I was thinking, as I wrote my cards this year, how is it, that we live in a world of E-mails, Text Messaging, Snapchat, Twitter, Virtual Reality, etc. etc. – in a world that is supposed to be saving its natural resources – we still send these real life cards?!
I know there are online ‘e-cards’, but they’re not quite the same are they? I even know someone who doesn’t put his cards up, (If you’re not from the UK… We display our received cards along with the Christmas decorations, either hung, cheesily a la 1970s on a line strung across a wall, or blue-tacked to a wall or door). This guy, he puts his in the shredder!!!! Immediately!!!!
I know there are also some truly horrendous cards out there – especially the photos used for the ‘personal touch’ cards; I’ll sprinkle a few of these throughout for your pleasure – like hideous snowflakes! Here’s your first…
So, I decided to collect a few factoids together about cards for you. Enjoy.
The first commercial Christmas card was created and sent in 1843 in the UK. It cost 1 shilling (5 pence/8 cents today)
The most expensive Christmas card, was this very same, first card. Sold in November 2001 for £20,000 ($28,158).
Christmas cards (of a kind) had already been a thing in Ancient China and 15th century Germany.
The Greeting Card Association report for 2017 states that:- Nearly 100 million Christmas single cards were sold, add packs of cards, bringing the total for the Christmas card market to one billion cards sold in the UK.
The US apparently sends around 2 billion cards annually.
Christmas cards with glitter often cannot be recycled.
Millions of tons of cards and wrapping paper end up in landfill sites each year.
The first Christmas postage stamp in US was issued in 1962.
There are around 123 companies that make Christmas/greetings cards.
What are Christmas cards made of? Wood pulp, part textile waste, acrylic, inks, parents tears and fake conviviality.
According to one magazine, House Beautiful, the polar bear is this years most popular design for Christmas cards. (Get yours now, these animals may be extinct in 15 years if climate change continues)
Desert Island Discs is a British radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast in 1942. The concept is, that each week a guest; someone famous or is a person of note, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.
I decided to run my own ‘Desert Island’, but with movies.
As an avid film viewer, I have found this quite a challenge. I have seen plenty of movies that I really liked, but would I want to be stranded on a Desert Island to watch them over and over again? Which films bear repeated viewing? Which films have enough content, appeal or personal resonance that one could stand to watch over and over again?
I am sure that should I return to this in, say a year, I would alter my selection somewhat, but for today, these are my eight ‘recordings’:-
The Good The Bad and The Ugly
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
Director: Sergio Leone.
Genre: Spaghetti Western (so called because this genre of Westerns was produced by Italians).
Why watch it: Fantastic film shots of landscapes and close ups; especially in the final showdown. Terrific action and storyline – 3 gunslingers are after buried gold. Fortune swings back and forth between the characters, when one has the upper hand, he makes sure he gets the most out of the other one. The soundtrack is brilliant too, I always ‘sing’ along!!
Favourite line: “Who the hell is that? One bastard goes in, and another comes out.”
Amelie (aka; The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain)
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz,
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Why watch it: Romance without the ‘yuck!’ factor. Whimsical, delightful, extremely touching in parts. The way Amelie takes ‘revenge’ on unpleasant people. And the music; it still stirs my emotions. Keep an eye on the garden gnome!
Favourite line: “Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”[scenes of various orgasms taking place] Amélie: Fifteen.”
The Fearless Vampire Killers (Dance of The Vampires)
Stars: Roman Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass,
Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Comedy Horror
Why watch it: Definitely not your usual vampire film. A truly successful blend of horror and comedy, with beautifully shot scenes. Professor Abronsius and his young assistant, Alfred, are on the hunt for vampires, across snowy landscapes ‘deep in the heart of Transylvania’ to a remote castle. The physical moments with no dialogue are beautifully choreographed.
Favourite line: “…like a little birdy alighting on a branch…then, let an angel pass. Shall we allow an angel to pass?”
Why watch it: Jewish screen family life at its best; a view of the world through a young boys eyes and the medium of radio; stories within stories and the effects on the listeners. The scene with the two burglars is brilliant.
Favourite line: “No. Have it your way. The Pacific is greater.”
Stars: Walter Matthau, Cris Campion
Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Adventure Comedy
Why watch it: Polanski actually had the ship built for the movie! Matthau, I think, is at his very best in this little known/shown film. Captain Reds lust for gold knows no bounds, and the whole film is a series of ploys to get particular pieces of gold – in particular, a Spanish throne. All the characters are wonderfully portrayed, pirates, naval officers, priests – the game of ‘Dead Man’s Nag’ is both hilarious and brutal.
Favourite line: “Well Padre. I once had a mind to eat the Frog.”
Wild at Heart
Stars: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Director: David Lynch
Why watch it: For its bizarre mixture of raging violence, dream scenes, illusions to Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz – true Lynchian oddness wrapped in what initially appears a ‘regular’ thriller. There are some truly disturbing characters in this film – be warned!
Favourite line: “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”
Why watch it: For one of the most beautiful relationships shown on screen. The 12 year old Mathilda finds herself in the ‘care’ of Leon, a hitman; but who is the child? This is at times, an extremely touching film, how does a man who kills for a living take care of a child? Scenes with his little potted plant reveal that Leon is not heartless, or a cold-blooded killer, there is something else in this taciturn man. Portman is absolutely excellent as Mathilda, the orphaned girl who grows up fast.
Favourite line: “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”
Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Anime fantasy
Why watch it: Miyazakis’s first anime is arguably his finest. A feast for the eyes, with a beautiful plot reminiscent of a good old style fairy tale. Follow Chihiro into the magical town where spirits take baths and give gold to the greedy.
Favourite line: “There must be some mistake! None of these pigs are my parents!”
These are all films I own on DVD, I have watched many times and will watch again. I could have chosen pretty much any Allen or Polanski film; I have been a huge fan since early teens. Same with David Lynch although I don’t fancy being stuck for too long on a desert island with some of his characters or scenes in my head!
What would you take if you could only choose 8 movies? Have you seen any of the one’s on my list?
So I am writing as I go, on my phone, as I have had to read the road atlas for a bit as we took a ‘detour’; I was desperate for the loo, and then we took a wrong turn, so what should have taken an hour to get to the position we are currently at, has taken almost 4 hours. Sometimes we have reached London from Wirral in the same time!
I should have written my post this morning, but due to circumstances – travelling in car, using phone (which incidentally is rubbish , Windows, don’t buy one), I have resorted to making a word doc en route.
The occupants of the field I used were extremely curious.
Hey! we’re moving at 40 mph! Woo!
Why oh why do ‘they’ do roadwork’s when people are trying to enjoy the summer? Not only the motorway; M6, but the surrounding A roads, so can’t win either way.
Getting peckish now, its 13:50. Both of us fed up. Oh, another queue.
More delays, now junctions 15 and 16. Aarrgghh!!
I do not think I have seen so many traffic cones in all my life. That regular rolling thrumming you get in a car, a combination of engine, air blowing through the vents and tires on tarmac, becomes like an itch you can’t scratch, my ears are feeling ‘bunged up’ from air pressure and the temperature in the car is way too warm for me, but if I open the window too wide there’s lorries and wheels and noise…
To misquote Apocalypse Now, “ Stoke, shit, we’re still in Stoke.”
After 3 hours we are nowhere near London, in fact we are further away!!
Why are there so many effing lorries on the road?! Why can’t they do deliveries at night, to releave congestion?
Where are all the service stations?! 14:05, really hungry now.
Typing on the phone is like making a humongous text, and the worst thing is, I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to post it when I arrive – internet connection and all that.
I’m reminded of when I was a little kid, my mum used to dread the holiday drive. I think I was about 3 or 4 years old and when we had been driving for what seemed like forever, I asked that question parents hate, “Are we there yet?” My mum tells me in recollections, she could have cried, we had a days drive ahead and we were at the bottom of our road!
How most of the English countryside looked today…
Welcome Break, it is indeed. I have taken the wheel for the past 2 hours and my clunky hips and knees are burning and screaming for relief. Ahhh…
Quite a pretty spot, with a water feature, bull-rushes and a lily pond.
Most of these service places look alike, don’t know where I am.
Im riding shotgun again; His Nibs has offered to do the last leg. Hence the writing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving, I especially enjoy motorways; I get to pretend I’m a racing driver.
OMG! The rain! Visibility reduced on M40; on the bright side, the temperature is cooler. At this rate, we are going to hit the London rush hour, oh joy.
The road only looks empty at this point because we were all travelling way away from each other…
Wow, it just went dark, as if someone turned the lights off, dark; quite weird. So it seems like the only way to get a clear run on the motorway, is for it to lash down, but then speed is reduced for obvious reasons.
You know when you are writing, you often have a ‘soundtrack’, or when you drive you put on some tunes? We’ll what has been todays accompaniment? Test Match Special; yes, a full day of cricket. It’s been the fourth day and England have just beaten South Africa; I also know the names if some cricketers now! Cook, Broad, Anderson, Ali, Root are who I remember off the top of my head, as we crawl along the end of the M25; yes we are back to that…ho hum.
A question: What the f*** is a ‘Smart Motorway’? That apparently is what is being constructed, hence the hold ups and queues and irate drivers and sore knees and backsides. I keep seeing notifications that they are building a ‘Smart Motorway’! (Sorry I didn’t get any pictures of the signs, but they were really boring, not very smart at all)
Will this Smart Motorway be able to take us painlessly and quickly to our destination with ease? Will it be able to recognise when a driver is tired and usher him/her to a quiet lay-by and provide a soothing cool flannel for the forehead? Will it even remove Incident signals when the aforesaid incident is long gone?! Will it do your kids homework? Or write my blog for me?!
Until the Smart Motorway can do any of this, the journey from North to South will remain a pain in the proverbial.
So….how did this get posted?
I am in London, I made a successful connection to the internet and had to e-mail everything from my phone to my laptop.
It is now 20:40.
We arrived in London at 19:00 – that is an 8 hour journey, twice as long as it should have taken.
Thanks Road Maintenance of England (or whoever you are; I DON’T CARE! JUST BUCK YOUR IDEAS UP!)
Thanks for reading guys. I’m off for a couple of glasses of red wine, Shiraz if you must know.
NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!
Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.
This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.
Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?
It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.
I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.
I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh. Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.
“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”
~ Khan to Captain Kirk
Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!
I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?
It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)
Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.
But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers? Muscle? Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?
Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people – (other defenders of Earth are available)
Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock
Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider
James Bond – James Bond
Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings
Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy
Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
Evelyn ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy
I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)
‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’
~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy
Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”
Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)
Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer who or what would you be?! And why?