Back to the Future

The ironic thing about Narcissism, it occurs to me, is that if Narcissus was loved by more people he would probably not have been able to sit, staring into a puddle at his own reflection until he dropped dead. No; his friends would have wondered where he got to.

“Where have you been?” is a question I often wish more people would ask me, but when yelling into the next room is all that’s necessary to let all your friends know where you are, it’s rarely a question that pops up. However, in case anyone is wondering, I have been in Stockholm. I am still in Stockholm. By the time you read this, I will have been living in Sweden for 2 months. I know this because by the time I wrote this I had been in living in Sweden for 2 months. Such is my motivation for writing blog posts at the moment.

I almost wrote a blog post last month, whilst waiting for Amki at Stockholm University, but when you sit writing with a fountain pen, on actual paper, amid students at a large university, people look at you as though you should be wearing a loincloth and picking sabre-toothed tiger out of your teeth with a flint axe. I also almost wrote a blog post on the day before I left Lincoln, explaining about the many addresses I have had, and how this apartment in Stockholm is my 27th… but nothing came of that, for reasons I will not go into right now, so Lincoln never got a tearful goodbye. Then I nearly wrote a blog post after attending Richard’s wedding a couple of weeks ago (Oh… by the way… Richard got married a couple of weeks ago), but I got busy with other trivial little things like looking for a job and… well… making tea and stuff.

Frankly, it’s a little weird writing blog posts at the moment. You see, shortly after I wrote my first ever blog post, I met another new blogger who lived (at the time) on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. A few months later we became more than just friends, and since those days a great many of my posts have been about The Swedish Flowerpot and the difficulties of our long-distance relationship… The thing is, that now I live with her, in Sweden, and she is stood beside me, dancing and writing an email at the same time (Yes, she is awesome). Living here has all become very normal for me by now but, for reasons I can’t adequately explain without the help of a psychotherapist, it all gets just a little surreal when I start writing a blog post whilst sitting beside her. So, here is my solution:

I will continue from exactly where I left off, right before I began falling in love with the beautiful Swede. Now, unfortunately that is rather hard to narrow down; I can’t begin in the middle of a sentence or say I will start from 3.17pm, November 20th, 2011… because love isn’t like that, but I’m pretty sure I left off about… here:

“…novel was eventually rejected by the lovely Victoria Marini, but we thank her for taking the time to read it and will soon start submitting it, once again, to British agents (I can’t help but hear the Bond theme whenever I say this now).”

Yes folks, it’s that time again, and this time I really mean it. I got sidetracked for a year or so but I’m getting back on course again, and it starts with submitting the novel to new and improved literary agents (with enhanced colour protection and summer-berry scent). If any of them show the slightest interest in my work they may well take a look at this blog so please be on your best behaviour on the off-chance that we are being watched from the timeless worlds of space (sorry… went for a Burton there). Let the rejection letters come! Keep your elbows off the table, don’t lick your knife, don’t stare into a puddle so long that you turn into some variety of daffodil, and don’t… whatever you do… under any circumstances… bend over for the soap!

I’m back, baby!

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It’s complicated

“James! Wherever have you been? We have all missed you terribly! A few days without one of your blog posts is like an endless desert of…” Oh… OK… I couldn’t get through that with a straight face. Hi mum!

Joking aside… my mum does not read this blog. In fact… as my sister was kind enough to point out recently: Nobody reads this blog (it doesn’t sound as kind, taken out of context like that but, trust me, it was). Anyway… that being the case, I guess I can say whatever the hell I like.

It is perhaps obvious to those poor souls who have stumbled across this blog whilst looking for S&M porn sites, that my posts are often influenced by recent conversations. So, if I often say “A recent conversation has led me to the conclusion that…” please accept my apologies.

I have often been accused of over-analysing things, and this has worried me for years. “You think too much!” is an accusation levelled at me on a regular basis. Usually when I’m trying to talk myself into (or out of) doing something. It’s a habit I have tried to rid myself of in recent years, and, following several recent conversations (there it is! Give yourself a point if you spotted it… then deduct two points for my having drawn your attention to it… TWICE) and posts by fellow bloggers, I begin to see how you can shoot yourself in the foot through over-analysis.

This channel might fail! That job might not be all it’s cracked up to be! That car might turn out to be a pile of crap! What if you spend all your time on this novel and no-one wants to read it? What if this marriage fails? What if he turns me down? What if my children resent me for pursuing a career as an Octopus whisperer? What if we build this time-machine and it doesn’t work?

Now before you start asking me if I’m getting cold up here on my pedestal… it’s true; I have been guilty of all these things myself. One area of my life in particular has always scared me into simply not trying hard enough, but maybe that’s why I write this. Procrastination has stood in the way of my success/happiness far too many times.

If your new business venture fails, your children will not turn into zombies (Unless the name of your business is Umbrella Corporation). If your novel does not get published, the sky will not fall in. If the girl at the bar says “If I throw a stick, will you leave?”, the world’s puppies will not begin howling at the moon and avoiding silver objects. Let’s clear this whole thing up… Failure most definitely IS an option! But so the hell what?

I have been spending a little time with young Richard lately. He works in a bar, and it’s surprisingly easy to spend time talking to someone while they serve you alcoholic beverages. Still… it’s an expensive bar, so I never drink enough to stop making sense, and our most recent conversation made a lot more sense to us than it apparently makes to our family members, and other significant people in our lives. Richard wanted my opinion on something, and I found it very hard to disagree with his take on things: This is how I feel… what the hell is complicated about it?

He’s a bright young fella!

Anyway… Sleepless Knight is ready to spring back into action. We’re waiting on a few props, before shooting all the things we need to before Christmas.

This has been a public service announcement from the Sleepless Knight. However you enjoy your weekend… you’ll have to do it without a picture.

Phoning it in

*For those expecting humour; the management would like to apologise for the tone of recent posts and assure readers that normal service will be resumed as soon as the author can find the funny bone which he apparently lost in the recent move*

In the last fortnight, it has surprised me how many people have asked how I am, and actually meant it. I’m talking about genuinely concerned people, who are actually waiting for a real answer to that question, because they really do want to know that you’re ok.

The problem I’m having is that, for the first time in my life, I really don’t know how to answer that question… I mean, I really don’t know whether I’m alright or not. I have felt more alive in the last 5-6 weeks than I have in the previous 15 years, and flown higher than I ever hoped I might again. But I have also been smashed hard into the ground for flying too close to the sun, and had to address damages of my own making. My brain is alive with a million things to say, but not a single clue who I’m supposed to be saying them to. I have experienced happiness, and made others happy. I have experienced devastation, and also been the cause of it. At times like these it becomes very difficult to answer the simple question “Are you OK?” and very easy to become lost in self-pity, simply because you don’t know whether you’re ok or not. So, you assume you’re not and start looking for someone who will kiss your sprained ankle and make it better, rather than saying “Well… if you didn’t want to fall over, perhaps you ought not to have run down the stairs!”

Perhaps some of the best moments of the last week though, have been surprising (and often surreal) phone conversations. Surprising, not only because I don’t normally like talking on the phone, but because, in all three cases, they have involved people whose voices I have never been so happy to hear. The first was a conversation I could so easily have had before, but avoided until it was too late. The last, was a very kind old friend; uniquely placed to offer their perspective on a potentially dangerous dilemma. It was the one in the middle however – A bittersweet, teary conversation with a troubled young girl who means far more to me than she thinks she does – which pulled me out of my self-pity.

Sometimes we think we are in a burning house, when it might just be that we need to turn down the lights and give our eyes time to adjust to the brightness. But, even in situations that really are beyond repair; if it becomes impossible to escape without causing pain, the very least you can do is to limit the damage. To my shame, I did not.

If you love someone, they should never have to figure that out for themselves. If someone is important to you, then so should their happiness be; if they are unhappy, move heaven and earth to make them happy; if you can’t make them happy, at least listen.

Finally… If you are a comedian at heart, don’t write this kind of sentimental nonsense. Here’s a song, for Lea, for me… for anyone else who wants it.

I know I didn't try very hard with this picture... sorry about that. See disclaimer at top of post.

Getting on with it

My writing and my video channel have been at war for some time now. Unfortunately, dear readers, the video channel is winning. The reason for this is that I’m surrounded by friends with nothing but enthusiasm for the many projects that Sleepless Knight has in the pipeline, and I have ignored the calls of my most cherished creative outlet for far too long. The boys are ready, I’m ready. It is time to breathe life back into the channel, and myself (for those who do not follow the story on my video channel, I have been dead for approximately 4 months).

The other reason the channel is winning is because this damn blog page has been responsible for no less than three of the most painful moments of my recent life, just in the last few weeks. On top of which, it has come to my attention that this blog has become a window into my life from which the most unlikely of readers have been drawing all the wrong conclusions. Frankly there have been one or two days lately when I truly wished I had never started this damn thing in the first place, and if I’m going to be completely honest; earlier tonight I was planning to lock it up, wrap it in chains, throw away the key and push the whole damn thing to the bottom of the deepest ocean I could find; there to be guarded by blogger-eating cyber sharks with laser eyes, and proximity-detecting explosive gills.

After much consideration however, I have decided that would mean admitting defeat. And, as at least one of my readers will know, I am easily blown over but I don’t like it on the floor. So… to honour a promise I made to my oldest and most dedicated subscriber (and assuming they are reading) the Sleepless Blog will continue, no matter what happens. Why?

Why the hell not?

As a further promise; this time to the bacon-obsessed, Solid Snake worshipping, James (who was kind enough to offer me temporary accommodation, following my recent family crisis), I must give praise to Eddie: All round good guy, and provider of the internet; without which you would all be deprived of my weekly wisdom.

Praise be to Eddie: Provider of the internet

Return to Life

When I sat down to write this post, I knew exactly what it was going to be about: Tease a couple of Canadians, bring down other nations, build them back up with the stuff I love about them, bring down my own nation and leave it there – for it is old enough to look after itself by now – and end on a note of good humour and goodwill. But for some reason, as I sat looking at the screen in front of me, the world seemed suddenly to fall very still and silent, and that eerie yet exhilarating “Eye of the storm” feeling, reached in, grabbed me by the stomach, and squeezed until my heart began to race.

The weirdness of this past month never really did completely disappear after all. With its dying breath, September gave England a week of clear skies and temperatures we would normally be lucky to see in a good week of July. October, for me at least, is not likely to be any less strange, and as we begin the downhill slope towards Christmas I have the feeling that autumn is going to show up with a very loud knock; saying “Sorry I’m late! What did I miss?”

So… before I turn into one of those miserable old shits that everyone avoids at parties, here are some updates:

The Observers have been put on a “keep warm” setting until I can find a solution to the problem which caused the whole project to fall at the final hurdle. You WILL see them later; I’ll be damned if I let 3 months of work go to waste. For now though, we will go to plan B for bringing me back from the grave.

Filming will begin again in mid October (once we figure out what plan B actually is), and we should be live and kicking on a YouTube channel near you, by the end of the month. My hope is to release 4 more videos before the New Year, and then return in February, fresh as a daisy and with a whole new set of diabolical plans for 2012. Some of them are a bit ambitious, but we’ll be ending 2011 with many more crew members than we had at the beginning, and an upcoming change in circumstances will make it much easier to collaborate and film on a regular basis throughout next year.

There is also a new camera winging its way towards the SK office, so we will hopefully be able to shoot behind the scenes footage which I hope will make a half-decent “End of Year” video, to be released between Christmas and the New Year. There will, I’m sure, be lots and lots of bloopers for those of you who only watch our videos for the moments when we F**k up.

On a slightly sadder note; this might be my last blog post for a couple of weeks. (Stop cheering at the back!) It might not turn out that way at all; I may be on here next week without a hiccup but I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up (Whoever is laughing; see me after!).

I’m at a bit of loss for an image this week, so I’ll put up a few pics of the completed, but temporarily shelved, Observer “Bridge” set, and I’m sure you’ll see the little guys in 2012.

I’m going now.

Hatch leading to the escape pod; where Grunkin keeps his porn!

Pilot (Pankin) Panel

Navigator (Grunkin) Panel... Try to ignore the "Cerne Abbas Giant" type image near the middle.

Preparing for a fiasco

Remember when life was simpler?

No… neither do I. Perhaps I imagined it.

So, before you ask; I’m on here in the middle of the week because sometimes venting just can’t wait until Sunday.

A couple of weeks ago I quoted my favourite line from Elizabethtown:

“No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy.”

Our dear Drew Baylor goes on to say:

“A motto of the British Special Air Force is: ‘Those who risk, win.’ A single green vine shoot is able to grow through cement. The Pacific Northwestern salmon beats itself bloody on its quest to travel hundreds of miles upstream… against the current, with a single purpose, sex of course, but also… life.” Hear his message here.

Now, I have previously warned against taking your inspiration from movies. You have to pick the right moments, and know how to play safely. But if you’re an experienced enough player, you can use the rules of the game against themselves: “…just because something’s trite doesn’t make it any less true.” ~ The Social Network.

DONE! You lose again, reality!

Anyway… the reason the “fiasco” line is so relevant is because, in the last fortnight, it seems to become more and more true of my own life with every single day that passes. I am truly setting myself up for a Drew Baylor style fiasco. I could screw up the next couple of years of my life in spectacular fashion. But it doesn’t matter.

I found out earlier today that I might have just wasted the last 3 months of my life, on a project that was nothing special to begin with. In other words… it certainly would not appear to be worth 3 months of anyone’s time; at least not to a spectator. But my life is full of other things which put the loss in perspective and make it seem completely irrelevant. Firstly, my goddamn sunny optimism seems unwilling to let me wallow in self-pity;  I haven’t given up on finding a solution, and if I don’t find one… so what? The sky isn’t going to fall in. Secondly, when weighed against the potential catastrophe of upcoming events, it is but a drop in the ocean.

The weird thing is I don’t really care what happens to the bigger picture either. Happiness is… whatever you decide it is… regardless of where you find it. If you find the one thing you have always wanted, whether that is a small group of dedicated friends and a video camera, or a revolutionary new idea for getting lumpy ingredients into Cannelloni tubes, dedicate yourself to it. If you aren’t prepared to put everything on the line in order to see something succeed, maybe you don’t deserve to play the game in the first place.

We all have potential fiascos in our future. What are you willing to risk?

On the other hand; when you go for a run at dusk, and the sight of an abandoned power station, silhouetted against the sunset, makes you smile… you might want to consider that perhaps your optimism is set just a little too high.

I’m going now.

If you're looking hard enough... you can see beauty in anything! (Sick bags available on your way out)

… 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.