Friday, 15 June 2012

Shades of Shit and superhype

What 50 Shades of Grey has in common with its predecessors, Twilight and the Da Vinci Code is not just that it's unreadable, semiliterate, cackhanded drivel. It's that its fans are either thick or profoundly snobbish. Hyped bullshit like the aforementioned appeals predominantly to people who think they are too good to read genre fiction - or people who don't read much fiction at all. You see, generally people who like to read erotica, or vampire stories, or conspiracy theory fiction are looked down on by those who read Proper Books - or who don't see the point of reading books when the Jeremy Kyle Show won't watch itself, or they've got a shed to build or something. People like this get underwear-stainingly excited over the lamest, most obvious tropes of the relevant genre simply because they've never read anything like it before. If you've never picked up an erotic novel - or ever had sex that wasn't a matter of missionary-position fumbling in the dark on a Saturday night, the mere idea of someone tying someone up is going to get your sockets jumping: bwaaaah! How incredibly daring and shocking! Similarly with films: the Blair Witch Project was badly lit, badly shot, badly acted with plot holes you could drive a bus through, but people who had never seen a horror film before were shitting on cinema seats over a basic set up of something going 'Boo' in the dark, though I do concede that I was probably one of only a few people who spent the whole film looking out for the big van that would have had to have been lurking out of shot carrying the 500 extra batteries those bloody Betamax camcorders would have needed were they actually to keep filming through a week of hopping about in wet bracken. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with books that are not beautifully written: JK Rowling is no great prose stylist. However, the Harry Potter books are that very, very rare thing, a series that deserved the hype. Rowling is a cracking storyteller with a generally brilliant sense of pace (OK, The Half Blood Prince drags a bit) and some genuinely original ideas. Dan Brown got taken to court for having nicked his whole concept from THe Holy Blood And The Holy Grail, and probably only won his case because his opponents were such tinfoil-hat-wearers - mind you, when he started hinting that actually his poxy book was based on The Truth he perhaps should have been made to hand the money back. But still, looking on the bright side, at least good erotic fiction should get a boost from 50 Shades of Shit readers who have had a bit of a, er, awakening as to the power of bedtime reading.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Yes, I went to the street party. Here I am, with my little flag and my big drink. (yeah yeah, received wisdom, not put own pic on blog in case of recognition and/or stalking etc etc. Frankly I look such a rough old biffer in that photo that I don't expect anyone to associate it with my youthful, beauteous self. Yeah right.) And the majority of my actual friends are actually a bit appalled with me. Fuck the Queen, they say, the monarchy are parasites, patriotism is horrid, you'll be reading the Daily Mail next. They do all, sort of, have a point, but so do I. And my main one is, for all the guff in the papers about how We Mean It Ma'am, We Love Our Queen, god Saaaaaave (as Mr Rotten would put it), I honestly think that the majority of people don't really give that much of a toss about the Windsors, one way or another. They just like to have an excuse for a party. Certainly the main reason for attending our one was because the road adjoining ours did one last year and Trainboy spotted the banners and the bouncy castle and wanted to go and join in (but we didn't as last year's was specifically for the adjoining road; this time the lovely, lively, motivated organisers extended the invite to the three roads that make up our little triangular corner). I am, perhaps unusually for me, in line with the majority position: I don't object to the monarchy strongly enough to deprive Trainboy of a good party. And it was a good party, with actually bugger-all reference to Royalty, loyalty, subservience, knowing your place, British heritage or any of that. I read a few comments online from people saying that they wouldn't go to a street party because they didn't want to drink the Queen's health or say prayers for her or sing the National Anthem and I wonder how many parties really included any such thing anyway. We had circus-skills training, fancy dress competition, talent contest, loads to eat, loads to drink and a cracking good opportunity to get to know the neighbours. Despite the pissing rain and the freezing cold - though at least a party in your own street means you can nip back home repeatedly for a wee, further supplies of food and drink and extra wooly jumpers and wellies. I think a fair few of the people watching the boats going up and down the Thames were there not so much out of monarchism as a wish to look at a lot of beautiful boats, especially if they had children. I'm reminded of the fact that a lot of people declare themselves CofE on forms when what they mean is 'I am a Brit, I go to church for weddings and funerals and quite like singing All Things Bright And Beautiful' rather than 'I believe in Jesus and the Christian God'. At the moment, we've got a monarch, and there is something a bit dodgy about the idea that someone is better than all the rest of us just because that person was born to particular parents. And it's only a few hundred years back that the monarch was just the person who had killed the previous one. I wouldn't be that surprised if the whole concept actually dies when the current Queen does: she herself has managed to remain sufficiently harmless and well-intentioned that most people would feel some reluctance to sack a smiling old lady from a job she's done most of her life without fucking it up. But when she does pop off (and it will be within the next 20 years, at least) that would be the time to say, do we really need this much palaver to keep the tourists coming? Or is it a matter of needing a safeguard against elected power-mad nutjobs; someone with authority to step on the heads of Prime Ministers who want to do diabolical stuff? Though you'd have to wonder, if the current one can do that, why hasn't she before now?

Friday, 1 June 2012

On Topic...

Yes, I've been busy with all sorts, and haven't done much on this blog lately. In fact, I've been thinking of starting another one for all the feminism-atheism-sexual-politics stuff, but I probably wouldn't have the time to do that properly either. AAAAAAANNNNYWAY... Lots of new leafleting clients have been occuring, which is of course Good. So Mr Kite's been rearranging the way we work, which has meant the introduction of new leafleteers. There were some I didn't ever meet, and there was Ken, Ken and Ken who were all unsatisfactory, apparently and who have, as it were, disappeared (actually one of the Kens was in fact the partner of the new leafleteer Mr Kite had actually hired, and all of them had their first leafleting job on the most pissing wet day of the year and, not incomprehensibly, decided it wasn't for them.) And there was and is Patience, who is The Other Brilliant One Apart From Me. The latest working module is that Mr Kite drives me and Patience to the top of a road, gives us a bundle of leaflets and tells us whether or not to leapfrog each other up and down, or to take a side of the road each. Then we do the same at the next one, and so on, while he follows us about in the car, supplying us with additional leaflets and drinks of water and snacks. This is less crap than I thought it would be when he originally told me it was going to happen, particularly on appalling roads with millions of steps, because it simply halves the number of steps I have to process. It also leads, from time to time, to opportunities for me and Patience to chat, and today we were chatting about what a basically Good Bloke Mr Kite is. Leafleteering is not a high-paid job and never will be, but working for Mr Kite is good, because he isn't one of those people who thinks that you get rich by ripping off your staff. He will turn away clients who won't pay enough for us to earn the minimum hourly wage. He listens to us when we have suggestions to make. He pays bonuses. He pays our wages on time. OK, all this is the bare minimum you should expect from an employer, but he also does stuff like buy us lunch, cut short a drop when the heat is so punishing that we can barely get up the next flight of steps, be totally cool about flexibility when one of us has to go and pick up kids, etc. It's a pity more entrepreneurs don't get the idea that treating your staff well is actually more profitable than treating them like shit on the grounds that you can always get new ones.