Thursday, 25 June 2009

I am not a computer nerd. I prefer to be called a hacker.

Seriously dude. What the hell? I mean I'm all for exploring the boundaries of science, but who looks at a Beagle and goes "Hey guys... these dogs. I mean I know they're cute and all, but I think they're missing something. Hmmm. Hey guys. Guys. Come 'ere a minute. What if, now bare with me on this, but what if we made them glow in the dark?"

Last night, over a glass or two of hops and barley, my girlfriend and I were discussing who should be the subject of the next major Hollywood biopic. Having read that day's National Enquirer she decided that it was high time for the life story of David Carradine to grace the silver screen, controversial death and all. See according to this weeks Jennifer Anniston Weekly Enquirer, Carradine was… wait for it… MURDERED.

(Gee Note: It should be noted that the Enquirer said the same thing about James Brown. And Barry White. And, er, pretty much any celebrity that has snuffed it over the past five years. However this time according to the Enquirer it was those gosh darned Lady Boys that done ol' David in. In an interview with movie producer David Winters, who's previous work includes such smash hits movies as "Raw Justice", "Space Mutiny", and everybody’s favourite Robert Ginty vehicle "Mission: Kill", he claims that a pair of transsexual prostitutes conspired to strangle Carradine with a piece of rope and then modify the crime scene to make it look like an accident. Winters conveniently left out the all important answer to "Ummm. Why would they do that?", but did go on to say that "I strongly believe Lady Boys are responsible. Lady Boys operate in pairs. David would not have stood a chance. They can be very brutal.". Personally I think Winters is confusing Lady Boys with the velociraptors Bob Peck met in Jurassic Park, but there we go).

And it's a good shout. No really it is. Carradine's life and death has everything a good drama needs. Success, failure, a comeback, sex, martial arts, and a real life battle with a secret sect of Kung Fu assassins if family lawyer Mark Geragos is to be believed. Who wouldn't want to see that? Install a half decent director, script writer and star and who knows, it might even win an Oscar.

Thing is as much as my partner is correct to choose Carradine there is, in my mind, a much more interesting life story currently being played out in the media. And no it's not the tale of some slightly bonkers Scottish woman who can sing a bit. Instead it's the tale of 43 year old Scottish man Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome and is currently the subject of many a court case here in the UK. The reason? Well it turns out that Mr. McKinnon has rather annoyed the United States Government, and they are therefore attempting to extradite the chap in order to try him in one of their own courts. You know, one of those strange places where the lawyers and judges don't wear wigs and nobody says the word "M'lud". Various websites, including the excellent Naveed's Realm, have jumped to McKinnon's defence claiming he should either be set free or tried for his crimes here in the UK. Many feel that McKinnon simply won't receive a fair trial in the US of A.

"But what were his crimes?" I here you ask. Oh nothing really. All he did was hack in to several secure networks used by American Defence and Research Departments, most notably NASA, in the hope of trying to prove Alien life exists and that the American Government is well aware of such things and has been covering them up for, oh gosh, ages. You know. The usual.

McKinnon was born in Glasgow in 1966. At 14 he had his first computer, which considering the year was 1980, would have been a pretty big deal at the time (Gee Note: The earliest my family had a computer was about five years after that, and even then it was a ZX Spectrum. For those not familiar with the Speccy, it consisted of a keyboard with rubber keys and a cassette tape player instead of a disk drive. The tapes themselves used to make a high pitched squealing sound when played, meaning hoards of stray dogs would gather at our front door every time we decided to play Horace Goes Skiing). At the age of 17 he left school and like all budding IT enthusiast he was gainfully employed as a, erm, hairdresser. It wasn't until the early 1990's that he returned to his first love, earning a set of qualifications in the subject of computing and working on a series of contracts in that field.

By the late 90's McKinnon had developed a curiosity with aliens and UFOs. Somehow he had come up with a theory that not only had little green men visited our tiny blue planet, but had gone and buggered it all up by crashing their ship. The US Army had then salvaged the resultant wreckage, and had used it to develop all sorts of woovy bezerk gadgets. Such as anti gravity devices. And free renewable energy.

So McKinnon decided to conduct some "research" by hacking in to unsecured PC's owned and operated by the United States Government (Gee Note: Amazingly he managed to do so using an internet connection supplied by a 56k modem. For all you non-techy folks out there it's akin to robbing Fort Knox aremd with only a tooth pick and a small plastic sign that says "Milkmen do it on your doorstep"). From the glamorous location of his girlfriend's aunts house, McKinnon would go through a nightly ritual of sparking up a joint, popping open a can of Fosters, and then spending the next seven hours getting progressively stoned and accessing NASA computers remotely.

By the time 2000 rolled around McKinnon's obsession started to cause a wee bit of a problem. He quit his job as a systems analysts for a small business, which infuriated his girlfriend who promptly dumped him (Gee Note: Tsk. Women eh? Always wanting you to do unreasonable things like earn a living and wash occasionally). Still using his now ex-girlfriends Aunt's house as a base of operations, he dedicated himself full time to getting wasted and lurking around the internet. Going under the alias of SOLO he was successful in infiltrating any number of classified networks. He even started to get a bit cocky leaving a message on one PC he visited stating:

US foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days... It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand-down on September 11 last year... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.

Alas in 2002 the wheels fell off the wagon. McKinnon was tracked down by the UK's National High Tech Crime Unit where he was promptly arrested and charged under the Computer Misuse Act. The case wasn’t followed up by the Crown Prosecution Service however, and so McKinnon was slapped on the wrists and sent on his merry way.

Despite the fact that the British Government was finished with McKinnon the American's weren't, and later that year he was indicted by the US and proceedings to extradite Gary started. According to our cousins across the pond McKinnon is responsible for "The Greatest Military Hack of All Time" and has caused approximately $700,000 worth of damage on various networks. Since the indictment the US Government has vigorously pursued McKinnon, and thanks to various orders submitted to the courts Gary now has to sign in at a local police station every morning and has been banned from any form of internet access. If McKinnon is extradited to America and found guilty he could face up to 70 years in prison.

The thing is that it all seems a bit over the top. McKinnon freely admits to trying to access Military computers but states that he was only ever able to access unsecured connections, using software that could be legally purchased online. Claims by the US Government that he had obtained sensitive information that could be passed on to America's enemies has been flatly denied my McKinnon. In fact McKinnon declares that despite hacking pretty much every day for a couple of years he has got absolutely nothing to show for it. No documents stamped with a large "TOP SECRET" on the front. No co-ordinates as to where the bodies are buried. No photographs of the third gunmen on the grassy gnoll. Nothing. Partly because, as previously mentioned, McKinnon was usually so stoned that even if he did find something controversial he would forget to save it anyway. According to Gary, the label of "Greatest military hack of all time" and the $700,000 figure are simply attempts to hide the military's embarrassment, painting McKinnon as some sort of evil genius rather than the "bumbling computer nerd" he professes to be.

And really it does appear as if McKinnon may have a point. I mean bare in mind that in the seven long years since he was first apprehended, there has been no public definition of either the type of classified information he is alleged to have obtained, nor an explanation of how exactly he caused enough chaos to rack up a $700,000 bill. Maybe the apparent over reaction means that the US government is hiding something after all?

So what of McKinnon's original goal to do "research" on the UFO phenomenon. Well according to an interview he did with The Guardian Newspaper, Gary found this:

"I found a list of officers' names under the heading 'Non-Terrestrial Officers'. I looked it up and it's nowhere. It doesn't mean little green men. What I think it means is not earth-based. I found a list of 'fleet-to-fleet transfers', and a list of ship names. I looked them up. They weren't US navy ships. What I saw made me believe they have some kind of spaceship, off-planet."

(Gee Note: Sadly McKinnon was too baked at the time to remember any of the names off either list. See now, that's the downside of weed that nobody tells you about. I mean the powers that be are always trying to convince Joe Public that drugs are bad for you, but they always manage to do it in the most laughable fashion. Like those "Winner's Don't Use Drugs" slogans that used to appear in video games. Nobody ever took them seriously. I mean sure winner's don't use drugs. Unless of course your name happens to Barry Bonds. In which case you can take a boat load of steroids, become the all time home run record holder, and get paid ridiculous amounts of money in the process. Winner's don't use drugs. Give me a break. Now if you had an advertising campaign that went "Dude! Do you remember that time when something amazing happened? No? That's because you were mashed, man." I reckon it would be ten times more effective. Wanna remember stuff in the morning? Yeah? Well in that case stay the f*** away from the ganja.)

According to another interview with "Wired" magazine McKinnon also found:

"A NASA photographic expert said that there was a Building 8 at Johnson Space Centre where they regularly airbrushed out images of UFOs from the high-resolution satellite imaging. I logged on to NASA and was able to access this department. They had huge, high-resolution images stored in their picture files. They had filtered and unfiltered, or processed and unprocessed, files.

My dialup 56K connection was very slow trying to download one of these picture files. As this was happening, I had remote control of their desktop, and by adjusting it to 4-bit colour and low screen resolution, I was able to briefly see one of these pictures. It was a silvery, cigar-shaped object with geodesic spheres on either side. There were no visible seams or riveting. There was no reference to the size of the object and the picture was taken presumably by a satellite looking down on it. The object didn't look manmade or anything like what we have created. Because I was using a Java application, I could only get a screenshot of the picture -- it did not go into my temporary internet files. At my crowning moment, someone at NASA discovered what I was doing and I was disconnected."

Including the above mentioned examples of two lists that may or may not have been important, and a photograph of something that could well have been a blimp, McKinnon also admits to discovering a bunch of "inspirational" training videos for Special Forces, as well as once clicking the wrong button and accidentally deleting a couple of Government files. And, er, that's about it.

In October 2008 McKinnon's lawyers lost their fight against extradition and it only seemed a matter of time before our boy would be headed across the waters. However judges ruled that Gary's recently diagnosed Asperger's syndrome hadn't been taken in to full account and so on June 9th this year a decision was made for an appeal hearing to take place on July 14th.

And this is why Gary's life story would be perfect for a biopic. Because however it goes, whether McKinnon is carted off to the land of the free, sentenced to serve time here, or simply let off altogether, you have to admit that it will have one hell of a final act.

Especially if it turns out that aliens do exist.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

And so the global economic crisis claims it's latest victim, breaking the hearts of millions - thousands - hundreds - five Australian women in the process.

I'm in a funny mood today. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there was guest column written by yours truly published on Generation Minus One yesterday. Maybe it's because I just read an article in this weeks Jennifer Anniston Weekly National Enquirer telling me that George Clooney has hired a pet psychic to contact his dead pig (Gee Note: Why did George Clooney have a pet pig? I mean the guy's loaded. If he wants an unusual pet he should get a Giraffe or something. That would be a great ice-breaker in a singles bar. "Hi I'm George Clooney. Would you like to come back to my place and see my Giraffe?"). Maybe it's because earlier on I walked past a man who was beating a bush with a stick for no apparent reason.

Or maybe it's because I've spent the last three nights watching consecutive episodes of "Beyond with James Van Praagh".

For those not familiar with "Beyond" it's a daytime television show that originally ran between 2002 and 2003. Since then it has been endlessly replayed on low budget cable TV channels the world over. It's hosted by Van Praagh (Gee Note: If you say his last name out loud it sounds a bit like the tiger impression I do when I think no-one else is around), a psychic who looks like the illegitimate love child of Nintendo's Mario and Rock 'n' Roll legend Little Richard. The programme takes the standard format for all medium shows where Van Praagh conducts readings for a live audience combined with a handful of pre-chosen guests.

What got me hooked on the programme was the first of those pre-chosen guest segments I saw. A warring family consisting of two sisters and their step mother hoped to contact the deceased patriarch of their motley crew in order to stop the feuding. Which isn't very interesting. What is interesting is that Daddy dearest met his demise at the hands, or fins I guess, of a whale (Gee Note: After which his family sued the ass off of SeaWorld. Nah I'm just kidding. The dude was a fisherman or something).

Anyway it turns out that despite the best efforts of James and "Dad", the family fight wasn't settled. Neither was it explained how exactly he managed to come a cropper by a large sea faring mammal. Still it did lead to the sisters turning on the step mother during the post reading interview so I guess it wasn't a total loss entertainment wise.

Despite this inauspicious start to his television career it may surprise you to learn that Van Praagh is currently kind of a big deal in the small screen world. And it's all thanks to a show called Ghost Whisperer. A drama dealing with the everyday life of your average medium, it currently airs on the CBS network and is gearing up for it's fifth season this coming September. Van Praagh was heavily involved in the development of the show and is credited as it's executive producer.

Sadly, despite the fact that it's all kinds of woovy bezerk paranormal, I find it hard to like Ghost Whisperer. It's all a bit too cosy for my liking. I don't know, I guess I like my television psychics to be tormented and twitchy, not bright and bubbly.

Still on the upside it does have the insanely gorgeous Jennifer Love Hewitt (Gee Note: Or as she is known, the future ex Mrs. Davies) as it's star. Now THERE is a woman who has it all. She's good looking, charming, talented, and is a member of a satanic cult that goes around planting electronic devices in to people's brains in order to control their thoughts and movements. What's not to love?

What? Oh, the satanic cult thing. Right.

Meet Diana Napolis. Born in 1955 in La Mesa, California she lives in San Diego where she worked as child protection worker, holding that position until 1996. It was around that time she started posting allegations of satanic ritual abuse - or SRA for short - online under the pseudonym "Curio". Now SRA became exceedingly prominent in the 1980's, largely due to media sensationalism when reporting child abuse cases. The idea was that in every city and town across the United States, a large underground movement that worshipped the Devil was simply itching to get it's hands on your child. A panic spread through American suburbs like a bush fire, with parents asking themselves questions such as "Are we sure we want to let our little Jimmy spend the night at his friends house? I mean really, how well do we know the Thompsons?". The religious right, unable to resist the temptation to cause mass hysteria, jumped all over it and it was heavily pushed as the next big thing to fear. (Gee Note: You know like Bird Flu. Which didn't turn out to be all that bad. Or Swine Flu. Which didn't turn out to be all that bad. Or British Beef. Which… well you can see where this is going).

Alas by the time the mid 90's rolled around the wheels had fallen off the SRA bandwagon. After extensive research, law enforcement experts and psychologists all pretty much agreed that Satanic cults of such a massive scale simply didn't exist. Phew, sighed America, we can now sleep safely at night.

Diana Napolis never gave up the cause however, and became convinced that something evil was going on behind closed doors. She set her sights on various prominent local figures, as well as those who had been outspoken against SRA in the media. Folks like Carol Hopkins, a local school administrator who had criticised social workers for taking children out of their homes for no reason. Or Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor who had suggested that leading questions from investigators could have planted false memories in younger victims. Napolis claimed that these and others were part of a vicious conspiracy to hide the truth about SRA from the public at large. She even went as far as to call Hopkins a member of the Illuminati (Gee Note: You know if you are a member of the Illuminati and all you've got from it is a "School Administrator" position then, um, maybe you might want to think about joining another group. You know one that isn't run by 9 ft tall shape shifting alien lizards. The Masons perhaps? I mean outside of that business with Jack the Ripper, they seem like an ok bunch of guys). According to Napolis, it was people like these that had caused any number of children to be used for sick and twisted activities.

This lasted until the year 2000 when Napolis, who in an effort to conceal her identity had been using public computers and libraries with which to submit her accusations, was caught in the act by San Diego State University Security using one of their online labs. Despite a mountain of libellous claims against her name, amazingly no charges were filed against Napolis. The groups and individuals targeted felt a lot safer knowing that their harasser was a bonkers middle aged woman however.

And here's where it gets fascinating.

In October 2001 Oscar winning movie maker and Hollywood power player Steven Spielberg filed an injunction against a stalker. This individual had been making unsolicited phone calls to Spielberg claiming that he was the leader of a Satanic cult that had it's HQ in his own basement. This person also claimed that they had been abducted by Spielberg and had a microchip implanted in their brain called "Soulcatcher" which was used to control her thoughts and bodily functions. Spielberg, quite understandably freaked out by all of this, went to court and got a restraining order against the stalker preventing them from coming within 150 meters of him or his family. Upon the conclusion of the judges decision his lawyer read out a statement on behalf of Spielberg:

"To state the obvious, I am not involved with any form of manipulating [the stalker's] mind or body through remote technology or otherwise." (Gee Note: Notice he didn't deny being a member of an evil Satanic cult? Hey, I'm just saying. Perhaps being too busy sacrificing goats and what not is the reason the dude hasn't made a decent movie for the past 15 years).

"But who was this mystery stalker?" I hear you cry. Well, in a twist I'm pretty sure none of you will have seen coming, her name is… Diana Napolis.

I know. I'll give you a minute to get your breath back.

Probably thinking that she had bitten off more than she could chew with the powerful and bearded Spielberg, Napolis switched her attack to the less powerful but infinitely better looking Jennifer Love Hewitt. Thinking that Hewitt had in some way also been involved with embedding a piece of hi-tec kit in her cranium, she decided that a more personal touch was required. Therefore when in July 2002 Hewitt was scheduled for a radio interview in San Diego, Napolis had the good sense to greet her outside with a "verbal confrontation". A scuffle then broke out between Napolis and Hewitt's mother Pat (Gee Note: I don't what I like best. That Jennifer takes her mum to interviews with her or that my future mother-in-law is willing to throw down at the drop of a hat).

Fast forward a couple of months to the night of the Grammy Awards. As Jennifer was entering the theatre a frantic Napolis was in the crowd shouting "Murderer! Killer! Skankhole, you are killing me!" (Gee Note: They must have been wearing the same dress. Ooooh. Awkward).

Finally things came to a head in October. Napolis sent an email to the webmaster of a Jennifer Love Hewitt internet fan site. The webmaster, a guy name Jim Allen Max, opened his inbox to find a “personal note” to Hewitt that read "I plan to kill you at the first opportunity to do so and I hope you die a torturous death.”. She then addressed Max directly with a charming "Jim, I'm quite serious, this is really a death threat. I want you to report it to the police or FBI because this is an Internet crime. I plan on firing a gun at her heart and not missing. The reason for that is she is torturing me. I am in extreme physical pain."

Now Max, being an astute sort of chap, took one look at this and promptly called the FBI. The FBI, being astute sorts of chaps, took one look at this and promptly went “Holy shit! This lady’s crazy!”. And so they arrested her. Napolis was charged with six felonies relating to the harassment of Hewitt. However thinking that she was as nutty as a fruitcake, the judge decided to confine Napolis to Patton State Hospital until she was deemed mentally competent to stand trial.

In what, quite frankly, is a bizarre decision Patton State concluded after five months that while Napolis was barking, she was also fit enough for the court. After entering a guilty plea Napolis was given five years probation, and was also ordered to keep taking her medication. Oh and to stay off the internet.

In a completely unrelated note. Here’s an extract from Diana Napolis’s blog.

Updated June 12 2009


(Gee Note: Update - Between the time it took to start and finish writing this post the above section was removed from Napolis website. Which makes me very glad I took the time to copy and paste it. Go me.)

I was placed in an illegal Cybertronics program which included experiments in Robotization, Computer-Brain Interface, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. After I was used as a science project without my consent, this same technology was used to take the interior of my body apart in an experiment to see if these Quantum-computers could demanifest natural bodily codes or barriers, including the astral body. On several occasions Locklin placed me in a “field” of some type for purposes of harassment which caused my spine and jaw to move back and forth in a fluid motion. There were several successful attempts to destroy my mind. Afterwards they subliminally progamed my subconscious and superconscious with a word association program so that I would think the opposite of my intention. For instance, when I intended to think a word like “go,” it would come out as "stop".

In 2002, shortly after I was targeted and victimized by obscure quantum computer technology which makes it possible for synthetic telepathy to occur, I purposely wrote a "threat" to Jennifer Hewitt after my perpetrators made me believe that she was involved, and after "she" maliciously abused me and in fact did me considerable physical damage. At one time, I had metaphysical phenomenon surrounding me and the person imitating her was very jealous of this fact.

My perpetrators, and "Hewitt," eventually said they were going to irrevocably injure me so I had myself placed in the custody of law enforcement for my own protection. I spent a year in jail and was monitored by probation for 5 years. Because my perpetrators caused me endless trouble while I was on probation, I requested and was granted an early release in mid 2008.

On May 11, 2008 representatives from the FBI and District Attorney’s office visited my home and warned me that Jim Mix, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s web master, had made a "threat" against me. I am somewhat confused as to why Jennifer Hewitt’s people would be involved since until 3 days ago I did not mention her on this web page. I hope that Ms. Hewitt and those that surround her will continue to be law abiding as I have reason to be concerned for my safety.

(Gee Note: Despite the initial ruling Napolis was allowed back on to the interwebz last year. Because, you know, she might have changed right? No wonder Hewitt looks like she put on a bit of weight recently. That’s not over eating. That’s protection).

So here we go again. And really at this point we only have two choices. Either to believe Napolis. Or to hope to God she gets the help she needs.

Now if you’ll excuse I’m off to practice sleeping while wearing a motorcycle helmet. Just in case… you know… when me and Jen are married… she falls in to old habits.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


I'm officially looking for another country to migrate to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of being British. I love the quaint little things that make our nation so great. Our obsession with the weather (Gee Note: Despite the fact that inevitably the forecast will say "Sorry guys. It's gonna rain again" we all still tune in regardless. Clutching to that ray of hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll see some of that "Sunshine" them folks in Florida seem to enjoy so much). The idea that any problem can be sorted out with a nice cup of tea and a couple of garibaldis. Full English breakfasts. There really is a lot to love about this wee island.

But over the past weekend I've kind of lost all confidence in our public at large. The reason? Well, not to beat around the bush, the BNP's recent election to the European Parliament has made me question just what has become of this country.

For our overseas readers who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to explain. This weekend the European Union held it's 5 year vote to elect it‘s parliament. Basically members of the public get to choose which party they want to represent them on a continental basis. Considering that as far as Britain is concerned the EP is the highest level of law in the land, it's a pretty big deal.

This year's vote has been marked with controversy as Labour, Britain's current ruling political party, has spectacularly self imploded with cabinet ministers resigning from their positions left, right, and centre. Add to that the growing concern over the global economic crisis, and the recent uproar over MP's expense claims (Gee Note: Including one politician who used tax payer's money to employ someone to clean his moat. No really, a moat. It would be quite funny had he not used my bloody money to do it with), and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under severe pressure to quit his post and cause a snap general election.

Like rats leaving a sinking ship support for the Labour party has vanished in the polls, leaving other parties to pick up these floating voters. Rather than all switching allegiance to one particular group however, the collapse of Labour has effectively split the vote meaning less popular parties such as independent candidates and The Green Party have benefited.

Unfortunately it also means the BNP have gained two seats in the EP. The BNP, or British National Party, are the dark side of the political process. A party so far established on the right wing that they could share hair care tips with gremlins, they campaign against any "non-white" immigration to the United Kingdom. To this end they point blank refuse to allow black people to join the party, claiming that membership should be reserved for the "indigenous British population" (Gee Note: So barbaric Celts and, er, Germans then?). In it's defence the BNP on it's website lists a series of organisations that are primarily ethnic orientated groups such as the "Southwark Black Heritage Organisation" and the "National Black Police Association". The argument is that these groups require you to have a certain skin colour to join them, so why not a group for all whites?

The difference of course being that should the "Southwark Black Heritage Organisation" form a political party and get voted in to government their not going to extradite every single white person from this nation and dump them in the middle of the Congo. In fact they're much more likely to politely ask if, you know, black people could get paid the same as white people for doing the same job.

The leader of the BNP is a chap named Nick Griffin. In 1998 Griffin edited an anti-Semitic magazine called The Rune in which he called the Holocaust "the Holohoax". Seven years later in 2005 he was caught on camera by a BBC documentary calling Islam a "wicked and vicious faith". Following that tour de force he was interviewed on Newsnight in 2008 where he blamed Pakistani immigrants for the country's hard drug problems (Gee Note: Curiously all the drug dealers I've ever met in Swansea have been white. Not that I've met that many you understand. But, you know, if The Wire was based here then Idris Elba would be out of a job). This past week Griffin was one of those two members of the BNP elected to European office. His appointment has been met with, well, scenes like this:

The idea that this man, a man who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred, now represents Britain on a continental stage is enough to make me feel sick to my stomach. Hence my decision to get the hell out of this country as quickly as possible. But there in lies the problem. If not here, then where?

I mean I guess I could always go to Australia. If the daytime soap Neighbours is to be believed I'll end up moving in to a street where I'll get along fabulously with everyone, until a previously undiscovered talent for singing will surface and I'll become a pop star overnight (Gee Note: Seriously they've done this story line like 5 times in the past three years). Or America where I can buy a cowboy hat, a pair of spurs, a mask and live out a boyhood dream by getting thrown into a nut house fighting crime and righting wrongs.

But to tell you the truth the stand out candidate so far is Sweden. For a couple of reasons actually. Firstly their most controversial nomination for the EP was a group known as “The Pirate Party”. Sadly this does not constitute a political movement advocating the rights of people who wear eye patches and say “Yaaaaaarrr” an awful lot. Instead it’s a protest against the recent prosecution of everyone’s favourite modern day Robin Hoods - Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm, and Fredrik Neij - owners and operators of The Pirate Bay.

Secondly I really like meatballs.

Thirdly there’s the Storsjöodjuret.

Meet Carina Johnson. On 10th August 1983 Carina took her boat out in the Swedish Lake Storsjön for some larks in the summer sun no doubt. Anyway you guys probably know the drill by now, but for those who don't she was splashing around minding her own business something very peculiar happened. Says Johnson, "Suddenly I saw something that looked like birds about to take off, far out into the lake. They looked like three white gulls moving towards Östersund at an incredible we came closer it changed direction away from us and then suddenly the water became still and calm. I had a feeling that the thing was relatively large, and what struck me afterwards was that it moved so fast.". Obviously an astute lass, Carina remembered she had brought a camera with her and immediately snapped the following pic.

This is only the latest in any number of sightings reported from the lake over the years. Throughout the 18th and 19th Century all sorts of folk, from peasants to vicars to local squires claimed to have spotted something in them there waters. But what did they see exactly?

Well according to Anna Rahm who saw a similar disturbance in the water on 12th August 1947 (Gee Note: Obviously a summer beast this one) it’s about "3 metres long and grey like an elephant with a smooth, hard skin. Its head was as big as a jug and its back was dented in places. In its terrifying and wide mouth its tongue moved up and down in a threatening manner; its eyes rolled, as I've said and its ears were large and stood out. It seemed to have a large, powerful tail. We only saw the upper part of it but its back was wide and it wasn't a serpent as has been said earlier. That I'm sure."

Sightings generally agree that the Storsjöodjuret (Gee Note: Loosely translated as “Whoa dude, did you see that?”. Nah not really. It means “Monster”) is a reptile with fins on it’s back and the head of the dog. Which for lake monsters is pretty mundane. I mean if the Lake Worth Monster can be part goat, man, and fish all at the same time a large mutt faced eel isn’t really all that fanciful. So what is it that makes Storsie so special?

Well nothing really. Except that in 1986 the Jämtland county administrative board listed Storsjöodjuret as an endangered species. No really, they did. It was later reclassified in 2005 as, er, not endangered due to the fact that it might not actually exist in the first place (Gee Note: I can only imagine the debate. “Has anyone ever really PROVED that Pandas exist?” “Well yes Bjorn. Yes they have.” “What? Really? Oh. OK then. Take it off the list.”). Regardless a mythical lake creature was considered worth saving by the local governing body for 19 years.

And really, when given the choice between one country that will elect racists to high office, and another country that will spend 19 years classifying a possibly fictional beast as “at risk”, I know where I’d rather live.

I wonder how you say “dude” in Swedish?

Friday, 5 June 2009

My whole body is an engine. This is a fireplug and I'm gonna light him up.

As anyone who has read this blog for more than two posts will know, I watch an awful lot of movies and television. In fact I'm kinda like Mike Teavee out of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Except I've never had a fantasy about pumping someone full of lead. Nor have I ever been shrunk to one inch in height. Nor have I ever found a Golden Ticket and been invited to a creepy old man's business where a bunch of orange faced midgets victimise me while singing inappropriate, jaunty tunes. So really I'm nothing like Mike Teavee. But I do watch a hell of a lot of television.

The problem is that a lot of stuff that I watch has now either finished for the season or shuffled off this mortal coil all together. Shows that I've developed an almost religious love for such as Lost (Gee Note: By the way, did anyone else get the feeling that the writers of Lost had kinda painted themselves in to a corner by the end of the last series? "Jack, were stuck in 1977. How are we going to get back to 2007?" "Ummmm. Gosh I don't know. Hey how about we blow ourselves up with a Hydrogen bomb?" "Dude, why did we ever make you the leader?") have come to a close, leaving me at a loose end.

It also means that American Idol has departed our screens for another year. Now I should probably mention at this point that I have a soft spot for "Reality TV". No really I do. As long as it's not one of those contrived celebrity programmes along the lines of "At Home With Some Random Z list Former TV Star/Musician/Wrestler who was famous in 1980's but now… no… not so much" then I'll quite happily watch it. I don't know. I guess I'm just a sucker for ordinary people making a success of themselves, which deep down is what all reality TV should be about.

So it should come as no surprise that I like American Idol. Or at least I did. Over the past couple of years my enthusiasm for it has tapered somewhat. A combination of lack lustre performances, as well as the American public's insanity when it comes to deciding who has talent and who doesn't, has left me feeling a tad under whelmed with the competition.

Obviously I'm not the only one, as this year American Idol introduced a raft of changes to the format. This included introducing a fourth judge in Kara Dia… Diu… Digor… Kara the song writing lady, as well as a wild card round, and allowing the judges to keep hold of a contestant they felt was booted out too early. Also Paula Abdul seems to have consumed less bourbon changed her on air style so that now she says things like "I think that the showmanship and musical skills you bring to the stage transport us and the audience to a wonderful fantasy land". Which is still all kinds of crazy, but slightly less confusing than "What I see… is… you know… like a mouse… that needs to be eaten by a hawk".

Still all those changes amounted to less than a hill o' beans in the end, as the most recent American Idol finale drew it's lowest ratings since the very first season 8 long years ago. The reason? Well truth be told no amount of format tweaks or bells and whistles would have been enough to prop up this flagging horse. Because if we're honest the competition lives and dies by it's contestant's ability to put on a good show. And this year they simply didn't.

That's not to say they weren't a talented bunch. They were of course. But out of the four most gifted Idol hopefuls, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds, and Allison Iraheta, only Lambert made it to the final. Gokey, who's dead wife and gravely voice made him ideal for singing slushy ballads, was undone when they tried to make him dance in the semi-final. Iraheta was killed off the week before when nobody bothered to pull her to one side and tell her that although "Cry Baby" is a great record A) Very few members of the public have actually heard of the song before and B) Nobody should try and out sing Janis Joplin. Because if you do then, let's face it, you're bound to come off second best. Rounds didn't even get the chance to hit her comfort zone, having been voted off during "Disco" week. I don't know if you can imagine what Erma Franklin would sound like belting out Bee Gee tunes but, trust me, it wasn't pretty.

The rest of the contestants, including the eventual winner Kris Something-or-other, where so lifeless and in some cases out of tune that they could have very easily been replaced with a set of toasters and nobody would have noticed the difference. No really, by the time week 4 rolled around wading through the droning wails of Kris and co for an hour and half became a chore. By week six, it was practically unbearable. Amazingly it appears the voting public took perverse pleasure in having their eardrums assaulted as certain members of the toaster club lasted long past their sell by date. Conversely dear Lil was pretty much voted out at the first given opportunity.

Still maybe I shouldn't be too harsh on the contestants of American Idol. After all they did have to put up with (Gee Note: Randy Jackson. Seriously is that guy stuck in his own private time warp where it's, like, constantly 1994? I swear if I hear him say "That was off the hook!" one more time…) living with a ghost.

Allow me to explain. In a news item that some of you might have missed the Jennifer Anniston Weekly National Enquirer has over the past month or so gone a bit mad and reported that the American Idol Mansion, where all the contestants live while the show is on the air, is… wait for it… haunted.

Actually I'm doing the Enquirer a slight disservice here as it's only one reporter who keeps banging out this story. Step forward and take a bow Mr. Mike Walker, a journalist for whom no story is too small obviously. In fact your typical Mike Walker report is something along the line of…

"Famous actor/pop star/athlete was at a restaurant last week when the waiter approached him/her for an autograph. Charming/grumpy star gladly signed the piece of paper and invited the waiter to take a load off and share a salad/told the waiter that they were enjoying a private moment and demand to speak to the manager before balling out the poor server in front of all the other customers! What a swell person/absolute rotter!"

Anyway at the start of May someone did an interview with a couple of Idol contestants, namely Rounds and Anoop Desai. During the discussion Desai (Gee Note: In what might have been a brilliant tactical move to discredit a rival. Mind considering he decided to impress the judges and the American public by singing "Dim all the lights" by Donna Summer, abstract thought might not be his strongest quality) let slip that Iraheta was convinced the house was haunted by a female ghost named Phyllis. He went on to say that he had never seen the ghost himself but that it was "just a friendly troublemaker. She bangs around and keeps people awake. Allison hears something in her room every night. I don’t know if someone’s just creeping around in there or what.”. Rounds was quoted as saying “Allison said she lives in her room. She’s heard growls. I was like, ‘What?!’ It’s craziness. The rest of the girls swear they saw glimpses of her and different things like that, but I never saw it.”

And off to the races we went.

Now despite the fact that the only evidence for the spectre was two people saying they hadn't seen it, the media picked up on it instantly. Magazines and newspapers that really should know better such as People and, er, The Sun published articles on the story, as did Mr. Walker in The National Enquirer. Unlike those other rags who gave up on the tale after that initial burst (Gee Note: Tsk. No stamina these tabloids) Walker displayed a level of determination Napoleon would have been proud of. In fact in the following edition, regardless that there wasn't really anything to report in the first place, Walker decided to follow up on it.

The next week the editor of the National Enquirer a "show insider" had spilled some juicy details to Mikey boy. Apparently Phyllis had stepped up her ghostly game over the past seven days. However rather than doing the usual poltergiesty type things like bending forks, breaking glasses, talking to five year old girls through static television, and generally scaring the bejesus out of JoBeth Williams, Phyllis had instead started pitching awful Reality TV program ideas to, of all people, young Allison. Indeed according to Walker a sleep deprived Iraheta was being kept awake by Phyllis' wails of, and I quote, "I want to be famous too-ooooooo!".

Now two things are immediately striking about all of this. One is that, well, Phyllis is dead right? Now I don't claim to know much about the spiritual realm but wouldn't being, you know, deceased give you a different perspective on things? I mean presumably Phyllis can walk through walls and stuff, so all you'd have to do to become a Reality TV star would be follow Brooke Hogan around for a couple of weeks and, bingo, your on television baby. Plus that way you could have fun trying to freak out Hulk Hogan's trap jaw daughter in the process. You know moving her hairbrush when she’s not looking. Changing food labels around in the fridge so she thinks that butter is slimming. Drawing a circle around her and telling her to go stand in the corner. That kind of thing.

Secondly I’ve been thinking about this for a good two hours now, and the only title I’ve come up with for a phantom based reality show is “The un-corpoReal World”. Which is probably why Hollywood isn’t banging on my door right now, demanding they pay me a lot of money for my services.

Then tragedy struck. On May 12 during dress rehersals for that night’s show the set of American Idol collapsed. A crew member by the name of Debbie Williams was walking down a flight of motorised stairs when they suddenly started to retract, causing her to fall some 20 feet to the floor. The plummet injured her fairly severely, causing a rather nasty gash on her leg. Admist all of this a glass tower at the back of the set fell down, shattering upon impact and adding to the chaos.

Now any rational person would look at all this and think "Hmmm. What an unfortunate series of accidents." Mike Walker on the other hand had obviously left "rational" at home that day, because he ended up putting two and two together and coming up with five hundred and six.

The reason, stated Walker, that poor Ms. Williams made an abrupt drop was all due to Phyllis. This time however it wasn't an attempt to showcase her new high concept show "When Accidents Happen to crew members on American Idol". Instead Phyllis had developed a crush on, as Walker puts it, "My Favourite Metrosexual" Ryan Seacrest (Gee Note: How Ryan qualified for that honour is anyone's guess. Is there a scoring system? An arm wrestling competition perhaps? You know like that Stallone movie where Sly arm wrestles some dude with a beard for the chance to win a truck. It's called "Over the Top" I think. And it's choc-a-bloc full of shots of sweating biceps and angry men shouting such macho things as "You're going down buddy!". Remember that montage in Rocky IV where Rocky's bench pressing wood and pulling pickup trucks by himself, while Dolph Lundgren is injecting steroids and lifting weights with electrodes attached to his nipples? Well it's kinda like an hour and a half version of that. With less nipples. And more beards).

Apparently Seacrest had only just sauntered down the staircase himself when Williams decided to descend. Says the show's insider "The women on the show say they could feel the ghost's passion for Ryan - and believe she got insanely jealous as Debbie followed him down the staircase". Sadly how they came to this conclusion is left unreported, possibly because it's all made up. Although it would be hilarious if a spooky voice shouted "Back off Bitch!" before hand. Anyway Mike finishes off this torrent of nonsense with another quote from American Idol's version of Deep Throat. "Debbie was badly hurt and rushed to hospital - and now the women are whispering, "Don't get too close to Ryan".

By the way - for absolutely no reason at all - here's a video of Ryan Seacrest getting dissed by Angelina Jolie.


Rounding off all this was a hokey "Stay tu-u-u-uuuned" from Walker himself. Thankfully the American Idol final followed a week later. And since then, without further incidents of Ryan Seacrest being stalked by a ghoul, Walker returned to his usual beat of telling us how Ben Stiller has become, oh, such a diva recently.

And to be honest with you, if all American Idol can do these days is fuel blatantly insane stories and offer dull viewing then, frankly, I'm glad it's off the air.