Friday, September 30, 2005


WARNING! This Post Contains Political Content. Readers Are Advised That Symptoms May Include Nausea, Nosebleeds, Myalgia, And Large Amounts Of Ennui.

Sorry about this folks. I'll try and start being interesting again soon, I promise. However, I've just got to get this lot off my chest.

First up comes Keith Shilson, president of Middlesex University' Students Union. Now, Mr Shilson has gotten into quite a bit of trouble in the last week, because he has been trying to organise a question-and-answer session with Islamic extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The problem with this is that Hizb ut-Tahrir are one of the groups singled out by the National Union of Students 'no platform' policy, which was introduced in the 1990s to stop Student Union officers speaking on the same platform as a member of, or spokesman for, an extremist group.

The 'no platform' policy is a disgrace, and always has been. The two most important groups covered by the ban are Hizb ut-Tahrir and the British National Party. These groups are seen to have such extreme opinions that the right of freedom of speech doesn't extend to them.

The platform regarding Hizb ut-Tahrir was adopted long before the War On Terror, when, according to Bristow in the link above, 'it was enough to talk in vague terms about the group's record of 'violence, intimidation and harassment towards other Muslim students, Jewish students, Hindu students, lesbian, gay and bisexual students and women students.' The move was, of course, a censorship of the freedom of speech, proving rather clearly that sometimes it really is better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons (not adopting the policy) than the wrong thing for the right reasons (adopting it).

Now, instead of a situation where students, who by and large still hold things like women's rights pretty close to their chest, are rejecting groups like HuT on the grounds of their undeniable fascism, instead we have one where the president of a Student Union can seriously suggest promoting a group like that, with a record of foul behaviour.

To quote further from the article;

'Shilson's provisional attitude towards free speech is revealed by his support for the NUS policy of 'No Platform' for the BNP. 'The crucial issue is if it incites violence', he explains. 'Statistics show that whenever the BNP does well in elections, racist crimes increase. Actual members of the BNP have been guilty of criminal acts. There is hard evidence that members of the BNP are violent thugs.' He concludes wryly: 'I believe in free speech but also in the right not be assaulted'.'

Whenever people say that they believe in freedom of speech, and then use the word 'but', they obviously don't. British public life is worryingly full of such people. The most pathetic use of the word 'but' comes, as it does in this sentence, before an invocation of a 'negative right.' 'The right not to be assaulted' is a new one, presumably because people have realised just how pathetic and thin-skinned 'the right not to be offended' sounded.

The real test of whether or not somebody actually believes in freedom of speech comes in their willingness to accept voices that they not only don't really want to hear, but actually find morally repugnant. There is nothing, nothing, good about the BNP, but they have as much right to be heard as anyone. Yes, what they have to say is hateful and stupid, no denying it, but people will only realise that if they can hear it. I personally know these ideas are stupid because I know somebody who's convinced of them, and if I hadn't, I might not regard them as quite the force for evil that I do now.

The other interesting thing about this article is its depiction of the political arc the NUS and other student bodies have come on since the adoption of the 'no platform' policy. Student representatives used to hate Hizb ut-Tahrir, now they want to promote them. Why? Well, it all comes down to 9/11 and the War On Terror, student bodies obviously opposing the wars post-9/11, and formulating the belief that these wars were wars on Muslims. Consequently, they're suffering predictable collective liberal guilt over the matter, and showing this in exactly the wrong way.

Let me be clear about this - the virtues students should be defending on campus are the ones they were defending in the nineties, albeit in the wrong way. Those are the rights of other Muslim students, of Jewish, Hindu and Sikh students, of female students and of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Students in the face of the extreme right, because make no mistake about it, Hizb ut-Tahrir are as far right as the BNP. That's a frightening thought.


From one set of terrorism-apologisers to another. Paul at Gagwatch has written a very sensible piece on animal rights protestors.

I'm as much a fan of not being cruel to animals as the next man, but these people really are in a league of dementia of their own. Their latest ploy has been to threaten kids at a nursery. Oh, that's big. How clever. Threatening kids for the perceived damage their parents (and in some cases, not even their parents, as often they have no connection at all to animal research) do. These people are literally the sickest people on Earth, and it wouldn't bother me one bit if they all died horrible, revolting, painful deaths, preferrably having had their legs bitten nearly off in the woods by a panther or some such. Lest we forget, these are the same people who last year dug up a grave in order to dessecrate the corpse. In that case alone, the protestors, whose lives to me are worth considerably less than the animals they claim to protect, also launched a paedophile smear campaign against the ladies relatives. Scum. Utter scum. Further, as Paul rightly points out, 'not only are these people violent criminals, but if any of them has ever recieved any medical treatment, they are also hypocrites.'


Returning to a favourite theme of recent times, these are excellent points about the Kate Moss case.

(via Blithering Bunny)


It's good to see the most ludicrous ban in the entire civilised world being challenged.

The ban, which will prevent the depiction of any actor or actress smoking in any film or television programme in India, is a perfect example of what can happen when health advocates go too far. The need to be what the government perceives as 'healthy' is perhaps the most pernicious notion around today, made considerably worse by the sort of people who get involved in that sort of campaigning. The good folks in my sidebar are also rightly critical of these sorts of measure. As Clairwil rightly points out;

'These people make me want to smoke crack and inject smack into my eyeballs. They make me want to smoke three fags at a time and eat blocks of lard. I hate them . . . When did smokers, fatties and people with a family history of certain conditions consent to forfeiting the right to a life free of unreasonable state intrusion? It is totally unacceptable in a democracy for the state to invade peoples privacy and harass them in such a manner over matters of personal choice.'

It seems that the Indian government are needing of this wisdom. Consider how short films like 'Goodfellas' are going to be. What a waste over a spurious non-issue. Some people are really, really in need of getting things in perspective, and considering whether or not their country really should be party to one of the greatest restrictions upon freedom of expression in a democracy today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005



I haven't time for a long post today, but since I've already criticised someone for a particularly fatuous quote, I thought I'd leave you one I rather liked to ponder on tonight:

"I don't take stuff seriously. I saw 'Hellraiser 3' the other day at Cannes; it's OK, it's a good film, I didn't hate it or anything. I thought it was quite good, but it was all just so serious. Some guy walking round with pins sticking out of his face. I just can't sit there and think ,'this is really scary.' If I made a 'Hellraiser' film, I'd like Pinhead to be whacked against a wall and have all the pins flattened into his face. I immediately start thinking of funny things and gags - that's just the way I am. I doubt I could ever control myself sufficiently to make a serious horror film."

It's director Peter Jackson talking about his early horror work. Think about it, and keep thinking about it, and it's deeper than you first thought.

Also film related, if you have lots of spare time, and fancy a laugh, try this review of 'From Justin To Kelly.' Incredibly, that film, one of the worst I've ever seen - and I've seen a lot of stinkers in my time - has risen up the IMDb worst 100 list to being regarded as only the tenth worst ever. It was a rightful second at one point.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Odds & Ends

One of the highlights of my week is always five's coverage of the NFL on a Monday night, when they beam in ABC's Monday Night Football, and add on their own analysis. What's really good about it is the contribution of summariser Mike Carlson. Summariser is the most difficult sports commentary position, no matter what the sport, even in the studio, and his analysis is almost always spot on. You have to know your eggs, and he does.

Best sports summariser on British telly.

Last night, he elevated himself still further in my estimation, by announcing that 'Marc Bulger then completed a 70-yard pass to Torry Holt, the Tory you can support, who was wider open than Kate Moss's nostril.' Another player was 'more alone than George Galloway at a Labour Party Conference.' That's entertainment.

The reason for all this is that I was pondering summarising yesterday. You see, I haven't heard Jimmy Armfield on Five Live yet this season, and I'm worried the legend has packed it in. Admittedly, I haven't heard every game, so I may be missing something, and the great man might still be going strong. I certainly hope so. His radio summarising, and in particular the fact that he makes Alan Green seem much less annoying, is nothing short of miraculous.

He was also present at one of the most genuinely funny moments of sports commentary in the last decade and a half, when during a particularly boring FA Cup tie between Leeds and someone else, I think Coventry, the tannoy announcer read out a car registration number, and asked the owner to return to the vehicle. There was a strange silence in the box, before Green announced, in a somewhat sheepish voice 'that's my car.' Superb.

The legend that is Jimmy Armfield.

Carlson can only take his place as the best summariser on telly after the departure of Richie Benaud this summer. Richie was comfortably the best cricket analyst in Britain, and over the world for that matter, for years and years and years, and I for one am going to miss his departure. Of course, with Channel 4 losing all coverage, I'm going to have to get Sky. Not having it yet, I don't even know who's on their commentary, with the exception of Nasser Hussain and Beefy Botham. Does anyone know if they're any good?

Anyway, enough praise - you come here for criticism, so here it is - Mark Bright is just infuriating. Please take him away. His voice is so, so, so unbelievably grating.


This article is sort of interesting, sort of infuriating. It's supposedly about the decline in revenue in Hollywood this year, but it always just skates around saying anything actually useful.

The real reason that revenues are down this summer is that the films just haven't been good enough. The big film companies can spend as much, or nearly as much, on promotion as they do on creating the film, but with the advent of the Internet, and greater choice at the box office, people realise a bad film before they go and see it. Take 'Revolver', for instance. It's impossible to walk down a road anywhere in Britain without seeing a poster for it, a poster which, incidentally, contains the claim by The Sun Online that the film is 'Brilliant . . . Guy Ritchie back to his best', but the fact that it has panned by almost every single critic in the country, and humiliated by some, will ensure it flops at the box office. That's an extreme example, but even critical apathy seeps through to the viewing public.

The most sensible comment made in the piece is by Tilda Swinton, when she says;

"It can only be a good thing for film-makers at the end of the day," she said.

"It means that the audience is saying it wants something new - and wants a varied palate as well."

Let's hope that the near future holds considerably better prospects, because one thing is for sure, and that's that this year has been really quite poor so far.

Guy Ritchie's 'Revolver' will flop at the box office - and by all accounts, rightly so.


In possibly the oddest idea of the year, stuntman Jim Trella wore a suit that was on fire to collect his award at the World Stunt Awards. What an odd fellow.

The Rock doesn't seem to know quite what to say. Can't say I blame him really.


The Martin Scorsese documentary about the life and times of Bob Dylan screened on BBC2 last night. Gosh, what a disappointment. Can anyone who watched it, anyone at all, tell me in what way it significantly differed from any half-decent British documentary made in the last twenty years, bar the fact that it was an hour longer, and filled with fellows with slightly more facial hair than usual?

I mean come on, an average documentary costs about a tenth of what this one has costed, yet it does absolutely nothing that a smaller budget piece couldn't do. Scorsese is a brilliant director, don't get me wrong, one of my absolute favourites, but this was a real let-down. I really like Bob Dylan, and in some ways you could call it quite an achievement to produce something so boring on such an interesting subject.

If you missed the first part last night, but were thinking of catching it tonight, my advice is not to bother. It's two hours in the middle of your evening that you'll never get back.

For fairness sake, however, I should point out that others feel differently.

Monday, September 26, 2005


'Cocaine Kate?' Couldn't Care Less

I notice that something of a storm has erupted over a set of photos showing Kate Moss snorting coke. As always, I'm late onto the story, and it's already been covered, but I want to add my pennyworth, particularly in relation to the coverage in 'The Sun' on Saturday.

Now, I'm a man who holds a grudge. If you do nothing to upset me, I'll love you forever, but cross me and I shan't forget it. The Sun crossed me when they blamed 'Child's Play 3' for the 'inspiration' for the murder of James Bolger, when in fact the killers had never seen the film, so I very rarely read it, but on Sarurday it was my only choice.

First off was the opinion column of Lorraine Kelly. This got me, for starters, since I literally can't think of anybody, anybody at all, alive or dead, whose opinion I care about less, but there you go. Anyway, it was predictably stupid:

'Being sacked from her multi-million pound contracts is the best
possible thing that could have happened to Kate Moss.'

Really? The best possible thing? Actually, I reckon the best possible thing would have been for her to keep her cash, but realise the error of her ways. That way, she'd win at both ends.

'She will be forced to take a long, hard look at herself and her
silly, vacuous posse of hangers-on.'

If you want an expert on 'silly' and 'vacuous', Lorraine's your woman. She's on home turf here.

'The bottom line is that she is a mother with a young child and it's
about time she started taking that role as seriously as she takes her
coke habit.'

I'd agree with that much.

'Kate is a role model for young women all over the world who go out
and buy clothes from H&M and lipsticks from Rimmel because they think
that some of Kate's coolness will rub off on them. If these big
companies had stuck with her, the hypocrisy would have reeked to high

I hate this talk of 'role models.' It's already been rubbished by Mick Hume, so I'll just tell you to read that instead, but it's something I absolutely loathe. As he says, 'if we really have to look to a 31-year-old who dresses and acts like an adolescent to set an example to our children we are as lost as “Cocaine Kate”.' What I would question is the assertion that 'young women all over the world' do everything she tells them to in the hope her 'coolness will rub off on them.' I don't believe it, and even if it were true, it would be a far sadder indictment on 'society' than it would be on Moss, whose crime is to get caught doing something that everybody knew she did anyway, and which many other people enjoy doing, not least amongst them the odd moralising journo hack.

'It is interesting that Kate's half hearted "apology" was made only
after she realised so many brands were dumping her. It was too
little, too late and it appeared to have been dragged out of her by
her agency, who are only too well aware they stand to lose a fortune
in big fat percentage fees and want to at least hold on to a couple
of lucrative deals.'

Lorraine is clearly the sort of person for whom 'sorry just isn't good enough.' The woman apologised for her mistake, what more do you want? Public flogging? A life of appearing in 'Talk To Frank' videos? Or is it just, as I personally suspect, entirely jealousy on your part?

'Kate is presented with lottery-winning sized cheques on a regular
basis just for applying lipstick or being able to strut down a
catwalk in a straight line.'

There's no way in heaven I'm going to defend what Moss does for a living, because it's a pointless waste of time that contributes absolutely bugger all to the wellbeing of the nation, but just as she shouldn't be defended just because she's a celebrity, neither should she be damned just because of it.

'Our vulnerable elderly are mugged for their pensions by addicts
desperate for their next hit and young girls out of their minds on
crack cocaine give birth to babies who come into the world already
addicted to drugs and screaming in agony.'

Please pardon my cynicism, but that doesn't sound terribly scientific to me. Still, I'll let her off the hook if she can tell me why I should be more angry about Moss than I am about any other coke addict, without resorting to the 'role model' argument. I bet she can't, since no other reason is given for singling Moss out for blame.

'Kate Moss is obviously not responsible for drugs being rife across
society and in the fashion world in particular.
But this fallen idol could redeem herself by helping the business
clean up its act and by getting herself in order.
Sadly, she's probably too self-centred to bother.'

Where to start with this lot? Firstly, yes she is obviously 'not responsible' for that, nice of you to admit it at the very end of the article. Still, I like the ad hominem attack of her as being 'too self-centered.' Sensibly, Lorraine ends on home ground again.

After all this, there was a two page spread which showed the damage cocaine does all along the line. This much I have no problem with - cocaine does a lot of damage to a lot of lives, and I would be upset if anyone misinterpreted this post as a defence of the drug, because it certainly isn't. What I objected to, yet again, was a giant photo of Moss slap bang in the centre of the page, as if she alone were causing all this misery. Even Lorraine didn't go that far.

On a more amusing note, I see Police Commissioner Ian Blair, who has of course distinguished himself with the Jean Charles de Menezes case this summer, making a typical mistake:

'Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair said earlier this year: "Some think
the price of a wrap of cocaine is Pounds 50 -but the price is misery
for some London estates around crack houses and means blood between
here, Colombia and Afghanistan."'

This isn't the first time Blair, who is supposedly leading a crackdown on cocaine, has shown that he has no idea how much the drug retails for. To quote Jamie Douglass in that article on the crackdown;

'Unfortunately, there are the problems with the policy itself. First off, the idea that his targets will willingly buy from his undercover officers demonstrates a sublime ignorance of middle-class drug consumption. The young professionals he's after don't buy from street corner dealers or crack houses, but from people they know personally, or have been introduced to by a mutual friend. After all, if you're shelling out £40 a gram (or £50, according to him) you're going to want to know you're not getting tooth powder. So if you need a policeman, just put on a suit and wait until someone offers you drugs - they'll be the ones trying to charge a tenner over the going rate.'

Moss practices her 'moodily into the middle distance' look.


In other drugs news, I see that the Times have been fibbing about cannabis.

Still better, it has emerged that police in Bel Aire, Kansas have screwed up pretty amusingly. They believed they saw marijuana plants growing in the ex-mayor's back garden, a back garden, incidentally, used for senior citizens parties, only to find that they were the ex-mayor's wife's sunflowers.

What makes the story particularly amusing is that it took place in Kansas. That's Kansas - 'The Sunflower State.' Unbelievable.

The ex-mayor's wife inspects her sunflowers. Filthy druggy.


I flirted with communism this morning, as I faced two bills I can't afford and the possibility of having the electric cut off this afternoon. A day of pleading with nPower later, and the electric stays, so I'm as capitalist as ever. I'm fickle like that.

Capitalism and cricket collide, with happy results on this occasion.


Interesting to see that George A Romero's latest 'Land Of The Dead' has had a somewhat muted reception this week. Obviously I shall go and see it anyway. Meanwhile, kudos to BBC2 for showing 'Night Of The Living Dead' last night - it was the one I had yet to see, and I have to say it was just brilliant. I loved every minute of it, and I can see why it became so influential as it did. Before that, of course, nobody had any idea what zombies were, and certainly nobody had walked like that since Boris Karloff. That Romero was the first to introduce a horror film in which there is no hope at all is the greatest credit to him, and I should unhesitatingly vote 'Night Of . . .' the best of the four 'Dead' films. Watch it now, if you haven't already.

ZOMBIES ATTACK!! Very, very slowly.

Thursday, September 22, 2005



Whenever I get rather down about life, up pops a miracle. No matter how depressing modern Britain can get, something will always cheer me up. Today, that something was the quality of childrens television. I'm not being sarcastic, either - I was watching a programme called Eureka! TV on BBC2 this morning, and I have to say I thought it was wonderful.

Eureka! TV is a science programme for primary-school aged kids, and it's much, much more interesting thhan anything science based that was on when I was a kid. Back then, the choice was pretty much another papier-mache Tracey Island on 'Blue Peter' or nothing. Today, I saw two attractive and upbeat Scottish lasses, identical in every respect, performing quite amusing little experiments. The first involved standing on a piece of perspex on top of two balloons. The sight of them both perched on a piece of perspex barely big enough for one, dreading the bursting of a balloon under them, while desperately trying not to fall off, was a hangover cure indeed. Soon, I was invited to marvel at the legs of penguins, and how they keep warm, aided by a penguin improbably given Frank or George or Albert or some other flat-cap name.

The best, however, came last, when the two presenters started messing around with a tub of liquid nitrogen. This, remember, is a programme for little kids. Anyway, first they put a squash ball in it, then smashed it with a hammer, and then put flowers in, and then crumbled them. Brilliant! If I had kids, I'd make them watch that. Five out of five. Don't cancel it, please!


I also had time this morning for a little 'Bear In The Big Blue House.' I have become increasingly concerned with the posture of Bear. As a fellow round-shouldered male, I can confirm that unless he stands up straighter, he'll face serious back trouble later in life.

The hunchback of Blue House.


I was at the cinema yesterday, watching the film reviewed below, and before it started, a strange trailer came on. It was for a concert Robbie Williams is giving in Berlin, which is already sold out, but what it was advertising is that it will be shown on big cinema screens over Europe. This seems an excellent idea for everyone to me. Robbie gets to only do one concert, which saves time and energy, and leaves fewer chances for him to make a tit out of himself, and the record company get a way of people listening to his album without illegally downloading it from the internet. The viewer, meanwhile, gets to watch him in a venue where they can go for a burger, a pint and a piss when they choose, instead of dying in a stampede.

Maybe this is a glimpse into the future.


Finally, according to this survey, Britney Spears is the most annoying artiste to have to listen to for retail staff. As a former retail worker myself, I can say that this is nonsense. You see, I used to work in the Early Learning Centre, and moaning staff claiming that Britney is driving them 'Crazy' (arf, arf) need to spend most of the week with 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm' coming at them at ninety decibels. Seriously, it was torture. 'The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.' Worst of all was Christmas, when the soundtrack essentially consisted of 'Frosty The Snowman' and Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christams Is You', a song I still know all the words to, even though I really, really wish I don't.

Quit whinging, folks.

No dress sense perhaps, but on the irritant factor, considerably less annoying than working here:


They Did It Dogme-Style: A Film Review Of 'Wolf Creek'

I first heard about 'Wolf Creek' in Fangoria magazine's review of last year's Sundance Film Festival, and I've been waiting patiently for it ever since. Well, since then the critical acclaim has been pouring in, while I've not seen a single bad review. Therefore, I went to the cinema last night in high spirits.

'Wolf Creek' is the directorial debut of Greg McLean, who also wrote and produced the film, and if this is anything to go by, he'll be making films many years hence. In a particularly trying time for horror fans, it's great news that finally, the genre seems to be turning the corner.

Aussie Ben and his British friends Liz and Kristy decide to travel across Australia, taking in the sights. McLean shows them partying, and enjoying life, and gives us a real chance to get to know the protagonists. As they set off into the Outback, things slowly start to change. At a roadhouse, they're greeted with a degree of hostility, and they later travel on to the crater of the title, a vast hole in the ground left by a meteor strike. Odd things happen here - both Ben and Kristy's watches stop working, and then the car won't start. Getting desperate as the gloom sets in, the trio are 'rescued' by Mick Taylor, who seems a real odd character, a slightly mentally-imbalanced, if very friendly, bushman. They know it's not a great idea, and in particular Liz is very trepidatious, but lacking any other option, they go along. From there, things turn nasty. Believe me, they really do.

If anyone knows where I can get a poster for Wolf Creek, please let me know, because I would really like one!

Wolf Creek really is a stunningly effective film, a return to the days of yore, made in the same spirit as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' Everything about it is brilliantly effective. Where to begin the praise? Firstly with McLean, who has written a story in which we actually live with the victims, get to know them, their quarrels, their foibles, their humour, the first touching stirrings of romance between Ben and Liz. If it weren't for this build-up, the film wouldn't bne anywhere near as effective. According to the Fangoria review linked to above, there is apparently a danger that some of the formative action will be cut from the American release - if it hasn't already, since I don't know the release date there. I really hope that doesn't/hasn't happened, as it adds a dimension beyond that which we usually get in a slasher flick, and if anything, I felt that at 99 minutes running time, the film could maybe have done with a touch of beefing up - I could have sat through another twenty or thirty minutes without getting bored.

Also deserving praise are the three leads. They all give very convincing performances, in particular Kestie Morassi as Kristy in what has to have been the least attractive of the three roles. Two other people involved in the film should be singled out for praise too - Will Gibson for some stunningly beautiful photography, and Francois Tetaz for a particularly haunting score.

From left to right: Kristy, Liz and Ben, our intrepid explorers - and, before it all goes awry, our friends too.

A part of the power of the film emanates from the way it was shot. Although clearly not a Dogme-95 film, McLean takes the best aspects of the films from that stable, while eliminating the pretentiousness and humourlessness that dogged films like 'Forbrydelser.' The hand-held camera works better than I had imagined it would, although at points it really is just too jumpy. By the end, as the drama takes over from the documentary, the camera-work is much clearer and stable, and we can all be thankful for that. Nonetheless, Dogme, though an odd and not necessarily particularly succesful filmic experiment, does have the advantage of producing very naturalistic films, and of course in a horror that's ideal, particularly when it's a slasher starting out with the 'based on true events' premise that Wolf Creek has.

Mick, somewhat unsportingly, carries a sniper rifle into battle . . .

. . .but not after Liz has had a go first.

The 'true story' stuff is somewhat dubious. The film is loosely based around the murder of Peter Falconio, and the killings carried out by Ivan Milat and Bradley Murdoch, but it's not a true story beyond that. A postscript after the carnage tries to reinforce the idea that it is, but I'm not sure how good an idea that is. The film also sports a logo suggesting sponsorship from The True Crime Channel, but were Taylor's actions any more real than they already seem on the screen, then the voyeurism involved would go beyond great filmmaking into the bounds of tastelessness.

A big part of the realism of Taylor's actions comes from the backdrop of corrugated tin sheds in a deserted mining village, the sort of place that can be found in the Outback. Whoever is responsible for the set design did a wonderful job, and I should like to praise them here.

Grim setting.

I shouldn't say anymore about the ending of the film, for I don't wish to spoil it for you. The scenes will have more power the less you know about them. All I will say is that 'head on a stick' really is, as many reviewers have pointed out, much worse than it sounds.

This is a film you really should see. If you only make room in your life for one very low budget (less than $2 million, and not a cent wasted!) horror film, let this be it, because it's one of the best films I've seen this year. Obviously, don't go if you can't take oppressive screen violence, but otherwise, book your ticket, baby, and get ready for the ride!

Running's easy, but hiding's harder - two of the film's most iconic images. This film should be as much of a rite of passage for young horror fans as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' once was.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


'Son, Don't Push That Button, It Glamourises Violence'

I see that the risible Advertising Standards Authority has made yet another absurd decision, no surprise there. Since the last of my moans about them is dated September 14th, it seems they're turning out the daft decisions faster than ever these days. The decision this time is to ban the interactive posters for 'Sin City', the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino comic book adaptation, as it was claimed that the excerpts from the film glamourised violence.

'Sin City' was, incidentally, a pretty poor film, and certainly hugely undeserving of its place at number 90 (currently) on the IMDbs best films list. That's ahead of 'Oldboy' and 'Annie Hall.' Gah. In fact, a large part of the reason I disliked the film was because I felt it really did glamourise violence, and did so in a way that was neither intelligent nor particularly artistic. Just because they filmed it in nearly total black-and-white-but-wait-there's-a-splash-of-colour doesn't mark it an arthouse masterpiece, and for those who claimed it was, they really, really need to see a few more films. It was - horror word at the ready - postmodernism at it's very worst.

So, given how I feel about the film, why do I object to the ASA decision? Well, according to the distributor, there were 486,570 interactions with the posters and just one complaint. I'm not the first to moan about the fact that just one complaint can cause a ban. Why? How can it conceivably be justifiable to ban something because 0.20576131687243% of times it was used prompted a complaint? I was one of 486,570 interactions, and can indeed confirm that all the bad language and violence had been stripped from the miniscule clips they showed.

Interactive posters are a new phenomenon, but this decision should get them dead in the water straight away. It's going to be impossible for the distributors of any film rated 12A or above to consider them now, because a precedent is set for removing them on the grounds of 'offensiveness.'


Still on the film front, I see questions are being asked about the tax breaks Gordon Brown has been giving to the British film industry, and which are now being withdrawn.

Every other year there's much moaning about how the British film industry is going to pot, and how it's become too expensive to shoot here, and so on and so on, yet I'm all in favour of removing all of the tax breaks and grants that Gordon was promising.

There is one main reason for this - grants encourage bad product. The more money goes to filmmakers indiscriminately, the less they need to produce films that are actually good. With no government support, filmmakers need commercial backers, and commercial backers want a return on their investments.

This might sound like Thatcherite philistineism, but consider 'Sex Lives Of The Potato Men.' That was one of the most execrable pieces of utter dross ever made, and was made thanks almost entirely to funding from The Film Council. Anyone who has seen it will understand why this is a terrible, terrible indictment of public funding - a 'sex comedy' without any sex, a complete waste of the comedic talents of people like Julia Davis, Mark Gatiss and Lucy Davis, and an enormous blackmark against the careers of nice people like Adrian Chiles. It truly was hideous, juvenile and embarassing in every conceivable way, but if you're British, you paid for it.

Hideous - and we paid for it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I'm extremely glad I got this tracking thing, because I can now see how people get to this site from around the web, and believe me, it's not pretty. I'd just like to share with my regular readership some of the more bizarre quieries of their non-regular colleagues, and maybe help those searching for these things.

'What have Maxwell and Saskia been up to since leaving the Big Brother 6 house?'

I have absolutely no idea, apart from attending premieres and presumably vigorous shagging. My favourite part of this search query is 'up to.' Not 'what have they been doing', but 'what have they been up to.' It sounds like something an elderly relative would say.

'Marcus Trescothick gay'

To the best of my knowledge this is untrue.

'Skeleton in the closet Stallone'

I'm proud to say I'm the first result on Yahoo for this query, because of this post, which is incidentally one of the worst posts I've written.

'Venetia Harpin'

This is the name of a student I took the piss out of in one of the first posts I ever wrote, and a decent one at that. I'm going to start a feature soon whereby every couple of weeks I'll flag up a good post that I wrote when I had about three readers, which got no comments. This can be the first.

I wonder if it's her who was searching for her own name. You never know. Anyway, my criticisms of her for her 'concern about voter apathy' become all the more appropriate since it emerges she is actually the 'Youth MP for Mid Bedfordshire.' That link is to the minutes of a meeting of 'Mid Beds District Council', and it really is an exercise in fruitless timewasting. Here's a sample:

'Richard and Venetia then asked that local agencies and councils should not discriminate against the young. They should support the young with special initiatives, including budgets for projects, and training. There should be recruitment and training within the youth service, and the young should have a say who they work with.'

What? Young people are discriminated against? Bollocks. Further, what young person doesn't have a say in who they work with? I bet she, and her colleague, are the most ghastly sort politically active person. Anyway, since this is the second ad hominem attack I've launched on her, presumably she'll get her mates to brick in my windows.

My very favourite search query, however, is this:

'Oompa Loompa official dossier'

I have no idea what that's about. Bizarre.


I'd like to praise the BBC for their new series (well, not that new) 'Celebrity Art School.' In a year when the unlucky television viewer has been faced with 'I'm A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here', 'Celebrity Big Brother' and worst of all 'Celebrity Love Island', it's nice to see a programme featuring celebrities, the point of which is not to make them break down and cry or copulate with each other, but is instead informative and interesting. Oh, and Keith Allen is coming out of it really well.


I suppose I shouldn't laugh, but really it's hard not to. The headline 'Sir Paul falls down onstage hole' is an early contender for headline of the year, I reckon.


Finally, Burger King are also the source of unwitting amusement with their decision to withdraw an ice cream cone because the lid looks like the symbol for Allah:

Both Gagwatch and Mediawatch Watch have picked up the story. Congratulations to Rashad Akhtar, 27, of High Wycombe for being possibly the most ludicrously easily offended man in Britain. To quote him:

'How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way – to the right, you are offending Muslims.'

How about not spinning it to the right then? As one commenter at MWW succinctly pointed out, 'looks more like the first letter of the word wanker to me.'

Monday, September 19, 2005


'Well, Nurse, What Did The Scan Show?' 'He's Fine Doctor, Just Missing His Funny Bone.'

I was reading this the other day, and found myself nodding furiously in agreement, remembering a recollection my uncle told me recently. No-one in my family exactly loves flying, and I hate it more than most, so when I heard this story, I found myslef shuddering in no small amount.

My aunt and uncle were going to be flying from Coventry to Knock airport near Galway, on a tinny little toy of an aircraft. They boarded fine, and everything was great, but departure time came and went. Evenrually, the captain came on the intercom and said; 'Sorry about the delay folks, but it's raining, so I've decided to let the baggage-handlers shelter under the wing until it stops.'

This would have been bad enough by itself, but he proceeded to go on; 'While we wait, I thought I'd tell you a few jokes.' He proceeded to do so, and they were apparently dreadful, but the last one he told was the worst. Here's what he said:

'My old man always wanted to go to Ireland, but he never seemed to find the time. A few years back, he was getting on a bit, so I decided as a birthday present I'd take him on a long weekend away in Dublin. We caught the ferry, but the seas were really rough, and the weather got so bad that we couldn't dock in Dun Laoighaire, so we had to turn back and return to Holyhead.'

'Tow years later, we flew to Ireland, but the turbulence was pretty bad. Still, I don't think it bothered him, since he was in an urn.'

How is that funny? How is it helpful? Pilots should never, ever speak on an aircraft, unless to say, 'we're going to crash. Call your loved ones.' The rest of the time, I'm just not interested. Don't want to hear it. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Niente. Silence, please.


Home Sweet Home

Moving house is mostly finished, now. I'm all installed and ready to go, and what's more I haven't been burgled yet. I'm holding my breath. The bad news is that I haven't got an internet connection at the moment, so I'm faced with a jaunt to get online. As a result, you'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit out of the loop for the next few days.

I'll be back fully as soon as possible. In the meantime, go read the places in my sidebar.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Free Steve Gough!

One of those odd, persistent news stories that say more about life in modern Britain than a thousand government surveys, is the movements of the 'naked rambler' Steve Gough. For those who don't know the story, two years ago, Steve decided to walk from Lands End to John O'Groats nude. It took him around nine months, mostly owing to the fact that he kept being thrown in jail along the way.

Steve, undeterred, decided to do it again this year, and persuaded two other companions (one male, one female) to join him. I believe the other bloke may have dropped out, but I'm not sure. Anyway, Steve is facing the same persecution this time as he did previously. Most recently, he has been jailed for two weeks in Midlothian.

I have a real problem with this. First of all, I don't believe for a minute that Gough is causing harm to anybody, and what he's doing is both amusing and meaningful. He expresses the purpose of his journey lucidly, and I personally view his actions as wholly positive.

According to the Melonfarmers;

'The 46-year-old, from Bournemouth, was naked in the dock as he was sentenced at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. He was convicted of exposing himself, causing fear and alarm and distracting drivers on the A701 on 1 September. . .'

' . . . At a previous hearing his female companion, 34-year-old Melanie Roberts from Bournemouth, admitted a reduced breach of the peace charge. Sentence was deferred on the hairdresser, who wore a T-shirt and jeans in the dock.'

'During Gough's trial, 21-year-old postman William Lister said he had been "pretty alarmed and shocked" when he saw the couple walking naked apart from their socks and boots. One police officer told the court that the couple's actions had been "totally inappropriate". Another said that he found nudity "distasteful".'

A couple of points:

1) Is 'distracting drivers on the A701' a criminal offence? Of course it isn't. Causing 'fear and alarm?' Who on earth is afraid of someone just because they aren't wearing anything? The quotes from the police oficers sound somewhat more reasonable - you could argue about the taste of the matter. Fear, no.

2) What kind of twenty-one year old complains to the Police about that sort of thing? At that age, you really should be able to see the humour in the situation.

My real point is this - tomorrow, I move house. Owing to my distinct lack of wealth, I'm moving into a house that has been burgled twice in the last year. It will almost certainly be burgled in the next few months. I would far, far rather the British police spent less time on pointless things, such as stopping drivers going three miles an hour over the speed limit, or worry about buying wristbands in empty gestures to communities who could do with police protection, not empathy, or harassing naked ramblers, and actually spent time and manpower protecting the property of those of us unfortunate enough to live in very high crime areas. My house is more important than Steve Gough's penis, and that's that.

To be fair to the Police, these decisions are never made by officers on the beat, only by mandarin-like Chief Constables and their political overlords. Also to be fair, they aren't alone in this, as this report from Minneapolis shows. Stopping gangs from terrorising the streets, or pulling female skinny-dippers from the lake - what's more important? I know - do they?

Ramble on!


'I'd Have A Full English Breakfast Every Day If I Could, But. . .I'd Be Dead.' 'Why?' 'Cholesterol. Scottish People Eat It. Few Of Them Make Sixty.'*


So, I'm in Madrid, which is all very fine and lovely, except for the mornings. The trouble is, you see, the Spanish don't seem to have mastered the art of breakfast. This is why I like going on holiday to Germany, as they understand breakfast - lots of meat, and they can make tea. If you ask a German about breakfast, he (or she!) is likely to make a look as if remembering that sunny day with Franke the milkmaid in the barn on the farm outside Bamburg, whereas a Spaniard is more likely to simply say, 'what?'

I used to hate tea, but now I need at least a cup in the morning, or else I simply can't function. This morning, I went to Starbucks with low expectations, which is just as well, since what I was served was sort of half tea half coffee, toffee, if you will, and it was revolting. It came with ham in bagel bread, which was predictably disgusting. It wasn't just the bread, which is hateful enough, but the ham it came with which had about 5% meat content to 95% fat content. Now, I like fat as much as the next man, but when there's so much that it won't break, and you have a mouthful of food, and an extended arm with the bagel thing at the very far end, and a stringy piece of fat that just will not come apart connecting the two, then it ceases to be funny.

I did consider explaining to the man behind the counter what tea is, as Arthur Dent had to do the drinks machine on 'The Heart Of Gold', explaining the advantages of bone china, and men in cone-shaped hats, and the history of the East India company, but I realised it would be futile, since all he knew was how to ring up the till and say 'have a nice day' in two different languages. It'd be a nice day if I weren't drinking liquid horror now, wouldn't it?

Here's another fascinating fact: brown sauce is not sold in the Phillipines. I belive a killing could be made there.

'Minor criticism - the eggs were too close to the beans. I may want to mix them, but I want that to be my decision. Use a sausage as a breakwater.'*

*All dialogue from 'I'm Alan Partridge.'

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Revolting Limerick Of The Day

'The was a young lady from Peru,
Who caught herself avian flu,
Her anus exploded,
And her brain imploded,
And her skin turned a greyish-green hue.'

Oh, and a quick reminder for my British readers - 'Sexy Beast' is on Channel 4 tonight at 10. Watch it. A quick question, too, for my overseas readers who've seen the film - did you find it impossible to understand the accents? I only ask, because the message boards on IMDb are overflowing with people who claim they 'didn't understand a word', and I can't really believe it.


Nostalgia For A Life Not Led

'Let's keep it coming,
Just keep it real,
That good sensation is what I feel,
You know this is heaven,
Heaven here on Earth,
So don't stop the music
'Cause it needs to be heard,
It's a beautiful, beautiful scene,
It's a soul, soul heaven...'

*Goodfellas, 'Soul Heaven' (Dave Clarke remix)

This post is dedicated to reader Happyviolet - I told you I'd do it one day!

I never bother reading music magazines any more, because they're mostly filled with rubbish, but the other day a very good friend of mine showed me an article from 'Q' magazine, which was of some considerable interest to me. It consisted of an interview with a band called The Doves, of whom I'd faintly heard, and at the end of it they listed their favourite Northern Soul tunes. Their list consisted mainly of the classics - and why not? I can't remember what won, or even the order of the songs I can remember them picking, and being a dozy pillock I've lost the clipping, so being a connoisseur myself, I thought I'd give you a top ten run down of the very best NS anthems.

10) The Poets - 'She Blew A Good Thing'

9) The Casualeers - 'Dance, Dance, Dance'

8) The Showstoppers - 'Ain't Nothing But A Houseparty'

7) Frank Wilson - 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)'

Perhaps the most famous of all northern soul tunes. A beautiful love song, with a nice and funky beat, and Frank's rather sexy voice over it all. Niiiiice.

6) The Carstairs - 'It Really Hurts Me Girl'

Most NS was very upbeat, but this provides a moment for reflection - a park in the midst of a bustling city.

5) The Adventurers - 'Easy Baby'

The tune that started it for me. If it weren't so brilliantly catchy, I may have never developed this addiction, and saved you ten minutes of your time now. Oh well, too bad.

4) Judy Street - 'What'

This tune is a brilliant example of changing attitudes in society - I don't for a minute think that this song, consisting as it does of Judy trying to convince her man to stay by promising to do anything for him, would be made today. A great tune, though.

3) Candy & The Kisses - 'The 81'

Producer Jerry Ross and songwriter Kenny Gamble were at a record hop in Philadelphia in the early sixties, when they saw some kids doing a rather strange dance to Martha & The Vandellas 'In My Lonely Room.' Ross, who produced Candy & The Kisses, had them make 'The 81' based upon this dance. It was that rare thing for NS tunes - comparatively commercially succesful, landing somewhere just outside the top 50 in the American charts.

2) Gloria Jones - 'Tainted Love'

Long, long before Soft Cell, and the subsequent nine other versions of this classic, Gloria Jones was famous on the NS circuit for 'Tainted Love.' Everything about it is perfect, from the blaring brass introduction, to the furious driving beat, to Ed Cobb's wonderful lyrics, to the emotion Gloria packs into it. Gloria, however, would disagree - she preferred the Soft Cell version.


Gloria was good friends with Marc Bolan, and joined T-Rex, where she was a backing singer and sometime keyboardist. She later married him, and was driving the car at the time of the accident that killed him.

1) R Dean Taylor - 'There's A Ghost In My House'

This is, put simply, my favourite piece of music ever recorded. Some songs just mean something special, and this is one. It starts at a bare canter, and as Taylor becomes ever more frustrated, and the lyrics tear him apart, it speeds up until its racing along at a furious gallop, driving and driving and driving until the listener ceases to listen to it, as such, and starts to feel it, almost be a part of it. Careful listeners will note the way the tune changes for the 'footsteps on the stairs' line, so that it sounds like - go on, guess - footsteps! Genius. The lyrics are so beautiful, they're a poetry of their own:

'There's a ghost in my house
The ghost of your memories
The ghost of the love you took from me.'

'Well, our love used to be
Only shadows from the past I see
Time can't seem to erase
The vision of your smiling face
Though you found someone new
I can't get over you
There's a ghost in my house
I can't hide
From the ghost of your love that's inside
It keeps on haunting me
Just keeps on recalling me.'

'In my mind I know you're gone
But my heart keeps holding on
To the memories of those happy times
To the love that once was mine
Though we're far apart
You're always in my heart
There's a ghost in my house
I can't hide
From the ghost of your love that's inside
You're still such a part of me
Still so deep in the heart of me.'

'I just keep hearing your footsteps on the stairs
When I know there's no-one there
Every day I love you more
So much more than the day before.'

'Sitting in my easy chair
I feel your fingers running through my hair
Looking down in my coffee cup
I think I see your face looking up
All alone without you
Your voice that goes through
There's a ghost in my house
And I can't hide
From the ghost of your love that's inside
It keeps on haunting me
Just keeps on reminding me.'

I just keep hearing your footsteps on the stairs
When I know there's no-one there
You're still such a part of me
Still so deep in the heart of me
I can't hide
From the ghost of your love that's inside.'

The source of the magic . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2005



It's not like I've had cause to moan about Ofcom before, is it? Still, yesterday they surpassed expectations by their most absurd and ridiculous decision yet. Basically, they have banned the 'Make Poverty History' adverts for being 'too political.'

There are several points that need to be made about this decision:

1) The advert is not political. It supports no political party, no campaign, urges you to vote for no individual candidate in any election. It is, in fact, no more political than adverts for Oxfam and such that are seemingly perfectly acceptable.

2) Do you know how many people complained about the advert? None. Not a single one. What is the point of a watchdog if no one cares about what it's guarding? More to the point, since when have Ofcom had the power to adjudicate over adverts that everybody finds acceptable?

3) The advertisers took advice from 'The Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre' (no, I'd never heard of them either), which is apparently a place advertisers have to go to get pre-transmission clearance for their adverts. This is a tremendous case of quango-overkill - what is the point of two separate bodies, whose decisions frequently contradict one another? Why can't Ofcom just decide for themselves. Anyway, why was this decision taken by Ofcom and not the Advertising Standards Authority? None of it makes the slightest sense, so here is my proposal. Ofcom takes the job of both the BACC and the ASA, and then everyone knows who I'm bitching about when I write posts like this, not least me.

4) The adverts themselves are no great loss. They're cloying and nauseatingly pretentious, but no worse than many others. However, it's the principle that matters, and I don't see why Ofcom should ride in and ban stuff for no good reason that no-one has complained about.


In other censorship news, a fatwa has been issued against India's No 1 female tennis star Sania Mirza, by a Muslim cleric outraged at her court attire.

Good looking and capable Sania actually dresses somewhat conservatively by the standards of most of her compatriots.

It goes without saying that this is a hateful and despicable thing to do, and those of us who believe women should wear what they choose should be deeply angry. The fatwa was issued by the 'Sunni Uleema Board', so obviously avoid dropping anything in their collecting tin this decade. Haseeb-ul-hasan Siddiqui told the Hindustan Times 'she will undoubtedly be a corrupting influence.' Something about pots, and kettles, and the colour black springs to mind.

According to the Melonfarmers, 'he said she should follow the example of Iranian women who wore long tunics and headscarves to play in the Asian Badminton Championships.' Ah yes, that would be the Iranian team who were eliminated in the first round.

Sania, who is actually an extremely talented player, recently reached the fourth round of the US Open, and is now ranked in the low thirties in the world. The best of luck to her, I say.



In the comments to the last post, it appears that my commenters reckon four names pretty decadent. Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan is a little overwrought, but I suddenly remembered a photo that proves it a mere bagatelle. This photo is of the names on one of the boards at New College, Oxford, commemmorating the folks from there who died in one of the World Wars:

Yes, his name really was 'James Archibald St. George Fitzwarrenne-Despencer-Robertson O.B.E.'

I really, really hope his mates called him Jim. It would have pissed the hell out of him, I should think.

Sunday, September 11, 2005



I was stunned tonight - stunned! - by a programme on Channel 4. Presented by our old friend Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan, the slimy old git was moaning about the general prevalence of celebrities without discernible talent. Well, fair point. However, he was typically obnoxious about it. In a frankly stunning moment, he was shown interviewing Maxwell and Saskia from Big Brother. 'Doesn't it bother you that neither of you appear to have any talent?' he asked.

Hold on a moment. Let's just pause for a second and review Morgan's career arc, shall we?

1989 - 1994: Showbiz reporter for 'The Sun.' Lest we think that an important role in society, just remember it puts him on a par with Dominic Mohan.
1994 - 1995: Editor of 'The News Of The World.'
1995 On: Editor Of 'The Daily Mirror.'
2000: Was slapped on the wrist by the Press Complaints Commission after recommending Viglen shares shortly after buying a job lot of them.
2004: Sacked from The Mirror after authorised faked photos of British soldiers allegedly torturing Iraqi prisoners. No such thing took place.

Hmmmmm. A real worthwhile contribution to the march of society yourself then, hypocrite? Who the hell is he to accuse anybody of a lack of talent? A man who oversaw The Mirror lose about the only asset it had, the pictures of ladies without much on, to instead attempt 'serious journalism', only to fail every step of the way?

According to the Wikipedia link, Jeremy Clarkson once punched him in the face. Good on you, Jeremy.

Considerably more talent than Piers Morgan


The 'Dr Feelgood' Unintentionally Hilarious Quote Of The Year Award Goes To . . .

Jonathan McIntosh for his work 'Willy Wonka & The Racism Factory.' Here are just some of the choicest quotes:

'They [Oompa-Loompas] are portrayed as unable to survive without the white Western world’s helping hand. Willy Wonka lulls his audience into quietly accepting this familiar and violent idea. In the process, Wonka becomes exalted as a white messiah to be revered and worshiped by the (literally) lesser brown people for having led them out of darkness and into enlightenment and happiness. . .'

' . . .While depicted as silly and adventurous, the right of the Western entrepreneur to take whatever “flavor” plant or animal he desires from developing countries is never questioned. It is just the kind of theft Western pharmaceuticals and agro-corporations have been engaged in throughout the developing world over the centuries. . .'

'. . .Later they are shown "happily" imprisoned inside Wonka's factory, which they conveniently cannot leave because they will be subject to chilly weather and die. The Oompa-Loompas also "willingly" allow themselves to be experimented on, much like laboratory animals, by Wonka as he tests his new, and sometimes dangerous, candy concoctions. Clearly, Wonka has not taken the time to explain the ins-and-outs of unionizing or worker health compensation to his imprisoned work force. . .'

'. . .Moreover, the Oompa-Loompas all look exactly alike, as they are played by one actor using composite visual effects. This is a new invention by the current film's creators. The visual effect is ironic, as it displays the problems at the very core of global labor issues: white populations perceive individuals of non-white populations as identical, lacking individual dignity. In this view, factory and sweatshop workers are ascribed no individual worth outside of the product they produce for consumers at low pay and in poor working conditions, unable to organize, form unions and improve conditions. . .'

'. . .In the context of the present political landscape, one cannot help but draw disturbing parallels between the fabled chocolate factory and US foreign policy in the Middle East.'

There's more, but I'm already in stitches. I just can't go on. Oh, by the way, for the record, the film is excellent, Tim Burton back on top form, and the only slight problem with it is the narrative decision to have just one parent per child, a step away from the book. I can see why they've done it, in order to cut down on confusion, but it just seemed slightly regrettable to me. I'm nitpicking, however, and I would thoroughly recommend it for both kids and adults alike, no matter whether Wonka has 'taken the time to explain the ins-and-outs of unionizing or worker health compensation to his imprisoned work force.'

Willy Wonka and his sadistic group of white colonists continue in the savage tradition of oppressing the much maligned Oompa-Loompa race . . . Or, alternatively, a magnificent film from Tim Burton?

(via Semiskimmed)


You Shameful Leches!

I couldn't help noticing on my visitor statistics that more people arrive here from searchengines by the terms 'lara lewington' than anything else. Here, of course, is why. This was a part of my 'experimental poetry' strand, and I realise that it's probably doing little to satisfy on the grounds of either sexy photographs or good poetry. Well, we aim to please here at 'Dr Feelgood', so if you perverts want it, we've got it.

When did polka dots come back in fashion?

Pictures from Victorian Pages.

If you want good poetry, by the way, go here.


Jerking Of(f) The Knee

I see that this government, in its infinite wisdom, has decided on a new law banning the viewing of so-called 'rape porn,' hardcore pornography which purports to depict non-consensual acts. This has been a response to the 'Longhurst case', in which a young teacher, Jane Longhurst, was killed by a psycho named Graham Coutts, who was allegedly obsessed with violent porn.

This is one of those cases that happen every so often in which libertarians like myself have to stand up for material that we find unappetising. I have never viewed any pornography that was non-consensual, and I frankly find the idea of doing so pretty digusting, but that isn't the point. After all, the true mark of tolerance is the ability to accept things that we personally find disgusting. There are many, many reasons why this law would be a foolish mistake, and here are some:

1) On 13th March 1996, Thomas Watt Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School and opened fire, killing sixteen children and one teacher. As a result of this tragedy, the Snowdrop Campaign was formed. This was an exceedingly well-meaning and ultimately successful petition and campaign that called for a total ban on handgun possession in Britain. Nobody at all doubts how well-meaning the petition was, but the fact is that the resultant law is fairly universally regarded as one of the worst-drafted pieces of legislation in living memory. Not only that, but it has been all but completely ineffective. Handgun possession and crime continued to rise irrespective of the ban.

The moral behind this is simple: laws based around one aberrant case make for bad legislation. The grief of the Liz Longhurst, as with the Dunblane relatives, is obviously perfectly right, and it's understandable that people in these situations wish something to be done. I'd be the same, I'm sure. However, it remains the fact that single cases just don't make for good laws, for any number of reasons.

2) One of those reasons is obvious in the 'rape porn' debate. That is simply that the boundaries between what is legal and what isn't becomes exceedingly blurry and problematic - in this letter to the Melonfarmers, a Home Office official clearly has little idea what will be legal, what will be illegal, and what will be subjective, objective, or whatever. Even that bastion of prudism, Mediawatch-UK, have criticised the law as 'badly put-together.'

3) The production of this sort of pornography in Britain is already banned, and so all this law is doing is making it illegal to download. The last comment on that link, by the way, is very definitely worth reading, as are these articles. This is going to cause problems in any prosecutions under this law, since it will be impossible to even prove whether or not the porn in questions was non-consensual, or merely consensual sex pretending to be non-consensual. This will either make prosecutions all but impossible, or, sadly but more likely, make a it illegal to view a legal act. This is related to:

4) There's no way to be sure of this, but past precedent suggests that exactly the wrong people will be prosecuted under this law. To my mind, the two most likely groups to suffer are:

a) People who access the material, and yes, even download it, accidentally. Contrary to popular opinion, this can, and indeed does, happen, as the Landslide Productions case shows. Landslide Productions was a porn webring, and users paid a fee for access to a number of sites. The allegation was that these sites featured child pornography, but the investigation, entitled Operation Ore, was riddled with problems. Firstly, it was impossible to tell from the credit card details that were seized what pornography, if any at all, people had viewed. The other problem, pretty major, was that it was pointed out that much of the incriminating data found on some suspects computers could simply have arrived by pop-up, or other means beyond the control of the user. Oops. So far, at least 33 people accused in the case, many of whom may well have been guilty of nothing more than paying to look at straightforward, adult-to-adult consensual sex as can be found on the most mainstream of porn sites, have committed suicide. Way to go.

The police will inevitably find it easier to target people who either recieve the material accidentally, or are just a little bit too inquisitive once in a while, than they will to target any actual perverts who take the trouble to cover their tracks.

b) The other group who will clearly suffer under the law are the BDSM crowd. Obviously, in spanking videos, that the act is seen to be non-consensual is almost always an integral part of the plot, yet the actors and actresses involved will have signed releases and contracts beforehand, and be taking part consensually in material for which there is almost always an intricate system of safeguards. Most BDSMers are well aware of the potential dangers of their material, and consequently their system of safewords and so forth is frequently safer than an average couple buying a pair of kinky handcuffs from Ann Summers.

5) One last reason to disapprove of the legislation is the waste of money that it will undoubtedly be. Costs of policing in Britain are already soaring, and I see little reason for my taxes to go towards a foolish, illiberal law like this.


Our moral betters have given us some reasons to be cheerful, however. The news this week that Roberta Findlay's 'Tenement - Game Of Survival' has been passed by the BBFC uncut 18, having been previously banned, is good news indeed. I have no idea if the film is any good, although it seems to have kept some of the more extreme gorehounds happy, but what is a cause for celebration is the continual narrowing of the 'Banned' lists. In point of fact, the number of 'serious' works left is getting smaller and smaller, with most of the works on the list being mondo documentaries from Bumfights, a series of instructional films on the growing of recreational drugs (why the hell were they ever submitted?) and a bunch of films so reputedly terrible that not even the distributors feel it worthwhile resubmitting. About the only film left on the list that needs re-submitting is Jim Van Bebber's no-budget vengeance film 'Deadbeat At Dawn', which enjoys a good rating at IMDb and also delighted the usual suspects. I would be willing to bet that it would pass at 18 today, maybe even without cuts in the lee of the 'Tenement' decision. The film has had problems with distribution in the past - Van Bebber was so unhappy at the Synapse DVD release in America that he made his arguments public. So did Synapse, when they released his drunken answer-phone messages to the public. They also market the film in America with 'BANNED IN THE UK!' in enormous letters on the front, according to the Melonfarmers. Whoever holds the UK distribution rights should get their act together and resubmit.

Deadbeat would pass the censor today. Please resubmit it!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


'Like My Sainted Mother Used To Say - If You Get 'Em Early Enough, The Possibilities Are Endless': A Film Review of 'Unleashed'

Jet Li is clearly an extremely capable martial artist, but he has one major problem in the film industry. As an actor for whom English is a second language, Li struggles with the convincing delivery of dialogue-intense roles. Consequently, film-makers have been trying to find roles for Li that showcase his obvious fighting talent, but minimise his speaking time on screen. 'Unleashed', directed by Louis Letterier, who had only previously directed 'The Transporter 2', a no-brainer action sequel, has teamed up with Luc Besson, director of Leon, who wrote the script for T2 too, on this project. Here is the idea Besson had for keeping Li out of the words:

Danny, played by Li, has been brought up as an attack dog by his 'uncle' Bart, played by Bob Hoskins in a scenery-chewing performance. 'Uncle' Bart is a gangster, apparently involved in racketeering and loan-sharking, and he uses the lethal Danny as a weapon when his other business tactics fail. After one job goes awry, Danny meets Sam, played by Morgan Freeman. Sam is a blind piano-tuner, and with his step-daughter Victoria, he helps Danny discover a hidden love of music from his infancy. What follows is essentially a battle for Danny's soul between Hoskins and Freeman.

Bart controls Danny by means of a collar. Collar on, he's docile. Collar off, he's a killer.

Obviously, it's complete tosh. However, it's enjoyable nonetheless. Enjoyable tosh, if you will. The astoundingly random plot is actually what saves the film from being a total disaster, since it requires such a suspension of disbelief anyway that it's almost possible to ignore the holes in the plot that are so big you could drive an eighteen-wheeler through them. Unfortunately, it's only almost possible. The errors and goofs really are astounding.

Danny shakes hands with Sam upon their first meeting. This might be the strangest part Freeman has ever played.

First off, although the film is set in Glasgow, not one single character has a Glaswegian accent. It might, I suppose, be conceivably possible that Bart and his gang have come from the East End - remember, this is Bob Hoskins we're talking about - although this is never mentioned in the plot. It could just be within the limits of credulity that all of Bart's clients could have settled there from other parts of the country, though this would be the most astounding coincidence. However, I simply refuse to believe that the manageress of the local Spar supermarket would have a Home Counties accent. I'm sorry, but no. No, too, to the idea that Sam and Victoria, who, we are told, hail from New York, would have a choice between Kansas and Glasgow for a school where she can continue her study of classical pianism. You're telling me there are no music schools in New York? Or at least closer than Kansas or Glasgow? Or how about the fact that nobody in the film dies in a car crash - and there are several - no matter how serious, but a blow to the head with a plant pot can be fatal.

Li enjoys some soup doggy-style with his foster family Freeman and Kerry Condon, who plays Victoria. She'll next be on your tellybox in BBC/HBO costume drama 'Rome', a role in which she spends half the time in the buff. Ah, the classics!

I have another, even bigger problem with this film, which lies in the quote I have used as a title for this review. Psychologist and founder of behaviourism, John B Watson, wrote this in the early part of last century:

'Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.'*

This quote seems to me remarkably similar to that line of Besson's, uttered twice by Bart in the film. Watson, and other behaviourists such as B F Skinner, rejected the idea that any of these attributes mattered, since they were utterly convinced that environmental factors were the only factors that mattered in the rearing of a child. Skinner even went so far as to write a book on child-rearing that advocated never placating a crying child, since that would only reward him or her for crying, and would cause them to be softer in later life.

John B Watson, founding father of the now rejected concept of behaviourism.

Nowadays, nobody takes behaviourism seriously. Scientific advances in studying the brain reveal that some abilities and tendencies are indeed inate, and that to a certain extent the probabilities of human behaviour lie in the genes inside our head, rather than the circumstances we face, although a combination of both is a more correct way of viewing behaviour.

Besson, however, seems to be writing 'Unleashed' from a distinctly behaviourist point of view. Although we find out late in the film that Danny has his love of music thanks to the artistic ability of his mother, which in itself would suggest some kind of genetic propensity mixed with environmental experience, we are asked to believe that Bart could train this humanity out of him. That, in itself, is just about believable, but it's a step too far to accept that the Fankenstein's monster that is Danny the Dog would not turn on his master at some point, when we consider his propensity for rebellion at the end of the film.

In Li's rebellion, he is faced with Bart's new weapon, a bald ninja dressed in pyjamas. They have an epic battle, ably choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping.

By the time I saw 'Unleashed', the broadsheet journalists had already panned it, meaning it had a whole host of one and two star reviews. Yet, if you ignore those problems that I've mentioned, and the two-shift gearbox that is it's pacing, then there are some positives to take out of the experience.

Most prominent amongst these are the performances of the three principle potagonists. Obviously, Morgan Freeman is one of the best actors working today, and even on cruise control he can shine through a role. Meanwhile, I'm a big fan of Bob Hoskins, mostly for 'The Long Good Friday', which I consider one of my top-ten films of all time, but also for his other roles, for instance in 'Brazil' and 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' He really is a much under-appreciated actor, and he shows in this film that he can really go off the handle, doing that thing he does where he rolls his head into his shoulders, making it look like he has no neck, so he becomes a fiery, runaway ball of fury, somewhat reminicent of Ben Kingsley's performance in 'Sexy Beast.'

'You're MY dog!' Hoskins is as off-the-leash as Li in this performance.

What of Li, you ask? Well, he works in this role. If he's been somewhat annoying in the past, lacking as he does the cheeky-chappy charm of Jackie Chan, here he comes across as both talented and vulnerable, and he does a fine job of somewhat limiting material, for I really don't feel Letterier does his actors any favours. Far too much of his direction is film school cliche, like thunder storms in moments of tension, for example. Fortunately for him, his technical inability is masked by Yuen Wo Ping's masterful martial arts choreography, which really does shine, and a wonderful score by Massive Attack.

One last thing I would say is this. I watch a lot of films, and I've started to find recently that a lot of films don't hold my attention for very long, even if they're very good, and I have to watch them over several sessions, as I had to do with the excellent 'Million Dollar Baby.' 'Unleashed', though frequently silly, ridiculous and cliched, never lost my full attention for a second. It might not be the best film ever, but it's definitely worth a look, especially for some genuinely smart fight scenes.

*Watson, 1924.


'You Shall Not Feast On Me!'*

I was yelling this, just last week, on the top of a mountain near Galway. Yet they did. Midges, that is. Isn't it just sod's law that the day you forget the insect repellant you'll go somewhere where there are thousands of the bastards? I got over 100 bites on my body. This was last Wednesday, and I'm still fucking itching. I reckon the Irish train them to attack the English. It's a very real possibility.

'Fee, fi, fo, fum, we smell the blood of a colonial oppressor.'

*JD in 'Scrubs', Series 3, Episode 14, 'My Tormented Mentor.' Yes, I am a nerd.


Blogland's other doctor, the yang to my yin, has also had problems with the insect world recently. I think an inter-species war is on the cards. About time, too.

Monday, September 05, 2005


It's A Bit Blowy Over There . . .

So there's been a hurricane while I've been away. It's pretty awful really, a genuine tragedy, and I'm real sorry for anyone involved in it. I see most people have started aportioning blame to various quarters now, but I really don't know enough about New Orleans or Louisiana or that sort of area to offer a comment, so I should just like to make one criticism of the whole mess.

What I would like to moan about is the coverage of the hurricane on the ITV News Channel. This was about the only means of keeping up with the news that I had while I was away, so I learned what I learned (which wasn't a lot) thanks to them. My problem with them, however, occured last Thursday night, when the crisis was still in its midst, and they had a sort of Newsnight-type debate about the unfolding events. One of the commentators was a man called Geoffrey Robinson. At first, I was astounded that the opinion of Britain's disgraced former Postmaster-General should be considered newsworthy, but it turned out to be somebody else, some bigwig from the Democrat party.


Before I go on, let me just say something about politics. I have no affiliation to any party in any country - I view them all as meddlesome gits who make it their business to interfere with my life when I don't need it. I spoiled my ballot at the last general election (there were eight candidates, so I wrote one letter of the word 'bollocks' next to each name) and it's something I'm genuinely very proud of. Therefore, I have no real opinion about whether Democrats are better than Republicans or vice versa. Not only am I not American, I've never even been there, so my opinions on the place should be viewed with all the contempt they deserve.

However, if all Democrat spokespeople behave like this fellow Robinson, then they deserve to be out of power. He was an utter sod - he was blaming Bush for everything, which I suppose is only his job, but he didn't just say it once or twice, he worked it into every sentence. There are sure to be myriads of inquiries into the handling of Katrina, so it seemed, just fifty odd hours after the hurricane had struck, way too early to go bandying around blame. He politicised every single death, and I hated him for it. He actually mentioned that people should vote Democrat in the 2006 elections at one point. How can anybody be thinking about elections when there's bodies floating down the street? And people wonder why turnout keeps going down in elections.

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