Rock on, Christopher Lee

I just saw the news that Sir Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday, at the venerable age of ninety-three. This is all the more impressive if you consider that he still kicked ass in the final Hobbit film that was released last year.

Christopher Lee

Image by Manfred Werner
Source: Wikimedia Commons

If I had to describe Lee in one word it would be bad-ass, both on screen and off. On screen he excelled as a villain. We all know him as Saruman from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. But he also played the big three movie monsters of the fifties, namely Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula (several times), and The Mummy. Then he was the Bond villain, Scaramanga (The Man With The Golden Gun), Rasputin, Count Rochefort from Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and Willy Wonka’s demented dentist dad in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And as a voice actor he brought to life, among others, Terry Pratchett’s Death, and Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky in the Tim Burton adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

But off screen he was just as incredible. I mentioned him playing Rasputin above. Would you believe that as a child he had met the men who’d killed the real Rasputin and was later told by Rasputin’s daughter that he actually looked a bit like her father? Or that he’d witnessed the last public guillotine execution in France and was friends with the ‘Last Hangman’ of England? How about that in the Second World War he was a pilot in the RAF (he did his flight training in South Africa) and involved in special operations with the SAS (though never revealed exactly what he did) and knows how to handle a sword? And how many members of the LOTR cast and crew can claim that they had actually known J.R.R. Tolkien? (Edit: None, apparently.) He was a descendant of Charlemagne and was engaged to a Swedish noblewoman, an engagement to which the king of Sweden himself gave consent. But they later called off  the wedding and he married a Danish model instead.

But the thing that blew me away when I first learned about it was that he was also the world’s oldest metalhead, starting his career in his late eighties, and the oldest living person ever to make it onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts at ninety-one and a half years old. He had an incredible voice and released several heavy metal albums, the last one, a Christmas album of all things, a mere six months ago. One of his albums, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross even received the Spirit of Metal award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony in 2010. You can watch the one music video produced from that album below (be warned, it’s a little…surreal).

No one can dispute that Sir Christopher Lee has had an exceptional life. He was a living legend. Living he is not anymore, but he’ll always remain legendary.

On shopping for clothes

Image courtesy of jarmoluk /

Image courtesy of jarmoluk /

Yesterday I went shopping for new jeans. Normally, it’s a simple affair. I prefer regular blue-jeans, not that pre-faded, pre-wrinkled, fancy stitched nonsense. Once in a while I’ll change things up and buy a dark blue/navy pair for when I feel like dressing up. I’ve always bought the same brand from the same store, an exercise that usually takes ten minutes, including time spent in the checkout queue.

Not so this time.

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On thinking before you share

In 2008 Nicholas Carr wrote an article in The Atlantic, titled Is Google Making Us Stupid. Very shortly, he argued that the way we engage with content online is ultimately having a detrimental effect on our ability to engage with longer, printed texts. Because we can open an article and search instantly for the exact piece of the text we need, we are slowly losing the ability to search for relevant information in textbooks and printed articles. (Hey! Perhaps that’s why my studies are such an uphill battle for me. It’s all Google’s fault.)

Carr’s article sparked numerous responses and studies into this topic, and we’ve yet to see whether he was right or not, but I believe that there’s another part of the internet that’s making us dumber. Or rather, lazier (though some might argue that’s the same thing).

I’m speaking of social media, and in particular, the sharing culture.

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May the 4th be with you

Happy Star Wars Day, all you Jedi Masters and Sith Lords out there.

I must confess, much like last year the day sneaked up on me again. But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving you empty-handed. Thanks to the wonder that is the interwebs, I give you Origami Yoda, the newest member of my writing cheerleading squad with his well-known maxim:

Origami Yoda on a Writer's Block

Write. Or write not. There is no try.

If you want to take a shot at folding one yourself, here’s a video, but be warned, it will confound you and try you and leave you bleeding from a thousand-and-one paper cuts.

In honour of Star Trek and Star Wars fans bashing on each other (personally I stay out of that fight – like Harry Dresden’s apprentice, Molly, I believe it’s okay to like both), here’s a video on how Star Trek (the reboot) should have ended. The really good bit is at two minutes, thirty seconds.

Enjoy your Star Wars Day, whichever side of the force you serve.

And live long and prosper :-P

Happy birthday, Mzanzi

Today is South Africa’s birthday, and at 21 years old this country is about as well-behaved as your average legally-an-adult-but-mentally-still-a-teenager who is still coming to terms with the new-found freedom that comes from escaping the restrictions of the parental home and the ability to legally purchase alcohol (which happens at eighteen over here, but by twenty-one most have not yet adapted).

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On making a difference

I believe that most of us genuinely want to make a difference in this world. But we become overwhelmed. We see how big the task is before us, we become very aware of our own limitations and inadequacies, and we lose our nerve. We remember the pain of the last time we failed, the last time our work didn’t have the desired effect, the last time we were betrayed, and we shy away from taking the risk – we don’t want to feel that again.

This morning I was reminded that that isn’t an excuse.

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All men must die

Did you watch the first episode of Game of Thrones last night? Apparently it was already available on Saturday afternoon, along with episodes two, three and four. That’ll teach HBO to send advance copies to reviewers. According to TorrentFreak the first episode was downloaded over a million times during the first eighteen hours. So much for trying to keep anything secret in the digital age.

In 2012 Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia released a public service announcement in the form of a little animated video and song, titled Dumb Ways To Die. The video went viral on social media (in two years it has had over one hundred million views on YouTube), spawned a mobile game, and even yours truly have used it in a piece of short fiction.

The video has also inspired numerous parodies, the latest one featuring Game of Thrones which is, frankly, filled with dumb (or at least gruesome) ways to die. They have kept the words of the original, but the video depicts all of the most memorable deaths of the series thus far.

Spoiler alert: Don’t watch this if you haven’t yet watched season four/read A Feast for Crows. (And for goodness sake, stay away from the comments!)

On being betrayed

I hate my body. It’s an untrustworthy piece of rubbish that turns against me the moment I try doing something nice for it. Here I am, trying to get fit and stay healthy, and all it rewards me with is pain.

About a year ago I wrote how I started running. For those of you who missed it, an elliptical trainer gave me false confidence regarding my physical fitness, resulting in a painful case of shin splints when I actually took to the road. That eventually cleared up, and I managed a few more runs. Then winter arrived with  bang, I got a cold, I stopped running, and didn’t start again. I did keep up with other exercise, but not running.

Then, a few weeks ago, I actually felt like running. We had a bout of late-afternoon load shedding (the reason we don’t have to participate in Earth Hour in South Africa – government switches the lights off for us on a weekly basis) so I couldn’t use the computer, I didn’t feel like reading, and the urge to run simply overwhelmed me. This isn’t something that normally happens to me (I regularly amuse myself with quoting Proverbs 28:1 at runners: “The wicked man runs away when no one is chasing him…”) so I dusted off my running shoes and hit the road.

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O, yeah. April Fool!


I want to apologise for not having a fitting offering for April Fools this year. I’ve been trying to think of something since last week, but the perfect idea only hit me this afternoon, way too late to implement it. I’ll tell you this: next year’s April Fools will be legen…wait for it…

Instead, I’ll point you to the latest “improvement” devised by the…good people running, the AutoMatton.

I know this is just a joke, but I can’t help thinking the only reason they haven’t yet implemented something like this is cause they haven’t yet figured out how. And the “quote” by our esteemed WordPress co-founder and overlord merely reminded me of a comment left by one frustrated user at one point in one of the many, many Beep Beep Boop complaint threads in the support forum, regarding the aforementioned Blog King’s personal blogging habits.

Let me say no more, but snigger quietly in the background.

(Closing comments on this one, as I don’t feel like starting another conversation about the BBB editor. Been there. Done that.)