The Final Countdown – Zero

Well… that’s it. I’m leavin on a jet plane, and all that other Jonny Denver type stuff. As they say where I come from: “It’s all over bar the shoutin'” Of course, in this particular case, “the shoutin” involves packing my few remaining possessions; dragging 50kg of luggage (each) in 3 seperate cases (each), through the deep snow to the subway station; catching a train, then a bus, then a plane; being picked up from the airport, and living under someone else’s roof for the next week or so until my wife and I find somewhere to live. So if we’re gonna stick with the fighting analogies, I haven’t even spilled the other bloke’s drink yet. But it’s all over as far as the blog posts about my moving are concerned. I am writing this post on Monday the 26th, and it is scheduled for release at the exact minute we are due to land in the UK. Plane landing by sunrise So… once again, you must endure the anguish of my absence. At least for a little while. What will I be blogging about when I return? Your guess is as good as mine. Well… I suppose I could make a slightly more educated guess than you guys and say that it’s likely to be about my new house, and my new job (back to being self-employed now). I do have one or two things in the pipeline to keep you occupied until next we meet, and they have been a very long time coming. So, I will see you again soon. If you don’t believe me… take a look at this video. And the next time someone hears me say “Hmmm… I think I’ll kill myself off in this weeks video. I just want to try out this new effect!” STOP ME and say: “Jimbot… don’t do it. The storyteller in you is a perfectionist monster, and you know where this will lead.” Normally I sign off by saying goodbye, but on this occasion I will just say those 3 little words I have been desperately waiting to say for almost 3 years: I’m back baby!!

The Final Countdown – 4…

Welcome back. Did you enjoy the rest of your Thursday? Good. Because I predict that the rest of Friday will be almost exactly the same except for the spelling. And so it will go until the last miserable second of human existence.

Still… if you’re struggling to pass the minutes between now and your inevitable doom, you could do worse than to spend 10 of them with me.

Should I have worked in marketing, or what??

That intro made me seem rather bitter and twisted about things didn’t it? Well, I’m not. I just sometimes get carried away in the absurdity of language and… stuff. Shall we get on with our list of Things I will miss about Sweden vs Things I have missed about England?

What I will miss #4: Swedish Efficiency

SquirrelSnowman

Yeah. Sorry about the picture. It probably gives the impression that I am joking about Swedish efficiency, but I’m quite serious.

The Swedes know how to get shit done! It’s that simple really. In 1967 they decided to switch from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right-hand side… and they just did it. Actually, if it were possible to be arrested for oversimplification, that last sentence would have put me inside until apes had taken over the planet and buried the Statue of Liberty on a deserted beach where no-one could find it but Charlton Heston.

What? What do you mean “that’s not what happened”? I’ve seen the movie! How exactly did I miss the point?

Anyway… although I oversimplified things there a little bit, the switch from left to right was a very big step. New roads had to be built; old ones re-designed. And approximately 360,000 road signs were changed during the night. At 4.50am all the traffic in Sweden was stopped and moved over to the other side of the road. It started again on the right-hand side at 5.00am and has been there ever since. You can’t argue about the efficiency of a move like that, regardless of how much I exaggerate its simplicity.

You don’t really have to look back through history though, and quite frankly if you do, you’re likely to find more than a few examples of spectacular fuck-ups… so don’t! But, by comparison with most countries, the Swedes are extremely efficient folk, with no time for pissing around. Some countries are worse than others. I’ve recently heard it said that “Red Tape was invented in Italy”, but I’m just talking about Sweden vs England here, and can tell you in no uncertain terms who comes out on top in the efficiency stakes.

Take this blog post for example: It was written by an Englishman, and couldn’t be less efficient if it tried. It has taken well over 400 words so far, to say what most Swedes could have said in four – “England sucks! Sweden rules!” – and it even has a squirrel picture in it, because the stupid Englishman couldn’t think of a good image to demonstrate efficiency. But, I’m about as well known for word economy as squirrels are for chainsaw ice-sculptures, so let’s not dwell too much on that.

Swedish personal ID numbers are another example of what I’m talking about. Once you have one of these (which is similar to a Social Security number if you’re American, or a National Insurance number if you’re British) pretty much everything is taken care of automatically. There are no more forms to fill in; no tedious waiting for your information to be dug up by the system. You just give them your personal number and a great portion of your life-history just pops up on the screen. Some people will argue that this is a tremendous violation of privacy, and, having seen just how easy it is to get hold of information about people over here, I might tend to agree. But you can’t say it’s not efficient.

However, this particular example of brutal efficiency does have other drawbacks.

What I have missed #4: Flexiblity

SquirrelPiano

Perhaps these squirrel pictures work more with what I’m about to say than I first thought. See, if there were police for blog-posts, the Swedish ones would never have let me stick that image with this post because it doesn’t make sense. But we in the UK don’t much care about whether or not things make sense. If you don’t believe me, consider our ridiculous punctuation rules. See? People ask me how British children ever remember all the rules for punctuation. And the answer: We don’t. We just break them and expect people to work it out for themselves. My own ridiculously excessive use of the ellipsis (that’s this thing ) is enough to drive most punctuation Nazis insane, but do I care!?()*;:…?

That was a “no” in case you were wondering.

If you still don’t buy the whole Brits not caring about things that don’t make sense thing, consider Monty Python. I rest my case.

Alright… we’re not resting it quite yet. Allow me to elaborate a little on that subtitle:

While the whole thing with Swedish efficiency holds up for the most part, it does so because the Swedes have rules, and those rules are absolutely inviolate! In England, there is a little more flexibility.

Now, I’m not talking about big, important rules; the ones enforced by guys with police uniforms. I don’t think there’s much room for flexibility in murder for example. No. I’m talking about the little things.

The Swedish personal number which I mentioned above, for example. Everything moves like clockwork as long as you have a personal ID number. But, if you turn up for anything remotely official without one… no-one has the faintest idea what to do with you. There is no tedious bureaucracy to go through; they just don’t have any sort of system in place to deal with those who don’t have such a number.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no accurate Swedish translation of the phrase “Couldn’t you make an exception just this once?” because… NO. They can’t!

In England however, we don’t care where you’re from or how many official documents you have with you; everyone is treated with precisely the same level of incompetence and stupidity.

How does that translate into “making exceptions”? Well… where there are no rules, there can be no exceptions to them. Oh, sure… everyone you call at the insurance company/government agency/airport/bus station will tell you that there are rules. But if you don’t like those rules, just wait 10 minutes and call back. A different person at the same place will have a completely different idea of what the rules are. Do any of them actually know? I doubt it.

So you see, we need much more flexibility simply because we are so inefficient. I’m English, and I just wandered blindly through that blog-post until it seemed to end in roughly the right place. Did it make sense? I very much doubt it.

See you tomorrow.

The Final Countdown – 5…

What time do you call this? I’ve been waiting here for hours!

Nah! I’ve actually been eating and sleeping, because I’m selfish that way.

As I’m sure most of you know by now, I am moving from Sweden back to England in 5 days time, and this countdown measures Things I will miss against Things I have missed… but I have to keep mentioning it, for the sake of those just joining us. Stop laughing at the back… it happens! I get new readers from time to time!

Let’s do this thing… as those nice young men and women in the talking pictures sometimes say.

What I will miss #5: Lactose-free products

mjolkhylla

Okay, there are lactose-free products in England… in much the same way that there are Cheetahs in sub-Saharan Africa; they are there, but they don’t exactly leap out of the brush and go…

“Hi there! My name is Raoul. My hobbies are chewing gazelle, and running at speeds in excess of 70mph. Would you like to take a picture?”

When I left the United Kingdom, only one supermarket was guaranteed to offer lactose free products in their dairy aisle. I won’t mention the name of it (I’m sure UK readers will see instantly which one it is), but to give my non-uk readers an idea of how much thought this huge supermarket chain gives to such produce, I have highlighted the lactose-free selection in red on the photograph below…

LFreeTesc

Yes… quite. And try keep in mind that this is the supermarket that does offer lactose-free.

Now, I know there are going to be folks out there who say I’m being unfair. But before they get too worked up and start writing angry lists:

  1. I’m talking about lactose-free dairy, not soya.
  2. As I already stated: I know you can find it, but it isn’t nearly as simple as it is here in Sweden.

I discovered I was lactose intolerant entirely by accident. It’s a long boring story, which I won’t go into too much detail about here, but if I’m being perfectly honest I didn’t lend much weight to “intolerances” as a serious thing until I started feeling much, much better, and after a few days of trying to figure out why, I realised that I had eaten absolutely no dairy for over 2 months.

Now I realise that we in the United Kingdom are much more lactose tolerant than most countries. And you would be well within your rights to suggest that as a reason why lactose-free produce is not more widespread. But you know who has an even higher tolerance for lactose than the UK? That’s right… SWEDEN! And their shelves are full of the stuff.

It’s not only in Swedish supermarkets that this is true either. Almost any coffee-shop or restaurant you visit has the option of lactose-free milk in your drink. There is information on the supermarket cheese shelves about how to tell if a cheese is likely to be high or low in lactose.

20036-algAs long as I’m trying to be completely fair… Sweden does consume more milk produce per person than any other country on the planet with the exception of Finland, so that might account for the widely available information on the stuff. And bear in mind also, that this is the same country that produces fake Moose Warning signs, to accommodate the Germans (who apparently love them), and in order to stop them stealing the real signs from the side of the road.

But still… get a grip, UK!!

Anyway, there are compensations. What follows is one example.

Things I have missed #5: Online Shopping

Us-online-shopping

7 words: *THIS ITEM CANNOT BE DELIVERED TO SWEDEN*

Poor Sweden. Poor, poor Sweden.

I’m talking here about the really big online shopping places; the Amazons and the eBays. The places where you could find the body of Amelia Earhart so long as you were willing to pay for postage & packing.

I used to think that living in the UK was a bit of a pain when it came to online shopping. I would order a new tool or a particularly hard-to-find wood or metal (I used to build things… a lot!), and discover that it couldn’t be delivered to England, or that it would cost one intact immortal soul for the privilege of doing so. And then… I moved to Sweden.

How on Earth can the country that gave us IKEA and SKYPE have such a hard time with online shopping? Are they being punished? Why is the world so unwilling to send things here?

Sweden does have it’s own repository of hard-to-find things. It’s called Blocket. I have had occasion to use it several times in the past 3 years, and I have only once managed to find what I was looking for. It’s useless by comparison with the giants above, and I just feel sorry for the Swedes.

Now, most Swedes would tell you that if you can’t find it in Sweden you probably don’t need it. But I think that’s true of pretty much anywhere you live, except outer-space. Of course we don’t need online shopping at all. Just like the world didn’t need ABBA, IKEA, Skype, or… dynamite, but I think many people have been happy to have them.

I don’t need the things that I purchase online, but most of the things I have purchased over the years from the warmth and comfort of my own home, have been tremendously helpful in one way or another. Particularly when it comes to filmmaking.

I’m going now, but I’ll be back tomorrow.

The Final Countdown – 7…

Welcome back. 7 days to go. Shall we continue?

So if you’re just joining us, I am writing a list of things I will miss about Sweden (which I am about to leave behind). But, in order to be fair to England (which I am about to return to), I am also adding a “thing I have missed about England” to each one. Now, just 7 days remain.

Today… public transport.

What I will miss #7: The Stockholm Subway

Västra Skogen Subway Station - Blue Line

Västra Skogen Subway Station – Blue Line

It’s important to note that I am not ordinarily a fan of public transport.
The attempts of governments worldwide to get us out of our cars and onto public transport have variously failed because few people are willing to give up the warmth, comfort, convenience and privacy of a little island on wheels which almost always takes you directly from door to door, in order to share the confinement of a large steel tube with herds of angry, impatient commuters whose wishes, needs and emergencies are so obviously far less important than yours.
It’s crowded. The air (if it can be so called) is often unpleasant mixtures of urine, stale cigarette smoke, body odour, the coughs and sneezes of the guy next to you who is unwilling or unable to cover his mouth while he sputters out the most recent strain of flu, and the kind of perfume/aftershave that only sells by the litre and is usually applied in similar quantities.

But we don’t all have cars. Some of us don’t even have homes of course… but that’s a different discussion. Those who ordinarily drive have times in their lives when it simply is not practical, financially or otherwise, to own and/or drive a car. And, here in Sweden, it has never really made any sense for me to drive. For one thing I simply couldn’t afford it. For another, I live in a city whose public transport network is extraordinarily efficient. Now, as I usually explained to my tourists (see tomorrow’s post), I am English… so it’s fair to say that I am probably quite easily impressed by the efficiency of public transport in other countries, but be honest; how many of you can say that your subway stations look like this…

Solna Centrum station - Blue Line

Solna Centrum – Blue Line

Or this…

Tekniska Högskolan - Red Line

Tekniska Högskolan – Red Line

The Stockholm Subway System has 100 stations covering almost 66 miles. More than 90 of those stations have been decorated in various ways by more than 150 different artists. Some are fairly subtle, such as my own local subway station at Vårberg, on the red line:

Våberg - Red Line

Vårberg – Red Line

Some, such as the one (below) where I have been working recently, in the north of Stockholm, are innocent enough in the daytime, but when you finish work late at night and find them deserted… they take on an entirely different character.

Duvbo - Blue Line

Duvbo – Blue Line

DuvboFaces

Harmless enough for those not especially nervous about deserted subway stations. Not so much for those who watched An American Werewolf In London when they were children.

Particularly when the walls are decorated with creepy faces such as these.

Still… since I grew up around the Yorkshire Moors I suppose it makes more sense for me to be scared by this sort of thing…

an-american-werewolf-in-london-moors

…than it does to be scared of this…

An-American-Werewolf-in-London-Ken-Taylor-poster-variant-mondo

Anyway… as usual I have wandered so far from the point that I have fallen, bruised and scratched by thorns, into a deep ravine and awoken to find myself in a fire-lit hut, painted with a foul-smelling paste and waited-upon by strange little creatures whose rudimentary sign language leads me to believe that they think I am a god.

Back on Earth meanwhile… I was explaining that the Stockholm subway system is an interesting place, and I shall miss travelling on it. And I shall particularly miss my favourite station at Kungsträdgården:

Kungsträdgården - Blue Line

Kungsträdgården – Blue Line

No ordinary station this one. It is full of plants, sculptures and relics from the old city; including a working 400 year-old fountain. I was first there with my wife on my second ever visit to Sweden and have loved it ever since. Here she is at this subway station, looking like a tiny little Alice (she’s 5′ 9″), on our second date:

Amki In Wonderland

Amki In Wonderland

I have loved this subway station… and her… ever since.

However fascinating the artwork at such stations might be though, riding on public transport still sucks harder than Ben Affleck in a wind-tunnel, trying to empty a swimming pool with a drinking straw while acting out scenes from his latest movie about selling vacuum-cleaners on a rapidly de-pressurising aircraft.

And that’s why…

What I have missed #7: Driving a Car

PORSCHE-911-DRIVING-EXPERIENCE-2

Alright… so it’s fair to say that the above image misrepresents my personal driving experiences in much the same way that “acting” misrepresents whatever it is that Ben Affleck does when he gets on screen. I have driven a Porsche 911… once… about 25 feet… and I was in a company car-park at the time. But I do think the image represents what driving can feel like. And to those friends and colleagues of mine who are about to say “Hah hah! But driving in England can’t possibly be like that!” I say…

Take THIS!

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And THIS!

Mam Tor-PkDistrct

And one of these…

TdY_0001

And that’s just a small selection from around the Peak District, close to where I will be living. I didn’t even include other beautiful parts of the UK.

Driving comes with a little more danger than does public transport; whatever the cause of the accident when travelling by train, you can be fairly confident, as you lie in your hospital bed/coffin that it was almost certainly not your fault. But the next time you find yourself sitting on the train, searching for an answer to one of the following:

“What time is it… *sneeze*?”

“What are you looking at?”

“What is your problem, mate?”

“What are those bats doing on my tin-foil hat?”

Consider the peace and tranquillity of that tin death-trap we call the auto-mobile.

That is all for today. More tomorrow.

The Final Countdown – 8…

So, with only 8 days remaining until I leave Sweden and return to live in the UK, we come to number 8 on the list of Things I will miss about Sweden vs Things I have missed about England.

I couldn’t really call myself an Englishman if I didn’t talk about the weather, so here it is…

What I will miss #8: Stockholm Summers

Midsommardans

A Swedish Midsummer festival

It’s funny how the memory plays tricks on you. I remember the winters of my youth being much more snowy, but my mum assures me that I’m imagining things. Still, she also recently told me that Santa wasn’t real, so… that goes to show how reliable her information is. But I’m pretty sure I can say with some confidence that British summers (though pretty much world famous for their moisture content) did not used to be quite so wet, and I’m fairly certain I would have the support of most meteorologists, climatologists, and just general scaremongers on this point.

Y’see the Brits are famous for “drizzle”; that kind of slow, drifting, sanity-melting mist that makes you dress inappropriately for the season and can warp the fabric of space-time by making a 10 minute walk to the chemist seem like an endless, hell-inflicted trudge, and leaves you wondering if your children will even remember you whenever in hell it is that you finally drag your drenched, sobbing carcass back across the threshold of that fondly remembered, warm house in deepest Crewe.
But in recent years, the rain in the UK hangs above you in low, threatening clouds the colour of nightmares, and then goes “FUCK IT!! YEEEEAAAAHHHH BITCH!!!! YEEEEEHAAA!!!” And you suddenly know what it feels like to have the entire contents of the Atlantic Ocean emptied into your shoes in the space of 30 seconds.

So, yeah… it’s wet.

In Stockholm (I can’t really speak for the rest of Sweden since I have only seen one or two other parts of it), the summers are, for the most part, warm and dry. The Swedes will tell you that the last few years have been wet but, frankly, they’re fucking amateurs! The kind of shower that makes English folk glance upward to see if someone just wrung out a dishcloth, is the sort of thing that has the Swedes throwing sandbags out at their front doors.

Frankly, there were so many pictures of British rain, it would have been difficult to choose a single one. So here… have 2, and laugh from the comfort of your home in the California Hills (he said; so very drastically misjudging his target demographic that you wonder if he has been smoking banana skins out of the composter again):

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rain-weather-460_790478c

But we’re not here to squirm over photos of crappy British weather… I’m supposed to come up with something that I have missed about England. So, with that in mind…

Things I have missed #8: English Spring

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British winters aren’t proper winters. Our snow is infrequent, light, and when there is enough of it to make a snowman… it will usually be an unhealthy looking grey snowman. Our summers are usually a washout, as previously stated. And our autumns (that’s Fall, for those of you that live pretty much anywhere else in the world), are pretty, but they are so incredibly windy that if you don’t go outside within 30 minutes of the leaves changing colour… it’s too late… they’re all in Norway already.

However… a British Spring really has to be experienced. It is by far my favourite season and, unlike a Swedish Spring, usually turns up in March (y’know… when it’s supposed to).

Y’see although those Swedish summers are spectacular, the other 3 seasons, which for the sake of expediency we’ll just call  Winter, are pretty cold and very, very long. I have often, in my capacity as a Stockholm Tour Guide, told my guests that Sweden has 2 seasons: Hot and Cold. But, that’s a little unfair. There are subtle nuances of cold that only the Russians and Eskimos understand better than the Scandinavians. We can call those Spring and Autumn if it makes you feel better.
But you only have to endure one  Swedish winter to understand why the Swedes party harder than Robert Downey Jr. in a recently liberated Ewok village when the sun is out. The Winter is cold, the sun just doesn’t even bother to look in occasionally and make sure everyone is okay, and it sure as hell isn’t over by March!

So, as much as I will miss those happy Swedes, and their warm dry summers. I think the English Spring is more than enough compensation thank you.

See you tomorrow for number 7.

The Final Countdown – 9…

And so, we continue… there are 9 days remaining until I return permanently to the land of my birth, and I am listing 10 things I will miss about Sweden (more specifically Stockholm), against 10 things I have missed about England.

It’s very short and sweet today, since I am actually in Skåne, and bringing you this through the miracle of “setting a timer”.

What I will miss #9: Flamin’ Hot Cheez Cruncherz

i_07340005401031

See… the reason this particular post will be short and sweet is that there isn’t much that even I can find to say about junk-food. It is what it is. And wot cheez cruncherz is, is Deelishusss!
I have often sat crunching away on these whilst watching some god-awful tripe at 4am. Making every attempt not to wake my wife through the flawlessly logical process of “crunching more slowly”. Easy innit. By the way, if you’re wondering why talking about junk-food has made me go all “teenager” wiv ma spellin… keep on wondering. I’m wondering the same thing.

So what junk food is sold in England that can possibly content with the immovable might of Cheeeeez Cruncherrrrrz!!!???

I give you: Chilli Heatwave Doritos

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I’m not going to waste your time explaining why Chilli Heatwave Doritos would kick the asses of Cheez Cruncherz up one side of England and down the other. I’ll leave that to historians. I’ll just say: See you tomorrow.

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

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

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.

Grudge-Match-Poster

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…

fullwidth.3ba3bc04

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.

noah-poster-russell-crowe-teaser

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.

Voices from the Sky

Once again I have upset both of my regular readers by abandoning them for weeks… or in this case almost 2 months. So this will be more of an update than the usual exciting posts (y’know, the ones that have you running for the telephone to share my wisdom with your friends and relatives).

Life has slowed right down here since my summer work dried up, and Amki has returned to University, so our roles have now reversed again for the time being.

Of course, life is never without its little shocks and surprises… We feared dying in a plane crash on the way back from England a couple of weeks ago, as the pilot missed the runway TWICE in thick, low cloud, before eventually deciding that it would be best for our friends and families, the airline, the terrified motorists we almost landed on, and all the poor trembling and bewildered wildlife, clinging desperately to the trees that we almost snapped the tops off, if we simply landed at another airport.

Squirrels last words

A couple of days after arriving back home in Sweden, and less than 12 hours after signing up on an extras/acting website, I was called and asked if I would like to be in a new Volkswagen commercial. I agreed. Amki came with me to watch but was then also offered a part in the commercial, and so we spent a day in the freezing cold centre of Stockholm, trying to look pleasantly surprised while a Volkswagen (or an assistant director, waving his arms around and pretending to be a Volkswagen), drove past. Despite the bitter cold, lunch was supplied and we were both paid for the day.

I am still trying to work out what skills I posses that people would be willing to pay for, and am sorry to say I’m coming up short. I’m sure that will have come as a shock to most of you, so I’ll give you a second to come to terms with it. Sit down (in the highly unlikely event that you were not already doing so), make yourself a warm drink, grab a paper bag if you’re worried about hyperventilating or vomiting, and just return to these pages when you feel strong enough to continue…

…are you ok? Shall we go on?

Now, there are actually a few things that I can do, and several possibilities I am looking at but don’t want to talk too much about until I know whether or not they are viable, but I am also still trying to figure out a way to retrieve all the files from the computer (may it rest in peace), that selfishly and stupidly, and without a moments warning (bless its poor little circuits), blew up… leaving me with nothing but a pile of scrap metal (I shall miss it) and the smirking glances of “sensible” people, who warned me to buy a hard-drive on which to back up my files in case of disaster. To all those people I say: Nobody likes a smartarse!

Video-making will more than likely not resume until I figure out a way to do that, but once I do you will be the first (or possibly about the 11th) to know.

I am also ashamed (or proud, depending on who’s reading this) to say that I have returned to the world of video-gaming for the first time in over 2 years, and was unprepared for just how much I had missed it. Skyrim is almost everything I hoped it would be… AND I am overjoyed (like… literally, I had trouble calming down for a day or so) to say that, finally, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and a lot of enthusiasm (not to mention money) from the general public, a game I have waited almost 30 years for is due to hit the shelves in 2014. Elite: Dangerous is the sequel to the highly successful Elite franchise that started in the early 1980s, and completely captured my imagination as a young boy (and then later as an adult). You can check out the progress of the new game here.

This recent bout of leisure though, has led me to the conclusion that there is a lot of work out there in the world of video-gaming. Particularly in that of RPGs. Skyrim, for example, has  hundreds of books and little notes throughout its sprawling fantasy world, as well as dialogue and general storylines; all of which have to be written by someone. Not to mention the voice-acting.

Now, if you don’t play video-games often, take my word for it; some of the voice-acting is absolutely terrible. In Skyrim for example, there is a mage in a place called Dragonsreach who is voiced by the single worst actor I have ever heard in my life. I’m not kidding… this guy makes bit-part actors in 1960s “Doctor Who” episodes look like Laurence Olivier, and someone PAID him to do THIS (watch from 0:26 for full, gut-wrenching effect):

I don’t know whose sensitive areas this chap so delicately tickled to get this job, but if he isn’t the perfect 6ft 5inch specimen of a chiselled god , with the sexual prowess of a Stepford Husband, programmed by Eros himself… then I want to know who is making the decisions over at Bethesda!!

I’m serious now; video-gaming is becoming a real threat to the world of cinema. Some of the stories in games these days are really well written. And try to bear in mind that you spend maybe 2 hours watching a movie. Video-games create the potential for attachment to the central character/characters which goes far beyond that you could ever hope to get from a movie or TV character… and yet at this stage it still seems to attract the sort of actors that would be out of their depth in a school pantomime. These games are getting more and more immersive, but you can still be pulled right out of the game when a guy says “Off to Bleak Falls Barrow with you…” as though he’s reading the ingredients off a cereal packet, whilst trying to cook a three-course meal, having just stubbed his toe!

How do I get into this line of work? Reading character dialogue… writing those unimportant “journal entries” which you find all over games like these… Helping to write the story-lines for the latest immersive RPG??? If anyone has any idea, please let me know.

Some of the more observant readers will have noticed that the blog has a new look. Sleepless Knight has a new identity, in preparation for becoming an actual business at some point, and our new mascot can be seen at the top of the page. He can only be seen in silhouetted profile at the moment, but if I ever manage to render him in 3D I will post better images for him here. He needs a name, so if you can think of a good one LEAVE A COMMENT.

Now, since I seem to have wandered from mildly amusing to “bring back the cereal packet guy!”, I will leave you with this thought: ……

Did you get it? Or do I have to go back and reprogram this fucking telepathic broadcasting device yet again?

Oh well. Don’t bend over for the soap… but for crying out loud use some before I return! Who knows how long that might be.