believe the Herculean effort it took to put this one together.  Thanks to Microsoft's decision to discontinue Movie Maker in any form, I had to fire up my old Lenovo laptop which still has Movie Maker Live installed on it, and load all the elements I wanted to edit together on to a thumb drive and edit it together there.  (I've tried other video editors - they were all crap). 

Anyway, it's all finished and uploaded now.  I've eschewed my usual music choices, (I've used 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' multiple times on these videos), in favour of a piece of my own composition.  Well, I put it together using something called Music Maker Jam which came pre-installed on this laptop.  It's repetitive and very irritating.  Perfect really for this sort of video.  As ever, not everything was actually filmed in Crapchester itself. Some bits were shot in nearby Turdley and other locations.  So, there you have it, another of this blog's seasonal traditions maintained for another year.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

All Quiet on the Christmas Front

You know, I've achieved more in the couple of days since I finished work than I have in the past few weeks.  Apart from writing and posting a new story on The Sleaze, I've also completed the first of what, hopefully, will be the first of a new series of podcasts for the Overnightscape Underground, which should be posted any time soon.  I'm already editing together a second which, fingers crossed, should get posted this weekend.  I'm also hoping to get this year's Christmas video edited together and posted tomorrow.  Exciting times!  Otherwise, it has all been nice and quiet for these first couple of days of my festive break.  Which is how I like it.  Indeed, my aim this Christmas is to see as few people as possible.  I've got my seasonal socialising out of the way already - I met a friend for a couple of festive pints last night. I've only got the family visiting on Christmas Eve to get out of the way now before I can lock my front door and install myself on my sofa for the duration. 

All of which are yet more arguments for reducing my working hours next year.  One of the problems I have now is that I spend so much time at work having to deal with arseholes that I'm left with no desire to interact with anyone when I'm not working.  It is also so draining of my strength that I just don't have the energy to do much when I've finished work, either.  The long and the short of it all is that I need to be spending more quality time with my model railway, my Tassimo coffee maker, watching schlock movies, anything, in fact, which isn't work.  Because it really is sapping my strength.  The degree to which my unhappiness with my work situation has come to dominate my every waking hour is witnessed by the number of times I've mentioned in my posts here during the run up to Christmas - something I do apologise for.  Hopefully, now that I'm off work for a while, I can start steering things back to their normal subject matter. 


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Shortest Day

The shortest day - which means that from now on the days start getting longer.  Summer is on its way.  I've finally finished work for the year (unless I get called back in for an 'emergency') and I'm finally beginning to unwind.  The stress levels over the past couple of weeks were becoming unbearable: my stomach was constantly upset, I couldn't sleep properly and I was beginning to physically ache.  But a decent night's sleep (and morning's, actually) has done me the world of good.  The symptoms of the stress are beginning to fade away.  Mind you, they did temporarily shoot up again this afternoon when I foolishly drove down to Morrison's to pick up some more beer - a combination of Christmas drivers and Christmas shoppers almost sent me back over the edge.  At least now, though, I have enough beer in my fridge to float a battleship.  It should be enough to get me through Christmas and New Year.

But hey, there was joyous news this festive season: Damian Green was forced to resign from the cabinet over that internet porn business!  It was Christmas come early when I first heard the news yesterday evening!  Mind you, the right wing media have been quick to try and spin the news to the government's advantage.  Apparently, sacking her de facto deputy demonstrates May's strength and determination.  Except tat she didn't actually have any choice, as Green had broken the ministerial code and she has now lost her main ally in cabinet, thereby weakening her position.  The press are also doing their best to obscure the issue at hand - that Green had apparently being viewing porn on his official laptop (and probably wanking off to it) - by trying to turn it all back on the retired police officers who leaked the information, trying to make them the guilty parties by calling in to question their integrity and honesty. 

But they can't get away from the fact that he was accessing pornography at work on a work computer.  Anywhere else that would constitute gross misconduct and result in dismissal.  Yet this was effectively covered up at the time.  Arguably, those who leaked the information have a public interest defence: the Tories are forever banging on about the evils of internet porn and constantly proposing measures to restrict access to it (and probably lots of other, non porn, sites they don't like), so when one of their senior members is revealed to have an apparently insatiable appetite for the stuff, isn't the public entitled to know about his hypocrisy?  Damn right they do, but the Tories and their friends are going to do their damnedest to bury the facts, either through press obfuscation or by making out sure that the story breaks just before Christmas, when most people have their eye off the ball with regard to politics.  Wow!  We're still talking politics here with only a few days to go before Christmas! What a world we're living in!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Invincible Six (1969)

A fairly obscure US/Iranian co-production, The Invincible Six is one of those films I've chased around for years, with little success.  There was a VHS release some years ago, but this now sells for silly money on eBay.  Finally, though, I found a version of it uploaded on the web.  Unfortunately, the transfer is poor quality and it is taken from the aforementioned VHS, which is missing several minutes of footage, both of which factors have inevitably coloured my judgement of the film.  The late sixties and early seventies saw an upsurge in the number of international co-productions, as studios tried to off set their costs with foreign money, access to exotic locations and cheap local labour.  Moreover, the use of international stars alongside locally known stars made the films attractive to wider foreign markets,  Of course, not all of these co-productions were big studio movies: independent producers also used them to stretch their budgets and provide unusual locations.  Indeed, the notorious Harry Allan Towers had been putting together such films for years, (although, in his case, it was often a case of finding a production base which didn't have an extradition treaty with the UK).

But to focus on The Invincible Six itself, my interest in this film was piqued by an entry in something like Halliwell's I read many years ago, which described it as a Magnificent Seven knock off set in contemporary Iran.  It was difficult to envisage such a thing and the listed cast seemed somewhat uninspiring: more on the level of one of the increasingly cheaper sequels to The Magnificent Seven, rather than the original.  But, to be fair, Invincible Six does settle down to be a Magnificent Seven knock off.  Eventually.  It opens, however, as a heist movie, with Tex (Stuart Whitman) and associates trying to steal the Iranian crown jewels.  Inevitably, it all goes terribly wrong, forcing the three survivors of the gang, (Tex, Ronald, played by Ian Ogilvy and Mike, played by Lon Statton), on the run.  As they try to evade the police, they encounter three other fugitives from justice.  Well, we assume they are fugitives from justice, as their back stories are next to non-existent,  The most fleshed out of these characters is the Baron, a German of aristocratic bearing portrayed by Curd Jurgens.  Nattily dressed in a suit and homburg hat, he too is on the run after a failed criminal enterprise.  We eventually learn that he was a German soldier and subsequently a prisoner of war in World War Two.  The other two characters are less well realised, although one of them, Jahan, does get a flashback explaining that he is wanted by the authorities, having murdered his wife in a crime of passion.  The sixth member of the group, Italian Giorgio, is far more mysterious - we first see him apparently stealing a government Jeep and disguising its markings.  Beyond the fact that he is some kind of engineer, we learn nothing more about him.

Now, this vagueness about the characters might be down to the footage missing from the version of the film I saw.  Perhaps it included sequences giving more background for Giorgio.  I don't know.  The perfunctory nature of most of the characterisations does weaken the film - the less we know about these characters and their motivations, the less invested we are in their fates.  One of the great strengths of The Magnificent Seven was the fact that it succeeded in creating well rounded characters for the seven main protagonists with just a few brief introductory scenes, establishing their essential character traits and motivations. Integral to this process was the first third or so of the film during which Yul Brynner's Chris methodically recruits the seven, providing each of them with a proper introduction and establishing the unique attributes each will bring to the group.  All of which was made possible by Seven's plotting, in which the characters set out with the intent of defending the Mexican village plagued by Eli Wallach's bandits.  The characters in Invincible Six, by contrast, simply stumble into the situation of having to defend a remote village from bandits.  The randomness of their involvement makes this part of the plot seem perfunctory - they have nothing invested in the village's defence (the Seven, at the very least, were being paid to do the job), which leaves the viewer with little investment in the plot.

The village they stumble into does resemble the Mexican village of Magnificent Seven to a remarkable degree. Except that we never really get to know any of the villagers.  The only ones who rise above being just background extras are the town policeman, his daughter and, to a lesser extent, the Mayor, who appears very late in the narrative.  Again, this leaves us caring little about the villagers fates.  Likewise, the bandit leader himself - played somewhat bizarrelly by James, son-of-Robert, Mitchum - is never really developed as  a character, we only meet him in person late on in the film.  In fact, the whole business of the bandits' interest in the village is the subject of some unnecessarily convoluted plotting.  It seems that Mitchum's character, Nazar, has only just taken over as leader, replacing the previous bandit leader, who has been captured and hanged and whose body is now in the village Mosque, awaiting burial.  Nazar is now intent upon recovering the body from his predecessor's mother.  We eventually learn that this is because on the body is an amulet which contains directions to the bandit's hidden treasure.  Also after this document is the slain bandit leader's European mistress Zari (Elke Sommer), who also flirts with Tex.

Once the six arrive in the village, it all plays out much as you'd expect: the villagers are eventually organised into an effective fighting force, the village fortified, a couple of the six die as they take the fight to the bandits, Tex nails Zari, one of the surviving six elects to remain in the village with the policeman's daughter and the others drive off into the sunset.  The problem is that everything seems somewhat rushed, lacking the lengthy sequences in The Magnificent Seven which chronicled the training of the villagers and the building of the fortifications and helped develop the characters.  Also none of the various strategies deployed by Brynner's Chris against the bandits are evident in Invincible Six.  It all ends rather abruptly after Nazar is mown down by  the villagers in the settlement's square, (they miraculously all miss Tex who is standing right behind Nazar).  The treasure map is then burned by his predecessor's mother, disappointing Zari.

The Invincible Six is one of those movies which is reasonably entertaining while it is playing, but is easily forgotten.  The unfamiliar - to Western audiences - Iranian setting help maintain interest, as does a score by Greek composer Manos Hatzidakis which incorporates traditional Iranian melodies and is in marked contrast to the kind of music you would normally expect to hear in an action film.  The performances of the cast are variable, with Stuart Whitman giving the sort of solid second string action hero performance he built his career on.  Ian Ogilvy does the best he can with limited material but seems completely out of place.  Curd Jurgens gives the best performance as the Baron, charismatic and roguish, his is the only character that really lingers in the memory.  Oh, and Elke Sommer's breasts deserve a credit of their own on the titles, so prominent in the narrative are they.  The biggest surprise in the credits, however, is the director: Jean Negulesco, who had a distinguished Hollywood career behind him, taking in such prestige studio productions as How to Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in a Fountain and Rains of Ranchipur.  He seems an unlikely choice to take the reins of an action movie like Invincible Six (his last film, as it turned out).  His direction of the film, competent and professional, but uninspired, doubtless reflects the fact that he was well out of his comfort zone.

I'm left suspecting that the footage missing from the VHS release of Invincible Six would have made it a somewhat more coherent film.  Certainly, some reviews of the film reference Tex planning a new heist, which would have given some more understandable motivation for his recruiting of the three additional fugitives to his team.  But any such plot developments are completely absent from the VHS print, giving the narrative a disjointed feel.  Of course to many contemporary viewers, the very fact that there could be an action film co-produced by US and Iranian film makers probably seems bizarre.  But back in 1969, (it was released in the US in 1970), the Shah was still in power, intent upon Westernising Iran and the US was still seen as an ally.  It all seems impossible now, but back then it seemed perfectly logical.  How times change.


Monday, December 18, 2017

The Home Straight

A week until Christmas.  We're in the home straight at last and I'm limping through it.  I've had a stomach upset since yesterday evening, the result, in part, I'm sure of the amount of work-related stress I suffered last week, compounded by having to spend Friday evening and a large part of Saturday rushing around doing the Xmas shopping I was prevented, by work, from doing last week.  Consequently, I've started the week exhausted.  On the positive side, I'm only meant to be working three days this week - I say 'meant; as, the way things are going, my plans could easily be derailed - so, with luck, by close of play on Wednesday, I should be a free man until the New Year.  Also on the positive side, the arrival in the US of my great nieces' presents has been confirmed and I finally managed to put up my Christmas tree over the weekend.

My Christmas DVD viewing also finally arrived today.  There's no discernible theme this year, no sub-titles, nothing too weird.  Well, apart from Cannibal Holocaust, which I bought on DVD when Zavvi (remember them) were closing down, but somehow never got around to watching.  I've added that to this year's festive DVD roster, along with the DVD of Once Upon a Time in America, which I bought to replace my VHS version a couple of Christmases ago but, once again, have never gotten around to watching.  Right now, sitting around watching some old films and drinking a few beers seems like the ideal Christmas.  I don't care about revelling, socialising or any of the other bollocks that go with the season: they all require a degree of energy I don't possess right now. 

Despite my desire for rest, there are still things I need to do in the run up to Christmas. I'm currently gathering material for our now traditional video of the 'Lights of Crapchester.', for instance.  (I'm also hoping to complete a couple of videos from footage I've had hanging around for a while now over the Christmas break).  For the past few years I've also released a Christmas-themed edition of 'The Sleazecast', the web's least listened to podcast.  But with 'The Sleazecast' on a lengthy hiatus and its replacement still not sorted, I'm not sure what I'm doing, if anything, podcast-wise this year.  (I am hoping to get the 'Schlock Express' podcast back up and running in the New Year, though).   So, there you go - only a week until Christmas.  If that doesn't scare you, nothing will!

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Self Serving Sex Offending

It's all getting very bizarre now, with regard to these ongoing Hollywood sex scandals.  Now we've got people outing themselves as sex pests.  Presumably because they are desperate for the attention, jealous of the boost to their flagging profiles some of the other accused have received.  That's the only explanation I can think of for self styled documentary maker Morgan Spurlock (yeah, that hump), announcing that he has cheated on every woman he has been with and was once accused of rape.  I don't know quite how to break this to him, but being a serial cheat isn't the same thing as serially sexually molesting women on the pretext of a casting session.  Moreover, being accused of rape and, presumably, as he isn't in jail, having the charges dropped is certainly not the same thing as actually raping women, (on the pretext of casting sessions).   So I can only assume that Spurlock is desperate for the publicity.  I mean, he's no Michael Moore, is he?  When's the last time you remember a Morgan Spurlock documentary hitting the screen?

Yeah, admit it, you can't name a single one of his films other than Super Size Me.  I know I can't.  Indeed, it is that solitary film which encapsulates my problem with Spurlock - he simply sates the fucking obvious.  The whole premise of the film is that he spends a month, or whatever, 'super sizing' every fast food meal he has to see what the effect on his health is. Well, spoiler alert, it isn't good.  To which my reaction is: no shit Sherlock - who would have thought that a diet of fast food would be bad for your health, contributing to such things as obesity and heart disease?  Say what you like about Michael Moore - and most people say he's an egotistical fat fuck - at least his documentaries tend to be actual investigations of current issues.  Which is undoubtedly why he isn't currently outing himself as a sex offender.  But really, Spurlock's allegations against himself just smacks of desperation: "Hey, look at me, look at me everyone!  I'm a sex offender!  No, really, I am!  Even if nobody wants to accuse me!  Please publicly vilify me and get my name all over the media!"  But if we're lucky, he won't make a documentary about it.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Seasonal Musings

Are you feeling festive yet?  I'm certainly not.  I haven't had time.  Work, in particular, continues to eat up not just the time it pays me for, but my own time as well.  I haven't even had time to put up my Christmas trees (for which I've actually bought new lights this year), which constitute my seasonal decorations.  Elsewhere, though, the external Christmas lights are currently in full swing around Crapchester.  In fact, yesterday I saw a type of decoration I'd never seen before.  It seemed to be some kind of projection onto a blind or curtain of a window - it featured a moving, lifelike, image of  Father Christmas.  It was quite impressive, as decorations go.  The external light type which seems to be on the increase this year are those devices which projects lights onto the outside of your house.  Clearly, they must have been on sale somewhere.

Anyway, I finally managed to find some time to do some Christmas shopping this evening.  Much later than I would have liked but, like I said, I just haven't had the time.  The only bit I've previously been able to do is ordering my great nieces' presents via US Amazon (they are currently living in the States).  Yeah, I know that Amazon is an evil multi national corporate bastard that treats its staff abominably and doesn'y pay its taxes, but Hell, sometimes it is just easier and more convenient to use to get stuff to people overseas.  (Besides, DHL gave me a ludicrous ball park quote when I explored the possibility of buying their presents here and shipping them to the US.  Not that they are exploiting the Christmas period in indulge in some outrageous profiteering, obviously).

Not even the Christmas TV commercials are getting me in the spirit, they're so irritating.  Especially the Sainsburys' ones.  The one with the two twats playing ukuleles I find especially offensive.  Don't ask me why, it just does.  As for the BBC's latest set of Christmas idents - bland is probably too kind a description for them.  They don't even feel particularly festive.  They are probably worse than last year's, but they were so dire that I've completely forgotten what they were.  What they really need is some kind of  festive themed James Bond title sequence style idents, in the manner of Maurice Binder. (Preferably from his late Roger Moore period, when they simply consisted of lots of naked women in silhouette gyrating in front of psychedelic backgrounds, with nothing at all to do with the plot of the film). Either that or Danny Dyer dressed as an elf, eating a mince pie and saying 'Merry fucking Christmas.  You slags'.

But getting back to work's apparently insatiable appetite for my time, lately I've been looking at the figures with regard to reducing my hours.  So far, a three day working week is looking very feasible.  Particularly with the mortgage now paid off.  I'll make a decision on it all in the New Year.  The choice, though, is straightforward: I can carry on as before, banking the money I would have been paying out for the mortgage, or I could exchange some of that for more time to myself.  Right now, I think I'd rather have the time than the money.  Besides, reducing my hours and firmly ring fencing two days as entirely mine seems to be the only way of protecting myself from my employer's apparent determination to encroach on my time more and more.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Frankenstein 1970 (1958)

Another obscure Frankenstein flick, the reference to 1970 in the title is simply there to give it a vaguely futuristic feel.  True, it is meant to be set in some vaguely defined near future, but Frankenstein 1970 looks like it is actually set in 1958.  The most notable thing about the film is the fact that it casts Karloff as Frankenstein rather than his monster.  (A modern day descendent of the Baron, who has been left horribly scarred by the Nazis, rather than the Baron himself).  Other than that, it is another cheap exploitation item from Allied Artists.  The futuristic aspect of the plot is Frankenstein's ambition to install a nuclear reactor in his laboratory as part of his scheme to create a new monster.  He pays for it by leasing out his castle to a film crew who are shooting a horror picture about his ancestor's monster making antics.  (The scariest looking part of the trailer, with the girl being chased by a large handed creature is actually part of this film-within-a-film).  Inevitably, various members of the crew go missing, destined to provide spare parts for Karloff's monster.

The monster itself looks like someone who has been mummified whilst wearing a bucket on their head.  It eventually turns on Karloff and they both perish in a blast of radioactive steam from the reactor.  After which, the monster's face is unbandaged to reveal the face of Karloff, but younger and unscarred: the scientist had made his creature in his own image.  Despite floating some interesting ideas: Frankenstein as a victim of the Nazis, who nonetheless carries out his own experiments on human victims, which are the equal of anything conducted in the concentration camps, for instance, but ultimately makes nothing of them.  In fact, the plot seems to be check list of fifties schlock movie traits: Nazis, radioactivity as the agent for creating monsters, people shooting movies in old castles (a trope which also turns up in several Italian horror movies).  Reputedly shot in only eight days on sets left over from another movie, Frankenstein 1970 is another of those films which has become next to impossible to see.  I've never seen it in its entirety and I don't recall it ever showing on UK TV.   I'd like to catch up with it, if nothing else because I'm something of a completist when it comes to both Frankenstein films and Boris Karloff.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Extreme and Depraved?

You don't miss something until it has gone, so they say.  I was reminded of this the other day when I read how one audience member at the Old Vic was assaulted by another audience member after he'd remonstrated with their girl friend for talking on her mobile during a performance.  Damn, I thought.  If only Kevin Spacey was still artistic director there, he could have bent the miscreant over the stalls and bummed him senseless.  Allegedly.  Yes indeed, knowing what we now know about Spacey, I daresay that if he was still at the Old Vic you wouldn't see any of these instances of anti social behaviour, (which are allegedly on the increase in London's theatres) - people wouldn't dare for fear of getting felt up and having their balls groped by Spacey.  Allegedly.  I saw a headline the other day screaming about how Kevin Spacey had once groped some European Royal or other, (I take even less interest in other people's royalty than I do our own).  Is there no end to the man's depravities?  Because fondling the knackers of some minor royal without consent is far worse than doing it to ordinary people, multiple times, allegedly, isn't it?

While we're speaking of those accused of sexual misdemeanours, let us speak once more of Damien Green, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister, who stands accused of having used his official lap top to view internet pornography.  (And, by implication, wank off to it). Originally it was claimed that some of the stuff allegedly found on his laptop was so-called 'extreme porn', which begged the question as to what, exactly, constitutes 'extreme pornography'?  Does it involve naked people simulating sex on mountain tops (like extreme ironing or extreme breast feeding), underwater or whilst at the controls of  a speeding car?  Sadly, as I've noted elsewhere, the government seems to think that stuff like bondage constitutes 'extreme pornography', (despite the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has made it pretty much mainstream).  Mind you, I think I might have devised a new genre of pornography there - the sort of dangerous sports of sex.  It could be the big new thing with which some of those digital channels can fill up their air time, (at least one of them is down to showing CCTV and phone footage of street fights in the guise of entertainment - which it obviously can't be as they've got George Lamb presenting it).  Remember, you read it here first!


Friday, December 08, 2017


So, did I mention the blackmail attempt?  Not me trying to blackmail someone, obviously, but rather someone's attempt to blackmail me.  Not that they actually had anything to blackmail me with, but Hell, that's never stopped the anonymous arseholes who inhabit the scuzzier reaches of the internet, has it?  For this was an internet scam which was being perpetrated against large numbers of people.  Unfortunately, I deleted the email before I decided to write about this farce, but I've managed to find a slight variation on it on the Feed Burner forums (the would be blackmailers were spoofing the Feed Burner email address, making it look as if that was where the email was originating from), which you can read below:

"You received this message because someone requested an email subscription for [redacted] to a FeedBurner feed. If you did not make this request, please ignore the rest of this message.
(Ps: If you ignore this message, all your privacy will be exposed, please read below carefully).

Hello, You do not know me and you're probably wondering why you're getting this email, right?

The answer is that I put a malvware on a site that has adult videos (porn) and you accessed the website to have fun (you know what i mean).

While you were watching the system began to function as a RDP (Remote Desktop) with a keylogger through which I had access to your screen and your webcam.

After that my software collected all your contacts from messengers, emails and social networks.

And what did I do? I created a double-screen video - First Part Your Screen Record (you have a nice taste, lol) and Second Part the recording of your webcam. And all your contacts.

So, what should you do? In my opinion U$350 is a fair value for our little secret.
you will make the payment via Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search "how to buy bitcoin", it's very easy)
My bitcoin address is: [redacted]

You will only have 1 day after reading this message to make the payment (I have set a special pixel in this email and I will know when you read it).

If I do not receive my Bitcoins I will send your video to all your contacts (including co-workers, family, etc ...).

If I get paid all the material will be destroyed.

If you want proof, reply with 'YEAH' and I will send your video to 5 contacts that I have collected from you."

Basically, what they are claiming is that they have a video of you wanking off to a porn video, taken via the webcam on your laptop.  Now, from the outset, this is problematic for them in my case - even if I do wank off to such videos, there is no way anyone would be able to video it in that way as I always put a piece of masking tape over the lens of the webcam on any laptop I own as soon as I unbox it.  Which isn't because I do spend all my time online whacking off, but because it is a sensible security precaution - there have been cases of webcams being used to spy on people.  As I don't use Skype (or similar messaging systems), I simply have no need for the camera.

Even if you have been whipping your top to online porn videos, there are several other tell tale signs that this is just some scumbag scammer chancing their arm.  Most notably, you'll notice that the actual site you are supposed to have been on is never named, despite the fact that doing so would add credibility.  Also, the whole business of providing 'proof' that the threat is real by posting the material to five contacts is ridiculous - doing that would put it in the public domain, negating any further threat, therefore nullifying the potential for further blackmail.  Absolute amateurs!  Also, speaking personally, I'm not sure that I still have five email contacts whose addresses are still valid these days.

Despite this being an obvious scam (the fact that my email filters put it straight in the spam folder is further proof that it is a widespread scam), some people seem to have fallen for it and paid up.  To be quite honest, even if I had been wanking off to internet porn and someone had a video of it, I still wouldn't pay up.  There's nothing wrong with looking at pornography in the privacy of your own home.  There's not even anything wrong with knocking one out to it, if that's your thing, in the privacy of your own home.  (Obviously, if you were doing it at work, or in the library, there would be a problem, but I don't think it would be illicit videos you doing it that you'd need to worry about).  They are the ones committing an offence and not just by attempting blackmail: the gross invasion of other people's privacy in the first place is probably even worse.

So there you have it: my brush with blackmail.  In a way I feel insulted that I was being targeted (along with countless others) by such a bunch of incompetent amateurs.  I think I've been around the web long enough to expect to be extorted by professionals!


Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Bad Week

I received some very sad news today.  My fellow podcaster and friend over at the Overnightscape Underground, Jimbo, has passed away at his home in Georgia.  Jimbo was about the same age as myself and, despite having a long history of health problems, went far too soon.  It is strange that I feel such a sense of loss for someone that I never physically met, but, for the past few years I collaborated with Jimbo on a number of projects and came to consider him a friend.  He was a prolific podcaster - so much so that I couldn't keep up with his output - particularly in the months leading up to his death.  I was in contact with him until shortly before his death, partly in relation to my contributions to the regular group podcast the Overnightscape Central, which he had been editing for the past year, and partly in relation to another podcasting project I was working on with Jimbo.  That project, obviously, is now in limbo, although I have enough material to edit together a shortened version of it - I'll consult with the others at the Overnightscape and see if they feel this a good idea before proceeding.

I'll miss seeing his missives in my e-mail inbox and his Tweets in my Twitter timeline.  The news of Jimbo's demise came hard on the heels of learning that author Bill Crider, who runs one of my favourite blogs, Bill Crider's Pop Culture Blog, has been given only weeks to live by his Doctor's.  Bill had been battling cancer for some months now, but the news still came as a shock to those of use who follow his blog.  As with Jimbo, I've never met Bill Crider, or even corresponded with him, yet I feel a keen sense of loss - like many of his readers, I feel that I actually know him, so engaging has his writing been.  From a purely selfish point of view, I'm going to miss his blog with its daily selection of entries pointing readers in the direction of cool and interesting stories elsewhere on the web. Thank's to Bill Crider's blog I've discovered many, many other great web sites and been exposed to many news stories which would otherwise have passed me by.  So, all-in-all, not a good week.  Normal service will, hopefully, be resumed tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Most definitely not a sequel to Fox's film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls even carries a pre-title disclaimer to this effect.  To be sure, the studio had every intention of creating a sequel to what had been a hugely successful release, but a lawsuit launched by Susann against Twentieth Century Fox, alleging that the film had damaged her reputation, proved to be a fly in the ointment.  (The suit was settled several years later, in Susann's favour.  Unfortunately, by that time she was dead).  So, the title was kept, but anything else which might connect the film with the original was junked and the project handed to nudie movie king Meyer who had just signed a multi picture contract with Fox.  (In the event, it was only to last for two films - while Beyond the Valley of the Dolls proved a hit, Meyer's follow up, The Seven Minutes, was a flop).

It might seem strange that a major studio like Twentieth Century Fox should have offered a contract to a schlock film maker like Russ Meyer.  But the fact was that in the late sixties and early seventies, Hollywood's biggest studios were floundering around, badly out of touch with popular tastes. particularly the youth market.  They were desperately trying to tap into the latter and find the new 'big thing'.  Meyer's low budget movies, full of big breasted women and insane plotting, had found a degree of popular and critical success.  Most of all, they seemed 'zany' and youth orientated, so Fox were prepared to give him a chance, in the hope that he could give them that elusive 'credibility' with modern audiences.

In the event, Meyer was an inspired choice to direct Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which, with a script by noted film critic Roger Ebert, emerged as a delirious parody, not just of the original film, but also the whole Hollywood sex and scandal sub-genre, (which included such titles as Peyton Place).  Meyer captures perfectly the glossy look of such movies (helped immensely by Fox's De Luxe colour processing), with the various sub-plots playing out against some familiar exteriors on the studio back lot.  But best of all the way the movie relentlessly satirises the whole way in which Hollywood liked to depict youth and the entire 'swinging scene'.  This is a film where people really do describe things as 'groovy' and use phrases like 'I don't dig' - all delivered perfectly straight-faced.  Much of the action centres around those 'swinging' showbiz parties beloved of middle aged film makers of the era, usually hosted by pop impresarios like the film's 'Z-Man', and flamboyant fashion shoots involving bizarre costumes and lots of naked female flesh.  Several frenzied montages - a technique often employed in would be 'swinging' movies - are used to link together sequences, providing a slightly surreal contrast to the seemingly 'realistic' events unfolding around them.

Superficially, the film's scenario bears some resemblance to that of the original:  a trio of young women (in this case a girl band) travel to LA in search of fame and fortune, but whilst achieving it, to a degree, also find themselves drawn into the seedy side of showbiz, including drugs, sex and porn.  The difference is that Meyer and Ebert exaggerate every scene and character to the point of ludicrousness.  The band's Svengali-like producer, Z-Man, for instance, is a full on weirdo encompassing aspects of Phil Spector and Charles Manson in equal measures, with a penchant for literary quotes and a flamboyant dress sense.  He also has a barman called Otto who is, we're told, actually Nazi war criminal Martin Boorman.  A vaguely Mohammed Ali-type World Champion boxer is portrayed as insanely macho, jealous and violent, trying to run down a rival in his car and later beating him senseless.  The wealthy Aunt of the main character has a lawyer who is stereotypically corrupt and villainous (even carrying the name of an actor who used to play such roles) while her rediscovered former fiance is ludicrously square jawed and decent. 

The plot throws in every cliche imaginable for this type of film: sexy parties, self absorbed porn stars, jilted lovers, unplanned pregnancies and back street abortions, not to mention a lesbian affair.  All of it is shot by Meyer in the style of classic Hollywood movies, using their typical visual shorthand to depict love affairs, passion, despair and every other imaginable character interaction.  It all builds to a Manson-inspired climax in which Z-Man goes mad during a party/orgy at his mansion and starts murdering the guests.  During the mayhem it is revealed that Z-Man is actually a woman ('You were a chick all along - an ugly chick!') and the heroine's wheelchair bound boyfriend regains feeling in his legs after a death-struggle with Z-Man.  An epilogue features an amazing voice-over summarising the fates of the various characters, ('Otto - an ending at last for Martin Boorman?') in the portentous, moralising manner of thirties and forties movies and climaxs with a triple wedding at a courthouse.  All done with straight faces.  

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls might not be be actual sequel to Valley of the Dolls, but it is certainly a spiritual one.  It pushes the kind of material found in such pictures to the limits of credibility and beyond, exposing the true ridiculousness of Hollywood sensationalism.  It is a glorious essay in pure schlock and, if you can't find a place in your heart for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls then, really, there is no hope for you.  I would caution, though, that pure Russ Meyer fans might be disappointed by the lack of enormous breasts in the film.  Not that there aren't plenty of breasts on display, but they are all of the normal proportions.  (I recall seeing an interview with Meyer on BBC2 many years ago in which he is asked, by Mark Cousins I think, what the significance of the huge breasted ladies who were a trademark of his films might be, to which Meyer responded: 'They make my dick hard'.  Which is difficult to argue with, really).  The film is currently part of Talking Pictures TV's regular late night rotation, so, for now, is readily accessible.


Monday, December 04, 2017

People are Still Horrible Bastards

I've said it before and I'll say it again: people are such horrible bastards.  Especially online.  The other day I was given another reminder of exactly why I don't allow comments on The Sleaze and heavily moderate them here.  I was reading an article (originally from The Independent, but syndicated on Yahoo News) about how Christmas should be banned, when I was foolish enough to look at the comments.  Jesus Christ!  The outpouring of hate and Islamaphobia contained there was enough to make me lose all faith in humanity!  Now, I feel that I should explain the article itself a bit better: when I say that it was calling for Christmas to be banned, I'm over simplifying it.  It was offering a critique of the way in which Christmas has simply become a celebration of materialism, with a vision of the season which only the well off can afford being imposed upon us by advertisers.  What it was really saying was that Christmas needed to be returned to a simpler, more spiritual celebration accessible to all.

None of which is entirely unreasonable.  My main criticism of the article would be that it went off on a tangent, bringing in the author's memories of bad childhood Christmas experiences to try and back up their arguments, which not only is largely irrelevant, but makes the false assumption that there is some kind of universality to personal experiences.  But that still wouldn't justify the reaction in the comments, which, in the main, tried to use the article as a vehicle for extreme anti-Muslim sentiment.  "Just imagine the backlash if anyone suggested banning a Muslim festival" was a favourite theme.  Which, obviously, supremely irrelevant and completely missing the point of the article, which as about how Christmas is no longer a Christian festival in anything other than name nowadays.  (Not that it ever really was - it is a hijacking of much older Pagan midwinter celebrations).  It shows enormous ignorance as Christmas is, to some extent a Muslim festival as Jesus is recognised as an important in Islam - which is why Muslims actually have no problem with celebrating Christmas and actually aren't offended by Christmas decorations. 

But leaving aside the ignorance of these idiots, it is the tone of the comments which shocks the most:  they are all insanely angry and hate fuelled.  A hatred against a culture they clearly don't understand, making it utterly ridiculous. But that doesn't matter to them.  Muslims are an easily identifiable (so they think) 'other' onto which they can project their impotent rage.  Because that is what it is all about - a completely irrational rage which increasingly seems to grip certain segments of the UK's population.  A rage which seems to be rooted in their feelings of powerlessness and some vague idea that they've been 'shafted'.  But instead of directing their anger at the real causes of their peceived disadvantage - international financiers, multi national corporations, the entire global economic system, even themselves for continually voting into power the very people who oppress them - they focus on visible minorities.  Because hey, those with even less power than them, who suffer even greater disadvantage and discrimination must be the cause of everyone else 's problems, mustn't they?

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Friday, December 01, 2017

The Season to be Mystified

Well, here we are, December at last.  It's now officially Winter and the year is drawing to a close.  The season of selling us stuff for Christmas in full swing: you know we're on the home straight because all those weird and arty perfume ads have started playing.  You know the sort of thing I mean - they're usually in black and white, with noise of people on a beach and waves crashing on the shore, while someone whispers 'Rotting Fish by Dior' or something similar over the top of it all.   Actually, there's one with Johnny Depp which continues to mystify me.  It's the one where he jumps into his classic Mopar muscle car, (I'm afraid that I'm not enough of a Chrysler fan to tell whether it is a Dodge Challenger or a Plymouth Barracuda - they are both based on the same body shell), drives into the desert, pulls a shovel out of the trunk and starts digging a hole.  What the fuck is that all about?   Why is he digging that hole?  Is it to bury another victim of his domestic violence (allegedly)?  I mean, is an (alleged) wife beater the sort of person you want advertising a scent?  (It clearly isn't a very effective commercial, as I can't actually remember the brand it is pushing).  Then again, it is Christmas, traditionally the season of domestic violence as people are forced to spend time together under highly stressful circumstances.

But, talking of mystifying TV ads, the VIPoo ad I wrote about some months ago has been creeping into earlier and earlier slots on various digital channels, albeit in a slightly edited version.  Which isn't to say it is any better in this form: it is still utterly repulsive, but, thankfully, doesn't last quite as long.  Lately, it has been joined by another dubious ad for a dubious product: one for Durex gel which, apparently, gives you and your partner explosive orgasms (so powerful you both shit the bed - not really, I hope, otherwise they'll have to be using VIPoo to get rid of the smell).  Now, I'm no prude and, although I doubt the efficacy of the product, unlike VIPoo I don't object to the ad's subject matter.  What I object to is the inappropriate placing of the ad, which I've now frequently seen, barely after the watershed, on Talking Pictures TV.  For God's sake, I really don't want to be exposed to an ad peddling better orgasms when I'm in the middle of watching some creaky old black and white movie (the usual fare on Talking Pictures TV) made in an era before the orgasm was invented, let alone talked about in public.  Damn it, back then men didn't have penises and women certainly didn't have vaginas and nobody even went to the toilet, let alone have sex.  The ad is just so jarring when seen in the context of the kind of stuff the channel shows, I really find it quite disconcerting. Moreover, bearing in mind the average age of viewer the channel is aimed at, I can't imagine that Durex has much hope of hitting its target demographic.

To be fair, though, Talking Picture TV does show a fair amount of classic seventies British smut, during which this commercial wouldn't be out of place (they've recently added Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to their rotation, a film which could easily be sponsored by Durex).  But, at least when the Durex gel ad is showing it means that the VIPoo one isn't.   That ad really is both tasteless and objectionable on so many levels.