Live from Earth

I know I said there were going to be no blog posts for a while, and that is still almost true. However, in light of my hearty agreement with this blog post, which I read this morning, and the recent airing of Live from Space on UK TV, I felt a sudden urgency to repost the following, er… post. (it also ties in quite well with the new blog site, as you’ll see at a later time)

Some people may take issue with what I am about to say. Some of them may also laugh derisively as they tell me that I’m am being petty, but I ask those people to consider carefully the following:

  • Have you ever mocked the musical tastes of others, because you played an instrument in a band from time to time, so you feel you know better than they do?
  • Did you ever grit your teeth because a small child in a Jar-Jar Binks T-Shirt said to you: “Do you even know what Star Wars is?”

I’m sure some version of the above has happened to you at some point in your life, and I’m quite certain that almost every person I know has been guilty of something similar, so relax and try to absorb the message… or don’t.

You see, I am a space travel nerd. A real space travel nerd. I have sat all alone in my little room for days on end, reading through the transcripts of the Apollo 8 mission, and been ridiculed for it. I suppose you’re asking for a little ridicule when you spend your time reading through transcripts containing every single word that was uttered inside the command module during the 6 days of Apollo 8, but it is my favourite of the Apollo missions. You can keep your Apollo 11… I have a soft spot for Borman, Lovell, and Anders; the oft forgotten astronauts who saw the surface of the moon up close, 7 months before Armstrong and Aldrin even got there.

Now, I suppose the fact that I am exactly the sort of dork who has a “favourite Apollo mission” in the first place, deserves a little ridicule, but when you have watched people shake their heads and roll their eyes, every time you start to bang on about the history of, or advances in, human spaceflight… If you have found yourself alone at a dinner table after everyone gets up to leave when you start talking about the Kepler array… If you have fumed as some trendy but clueless teenager – who can tweet and apply make-up at the same time, but needs to check their passport if you ask them to write their own name – says: “I don’t geddit! Wots intrestin baht spaaace?” If you have been the source of many a giggle because of your passion for, or obsession with, space travel, and the universe outside the living room… it does get to you a little bit when some of the same folks that ridiculed you start discussing how they are “becoming a total space geek”, because they watched a TV program about life aboard the ISS.

The post from The Good Men Project, which I linked at the beginning, made me think once again about the social media driven world we now live in. The self-styled life gurus, reposting memes with such tired rhetoric as “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, or those all important likes by which bloggers like myself measure internet success.

This and the observation that seeing the International Space Station on TV seems to have elicited untold excitement from my home across the water, have encouraged me to repost the following, from August 28th, 2011.

Remember those painful times during your school days… when life was just one long popularity contest?

Thank God those days are over, huh?

They don’t have roads but they have facebook

Life, it seems to me, is a series of moments between here and there. Most are completely insignificant:

  • Pouring milk into your tea; opening the mail; sitting  in a chair, etc.

Any one of those, at any time, can become a moment of significance:

  • Pouring too much milk into your tea; resulting in a spillage which destroys your laptop, along with your formula for a new spot-cream.

The significance of a life overall, is dependant upon whether or not these moments are significant to others:

  • Pouring milk into the tea of a work colleague, whose allergy to milk, though previously unknown to you, causes anaphylactic shock, and a trip to the hospital.

…or perhaps even the entire human race:

  • 2 days later, the work colleague, whilst doing field research in the rainforest, experiences biphasic anaphylaxis (It’s OK to look this up. I had to) and dies, 3 days short of completing their cure for cancer… Oops!

Now… this is certainly a “glass is half empty” viewpoint. I could just as easily have said that you had discovered a cure for cancer but, in the interest of continuity, I thought it best to stick with the milk analogy, and couldn’t think of any way that would translate into your saving the world.

I have had many significant moments; most of them significant only to me; a few of them significant to others. I suppose the two most significant moments in my life have been my birth and the birth of my daughter. My daughter will inevitably go through a period of resenting me for her birth, and my big sister has never really forgiven me for my own (and not without justification, if I’m honest). Still, I like to tell myself that my birth was responsible for that of my little brother, if only because I imagine my father spending a few months with me before he felt it necessary to see if he could get it right next time.

Ultimately though, I have had no moments sufficiently significant to result in my name being sung through the ages by descendants of the little nerdy kids, who survived the nuclear holocaust because playing Fallout taught them how to make bottlecap mines, and kill Radroaches with a pool cue. The only way I could realistically make ripples in a big pool would be to work at Water Meadows, operating the wave machine.

However, through the sorcery of social networking, we can now share moments of personal significance with the world and see if they turn into moments of ever-so-slightly-greater significance. I recently had the opportunity to share one of these moments, and, to be fair, I genuinely thought it was a pretty big one. I hadn’t just “had a random nosebleed  :( ” or “seen my reflection in a spoon :) LOL” or anything quite so mundane. I had been tweeted… by a robot… in orbit, aboard the International Space Station!! Now, OK, it’s the astronauts who actually operate the robot, but human exploration of space has always been a really important subject to me, as can be seen in this post, so to say that I was excited is an understatement of “I think these horseless carriages might catch on” proportions. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to receive a personal message from the first humanoid robot in space? Well… pretty much everyone I know as it turns out.

It is, to say the least, slightly depressing to post what might be the coolest moment of your life so far, in your facebook status and receive not one single response, whilst “LOL. My belly button looks like a face” has received over a dozen. Are you f**king kidding me? I just received a personal message from a $2.5 million dollar piece of hardware, aboard a f**king space station! I actually did find it rather impressive that my sister in-law killed 27 flies at work the other day (Congrats on your multi-kill skills, Sal), but come on…

ROBOT!

SPACE STATION!

And so… social networking gives us a new perspective on moments of personal significance; allowing us to see the level of our importance as clearly as if it had posted on the stock exchange. Jocks and
geeks are no longer separated by the length of a football field, but by how many status responses they get on facebook. The popular kid posts about an extremely loud fart he did in geography class and becomes a hero, while the geek who successfully replicated the origin of life in the chemistry room gets a facebook wedgie in the form of: 0 Likes – 0 Comments. I wonder; if the Apollo Moon landings had happened in the era of social networking, would Gene Cernan post: “Leaving the surface of the moon now. No human being will return here in my lifetime.” Only to find that he sank to the bottom of the facebook wall because his mate in Arizona put his trousers on back-to-front and everyone thought it was hilarious.

I simply haven’t yet got the hang of social networking. I mean, all joking aside (yes… for a few moments I will try to be serious), I am not a facebook friend collector. I only add people that I am actually interested in talking to. Any status update is unlikely to elicit many responses when your circle of friends doesn’t stretch all that far into the double digits but, in the 21st century, we depend on social networking when we’re stuck indoors, and our view of the outside world is confined to that which we can see through our office window. And, since I won’t be leaving the house until I have finished MAKING THIS MOTHER-FU…. sorry. Count to ten…

…I meant to say that I will be busy for another couple of weeks yet, so please enjoy the cartoon, and, to all of you – particularly those lucky enough to have a view that changes whenever they have the time to untie the moorings – don’t take my comments to be anything other than a flimsy pretext for a blog post.

I’m going now. Enjoy what’s left of your day, and I’ll see you on the network.

 

Fantasy League #1: 007 Villains

After this post I am going to disappear for a few weeks to concentrate on the new blog site, and a video which has gone unfinished for far, far, far, far too long. I will check in on comments, and I may even write a post here if lightning strikes me, but otherwise, since I won’t be back for a few weeks, I thought we’d have a little bit of fun. If this sort of thing proves popular I may do more of them in the future, I may even move the idea across to the new site as a page on its own, but let’s see what you think of this one before we get ahead of ourselves.

I have often talked of movies in this blog. Indeed, at one point during 2011/2012 all my blog posts had to have titles taken from movie lines. And I must surely have made clear by now that my favourite genre is Science Fiction. I have very little time for spy movies in general. So it may surprise you (well… some of you at least) to know that the film franchise I am perhaps most knowledgeable about is 007. With Bond 24 now confirmed, the rumour mill is in full swing, and there are several questions everyone usually wants the answer to when a new 007 adventure is on the horizon.

1. Who will play Bond? No mystery there, Daniel Craig has already confirmed he will once again wear the tuxedo.
2. What will be the title? A great deal more mystery here as the title at the moment is the less-than-evocative Bond #24. 
3. Who will be the Bond girl/girls? Once again, no idea.
4. Who will be the villain?

It’s this last question I want to talk about today. Who do you think would make a great villain? Why? Where’s your evidence? Do you think a particular person should definitely not be allowed to stroke the white pussy (sorry about that. I couldn’t resist)? So, I hereby declare the first Sleepless Knight Fantasy League… open! Today: Bond villains.

I have tried to add a mixture of people I’m not so sure about, in with people I would give my right arm to see playing Bond villains. When it comes to listing movies they have starred in, some of them are obvious choices; some are their best movies; some are their worst. Most of the time I have tried to pick at least one movie for each actor which demonstrates their ability, or inability to play bad guys. Ben Kingsley’s is an example of the latter. Lastly, each of the “Blofeld says” quotes are from one of their movies, with the eponymous Mr. Bond pasted in where I thought it appropriate. Consequently I have often tried to pick a quote from one of the movies listed on their card, but this is not always the case.

Off you go! Have fun. And if you can’t read the cards very well, my apologies, but just click on them to enlarge.

Ben Bond

Gary Bond

Ed Bond

Chiwetel Bond

Cate Bond

Michael G Bond

Sir Ian Bond

Frank Bond

Angelina Bond

Benedict Bond

Djimon Bond

Sam R Bond

Sam N Bond

Jude Bond

Charlize Bond

Cillian Bond

James F Bond

Paul Bond

Ken Bond

Michaell F Bond

Michelle Bond

Marion Bond

Bruce Bond

Derek Bond

Rachel Bond

John Bond

Carrie Anne Bond

*Fun Fact: I only discovered whilst checking IMDb for movie release dates for this post, that one of the characters I really hate, from the Mass Effect games series, was voiced by Carrie Anne Moss.

Forest Bond

Philip Bond

As has so often been the case during this past month or so of “experimenting” I enjoyed this far too much. I started coming up with all sorts of ideas on what to do next… The New Doctor fantasy league… Bond Movie Titles fantasy league… Star Trek villains… Superheroes… it just kept going. But, reluctantly, I must tell you that’s it for a few weeks, unless I suddenly think of something so important to say that it can’t wait.

Now it’s your turn to vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman has been left out of the vote below, mainly so that voters wouldn’t be influenced by the recent loss. But everyone else is present and correct. There is no time-limit on the vote, so I guess I’ll just take a look at it, and announce the results when the new Bond villain is officially announced.

Until I see you again (with more details of the proposed new blog site), Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight

Loose ends

The post which was supposed to appear here this week, turned out to be yet another of those occasions when I start off thinking “Oooh! I have a great idea for a post. And it will only take me 30 minutes to write!” but the situation quickly escalates out of all control, to the point where it might have been easier to chisel it into the rock of Mt Sinai. Obviously that’s a slight exaggeration, but I find it amusing to exaggerate.

What usually holds me up on a blog post is not the writing, but the images. When I first started this blog, 3 years ago this week, I read through all the little things that WordPress recommends you do in order to increase traffic, and make your blog more interesting. Most of it was piddling insignificant stuff like “Let people know where to find it”, “write regularly” and “Make sure people know it exists”. Of course I paid no attention to those, but I did take 2 of the things they said to heart with rather more enthusiasm that the situation perhaps required. And these were…

“Visit other blogs; leave comments, and make friends.”

Which resulted in my moving to Sweden and marrying one of the bloggers that I met through doing exactly that. And…

“Try to use images to enhance the look of your blog posts”

This second one has been the main reason I don’t write more posts. I simply must include images in my blog posts, and since I cannot draw I began digging through my old CDs of clipart, and using photoshop to throw together an image which more or less approximated the one I had in my head. This takes me forever, but people soon began telling me they particularly liked the the little cartoons I made, and that cemented the deal… I simply had to put one in every week. This week, I once again got carried away with producing the images, and considering the next post will have about 30 images in it, you can see why it wasn’t ready in time.

Since I will soon be starting a new blog, on a new site, I though I might have a bit of a clear out. Sort of like moving house; you start digging through all the stuff you haven’t seen for ages.

So… this week, for your amusement, and in no particular order, are some of the posts I started but never bothered to finish. I invite you to guess what the post was going to end up being about.

Let’s Measure! – (started 10 June, 2013 @ 21:08:33)

As I write this my day began with a phone call from my computer doctor, telling me that my machine is quite old, and although he had done everything he could, perhaps the kindest thing would be to put it out of its misery. It went from bad to worse, as many of my recent days have, when I learned that I was unable to report my work hours because of a spectacular effort of combined fuck-uppyness on the part of the Swedish tax and migration services, and the administrators at my job, who have one of those systems which is clean and easy if you have all the right numbers and things… otherwise useless. Then it was a simple matter of an unexpected bill at the worse possible time, and two work assignments which I have not trained for and have absolutely no idea how to do, to push me pretty close to the edge of insanity.

Now… I’m well aware that if there are any of my original readers out there, who stuck with me through the long silence of early 2013, they may well laugh at the thought of me being pushed any closer to the edge of insanity, but I never said which side of the sanity/insanity line I was on in the first place.

I can actually remember what started me writing “Let’s Measure!”, and why it was never completed.

Limbo – (started 7 September, 2013 @ 23:33:01)

Amidst all the talk of moving to a different country; being struck down by kidney stones; breaking my wrist; getting married, and dealing with bureaucracy, it occurs to me that I may never have mentioned what my job actually is. If I have mentioned it before please accept my apologies.

I am a Stockholm Tour Guide. One of those guys who greets passengers as they get off cruise ships, counts them all onto a coach, and talks all day about interesting things that happened here, and why they should pay very careful attention to the time whilst walking around town buying fridge magnets with Vikings on them.
It’s a pretty good job, all things considered. You see the same things day after day after day, and each time you have to make them sound as interesting as they were the first time you saw them. But you do get paid for showing tourists around beautiful places, the pay is fairly good, the tips are occasionally good, the job is rarely boring, and for the first time in my life I am working at a place where I actually LIKE spending time with my colleagues.

There are irritating things about being a tour guide, like any other job I suppose: It baffles me for instance why some guests just don’t seem to understand that if I tell them to be back at the bus at a certain time, it isn’t because I’m an anally retentive freak who thinks we live and die by the clock… but because their ship will LEAVE without them if they are late. There are also places that (as a colleague of mine pointed out the other day), no matter how many times you explain what the building is, they just keep asking the same question in different ways, hoping they will get a different answer. The Nordic Museum is one of these. People just don’t seem to want to accept that it is simply a museum. Such an impressive looking building must surely be the fortress which guards the entrance to Mordor or something.

Anyway, the job is great… while it lasts. I’m sure it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Sweden does not get very many cruise tourists when it’s -15 degrees, and the harbour is a solid sheet of ice. Consequently, we must all find alternative sources of income during the winter months.

Now, I have no problem with the work drying up for 2 very important reasons:

1. In 2 years time, Amki and I will be returning to the UK permanently, and to do so smoothly and efficiently will require that we have a reliable source of income which will move when we do. So we MUST figure some way of making our living that is not tied to this city. A lack of work through the winter is a superb motivation for finding just such an idea.

2. No matter how much I enjoy a job, I really hate working for other people

If you compare the date of the post you just read with that of the next post, it becomes a little clearer what the problem was that day.

Intellectual Viagra – (started 7 September, 2013 @ 21:35:12)

I have thought long and hard about this blog post today, and all I can say is “Aaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

Restlessness has penetrated my bones like a pixelated miner; scraping away at the insides because someone put 50p in the slot and all they know is that the points go up when they break stuff!

Somewhere deep in my brain, I just heard a voice say “This is why we should never let him out.”

Restlessness for me, is not a time when things get done. You might think that if I can’t sit still I might be able to apply that energy to something constructive. Instead, I start doing something and my legs begin to itch. I lose my patience half-way through doing something, and I simply have  to get out of the chair. I pace around for a little, maybe make some tea, return to the computer and start writing… but the things I want to say are not coming out. So I go back to making a logo in Photoshop… or I start editing video… but after 5 minutes I want to tear down the walls and smash things! I hop backwards and forwards from one task to another, giving none of them the attention they deserve, and slowly, minute by agonising minute, another day rolls toward its end with nothing having been achieved, in spectacularly unimpressive fashion.

If anyone out there wants to jump in right now and say “Wow! I know exactly what you are talking about! This is how I dealt with it….” that would be helpful.

I have the most ridiculously over-active imagination. I have a thousand ideas a day… but my brain has filled up with them until it is cracking under the strain, because I simply have neither the intelligence nor the necessary skills to implement any of them. I imagine the frustration level to be equivalent to something like crash-landing on a planet full of nymphomaniacs and discovering you have chronic erectile dysfunction.

This next post was started exactly one week before I moved to Sweden, so it isn’t difficult to surmise what it was going to be about, but it is a perfect example of why a writer of any kind should never START with a title.

The Long Road Home – (started 22 August, 2012 @ 22:01:38)

Hands up who remembers

Yep. Told ya… Never start with a title.

Misery Loves Company – (started 10 May, 2012 @ 2:45:11)

Patrick Kavanagh said “I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away”, and boy did he know what he was talking about.

I’m not sure this only applies to love though. Perhaps you panic more than others, and feel even more lost when everyone else seems completely calm about that noise that just came from underneath the plane. “Whaddaya mean; LANDING GEAR? No, no, no… that was an engine falling off!” Perhaps you can’t understand why no-one else is quite as angry as you are about the gigantic new superstore that will surely reduce the sleepy village you live in to a smouldering pile of ash in the space of three years. Maybe you have a very specific fear of Sabre-toothed tigers, which, whilst irrational and slightly crazy for someone who lives in 21st century Chippenham, seems perfectly normal to you.

Whichever emotion you are cursed with an over-abundance of, surrounding yourself with people who just don’t get it always makes the problem worse in the short term. If you are scared or nervous, try relaxation techniques or take a Vallium. If you’re always raging about something, try an anger management course… If you are terrified of Sabre-toothed tigers… try to stay indoors, and as far away from the Pleistocene Epoch  as you possibly can.

We’ve all seen movies where the critically injured man has to have his gangrenous leg amputated lest the infection kill him stone dead.

I thought that one had promise… but I know exactly why I stopped writing it. Do you?

You don’t care really do you?

A Day to Remember – (started 22 April, 2012 @ 00:18:?)

I want to talk to you about paranoia, but I have to do it fast before those goddamn CIA assholes find out what I’m doing.

Did you ever give much thought to the things that affect your mood?

As I write this, dear reader, it is almost midnight, I have no internet connection (so I’m writing this in WORD), the flat is empty (for a change) and freezing cold, and I have been staring off into space in complete silence for over an hour. My better-half is presumably busy with college work, since we would normally be talking at this hour; my flatmate has retired rather early, presumably because my conversation of late has been about as stimulating as a staring competition with Lego spacemen; and I daren’t call anyone for fear that I will either wake them up or unwittingly send them into an entirely too permanent state of slumber. It isn’t easy to be miserable on your own, and it isn’t advisable to involve others, lest you encourage them to seek alternative companionship.

The weird thing is that my ups and downs seem to make no sense whatsoever. To give two closely linked examples

I have absolutely no idea what those 2 closely linked examples were, but it’s perfectly obvious (at least to me) why I stopped writing at that point.

But, Oooh! Look… I found the rest of that single sentence post, lurking in an old Word document. What I can’t figure out is why it’s dated EARLIER than the single sentence one.

Are we there yet? – (started 15 August 2012 @ 04:43:?)

Hands up who remembers being a kid, waiting for Christmas; for that moment when you could get up in the morning and find out what the jolly fat housebreaker had left underneath the 6ft tall dying plant in the middle of your living room?

OK, put your hands down for crying out loud. I can’t see you, and you look like idiots… probably. But you know what I’m talking about… right? Time seems to pass much more slowly when you’re a kid. Once you’re in your 30s, you spend all your time saying things like “What? Christmas adverts already? I only took the decorations down last week!”, while your children sit in the corner feeling as though they have lived an entire lifetime between this Christmas and the last. Well I’m here to tell you that isn’t specific to children. Time is relative depending on circumstance.

Why am I talking about this? Well… at the time of writing this, I have misplaced my phone… To clarify: I know exactly where it is, I just can’t get to it at the moment. I have another phone… but it only allows me to call 3 carefully pre-selected numbers in Sweden, and for my fiancée to call me. Now… I am currently trying to move my entire life from England to Sweden for a minimum of 3 years. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of planning. I have doctors to call… immigration services to contact… driving licences to change… Things to sell… things to put into storage… Flights to book… Jobs to find… Healthcare to arrange… Phone tariffs to re-arrange… All of this takes a lot of effort, and almost all of it, requires a phone! This may seem like nothing to most of you, but consider that I am living on someone else’s sofa, in a house with no phone, and I currently have exactly £5 to my name. I am out of contact with family members, I am unemployed until finding gainful employment across the water, and I have no transport of any kind whatsoever. So every day, I check for jobs, and apply for those I am qualified or otherwise placed to do, and then… nothing. There is nothing to do but sit and wait, and look at a computer screen, check my emails (roughly 5-6 times an hour), check facebook (roughly 11-12 times every hour) and wait… and wait… and wait.

I should explain at this point that my love is currently entertaining an old friend from the other side of the Atlantic, whom she hasn’t seen for over a year. This friend will be there from now, almost right up to the time I arrive in Sweden. Now, we both miss each-other… we are both feeling time slowing down as this big moment approaches… but she has a good friend, whom she loves, to keep her entertained for the next two weeks, whereas I keep watching the calendar to check on the remaining days, and I have now become convinced that time, in these circumstances, can not only slow down, or even stand still… but can actually appear to go backwards! Seriously… I could swear that I looked at the calendar 2 days ago and worked out that I was half-way there. Today I looked at it and saw that I would be half-way there in another 2 days! WTF, father-time? Are you taking the piss?

I could re-submit my novel for publication, if I had a printer (yes, 95% of agents and publishers still do not accept e-mail submissions). I could print the novel off at a library or stationary store, but 300 pages is a whole lot of paper and ink, and consequently a whole lot of money, which, as previously mentioned, I have in very short supply. I could write something new, but I’m finding it very hard to concentrate at the moment… this is the first flash of inspiration I’ve had in the last 5 days, and it’s hardly “A Tale of Two Cities” is it. I could sleep more, but if my nickname and title of my blog didn’t give the game away, I should point out that sleep and I have never had the most harmonious relationship, and this situation has turned me from a man who gets less sleep than he needs, to a man who gets less sleep than the average housefly. Don’t bother looking that up! If you won’t take my word for it, I refer you to the stain on my wall, which used to be a housefly until it made the mistake of dive-bombing me all night during one of the only occasions in the past week when I was actually in danger of slipping into unconsciousness. Trust me: they don’t spend a hell of a lot of time in slumberland. Christ… if you had no eyelids and a shorter lifespan than a carton of pasteurised milk, would you waste your time sleeping?

INTERMISSION – Are you bored yet? Here is a teaser from the next blog post, to break the monotony.

Ben Bond

Excited? No? Ah well… life is full of disappointment. Here’s another half finished post, which probably depressed me because of its dreadful title. Even my place-holder titles are usually better than this.

Computer Depressive – (started 11 August, 2011 @ 22:20:?)

I’m beginning to suspect that my computer might be a manic depressive. There seem to be days when it can handle large text documents, upload videos to YouTube, operate 3D animation programs, and update facebook all at the same time. Days when if one of the children comes into my office with a skinned knee, you almost expect the computer to say “Step aside! I’ll handle this!”

The next day it’s: “Open Email?? Awww… come on!! What Am I… a fucking wizard?”

Doesn’t leave you with many clues as to where it was going, does it? Still, at least the next one has a catchier title. Doesn’t mean I know where it was going.

Harry Potter and the Inevitable Reality of Adulthood – (started 11 March, 2013 @ 04:46:?)

JK Rowling’s boy-wizard famously appealed to both children and adults. The difference between these two sharply defined demographics was that kids loved imagining they too were a wizard/witch, whereas adults loved imagining they were a child, imagining they were a wizard/witch. For the taller, hairier variety of human, escape is often just that simple; we don’t need to be whisked away on a magic carpet – by our mid-thirties most of us have realised that getting out vomit stains with a tub that says VANISH on it is about as close to magic that anything carpet related is ever likely to get – we just know that things were simpler when all we had to worry about was how to tell mum that as a result of an unfortunate chewing-gum experiment, the dog would now have to be shaved.

This next one was a very recent post, which I thought I had completed and posted, but it seems not. Pity really, I thought it started out with some rather keen insights. Perhaps you disagree, but in order to tell me that you disagree, you’ll have to leave a comment, so I’ve got you either way.

Promises – (started 25 November, 2013 @ 00:26:03)

Creativity, it seems to me, is like electricity; it’s bright and exciting; it can shock and illuminate; it can power an entire office building, or turn all your hard work into a blackened, unrecognisable husk in a single blinding flash!

Some creative people learn to harness, and focus this energy; channelling it so that it can be put to good use, boiling your kettle, powering trains, or even lighting up entire cities. We will call these people: Power Stations
Others however, cannot control this energy. We will call them Thunderheads. A thunderhead is the kind of cloud in which thunderstorms are brewing. Inside a thunderhead it is noisy, dark and chaotic, with occasional bright flashes which usually do more harm than good.

You hear thunderheads in the distance. They make a lot of noise, but often there is little to show for all the rumbling. Occasionally, if you are looking in the right direction at the right moment, they produce a beautiful bright flash which connects them briefly to the earth. And the few people who have seen it will sometimes go “Ooooh! Pretty! Do it again!” but of course a thunderhead cannot. Its flashes are random, uncontrolled, unpredictable, unreliable, and utterly useless to anyone except white-haired nutters with a knowledge of the future, and enough cable to connect a car to a large, doomed clock-tower.

Regrettably, I am a thunderhead. My head is busy with creative energy. It is full of flashes of light, which keep me from sleeping, and fill notebooks… but ultimately, though they may look pretty from a distance, that rare and random flash you saw through your kitchen window probably just blew-up someone’s TV, or killed a middle-aged golfer.

Ironic then, that the very thing that led me to write this blog post, is a problem I created for myself, when I manufactured a flash of lightning in a computer program, to blow myself up in a video… which caused my newly discovered creative focus to grind to a complete, gear-shredding, ear-shattering halt.

A tiny part of this next post actually made it into a completed post from February 2012, so presumably I left my desk and didn’t like what I read when I returned a few days later. I dunno.

Rain Stops Play – (started 30 January, 2012 @ 03:58:17)

For most of my life, I have been a victim of what my sister colourfully refers to as “The luck of the seven blind bastards”. This is not the same kind of bad luck you have if you lose limbs, or are stricken with a terminal disease… It is rather, the kind of bad luck that is considered socially acceptable to laugh at. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Take today for example: Yesterday, I lost my phone. So what? You might think. Well… in 3 days from now, it will be the only way I have of communicating with anyone. Now… my back-up plan was to order one from the only company that can replace it in that amount of time. Unfortunately, they are an internet company, aaand… guess what? My internet went down and has been down for the last 2 days… so far no sign of it returning. As if that wasn’t enough, I have only 2 days left to finalise travel plans, which must be done… yep, you guessed it… over the internet! And it doesn’t end there. Over a month ago, I was given a book by my girlfriend, with several tasks in it; one for each remaining day until we can see one-another. Now… bear in mind that – at this point – she is the ONLY person I am still able to contact. So imagine my joy when I turn the pages to find that today’s task is to ignore her for 24 hours! Here in the flat where I live, we have run out of bread and milk… there is a small chance that I have enough money in my bank account to buy one of those items, but I would have to check the bank first, to ensure I don’t accidentally incur a bank charge. Well… it’s Sunday, so the only way I can do that is by internet or by phone… which brings us more or less full circle.

I’m sure you may think I’m inventing some or all of that, but I can PROMISE YOU it is all true… my luck really is just that bad.

Luck, you see… is a little like Christianity, or Reality TV: It exists, whether you subscribe to it or not, and shutting your eyes will not make it go away. This is all OK if the kind of luck you have is good, but with good luck, as with money, the kind of people who say it isn’t important are those who have plenty of it. So you can’t expect sympathy, because those with good luck will simply think you’re exaggerating, and those with bad luck are too busy trying to outrun tornadoes in cars with flat tyres to care what’s happening to you.

Well… that’s it. You can open your eyes now… I SAID YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW!

Next week I have a very exciting post for you: lots of image type things, and even a voting form if WordPress will let me make it long enough.

Still no news about our entry into Empire’s Done in 60 seconds competition this year. We should have found out by now, whether we made the cut, but their website shows no updates on the matter that I can see.

The idea behind the new blog site is almost fully formed and polished now, I just have to start making it all very soon; which unfortunately means leaving this site behind for several weeks, but I’ll keep you updated on that.

Until next week…

Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight

40 Years of Planet Earth

Life Begins

This Friday, my life began… so they tell me. And I don’t want to speak too soon, but it certainly seems to be an improvement on last year.

2013 saw me with kidney stones, glandular fever, an exploded computer, and a broken wrist, all by the end of March. 2014 is looking a lot better so far. I have written more than usual for the time of year. I have a new and exciting plan for the next 12 months, which starts with a new blog (about which, more later). I entered the Jameson-Empire Done in 60 Seconds Competition, and was flown to Norway earlier this week, for my first professional voice-over work, in which I was the narrator of a documentary about Maria Falconetti; star of the 1928 movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

So that’s 2014 so far… but, since Friday was my 40th birthday, how has the world changed during my lifetime?

I was born in the same month as Peter Benchley’s: Jaws. The same month in which Patty Hearst (Grandaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst) was kidnapped. In a year which marked the end of Richard Nixon’s career, and the beginning of Stephen King’s; whose first novel, Carrie, was published in April of that year… while the above mentioned, Ms. Hearst was holding up a bank with her new “friends”; yelling and pointing an M1 rifle at terrified patrons of the Hibernia Bank, at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco.

15 of 007’s 23 (official) outings have been released during my lifetime. Mr. Bond himself has had 4 faces in that time, while The Doctor has had 9.

648 episodes of Star Trek (including movies and animated episodes) and all 6 Star Wars movies to date have been filmed since I took my first steps.

1974 saw the opening of the ill-fated World Trade Centre in New York, as well as the birth of Rubik’s Cube, the VW Golf, Bar-Codes, Dungeons & Dragons, Hong Kong Phooey, Connect Four, Hello Kitty, Bailey’s Liqueur, Happy Days, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Little House on the Prairie… and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Quite a combination there.

Muhammad Ali reclaimed the World Heavyweight title; defeating George Foreman in the eighth round of the famed Rumble in the Jungle. And while Ali was knocking Foreman on the ground in Kinshasa, Anthropologist Donald Johanson was busy discovering the 3.2 million year old fossilised remains of our earliest known ancestor to walk upright; 2000 miles away, in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.

The world has seen a lot of changes in my lifetime… it’s had to. Most of the things that govern modern life nowadays didn’t exist in any real sense when I was born; mobile phones, personal computers, the internet, video-games, GPS, and social media. Technology moves so fast now, that many of the things first used in my lifetime have already become obsolete: The Space Shuttle, Floppy discs, VHS tapes, CDs… Concorde.

There are twice as many people on this planet now than existed when I was born. Some of them that were born in my 20s now have driving licences for crying out loud… but I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the dawn of a new millennium. We have telescopes now that can detect far off worlds, orbiting distant stars. And whereas most believed in 1974, that of the stars in our galaxy, only a very few would have planets, it is now known that roughly 1 in every 5 stars has a planet capable of supporting life in some form or another. No human being has walked on the moon in my lifetime, but there is now an International Space Station, and commercial organizations all over the world now plan to have human-beings on Mars in the next 10 years.

Our planet got a great deal smaller during the last 40 years… but the universe got bigger, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

Now, since that all went a bit serious for a second, I threw together something a little bit more fun for you; especially those who used to collect Top Trumps card sets when they were younger, as I did.

I thought it might be a nice 40th birthday treat to see how I would measure up against other things my age. So here, for your enjoyment, is the Sleepless Knight “Born in 74″ Top Trumps series.

Jaws + Jim

Golf + Cube

C4 + Baileys

HKP + UPC

Lface + Kitty

King + D&D

In other news… the new blog should be appearing over the next couple of months. I have had trouble narrowing what I talk about down to a single subject, but I have managed to narrow it down to a single theme, so the new blog, when it arrives, will be exactly that: A new blog… on a new site.

I will keep you updated on that as things progress.

Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight

Elite: Dangerous – Game Preview (Extensive)

EliteDangerous

Over the next 2 months there will be more experimenting, and many updates about which direction I have decided to take my blog. As I said in last week’s post, my biggest problem with sticking to one topic is that I enjoy commenting on anything that makes me happy, or frustrates me in a way impossible to describe without diagrams and explosives.
I am currently toying with the idea of making a completely separate, humorous web-comic/diary type thing, written from the POV of a space traveller, but I am still considering other options.

This week though, I have decided to do a video-game preview, because not only is this game very close to my heart, but when my brother asked me on facebook the other day, if there was more to it than what was shown in the online gameplay videos, I found that facebook didn’t provide me with adequate room for a response.

Since I am of the first generation of computer gamers, there won’t be many people reading this who can understand what it is like to see actual gameplay footage of a game you waited 30 years for! To see the game you never ever thought would arrive, being played by real people! I have honestly only been this excited on 2 other occasions in the 40 years of my life. Christmas didn’t hold this much excitement when I was 6 years old. Generous and Jolly as Santa might have been, he’s got nothing on Mr. David Braben; one of the creators of the original Elite.

David Braben (left) and Ian Bell (right) in 1984

David Braben (left) and Ian Bell (right) in 1984

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about: Elite was to gaming what The Beatles were to music, and David Braben and Ian Bell were Lennon and McCartney. Elite came along, and the rules about what we could expect from computer games changed overnight. Every space-sim, RPG fantasy or sandbox video-game can trace its roots back to Elite. In fact, if you have ever played any open-world game, you have Braben and Bell to thank for it. No matter what any 30 year old hipster with an unhealthy love of the handlebar moustache might tell you, kids… Braben and Bell did it first!

In a time when video games looked like this…

JetSetWilly

Elite looked like THIS

elite_C64_anflug

Okay… maybe that wasn’t really the best way to illustrate the differences. So, what do we do when a picture does not say a thousand words? We use a thousand words…

more or less…

probably more…

…okay, definitely a lot more.

What you can’t really tell from the image above is that, firstly, Elite was the first real 3D game available for home computers. You could move around in 3D space instead of just walking/running/jumping over crocodiles/swinging from one side of the screen to the other. If you doubt how much this game shook up the video-games industry, check out this video.

Now, in a hipster culture, where guys like to play retro games and tell you about the good old days of Mario; their fat little friend whose fault it probably is in the first place that an entire generation has returned to the the porn-style soup-catcher, and who probably knew even less about which end of a spanner to hold than they do… the difference between 2 dimensions and 3 might not seem like a lot. But for those over 35, who actually remember the dawn of computer games, this was a very big deal (I can never really understand why people who grew up in the 90s are nowadays considered to be the first generation of computer gamers… when the birth of computer games was actually about 15 years before that).

More so than the 3D though (at least for me), was that open-world angle. This was not a linear, upward/sideward-scrolling game, where safely crossing the road and jumping across a few logs in a river was all you had to do. The objective of this game was… pretty much whatever you wanted it to be, within reason. You started the game inside a space station, with 100 credits and a spaceship to your name, and the aim of the game was to earn a living, somewhere out there amongst the 8 available in-game galaxies, each containing 256 planets.

That’s over 2,000 planets to visit!

In 1984!

1984-poster

How you made your money in the game was very much a personal choice. You could trade goods; buying at one price and then finding out everything possible about the worlds within range, and gambling that certain goods might be in higher demand in certain places, and as such fetch a higher price. You could even trade illegal goods like slaves or narcotics, if you were willing and able to take on any law enforcement you might run into (which in the Elite world usually meant dozens of Viper police ships, spewing out of a space station as you approached it with a cargo hold full of illegal merchandise… or accidentally leaned on the fire button whilst coming in to dock). You could lurk about in dangerous systems, hoping to encounter criminals, whose charred corpses would then net you a healthy bounty. You could equip your ship with a mining laser and mine asteroids for precious minerals. You might decide to accept jobs for one or another military factions in the game. You could even just sit inside a space station and play the stock market; gambling on prices to go up or down over time. I’m fairly certain I never met anyone who would buy the world’s first 3D, open-world, sandbox space simulator and then do this, but the choice was there if you wanted it. The really unscrupulous types could lie in wait for innocent trading ships and blow them apart before using their fuel-scoop to pick up the cargo cannisters floating amongst the debris. They might cross their fingers and wait for the word LUXURIES or COMPUTERS to pop up on the screen; indicating what they had just collected. In fact the absolute utter bastards out there could use the same scoop to pick up their victim’s escape pod, and rub their hands together in supervillain-like glee, as the pod entered their hold and the word SLAVES appeared on the screen.

To drag players even further into the Elite experience, a novel entitled Elite: The Dark Wheel came packaged with the game. I still have my somewhat battered original copy, sitting in a box of books back home.

The scope of this game seemed limitless.

Of course, time and technology move on and people quickly demand more bang for their buck. Sure the game was big, but every system had only one planet with an orbiting space station. You couldn’t land on the planets, you couldn’t walk around in the space stations.

Answering at least some of these wishes, David Braben then spent 5 years creating a sequel, entitled Frontier: Elite II. In Frontier it was now possible to land on planets…

It's like actually being there!

It’s like actually being there!

Take on crew members, like the dashing, if rather confused Mr. Dixon here; making this request on the bulletin board…

Frontier-Crew

Space stations didn’t all look the same any more…

That's no moon! Look, it can pick up FM radio.

That’s no moon… it’s a Christmas tree bauble!

Planetary systems often had more than one planet to visit, and many of those had space stations of their own…

Welcome to the 30th annual OCD sufferers, planet arranging conference!

Welcome to the 30th annual OCD sufferers, planet arranging conference!

Although you still couldn’t actually leave your ship and walk around a space station, you could at least check the bulletin boards for jobs, and interact with the other people on the station…

image6

And there was EVEN MORE space to explore…

280046image5046

One of the more exciting aspects of Frontier was that at least one of the planetary systems was a real one… ours! You could land on Earth, look up into the night sky, at the same stars you can see if you go outside on a clear night right now… pick one of those stars, and actually go there!

Unfortunately, this game was waaay too enthusiastic about the level of realism involved, and if your autopilot was damaged during a dogfight you needed to be a fucking astrophysicist to reach a planet… because of course all the planets and stars were moving all the time. So you couldn’t just point your ship at a planet and accelerate towards it, because it wouldn’t be there when you arrived. Your autopilot, as it turns out, was doing much, much more than simply keeping your ship in a straight line. It was plotting the speed of a planet through the cosmos; calculating orbits and axial rotation; calculating exactly how long your ship would take to accelerate to a certain speed, and at precisely what point you would need to start slowing down again, so that you weren’t going so fast when you reached the planet that you crashed into, or flew straight past it at 255,376 KPH and had to start the whole stupid business all over again.

Frontier then, although mildly successful, never quite reached the dizzying heights of the original… and the 3rd outing; 1995’s Elite: First Encounters, was a flop, mainly because the publishers GAMETEK, insisted on releasing the game before Braben and his development team had finished working on it, and it was consequently riddled with problems.

After First Encounters, David Braben became disillusioned with publishing companies and the world of Elite went dark.

Elite was the game I dreamed of… the one I always droned on and on about whenever conversations about computers and video-games would arise. I played the second game, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. All I wanted was the original game, updated to account for advancements in graphics capability, with the possibility of landing on planets and walking around stations as a bonus… possibly a few more ship designs. But what the sequel delivered was too much complication. I watched and I waited. I grew up… a bit. I moved house… a LOT. I had many jobs in many places, and video-gaming fell from my mind. A new millennium came; I got married (for the first time), and discovered Sony Playstation. Games had moved on in bounds, but there was still nothing to match my beloved Elite. I inherited a step-son (Good old Richard), and taught him of the long-forgotten days of Elite: A more elegant game, for a more civilized age. Before the dark times… before the GameBoy. He often nodded and said “Cool.” before going back to his Pokemon.

In 2001 I discovered the internet for the first time. A friend of mine built me a PC out of old PCs and after writing and submitting endless short stories, and spending too much time in internet chat-rooms, talking to Australians (the only people awake when I was), I started looking for news that David Braben had decided to revive the Elite franchise.

Nothing.

I moved several more times, had a daughter, wrote a novel, and finally I heard news that David Braben would start working on a new Elite game in 2009. It never happened. I re-discovered film-making through the magic of YouTube… set up this blog and BOOM! My life changed so quickly and dramatically over the next 2 years that my head was spinning for quite some time. I got married again and moved to another country. And then… last year, whilst considering a blog post about video-games and how they had changed, I put those five letters into an internet search engine for what seemed like the hundredth time in the 12 years since I had first discovered the net… and the internet was suddenly alive with the word Elite again. And the new word after the little colon was: Dangerous.

Elite: Dangerous? What the hell is Elite: Dangerous? Can it be? Have my years of fevered dreaming finally sent me over the edge, or is this really a new Elite game? I clicked the link at the very top of the search page and arrived here.

David Braben; the patriarch of the 3D open-world adventure, and seasoned doubter of the games publishing industry had discovered kickstarter. At last he had a possible means to not only fund the Elite he always wanted to make, but to assure a market before he even began coding the thing, by asking the franchise fans to fund it. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I didn’t hesitate to join in and pledge my support. True… Amki and I were mostly living on Marmite sandwiches by then, so I was able to pledge only the smallest amount, but I did what little I could, and the game is now in Alpha testing; to be released in completed form by the end of this year!

Following the kickstarter link in the previous paragraph, or any of the videos I will link from here on, you will see that Mr. Braben is not quite the fresh-faced Cambridge student seen in the black & white 1984 photo above, but he has certainly retained his boyish excitement, and what follows are just a few of the things that he promises to deliver with his new game.

The first and most obvious thing about Elite: Dangerous is how pretty it looks.

CapitalShip_FlyingInside

Flying inside the superstructure of a Capital ship

Even to a computer numbskull like me though, it is perfectly obvious that making this game look better than the original was not going to be very difficult. 30 years is a long time by any measure… in computer terms, it might as well be an ice-age. And, as my brother was right to point out, and as I tell myself whenever I am unfortunate to catch sight of myself in a highly reflective surface: Looks aren’t everything. I’m sure I don’t need to name names, if I refer  you to the cautionary tale of a young film-maker who broke the science fiction mould and, in doing so, created one of the most revered film franchises of all time… only to return 20 years later and take a big, “pretty” shit, all over it and the cherished childhood hopes of his long-suffering fans, who quickly realised that giving this man total creative control was something which should never have been allowed, and scribbling all over something with 21st century crayons is no substitute for a damn good yarn.

Don’t think for one moment I don’t have this at the very front of my very tiny mind while awaiting the arrival of Mr. Braben’s new baby.

The cockpit looks very nice, and the flight controls seem fairly intuitive from the gameplay videos I’ve seen. The game will support Oculus Rift, allowing you to look around the inside of your cockpit, completely oblivious to the giggles of your wife and children, who are presumably busy uploading a video to facebook, of you looking like an intellectually challenged cyborg with the co-ordination of a character from an early Gerry Anderson show, and a visor that only picks up the porn channel.

But aside from the grand spectacles of the game, and the decidedly ugly ones prescibed for deeper immersion within it… what can we expect in terms of actual game mechanics? What will we be able to do? 2000 planets doesn’t impress anyone in 2014. Especially if they are only big red blobs on the screen.

Well, obviously you can’t make an open-world game these days which doesn’t support online multiplayer options, and this game has plenty of those, but it’s the little tiny bits of detail that have been put into this game already which excite me.

Cockpit design will be an indicator, to anyone viewing your ship from the outside, of which in-game company designed your craft. This is covered in more detail in this E:D newsletter. If you can’t be bothered to follow that link, here is a photo to give you some idea of what I mean.

cockpit_styles01l_zps6c792284

Your cherished vessel will show signs of wear and tear as you go about your business, so viewing it from the outside will also give people an idea of what you and your ship have been through together. If you are the kind of pilot who upsets the harbour-master by scraping the side of the docking port on every landing, your ship will wear the signs of your carelessness all over its once pristine paintwork, as well as blast marks, which those regularly engaged in fire-fights will no doubt wear like a badge of honour.

Sidewinder_ruggedPO_02_zps588afb8b

Example of a well-worn Sidewinder fighter

But no matter how much you love the old bird, you aren’t going to get very far in the universe bouncing around in the same Sidewinder fighter with which you start the game. The Sidewinder is one of the many snake-monikered fighters which have been carried over from the original Elite, and extensively redesigned (save the basic shape) for the 2014 version… but we are promised a wealth of other choices, as long as you can stay alive long enough and make profit enough to afford one.

From heavy-hauling freighter workhorses…

Freighter Comp

…to all manner and shape of fighters; some familiar to players of the original Elite, and some new.

Fighter Comp

A new addition to this version of Elite, is that if you fancy the life of a luxury liner captain… you can even work your way up to that, as David mentions in this video.

But what about walking around outside your ship? I keep talking about what your ship will look like to others, but what good does all this prettiness and attention to minute detail do you? What about those long held dreams of walking around on the space stations?

Well, once again, a tremendous amount of thought has gone into all these questions over at the Elite offices, and the short answer is yes. This wonderful little docking animation shows how the game developers plan to use simple, real-world mechanics to add a level of realism to a game grounded very solidly in the world of science-fiction

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e/images/dockinghawkeye2.1.gif

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e/images/dockingunderground2.gif

But David Braben cautions people that this ability to walk around stations will not be available in the initial game release. Instead, these kinds of things will be released in updates and expansion packs for the game. Landing on planets is another long desired part of the Elite universe which he promises will come in time, but there will be many, many planets in a galaxy promising 100 billion stars… and even the detail of these has been carefully considered, to the point where, from the night side of a settled planet, you will be able to recognise the planet’s faction from orbit, by looking at the layouts of the cities far below.

UrbanPatterns

Elite: Dangerous… putting a positive spin on light pollution since 2014!

Mr. Braben further promises that the Elite Galaxy will evolve over time. Not only with updates and expansion packs but through the actions of the players themselves. I will let the man explain for himself how the galaxy will evolve, with outer worlds becoming inner worlds; the frontier expanding (meaning you pesky pirates will have to travel further out to find lawless systems in which to lurk); planetary cities becoming bigger and bigger, and space stations growing from skeletons to massive behemoths, with all kinds of different modules attached, such as the ones shown here

agri_01

Here he is, explaining these things in much greater detail, but this all seems very exciting to me.

Ultimately I think the measure of this game will be in the amount of thought that has gone into every single aspect of it, and 30 years is a very long time to think about the fine details of a game. The dynamics of hyperdrive alone are enough to make my mind boggle; with residual openings allowing hyperspace tail-gaters to follow you to wherever you planned to escape to, and damaged hyperdrive units, poor timing, tailgating, galactic map malfunctions, hyperdrive-slaved or engine damaged teammates, certain spacial anomalies and any number of other problems likely to cause a mis-jump that could leave you twisting in a complete absence of wind… out in the middle of backward-ass nowhere! The possibilities of that alone seem endless to me, and it doesn’t stop with interstellar travel…

Artificial gravity has been ruled out by big Dave, who apparently likes to stick with things that science at least has an idea how to do, in order to maintain some semblance of realism and a suspension of disbelief. With this in mind, stations with gravity will only be capable of it by means of enormous rotating sections, and therefore different types of stations in different parts of the galaxy will offer differing experiences.

stationtypes

As if walking around on a station wasn’t enough, we are promised you will be able to walk around your ship in later updates to the game; visiting the cargo hold to check on your goods

CargoHold_003

Or perhaps simply visiting the little astronauts room…

Wallpaper09

I could go on and on about this game for another 2 or 3 blog posts, but I’m not going to. If after reading this you still have the enthusiasm to find out more (or indeed the will to go on living), then visit the Elite: Dangerous website. Read more about it, visit the forums, read the newsletters, watch the development diary videos. Answers to every question you can think of are there to be found… Life-Support Systems, Trading, Bounty Hunting, Military Factions, Death-penalty rules, Capital Ships, Asteroid Mining, Passenger Carrying, Pirates, Cat Names… it’s all there.

This game obviously has a lot to live up to, and a very fine line to tread between immersive, and overly complicated. If you want to play a game that requires you to be accompanied by an accountant, a stockbroker, and an astrophysicist, look no further than Eve Online. But David Braben freely admits to treading dangerous waters, and is quite open and even outspoken about the problems that the game faces going forward from release. This could all end in tears. I will be more than happy if the game is a carbon copy of the original with slightly better graphics, so anything else is a major bonus to me, but I live in a time of much more discerning gamers than myself; moreover, ones who don’t have the same pair of rose-tinted 1984 specs that I do, so I fully expect that Mr. Braben and his team have their work cut out for them. But living in the shadow of The Phantom Menace has made us all cautious of expecting too much, and I don’t imagine that the thought has never crossed young David’s mind either…

And hey… If Peter Molyneux’s promises were anything to go by, the Fable franchise would have ended world hunger and created anti-gravity by now, and people still buy his games. Go and buy David Braben’s. I promise you it will be better.

If you don’t like this kind of game, fair enough. It’s certainly not my place to judge you for your empty, soulless existence. As for everyone else… keep an eye out for me at Lave station.

EDIT 3rd August 2014: You can now watch me play the game, in the 30 minute video below (or click this link to open in a new window), in which I cover the basics of flight, hyperspace/supercruise travel, trading, and docking.

P.S. I couldn’t possibly fit all the artwork I have on ED into this one post, but if you request it in the comments section, I will post a few dozen more in an image gallery post later this week.

Staring at Goats

I started writing this blog as a record of my attempt to get my novel published whilst creating a successful YouTube channel at the same time. There was a very clear line of thinking behind the reasons for writing here.

  1. Writing a weekly blog will make my efforts public, and so urge me to keep my promises, and keep up with the submissions and videos.
  2. I may find some followers for the YouTube channel.
  3. It will keep me writing, even when I have nothing to write about.
  4. Prospective agents/publishers will have a wealth of my writing at their fingertips, should they wish to investigate.
  5. If, after a year or two, I have still not found a publisher… by that time I should have a sufficiently large YouTube audience to help increase sales of my book, should I opt to self-publish.

…On February 17th, it will have been 3 years since that moment.

I set up Sleepless Knight accounts on twitter, facebook and YouTube on the same day I started this blog. 3 weeks later I checked the stats… I checked them again today.

Followers

It’s fair to say that I got a little sidetracked.

As a direct result of writing here on WordPress, I met the woman of my dreams, and we are now very happily married… so it is tempting to say that this blog doesn’t owe me anything, and walk away from it. But I’m still convinced that I can make this whole thing work for me, and if there’s one thing my wife will tell you about me, it’s that I once I get an idea into my head it is impossible to shift it.

But that’s not really a good thing is it. I mean, it’s one thing to convince yourself that you can run through the wall into the next room because atoms are mostly empty space… but, as the very level-headed Dr. Ben Goldacre would no doubt have said to the poor, deluded Major General Stubblebine and his broken nose: I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s no good repeatedly saying “I’b dot givig ub!” through your mashed and bleeding hooter, as you bounce off the wall for the 30th time in a month. Sooner or later, you either have to start using the door, or accept confinement by the men in white coats, in a room where the walls can’t hurt you any more.

There are many reasons why the plan I outlined above has failed. Some of them are no doubt still a mystery to me, but the more obvious ones are:

  1. You cannot hope to gain followers on twitter if you never use it!
  2. You cannot hope to gain followers on YouTube if you never use it!
  3. You cannot hope to gain followers on WordPress if you never use it!

Once again; it’s a bit more complicated than that. The twitter thing is no more complicated than that. I simply keep forgetting it’s there. The YouTube thing is firstly a result of my monumental over-ambition when it comes to making videos; where I come up with extremely simple ideas and then over-complicate the crap out of them. And secondly because my circumstances keep changing every 5 minutes, which makes it difficult to film things. It’s tough to make and upload YouTube videos when you’re computer blows up OR you have no access to the internet OR you have no camera because you sold it in order to eat OR your crew live in another country, because you left them behind for 3 years!

So now let’s address the WordPress thing, because if you’re reading this, the chances are fairly high that you have at least a passing interest in reading blog posts.

There have been more agency submissions since those first ones, and there have been more videos since that first one… but the one glaring problem with my blogging above all others, is that I don’t find one subject and stick with it.

Without doubt, the blogs that get the most visitors (and WordPress do tell you this when you first start blogging here) are the ones which have a specific focus. If you have one subject about which you write, and you write about it regularly, then half the work is already done. So, if I know that, what’s the problem?

Well once again, the problem is me. All my life I have deeply envied people who have one passion; one area of their life which dominates all others and decides the direction of their life as a whole. My problem, as I have stated again and again, is that despite many, many efforts to narrow my focus to one specific area… Storyteller is the best I can do. That is as narrow as I can make it. I love telling stories. I want to tell my stories and there are many! I can’t put the required amount of exclamation marks after the word many, because you would think I had fallen asleep on my keyboard, and I can’t make the word big enough without writing it on something much larger than the state of Texas. I have many, many stories which I want to tell; from the things that happen in my daily life (which has been much more interesting than you might think) to the many, many hundreds of story ideas which have been filling my brain, and dozens upon dozens of notebooks and scraps of paper, since I was a very young boy, and are still doing so on a daily basis.

The problem is that storytelling covers a lot of sins: Books, Films, Short Stories, TV Series, Plays, Screenplays, Stage-acting, Screen-acting, Voice-acting, Game production, Animation, Poetry, Blogging… there’s a lot of scope to it. The other problem with telling stories, is that unless you first have people’s attention, no-one really cares what you have to say. So I need to get back on track here, and start growing my audience, because I have made a decision to keep trying to find an agent for my book until I return permanently to the UK next year. If, in that time, I have not found a representative, then I will self-publish my book and let the chips fall where they may.

So I need your help. I realise I’m probably going to make myself look really stupid here, since no-one ever comments on this blog, but I’m going to ask anyway, in the hope that one or two kind souls have suggestions for me, and actually tell me what they are in a helpful way… in the comments section [It's easy to find - Just click the speech bubble at the top of this post and you will be directed to the comments section].

This blog needs a permanent focus. Something very specific that I can blog about on a weekly basis, and then if I want to tell you other things, I can do so in a different section.

  • Movies – I love the movies. I always have done, and I still almost always end every day with a film. (but there are too many sites doing movie reviews already. Needs to be something new, or at least something that everyone and their grannies aren’t already doing)
  • Film-making – My biggest passion by far. This is my world, and the people who do this are my people. I love everything about it, and I do every single job on a movie myself, but my main areas of interest are:- visual effects, miniatures/modelling, sound design, film scores, set/prop design.
  • Writing – I have done this for a very long time, and I don’t think I could stop if I tried – check this post, to get a brief idea of my writing career –  but I don’t think the internet needs another website about writing. Everything that can be said has been, and by better writers than myself.
  • Bad Science and the proliferation of – It has become a bit of an obsession with me to fight back against the constant stream of bullshit which is posted, and reposted as fact on social-networking sites. The internet is a wonderful thing but it does let pretty much anyone state pretty much anything as fact, because the majority of us are too stupid or lazy to check the facts. The problem with this idea is a) Ben Goldacre and others are already doing it better, and b) I fear that my lack of medical/technical knowledge might actually do harm to the kind of intelligent professional debate run by much better qualified people than myself.
  • Astronomy & Space Travel – Another passion of mine since I was a very, very small boy. I am probably one of the only people in the world sad enough to have read the entire Apollo 8 mission transcripts (that’s everything that was said in the capsule for 4 days), when they didn’t have to. I love everything about the universe outside our little planet, but once again, I fear I am not really well-read or qualified enough to contribute anything of any value to a wealth of on-line information about… the universe.

I will leave you with those for the time being, since I fully expect to get no responses whatsoever that did not come from inside this apartment.

Web Success

See you soon.

2014 Movie Preview: Pt III

SK2014MovRev

All the best things come in threes, so I’d better make sure that I don’t drag this out over yet another post this week. Also, since the movies I’m previewing are getting further and further away (these ones start in October 2014) as we go down the list, it is getting much more difficult to find images relating to the production… so I may start improvising a little now.

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Dracula Re-named

Dracula Untold  -
October 17th

So, Dracula, became Dracula: Year Zero, and now Dracula Untold. But is it? Haven’t we been told this story before? I seem to recall that no-one really much liked what Francis Ford Coppola had to say on the subject. Well, if a Hollywood giant like Coppola can’t get it right, what else is there to do but give the project to a man who has previously only directed commercials.

Gary Shore is not really treading entirely new ground; drawing on the widely held belief that Bram Stoker based the character of Dracula on real-life 15th century overlord, Vlad Tepes. From interviews I’ve seen however, it does sound like Shore is telling a much more interesting story than Coppola, who pretty much tried to tell us that Dracula wasn’t all that bad before he fell out with God and developed a bit of an O+ habit. The truth of the matter, if the stories of the inspiration for Dracula are to be believed, is that Stoker took Vlad III and toned him down a bit.

For those of us who remember vampires before they went all glittery and pouting, the thought of having your blood drained by an immortal bastard while we slept was a fairly horrifying prospect… but that is a peaceful, dizzying drift into a warm (if rather too permanent) bath, compared with what Vlad tended to do with people who didn’t laugh at his jokes. I’m not going to go too deeply into it here (as much as I am tempted to), but as many of you will be aware, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, is usually referred to by the much more evocative epithet, Vlad the Impaler. In case you were wondering: No, this was not just a clever 15th century nickname for a well-endowed gentleman. He was so called because he is rumoured to have used over 40,000 people as life-sized pencil toppers… holding their legs apart and oiling a large stake, which was then… I think you get the picture. I’m sorry if you were eating a hot-dog or something while you read that. I should have put a disclaimer, or a spoiler-alert or something at the top of this post. Anyway, Vlad used to arrange these impaled people in concentric circles outside cities he planned to attack, or as a deterrent to his enemies (I don’t know about you, but this tactic would deter the fuck out of me), and the story goes that this lovely fella was the inspiration for Dracula; hence the stake through the heart, I would imagine.

Okay, maybe I did go too deeply into it, but if you wish to know more about the charming Vlad, check this out.

As far as the movie goes, it should be worth a watch. Just, maybe go without snacks for this one, eh?

The things some guys will do to get a date with Megan Fox...

The things some guys will do to get a date with Megan Fox…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -
October 17th

Once again, Megan Fox finds employment in a franchise based on a cartoon. Turtles are mutated by toxic stuff that we flushed; someone makes a movie about it; we flush that, and so goes the never-ending life-cycle of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

It shouldn’t be hard to discern my feelings about this film. If you can only see one film this week, make it the one with the stakes up the bottom. Unless you have kids. In which case… cover their eyes when it gets to that bit.

I have to admit, that looks like a hell of a maze.

That looks amazing… c’mon, someone had to say it!

The Maze Runner -
October 24th

Nope. This is not leaked CCTV footage of a thief who took a wrong turn after nicking a novelty tankard from the Hampton Court Palace gift shop, but the latest adaptation of dystopian fiction, this time from author, James Dashner.

A young boy with no memory wakes up in a community of 50 teenage boys, surrounded by a deadly maze. A day later, the first ever girl arrives.

Well, you certainly couldn’t ask for a situation with more tension. Throw in a box containing only one After-Eight mint and I think most cinema patrons would need chain-mail gloves to save their fingernails.

This will be the directorial début of Wes Ball, so it’s a very difficult one to call, but I think it would be difficult to mess up such an idea, so I’m gonna risk saying: Hit

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Interstellar -
November 7th

Those who are superstitious leave now. Especially if, like me, you are a fan of Christopher Nolan.

For me, this is the big one of 2014. I simply cannot wait to see this movie. And not necessarily because I think it will be an instant hit, but because I think Chris Nolan is one of the most talented directors working right now… and I’m kinda wondering when this ride is going to end.
You see, in my opinion (and I need to stress that not everyone agrees with this), Chris Nolan has never made a bad move as director or writer, but let me explain the problem with expecting too much from this movie:

The film revolves around a group of explorers and scientists from a resource-depleted Earth, poking their heads through a newly discovered wormhole to see what’s on the other side. All very good so far. Then, in an unsurprising move from Nolan, it stars Michael Caine. Excellent; no problems there. Anne Hathaway also joins the very interesting cast list, along with John Lithgow and Wes Bentley; all of whom are watchable and usually dependable. Sounds great. Then the first teaser trailer combines images of historical, pioneering moments in human history, with a beautifully written monologue which goes directly to the very heart of everything I feel most passionately, about human-beings and this little planet we inhabit, in a single line of dialogue I would love to have written myself “…our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.” And the monologue is read by….  Matthew McConaughey.

Oh…

I’m being tremendously unfair to poor Matthew here, I know. It’s a very, very minor point in an otherwise perfect-sounding premise. I just get so nervous whenever a new Chris Nolan movie comes out, because I have come to expect so much from him.

I suppose if there is one thing I should have learned by now, it’s this: When a fantastic cook tells you they are making a mouth-watering dish, but they’re going to use an ingredient you don’t ordinarily like… trust them to know what they’re doing.

Will this be a hit? Absolutely!

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Paddington -
November 28th

Paul King directs Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman in this big-screen outing for Michael Bond’s beloved bear.

Paddington bear arrives at Paddington station from darkest Peru, where he is found and adopted by the Brown family. He is politeness in a little duffle-coat, and loves marmalade sandwiches; which he presumably eats from exactly the kind of paper-bag that Nicole Kidman couldn’t act her way out of!!

Paul King: Paddington was found with a note attached to his duffle-coat, which read “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” and you let Nicole Kidman onto the cast… Shame on you, Paul King… Shame on you. You just better pray my sister doesn’t find out.

Home2014

Home -
December 5th

Adapted from a children’s book entitled The True Meaning of Smekday. An alien race called the Boov have invaded Earth and renamed it Smekland. Whilst being relocated to Florida, teenager, Tip (so nicknamed because her first name is Gratuity) befriends one of the aliens, and adventurous stuff happens.

The Wikipedia plot summary for this book left me more confused than a vacuum-sealed horse, so I went over to the website for the book, at smekday.com (set up by the book’s author, Adam Rex), and was more confused than I was to start with, but at least I was confused and laughing. I recommend a visit.

Having visited the website, I am certainly tempted to buy the book… er… for my daughter, and with a plot as mental as this I believe the movie will be a hit; even with a cast which includes both Rhianna and J.Lo (coincidentally also the name of the alien befriended by Tip in the book).

I will definitely go and see this movie… with my daughter.

Also: Steve Martin as captain Smek? Where the hell did you find Steve Martin?

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That looks nothing like me! You are un-fucking-believable! What’s your name?

Exodus -
December 12th

Yep. From the book of the same name. I told you this was going to be a year of biblical epics, and with Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, it certainly will be epic. Captain serious has become the modern day David Lean, when it comes to epic movie-making… hardly surprising, since the briefest glance through Scott’s movies is enough to tell you that he set out to be exactly that. Kingdom of Heaven is so obviously his Lawrence of Arabia, it’s a wonder he didn’t call it Balian of Jerusalem.

Anyway, with one big ego in the director’s chair and another in the lead role, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an on-set explosion already… seriously, Christian Bale as Moses? If that isn’t like using plutonium fire-lighters I don’t know what is. I mean the man went bat-shit (see what I did there?) playing John Connor, and you give him Moses!! What’s gonna happen when he stands atop Mt. Sinai, screaming at God for interrupting him while he was writing “adultery”?

As I said in part one of this preview; Atheists appreciate a ripping yarn just as much anybody else, and I am quite a fan of biblical epics. A biblical epic directed by Scott? I’m there.

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Dumb and Dumber To – (Check the movie title out before you write and correct my spelling)
December 19th

I like both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. And the Farrely brothers have made me laugh in the past, but I’m afraid the original movie did nothing for me. If you liked it, by all means go and see this one… but The Hobbit: There and Back Again gets it’s UK release on the same day…

just sayin.

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The Hobbit: There and Back Again -
December 19th

What did I just say?

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The Giver -
Release TBC

Hold the sniggering at the back there, you childish imp, the title refers to a giver of memories – specifically history – played by Jeff Bridges. The receiver, Brenton Thwaites, is selected to hold all the past memories of the time before Sameness, but is conflicted about his future within The Community after learning what the giver has to tell him.

Yet another adaptation about a seemingly idyllic community on the verge of discovering just how isolated they are from reality. The children’s novel, by Lois Lowry, upon which this film is based, has received a fair amount of criticism because of concerns about its suitability for young children, but that hasn’t stopped it selling over 5 million copies, or winning several literary awards.

Director, Phillip Noyce hardly has what you might call a golden touch, but Jeff Bridges has been one of my favourite actors since I first watched Tron, back in 1982, so on this occasion I have to agree with Empire, who said:

“We’d go see Bridges and Streep sit and stare at the floor for two hours, so this would have to be pretty terrible to skip it.”

However, my wife said:

“Then again… it’s got Taylor Swift in it.”

She raises a good point.

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Black Sea -
Release TBC

Jude Law plays a freelance submarine captain (there are such things?) who searches… you guessed it… the Black Sea, for a submarine full of… NAZI GOLD!!

Sorry, since watching Bill Bailey do a sketch about UBS, I can’t write or say the words NAZI GOLD!! without doing that. You can imagine how this has hampered my lifestyle.

So… this Jude Law movie then. Whaddaya think then?

I’m going to reveal a decidedly weird and freaky fact about myself here, previously known only to my wife and one or two others: I watch submarine films when I’m poorly!

There. I said it.

I have no idea why this is, although, since I also tend to enjoy movies where the action is mainly confined to the inside of a spacecraft at such times, I suspect it’s because I’m a bit of a claustrophile. For the hard of thinking, that just means that I feel more secure in confined spaces. You might say I’m a closet claustrophile if you wanted to make a really bad pun (turns out I also like making really bad puns), but all this really means for the movie is that I’m very likely to watch it whilst coughing through a duvet. Since this is hardly the sort of endorsement that directors and production companies like to see on the backs of their DVD cases, I suppose I’ll have to say something like… This movie will get a 6.5 out of 10 with most audiences. Once again, Jude Law is another one of those actors who is worth watching in most things.

—————————————————————-

Well, as a certain speech-impaired, porcine thespian was fond of saying: That’s all folks. Regular blogging on slightly more varied subjects will resume within the week. I don’t know how long it will continue, since I have another film to edit over the next month, but I’ll try to get ahead with my posts, so that I can at least release one-a-week for… a couple of weeks.

I will certainly keep you updated about Sleepless Knight’s entry into the Empire: Done in 60 Seconds awards. If you want to find it in the meantime, and you live in the UK, go to jamesonempirediss.com and look for The Lord of the Rings – In 60 seconds –  by James Moors (that’s me, in case you’re one of the 3 people reading this blog who doesn’t know me personally). If you don’t live in the UK, just go to the same link and pretend to be from the UK.

Take care.

2014 Movie Preview: Pt II

SK2014MovRev

Welcome back. Unless you are discovering my blog for the first time, in which case go back and read this first. In the highly unlikely event that you are obstinate enough to refuse to go back, but still interested enough to go forward… you will require the following information: Empire magazine’s recent list of 100 Movies You Should See In 2014 inspired me to write my own previews of the ones which stood out for me, for good reasons or bad. I am trying to give a clear decision on whether or not I think these movies will sink or swim, and I encourage you to do the same in the comments section of this blog, which you can reach by clicking the little speech bubble thing (hopefully it will have a number in it by the time you read this).

For those who were here last time: this is where the fun begins. Because if you thought part 1 of this list had some weird ideas in it… you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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Edge of Tomorrow -
May 30th

Watching the trailer for this movie sparked off a discussion between my wife and I, where I found myself defending Tom Cruise, so I think we can all agree the world has fallen right off its little wheels and into the bath (don’t ask me. I just write ‘em as they spill out of my brain), but hear me out. Tom Cruise started out playing pretty action heroes, and he got along quite well at it until his marriage fell apart, Nicole Kidman (hardly Olivier herself if I may say so) slammed him in the press, and he seriously over-played his “affection” for Katy Holmes, using Oprah’s sofa (how scared am I right now that the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognise the word blog but it has no problem with Oprah?). One viral video about Scientology later… and his career looked very, very dead. But, he went into hiding for a while, did a few slightly self-deprecating roles, in a fairly unconvincing attempt to show us that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and now he’s back to playing the action hero. Look… he’s not my favourite person, and if he ever finds a woman willing to marry him again, I don’t think we’d be too paranoid to insist on checking her brain for circuit boards, but otherwise, he’s paid his dues… let’s just watch the movie.
Which reminds me: This one involves a time-loop, try-until-you-get-it-right, alien war… type thingy. The trailer sells it quite well for me, even if it is just Groundhog Day in an alien-repellent, mechanised prom dress.

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Maleficent -
May 30th

Did you ever wonder at the harrowing story behind the evil queen in Sleeping Beauty? Did you ever stop to think how she was feeling… or what drives a queen to evil, infant-cursing madness? Well, the writers of Maleficent did, so that you don’t have to. And, on May 30th, you can watch this Sleeping Beauty prequel and presumably have your eyes opened to what those smug fucking Disney Princesses aren’t telling you. The times they are a changin’… it’s not good enough any longer that the pretty people get their happy ending, and the uglier ones slink back to the forest with their forked tails between their legs, or get their heads blown open with oxygen tanks because they took a few little bites out of some humans… and Robert Shaw. Admittedly, Angelina Jolie in the role of Maleficent does make it kind of hard to argue the whole Uglyness Rising angle, but if you’re the sort of person who always felt bad for the poor henchmen in Bond movies; trying desperately to make us understand how hard it is to get a regular job when your dentist moonlights as a welder… then this is for you. I am one of those people, and I have to say that this movie looks pretty damned good, so I’m going to risk looking stupid and say: Maleficent will be a hit.
If nothing else, it’s nice to start seeing movies that tell the villain’s side of the story. I mean, where’s the harm in learning about Dracula’s traumatic past, or why Darth Vader became twisted and evil?

Wait…

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A Million Ways to Die in the West -
June 6th

I seem to be one of the only people who thought that Seth MacFarlane’s Ted was a steaming pile of crap. Mildly amusing for a second, if it seems to resemble Justin Bieber… but I don’t want to crouch down close enough to smell it, and then watch it for 2 hours!
With that in mind, you may not care what I think about A Million Ways to Die in the West, but surprisingly, I think it may just be watchable. For one thing, it takes place in “the west”, where Sheep farmer, MacFarlane loses his girlfriend after he backs out of a gunfight. For another, Charlize Theron is the wife of a gun-slinger, who then teaches him to fight back.

Also, Liam Neeson’s character has special skills which involve shooting things… imagine that.

Personally, I find MacFarlane’s brand of comedy hit & miss to say the least. His occasional genius shows through in superbly executed pieces of observational humour… which unfortunately sit atop a mountain of dick jokes and fart gags. He’s messing in my territory here, since westerns are my favourite genre of movie after science fiction(yes; I loved Firefly), so I think I’m being more than generous when I say: this might be surprisingly good.
There’s certainly no room for middle ground here. It will either be an instant comedy classic, or The Lemon That Killed Manhattan. (if you’ll excuse me I’m off to write that screenplay)

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Transformers: Age of Extinction -
July 10th (UK)

Michael Bay: Please stop making these movies.

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-posters

Why so serious?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -
July 17th

After 10 years, Caesar and his hairy buddies from Rise of are still smashing things and being violent to humans, to teach them a lesson for smashing things and being violent to everything else.

I avoided watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a few months, because I heard those immortal words “Don’t bother… my dad saw it and said it was shit!”. I heard these words again the other day, and admittedly the latter case was a little more complicated than “…said it was shit”, but I tried to imagine if I stopped watching or doing things that my parents or friends thought were rubbish, boring or stupid. In my case, this would probably mean having never done very much at all…
…Oh.
I am writing a movie preview list, but I openly encourage you to go and see these films for yourselves, and make up your own mind. I will be doing.
We’ve all said things like “That’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back.” after watching a movie we didn’t much like, but what were you honestly going to do with those 2 hours? Cure cancer? Save polar bears from extinction? Needless to say I eventually watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes… and okay, it wasn’t great (for one thing James Franco didn’t lose any limbs), but it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. If you want to see a really bad movie you don’t have to look much further than the original Planet of the Apes sequels. These are better, even if they don’t have Roddy McDowall in them.

I’m pretty sure this movie is not going to break any box-office records, but it won’t be the worst 2 hours you’ve spent.

jupiter_ascending_mila_kunis_1

I told you not to stand there if you insisted on showing-off your nail-polish, Mila!

Jupiter Ascending -
July 25th

Now here’s where things get really weird. And for this movie I’m going to start by directly quoting Empire’s own plot summary, because… well… see for yourself.

“An unlucky Russian janitor called Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) meets pointy-eared interplanetary warrior Caine (Channing Tatum) who has been sent by the Queen of the Universe to kill her. It turns out that Jones has an extraordinary destiny because of the way the stars aligned when she was born, and now her DNA could mark her as the universe’s next leader.”

I think you can see from that description, that on the face of it, this sounds like the lamest, laziest, most idiotic plot for a Sci-Fi movie you ever heard. This sort of thing is the reason that Science Fiction isn’t taken more seriously. This is precisely the sort of thing my mother means when she says Science Fiction is lazy writing. This sort of thing makes my favourite movie genre very difficult to defend.
Empire start their preview by saying “This all seems bonkers, but…”. But what? It’s “original and ambitious”? So is trying to raise £300 million to make a movie with an all-child cast, about a man who grows a mobile phone where his head should be, and takes over Sainsbury’s in a desperate bid to control the life of Jamie Oliver… but you wouldn’t want to go and watch it (seriously, if someone makes this now, please don’t watch it). Ambition and originality are no guarantee of success. If they were, we’d all be driving Sinclair C5s by now. No, some ideas are just shit, no matter how original or ambitious they are. On top of all that, this is a movie from the Wachowskis, who, lest we forget, also gave us the second 2 Matrix movies, and Cloud Atlas. I don’t care that they gave us The Matrix and V for Vendetta. By my reckoning, that still puts them at least one movie in the red. Why do we trust these people? George Lucas gave us THX 1138, American Graffiti, 3 great Star Wars movies & Indiana Jones… but he makes 3 terrible movies and everyone wants his head on a spike! I am going to watch this movie simply because Sean Bean comes from my home city, and I need to see what he does with a “Han Solo-type” character. But that’s just the morbid curiosity of a fellow Dee-Dah… it is NOT a reason for anyone of sound mind to go and see this movie.

Ask yourself: Would I put my money on a movie made by George Lucas these days?

No?

Then don’t watch this!

Next!

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Fifty Shades of Grey -
August 1

I don’t think you really need me to tell you if this will be any good, do you?

Fifty Shades of Grey, is a movie, based on a book which started life as Twilight Fan-fiction…

I’ll say that again: Twilight Fan-fiction!!

This twitter feed is much more entertaining

Do what you like. Personally, I’m tempted to start carrying a parachute and an inflatable life-raft onto planes, in case this is the in-flight movie.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-concept-art-final

Guardians of the Galaxy -
August 1

Marvel comic adaptation in which Vin Diesel will play a tree.

Erm… I am not as familiar with Marvel comics as some other members of the Sleepless Knight team, but from what little reading I could bear to do on the subject, the back-story for these guys is more complicated than translating the plot of Fight Club for an ancient and peaceful race of fist-less sea-creatures, with no concept of Brad Pitt… Seriously; read this. If you couldn’t get through that either, some of the highlights are: Universal teleportation… A space-station with a telepathic, Soviet space-dog as its chief of security… A fire-resistant tree-being with a more limited vocabulary than most washing-machines… and characters with names like Starlord, and Rocket Raccoon; who is… a raccoon.

I’m not really capable of thinking too much about this. I think it will be rubbish, but a film with a premise this weird has to have cult appeal at least.

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The Expendables 3 -
August 15th

How this franchise has been allowed to get this far is an absolute mystery to me, but there are apparently people who will watch a reality TV show where Tattoo artists from across the USA compete in “extreme” tattooing challenges… so I guess there’s an audience for everything.

If you like explosions… save your money and buy some fireworks.

Equalizer

The Equalizer -
October 10th

The only reason I used to watch former CIA operative-cum-vigilante, Robert McCall, in the 1980s TV show, was because, in case you hadn’t worked it out by this point, Sleepless Knight is not simply a random nickname, assigned to me by Seventh Sanctum. I never slept well, even as a child, and watching Edward Woodward gun down pimps at 4am was marginally more interesting than watching static go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep… for several hours; which is all the other UK channels did at that time in the late-80s. As for the movie version? Well, McCall will be played this time by Denzel Washington, who, even in his worst roles, is at least watchable.
I imagine this movie will occupy the same space in your collection as John Q and Man on Fire. If you don’t understand those references, you’re probably not going to like this film.

Now… I did warn you that the second half of Empire’s list was a lot crazier than the first. So, as much as I hate doing  this to you again: I’ll see you in part 3.

2014 Movie Preview

SK2014MovRev

OK, so this post was going to be about… something… else… but having just read Empire magazine’s 100 movies you should see in 2014 I simply had to comment.

It isn’t that Empire’s preview of 2014 is bad. The reason I don’t usually do movie critique/previews on this blog, in spite of it being my favourite subject, is often because others have said it better already. No. The reason I had to comment on the 2014 preview is because I honestly can’t believe that someone (somewhere in California, I presume) gave these screenplays the greenlight.

Now, perhaps Empire are hedging their bets by not laughing out loud at some of the movie ideas so comically presented in this list. Most people know what this is like:

“Don’t write off Snakes On A Plane just because it has a ridiculous title! If Samuel L. Jackson signed up so quickly, it’s probably a work of facetious brilliance.”

Yeah! Right! I for one suspected it would be complete horse-shit from the moment it appeared in preview. But, in case you think I’m just trying to air my highly polished powers of cinematic perception, here is pretty much what I said about a long awaited prequel back in the late 90s:

“Don’t write off The Phantom Menace just because it has a ridiculous title! If Samuel L. Jackson signed up so quickly…”

…and so on. You get the picture; none of us has the power to gaze into the moving picture maelstrom and pick out the lemons. But, now that I have shaken those metaphors until they are more mixed up than a hungover, lesbian Zebra, raised by a Unicorn and a Shetland pony, I shall invite the bravest of you to comment on the following, upcoming movies; offering your predictions on whether they will sail like a majestic clipper on waves of critical acclaim and box-office glory… or bob crudely toward the side of the pool; causing everyone to scream and get out.

I will not be covering all of the movies in Empire’s list; just the ones that stick out to me, for good reasons or bad. Some of them I will bring up simply because I have a feeling they might not be great… others because I would be absolutely astonished if they turned out to be anything other than laughable nonsense. Some of you may wish to comment with remarks like “I’ll have you know that is based on a brilliant cult novel!” In which case I will defer to your judgement. I love to read, but I can’t read everything, and will usually avoid fantasy in particular. I was unaware until my wife told me very recently, for example, that The Neverending Story was a beloved German fantasy novel. And to say that her friends and family were unimpressed with Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 adaptation would be an understatement of significant proportions. So, feel free to point out successful printed-word versions, if such there are, but try to bear in mind that is no guarantee of successful cinematic adaptation… look what David Lynch did to Frank Herbert’s Dune.

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Grudge Match -
January 24th

A couple of Pittsburgh boxers who never had the chance to slug it out, meet in the ring 30 years later.

Now, I write this on the UK release date of this movie, which means that many of you (particularly those in the US) will already have seen the movie by the time you read this post. Nevertheless, I predict really mediocre things for number 9 on Empire’s list. It’s not just that both De Niro & Stallone have produced some utter crap in recent years (perhaps less surprising in Sylvester’s case), or that Director, Peter Segal’s CV is a tiresome wade through all the most “meh” comedy of the last 20 years… but anyone who says “I know… let’s make Raging Bull-meets-Rocky in retirement comedy!” deserves all the poor box-office results they get.
Maybe it will be a stroke of genius… I suspect not.

The Lego Movie - Super Posters (1)

The Lego Movie -
February 14th

Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have to stop an evil Will Ferrel from Supergluing the Lego universe together. Genius! AND it get’s its UK release on my birthday! This one has great destiny written all over it like the love-child of Frodo Baggins & Harry Potter; wet-nursed by Sarah Connor and then weaned on midichlorian meatballs! Anyone who doesn’t like this movie is a moron!

Moving on…

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Under the Skin -
March 14th

Alien, Scarlett Johansson, is sent by an evil alien corporation, to seduce and abduct hitch-hikers in… er… Scotland.

Now, although young Scarlett has never been at the top of my Big Screen Beauties list, it isn’t hard to imagine that seducing Scottish hitch-hikers might not be as challenging an assignment for her as the evil alien overlords have perhaps been led to believe… especially if we assume that these hitch-hikers will be men. So, there won’t be a tremendous amount of mystery about why so many men allow themselves to be seduced by Ms. S. Johansson E.T. For those who haven’t read the novel though (yes… that includes me), the real mystery behind this movie will be why she is doing this.
Other than the assumption that this will be yet another movie which does very little for Scottish tourism (let’s not forget this country gave us television, the telephone, Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, and 3 time-travelling Doctors) I’m not entirely sure which way to jump on this one. Director, Jonathan Glazer previously directed Sexy Beast, which I was quite fond of, but I’m not sure this movie will attain anything beyond cult status (although, as my wife pointed out, judging from the trailer, fans of Twin Peaks might get a kick out of it).
As for those guys hoping to see Scarlett wearing very little indeed; two words of warning:

  1. If the trailer is any indication of creepiness level, you’re more likely to leave the movie in tears than hot flushes.
  2. It is very cold in Scotland.

Next!

The-Zero-Theorem

The Zero Theorem -
March 14th

Terry Gilliam once read a Science-Fiction screenplay of mine entitled Patient Zero, and then sent me a form letter to the effect that it was rubbish, but I was only 20 years old at the time so I don’t hold a grudge. I actually really like the guy, and he was right; that screenplay sucked. But this is Terry Gilliam we’re talking about here, so I don’t think I’m crawling too far out on the more precarious parts of a poplar when I make the following prediction: This will be a mad, mad movie which will make very little sense to you, but which will nonetheless help to get you laid at the sort of parties where they say things like “Yeah… the symbolism is really rich in his films. The time-travelling dwarves so obviously represent small farmers, trying desperately to survive under the capitalist jackboots of corporate food giants!”
I’m not even going to tell you what this movie is about, because the chances are you won’t know the answer to that even after you’ve watched it. But, like many of Gilliam’s films, it will be enjoyable to watch, and tremendous fun to see people trying to explain to their friends.

Or… it could be another Baron Münchhausen.

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Noah -
March 28th

2014 is going to be a year of biblical epics, and this one is keen to follow in the bible-to-silver-screen tradition of signing up as many big hitters as possible. The credits of  this one include Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, Hermione Gr Emma Watson, Frank Langella, Nick Nolte, and Russell Crowe as the titular meteorology enthusiast.
Unless you slept through the first 20 years of your life or are a Scientologist, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what this film is about. We all get to laugh out loud as Steve Carell hits his thumb with a hammer a few dozen times, whilst making a Bible-boat full of dangerous animals for Morgan Fr…
No?
Okay, well I must admit that the irony of this coming so hot on the heels of the David Silvester flood story had not escaped me. But apart from that, believe it or not, I quite like biblical epics. And if that seems like an odd thing for an outspoken Atheist to say, consider that I don’t believe in ghosts either, but I still watched Scooby Doo.
I think it will draw a fair box-office crowd, if for no other reason than (wait… those ghosts were always just men in masks! O-M-G!!)… if for no other reason than this. A biblical epic needs to be seen on a really BIG screen. There might be vicars’ wives out there who disagree with this, but God never did anything small. And you certainly can’t say he didn’t know how to tell a story. In this case: God sends the rain to teach humans a lesson, and he would have succeeded if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -
April 18th

Teenage photographer puts on loud lycra suit and dispenses silly-string at bad guys who never seem to materialise anywhere else in the world but New York.
Who honestly cares if this is a hit? You would think they had learned lessons about over-populating Spider-man movies with bad-guys, but the poster above would seem to suggest otherwise. Still… if it doesn’t work, they can just reboot the series in 2 years time.

Next!

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Transcendence -
April 25th

Johnny Depp puts down the eye-liner and puts on his Ninth Gate moustache and glasses for this Wally Pfister movie, about a scientist whose brain is uploaded into the ultimate super-computer of his own design, by his grieving wife…
No matter how ridiculous the premise for a movie, suspension of disbelief is a must for the audience to thoroughly enjoy it. The problem here is that only in the non-existent world behind that screen would you ever find a scientist who is still dumb enough to think that designing a super-intelligent computer which surpasses human thought and emotion is a good idea. What Pfister should have called this movie is Virtuosity 2: Artificial Stupidity.

Still… Johnny Depp is rarely disappointing in a movie. I’ll watch it. You coming?

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The F Word -
May 2nd

I have never managed to figure out why it is that when someone becomes tied to a role in the way Daniel Radcliffe has, their next move is almost always into the world of romantic comedy… and quite often involves a man trying to escape from The Friend Zone, exactly as this one does. I just hope his first attempts at this are better than his first outing as that wizard, whose name escapes me at the moment. We’ll see. I for one don’t like to type-cast actors that way. But let’s watch it, just in case he turns his co-star into a frog or something.

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Godzilla -
May 16th

Up from the depths… 30 stories high… breathing fire… his head in the sky… Chuck Norris!

As Douglas Adams might say: “Godzilla is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big he is…” and this May, he will be stepping on really big things, and making them into lots of really, really small things, while David Strathairn & Bryan Cranston try to stop him… somehow.
And now for a shocking confession: My name is James and I watched Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla… more than once. There, I finally said it. I like Matthew Broderick, but I really hope that this movie is much, much better.

My (very safe) prediction: It will be.

Now, it appears that I have been enjoying this waaaaay too much, and have apparently droned on for much longer than I had intended. Will I go back and shorten it? Will I bollocks! Much simpler and more gratifying to simply do the second half in another post.

See you very soon.

Emergency

Get over the rainbow

It’s not very often I get the chance to bash religion, homophobia and politics all at the same time, so I will join other bloggers, journalists and newsreaders around the UK in thanking the great and powerful Wizard of Oz (or whatever your particular religion calls him) for Councillor David Silvester of the UK Independence Party.

I consider myself thankful for David Silvester for two reasons:

  1. He gave me something more interesting to write about than the 007/Harry Potter fusion dream that I had last night.
  2. Because of the joy I felt in seeing virtually the whole of the United Kingdom, join together in mocking Mr. Silvester for being a bigoted, God-bothering, lunatic.

Before anyone reacts to my wording there, I use the term God-bothering because I am quite certain that if, against all suggestion of common sense, it turns out there actually is a God… I am quietly confident that he would be just as embarrassed by Mr. Silvester’s comments as was the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage.

For the enlightenment of those readers of this blog, living outside the United Kingdom… floods are a fairly common thing in our country these days. It used to be that the only people over the age of five who wore wellies in the supermarket, were people with horse-boxes attached to the backs of their Land Rovers. Then, in July of 2007, Britain suffered its worst floods in 60 years… followed, a couple of years later, by the worst floods in… well, 2 years. After that it seemed to become a regular thing, and a pretty good reason not to live in Cornwall, in case you didn’t have a good one already.
Anyway, it seems that not all UK residents are convinced that Global Warming is behind the recent surge in flooding incidents. Councillor Silvester is entirely convinced that we would need far fewer umbrellas and inflatable rafts, were it not for the Prime Minister’s decision to legalise gay marriage.

For those of you not living in Texas, I’ll let the shocking 16th century-ness of that statement sink in for a moment.

Yes, you read it correctly; Councillor Silvester believes that God is punishing the United Kingdom for legalising same sex marriages. In a letter to his local paper The Henley Standard, Councillor Silvester said

“The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”

He claimed to have warned the Prime Minister about such an unchristian move, and blamed him for the floods… saying

“…the lesson surely to be learned is that no man, or men, however powerful, can mess with almighty God with impunity and get away with it.”

Apparently “…everything a nation does is weighed on the scales of divine approval or disapproval…” which makes me wonder how we weren’t buried under an avalanche of fire and brimstone during the reign of Britain’s Got Talent, but I guess even The Almighty finds it difficult to take Simon Cowell seriously.

So, how does Councillor Silvester respond to allegations of homophobia, following this public denouncement of the Government’s decision?

Well, he told BBC Radio Berkshire in a recent interview, which can be found here, that he loves gay people enough to pray for them to be healed.

Once again… I think we’ll have a moment of silence while the monumental bigotry of that comment sinks in. Feel free to break something if you like. I’ll play some elevator music until you come back…

..*$??!!&*£?%!!**….

Are you ready to continue? It’s almost over.

The reason this blog post has only just been published; several days after Witchfinder Gene Councillor Silvester made himself look so very stupid, is that (as regular readers will know) I usually try to make some sort of cartoon to accompany my blog posts…

The problem with making memes/cartoons about bigoted stupidity of this magnitude like this is…

Emergency

It’s so very, very easy.

Brokeback

And once I got started…

Birdcage

I found it hard to stop…

Moses

I had 2 or 3 more, but if I had carried on much longer, no-one would even have remembered David Silvester’s name by the time I got this blog post finished. So I suppose I’ll leave it there and allow you to stew over all that has been said.

In other news, Sleepless Knight’s entry into the 2014 Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition is now up on Empire’s website. You can find it HERE… If you live outside the UK, you may have to visit the jamesonempirediss.com FIRST, and claim to be from the UK by selecting it from the drop-down menu. Then either click this link again, or simply find The Lord of the Rings – Done in 60 Seconds (by James Moors), on the webpage. If ALL these thing fail, do not fear, I will post a straightforward YouTube link to it, as soon as it is up on the jamesonempirediss YouTube site.

Next time I will post about something much more fun. Until then… it occurs to me, that without the original context in which it was said, my customary farewell might always have seemed rather odd to my readers, and with that in mind I shall stop using it from today onwards. So, for the very last time: Whatever you do David Silvester… don’t bend over for the soap.

Back very soon.