Extradition Oddities: The Fall And Rise Of One Richard O’Dwyer

Richard O’Dwyer, the current poster-boy for internet freedom

Once, a few years ago, on the way into Sheffield town centre by car, my friends and I pulled over to ask a man directions. The man was what I have since described as a Sheffield-fisherman-type. Undermining my description, however, as has been pointed-out over the years since, is the fact that the man had no fishing rods, box of maggots and mank, and he wasn’t wearing wellies. Additionally, he didn’t smell of fish and we were likely miles from the nearest lake. However, he did have a big bushy beard and the mentality of a hardcore fisherman, or so I imagined – he was very patient with us thickos who had no idea where the hell we were going – and so the name stuck.

We didn’t know it, then, but we had struck asking-directions-gold, which is, as it happens, the precise opposite of what might happen if you stopped to ask me for directions. Not only did the Sheffield-fisherman-type have the most magnificent of beards which gave everyone something to ogle at as we listened to our directions, but he appeared to possess an almost disturbingly vast knowledge of the local landscape – both urban and rural. In just five short minutes, we had directions to every place we needed, and in the sixth minute it became a kind of one-sided game, where, without even saying to one another what we were doing, each of us fired out the name of a place and he gave us precise directions to it. Amazingly, he even stood there with his great big bushy beard, in no hint of a rush, and waited for us to record the directions down. Then again, this may have been just to make sure that all his knowledge didn’t go to waste. If I was any good at giving directions I’d make sure every bloody person in attendance wrote them down perfectly, just so that I could walk off home knowing that my knowledge would live on, and that I hadn’t just completely wasted time which could have been spent doing anything else. Like fishing, or eating Wispas and watching Rambo: First Blood.

Towards the end of all this – one of my friends was writing the directions down extra slowly, just to test the fisherman’s patience, and he showed no sign of losing it, which thrilled us all – another car pulled-up behind us. Possessing one of those big aircraft-style spoiler things on the back and bright purple in colour, lots of thudding, intimidating, boy-racer-bassy noise was booming from the vehicle, and looking through the rear window I saw the car was filled with four men: each as muscular as a classic American jock, and each a skinhead, with a can of beer in his hand. Yes, including the driver. At least I was sure there was four, but clearly I was wrong. The next time I turned my head to the left, I saw one of the muscular jock men walking up beside the car, directly towards the Sheffield-fisherman-type. At this point I considered that possibly he had been in the boot of the car all along, hiding under the spoiler-thing.

“You giving directions?” he said, still with the can of booze in his hand. I sank back into the car, the bearded-wonder staring at me for a second with an unreadable kind of look: Help me! Or maybe Help me kill him?

At this point, something bizarre happened. Our directional superhero leaned closer to the car, pushing slightly past the jock to do this, and put his hand on the door. “Have a good one, gents,” he said, in his Sheffield way, and turned to leave. As we pulled away, thanking him, the jock guy, suddenly furious, threw his hand forward, still holding the can, and stalled it when his arm was out straight, ejecting the booze in the direction of the bearded man. We were accelerating by this point, and the last thing I saw was the Sheffield-fisherman-type spinning round on his heels, holding a knife up and moving forward quickly – the jock guy running backwards with his hands up, terrified, and definitely not getting directions, I would have thought.

The point of all this? Some people find people who give directions very threatening, even though they’re alright really. In this next case, infamous student Richard O’Dwyer — who was yesterday finally told he won’t face extradition to the US for his love of directing people to certain websites — is the Sheffield-fisherman-type, and the car full of muscular jocks is the US Government, who may well be presently eating lots of comfort food and drinking lots to try and numb the feeling of not having achieved what they set out to do. Richard O’Dwyer may be a beardless new-age technological wonder, but he did – and will continue to – go to Sheffield Hallam University, thus rendering this lengthy lead into my post entirely valid. Oh yes.

If you’re not familiar with all this, and you’re absolutely sick of hearing about my Sheffield-fisherman-type story, let’s go back to basics:

Richard O’Dwyer is one of those people that you either really love, or really hate. If you love the idea of internet freedom, for instance, then he’s your man. You might even buy him a drink, although I wouldn’t buy him two, because it looks like it might floor him. The creator of TVShack – a now deceased website which kindly linked you up to all the online sources where you could watch films and TV shows – what started as a fun little project for O’Dwyer soon started to turn into more or less sheer hell (not that you’d have guessed watching any of his TV interviews). So it comes down to this, really: someone putting in too much over-time at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency had found out about TVShack, you see, and they’d gone and told everyone else, who had all collectively decided that the only thing to do was to extradite the offender to the US. Yep, it’s one of those cases. Another problem that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency had was that O’Dwyer allegedly – I’m saying it’s allegedly, although clearly they are pretty convinced of this – made as much as £147,000 from advertising revenue. Until they shut him down, that was.

So you could say that it wasn’t looking very good. Also, TVShack had rapidly gone from something I’d have boasted like hell about to everyone I met – especially seeing as I am terrible at HTML coding or anything like it — to something you’d want to avoid putting on your CV in a very big way indeed.

However, after all kinds of hassle for O’Dwyer – his mum panicking about losing her son to the US for a decade, for example, not to mention more or less all of us wondering why in the hell this had all become such an insanely big deal – things were soon to take an intriguing twist. Following the cancellation of hacker Gary McKinnon’s extradition order by Theresa May, on the grounds that he had Asperger’s and would surely kill himself if he was to be sent to the US, things started to look up and word had it that O’Dwyer’s case might go a similar route. Yesterday’s verdict is the conclusion of all that looking-up. The signatures of 247,000 people on a petition started by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales also probably helped a bit to suggest that all this had grown into a far bigger issue than it really ever should have.

It’s not all over for Richard O’Dwyer, of course. His phone and internet usage is likely to be checked daily by the US Government for the rest of all-time, and, according to what I’ve been reading, before he can get on with the rest of his life, the Sheffield Hallam student will need to travel to the US within the next few days to pay a small fine — whatever that actually is — and basically have his wrists lightly slapped, which sounds seedy, but I didn’t mean it to, honest. Even once that’s all done, the future of Richard O’Dwyer is blurry and unclear. For example, there may be other charges for him to face in the UK — I say maybe, I have no idea — now that extradition has been more or less ruled-out.

Whatever the case, if you were thinking about setting up a cool new website to link people to anything, especially movies and TV or files of some description, then you should probably think twice or even three times. Especially if where you’re linking to is on foreign soil. Not that I see any of this deterring the hardcore web-warriors from going about their business. TVShack was just one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of linking sites found all over the web. O’Dwyer, who started his site back in 2007, may be the poster-boy of naughty webmasters, but he’s by far not the only one, and it’s certain he won’t be the last.

Note: I know all information contained here to be accurate. Obviously I do, or else I wouldn’t have gone and written it. If any of it’s inacurrate, please leave a comment. Hell, if you want to, leave a comment anyway to say how accurate I am! Thanks.


Why is buying Christmas presents my most hated dreaded thing ever?

Thought that this was just a sham of an illustration, drawn hastily because I couldn’t be arsed? Well, you’re wrong. In fact, it’s a super-smooth pebble which might be used to massage someone’s back. Widely available and very economic, just get another one to use in the other hand and you’ll be laughing! And those lines aren’t supposed to depict it flying through the air, by the way. It’s actually on a table. Note: tables sold separately.

This is ridiculous, and I mean that in every way: I’ve been around 32-years now. That’s enough time to have started a family of ten or twelve and got myself nicely onto a colossal stack of socially questionable benefits, learned to fly a helicopter or commercial aircraft, or, according to Google, have become a fully-qualified doctor 3 times in a row. Assuming that I kept bumping my head and had to start my training again, I mean. Which would be hilarious for all my superiors at the school, not to mention students repeating years, but probably a lot less hilarious for me, what with my constant feeling of dread and doom and deja vu. But still, at least I’d have some first-hand experience of what it’s actually like to suffer from an affliction, unlike a lot of the doctors I have met.

Speaking of suffering, our next amazing Christmas will soon be upon us all, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re suffering in the what-to-buy-for-who area of life which drags us all down and refuses to let us live a happy and carefree existence until it has drained every last kind of enthusiasm and will-to-live out of us once and for all, forever. Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re one of those annoying people who, as you read this, already has everything. Because you planned it all bloody months ago, didn’t you, you maniac, you oddity. And I’m sorry, but nice as you are – I mean, you do always buy us nice things – we do still hate you. It’s not even intentional, it’s just the way things are, so please don’t take it personally. A bit like the way big dogs do really big poos and you only really understand how awful a fact that is when you have one yourself and it goes and does a huge one, when you only have a small bag, and it’s raining hard, and it’s on someone’s front lawn…

There’s nothing like linking the nice things people do for one another with great big stinking dog poos, is there?

The big question: how am I now 32-years old and just as clueless as I was as a child, a teenager, and a post-20-something when it comes to the task of buying my friends and family presents? It’s a mystery, or at least mysterious. I could blame it on 50% of the genetics which make my body and mind up – my dad and his proven inability to buy the right grocery items without my mum’s approval, sorry dad but we both know that’s true, even if it isn’t really your fault because it wasn’t your list – but although more than likely true, that’d be avoiding the issue. In fact, you could say that these first 3 paragraphs are and have been avoiding the issue. And the sentence previous to this one, and, come to think of it, the one I’m typing now. Avoiding the issue has never been so easy!

It’s not even because I don’t know my family and what they like. I’m not thick, I pay attention. I mean, I know that mum loves Strictly Come Dancing, and I know that my sister’s boyfriend likes spending time in the shed at the bottom of their garden, or out drinking with his mates (I’m not suggesting he doesn’t like spending time with my sister, by the way. He loves doing that, although he is strangely absent whenever Strictly Come Dancing is on in their house). So it’s not about me not knowing what they wouldn’t like. So what is it about, then? Obviously I don’t know, but this post is an investigative attempt at working that out, so if you’ve invested a couple of minutes reading this so far then you might as well stick around for the rest of it. One thing’s for sure: I’ve managed to write another full paragraph avoiding yet more things.

Don’t get me wrong, on a philosophical and logical level, I know why I struggle buying presents. It’s because I know, in my heart, that we are all liars and cheats for taking the notion of traditional Christmas and reinventing it as our commercial perverted own, and that really, I know for a fact I’ll get at least a few things this year that I will likely never ever use again. Sorry family Pink, and don’t even try hard to make that not happen, as we all know that’s when it takes an even greater turn for the worse and we get things we actually need to sell. But somehow, that seems to be avoiding the issue too, because let’s be honest and transparent: I love receiving presents, even when they’re not what I wanted. Like our dog, I just like the boxes and the wrapping paper. Unlike our dog, probably, I like the fact that someone has bothered to spend a few minutes in wrapping-paper-hell trying to get it all nice and stuff. I also know that somewhere inside me is a basic need for acquiring stuff, just so I can have it as company. I know that this isn’t good and I know that it doesn’t really have a point, but I still know it to be a fact, just like my semi-hoarding — something like the opposite of OCD. Here, I’ll prove it: I just looked around my desk and found a load of old crap. To my right is the discarded and utterly pointless wrapper of a mint-chocolate Club bar I ate last month that holds absolutely no relevance. I see it every day, and me and it have become friends when I can’t think of what to write or just don’t want to write. To my left, however, is something more sentimental: an old letter from HM Revenue & Customs saying how I overpaid £1.98 on my last tax return. Truly something to be treasured. That same £1.98 was paid into my account a few weeks ago, so the letter, now, is just a trophy of a tiny sum of money which, for some bizarre reason, feels like a lot when it comes from the government while admitting they were wrong and I was right. Ah…

Yep, I’m still avoiding the issue, but now, after all that, I sort of realise that that’s also the point. The reason buying Christmas presents is my most hated dreaded thing is probably quite simple if you could actually turn my brain inside-out and spill all its reasoning out on a table: it’s because I always avoid the issue every single year. Not once have I ever managed to fulfil my goal of buying all my presents a month or two in advance. When it comes down to it, present-avoiding is something  I have refined and honed. So it’s no wonder that although I do really hate it, I also sort of like it, too.

So why this is all the case, I am actually well aware, even if I can’t fully explain the psychology behind it. I’ve got myself well and truly stuck in a routine, is the problem. It’s a charade inside my own mind, you see. I remember thinking, this year, back in September, I‘m going to buy all my presents nice and early this year and show everyone. In fact, I remember saying it out loud and someone, I don’t recall who, laughing in the way you do when you just can’t do anything else. They had every right, of course. They’d seen me say this countless times before. If you want to get abstract and far-fetched about it, it all comes together to form a grim picture of being cursed by some kind of Christmas-hating-witch at a young age — do witches hate Christmas? — and now, whatever the hell I do, I am forever doomed. I don’t know why I bother, so really, when you think about it, it’s incredible that I do.

Part of it, as well, there’s no getting away from this fact, is the widely-held belief that in order to buy Christmas presents every year, you have to first try to understand what your friends and family want, so you don’t go and fuck it up. So instead of just using your own brain and thinking something up – which you’d think would be fairly easy, considering that you have known these people all their lives and seen countless examples of what they do and do not like – you have to wait for them to first give you some kind of a clue or hint. Except we all know that no matter how many bloody times you ask people what they want, they never really tell you. They might give you some idea, but it’s always only a vague thing, and you both know it might change by the time you have bought it. Complicating matters further is the other thing: Christmas should be a time of giving people things which you think they should have, because you love them so much that you don’t mind almost killing your own brain trying to think of stuff they haven’t got. Except at that avenue it also falls apart: inside your childish soul, I’d bet that you, like me, think that people shouldn’t be able to dictate what they want for Christmas. For me, I’ve always preferred the idea that I am doing this on my own, yet when left to my own devices, I realise that that’s bullshit. I must face facts: I need all the help that I can get.

I know what you might be thinking now, which sounds like a big arrogant statement but is in fact just a little bit arrogant but also probably a little bit true, I think you will find (I don’t really know, I realise. You could be thinking about what it’s like to be Spiderman or why it is that you always see Meerkats standing up stationery in one place but you never see them running on two legs like would make sense if you were born a Meerkat): you’re probably thinking that I hate spending money, and that this is at the core of the issue. Except I don’t hate it at all. I actually quite like spending money. Sometimes. When I have it. The only time I hate it is when I have to give it to the government, or if I was to get mugged, but I think that’s normal. Either that or it’s summer and I’ve just bought a chocolate bar from a shop and then I get outside, open it, and discover that it’s melted into a hideous monster mess that looks nothing like its original shape, because the shop, criminally if you ask me, doesn’t have air-conditioning. Those shops should have the biggest of book’s thrown at them.

Here I am, at the end of this post, and I still feel in the dark. Who knows, maybe it’s the amount of presents I have to buy which is the problem (it isn’t) or maybe it’s the organisation thing (it also probably isn’t, after all, writing novels has got to be harder to organise than buying a few Christmas presents). And I can hardly blame it on a lack of choice, either – desperate website salespeople spend their entire lives formulating websites designed with the explicit purpose of making us almost wet ourselves with the excitement of finding things cheaper online than they are in the high-street shops. I do hate wrapping sodding presents up, but come on, however much you hate wrapping you only have to do it once a year. There are even people in shops who have a sickening love of wrapping and will happily do it for you, smiling and performing the task with suspicious precision, making you question their allegedly human origins. For an extra £2 per item that costs £1, of course. Although some do it free. They are the worst…

To be honest, I’ve given up caring now anyway. Balls to it. I think I’ll just get on with it and get it done. Now, where have I heard that said before…?

The Gaza Ceasefire Holds: Amazing News To Wake Up To

A Gaza child, caught in the crossfire

Without giving too much away, yesterday was the day before my birthday. I’ve never been one to get too excited about my birthday, or the day before my birthday — I tend to think about what to do on my birthday so much that I wear my mental self out — but this day before my birthday was marked by something very special. Following onto my birthday, today, the good news still remains good, so far, and that makes me very happy. By the way, just to clear one thing up, I don’t usually refer to myself as “my mental self”, but at the time of writing it sounded a lot better than “I mentally wear myself out”. Even though my English teacher wouldn’t have approved, to be honest, I think I’m going to stick with it, as despite making me out to be abnormal in the head, I quite like it. Who knows, maybe mental selves will become a trend? Or maybe not.

Back to this immensely important but a-bit-too-good-to-fully-believe-right-now ceasefire, which is obviously infinitely more Googled about than my birthday. Of which I am glad, of course. I don’t know what it’s like to be intensely Googled, but the more I think about it, the more Intense Googling sounds like contemporary teenage slang for being prodded with a stick, and I know I definitely don’t like that, so I suppose that on my 32nd birthday I do know something I didn’t know before.

So, after some 161 or so officially reported Palestinian deaths, and much tragedy, this ceasefire is really something. Without getting too deep into the politics of it — there are plenty of other more informed places where you can do that to your heart’s content — can you imagine if every single day of your life felt stressed to breaking-point, and that hanging over your every movement is the overpowering feeling that there are some people on Earth who want you stomped out of existence forever and ever? I can’t. Not that I spend hours every day imagining such things, but you get what I mean. It has to be pretty bad. It can’t be very good, and even imagining what I’m now imagining I feel like a fraud for having next to no idea, let alone being able to put it into words for others to read. I have no idea what it must be like to be trapped between such conflict, and I likely never will. My brain gets as far as making me feel uncomfortable, then it allows me to stop so I can go and make a cup of decaf tea and have a Penguin bar. Or check my emails. That’s some privilege! One which many hundreds-of-thousands of innocent people couldn’t hope to have.

Soon as news of the ceasefire broke — the Hamas movement that dominates the Gaza Strip and Israel agreeing not to fight anymore, and not to prod each other with sticks or anything else — there was mass celebration. I wake up to The News today and find reports of untold numbers of people partying and setting off fireworks, waving flags and smiling, really smiling. I remember the many times I have switched the TV on and seen a war of words between two opposing parties, missiles trailing through the sky, streets in ruins. Total carnage. And yet today, thanks to this agreement which was brokered by pyramid-lovers Egypt, the residents of Gaza are waving flags and cheering. For the first time in a long time, there is a kind of semi-believable hope.

It’s not all good of course. Impressive though this is, it’s only been a few hours, and history has a short memory for peace. The fighting could break out again at any time, and we’ve seen this kind of situation in other places countless times, adding to that feeling of panic that nothing is ever as it seems. Not to mention the ceasefire itself — like nearly all ceasefires — seems almost artificial and theatrical by default. Adding to this initial worry are reports from Israeli radio that Gaza have been firing rockets, and that so far there is no response from Israel. I am choosing to think that these are celebratory rockets filled with small notes saying “we want peace” and “let’s just hang out, OK?” and maybe some pick ‘n’ mix in there too, if you can get pick ‘n’ mix there. I’m hoping that in the coming days and weeks, neither side lets themselves down and there are no more deaths or attacks. At the risk of sounding too optimistic, let’s just try and hang out together?


Could Mumbook Be One Of My Greatest Inventions Ever? I’m Biased, But I Still Think So (But Then I Would)

Deborah Meaden of infamous Dragon’s Den fame. As you can see, I gave up at the eyebrows, at which point she turned into a kind of ET-human-hybrid. Sorry Deborah.

If you’re reading this post and thinking What?! I’ve never heard of Mumbook before…what the hell is that? Hang on, I’ll Google it. Wait, no, I’ll Bing it for a change, because people don’t Bing it enough, do they? They always Yahoo it or Google it and poor old Bing always gets left out then don’t bother. It doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does exist (I haven’t Googled it yet, maybe I should, yes, I’m certain I should before claiming it as my own invention, but I’m not going to because that’d throw me off the thread of what I’m thinking about writing next and that won’t do) but even if it does, then I’m going to hazard a guess and say that it’s not the same idea as I’ve just had, which goes something like…

Mumbook is here. Here, right here!

Forget Facebook. My invention, called Mumbook, would – maybe, as long as I wasn’t in charge of sorting out all the advanced technical stuff on which it depends so enormously, of course – mark the time in history when the power of mum knowledge would come together to form an unstoppable force of problem-solving to be reckoned with. That’s right, by interacting via Mumbook, mums from all over the world would connect together and discuss problems large, small and miniature, thus putting an end to problems of smallness and magnitude which have been doing everyones heads in for years. Not just mum problems, but world problems, political problems, teenage problems and man problems. An awful lot of man problems. All problems, in fact. Designed solely for mums to use on their own without interruption from others — which as we know is when mums work best and their problem-solving abilities are most streamlined and impressive — the problem of today wouldn’t be the problem of tomorrow with the new amazing Mumbook for all to see. Well, it might be, but that’d only be because it was a really big problem like there never being a member of staff at the train station when you really need help, and even then, they’d be working on it, all those mums together, ringing up train companies and giving them serious  hell. Or just emailing if they were busy doing everything else that mums so often do. Or perhaps they’d even dare to march down there, thousands of mums together, arm-in-arm, and then pull the pants of the person in charge down and spank their behind until they fixed the matter. It’s hard for me to say, me not being a mum or a female.

There are a few fundamental problems with/surrounding the implementation of my big dramatic groundbreaking idea, of course, and these are things which I’m sure even a few hundred-thousand mums of above-average intellect would struggle to sort out. One of the biggies is the issue of ensuring it’s only mums who use Mumbook – I’m not sure where to begin here…so in fact I just won’t bother – and the other is the obvious backlash from dads who want their own Dadbook and kick up a right fuss. Then there might be a third and more ginormous problem to be overcome: the war that ensues as Mumbook and Dadbook go head-to-head, with me at its centre, which would be crazy. Or presumably me, depending on whether or not Mumbook does already exist, and depending on whether or not I am credited with its creation. There are so many scenarios…

Wait, I’ll check and see if someone’s already made it.

Bollocks. Seriously, B-O-L-L-O-C-K-S. It does exist. Of course it does! I really should have checked before, it ending in book and everything and being such a magnet for sticking a dot com on the end. Fancy me assuming that Mumbook didn’t exist…the intense shame I feel. The stupidity of my self-assurance! And it doesn’t stop there, the things making me feel stupid and shameful, I mean: from the looks of the already-existing-Mumbook, they’ve really put some effort into it as wel, and made it the only place for mums to be. When I Googled Mumbook, it came up with a cute, endearingly fat-armed baby being held up by a proud mum, and this, just to seal the deal: Mumbook is an online community of mums and pregnant ladies. Worse still, the page was and is just what you might expect when mums get together: it’s clean and simple, and it looks like it’s come right from the mega brain of some superbrilliant mum who knows all about graphic design. Like I said, the shame…not to mention all the mums out there who were reading the start of this post and laughing at me, already knowing so much more than me, already knowing that it existed.

But nevermind, it’s not the end of the world, I don’t think. On a day-to-day basis, things rarely are, right? The good news is that all that thinking — you may not have been able to tell but I did think quite a bit — did not go to waste. I’ll just start again with a new name. If only everything in life was that easy.

Mums Solve Problems. Here, right here!

There. Nice and simple. Easy as that. Stick a dot com or dot net on the end and you’re done. And if loads of people find themselves searching for Mumbook and by total accident find this blog instead, then, oh well…it’s not the end of the world again. I’m sure that in this big wide internet world both Mumbook and Mums Solve problems can co-exist together. At least I hope so, because if not that really puts the idea of mums collectively being great at solving things in serious jeopardy…we’ve already got Jedward, not to mention Bruce Forsyth’s body refusing to acknowledge the notion of Time. The last thing we need is mums at war.

When people find Mums Solve Problems – I probably should have Googled that come to think of it, but I’m not going to, I’m going to risk it – in the future, when it exists, if it exists, they’ll find the following basic information, perhaps, if I have anything to do with it:

Mums Sort Problems is where the mums of the world come together and sort out the biggest problems and issues facing mankind right now. Please note, in order to qualify as a member of Mums Solve Problems you must first supply us with approved DNA which shows that you are of official mum origin. It isn’t enough to photograph yourself naked to prove you have a vagina and a woman’s body, as we all know images of these things can easily be found by the dozen on Google image search. Thankyou for reading.

Something like that, I suppose.

I haven’t thought about the design and stuff yet, but time is on my side — as far as I know, which I now realise isn’t much as nobody knows the future, but still — so I don’t think this should be a serious problem. I’m certainly not going to let it stop me from sleeping, tomorrow being my 32nd birthday and all.

But seriously though…what if it does happen? Stranger things have happened, have they not?! What if Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden and tall rude millionaire Peter Jones are surfing online together – no idea why they would be doing that, or why they’d be using the same computer, but bear with me – and they come across this blog and decide to make the Mums Solve Problems network real…and official? I feel much more relaxed about my invention now, though, I’ll tell you that much. If that happens, I know that Deborah will take charge of things, and that because she is so big on being fair and nice and everything, I will wake up in the not-too-distant-future and discover a cheque of some hugeness on my door-step. Or in my porch. Or maybe I’ll just see a large sum of money deposited in my account while checking my online banking, with the words Love from Debs, enjoy your fortune! xx underneath it. Either way, I know Deborah wouldn’t let me down, just as she knows that I won’t let her down when I take firm control of the operational duties over at MSP. Good. (I haven’t worked out what might happen if the mums decide to revolt because I’m not myself a female or a mum, but do I need to worry? Not really. I doubt it. After all, if they get too lippy then I can just fire them. Great!)

But seriously…it could be good. It could be bloody brilliant! All this messy business with Palestine and Israel etc could be over in a couple of years if we get loads of mums on the case and remove all that angry, pent-up testosterone and decades of relentless fury that shows no sign of abating. There are just so many possibilities…we could have extra-large Wotsits, for example — not extra-large packets, but extra-large Wotsits! — as well as a protection order on the Cadbury’s Wispa to ensure that it never, ever gets taken off the shelves again. Maybe, just maybe, we could even have vending machines on train station platforms that sell clotted cream and scones. I know that the mums out there would approve of that, and maybe a few fat-hungry dads, too.

Until that day comes – or I receive a head-injury that transforms my brain into that of a geek’s who can understand and interpret numbers and HTML coding with ease and efficiency, so I don’t have to hire an army of geeks to do this for me and risk bankrupcy– we’ll just have to make do with Facebook and try and all get our mums on there and get the world all sorted. That’s not going to be easy for all of us, I realise – I refuse to pass judgement on my own mother here, less she comes cross this blog and refuses to bake exceptionally delicious things ever again – but we must try, mustn’t we? Yes, indeed we must.

Oz The Great And Powerful: I Know It’s Pathetic, But I’m More Excited About This Than The Last Batman Film. Yep, Pathetic

Ah…Dorothy and her beloved dog Toto!

It’s been a heavy few weeks here on earth, and by turns hellishly joyful, nasty and eclectic with it. Obviously I haven’t got all day to sit around researching and being a perfect-journalist-type for you — who has? — and the world’s a big place, so I’m going to have to miss out on dozens — if not hundreds, if not thousands — of crucially important things worth mentioning, like soaring unemployment levels and all the stuff which is happening in countries which have it one hell of a lot worse than you probably do (I know this because you are reading this by beauty of the internet…and I deduce from this that there are people who don’t even have clean water, let alone electronics, let alone the internet). First there were the US presidential elections, before that there were yet more protests in South Africa — actually, let’s give up on making this chronological, it’s all scrambling my brain — and while all that was going on there was Hurricane Sandy and the whole Jimmy Saville/police-and-establishments-generally-being-unbelievably-incompetent-and-cheating thing (not to mention some seriously heavy stuff going down in Australia’s favourite soap Neighbours. For example, today I witnessed the aftermath of a suspiciously cleared desk as Paul Robinson and his new married fling Priya stood with knowing eyes, telling viewers in no uncertain terms that the desk being cleared moments before wasn’t an organisational thing…). On top of all that, today brought some genuinely horrible news, as it was reported that a woman in Ireland died from blood poisoning after being refused an abortion. It’s been a right old mess alright. What happens when people get together and fuck things up makes me very sad indeed.

Fortunately, this evening I made the wise choice of finding myself on The Guardian’s website, where I sat, staring at the words Oz the Great and Powerful: watch the new trailer – video. I didn’t know I was being wise at the time — come to think of it, do you ever sit there and say to yourself, “I am being wise, how marvellous, what a day!” — but I was. And it was then, reading these words, that I found myself blessed with the wisdom of an eighty-year-old not baffled by the internet. First I hovered my mouse over the words with the dexterity of a 30-something-year-old, then the little drop-down box appeared — thank you geeks! — and told me what the article in question was all about. I’m telling you, next time you feel like putting a geek down or slapping one, don’t do it. Without geeks, those little drop-down boxes wouldn’t drop down half as smoothly and we’d all be much worse off for it. In fact, if I was left to create them, I highly doubt they would drop down at all. Think yourself lucky that I’ll never have to.

Anyway, the point is that this trailer, it, it…put a big childish smile back on my face. Whereas before, there I sat feeling like the world was really unfair and nonsensical, there I now sat feeling similarly — even more so, actually, which doesn’t seem right, which is a little disturbing — but feeling also happy. Happy that a Wizard Of Oz prequel was being made. Had been made, even. And I’m never usually happy about these modern prequels, where the world looks much more futuristic than in the earlier, yet later films. So, you see, it was something special.

A Wizard Of Oz prequel. Read that back to yourself a few times and let it sink in. The Tin Man! The motherfucking Yellow Brick Road! All that stuff.

Note: to all you young ones who never saw The Wizard Of Oz, and are now Googling Yellow Brick Road or motherfucking Yellow Brick Road, my apologies. I should have mentioned something about there being spoilers in this article. Oh well, it’s done now, tough shit. But really, it was an accident. And anyway, it’s not my fault you haven’t seen The Wizard Of Oz yet, so if I was you, I’d take it up with my parents for being so hopelessly clueless and making you miss out.

Back to the film, which seems like a bizarre idea, considering that barely anyone living nowadays gives two shits about any wizard who isn’t something to do with either Harry Potter or The Lord Of The Rings. But there we have it, it exists. Thanks to Disney, we’re all going to discover how the plot of the original Judy Garland film came about. Perhaps. There I go again, spoiling things, although really, if you didn’t know Judy Garland was in the first film as Dorothy then you have no business reading this article, do you? Exactly.

Come to think of it, the more you analyse the trailer, the more it seems that the film is the result of a strange bet where way too much drink, drugs and caffeine was involved. Even more so than during the inception of most Hollywood films, like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. The bet being “I bet you can’t make the strangest incarnation of The Wizard Of Oz featuring some of today’s most unlikely actors and get people excited about it” and the answer to the bet being “I can, and I bloody will. In fact, just watch me chuck millions of dollars at it.”

If you’re now wondering why I say it’s such a strange incarnation of The Wizard Of Oz, and why the actors seem unlikely, then consider this: the lead role is played by none other than 127 Hours star James Franco. The problem is, every time I see James Franco’s face, I get this agonizing pain in my arm like a 10,000-year-old boulder has just trapped it, and that really spoils the majestic, colourful vibe exuded by the trailer. Additionally, as I watched James Franco — he’s playing the role of a Kansas fairground magician who ends up getting whisked away to Oz — I kept thinking about Spiderman 3. Hmm, Spiderman 3…not one person I have ever met has said “did you see James Franco? He’s incredible in that Sam Raimi masterpiece Spiderman 3!” and that concerns me a bit. But still, maybe I’m over-thinking this. Then again, maybe not…at one point in the trailer — the point where he’s in the midst of a raging tornado unlike which I have ever seen — the Kansas magician screams with little authentic fear “I don’t wanna die, I haven’t accomplished anything yet!” Now, either this means that Kansas magicians aren’t typically afraid of anything, or this one has that condition which the guy does in Lucky Number Slevin. Either way, I hope he gets a bit scared during at least one point during the film, so we have a terrified hero to root for. Otherwise I’m asking for my money back, even if there is a Tin Man.

Next in line, we have Mila Kunis, who plays a good witch, and one who inhabits a forest yet always has perfect hair and pristine make-up. If you enjoyed her frequent stripping-off-of-clothes in that film with Justin Timberlake with a name which I cannot recall and never watched because I was certain it would be shit — is it shit? I still don’t know — you’ll be disappointed to learn that she likely does none of that here (I say that, but I don’t know, all I’m going on is the fact that it’s a family film, so I could be wrong).

Alongside those two, there’s everyone’s favourite sulky madam Michelle Williams of Blue Valentine/Dawson’s Creek fame, Rachel Weisz — she’s married to Daniel Craig, you know — and loads of weirdo CGI animals and Wow! moments which I probably shouldn’t think of as Wow! moments, because some of my male friends will never let me hear the end of it once they read this. Oh, and the Wicked Witch, who is really very wicked and has big clawed hands exactly like a transvestite Shrek.

Out Of Nowhere, Or Not Really? The Steve Messham Apology. Yes…There’s More

Steve Messham

Just when you think that heads are going to roll, you discover that it’s worse: whole bodies are about to get burned. And in the world of relentless sexual abuse allegations, it looks like the Jimmy Saville thing – colossal and incriminating as those first claims were – was merely the trigger.

A while ago, when it all kicked-off, I, like many people, predicted that things were going to get a whole lot worse. Now they are, now they have, I do not feel pleased to be right in any way. If you’re revelling in it, grow up. Think about the real victims here. The victims who are being abused right now as you read this, and the future-victims who might be living a normal life now, but are soon to be swamped by revulsion and fear from predatory attackers in positions of trust and responsibility. You hate it, I hate it, but it’s happening and we can’t deny it. There will be people reading this who were the victims of abuse, and, if statistics can be relied on — they can’t, but go with me — maybe even people reading this who have abused. Children who are wholly innocent now won’t be in the days and weeks to come, and no matter what we do to prevent this shit from happening, it’s not something that will ever end. Surely, that fact alone should give you nightmares and make you think before you start spreading the muck on Facebook and Twitter.

A couple of years ago, it seemed that the so-called lucky kids of the first decade of the year 2000 had nothing to rally against or call their own, and that they never would. Now they have something memorable, they’ll really wish they hadn’t. Shockingly high unemployment levels and general cultural and economical malaise as enemy-number-one? It’s not a good thing and none of them will ever boast about being unemployed to their children, so interested in what growing-up was like back when we didn’t know what would happen to computers when three 0s appeared. Their parents had the cool-factor of the 60s and 70s to pretend they didn’t think were cool, and their — the kids in question, not their parents — older brothers and sisters had the transitional political era of the 1980s as seen in This Is England. Yet there they are, with this, and unfortunately, it ain’t just a lack of jobs and high-street shops shutting that the new-millennium teens can now shamefully lay claim to in many years to come. When they look back and discuss what was happening in their youth and early twenties, they’ll also be able to say that it was the time when the rumour-mill went absolutely fucking stratospheric, beginning with dodgy journalism and MPs expense claims and ending in…who knows what? It’s hard to guess how much more mess might come to light…how much more controversy and false lies on Twitter and in the papers. There’s no doubt about it, either: what Phillip Scofield did on ITV was daft and naïve and bizarrely off-key — even for a man who once spent a worrying amount of time with a toxic-waste-yellow gopher… — but what’s just come to light about the North Wales police during the 1990s carries much more weight, and, unlike a few minutes on national TV, it’s not about to go away, nor can it be erased from YouTube.

Steve Messham is one man who, last night, upon my reading the latest news online, I feel really sorry for. Timid-looking yet doggedly determined about making public his cause, when Messham — himself a now-famous victim of child abuse and the focus of serious media scrutiny recently — came forward recently to make claims against Tory MP Lord McAlpine, the internet went crazy with speculation. That’s nothing new, of course, it’s just that this time, thanks to the subject matter, people really started to get behind it in a unified, belligerent, politician-hating way that was something truly remarkable: students, married men, housewives, IT professionals, creatives and amateur bloggers alike. Everyone wanted in. Cue lots of name swapping, and blogs claiming that, without question, the information contained within their pages spoke of real truths against high-ranking paedophiles, many of them allegedly Conservatives of the Thatcher era. Except we all know that that’s not the case — them being the real truth and only truth, I mean. While it’s fair to say that there could potentially be some truth behind the allegations, right now, too many people are playing a dangerous guessing game. Now out of control, what started off as a single thread of misery has now metastasized into a senseless monster, and it’s very sick and hungry indeed.

According to what Steve Messham has just announced via countless news portals, the photograph of Lord McAlpine which he recently viewed was not the same image of a Lord McAlpine that he was shown during the 1990s by North Wales police. Read that sentence again, because it’s bound to cause confusion on its own: hard to believe, isn’t it? Conspiracy theorists will, without doubt, say that this is a cover-up: that Lord McAlpine was and is involved, somewhere along the line, and that if he isn’t the man responsible then he will know without fail who is. And the really worrying thing is that, this time, it’s hard to say that it’s not tempting to believe (note that I said it’s hard to say that it’s not tempting to believe, not that I do actually believe it — there is a tremendous difference). Number 1, you have to ask yourself, how does a police force get something so immensely wrong in the first place? Maybe it’s understandable if just one person was in the room with Steve Messham at the time. Perhaps, if you consider that human beings are imperfect and make mistakes and go to bed too late and drink too much alcohol and do way too much cocaine, the wrong name was given and that was it – simple human error like anyone could make, regardless of intelligence or information. But we all know that police departments aren’t run like that. They just can’t be — you need at least one officer to make tea, and another to clean the toilets. But seriously, surely, at some point in this process, another person came across the fact that the wrong name had been given. Even if we imagine, for one seriously improbable moment, that this was not the case, surely the conversation with Steve Messham and the officer in question was recorded or possibly even later assessed? If so…how come nobody happened to pick this little problem up infinitely sooner, or nobody came forward to say this was the case? If not…why the hell not? Like most people, I’m not a fan of many politicians, but no matter what they’ve done to piss-off the common man and woman since the dawn of time, I know one thing alright: not one of them deserves to have his name dragged through the mud because of one ridiculous error. If it is an error. Whatever this thing is. If I’m honest, I just don’t know what to believe any more…first we need to know more, and only once we do can we begin to move forward.

So, what with all the finger-pointing and the dark rumours, where does that now leave us? Blaming Steve Messham for not double-checking and doing the police’s work for them about this photo? Blaming the police for…numerous incompetencies? Blaming the BBC for broadcasting information without doing more research? Blaming technology for dispersing diseased intellectual — or not so intellectual — rubbish without rules or established guidelines to protect people? There was a time when we were focussing on the most important thing – the victims in all this, however old they are now, however much it’s hard to see them as children, subjected to profound, utter horror. But now, I’m beginning to feel really uneasy. With every day that passes, too many people seem to be forgetting that fact and playing this thing like it’s some kind of game or a way to gain notoriety. Except it’s not. Lives are being ruined and have been ruined since you started reading this article, since you got up this morning, since you just went to go and put the kettle on. If you’re blogging about this subject, please, be responsible with what you are saying, because not everyone is able to think for themselves — some people follow what everyone else is saying and don’t think twice. Ask yourself before using your readership as a way to set fire to countless reputations: do you really want to be speculating in an uninformed way about things you don’t really know?

And there-in lies another grisly problem. Everything I know I know because of the internet. Which means knowing isn’t really knowing any more, is it?

End note: at the time of writing, I know the information contained within this article to be right and correct.

When Phillip Was A Naughty Boy And Caused A Massive Uproar (Bring Back Gordon!)

A young Phillip and his best friend Gordon The Gopher from the golden age of TV, decades ago. And yes, it’s true: Gordon’s sitting in a box and his right arm also doubled as a penis. Copyright Chris Pink

It goes on and on. Dark times are coming…wait, no, come on now: they’re already here.

The video clip (watch it here before it vanishes forever), taken from today’s This Morning programme on ITV and splashed all over the internet, makes for compelling viewing. It begins as Phillip Schofield asks the prime minister if he’s heard the names…the names which need no introduction, as you know – the names which are currently all over the internet right now, seemingly merging together to form a very sinister picture of what happened in North Wales children’s homes during the transitional mess of the 70s and 80s which one hell of a lot of people would quite like to forget about. With the camera focussed firmly on a nervous-looking David Cameron, the Prime Minister then says that, yes, like everyone with an internet connection in the UK and an ounce of curiosity, surely, he’s heard a number of names bandied around. Oh dear, things are turning bad. He then asserts that what tends to happen following this is that everyone sits around and speculates about people, some of which are alive, some of which are dead. What a sleuth. At this point in the video, the Prime Minister is sparked by obvious irritation as Philip Schofield, off camera, tries to interrupt. Cameron then says, with the camera flicking to a full-screen image of the surprising face-off, that anyone with information on abusers of any status should voice their concerns to the police, whether the abusers are alive or dead.

You get the feeling, watching the video, that the ITV studio where this is taking place is either a fantastic place to be or a horrible place to be, depending on how much you love or hate David Cameron.

Then, out of nowhere, things get very interesting — fast, and This Morning suddenly becomes highly controversial (not to mention very horrifying, if you’re Cameron’s wife and you have a load of friends over and you’re all watching this together with mouths agape). Noting how it took him just 3 minutes to amass a list of names – former senior Conservative politicians names, that is, all of which have been repeated again and again in the last few weeks at various online sources – Phillip Schofield then calmly hands the Prime Minister a card with the names on and asks him if he knows the names (he does, somehow without even reading the card he’s just been given) and he’ll be speaking to those people (yes, he will, and some are going to have their Christmas bonuses docked). The camera now firmly back on David Cameron, his eyebrows are etched with concern, the likes of which is wholly transparent and, when applied to the world most of us live in, can be seen on the faces of drunks everywhere when they drop their chips in a puddle of vomit on the floor on any given Friday night. Frowning, the Prime Minister then lowers his voice, almost as if Philip Schofield were a very naughty boy in a headmaster’s office who had wandered in wearing a dress, and therefore was highly confusing to a man who couldn’t tell a gay from a lamp-post. A boy who he hadn’t expected might rally against him, also, and a boy who he couldn’t legally cane or very well slap, even if he was wearing a dress. At least, not without kidnapping him and transporting him covertly to any one of a number of off-shore torture chambers.

If you’ve seen the video, you already know what happens in the next part: first, David Cameron says that he’s concerned there’s a danger that this could turn into a witch-hunt, and secondly, he makes a further assertion – that particularly at risk could be people who are gay.

Now, I’m not sure if the Prime Minister’s been online for more than 2 minutes recently, or if someone might have messed with his internet settings so all he gets is pages saying nice things about Tory politicians and the world, but this has already turned into one enormous witch-hunt, and not just against people who are gay. Instead, it’s a witch-hunt on an epic scale, and nobody is safe, especially if they prefer not to pay tax and adore claiming expenses on numerous things. Especially not the Great British institutions. Politicians, high-ranking policemen and anyone else off their tits in the 1970s is sure to be fair game.

Next, David Cameron says he’s worried about what Philip Schofield is doing now – printing off a list of names taken from the internet and giving them to him. Presumably that’s not too much of a worry if you’re the Prime Minister, though. Unless he’s a) allergic to paper or b) thinking of doing his shopping at ALDI, Waitrose or Morrisons, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that anyone’s going to be thrusting a list of this kind anywhere near his hands. Putting that aside, if hysteria about abuse does come of this, at least we’re doing something to get at the truth. Schofield’s (alleged) surprise confrontation may have been crude, but anything’s better than nothing, surely?

The rest of the video is precisely what you’d expect. David Cameron saying everything he can to assure the nation that the place we live in is a thoroughly legal, democratic society where justice is administered fairly via a fair and sane police force and court system (and with a straight face!). Near the end, Holly Willoughby interrupts and is told to wait for 2 seconds — which shocked me, as she’s always smiling and happy and it just doesn’t seem right to tell her to shut up, even if you can because you’re the actual Prime Minister. Around the country, a million people presumably wonder:

What would it actually be like to punch David Cameron?

What dress is a very concerned-looking Holly Willoughby wearing?

What shall I have for dinner?

I wonder if I will have sex soon. Hmm.

What would it actually be like to punch David Cameron?

Was the Prime Minister genuinely surprised on air by one ballsy Phillip Schofield? Somehow it seems extraordinarily unlikely – surreal, even – given the strict guidelines the Prime Minister’s interview would be forced to work within, but there we have it. It does seem this was the case. Maybe. Only Phillip and Gordon The Gopher really know. And maybe Phillip’s wife, but she might not be talking to him right now, so that’s also questionable.

Then there’s the mysterious case of the card that Schofield handed over…could the names really be seen, unscrambled and accurately read off the TV screen? That’s what people are saying, and with Gordon the Gopher’s infamous albino-haired side-kick — in other words Phillip — later releasing an apologetic statement suggesting that the misjudging of a camera angle was to blame for the stunt — hmm… — it appears this is one possible explanation. Not that anyone can realistically justify getting their knickers in a twist over this, with freak-out merchants Ofcom included – if you want to see the names in question, a quick Google search will do it. Downing Street might be blaming Phillip Schofield for bringing these names to the attention of some people who still only have dial-up or think a mouse is a disease-spreading creature, but all he did was say what we’ve all been thinking. And there’s surely much more to come.