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.

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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 – 6…

Welcome, welcome, one and all… Come in; fix yourself a drink; grab a t-shirt from the selection by the door; pull up a bean-bag; take a muffin from the counter-top.

Okay, we have none of those things. But we do have a list of things I will miss about Sweden when I away from it in 6 days time, measured against things I have missed about England! 🙂

Wait… where are you going? Surely you didn’t just come here for…

To hell with them! Let’s get on with it shall we?

What I will miss #6: Working as a Stockholm Tour Guide

A few of my lovely guide colleagues

A few of my lovely guide colleagues at Nynäshamn, during the 2013 season

Just to be clear: I am not in this photograph. Many of my guide colleagues are, however, and it is them I will miss as much as the job itself.

Yes… we are those people sitting at the front of a bus, or a boat, or walking you through the streets, or losing our voices as we attempt to be heard above the crowds in a busy museum; listing endless dates and telling stories about the history and happenings of Stockholm, and, more generally, Sweden.

We have hearts and lives… If you prick us, do we not bleed? And if you wrong us, shall we not REVENGE!!??

Yes. We Tour Guides are all about the revenge… Especially the Italians. In fact I may have earned a messy and untimely death just for mentioning that. But it is difficult to stay angry for very long, when you work as a Tour Guide in this beautiful city:

Stockholm Harbour

Stockholm Harbour

Of course, some of us manage it. Particularly on days when you have an all too familiar conversation such as this one:

“What is that enormous building?”

“That’s the Nordic Museum… as I mentioned on the bus.”

“What was it originally?”

“The Nordic Museum… as I mentioned on the bus.”

“No, I mean what was it built for?”

“The Nordic Museum… as I…”

“No, you don’t understand. Who lived there when it was built?”

“Nobody. It has always been a museum. It was built for that purpose… as I mentioned on the…”

… and so on.

Alright… to give a little credit to the guests, it’s an understandable confusion when the building in question looks like this:

Nordiska Museet

Nordiska Museet

But that doesn’t make it any less irritating when you are having this conversation for the 3rd time in as many days. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to trust your Guide. Likewise, when we tell you to be back at the bus by a certain time, it is not because we are anally retentive weirdos who measure our lives by the amount of seconds we waste in futile pursuits such as eating… It is because 1000ft long Cruise-Liners, weighing over 100,000 tons, and carrying more than 2,500 passengers, cannot usually afford to wait while the charming couple in cabin 6211 buy fridge magnets with Vikings on them.

Constellation

The job, like any other, comes with headaches you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there, but for the most part, you can’t ask for many better jobs than showing people around beautiful cities and museums for a living.

I will miss the sights, sounds and smells of The Vasa Museum in particular. Not a lot prepares a guest for the sight of an intact 17th century warship, greeting them as they walk through the doors of a pretty ordinary looking modern building. I will miss those gasps of awe that really made the job worthwhile, and the thanks you get from those guests who have really appreciated their trip and the job you have done.

realvasa

More than that though, I will miss the people in that first photograph. I have worked in more than 20 different jobs, spanning a dozen different industries, and it hasn’t been very often that I could honestly say I really liked those that I worked with. I will miss them all, and pleasant conversations with them in the warmth of a Stockholm summer.

But, I’m going home, so we need one of these…

What I am looking forward to #6: Working as a Voice-Over Artist

Not MY Iso Booth

Not MY iso booth

Now, the eagle-eyed will have noticed that I changed the title of this second section slightly, from “What I have missed” to “What I am looking forward to”, because this one is a bit of a cheat. You see, although I now work in voice-overs, I have never worked in England as such. This is something I have only ever done here in Sweden. However, since that is what I am going to be doing once I return, I figured it balanced quite well with the Tour Guide job I am leaving behind.

I have wondered about being a voice-over artist since reading Stephen King’s Rose Madder back in the mid-nineties, and several of my tour guests suggested I might consider it as an occupation. Still, my first job doing this sort of work was pretty much of a fluke, as I was called by an Argentine/Norwegian director and asked to be the narrator for a documentary. And that might have been the end of it, had it not been for another fluke, in which I discovered a job thanks to my good friend, Hector (who is in the guide photo at the top of the page).

I went in to read for an audition, and started work as an audio-book narrator a few weeks later. Since then I have recorded several books (a few audio samples of which can be found here), and had a competing audio-book company try to recruit me. So I started thinking “Huh! Maybe I do have what it takes to do this sort of work after all”, and have spent the last few months researching possible opportunities, and gathering together the necessary equipment (though I should stress that my own iso-booth is not nearly as shiny as the one in the photo).

So you just never know where life will take you if you let it. It brought me here, to a wonderful wife; a great job, and then another great job. Now it’s taking me back to England, and what I hope will be a career.

But that’s in 6 days time. Lots more writing between now and then. Hopefully the rest will be more interesting to read, and a little less flat than this one seems to have been now that I read back through it. I guess we’ll see 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!

642x336xOopnurthring-642x336.jpg.pagespeed.ic.9ip1jRrjMQ

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):

car_2270215b

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

7098753447_a051cb4130_z

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.

The Final Countdown – 10…

 

See what I did there?

No?

Good. It means I don’t have too many Europe fans reading this (Virginia… if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). The short version is that the rock band, Europe, are Swedish, and I’m moving from Sweden back to England (*cough* where real bands come from), and I’m going to do a countdown.

Right. Now that you’ve seen the irrefutable genius of my opening gambit… here comes the long version.

In 10 days from now, I will be returning to my home country permanently. Well… I’m sure I’ll visit Sweden often, and hopefully see much of the rest of the world but, you get the idea. And I will really miss this place. ABBA and IKEA are not the only things to come out of this great country, and although most of the things I will talk about might seem to be of little significance to anyone else, they matter to me.

So over the next 10 days, I will list 10 things I will miss about Sweden, offset against things I have missed about England.

Get the picture?
No? … …Go home Richard, you’re drunk.

What I will miss #10: Swedish Bread

22jan23_185603415

Seems simple, right?

Wrong!!

The Swedes know how to make bread. Now… that isn’t to say that the English don’t know how to make bread, but we don’t know how to make it well. And we certainly don’t know how to make it interesting.
There are some places in England where you can buy really great, really tasty bread… but it certainly isn’t the norm.
Over here in Sweden you can buy 30 different varieties of wildly different tasting breads in every supermarket. And that’s before you even GO to the bakery. I’m talking about the kind that comes pre-packaged. This one is rye; this one white; this one has carrot; here’s the same brand but with sea-salt… with lingonberries… with syrup… oats… olive-oil… sunflower seeds… barley… cardamom… flax seeds… poppy seeds… sourdough… hard bread… soft bread…

Perhaps you’re not a very big fan of bread. But I think a love of bread is in my genes. I remember my father telling me, yet again, that some problem I had was due to lack of sleep. Now, that’s not at all surprising in my case – unless you honestly thought I chose “Sleepless Knight” because I like taking late-night walks in steel pyjamas – but he said this to everyone… “Lost a finger? Lack of Sleep” “Fell down a well? Lack of sleep” “Shot in the face by a gun-toting psychopath? … that’ll be a lack of sleep!”
When I challenged my father about this he laughed, and told me that my Grandfather had always blamed everything on “not eating enough bread”.

Anyway, I digress… as usual. Basically the Swedes kick our asses at bread making!

So how do I counter this? Well…

Things I have missed #10: British Sausage

5-types-of-sausage-006

There is no polite way to put this… The Swedes can’t make sausage for shit!
Okay… there were probably a dozen polite ways to say that, but I have really missed the good old British Banger and that’s the kind of shit that will make a man take politeness and jump up and down on its balls until it stops being polite.

So… like the bread… Swedes can make sausage. The Germans taught them. Doubt me? Don’t make me go all “Swedish Tour Guide” on your asses with stories about the Swedish sausage and its ties to the Swedish copper mines. Just trust me on this.
Still. I can imagine the little conflab between the German miners:

“So… if we teach the Swedes to make sausage our lives down here in the dark might be a little more bearable, but if we teach them the really good stuff, how will we ever face our countrymen again! No… I say we teach them that really crappy, boring recipe that we give the kids when they misbehave.”

So, yeah… the Swedes have several different types of sausage, but I’m damned if I can tell you the difference in taste between one and the other (much like British bread).

So I’m looking forward to getting back the British Banger! Tomato sausage… pork sausage… beef… sausage with apple… sausage with Stilton…. sausage with Garlic and Rosemary…. Lincolnshire sausage…. Cumberland sausage… the list goes on and on.

See you tomorrow!

Interstellar: exploration or extinction

It has been a long time since I visited these pages… far too long.
I had when I last wrote here, many varied and detailed plans for a new, brighter (ironically more regularly updated) blog site. And I hope that eventually I can return to those ideas and make them a reality, because I really do miss this. But, as those foolhardy enough to have been reading this blog since early 2011 will know, my mind has the boundless energy and restlessness which so many tracksuit-wearing gym-goers seem to have applied to their physical bodies, but which has long eluded my own decrepit husk of an excuse for one.
As such, new ideas, new games, new books, new addresses, projects, toys and adventures are ever vying for an audition to stand, however briefly, on the crumbling stage of 3 minute farce which is my attention span… before being kicked out into the wings to make way for a man on a Segway, juggling flaming sea-sponges.

So, why now?

Well, I will give you a brief update on my ever-changing circumstances (many of which will relate to – and serve as updates for – previous blog posts) a little later. But, more importantly, I want to talk to you once again about a subject very close to my heart. An issue far too often ignored or dismissed, but about which I nonetheless feel very strongly indeed.

It should be made clear that, although I have had the itch to return and update you on progress several times over the last 2-3 months, this post was prompted by several coinciding events which, each in their turn, brought this issue once again to the front of my mind, and I thought I might quiet “the voices” by listing those events here.

The first is that, by the end of today, my wife and I will, more than likely, have an actual definitive, unalterable date for our permanent return to England… though I should more properly say: My permanent return, and my wife’s (hopefully) permanent migration to.

The second is that sleeplessness (what else?) has compelled me once again to the pages of the various works of Dr. Carl Sagan; not only one of my favourite authors, but (in my opinion at least) one of the most enlightened and brilliant men the 20th century ever gave us.

The third is that in 4 days from now (Nov 12th, 2014), one of the exciting firsts of human space exploration, which Dr. Sagan foresaw and wrote about at length but sadly did not live long enough to witness, will actually happen. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Spacecraft, after travelling 4 billion miles over the span of 10 years, finally caught up with comet 67P/C-G in August, and will send its Philae lander down to the surface on Wednesday.

If you wish to follow the event live on Wednesday, you can do so at www.esa.int. In the meantime you can watch a wonderful short film, inspired by humanity’s first landing on a comet, here.

The fourth is that I have been playing extensively, and making many YouTube videos about, Elite: Dangerous over the last 3 months; a game for which I waited 3 decades, and about which, more later (if you can’t wait until later… more here)

Lastly, and perhaps most poignantly, this week sees the release of my most anticipated film of 2014: Christopher Nolan’s, Interstellar – which I wrote a brief preview of at the beginning of this year, in my 2014 film preview (it might be interesting to revisit my previews and see how accurate I was in my predictions).

The reason I say “most poignantly” is because, although I will not be going to see the film until next week, I understand its central theme to be the very concern which drove me back to these pages. A subject on which I have touched several times before; that of Interstellar travel, and the absolute necessity for it.

Amongst the above listed reasons are my personal heroes. From the realms of astronomy and space exploration: Carl Sagan; filmmaking: Chris Nolan; and video-gaming: David Braben. All of them – Nolan, apparently; Braben, so far as I can tell; and Sagan, definitely and outspokenly on many occasions – share/d my concerns about space exploration; namely that the necessity for it does not seem to be widely accepted or understood.

That’s the second time I’ve referred to it as a necessity (actually the 3rd or 4th if you read my earlier blog posts. Particularly this one), and I absolutely, whole-heartedly and as loudly as the internet will let me, refuse to apologise for doing so.

Again and again I have heard the same tired old arguments against spending large amounts of money on spaceflight and space exploration…

The first comes most often from that percentage of the human population who seem not to concern themselves with life outside the confines of their local pub, or the studios in which their favourite reality TV show is filmed, and it usually goes something like this:

“What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?”

The second is usually (though not always) from the demographic I think is most diametrically opposed to the first; those intellectuals who concern themselves almost entirely with metaphysics, and start conversations with such openers as “Wasn’t it Sartre who said…” and so on. Their argument goes something like this:

“Why should I care?”

The third comes from those of a religious disposition, and ranges from:

“I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.”

to

“Accept Christ and you will all be saved.”

and at the more extreme end…

“HERETIC!”

The fourth group constitutes perhaps the largest and most often encountered percentage of space-exploration naysayers, and their argument at least tends to be the most rational. It goes something like this:

“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”

To answer each of these groups in turn, in the fewest words possible, I would have to say…

Group 1: “Are you a moron?”

Group 2: “Do you think I’m a moron?”

Group 3: “Are you a Mormon?”

Group 4: “No.”

However, since brevity is as foreign to me as a second anniversary is to an iPhone, I shall now give slightly more carefully considered responses.

Group 1

G1: What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?

SK: Have you ever looked up at the night sky? Did you know that all those little twinkly bits in that really big black thing above your head are gigantic nuclear reactors… many with their own system of planets? And did you know that, though we can only see about 10,000 from Earth, with the naked eye, there are actually about 400 billion of them in our galaxy alo…

G1: …

SK: Are you texting?

G1: …

SK: Can’t you concentrate on what I’m saying for five m… wait… are you texting ME?
What does ‘UR borin m8’ mean?

G1: …

SK: Oh for crying out loud! Go on inside then. X-factor starts in 5 minutes. Here’s a ball of string to keep you occupied during that long wait.”

So… no help there then. What of group 2?

Group 2

G2: Why should I care?

SK: Fair point. But all the great art and literature you DO care about (or claim to) will be lost if SOMEONE doesn’t. No humans will remain to read  and appreciate it. All the Peruvian yoghurt farmers you are always banging on about trying to save will perish anyway when the planet is inevitably over-populated, or the magnetic field which protects them (and us) from the intense radiation of the sun is decimated by a coronal mass-ejection.
Still don’t care?

G2: Nope

SK: Okay. Can’t say fairer than that. I don’t much care about  homoeopathy, and locally grown, organic gooseberries to tell the truth, so I guess we’re both content.
By the way; I found a brilliant article about how to get Quinoa out of your beard while I was looking up Quasars on Google. If you’re having trouble reading it… take off the ridiculous fake glasses! Your eyesight is fine.

Never mind. To each their own. I figured it was a losing battle, but there might be some hope for that group as fashions inevitable change.
Onto group 3… I guess… *sigh*

Group 3

G3: I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.

SK: Er… yes but…

G3: Accept Christ and you will all be saved!

SK: Erm… okay… I’m not entirely convinced that’s true, but let’s say that it turns out you’re correct, and there really is a magical being who created everything… doesn’t the endless space, full of countless worlds and wonders make your creator seem even more magnificent than you first thought?

G3: …

SK: No? You want your magnificent God to remain confined to this tiny, tiny, insignificant corner of the universe?
Y’know… I think that’s probably for the best.
Incidentally, I will be celebrating Christmas, and my love of it has everything to do with cosy happiness and goodwill, and nothing to do with your god, beyond both his and Santa’s shared love of beards.

By the way… I found this great article on how to get Quinoa out of…
…what’s wrong?

G3: HERETIC!

SK: Get your foot out my door. I have Satan on speed-dial

Oh well. I didn’t expect that one to end well, if I’m honest. Man, am I gonna look stupid when the Tribulation comes.

I think there is hope for group 1. As long as we start setting our reality TV shows on space stations and asteroids, they’ll sell the idea for us, and tell us it was their’s in the first place. And as long as we put a Starbucks up there, selling organically-grown coffee… group 2 will turn up whether we want them to or not.

But let’s turn our attention to Group 4.

“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”

I stand by my original, simple answer: NO!

But allow me to expand upon it…

Are the starving of the world more important?

Not if they are wiped out by asteroid strike, coronal mass-ejection, super-volcanic eruption etc. before we figure out how to feed them all, no.

Shouldn’t we be trying to put an end to poverty, rather than pursuing science-fiction?

Absolutely we should! But you can do both at the same time. In fact, the answers to many of these earthly problems have been, and are still being, addressed by the human exploration of space and its derivative technologies.
Besides… what’s the point of saving people from poverty if we ignore all the very real dangers which could wipe us all out at any moment?

It’s too dangerous!

It certainly is dangerous sometimes. Last week alone there were two accidents (it’s worth noting that this was the single busiest week for spacecraft accidents in the history of human spaceflight); Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one person and injuring another… and an unmanned Antartes rocket exploded as it left the launch-pad. However, although I wouldn’t even risk spilling my beer to stop a bar-fight, I would risk my life without question to advance human space exploration. And judging from the 200,000 or so applicants who signed up for the chance to earn a one-way ticket to the Red Planet, with the Mars One project (this project plans to send people to Mars, starting in 2023, but will not be bringing them back), it seems that plenty of other people are willing to risk their lives too. If you’re not, stay at home. No-one is forcing anyone to risk their safety. All the people who have so far gone into space have jumped at the chance, in spite of the risks.

It’s too expensive!

Yes, it certainly is expensive. But the US military budget is approximately 30,000 times more expensive.

We need to put a stop to war!

Definitely. And I can’t think of a better way to do that than focussing the attentions (not to mention the money) of humanity on something much bigger, brighter and more exciting out there.

We need to stop over-population!

How?
Other than sterilising the whole of humanity, and dooming it to extinction anyway, how exactly are you planning to police such an action? That snowball is already out of control folks. There are twice as many people on this planet now as there were when I was born, 40 years ago.
On the bright side… they call it “space” for a reason.

The tools of human spaceflight are bound to be perverted into tools of war and destruction, or have some other long-term negative consequences for humanity!

Yup. Very likely. Wernher von Braun’s rockets were used to bomb London during WWII, and there has been fear and speculation for some time in the world of astronomy, that the technology necessary to deflect earth-bound asteroids could just as easily be used to push one TOWARDS us.
But here’s the thing… the technological developments of humanity have often had un-forseen consequences no matter WHERE they come from. In fact many of the solutions to the very earthy problems this group confronts us with, end up being the things that group 2 sit in their coffee houses complaining about a generation later.
2 solutions to the problems of world hunger and food shortage for example, have resulted in 2 of the biggest scare-stories in the modern era.

The need for cleaner, non-toxic refrigeration technology led to the development of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Considered completely safe because they were non-reactive… we later discovered that it was precisely that inert property which led to them destroying our protective ozone layer (a problem, I hasten to add, which was only discovered – accidentally, and with the support of NASA – through studying the atmosphere of Venus).

The development of GM crops… an ingenious solution, or so we thought, to the problem of world hunger. Here were crops that thrived where others could not; allowing millions of acres of food to be grown on land which would previously yield none… but people gathering outside the headquarters of Monsanto with catchy slogans and placards would probably tell you that didn’t work out quite as we had planned either.

The advancement of technology often has drawbacks… but it has so far saved millions more lives than it has cost (sorry, Group 3, was I staring?).

So, what of that final, tired old argument closer:

You’ve been reading/watching too much science-fiction?

For this one I shall simply answer tired old rhetoric with tired old rhetoric:

Science-Fiction writers have been writing about visiting comets and landing on them for well over a century. On Wednesday, you can watch it happen.
Right up to the late 19th and early 20th century, most physicists believed that rockets could not function in a vacuum.

Look… we can argue backwards and forwards all day long about “what ifs”, so let’s stick with something that we can guarantee.

At some point in the future, an asteroid or comet big enough to wipe out all life on Earth WILL hit this planet.

This is not speculation. It is a mathematical certainty.

Less than 2 years ago, Russia had a near miss of underwear-changing proportions when a meteor just 15 meters across exploded over Chelyabinsk. This happened in the same week that astronomers were busy watching how closely we had been missed by the very much larger Asteroid, 2012 DA14. Twenty short years ago, Jupiter was hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, leaving a scar the size of our entire planet on its surface.

Asteroid & Comet impacts are just the most likely threat. Super-volcano eruption, Coronal mass-ejection… pick your apocalypse. I’ve said it many times before: Mother Nature is a cold-hearted bitch! She cares not one iota what the human-race has struggled through, or how much history would be lost.

Dr. Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, reckons:

“There’s something like one chance in two thousand that [a globally catastrophic asteroid collision] will happen in the lifetime of a newborn baby… for commercial flights the chance [of crashing] is one in two million.”

He puts it better, and certainly more succinctly, than I ever could when he states the case for space-exploration by simply stating:

“Exploration or extinction”

So make your choice. Every single day that passes without such a global catastrophe brings us one day closer to the day when it DOES happen.

I hate fear-mongering, and I am not suggesting for a second that we all build bomb shelters and tell your Priest/Psychiatrist/Chemist that you have secretly always had a fetish for Eskimo-porn before it’s too late. Living in perpetual fear of what MIGHT happen is no existence at all (I can hear my wife laughing as I write that). There is one group that I left off the list, and it is populated by those people who live in a constant state of disappointment; constantly whining about how evil humanity is and how we all deserve to die for the things we’ve done to penguins. I left these people out because there really is very little point in arguing with them. Yes, we have done, and are still doing shitty things all across the world, and yes, some humans would undoubtedly continue doing shitty things on other worlds, and in other times. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water… just try to be one of those people who does nice things, and to discourage others from doing bad ones.

My own interest in space travel has little if anything to do with the threat of asteroid impact, mathematical certainty or not, but if that doesn’t sway you, just go outside on a clear night and spend half an hour with your phone turned off, looking up at those twinkly bits. You may surprise yourself.

xl1XYq8

In other news…

I am nowadays working as an audio-book narrator, and will be pursuing similar work when returning to the UK next year.

I have made several Elite: Dangerous gameplay videos for YouTube in the last 3 months, and will continue making more, as the BETA stage of development draws to a close, and the game approaches its retail release date: 16th December, 2014.

braben
This game has exceeded all my expectations so far, and there are grand plans going forward from release. One of my videos was featured in one of the game developer’s recent newsletters. It should go without saying that I was very proud indeed, and my wife and I had a lot of fun making it. If you’re a fan of either Quantum Leap or Elite: Dangerous, you should check it out, HERE.


That’s it for now. I will try to be back soon, but given how this post started, and considering that I will shortly be relocating to another country, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a while.
You can still keep up with developments by watching my videos, or following me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK.

Until then (although this may make little sense to those who do not regularly read my posts) consider this:

Bending over for the soap would not be necessary in zero-gravity

Live from Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God those days are over, huh?

They don’t have roads but they have facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

…or perhaps even the entire human race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROBOT!

SPACE STATION!

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

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

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

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

 

Fantasy League #1: 007 Villains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Bond

Gary Bond

Ed Bond

Chiwetel Bond

Cate Bond

Michael G Bond

Sir Ian Bond

Frank Bond

Angelina Bond

Benedict Bond

Djimon Bond

Sam R Bond

Sam N Bond

Jude Bond

Charlize Bond

Cillian Bond

James F Bond

Paul Bond

Ken Bond

Michaell F Bond

Michelle Bond

Marion Bond

Bruce Bond

Derek Bond

 

Rachel Bond

John Bond

Carrie Anne Bond

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

Forest Bond

Philip Bond

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

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

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

Sleepless Knight