Thursday, 29 November 2012

Look, up in the sky...

Reflecting on various things I have come to the conclusion that it would be very nice to be Superman. Not the modern Superman who has a range of horrible fistfights with demigods and alien warlords but the old-fashioned Superman who lived in a constant state of wonder and occasionally nabbed some crooks. That would be nice.

Superman is a natural outgrowth of our wanting there to be heroes and more peaceful ways of life, and perhaps for some he represents their need for a power beyond their understanding which will care for them and take some of the harshest parts of life away without any effort at all. He certainly has been a metaphor for saviour figures on several occasions. I just want to fly and save cats from trees.

Looking ahead there's a movie review of 'Master & Commander' coming up, the long awaited movie review of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' and some ramblings on the book 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher'. There may even be some continuations on 'The Carrot Man' and 'Night Trials', both of which have gone too long since their last instalments. Paper writing has abraded the old creative muscle over the last few weeks but now it's starting to fire again as I start to dig into new calculations and research instead of chewing over the old. Now if only I could work out how to build flow impedance into selected channel portions as part of a Stokes problem.

As I type this I'm listening to the movie 'Cat Ballou' in Spanish and it's hard! Getting some Spanish listening comprehension is going to be harder than I thought but working out which DVDs have alternate Spanish soundtracks is a good way to start. Coming upon the stack after 'Cat Ballou': 'The Fortune Cookie', 'The Apartment', 'The American President', 'Sleepless In Seattle', 'Mr Smith Goes To Washington', 'The Taking Of Pelham 123', 'Sneakers' and 'Groundhog Day'. Maybe I'll begin to understand un poco. Pero me parece que es imposible. De nada. Si no intenta entonces no triunfa.

<waves a shaky hand>


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Stars and Dramas

A misleading title for a post mostly about astronomy and my favourite Star Trek films! I have just begun an astronomy course on Coursera and the introductory video was rather interesting. It actually brought to mind some of the excellent free software out there for educational use. Most specifically for this use I would really recommend anyone who's interested in Astronomy to try out the free planetarium software Stellarium. It is most excellent.

Thinking back on my favourite movies I had the strange realisation that my four favourite Star Trek movies are, in no particular order, 'Star Trek II', 'Star Trek VI', 'Master & Commander' and 'Galaxy Quest'. Even someone with a walnut for a brain such as myself can spot the contradiction in that list, but the reasoning is secure for those four movies are all what the best Star Trek aspires to be... Adventure movies. A lot of the reason I disliked the newest movie from 2009 was that it wasn't an adventure movie and was a fairly rubbish action movie instead. The distinction between an adventure and an action movie is fuzzy but I believe it lies in the amount of characterisation and plot compared to action. Star Trek has always favoured plot and characterisation over action, even when the plots and characterisations are awful. It's really kind of upsetting two of the best Star Trek movies aren't even part of Star Trek! There are probably others too. Crikey Nora and Great Shades of Elvis! Star Trek is very much like Superman, in that the tone and consistency required is really hard to hit even with experience and are really not suited to modern day productions due to the lack of action. I really have no hope for the next Star Trek and Superman movies for that very reason. Where's the adventure? Where's the optimism? Why am I a fuddie duddie? What is a fuddie duddie? Master & Commander is a truly wonderful movie and backs up the glory that is Peter Weir as a director. Bring it on, people, none of you can stand next to Peter Weir!

Last week I was really happy because a good friend of mine passed her viva and I became obsessed with writing limericks. Then I went away to Aberystwyth and forgot about it all but I'm back now and I feel a limerick is in order. It's a shame that none are working out though. Oh, oh, I have one, and it's terrible!

The scientist stared blankly but with vigour
As the orange peel resisted his finger
He wielded a knife and then a hopeful spoon
But the peel rebelled and he became a loon
Until the orange gave up with a snigger. 

Dedication:This post is dedicated to Eleni for being a lovely friend and passing her viva, Elena for being an excellent and very patient language swapper and Hannah for being the best college friend possible under these current laws of physics.

Monday, 26 November 2012


While rumbling through 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' by Kate Summerscale, a diverting enough read although it is rather dry, I've stumbled across something interesting: The history of the word 'clue'. Well, I find it interesting so you had better all do the same. The word 'clue' has its origins in the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur and is a mutation of the word 'clew'. 'Clew' has many meanings but the one we're interested in is archaic: 'A ball of yarn or wool.' As Theseus ventured into the labyrinth he laid his yarn behind him so he'd be able to retrace his steps and solve the puzzle and from then on that thread of salvation was a clew and now hints and data that help us to solve puzzles are clues. It's all rather nice actually. Stealing from Wilkie Collins, a plot is a knot and the clue is what unravels that knot into the denouement. I like Wilkie Collins.

Mysteries are wonderful things, and they have keys that are so special that they have special names: clues. When I was growing up books were all about clues and mysteries and intrigues and they are still now to some extent. Perhaps the only books I've ever enjoyed have had clues; kitchen sink stories have no appeal at all. Perhaps that's the key to the mystery that is Oliver.

Dactyl: A poetical foot of three syllables (— ~ ~), one long followed by two short, or one accented followed by two unaccented.

That word dactyl is truly random but we can pass over it to the alternative, poetic, meaning of 'foot'. Apparently this foot is a basic metrical unit that is used to generate a line of verse. This leads us into the classical forms of generating poetry. When we consider such patterns of short and long syllables we are considering quantitative measure and it is fascinating! There are more than twenty base foots, spread across two, three and four syllable combinations. If we consider the iamb,

Iamb: A metrical foot in verse consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

then a verse in iambic pentameter is one where each line is made up of five foots, the majority of which are iambic. That's right, you can mix prosodic foots! Now, I never thought I would write a post that touches on Greek mythology, the origins of the word 'clue' and poetic measure but here it is. Maybe tomorrow there'll be a verse to accompany...


Saturday, 24 November 2012


Aberystwyth is a lovely place, and coming back is sweet pleasure indeed. Sometimes I wonder whether the alumni of legendary universities are impressed by their colleges as I am by mine. It was a lovely time as I look back through my rose-tinted glasses. Awww. Surely people can’t feel as finely as I do about this place?

This is a natural time for introspection and self-evaluation as I return to the scene of previous misadventures and that is a necessary and dangerous ting. Hovering above your timeline is somehow the same as confronting a dragon in your bathroom. The dragon may be large, and it may be fearsome, but if you want to get back in to do the necessary you’re going to have face down that dragon or sell the house wholesale. My, what a forced analogy, and it’s not over yet. Much like the future, the far side of the dragon is out of sight and you can only hope everything’s still there and not too bashed from the thrashing.

Dragons are romantic things. You wouldn’t think a giant, fire-breathing lizard with a predilection for eating fair maidens would be romantic but it is. Dragons represent the ultimate battle to be fought before love’s fair battle is won. Perhaps the most memorable lines from ‘Press Gang’ when I re-watched it as an adult involves dragons. Spike says he would kill a dragon for Linda and sets his romantic lance with that one line before metaphorically following through one and half series later. One and a half series! Maybe dragons are archetypal. Big scaly lizards are archetypal? Yes, they must be for dinosaurs are archetypal too. Godzilla was even a cross of the two. I don’t know enough about archetypes but isn’t that fascinating. Well done, Spike.

As a Welshborn I can’t help knowing about dragons. They’re romantic. Blasted dragon murdering saints should be disbarred.

In the past lie murk, misdeeds and quiet glories. In the present we see introspection, action and reflection. What lies in the future though? And why? Well, we can’t know until it’s done and then it’ll be too late. That’s the fun.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Two modes of writing, both in opposition

After a few days of finishing off the first draft of my paper it seems obvious to me that academic writing and recreational writing are totally in opposition to one another. It seems as if doing one inhibits the other and vice versa. Today, as an example, I wrote a large number of topical limericks on the subject of a friend's viva and struggled mightily with the last section of the much muted Article. The Article has been in preparation for so long that I can't believe I've been anything but negligent in its production.

Limericks are awesome, by the way. As I write this I'm watching 'The Brave Little Toaster' and it's really freaking me out. There's something so honest about it that I can barely stand to watch it, just like those times when you resist committing to things because they'll break your heart in the end. It seems to be a fine animated movie, charming in every way, and it scares me to death. Oh my gosh, a blender just got murdered! This should be certified '15'! Gosh, film certifications are a mess, and I can never tell what to watch anymore. Star Trek II is about my limit and that's nothing any more.

Last weekend I went to Cardiff and this weekend I'm off to Aberystwyth. I miss the old place almost constantly. When I was in Hungary I longed constantly for the sea and a cool walk along the prom, a longing that was only partially satiated by the University Lake while in Nottingham. There's something so relaxing about walks by water, especially at night. They are simply acts of detoxification for the soul.

Detoxification: the process of removing poisons from a substance

Detoxification occurs on so many levels that it's almost impossible to list them all, but the most important one to me is the spiritual detox that clears our minds of all the stresses and toils that encompass us in our weary little worlds of work and fate. The pressures of living life as we're expected to live it are almost insurmountable in their persistence and overwhelming thrall. It seems that people should relax a whole lot more than they do, and sleep more, and nonsense more. Nonsense is the best way on Earth to relax. Spikes the Mutant Cactus agrees with me, even as he huddles in the garden shelter. It rained so much today that the paths and roads were streaming water and the valley is sure to be flooded. Even Spikes had to reinforce the Rain Bubble. I hope Aberystwyth is still viable for tomorrow...

Ping, hippopotamus.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Movie: 'The Caine Mutiny' (1954)

The main difficulty in reviewing 'The Caine Mutiny' (or TCM) is that it is a mere shadow in comparison with its source novel. This fact is inevitable when you consider the length of the milestone written work, and how much detail must be lost in translation to the screen. The character who suffers the most in this respect is the protagonist of the novel, Willie Keith, who is purely one of an ensemble here on the screen. But who is Willie Keith, and what is the movie about?

'The Caine Mutiny' follows the officers and crew of the archaic American destroyer/mine sweeper 'Caine' in World War II under the command of Captains De Vriess and latterly Queeg. Queeg swiftly becomes erratic and unstable upon assuming command and is ultimately relieved of duty by the executive officer Maryk, this being the mutiny of the title. Following the mutiny a court martial takes place and is by far the most well executed portion of the film. The narrative is told nominally from the viewpoint of Ensign Willie Keith, fresh out of officers school, and secondly from the views of Maryk and communications officer Keefer, the last of which ultimately backs out and betrays the mutineers after instigating the whole endeavour.

The novel is a masterpiece, but the movie seems rather tame in comparison. Perhaps the casting is partly at fault and perhaps condensing a masterwork into two hours is simply not a good idea to begin with. It certainly seems as if we are supposed to accept Humphrey Bogart's Queeg's descent into nuttiness rather too hastily and we quickly march into Keefer's (Fred MacMurray) supine plotting to remove the inept and cowardly commander without anywhere near the required amount of setup and character building. This film would seem to be built on the idea that people will already know the story and so little background is required. They were wrong. From the first the two year narrative of the story is shredded under the confines of movie making and we gain no sense of characters being people at all. Bogart sketches in Queeg as best he can - and I do believe he was miscast - but the descent is simply sudden instead of a gradual lunacy leaping into view and Ensign Keith can be considered to be a cardboard cutout as played by a wooden Robert Francis. The whole character of Keith is awkward in fact as he is robbed of almost all of his personal story, with but a remnant of his romance left. That remnant should really have been excised too, simply to reinforce the guiding tale of Queeg and the rusty ship Caine but instead it pops in melodramatically from time, with too little time to be endearing and too much time to be emotional scenery. Van Johnson as Maryk is the standout success, Fred MacMurray is slimey as Keefer, and Lee Marvin jumps out as a crewman in one of his earliest roles. Coming a close second in the acting stakes is Jose Ferrer as Maryk's defense counsel, even if he does ham it up a little.

Considering the movie as a whole, it's solid and unremarkable. The seagoing shots are good and the trial sequence is exceptional but the pacing overall is rather dull and the progression in story rapid while being dragged under by Keith's melodrama. Apparently Bogart campaigned mightily for the role of Queeg but he doesn't seem to know where to go with it and remains simply Bogart with a cowardly streak and the movie suffers more than a little for that. His eccentricities in the book don't seep through to the screen sufficiently for us to believe he needs to be relieved and so the drama is lessened, especially in that critical corresponding scene where Maryk does that necessary deed. It is simply a flat film until we leave the Caine, albeit a well visualised flat film. The director is notable mainly for being one of the Hollywood Ten, and is far more fascinating for that than for this movie.

It's solid, it's flat, it's now happily sunk. I heartily recommend the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Herman Wouk of 1952 before watching this and then you may well agree with me! If so or if not, please feel free to comment and say so.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

The First Rule of Splatting

The first rule of splatting is to not panic until the end, when the splat has almost reached you. This rule is always applied, irrespective of which of the two distinct modes of splatting are approaching or being approached. These two modes are comedic and terminal splatting. We shall omit terminal splatting from the remainder of this text due to the immense amount of custard required. You can identify terminal splatting by the fact that you will normally be approaching the splat rather than vice versa.

Comedic splats can be said, with some generality but not universality, to come to you their own accord. The most vigorous of comedy splats are often associated with Mondays but not always. The second rule of splatting is to always expect the worst of splats when you're least able to defend yourself. Pierre Dupont, an otherwise unnotable Parisian suffered the severest comedic splatting of his career in early May of 1956, on returning from a conference on the croissant and its importance to French morale. While walking alongside the Seine he was splatted with a custard eclair by some rowdy philosophy professors and was forced into extensive therapy for the next thirteen years. Upon his release he was known to eschew custard for ice cream thereafter. It was a sad and ignominious end for that former lover of the splatty yellow goo.

Returning to the rules of splatting, it has often been said (or never at all) that the third rule is no longer current and should be officially termed obsolete. Since it reads 'You may only splat when the tablets command it', many people agree with this notion while others declare it ironic and a metaphorical reference to the dopey things people do while medicated. The author wishes to refrain from further comment. The second, fourth and fifth rules are now very often relegated to incidents on trains involving tea and marshmallows but the last principal rule is as prescient now as it has ever been. The sixth rule is very clear and succinct: 'Splat not when life splats upon you; splat when the splat is the right thing to do.'

How can anything top that?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Free Writing

The art of 'free writing' is simply to write in a stream of consciousness, and has two main advantages, both of which I enjoy. The first advantage is that it helps to break writer's block, for which I am eternally grateful and the second is that such 'free' writing helps tremendously in the formation of writing patterns and articulatory enhancement. To put it simply, it allows you to put your thoughts into words far more easily with the prerequisite amount of practice. This piece itself has been free writing so far, and will probably remain so until the topic shifts naturally or an interruption occurs.


An interruption just occurred, and now my flow is gone but with enough free writing practice you should be able to get it back again pretty quickly, and I think I have. This just goes to show that nothing is beyond the person who can write with impunity, irrespective of the actual content of what's flowing from the fingers. Mmmm. Chicken pie. Yes, that is a non sequitur.

'The world is merely a great big onion and all of us are rings' is not a quote from anything but I really wish it were. As a non-quote it makes just as little sense as if it were a quote by Kafka or Stan the Used Ship Salesman but as a non-quote it has a certain value in its obscurity. Stan the Used Ship Salesman allows a lovely segue into the Monkey Island adventure games of computer lore. Oh, those halcyon days of graphical adventures haunt me stll and I wish those glorious odysseys from LucasArts still emerged at a regular pace. It seems that even their illegitimate offspring Telltale Games has shifted away. Anyway, Stan is one of my favourite supporting characters, especially in the pre-voice actor days when all he did was wave his arms about and tap his foot while we read the clunky green and pink words above his head. Oh, how I wish I could scam The Sea Monkey tomorrow and sail away to a far away shore...

I love free writing as it also encourages total nonsense; the nectar from the writing heaven that allows us all to be dopey and happy and even occasionally euphoric. It's amazing. Sometimes I can just talk about the mutant cactus that's been growing in the garden for the last three weeks. Not only is that an unusual plant to be growing in November in the United Kingdom but the fact that it sneaks into the kitchen to take yoghurt at twenty past two every afternoon is rather irksome. If only it wiped up the floor behind it would be acceptable but who likes muddy floor in the kitchen really?

Free writing has an unwholesome, and mostly unenjoyable, opposite: Structured writing, usually for some serious purpose. Structured writing requires far more effort, a far less easily accessed flow of words in that first draft, and lots and lots of editing. As is obvious I hardly ever edit these posts at all. Structured writing is effectively my job at the moment, in supporting statements for job applications and in academic papers. The first draft is okay but all is tedium after. Maybe I should get Spikes outside to do some proofreading for me.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Book and movie: 'Contact' (1985 and 1997) (Revised)

I finally finished reading 'Contact'. It took ages and was cursed by an incredibly long interruption due to life, Minecraft and the prevailing problem I have with the book. It's a good book, with a strong single narrative centred on a single character and how she progresses through the tale. It's solid science fiction, with realistic political shenanigans and a solid basis in science. It is in all respects solid, reliable and at times vast but what it isn't is gripping. As narratives go it sits there and if you go away you don't mind, and if you come back it's take it or leave it. Perhaps I've been prematurely coloured by the movie from Robert Zemeckis, which has its own problems but a rather more gripping story which is somehow less prosaic. Yes, prosaic is a good word.

'prosaic: Overly plain or simple, to the point of being boring; humdrum.'

Now, the story of the novel is not prosaic but the way it is told IS prosaic. Romantic subplots are thrown in and left to fade, characters move in and out with no rhyme nor reason, and betrayals occur with no payback nor repercussions. It's like real life, and real life is already dull enough without reading more of it, even if it's backlit by a mammoth science-fiction story.

The movie 'Contact' on the other hand is rather grandiose in nature, an epic but somehow small-scale science fiction movie with a warm human core. It streamlines a lot of errant happenings and downsizes the cast so that remaining characters are given more to do, and it does so with an excellent cast. Even Matthew McConaughey, who a lot of people seem to loathe is serviceable if a little vacant. Director Robert Zemeckis has tended to be story-driven in the past and the revisions that occur under him and the screenwriters really serve to bring the centre of the story into much more of a focus, with a far more human story at its centre. It takes more of a 'snapshots through time' method of narrative than the novel's more continuous structure, which is probably necessary as the main bulk of the novel takes place over more than a decade!

Writing a comparative piece can be tough at times. You can lose focus, ramble on at length on trivia and even drift off into whole other topics such as vegetables and the quest for peace. Let's knuckle down to plot. The novel and movie revolve around Dr Eleanor Arroway, an astronomer on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and the consequences of a signal from outer space and the instructions therein. Overlayed onto that there are political repercussions, religious contemplation, and romance. It's a giant epic. Ellie moves through the story on a mission to the stars, alone in the movie and as part of a team of five in the novel and ultimately comes to terms with parts of her life she hadn't known were out of order. Against this backdrop of a cosmic trip we have political shenanigans and cover ups, theological discourse on the nature of faith versus science and family drama as Ellie struggles to comes to terms with the loss of her long-dead father. That last is given even more weight in the novel but ends up diluting the rest of narrative while the movie simplifies and amplifies it. Zemeckis has made an excellent movie in that it at times gripping over its two and a half hour running time, gripping more than the source novel. I hope that I'm not conveying a bad impression of this novel; it was simply less than engrossing to me, despite a cosmic aspect.

'The Music Man' is playing in the background. Go, Harold Hill, go! Gosh, Robert Preston was amazing.

Thinking further about the movie in contrast to the novel, it does feel as if the narrative structure is simply stronger than the novel while the science fiction is stronger in the book at the expense of characters. Of course, when you have Jodie Foster in the lead role there's almost no way for the movie to be deficient in character, especially when you add Tom Skeritt, Angela Basset, James Woods and even Bill Clinton in an integrated stock footage appearance that the White House did not react well to. Still, it works in the movie and that's what counts.

Summing up, whether it's an above average science-fiction novel or a sterling political science fiction epic with a twist of heart 'Contact' does satisfy. If you don't care about meeting aliens you might want to go water the greenhouse plants instead.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Story: 'The Carrot Man'

Two men sit in a darkened room, glaring at each other across a table underneath a single bare lightbulb. We observe from a shadowy recess to one side.

The man on the left puts on a glove puppet, which resembles a talking carrot in form with a big tuft of green sprout. He mimes the carrot jabbering away while the man on the right looks confused. Eventually the confused man rummages under the table and withdraws what seems to be a large metal block and two drum sticks which he uses to achieve a metal drum rhythm on the block.

Puppet man is angry at the interruption and lack of attention and stands up, thrusting his chair back behind him.

"Carrot hater!"

"No, man, I just prefer to play the cube."

From the recess it seems obvious that the men are quite insane. There's only problem though, as we're the patients and they're the doctors.


Today is Saturday, and as with all Saturdays, there are things to be done. Mostly today's thing to be done is to write the introduction to my paper and that is hard indeed. Distilling a chapter's worth of reading into two or three pages at the very most is complicated especially when there has been reading since then! However, it is coming together, which is surprising to me somehow.

Intermixed with that writing is some reading, namely the novels 'The Caine Mutiny' and 'Contact', the latter of which is finally nearing its close after an extremely interrupted and intermittent effort. It seems to be very good, but I somehow lost touch with it about a third of the way in and had to make a concerted effort to get through an obstacle, which could either have been of my own invention or a problem in the narrative. Also bubbling under is still 'The Specialty of the House' short story collection which is excellent. I just have a problem with short stories in that they're really tiring whereas novels are engrossing. Oh, 'The Glass Key' is in the pile too, as a testament to Dashiell Hammett and his invincible ability to write stunning prose.

Oh gosh, if I finish reading 'Contact' I'll need to write a review! That would be a really hard review. The kind of review that busts you into numerous pieces and sees you being washed out to sea in a conflict between the benefits of single stranded narrative with a clear scientific vision and a strong personal need for complexity and interweaving plot strands. We'll see what happens. It's certainly very different to the movie with the dreaded Matthew McConnaughey and more welcome Jodie Foster.

<moves 'Contact' to bottom of pile, then back to top and finally to its original place in the heap>

Now, back to the fortnightly viewing of 'Zulu', which really only seems to get better!


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Movie: 'Innerspace' (1987)

Movie: 'Innerspace' (1987)

Having grown up with this movie, loved it, and watched it on many many occasions it is surprising that only now do I watch it with a critical eye. Even more surprisingly I still love it, albeit a little less in the final stretch, which feels so compressed and rapid that it can't be anything but a consequence of someone realising how long this movie could be otherwise! This movie could have been a two and a half hour epic and still be squished in the pacing, but what happens here is that it goes so screwball as to parody itself. Perhaps it is simply a characteristic of the great director Joe Dante, his penchant for the absurd overtaking his better judgement, or something of the late screenwriter Jeffrey Boam shrieking in gleeful insanity? In any case, once the faces start shifting, reality goes out the window.

'Innerspace' sees deadbeat test pilot Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) get shrunk down in a submersible pod and injected into the body of supermarket worker Jack Putter (Martin Short) by a scientist desperate to avoid his being captured by the mercenary enemies on his trail. What follows is simply the chase in which Jack comes to terms with the tiny pilot talking to him, the mystery behind it all becomes unravelled, Tuck's ex-girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan) enters into the caper, and eventually all is solved.

Ultimately the movie is all about Jack, played by Martin Short in the role of his career. Short is brilliant in this movie, acting his socks off and finally breaking your heart just a little as Lydia reunites with Tuck and his love goes unrequited. Happy and sad and resilient all packed into a man finally enjoying life against all odds. It's really rather magnificent in a fun movie! The stories behind Tuck and Lydia are much less important, as are the madnesses of the magnificent Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo as the main villains. Kevin McCarthy... magnificent as an unhinged criminal lawyer who is criminal in most senses of the word and Picardo suitably daffy as the fence who imported velcro into the Persian Gulf. Beware pink office spaces taking up small fractions of warehouse floors. Anyone who's watched knows what that means.

'Innerspace' is a fun, light movie, a broad caper with a heart of gold which does fall apart as I previously said. So does 'Explorers', Dante's preceding movie and the only other I can remember seeing clearly. It's too early to call a pattern which probably isn't there. He's an excellent director who makes fun movies, mostly horror themed, and these two plus 'Matinee' and 'Small Soldiers' constitute all I wish to see. 'Matinee' will be up for review soon in fact! I'm looking forward to seeing it again! Umm, this review has gone clearly off the rails... Special effects!

The special effects in this movie are amazing and totally - welcomingly - free of computer graphics. CGI is best to be avoided in my opinion, as practical effects done well beat it every time! Some of the shots are awesome when you think about how they must have done them. There are even old fashioned tricks involving doubles and running around sets I won't spoil further. The acting is excellent and the supporting cast is stellar! Below Quaid, Short, Ryan, McCarthy and Picardo we find some superb character actors in Henry Gibson, William Schallert, Orson Bean and even Dick Miller as a cab driver. It's a deep bench, featuring a host of Dante regulars that add fuzzy warmth. It's such a wonderful concoction while the pace is slow and adorably in many respects.

Oh, to boggles with it all, reviewing a favourite movie impartially is ridiculous. If only the ending were better! If only there were no 'eat me, drink me' riddle for the re-enlargement! If only there could be a reason for Jack's friends to be at Tuck's wedding! If only there were a reason why Tuck would have a manual for changing human faces in his pod intended for an experiment in a RABBIT! And if only Lydia didn't get all unexpectedly dopey once she realised Tuck was inside Jack! We hope Tuck is good enough for his girlfriend now he knows she's carrying his (?) baby, but is he really any better at all? We'll never know, but perhaps that's realistic for life. We're not meant to know. Maybe she ended up with Jack anyway after he rescued them post-credits. Ah, it's a good movie that leaves you at the beginning of a new adventure.

I'm prejudiced. It's a great movie with a flawed ending.


PS Thank goodness Obama got back in!
PPS Film Bin fan commentary now available at our lovely webpage!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Story: 'Night Trials', IV

And now, because no one demanded it, the latest thrilling instalment of Night Trials! Previously, Sheriff Bob was knocked out by a cloud of light and woke up first in a pitch black cell and then again in a slimy container. His guard told him that the town had been taken over by aliens!

Without further ado, it's time for another portion of bad dialogue, poor plotting, insufficient volume and giant cheesiness!


Night Trials: Part IV
(Parts IIIV)

"Invaded, Zack, invaded? You can't be serious! And you're working for them?" The anger was really testing Bob's bonds but they held. He couldn't see what they were actually, but they felt... slimy. "You sold out your own kind for a few coins?"

"Nope. I sold you all out for twenty bars! And some new teeth!" Grindle grinned suddenly and there were a whole new set of teeth on display, replacing the yellow tobacco stained tombstones that had been rotting there previously. "Heck, I even quit tobacco just to keep 'em nice! Hey!" Zack jumped up. He didn't like being spat at. "Watch it, Sheriff."

"Get out, stooge, I need to meet someone who calls the shots."

"Heck fire, they don't talk to dirt like you. I'm amazed they didn't kill ya. I sure would like to." Zack fondled his sidearm and moved to go for the draw.

"I'm alive, Zack, and you're a lackey. You would have shot me already if you could have. Don't get yourself in a spot with the Big Guys by bumping a tied up lawman. You couldn't take me even if I were standing." This time he didn't miss and Zack scowled, getting closer and closer.

"You're riling me, Mr Sheriff, and I ain't known for being nice when riled."

"Go jump off a railway bridge. Might raise the average intelligence around here."

"Rrrraahahhhahahahaha! Huh?" Getting close to someone with a free head is not a good idea, especially when their nut is pretty solid and heavy enough for a good old-fashioned butt. The bonds were secure but Bob had had far more leeway than he thought. The odorous Zack collapsed down on the reclined captive and Bob wondered what he might have achieved. He could get into one pocket with his left hand but found nothing. Levering with his knees he managed to move Zack further up his body and made it to the second pocket. Still nothing. Had he achieved nothing at all? Finally, as Zack began to stir he got to the jacket and found something sharp, sawed furiously for a few minutes and was free at the hands, if slimy. "Ha!" he muttered.

Bob rose, shoving Zack off, and wiped his hands on the stooge's jacket. Looking at his feet, he winced at the slime and sawed through it cleanly before getting up and stumbling to the door. He paused for a moment, and thought, and then took Zack's gun and bullets. Reaching for the door, he opened it and stepped through...

To be continued...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Miscellanous Ramblings end Esoterica

When is it time to start Christmas shopping? No matter what year you consider, the answer is always "Two weeks ago". I'm stealing from Henry Beard and Leslie Nielsen but it is a good answer! Still, as always, I have a nice stack of books lined up to buy for people and an insufficient budget. Shopping around shall commence!

Today has been an interesting day with an awesome fan commentary that we just recorded for 'Innerspace' of 1987, a favourite movie of mine from before the Great Depression and which I now love all over again. I'd forgotten how Martin Short was awesome in this movie, managing happiness and sadness at the same time and being generally great and doing some amazing stunts. This movie deserves a full review and it shall come!

While November continues to be cold and grimy there is at least hope on the horizon as the Winter Solstice approaches, that time when the days shorten no longer and the psychological burden lifts. It is quite unusual to be afflicted from solstice to solstice instead of the winter months in general but I'm an unusual person. We're all unusual people, and it's only when we try to generalise that it all goes to pieces. Generalisation outside of Mathematics is bad, I think.

Looking back on the last week, I can see it has been full of disruption and minimal work. There's a problem with unemployment benefit in that one feels the need to 'earn' it and I spend far too much time applying for positions and writing the long long statements instead of doing the work which would really help. The same rationale could be put forward for the radio station in Carmarthen and I feel big decisions looming. Of course all these pressures could be eased by giving up Minecraft... Blast this ridiculous compulsion and exhaustion!

Coming up on the Quirky Muffin:
Movie - 'Innerspace' 1987
Prose - More 'Night Trials'
Novel - 'Going Postal' by Terry Pratchett

Please note I am perfectly willing to dump any of this content in preference toward drivel!

"It worked. You just digested the bad guy."

Thursday, 1 November 2012


It's November! The steadily darkening month of October is over and now the incredibly dark month of November is here, as is the spectre of Christmas shopping. I didn't grow up with Christmas shopping; it was something that started with university as I suddenly had flat mates and people who expected things and then it grew over time. As a result, everyone gets BOOKS and sometimes a dvd. My friends usually have a small pile of tomes they may never read stacked in a corner, which would benefit them in some way. Gosh, is that why people avoid me? Anyway, it is Christmas shopping season and it's a tiring thought when you're temporarily seeking employment.

November is also the month of tedious darkness that can be very draining for those of you with seasonal adjusted disorder, or the winter blues. The best thing to do is go for a walk every day in the middle of the day and be reminded that there is light and also to go get some exercise as regularly as you can. It's a dread time but it is possible to get through without special lamps and medication.

Oh, job hunting is so hard! Yesterday I wrote a supporting statement for a really interesting job which had to cover ten years and be relevant the whole time. Writing with such a purpose is ruining my ability to write without a purpose in a senseless way. Writing in a senseless way is the birthright of a civilized person with no sanity on a Thursday night and the ability to do so must be preserved at all cost! And rice pudding should be free for all!

On other notes, there's a bike rack for the car now! I plan some trips down the cycle route into Llanelli and may even replace some job centre bus trips with it... Huzzah! Going to the job centre to sign for benefits is one of the most humbling experiences there is. It's hard to be pompous (unless you're arrogant) about being educated and a doctor when you're surrounded by the great mass of unfortunate humanity, all in the same boat as you and all ever so embarrassed about taking the money they have to take. I hope it will end soon. I hope. In these times of austerity, the people at the bottom seem to suffer a lot. Perhaps cuts shouldn't be seen at this level. I hope they won't be seen at this level. Oh, this passage is making too much sense. Sense must be combated. Bring on the Gouda Monster.

'nebulous - not developed or clear enough to describe'

I think that the best therapeutic blog post is nebulous to the point of madness, a route of consciousness that allows pressure to blow off and the world to become more manageable as your inner thoughts and conflicts with the outside world merge into words and concepts on a page and so much smaller on the outside than they are on the inside.

Coming up soon, I'm planning reviews for the movies 'Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory', 'North By Northwest' and 'Stranger Than Fiction', as well as pieces on the novels 'Gateway' and 'Contact'. Some of these reviews mean rather a lot to me and I hope I can do them justice while labouring under the load of application writing. 'Gateway' especially is a novel that everyone should be made to read. It's amazing! I wish Pohl hadn't written sequels as they dilute the mystique of the thing, although I deliberately haven't read them for that reason. Leave the questions unanswered.