Sunday, 28 September 2014

A bumper box of spooktacular fun

With Halloween just over a month away, I decided to treat myself and picked up Anchor Bay's recently released 15-disc deluxe HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu-ray box set, containing the eight original HALLOWEEN films and the two Rob Zombie remakes. Having only ever seen the first film, HALLOWEEN H20 and the first Zombie film, this is a bit of a gamble for me, and I'm aware that, as is invariably the case with long-running series, most people are of the opinion that the law of diminishing returns kicks in pretty quickly.

That said, the HALLOWEEN series is more or less required viewing for any horror fan, and it's always been a source of mild embarrassment to me that it's taken me so long to correct this oversight. Besides, this set includes the holy grail that is the producer's cut of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, in addition to correcting the botch job that was done on mono audio track of the standalone release of the first film. (I sat down to watch it back in July and it would be no exaggeration at all to say that the balance between dialogue, FX and music was so bad as to render it unwatchable. I ended up watching it with the 7.1 remix selected instead.)

I'm not sure whether I'll have the time or inclination to do a write-up for each film in the series, but I'd quite like to write up my overall thoughts in the series once I've had the chance to see it from beginning to end.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Try not to laugh when you read this

This was posted by someone in one of the Facebook groups of which I'm a member. Published by the Daily Express in 1991, it predicts what life will be like in 2010. It would be funny if the reality wasn't so tragically different.

Monday, 22 September 2014

You are the company you keep

The independence referendum was a bit of an eye-opener for me in that it revealed not only the depths to which the establishment was prepared to sink in order to hang on to vested interests, but also the willingness of supposedly sworn enemies to reveal that, in reality, you couldn't put a cigarette paper between them. Not only were Labour happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories -- they were also more than happy to cooperate with even less salubrious individuals.

For instance, here's Labour MP for Aberdeen South Anne Begg posing in a cosy clinch with the delightful Dave MacDonald, leader of the Scottish National Front:

And here's ginger rodent Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, campaigning side by side with Scotland's sole UKIP MEP, the charming David Coburn:

Lends a whole new meaning to the words "Better Together", doesn't it?

(Images source: Wings Over Scotland)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

And on a happier note...

On Friday night, Glasgow's city centre was blighted by the ugliest scenes of violence and hatred I've seen in the city in my lifetime. The following day, in the same location where less than 24 hours ago knuckle-dragging Neanderthals draped in Union Jacks had performed Nazi salutes and assaulted innocent bystanders, this appeared:

These are donations for the city's many food banks. My faith in humanity is some way towards being restored.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A tale of two cities

Glasgow a week ago...

And last night...

These two videos sum up the difference in the mood of this city before and after the independence referendum. Thousands of peaceful Yes supporters occupied George Square for days in the run up to the vote, without a single incident. Late on the afternoon of the 19th, following the No vote, knuckle-dragging louts associated with the Orange Order and the BNP descended on George Square. They attacked the small number of remaining Yes supporters, screamed abuse at them, burned flags and performed Nazi salutes under the shadow of the memorial to the World War 2 dead. Riot police arrived and managed to contain them, but a number dispersed throughout the city centre, leading to scenes like the one in the video above on Buchanan Street.

Out today on Dumbarton Road, the main road running through Partick, the mood was palpably grim. Whether people were Yes or No voters, I could see little evidence of anyone being happy with the outcome. With the first of the three Westminster leaders' promises (a timetable for further devolution published before parliament the day after a No vote) reneged on already, I suspect that a great many who voted to remain in the union are already waking up to the fact that they voted for a pack of lies.

Friday, 19 September 2014


Right now, I reckon I feel just about as low as it's possible to feel, short of suffering a bereavement. Last night, we had a once in a lifetime chance to make a fresh start, and we threw it away.

Well, 45% of us took that chance. The other 55% decided, for a variety of reasons that are their own, to endorse the status quo. The majority, I'm sure, did so because they genuinely believed it to be the best thing for the country, and I really, REALLY hope they're right. But I can't shake the feeling that in doing so, they implicitly voted for a future that consists of more austerity, food banks, privatisation of the Welfare State, the House of Lords, an undemocratic electoral system, and billions spent on immoral nuclear weapons in the Clyde while one in five children grows up living below the poverty time. The polls suggest that the young and the poor voted Yes, while the rich and the elderly voted No. This was always essentially a class and a generational struggle, and the working class and the young, as is so often the case, got kicked in the teeth last night.

About a year ago, I told myself that in future, if anyone who voted No complained about anything that came our way via the Westminster government, I would quietly remind them that they endorsed it with their vote. I'm not going to do that. It's petty and stupid and helps no-one. People voted No for a variety of reasons, but there's little doubt in my mind that many of the crucial 5% that could have taken us over the finish line did so out of fear. For two and a half years, but especially in the last fortnight, we have been bombarded with a barrage of scare stories dreamed up by the self-titled Project Fear campaign and dutifully reported, without any interrogation, by the supine media. No threat was too great. The elderly were told they would lose their pensions, immigrants were told they would be deported, the terminally ill were told they would be denied life-saving operations... Unable to construct a positive case for the union, they instead settled on bullying the most vulnerable into voting No out of fear.

45% of the electorate won't forget that. In circling the wagons to protect the interests of the establishment, I believe the Labour Party, the BBC and indeed mainstream media as a whole have completely shredded their trust with a significant portion of the population. Many will never vote for them or buy their products again, making this a pyrrhic victory for them. Already, the last minute promises of new powers are unravelling, as backbench Tories declare their intent to vote down any transfer of powers to Holyrood, and already the language has shifted away from "DevoMax" to "extensions of existing powers". Such is life. Tories will be Tories. But I reserve my greatest contempt for the Labour Party, who I suspect will bear the brunt of Yes voters' anger for years to come. The sight of them cheering and dancing with their supposed adversaries the Tories made me sick to my stomach, and I suspect that is an image that will long remain in the minds of their former supporters. The fact that their traditional heartlands -- Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire -- voted Yes suggests that they are in for a well-deserved annihilation.

In the end, we fought the good fight, but it wasn't enough. We took on the combined might of the media, the banks, big business, Westminster and a seemingly endless stream of sycophantic "celebrities". We put up a good fight, but we lost. What comes next, I've no idea. I suspect we're going to have a fight on our hands just to get the baubles we were belatedly promised. But I also suspect that, when the dust settles and people realise they've been duped, demand for a second referendum will grow louder and louder. Alex Salmond, who has more magnanimity than I'm capable of possessing at the moment, says that the matter is settled for a generation. With respect, he may find that that is not his decision to make.

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. In 1979, we were narrowly cheated out of getting our own parliament. In 1997, we voted for it by an overwhelming majority. History has a habit of repeating itself. 1.6 million people last night voted Yes. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a decisive vote of confidence in favour of the Union. And the young, angry and newly enfranchised electorate that voted for independence last night will still be around long after the over-60s who voted for the status quo are no longer with us.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The final stretch

My nerves are in tatters. I'm having difficulty sleeping, and even more difficulty concentrating on anything other than constantly refreshing my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I'm lurching between extreme feelings of optimism and pessimism several times a day.

Why? Because we're entering into the final stretch of the campaign for Scottish independence. Four days and it'll all be over. By any stretch of the imagination, it's been a long campaign, and yet I still can't believe we're nearly there.

And I still have no idea how it's going to go. The polls are all converging in the middle, with one or two outliers on either side, but all agree that there's more or less a 50/50 split between Yes and no. A poll released yesterday by Survation put Yes on 47% and No on 53%. Mere hours later, however, the situation was reversed by an ICM poll putting Yes on 54% and No on 46%. The feeling on the ground for me is that Yes is ahead, but to a large extent I suspect that's down to the fact that most of my friends are in their late twenties to early thirties -- by some margin the most Yes-friendly demographic. Every day I'm seeing amazing, awe-inspiring sights, either in person or online -- Buchanan Street brought to a standstill yesterday by Yes supporters, or an estimated 4,000 (as per Sky News) marching past my workplace during my lunch break today, on their way to Pacific Quay to protest against the BBC's shameful anti-independence propaganda. The past week has seen the most shocking concerted blitzkreig against the Yes campaign, orchestrated by Downing Street with the complicity of the banks, big business and the mainstream media, and yet the smiling, happy faces wearing their Yes badges and waving their saltires seem undaunted. And the polls have continued to narrow. Scotland doesn't feel to me like a nation that's about to vote against its own self-determination.

And yet there are still so many people who remain steadfastly opposed to a Yes vote, even if many of them do genuinely like the idea of independence. Where I and others like me see opportunity, they see only risk. Where we see an end to nuclear weapons, illegal wars, food banks and privatisation of the NHS, they fret about currency, capital flight and their pensions (which ironically are at far greater risk if we vote No). I understand their fear, and I don't hold it against them. By and large, these people have, in my estimation, been brow-beaten by a two-and-a-half-year barrage of negativity and scaremongering into believing that it's all too risky and that Scotland, uniquely out of all the countries in the world, is too feckless to look after its own affairs. I find that unbelievably sad and, though I know I'm going to sound like one of these "true believers", I'm going to say it: I wish I had some way of showing these people what I've seen. And I hope, if we vote Yes on Thursday, that they'll eventually see it too.

An unprecedented 97% of the adult population is registered to vote. Some are predicting a turnout approaching 90%. Whatever happens on Thursday, we have brought democracy out of retirement. The general population is engaged in the democratic process like never before. People of all backgrounds, ages, genders and ethnicities are earnestly talking politics in a way that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago and is, I suspect, still unthinkable throughout the rest of the UK. And the other side hate it. You can see it in the contorted faces of Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown, Johann Lamont, George Galloway and all the various LibLabCon clingers-on. They absolutely LOATHE this process. On Thursday 18th September, the people hold the power, and it scares the shit out of them.

This will most likely be my last significant post on the subject before Thursday, so I'll say nothing more for the time being other than "See you on the other side", and, come Friday, if I disappear off the face of the earth for a couple of days, you'll know it's because I'm either celebrating or drowning my sorrows in Pepsi Max.

To quote Irvine Welsh, good luck, Scotland, "you gorgeous handsome sexy democratic bastard, you."

Monday, 8 September 2014

The flood continues

Something incredible seems to be happening. Over the last couple of weeks, two of the most No-friendly pollsters, YouGov and TNS-BMRB, have recorded support for a Yes vote on the 18th increasingly exponentially. The YouGov poll that hit the interweb on Saturday night put it two points ahead of No, while the results of the TNS poll that emerged tonight add weight to the trend observed by YouGov, showing the two sides level-pegging.

I really didn't think anything like this would happen. I was more or less resigned to the notion of Yes remaining the underdog as we went to the polls and banking on a large number of non-voters beyond the reach of such surveys turning out to swing things in our favour. And if you'd told me a week ago that YouGov and TNS would be the first two pollsters to show Yes level pegging, let alone in the lead, I'd have laughed at you and called you delusional.

I mentioned recently, either on Facebook or on this very blog, that because this referendum has no precedent, the various pollsters are more or less casting around in the dark in their attempts to get their weighting criteria right, hence why the numbers from the different firms have been all over the shop. I still stand by that assertion, which is why I'm not going to assume these two polls are accurate simply because they show my side in a favourable position. What the polls do do, however, is allow us to observe broad trends over time, and YouGov and TNS both appear to be telling us that there has been a massive swing to Yes in an incredibly short space of time. If you believe YouGov, No has gone from enjoying a 22-point lead to a 2-point deficit in the space of a month. That is literally extraordinary, but shows an echo of the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, which saw the SNP turn a 20-point deficit into a 15-point lead in the final weeks.

I'm not going to break out the champagne and declare premature victory. These polls are the living proof that a week is a long time in the world of politics, and for all we know both firms could be drastically overestimating the support for Yes. And there is no doubt in my mind that the UK government, aided by a supine media, will throw everything they've got at us in an attempt to defeat what, to them, is the single greatest constitutional crisis in the union's history. But this is certainly the most confident I've ever felt that we're on our way to victory.

On a side note, I'm absolutely loving the fact that the Westminster Village and adoring media hangers-on have finally woken up to the fact that yes, there is a referendum taking place in Scotland, and yes, it could mean the end of the United Kingdom. Things have certainly got a whole lot more entertaining since these gormless twits started pontificating about it in the newspapers and on TV. The other night, for instance, I came across a couple of ladies on the BBC News channel doing a "review" of the papers and struggling to comprehend the headlines they were seeing about Yes pulling ahead in the polls. One made tired jokes about rebuilding Hadrian's Wall (which is some 68 miles south of the border between Scotland and England) and lamented the fact that she had Scottish blood in her family tree somewhere and that it was most unfair that she didn't get to vote, while the other wailed "I just don't think they've thought this through!" Yes, because you, who've only belatedly realised that this debate is actually taking place, naturally understand it far better than those of us who've been engaging with it for the last three years.


And, to end on a somewhat tongue-in-cheek note...

I'm not going to lie -- it was my first thought this morning when I read the "news" that unemployed mum-on-benefits Kate Middleton is up the duff again. While I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that she was impregnated by royal decree in a bid to save the union (because nothing unites the four nations like a royal brat, or some such nonsense), the cynic in me does wonder at the timing of the announcement.

There's no doubt in my mind, incidentally, that if we win our independence on the 18th, the next major constitutional cause I'll be throwing my backing behind will be the abolition of the monarchy. An independent, social democratic Scottish republic has kind of a nice ring to it.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Here comes the flood

But don't worry, defenders of the union, the great statesman and paragon of internationalist socialism that is Ed Miliband has devised a cunning ruse to hold back the turning of the tide:

Friday, 5 September 2014

When the gloves stay on...

Keira Knightley smouldering in a recent photoshoot for Interview Magazine.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

People power

A truly awe-inspiring sight: people queuing yesterday in Glasgow to get registered to vote in the referendum ahead of the midnight deadline. At no point in history has the country seen this much engagement with the political process or has so high a turnout been predicted. Regardless of where you stand on the debate, this is a wonderful thing for democracy... right?

(Note: this is not my photo, but I've seen it posted in various places and can't ascertain the source.)