Why are you voting Conservative?

 

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So… Polling Day tomorrow, huh?

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m voting Labour.
I’ve been called “lefty” a few times over the last few weeks, but like most people in 21st Century Britain, I imagine I am probably closer to the middle when all views on all things are taken into account.
Generally, I am not in the habit of asking people who they vote for; it’s really none of my business. But this time I am genuinely curious. Because for a society to thrive in any era, two things are more important to the population than all others: Healthcare and Education. So what I’m wondering is this: how can anyone vote for a party that continues to underfund BOTH to the point where they begin to collapse?

Look… Did the last Labour Government make mistakes? Yes. Would Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Government? Of course. Every Government in every era makes its share of mistakes. I don’t particularly care for accusations that Corbyn is “just to the left of Marx”, and I think that comparing Theresa May to Margaret Thatcher simply shows a lack of imagination. It’s just lazy.
But the current Conservative Government has made twice as much mess as the last Labour one, in half the amount of time. They talk about strength, but most of what little influence this country had left, we gave away when the Tories manoeuvred us out of the EU. They talk about stability, but most of our public services are now at breaking point. They talk about unity, and “tackling enduring social divisions” but this country has been more divided in the last few years of Conservative rule than I have ever seen it in my lifetime.

If you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, try to see past him to the Party, the future, and the good of the country. If you don’t like Labour or their policies, fine. Don’t vote for them. But for crying out loud, don’t vote Conservative! Vote for someone else. Vote for ANYONE else but the people who have driven our public services into the ground in just 7 years with nothing to show for it but a continually rising National Debt.

You can’t talk to me about MPs like Diane Abbott, because Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary, which is a bit like putting Jim Jones in charge of refreshments… (and actually, as I posted this, news broke that Abbott is being replaced
EDIT: NO! Actually… by way of an apology to Diane for even bringing that up, I would like you to read this article about Diane Abbott. Go and read that FIRST… I’ll wait).

You can’t talk to me about Domestic Security, because the Tories have reduced the number of Police Officers by 20,000 since they came to power, and there are plans for further cuts…

You can’t talk to me about Healthcare, because the Tories are tearing the NHS apart day by day; pretty much the greatest institution this country has ever had, and it is now in a worse state than I, or anyone else I know, has ever seen it…

You can’t talk to me about Education, when the Tories are cutting school funding, and threatening to take away free school meals…

You can’t to talk me about Anti-terrorism, because under the Tory Government there have been 3 attacks on British soil in as many months…

And, you can’t talk to me about National Debt, because it’s higher now, after 7 years of Tory Austerity, than it was in 2010.

So you tell me: why are you voting Conservative?

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On Social Media people aren’t really having a discussion about this, they just fire angry remarks at one another. But I am genuinely asking: Why?

Obviously I don’t for one second believe that everyone voting Conservative is evil, stupid, the CEO of a huge corporation, or a complete lunatic. Most Conservative voters are presumably perfectly normal, hard-working, rational human beings. And this is what puzzles me…

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Every political party offers something to make you put a little ‘X’ by their name on the ballot paper, so what is it that is making you ignore Healthcare cuts, Education cuts, Welfare cuts, Police cuts…? What is so much more important than the health, safety and education of your children? Of your parents? Of yourselves?
Why do you not seem to care about the erosion of those things that have been the foundation of every successful society since the abolition of slavery?

I do not want another argument. There have been far too many of those in the last 6 weeks, and not nearly enough progress. I’ve said my piece. Now I want to listen to you. At the time of writing there are just over 24 hours until polling closes; not enough time for bickering and capitalised internet insults.

I really want to know, so tell me, please.

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Mad World?

MadWorld

The EU referendum is less than a week away; fighting (again) at the European Cup matches in Paris; 49 people shot dead at a nightclub in Orlando, a week ago; Donald Trump knocking on the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue… and 3 days ago Labour MP, Jo Cox, was killed outside a library in Birstall.

It’s tempting to think that the world is coming apart before our eyes. So, I have taken to these pages, for the first time in 18 months, in the hope of encouraging you to resist that temptation with every ounce of willpower you posses.

Yesterday, I noticed people posting and commenting on facebook statuses and memes, that the world is a dreadful place. In one instance I read that the world was “at least fifty percent terrible”. Now, it’s true that last one was in a poem of positive messages, but I still take issue with it.

Perhaps I should rephrase: There’s a tendency, at times like these, to believe that human beings are inherently bad. And, moreover, that violence is escalating; that the world is more dreadful than it has ever been.
My dear readers, this is simply not true. A look at any reliably sourced statistics on violence and war… hell, just a glance through a few history books, should be enough to convince you that this view of the world is nonsense.

Muslims are not all out to kill you… Gay people are not trying seduce your children/dog/mother/brother… Migrants are not about to take your jobs (if they have a monopoly on certain jobs, chances are they’re doing a job you would refuse to do, for pay you would refuse to get out of bed for, and consequently helping the local farmers you’re all trying to save, from having to pack it all in and work at Starbucks).

Now, it is certainly not my intention to devalue the losses we have seen in the news this week, nor to make light of genuine concerns about violence or government policy. I write because at times like these it is more important than ever to remember that, as useful an evolved mechanism as it can be in immediate life-threatening situations… spoon-fed by the media in exaggerated doses, fear is a recipe for bad decision-making.

Fear threatens to put Donald Trump in the White House. Fear threatens to break the UK away from Europe. Fear led Omar Mateen to gun down innocent patrons at an Orlando nightclub. And, fear played a large part in motivating Thomas Mair to shoot Jo Cox dead on Thursday afternoon.

I was going to go into the various reasons why I believe you should vote to stay IN the EU on Thursday, but I think common sense and a brief look through history should tell you all you need to know about that, so I’ll simply state something that has been said so many times before, and that I think anyone reading this is already aware of: The world is getting smaller every single day.

We will only make more progress by accepting that we are a global community. Breaking existing unions into smaller and smaller pieces is going in the wrong direction.

Fear, as I said before, has its uses; we would not be here without it, and sometimes it has been a helpful tool. But if you scare a man into thinking that the world might end, he is more likely to build a shelter and buy a gun to keep you out of it, than he is to try to stop it from happening.

We are not the only creatures on Earth to do damage to our environment, but we are the only ones capable of recognising that, and the only ones currently trying to reverse the damage. The English countryside is now dotted with wind turbines, almost wherever you care to look. More and more houses and office buildings have solar panels providing at least some of their power, and the number of hybrid and electric cars in showrooms increases year after year.

Violence is part of the lives of every species on Earth, but human violence has shown a steadily decreasing trend (with the exception of one or two very minor hiccups on the graph) for centuries, and humans have never been safer, or lived longer than they do at this point in history.

I am expecting another child in September, and that child is fortunate enough to have the kindest, warmest, brightest, most life-affirming woman that I have ever met, for a mother. I cannot hope to compete with that. But for my part, I will teach this child what I have tried to teach my others:

The world can be a dark and dreadful place. But closing your door and burying your head in your hands only ever makes it darker. There is hope and goodness in abundance, the world over. If you can’t find it, my guess is that you’re trying really, really hard not to.

A week ago, one man killed 49 people who were simply trying to enjoy a night out. On Thursday one man shot dead a kind-hearted young MP from West Yorkshire. In response to these dreadful incidents, the internet practically melted down as millions of people flocked to news websites, blogs and social-media sites to offer their sympathy, to share messages of love and hope, and to stand-up against bigotry and hatred.

The world is a better place than you give it credit for.

 

**If you really need convincing that humans aren’t so bad, I recommend giving this a read: “The Better Angels of Our Nature” by Steven Pinker

 

 

The Final Countdown – 3…

I should really be packing. I could totally do that. I went to fetch boxes today and everything. Turns out I’d much rather talk to faceless people on the internet, and put off packing for another day.

The irony of that just hit me. In other circumstances that sentence might have little relevance, but it was talking to faceless people on the internet (and in fact, on this very blog) that got me to Sweden in the first place. If you don’t understand this reference click here for the beginning of an explanation. I’m not going to call it a “quick” explanation, because there is no such thing where this subject is concerned, but if you’re a fan of romance you might like it. If you’re really sentimental and mushy you can go all the way back to the post that started this crazy snowball rolling back in 2011, by clicking HERE and read the posts and comments (the lady commenting as “theswedishflowerpot” is now my wife), but if you are middle-aged already I would advise against it; you only have so many years left.

Anyway, it is because all of those things happened that I ended up in Sweden, and now that I am moving (with theswedishflowerpot) back to England, I am doing this list of Things that I will miss vs Things I have missed.

Everyone caught up? Goood. Let’s crack on then.

What I will miss #3: The Swedish work ethic

SweWorkEth

Before we get off the wrong foot… I am not saying the Swedes are lazy; quite the opposite. They can manage to get the same amount of work done in half the time that it takes most Brits. And what do they do with the rest of their time? Whatever they want to!

I love the way the Swedes view work!

You see, although I have had many different jobs, I have rarely (until very recently) had a job that I enjoyed. Normally I have done whatever work I could get that enabled me to pay the bills. What I like about the Swedes is that most of them seem to have the same opinion of work that I do. And what I think of it is this:

Work isn’t life. It’s the thing you do in order to pay for life.

Maybe I worded that badly, but I’m going to elaborate whether you want me to or not, so don’t jump to any definitive conclusions just yet.

My ex-partner was one of the busiest people I ever met. But she busied herself doing things that need not have taken that long, because she stopped often to do other things that weren’t necessary. When she asked me to do the same things, I did them in a lot less time, not because I am a hard worker (I am precisely the opposite) but because I like my free-time. Consequently I often do not sit down (even for a drink) until the necessary work is done. That way, when it is done I can completely relax. This has driven most of my partners insane, because I often don’t eat until very, very late because I don’t like having to get up and do things after my dinner. It’s just the way I do stuff. My time is MY time.

Now that isn’t exactly the way the Swedes do things (everything stops for Fika here for example), but the concept of “as much free-time as possible” is definitely one that the Swedes have embraced.

To illustrate the point, I will paraphrase someone I met whilst working here in Stockholm.

The company I worked for in my capacity as a Tour Guide was owned and run by a Polish family. Now, for those of you who are unaware, the Polish work ethic is pretty much polar opposite (no pun intended) to the Swedish one. The Poles too like to get as much work done as possible in the shortest time possible. Where they differ drastically from the Swedes (and from me) is that, once all the work is done they don’t go home… they just go looking for more work. And they look hard.

I was assigned one day last year to work with my Boss’s niece. She was over from Poland, where she worked for another branch of the company. During a brief period of the day there was nothing for us to do. No guides had called with problems; tickets and vouchers had all been tallied; no buses were due to leave or return for at least the next hour; no-one from the cruise line had any problems or questions… She seemed very restless so I tried to make conversation.

“How do you like it here in Stockholm?” I said.

She shook her head… “I never like working in Sweden!”

“Oh?” I said, “Why’s that?”

“The Swedes don’t like to work” was her answer. “They spend so much time at home, or out with friends. I would go crazy!”

I naturally thought she was being sarcastic, but when pressed to elaborate, it turned out that she was genuinely puzzled that anyone would want to be anywhere but at work.

Weird, but unfortunately strongly connected with…

What I have missed #3: 24 Hour Shopping

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Did you ever hear the expression “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please Sleepless Knight any of the time”?

No? Well, start using it because I’m thinking of having t-shirts made.

That’s right; if no-one at all worked long hours, there would be no 24 hour shopping at all.

What to do?

Robots? Once they take over TESCO, what’s to stop them taking over the world? Not us. We’ll be too busy sleeping or buying ice-cream in our slippers to do anything about it.

So, for the time being at least, somebody has to work these sorts of hours. And this is further evidence of the Swedish work ethic; because there are precious few stores in Sweden that open 24 hours a day. I live in the capital, and I’m not aware of any. But perhaps my Swedish friends can correct me on that point. At any rate my conscience is clear.  For one thing, I have done more than my fair share of working 12 hour shifts, both day and night, to shy away from enjoying the pleasures of 24 hour shopping. For another, I will probably be working through the night quite often even when working for myself because… that’s when I’m awake.

See I don’t call myself Sleepless Knight without good reason. I have struggled with sleep since I was a small boy, and have come to be all too familiar with the wee small hours. And, though the hours may be small my sudden need for Doritos is usually not.

And what of pregnant ladies, whose whims must be pandered to on pain of castration? What are we to do when they say “It’s 3am, and I need 2 bags of unshelled walnuts, 1 bottle of strawberry flavoured fabric softener and a large spoon! NOW!”? I say go get it for them but, at the risk of repeating myself (no laughing), I like going out in the wee small hours almost as much as I like my genitals where they are.

So, the question remains, how do we balance working fewer, more sociable hours, with the luxury of being able to shop through the night?

For now, it will remain one of those “first world problems” which facebook memes are constantly reminding us of…

Do I walk to the store in the rain, or risk getting water spots on my newly waxed Mercedes?

My diamond earrings are scratching the screen of my iPhone!

One pillow is too low… two pillows is too high!

I have to write 2 more of these blog posts because I started my “moving to a better life” countdown at 10 instead of 7!

No pleasing some people. See you tomorrow.

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

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.

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, 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.

A Game of Two Halves

There used to be 4 people living in this apartment, now there are only 3. My youngest step-son is now 14 years old, and my sister is 46. One of my very best friends is now in a relationship. A young lady who was once my step-daughter is now married and living in Germany. And, the smallest of our two cats has died…

All of these things happened in the time it took me to play through a video-game.

Now, it is true that I have a tendency to lose myself entirely in whatever I am doing; a new love makes everything else simply blurred, background noise; a new hobby can take away all my time and money, and if I’m editing a film the sun will rise and set so many times without being noticed, that when borderline malnutrition finally drives me toward the kitchen, I discover that my computer chair and I have formed a symbiotic relationship and can no longer live independently of one another. Nothing that 45 minutes and some 24th century sickbay wizardry couldn’t fix, but still, not good.

However, in this case, all the changes I mentioned above happened in the space of a single month. If that still seems like a long time to you well, that is how I like my video-games… but I’ll come back to that.

The point is that the world changes very fast these days. Perhaps it always did. Perhaps the fact that I’m turning 40 in February is colouring everything in mid-life-crisis-purple and the speed at which the world turns is starting to make me feel a bit nauseous (although that could be the purple again), but I rather think the world is changing in such a haphazard, erratic manner it is often really difficult to see how fast things are happening, or how far we have come unless you stop and really look around now and again.

When I was born, for example, human beings had decided that lunar exploration was old hat. We had been to the moon and returned often enough to have become bored of it, so naturally my generation had ludicrous expectations about how space travel would evolve in our lifetimes. What has actually happened? No human being has been anywhere near that far out into space for over 40 years.

On the other hand, people watching Star Trek in the 1960s thought that personal communicators, 2-way video conversations, electronic books, and tiny plastic data discs were the stuff of outrageous science-fiction… iPads, Kindles, and Skype are now part of our daily lives, and most of us have Gigabytes of data storage in our phones, on memory cards so small you have to be careful not to breathe too heavily whilst changing them.

The future is always closer than you think. In some ways we are far behind where we expected to be by now, but in so many other ways we are far ahead of where we expected to be in 200 years from now. Occasionally we get it more or less right (Volkswagen’s newest electric car looks EXACTLY like it came out of 1990s sci-fi movie)

xl1-exterior1

…but more often than not, we are way off the mark.

Predicting the future is a risky business, and few industries are worse at it than the very industry that is responsible for most of the changes that we see: the computer industry. Over the years, some of the world’s most ingenious computer boffins have given some of the most idiotic predictions about the future…

  • “But what… is it good for?”An engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the microchip in 1968
  • “Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.”Popular Mechanics, 1949
  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”Ken Olson (President of Digital Equipment Corporation) at the Convention of the World Future Society in Boston in 1977
My own prediction is that in just a few weeks from now, this cartoon will make no sense to anyone.

My own prediction is that in just a few weeks from now, this cartoon will make no sense to anyone.

We would be foolish however to completely ignore predictions from an industry so totally responsible for technological advancement… and one company knows it.

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am no fan of Apple products, but it may surprise them to discover that my reasons for this are many of the same reasons behind the company’s success.

One of the things that makes Microsoft products so mediocre is that they have their fingers in too many pies. They have tried to compete in so many areas and do so many different things, that they ended up doing none of them particularly well. Apple on the other hand have learned several important lessons… not necessarily about computers, but about PEOPLE.

Firstly, Steve Jobs knew that most people will pay 3 times as much for something, as long as it is shiny. I find this an upsetting philosophy for a computer company, but it is nonetheless true of all of us, myself included.
Secondly, and much more importantly, Apple have realised that predicting what the consumer will want/need is a mug’s game, and have decided that it is much simpler and easier simply to TELL people what they want.

Bill Gates famously said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” Well… luckily for Mr. Gates he has a lot of them. It would have been easier to follow Apple’s business strategy:

  1. Tell consumers what they want.
  2. Make it shiny, so that they will feel like they always wanted it and it was their idea to want it.
  3. If people are unhappy because they want your product to do something and it won’t… simply tell them that it was never supposed to do that and that they are morons for wanting it to. If the product can’t do something, it’s because human beings don’t want that thing, and if any human being does want that thing, then that human being is wrong!

“What do you mean you want your watch to tell the time? You idiot! What you really want is a watch that enhances your sex appeal… doesn’t everybody?”

Y’see? It’s hard to argue.

But finally… if there is something an Apple product is supposed to do that you can’t MAKE it do… it’s obviously because you are too stupid, and probably don’t deserve to own our shiny, sexy product in the first place.

The most telling thing for me about Apple consumers can be summed up in the following conversation, versions of which I have had with several of them in the last few years:

“Why don’t you have the new iPhone yet?” (as though asking why your head isn’t on your shoulders where they keep theirs)

“I can’t afford it, even if I wanted one.”

“But it’s better for XYZ reasons!”

“But I don’t have the money.”

(roll of the eyes) “But it’s better!”

“Yes… but I – CANNOT – AFFORD – IT!”

“Why not just try it?”

“You’re not listening are you?”

…and so on.

As an old boss of mine used to say “You can’t take a sock off a bare leg”, but I have met very few Apple consumers who understand this simple concept.

Imagining for a moment that Apple is Ferrari and Microsoft are Volvo (an idea I’m sure Apple consumers will have no trouble accepting), take this fictional scenario where a Ferrari driver asks a Volvo driver in the pub why he doesn’t drive a Ferrari instead. The Volvo driver explains that he could never possibly afford a Ferrari, to which Ferrari driver looks puzzled. Changing tack, the Volvo driver says “Anyway, where would I put the children?” to which Ferrari man calmly but seriously responds “Just don’t have any children.”

Volvo man begins to tire of this conversation after explaining that he already has children, and no he can’t just make them walk everywhere, so he changes tack once again to avoid becoming enraged. “Look” he says “Even if I didn’t have children, and could afford a Ferrari, how would it manage to get me to work in the snow?” to which Ferrari driver responds “Elementary young fellow: simply move to a warmer country. I’m beginning to think you might be a little slow, old chap!” …a fight ensues and…

Well, I don’t think I need to pursue that line of thought any further. There is a class war going on in the world of technology, and as much as I dislike Apple and their army of unwitting recruiters, I honestly believe there is room for both philosophies, just as there is room for both Volvo and Ferrari.

So my advice to Microsoft is this:

Don’t try to make Ferraris. Don’t try to follow Apple… that’s what everyone else is doing. And certainly don’t try to be like Apple, because you suck at it!

I KNOW that a lower price means your product won’t be as shiny.

I KNOW that affordability means greater margin for things to go wrong.

I KNOW that the Sony Playstation can do certain things better than the Xbox, but it’s much more expensive and their customer service is crap!

Stop trying to compete with Apple on their own ground. You will lose!

Instead, be there for us; the ones who don’t like being told what they want; the ones who would like a company that listens to what we actually need and says “Okay… we’ll do our best!” Be there for those of us who know what WE want, and are prepared to wait while you try to provide it.
I am one of those people. It is why I don’t have a SONY Playstation. It is why I don’t have an iPhone. It is why I don’t have a fucking giraffe on my facebook wall this month!

So endeth the rant. Until next time… don’t bend over for the soap.

EDIT: Thanks to my awesome brother-in-law, who shared THIS VIDEO with me, because he knew it would make me happy… it did.

Pressed together: Pt VIII

 “The Terminal”

-Another on time flight from Ryanair-

For the larger part of 2012, James spent many nights on the hard floor of Stansted airport. On one occasion he had even enlisted the help of Amki’s friends and family to surprise her by turning up, completely unannounced, at the new home of her brother and heavily pregnant sister-in-law, while Amki helped them to move in.

James had picked that particular day because he knew that her brother’s new house was the last place Amki would ever expect him to turn up out of the blue. Tilda had provided James with a very, very thorough list of instructions to get there, and he had told Amki he would be away the next morning, visiting his children.

During the night, James had to tell Amki that he couldn’t call her on Skype because the internet was not working at the flat. In reality he was in the car-park outside Stansted airport, far enough away from the terminal that she couldn’t hear the airport announcements, but he still had to pretend he got cut-off, every time he heard a plane coming overhead. She bought the story, and was absolutely stunned when he turned up.

Amki had visited England several times, but James lived a very long way from the airport and was sleeping on someone else’s sofa at the time, so had nowhere for Amki to sleep. Consequently, it always made more sense for James to visit Sweden… and though the journey towards Stockholm was always full of anticipation and excitement, the journey back was long and lonely.

James spent so much time miserable and fed-up at Stansted airport, after leaving Amki in Sweden, that he named his suitcase Jerry, just so that he would have someone to talk to and share the journey with.

This situation looked as though it would last for another 3 years unless the couple could think of a solution…

Stop 8

Pressed together: Pt VII

 “An Interrupted Proposal”

-Midsummer Mosquitoes & Rings of Rosewood-

Fittingly perhaps, the only people besides Amki to meet James on his first visit to Stockholm were her sister, Anna (Maid of Honour), and her best friend and flat-mate, Tilda (Best Man).

By June of 2012 however, James had visited many times, met most of Amki’s nearest and dearest, and was getting ready to enjoy a Swedish midsummer festival with several of them.

It was during this visit that James had planned to ask Amki a very big question. It felt odd doing so without a ring, but visiting Stockholm every few weeks is a very expensive business, and it doesn’t leave much room for ring-buying. So… taking some elastic bands and the motor from an old Dremel power-tool, he built a very small, and dangerous-looking lathe, and used it to make an engagement ring from the rosewood fretboard of an old guitar.

After a crash-course in Swedish tradition, James asked Amki if she wanted to go into the night air for a walk. He had been online, and found out how to ask the question in Swedish, but realised the problem with reading the words on a page is that you can never be completely sure how it is pronounced. Obviously, this is one question you want to be sure to get right, so he opted for English, found the ring in his pocket, and was about to ask… when Anna came outside to see what they were doing. James motioned with his hands to Anna, when Amki turned around, but hastily improvised sign language proved difficult to understand and Amki began following Anna back inside, in an attempt to get away from the mosquito-filled night air. Thinking as quickly as his poor English brain would let him, James waited for Anna to go through the door, asked Amki to stop and turn around, got down on one knee and asked… in English… on the front porch of the house in which Amki had grown up… if she would let him be her husband.

-James later told Amki about the Swedish version… He would have pronounced it incorrectly after all.

Stop 7

Pressed together: Pt VI

 “The Girl in the Red Hat”

-A wait in the cold, a meal in the warmth-

On the morning of February 2nd, 2012, Amki put on her red hat (a further reference to the film “Elizabethtown”), and set out to meet the Englishman whose journey had begun at 7.00pm on the night before.

Having very little money meant James must find the cheapest possible fares, and that meant a long, long journey, with many changes and many hours of waiting. A walk down the cobbled streets of Lincoln’s Steep hill with a rolling suitcase; a run past the castle and through the town, between train stations at Newark; and a worried change of train at Stevenage, with only 5 minutes between arrival and departure. By the time James reached Cambridge, it was 2 degrees below freezing, and the train station then closed for 3 hours. He walked around Cambridge in the cold, trying to find a warm place with cheap coffee, which proved surprisingly difficult considering he was in one of the most famous university cities on Earth. He finally flew out of Stansted airport, towards Stockholm, at 6.05 in the morning.

James & Amki met face-to-face for the first time, in the snow outside Skavsta airport, just before noon on the morning of February 2nd, 2012.

There’s a funny thing about sitting next to someone on a bus, who you have loved for some time, and exchanged every detail of your life with, but have only just met… It takes a while for you to realise that the flesh & blood person you are sitting next to is the same person you have written to, recorded messages for, and seen on the other side of a computer screen for many months. It is a strange, and very 21st century moment, totally in keeping with the rest of their peculiar relationship, but in the end all it takes to make it real it again is a good old-fashioned first date.

Theirs was at Dolce Vita, in the middle of Stockholm, where a very enthusiastic waiter brought them a very enjoyable meal, and wished them well for the future.

Stop 6