Monday, August 13, 2018

Outmoded Sexual References

I was watching an old episode of Minder the other night and was struck by announcement which preceded it: "This programme contains outmoded sexual references which some viewers might find offensive".  Now, bearing in mind that the episode in question was from 1980, I wouldhave been more surprised if it didn't contain 'outmoded sexual references'.  But apparently these days people need to be warned that the past was different from the present.  Most episodes of Minder feature copious references to 'birds' and rampant objectification of women.  Perhaps not surprisingly, bearing in mind his profession, a remarkable number of Terry's girlfriends are strippers.  But clearly what had alarmed ITV 4 sufficiently about this particular episodeto the extent that it felt a warning was warranted before it was screened in the early hours of the morning, was that it involved Terry having to mind a gay antiques dealer.  Now, the sexual stereotyping was hardly subtle - Terry describes the dealer as being a 'raving iron', not that he has anything against 'irons', mind, he just doesn't want to live with one as it might affect his reputation as a ladies man - but it wasn't the worst instance of homophobia in past popular culture I've seen.  Sure, all the usual gags involving Terry's discomfort at being caught naked in bed by his charge but, to be fair, the gay character is played relatively straight, so to speak.  There's none of the high camp, mincing walks and flamboyant dressing you'd usually get from gay characters around this period.  He certainly wasn't portrayed as a close cousin to Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served?, for instance.

All of which brings us to my main point - the apparent inability of many people (especially in the media) nowadays to be able to grasp the fundamental fact that the past is different to the present, that ideas, attitudes and opinions change over time.  I'd like to believe that they evolve, which implies progression, but the fact is that they simply change.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  One of the prime examples of this failure to comprehend the nature of time, (and one of my pet hates, into the bargain), are those TV shows with the premise of: 'Wasn't TV horrible in the past?'  You know the ones I mean - they are full of micro celeb millenial types looking aghast at the terrible racism and sexism on display in the carefully chosen clips of seventies TV programmes they've just been shown.  I really don't know why they are so shocked that nearly fifty years ago people had different, frequently less enlightened (by our standards) views on issues like race, feminism, sexual orientation and the like and that these attitudes were reflected in the popular culture of the era.  They seem quite incapable of grasping the fact that these things change over time.  When Dave Lee Travis was in court accused of variously groping and molesting several female co-workers in his Radio One days, (although acquitted of most of the charges, he was found guilty of at least one instance), his entire defence should have consisted of screenings of seventies sitcoms and Carry On films.

While in no way condoning sexual harassment in the workplace or anywhere else, the fact is that this sort of behaviour was regularly presented to men of the era as being the norm.  Indeed, in the vernacular of the time, if you didn't slap a bird's arse in the office at least once a week, then you must be a 'raving iron'.  It's easy for us now to look back on the seventies and eighties are realise just how wrong sexual and racial attitudes were then, but at the time both sexual harassment and racism were being presented as 'harmless fun', (just watch an episode of Love Thy Neighbour for an example of the latter). But it is pointless being 'shocked' by the popular culture of the era.  We can't change the past.  I'm not really sure that putting warnings in front of these programmes serves any purpose - surely as soon as someone starts watching them it should become obvious that the programmes is from another era and can't really be judged by contemporary standards.  They stand as useful reminders of how far we've come since they were made, as well as capturing a snap shot of a world gone by.  Not necessarily a 'better' world (as those nostalgic for the 'good old days' would have you believe), just a different world.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Give Me a Sign...

It's extraordinary how often we make appeals to higher forces, imploring them to give us some kind of guidance on difficult issues.  It doesn't matter whether we are believers or not, we still find ourselves saying something along the lines of 'Lord, give me a sign'.  Of course, what we're really saying is that we find ourselves facing a dilemma where we can't make up our minds what to do - all of the available options seem to be present difficulties, so want some external supernatural force to make the decision for us.  That way, if it all goes wrong, we can't hold ourselves responsible - 'it's not my fault if God gave me the wrong sign, or he gave me the right one, but I misinterpreted it: he should have made himself clearer'.  This way we can obviate ourselves of responsibility for the situations we find ourselves in, even though, in reality, they are of our own making.  Personally, I pride myself on being a man of reason.  A man who eschews all the mystical nonsense of religions and the mumbo jumbo of whatever the latest spiritual or pseudo scientific fads are.  Yet, I still find myself looking for 'signs' to guide me through my increasing bouts of indecisiveness.

This week I've had received a couple of significant signs.  The obvious one is Google's site-killing algorithm changes which have decimated web traffic to huge numbers of sites (including here and The Sleaze).  Perhaps it is a sign that I should finally just give up on all this nonsense and spend my time more productively.  It isn't as if part of me hasn't been looking for an excuse to scale back my web activities for several years now - here's the perfect opportunity.  The trouble is that I'm not a quitter.  I hate just giving up on things. Besides, web traffic today was marginally better.  I'll probably update The Sleaze less, though.  I've found coming up with nw stories increasingly difficult over the past couple of years and the current schedule can be both punishing and time consuming.  Most importantly, it doesn't seem to translate into traffic, no matter how good or topical the stories are.

The other 'sign' I received concerned work.  I can't go into details, but suffice to say that earlier this week I had one of those experiences when the contempt in which you are held by some of your colleagues is exposed.  This contempt being the result of one's refusal to cut corners and bend rules to satisfy the ego of a colleague who is on some kind of personal crusade.  The long and the short of it is that because I wouldn't bend the rules and my own manager backed me up, someone in the office, with no authority at all, went behind my back and got another colleague to do the rule bending in question, then, basically, verbally abused me over the phone when I told them they were wrong.  For once in my life, I kept my temper and referred the whole matter back to my manager, who, understandably, isn't at all happy about it all.  The point, of course, is that this 'sign' is simply another indication that my continuing much longer in this job is utterly pointless.  As it is, I've simply been playing for time since I returned after my illness, as I've tried to clarify in my mind what my next step should be.  Quite obviously, I'm not going to have any clarity of vision until I'm free from this shitty job and the arseholes I have to work with.  It's just a matter of timing now.

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Thursday, August 09, 2018

All Over?

I really don't know why I'm writing this: nobody is going to read it.  To be accurate, nobody can read it.  Why?  Well, because thanks to yet another Google algorithm update rolled out over the past week, my traffic has been entirely wiped out. Both here and at The Sleaze.  When I say 'wiped out', I mean that it has been reduced to single figures.  For the past week visitor numbers have been dropping like a stone, but today they are practically zero.  Which is both ridiculous and heartbreaking - a lot of effort goes into my sites and to see them arbitrarily destroyed by Google in this way is more than I can bear.  I say 'ridiculous' because, until this update, we'd been doing OK.  Not great, but OK, with a modest increase in traffic month on month for the year.  Sure, it was still nothing compared to a few years ago, before Google decided that it was going to start abusing its position of virtual search monopoly to manipulate search results to favour its own interests. 

I'm not alone in suffering this catastrophic loss of traffic: countless sites have, apparently, seen their traffic (and revenues in many cases) vanish overnight.  I thought that things were bad back in February of last year, when Google shut off another traffic source by kicking satire sites off of Google News without warning (because satire sites are 'fake news', obviously, and we all hate that), then stopped indexing new pages.  This is much, much worse.  It isn't that my pages aren't being indexed this time, it is that Google has chosen to bury them so deep in the search results that nobody can find them.  As a most of my non-search sources of traffic (links from other sites) have suffered a similar fate, it means, in effect, that they have blocked any source of visitors for large swathes of the web.  Google seems hell bent on destroying as much of the web as we know it as they can, as quickly as they can. I think that it has been an intense source of irritation to them that small independent sites like mine have hung on over the years and refused to shut up shop and leave the web free for Google and the other big players to make money.  The fact that they are even prepared to trash their own properties like Blogger in this update, shows how determined they are to kill off smaller sites once and for all. 

But, like I said, nobody is going to read this.  I've managed to find ways to keep my sites alive in the face of previous assaults by Google, but this time, I really can't see a way ahead.  They've blocked all of my existing options for generating traffic.  And don't anybody suggest social media.  The idea hat it generates traffic is utter bollocks.  I know.  Today, for instance, the latest story from The Sleaze was posted to our Facebook page.  Last time I looked, it had accumulated over 700 views, but not one of those people looking at the post bothered to click through to the full story on the site, so we got no benefit from this 'traffic'.  That's the trouble with social media: it tends to be a 'walled garden' from which they don't want you to stray.  So, I have no idea where we go from here.  I don't see the point in spending time creating and posting content if its potential audience is prevented from seeing it.  I suppose that, if nothing else, I'll continue to post about my restoration of that model railway locomotive I'm in the middle of, even if nobody sees it. 

Apart from that, I really don't know.  But before I go, on the off chance that somebody stumbles across this, I would urge everyone to simply stop using Google for search.  Not just out of spite, but because you might be surprised to find that other search engines often (not always, but often) return better results for most search terms.  When I say better, I mean more relevant to your search query.  Refreshingly, they don't waste time trying to second guess what you actually meant to search for, or screening the results for alleged spam, (although, ironically, they are far freer from spam sites than Google's, despite the latter always claiming that its unending algorithm updates are intended to eliminate the scourge of search spam).  You will also find that you don't have to scroll through endless ads to reach the actual results.  So, go on, give it a go, try Bing, Startpage, Duck Duck Go, anything but Google.  Trust me, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results.  Oh, and before I forget: Google, just fuck off.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Missing Boa Constrictor

That boa constrictor pictured eating a pigeon in Leytonstone, East London the other day - why didn't someone beat it to death with a stick?  After all, it was clearly some sort of illegal immigrant - the last time I checked, boa constrictors are not native to the UK - and was busy killing a true blue British pigeon.  I mean, despite often being dismissed as 'flying vermin', there is no doubt that the common or garden pigeon is something of a British icon. After all, what do you think of when you think of Trafalgar Square (apart from Nelson's Column, the lions, the fountains, etc)?  Yes, that's right: hordes of pigeons.  Birds so hated that people flock there to feed the feathered bastards.  Yet, despite the love clearly felt for the British pigeon, did anyone try to aid the one that was getting eaten by a snake?  A foreign snake at that.  A snake that was undoubtedly here illegally.  Where are those gangs of racist EDL thugs when you need them, eh? (Probably attacking socialist bookshops, an incident you might not know about if you rely upon the right wing press and BBC for your news, outlets which seemed more interested in alleged 'left wing thugs' vandalising millionaire tosspot Jacob Rees-Mogg's property).  I suppose that if it had been a Black Mambo, they might have been more interested in beating its head in.  They are probably too ill educated to know that boa constrictors aren't native to these shores. 

But the matter of what we accept as indigenous wildlife and which we reject as 'immigrants' is an interesting one.  Take squirrels, for instance.  Fuelled by biased media reporting, the British public likes to bill and coo over the red squirrel, on the basis that it is 'indigenous' to Britain, while demonising the dominant grey squirrel as a horrible foreign scourge.  It's something I've never understood.  The fact is that I've never seen a red squirrel in the wild - not many people have.  I've grown up only knowing the grey squirrel and have never understood the hatred directed toward it.  It is portrayed as this terrible interloper which has violently usurped the poor red squirrel.  The reality, of course, is that the ascendancy of the grey squirrel is natural selection in action.  The grey squirrel has become dominant in the UK because it is more adaptable, ore versatile and smarter than its red cousin.  The idea that the red somehow has a 'right' to live here because it has 'always; lived in the UK is sentimental nonsense.  It simply isn't how nature works.  An acquaintance once tried to justify their veneration of the red squirrel by dismissing the grey squirrel as 'having come here on a boat'.  In point of fact, as I was forced to point out to them, so did my ancestors (On a Viking longship and/or the Saxon equivalent thereof) - and theirs, probably - displacing the indigenous Britons.

But back to that boa constrictor business, not only did nobody save that pigeon, but the bloody snake was rewarded by being taken away to some animal sanctuary, or other.  Bloody typical of the way these illegal immigrants get preferential treatment, eh?  I bet that it claimed it was an asylum seeker, fleeing from oppression in its homeland.  Bastard.  (I can't help but feel that this whole incident was inspired by an episode of 'The Goon Show' from around 1958, entitled 'The Missing Boa Constrictor'. Spike Milligan was truly ahead of his time).

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Special Delivery

So, the question that's been perplexing me all weekend is this - just how does Amazon fit into the alleged drone attack on Venezuela's President Maduro?  I mean, is it all part of this drone delivery system they keep banging on about?  Is it a special service for Central and South American customers, where bombs can be delivered to any address they nominate?  Or, can you actually buy the bomb via the local Amazon website and select to have it delivered by drone?  (Traditional postal methods are presumably still available, but the standard service can take up to ten days for delivery, so you have to be careful about how you set the timer).  I was also left wondering how the fact that the bombs missed their intended target might affect Amazon's return and refunds policy - after all, if the miss was due to the drone's inadequacies, then surely Amazon, as the operator, are liable?  Can the would be assassins get their money back, or a re-run at no extra cost?  It would seem only fair.

But what if the drone delivered a bomb to the wrong address?  Judging by my own experience of Amazon delivering other people's stuff to my house, if there's no one in, (or they can't be bothered knocking on the door), they won't come back and collect the offending items.  Instead, they'll tell you to dispose of them as you will and simply send another delivery to the right address.  Which, with this new drone bombing service, means that you could find yourself having to deal with an unexploded bomb on your doorstep (or wherever else they left it).  OK, you could do as I did with all that crap that was wrongly left on my doorstep and dump it in the nearest municipal waste bin.  Obviously, that would mean risking moving the bomb, not to mention the possibility of some council refuse worker being blown to bits when they try to empty the bin.  Some of Amazon's other suggestions as to how to dispose of wrongly delivered shit are equally impractical: I somehow can't see any of my local charities accepting an unexploded bomb as a donation.  All of which, of course, brings us back to the drone attack on President Maduro - how do we know that he was the intended victim and that the bombs weren't delivered to the wrong address by mistake?

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Friday, August 03, 2018

Full Steam Ahead


Remember this?  I wouldn't blame if you didn't.  It's been over a year since I carried out any significant work on this project.  To recap, this is the Wrenn Rebuilt West Country I got cheaply on eBay, on account of the fact that it had been poorly repainted into an entirely fictitious blue livery.  I made a start stripping the paint from the chassis and wheels, but it then all got overtaken by events: illness, other projects, work etc.  Well, I decided that it was about time I returned to it and, as you can see, I've now made a start on stripping the body of the locomotive.

Interestingly, the first application of stripper has actually revealed some of the original paint and lining on the boiler.  Obviously, this will go as well after the second application of stripper.  But it does give me something to match against when I come to repaint, (the shade of 'Standard Green' Wrenn used on its locos varied over time, so the finish on my other Wrenn West Country - which dates from a much later production run - isn't necessarily a good indication of the original finish on this one).  Anyway, it's progress, of sorts.  Give it another six months and I might have applied that second treatment of stripper...

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Thursday, August 02, 2018

Conspiracy of Nothing

It must be the silly season - This Morning was giving air time to one of those nutters who believe the moon landings were faked.  Apparently they presented it as a 'debate' between the loon in question and a scientist, but the fact is that there is no debate to be had on the subject: it happened.  There is physical evidence that it happened.  Many of the people who walked on the moon are still alive to bear witness to these events.  I know, I know - it's all a conspiracy designed to deceive the masses.  Quite why 'they' would want to do this is always left a little vague.  The thing which bothers me most, though, is the fact that if we are to accept at face value all the various conspiracy theories out there, then none of the major historical events most people accept as fact ever happened.  Which means that human history has been entirely uneventful: nothing at all has ever happened.  Even if they:they did happen, it wasn't the way you've been brainwashed into believing they happened.  World War Two, for instance: the Nazis were really the good guys and the allies the villains.  Yep, that's right, the Nazis were just trying to protect us from those evil Jews and their banking conspiracies (not to mention the peadophilia).  But because the Allies won, history was rewritten - we're actually the bad guys.  (Trust me, there are people out there who actually believe this shit).

But it isn't just the major events of world history which have been faked.  Oh no, just about every news item you see on your TV  or read about in the papers is a fake.  And I mean every item.  The Grenfell fire - a fake.  The London Bridge terror attacks - faked.  The whole novichock business in Salisbury - faked.   High profile missing children cases - faked.  Even that air crash at the Shoreham Air Show a couple of years ago - a fake.  None of it is real.  At least, not according to the conspiracy nutters.  There's one individual in particular, (I'm not going to give him more publicity by naming him or linking to his site), who seizes upon every news story and proceed to 'prove' at length - in barely coherent posts - how it was all faked using 'crisis actors' and special effects.  If we're to believe him, literally nothing at all is happening in the world.  Nothing real, at least.  Quite what the purpose of all this fakery is left vague.  Maybe I'm missing something, but I really don't see the point of governments conspiring to pretend that things are happening which aren't.  Especially when these things always seem to be tragic accidents or natural disasters.  Obviously the Jews are behind it all.  They're trying to distract us all from, well, something.  After, nothing real is going on.  Perhaps it is the fact that nothing at all is happening - that's what they are trying to distract us from.  Like I said, it's silly season.

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