Monday, 30 September 2013

Story: Oneiromancy, II

(Part O , I , III)

Dreams are an important part of our lives. We all dream, even if we don't remember them, or our brains suffer as a result. We can learn from our dreams and our dreams can learn from us, that is if we happen to exist in a world connected to the Dreamline.

The Dreamline is simple in concept, in that certain sensitive beings can tap into it and communicate abstractly to other sensitives who are spatially and temporally 'close' enough. How this works we have yet to discover but the number of examples of such sensitives has been waning for more than fifty years. We had thought that the genetics causing the sensitivity had been slowly mutated out of the species, but could such a rapid change be credible?

Finally, as we worried about the last known sensitive in the Western world moving on into the next life, someone invented a new theory as to the slow of withdrawals of sensitives from the population. The hypothesis was that they remained as abundant as ever, diet and pollution not withstanding, and that the problem was a lack of transmissions further up the Timeline. The sensitives had nothing to receive, and without those messages how could they know they had the capacity? There was an interruption in the chain of Dreamers, an Event Horizon that nothing could apparently cross.

The last known Dreamliner in our country, a woman called Dorena Spratt, hadn't received dream conundrums from anywhen but the past or present for more than five years, although she was maintaining a bizarre string of barely intelligible exchanges with someone apparently in Japan who kept trying to convey something about a loaf of bread and the President of the World Bank. Dorena really had no idea what it was all about. That was true until the penultimate day of her life, when she had a dream from someone new, someone who dreamed with new gadgets and bizarrely imbalanced clothes. Long having given up on the Dreamline she was jubilant and passed on contentedly the next evening.

The new dream changed everything. The Event Horizon was finite. There were new dreamers out there in the future. But what was going to happen to almost break the chain? And for those people in the future, what had happened already?

To be continued...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Story: The Disappearance (X)

(Part IX , XI)

There was a duality about the time I'd spent talking to the owners and managers of McGonagle biscuits over my tenure on the force. Personally I had gotten on with every single one, and had planned to do that or better with Agnes. At the same time, we treated the whole crooked business with the greatest of suspicion and no-one was above our gaze. That was why the appearance of the spectre of Rolf McGonagle, supposedly dead for six months, didn't surprise me all that much.

Never turn away from a bull. "For someone who was electrocuted and then fell through a floor, you look surprisingly lifelike." I had never liked Rolf McGonagle on a deep gut level.

"Ha ha. You're looking for a face full of dough." Rolf looked beyond me after this gem of articulacy and presumably was examining his niece. "Agnes. You staying there? It'll be easier on you if you join the family instead."

"No, Uncle, it seems that my family is not what I thought it was. I'll stay here and take it like a stupid honest person."

Rolf scowled his little tough man smile and I realised that this man looked no different to how he had appeared at his last meeting with us in the factory. He was unchanged. The three tough guys standing outside the door were standard issue muscle that I didn't pay much attention to. This dead millionaire pushed further into the room, like a ninny, so I grabbed him as a shield and kicked the door closed.

I used a few words, just for novelty. "Controls, Agnes."

Agnes looked confused and then realised that the one way out was not going to be through the door. Rolf was struggling so I bopped him on the head, nice payback for some few things, and then dumped him on the teleporter bed. The date and time indicator showed us as being fifty years into the future.

"Well, well, well. It was time travel after all, or at least a more organised hoax."

"You know, you're not telling me a thing!" Agnes was not pleased.

"Hey, kid, you know something? I'll tell you everything I know, on the other side." The controls were pretty self-explanatory and I set the space-time coordinates to what I'd written in my phone that morning. Previous bursts of time and space travel had left me with an acute sense of how important it was to always have a place to go back to. Planets do travel through space after all. "Ready?"

"Not really."

"Bad choice. Get on. I have no plan, no ideas, and an acute knowledge of having fallen into a trap. Let's get out while we can. We'll test it on Rolfie first." I pushed the activation key and 'Rolfie' faded out in a sparkle. A moment later the verification light flashed green. "It's now or never. Ten seconds."

Agnes mounted the platform, and I joined her. We avoided the space where Rolf had been. Who needs a mess?

And then the world glittered and changed. And Rolf had of course vanished. Some times I hated the world of stupid events.

More will follow...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Building Blocks

Retraining is always useful thing to have in the background, as the more skills you have the more versatile you can be. This is something that I really wish I had come through strongly in the course of my PhD but instead it was a relentless and repetitive struggle with the same problems over and over and over. 'Could have, should have, but didn't'. Alas, dwelling on past difficulties is really not the way to go.

Diversification of skills is a great way to spend a spell of unemployment. It's difficult to get started, but once begun it is halfway done. I am choosing to spend this period becoming reacquainted with Statistics and learning how to data analyses in the language R. While in its early stages, it is clear that a proficiency in R, as well as the previously adopted Python and odd thing we call FreeFEM++ provides quite an impressive portfolio of computational tools. Bring on the Statistics.

It feels stupid to be talking about disadvantages or disenfranchisement, but there are things that happen in the course of a spell in the Wilderness. Mostly they are things that you do to yourself. Confidence problems can be such a pain. There was a time when my lack of confidence was so ingrained and embedded into the DNA that I tried to do nothing at all, and just hide in the hole of safety. It's always a tempting option, and when you're stuck in job hunting mode it gets very easy to dismiss so many jobs as being unlikely or impossible...

So, in the final analysis we're faced with two kinds of blocks: Building blocks and mental blocks. The building blocks are helpful tools like learning R, or reading articles that are interesting as well as (or even instead of) useful, being proactive, and taking online courses. The mental blocks are far harder to shake, but that's mainly because they're distracting in their very presence. You feel the giant oppressive block sitting there, forcing you into stillness, and forming the focus for what can only be obsession. The word 'stillness' is the key here, as the best thing to do is to do. Make progress in something, anything, and then the energy will bleed over into everything else. Activity is what eliminates inactivity.

There's a lesson there somewhere. Perhaps it's the old one about macaroni being the key to a truer conception of reality.


Monday, 23 September 2013


The Cosmos, that great order that represents reality which we also refer to mostly equivalently as the Universe, is a tough thing to look at. It's also beautiful with a hard grace. If it were still dark enough we could look out the window now and see the stars in the sky, gleaming with that light from the distant past. People used to look up at the cosmos, at the skies, and wonder what could happen out there. Now it's only possible far from the things of Man.

There's too much illumination to see the stars clearly at night now, and the universe is seen as a much harder place. It is not really, but life has turned into something far more pressured. We've made a trade-off, swapping disease and hardship for comfort and pressure, and as a result we have lost the sky. In losing the sky we have also lost our link to the world, even though it sits beneath our feet as it ever has. Or perhaps I'm talking total pretentious nonsense.

Let's pause to regroup.

As technology has progressed and we have multiplied uncontrollably on this precious world, the sheer number of people has made life more stressful. I hold that to be an indisputable fact. As we grow in numbers and multiply the stresses out of hand, there is a growing demand for entertainment and diversion. In a sense that is entirely understandable, as we need more assistance in relaxing; Not everyone is as easily relaxed as me, when I remember I need to be. But is there something else at play here?

As an example, I watch lots of television DVDs and read lots of novels. I also read Mathematics and languages, but that's another topic entirely. Could it be that these fragments of entertainment, these fictional realities are what are binding us to the Earth now, to our world and the wider cosmos? We certainly don't see much of the world anymore, unless we're lucky enough to travel widely, and even then we connect more to the people than the planet and for only a few instants in our lives. The more aware people go to a stream or the sea and soak in the world and reconnect in a myriad of other ways, but it's not a common thing at all.

If what we're looking for is connection to the world and to a certain constant of domesticity, it seems we look to fiction for a stable and constant reflection of that universe at large, for the inspirations and patterns that don't really get passed on any more, and the cautionary tales that get lost in the cracks. And then we learn everything ourselves anyway by trial and error, as that is how it has always been.

Does that mean that my DVD diet of 'The Mentalist', 'Community', 'Star Trek' and 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' is teaching me how to be a wonderful human? Or the wonderful novels of David Eddings, Terry Pratchett, and the wonderful expanded universes of Star Trek and Doctor Who? Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't, but when the stars are hidden from view you seek them out in worlds where they are still clear to see.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Film: 'Joe Versus The Volcano' (1990)

This is a hard film to write about. It was a huge flop upon its release and is disliked by very many people still, but I rather like its eccentricities and effectiveness in conveying a message. 'Joe Versus The Volcano' is nominally a romantic comedy, one which paired Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan for the first time, and one which has things to share if you're only listening. Perhaps that last part is the problem; People are so habitually expecting narrative experiences that they really have no use for other types of film. There is no intention of saying that 'Joe' has no narrative, but it is in equal part a metaphorical narrative and one with a very bizarre ending. One can only wonder at the ending, but there will be time for that later.

Joe is a veteran who went on to become a firefighter, but he risked his life once too many times and became scared and weary, and then sold out to a terrible job. His weariness and soul sickness manifest themselves as hypochondria, and one day a doctor tells him the terrible truth: He has a brain cloud and will die in six months despite otherwise perfect health. While that may not sound like the basis for a comedy the film is not really about the brain cloud and death but instead about living. Joe, subjected to the catalysis of his diagnosis goes forth, accepts an unusual job with incredibly ludicrous benefits, and emerges from his cocoon for one more adventure.

Staged in three distinct phases Joe goes from his drab and grey initial experience, to a transitional phase in the electricity of Los Angeles, and finally to liberation during a long sea voyage to an island populated by savages where his job is to jump into a volcano as a hired sacrifice. Each of those phases features Meg Ryan in a different role, where her characters reflect Joe's state and journey, and each of which begins her own journey thanks to touching Joe's life. Ryan does very well in this film, in fact she's far more accomplished than Tom Hanks as Joe. She manages to pull off three distinct characters, all of whom are confused with life and looking for direction, and conveys that things have changed for each one by knowing Joe as he goes on his way. Of course he marries the last version, Patricia, but that's another story.

It would be easy to jump deep into analysis of 'Joe Versus The Volcano' but that's available elsewhere. It's a famous film for analysis. The important thing is the journey. Of course Joe turns out to probably not be dying at the end, and unfortunately of course he survives the volcano with his incredibly new bride, and of course the islanders are a bizarre racial mix who are obsessed with orange soda, but the journey is worth it.

If you can detach from the supposed story, which is in essence a myth or archetype, there is a beauty to 'Joe Versus The Volcano'. A lyrical quality underlines most of the movie, only replaced by a crudeness in the initial segment at Joe's old job, and a bizarreness in the ending on the island. The beginning and the ending are the parts which will really derail people looking for a smooth narrative, and indeed the start does sometimes push even me out of the film a little. The islanders are similarly problematic in that they are so bizarre as to be offputting, but the volcano does add enough scale to make the natives inconsequential in the end. The ultimate end is... a cheat. It would be so much a better movie if they did jump in the volcano and the film ended, but as it is it is a cheat. I shall say no more.

This is turning into quite a ramble, isn't it? Doubtlessly it shall be revised a few times. The lyrical/surreal quality of the film is backed up magnificently by the score and songs, partly composed by the director John Patrick Shanley, and is exactly what's needed. Shanley didn't really do much in film after this movie bombed but he didn't deserve blame. 'Joe' has become a cult classic over time and one day will be rehabilitated completely, when people realise it's a parable or a fable or an allegory or whatever instead of a simple narrative. Someday it will happen. This is the movie that introduced the word 'soulsick' to me, and it's one I shall relish forever more. It's just a shame about the orange soda and being spat out of the volcano.

Yes, revisions will be necessary. 'Joe Versus The Volcano' is a nice movie, one which is ultimately flawed but entertaining and illuminating anyway. I love it. Meg Ryan is wonderful, Tom Hanks is solid, Lloyd Bridges steals the show and Ossie Davis is as great as ever. It really should be watched, because it is special. Yes, you might hate it but you could just as well love it. Oh, and you have to watch it to get the message.


PS Took another shot at this review, which can be found far far in the future.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Story: The Glove, IV [Obsoleted]

(Part I , III , V)

Steffan was a Master. He was utterly shocked. No one ever went directly from Apprentice to Master in the Pipers Guild. It had only happened twice before, once with great success and once with great infamy. The infamy lived on in a louder fashion than the success had. A master! It was unbelievable. His mind wandered randomly as he stood woodenly holding the scroll. Finally, his mother emerged from the crowd and took him by the hand, and then led him away.

Two hours later, the newly appointed Master Steffan had eaten some hearty soup and was looking at the still unbroken seal on the scroll. His mother and father had steadfastly refused to break the seal for him and now it sat on the table, being significant without any effort. The Great Seal of the Pipers Guild was a simple hexagon, a regular six-sided shape impressed upon the wax that sealed the scroll. Once opened it could never be remade, and a tiny piece of his past would be lost forever.

Steffan took a thousand holopics of the scroll from all angles and then took up the scroll and held it for a few moments. He had no idea how to open a seal. Could it damage the scroll in the process?

"Son. You will eventually read it. Just go to it." Steffan's father sketched a motion for how to open the seal and Steffan copied it imperfectly. Unrolling the scroll he was confused by his instructions.

'Master Steffan,

In the event of your reading these instructions we must assume you have passed your test, and with such acclaim that you have acceded to the rank of Master. Congratulations.

As you are aware, it is almost unprecedented for someone to do what you will have done. From the earliest you have been thought to possess the most unusual of high potential and monitored with great interest. We have need of a talented person, for the world is an unusual place, as it has ever been, and circumstances require an unusual person for an unusual mission.

For a time now we have been concerned at the growing imbalance between the societies of the two great cities of Troos. We have become ever more distant from our scientific brothers in Edin and have decided to send an emissary, a new ambassador to investigate frictions that have recently arisen. You are that ambassador, Master Steffan. We require no spying from you, and the authorities of Edin are completely aware of your purpose. We ask you to journey to Edin, to commune with its peoples, and determine the problem we can not perceive.

Should you accept this mission, and we hope you will, present yourself at the Pipers Council on the third day after your successful test.

Fare well in the meantime.
Octavius, Laird of Burgh.'

Octavius! Steffan had been approached by the Laird of the Pipers, the hereditary guardian of the city, and now he had to decide his course of action. What would he do in three days? Whatever it was, he was sure that the next three days would be an agony of waiting.

Steffan began to wait, and think, and wait some more.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Boxes and boxes and even more boxes

My things have been moved and I am no longer even technically a resident of Aberystwyth. It feels funny to move. It always does. As people we define ourselves rather bizarrely by where we live, our jobs and our families, but not often by who we are and how we behave. Hence when we move we are essentially chipping off a chunk of identity and replacing it with our new environment. As a result, and if that is true for you, then moving is of course a traumatic experience!

Let's accept the above as a hypothesis, for now, and that it applies to me or someone else sitting in a house with too many boxes and not enough room for all their books. Hovering around that person you can imagine all the mental boxes strewn around as they try to work out who on Earth they are at the moment. Change throws people for loops. Fortunately my existence is more defined by actions than locations but still it's a strange experience to go through.

Despite all the moving it actually feels like life is quite good at the moment. Sure, I'm unemployed and there are no signs of jobs at the moment, but there are no loose ends flapping and hopes for the future. Huzzah and hail fellow, well met. Sometime soon I will really have to write about 'Joe Versus The Volcano'. It's a hard one to think about, a film that got ripped up in one of our Film Bin discussions despite my loving it, and a fascinating screen poem in many ways. I suspect that there won't ever be a harder piece to write.

<shifts the mental boxes about a bit>

Aha! The upcoming plans for the Quirky Muffin are actually exciting. I will break into book reviews more than at present, shifting away from movies once 'Joe Versus The Volcano' is done, and really plug into the prose portal that formed the essential Oliver. It should be fun, and it is quite scary but a project already begun. There are two stories I want to push along as well, 'Oneiromancy' and 'The Disappearance', both of which will hopefully conclude before the next phase of 'Triangles' and the resurrection of 'The Glove'. 'The Glove' is hard as there's no immediate plot to hang onto, although there is a plan now. World building is actually quite hard, which is obvious in retrospect. I might even write about music a little, which is normally a bogie subject.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Rush Job

The clock is ticking and the world continues to turn and the deadline isn't mysteriously moving further ahead in time; It is sitting there malevolently, waggling its eyebrows and pulling faces as you struggle the choices available to you. Do you organise your day, sacrifice a few things and make a good job of your assigned project? Do you you postpone it to another day and hope for the best? Or do you do what I'm doing right now, and commit to 'The Rush Job'?

In the vast majority of cases, the rushed job is a bad idea from beginning to end. There is only one exception, one case where bashing out a project in quick fashion and with no planning can ever work and even then only sporadically. That exception is in the case of a creative work, which I pretentiously class this current piece of prose as. In the arena of writing, a well crystallised piece of rushed work can far surmount the product of a more leisurely and organised session of applied mentality and leave something so spontaneous and wonderful on the page that you can only feel glad that it happened. Of course this isn't an example of that, but instead the tortured and rushed ramblings of a dehydrated and rambling mind.

<Clompie waves an alarm clock and cackles>

'Why is this a rushed job?', you might ask, if you could be bothered. Well, moving day is upon me and all my things must depart from Aberystwyth for yet another laboured van ride cross country to who knows where, to yet another stopping point on the grand travelling itinerary of life. Moving is such fun. Will I forget to leave my keys this time? Will giant robots stomp on the house before I've gotten out, making me culpable on damaged house inventory items? Will we actually get more use out of the spare towels? Where will all the pillows go?

All these questions and more shall be answered, or simply ignored in the midst of all the other trivialities. Moving is not fun, but really tiresome, and the required cleaning is even worse. But it is at least another technicality done with and council tax will no longer be required for the place.

You see, as a rushed job this blog wasn't so bad and at least the next one will be the next part of one of the stories currently on the go. It's actually harder to write one of these regular entries than the stories, as they're quite fun to just bash out and make up on the fly, while this type of blog really requires the ability to top and tail with some aplomb, and in this case quickly, as it was of course 'The Rush Job'.


PS I shudder at the very thought of Council Tax. (Shudder shudder).

Friday, 13 September 2013

Story: Oneiromancy, I

(Part O , II)

There were dreams and then there were Dreams. The man had been having the latter sort for most of his life and he was sick of them. They danced around in his head, lingered menacingly and never meant anything. Flame figures danced in the arms of icy partners and giant pillows roamed the land seeking mountains to bed down on. People spoke to him of total nonsense and animals recited poetry of the finest meter. It was perplexing and often nearly drove him insane.

Sometimes he thought that he was already insane. The thought was a consolation on cold stormy nights when sleep was something best left undone. This wasn't one of those nights, and he knew that if he didn't sleep tonight that he would probably collapse the next day. Sleep would have to happen. The bottle of dream-preventing sleeping pills sat on the small corner shelf of his bedroom, as it always did, and he didn't take one, as he always didn't. Never again. Addiction had been terrible, and the bottle stood as a reminder to be vigilant.

The man brushed his teeth, splashed his face, donned his pyjamas and dropped onto the mattress on the floor. The lamp turned off and darkness prevailed. Sleep followed swiftly, as is tended to, and then after a few moments there were Dreams.

A woman with short blonde hair was looking at him. An owl wearing a tiny blue fez stood on her shoulder. She was speaking but he couldn't hear anything, and a wall of fire was sweeping in from the right of his vision. Now the owl was trying to speak to him too, and it occurred to him that this dream wasn't anywhere near as weird as his usual nightmares. He looked down involuntarily and saw he was standing on nothing but an intangible path of light. The woman was on the path too, a few steps away, but he couldn't get any closer no matter how he tried.

Giants stalked by in the darkness beyond the effect of the Light Road, carrying kippers instead of swords and swinging legs in uncoordinated fashions. Stars twinkled underfoot. The blonde woman was stamping her foot on the Road. Finally she pulled a piece of paper out of a previously absent bag and scribbled on it with a pen she took behind her ear. The Light Road dissipated suddenly and the man fell into a hideous and evil darkness, and then his regular Dreams began. Despite what was about to happen, the man relaxed at the relative normality as the elephants thundered across a plain and then turned into planets made of cheese, pulling the stars with trunks made into rings.

The man slept on, twitching and shuddering occasionally.

There shall be more...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

On writing job applications

I am currently in the throes of writing statements for job applications and that is one of the most infuriating things you can do. There is no disguising the fact that job applications are hard to write. It doesn't matter what kind of job you're applying for, for there will always be that hesitation about what is best to write. It's the same quandary that I would imagine pursues people in writing personal ads or online dating profiles. What on Earth should go in and what should be left out?

The other danger of doing job applications is the danger of success. You would think that failure would be the danger but failure imposes no immediate change in your circumstances while success usually makes every difference in the world! Failure by unconscious attempt is clearly just a version of stalling so as not to take the risk in changing things. It's very easy to be afraid of change, as millions of people around the world will tell you. As someone applying for academic jobs in Mathematics the pressure on a supporting statement can be quite overwhelming. For all but the most entry-level jobs you end up writing something closer in length to a short story than a letter and it becomes ever more important to justify and back up everything you try to communicate.

So, as this statement continues to dribble out and become ever more restructured and out of shape, this blog is gushing in a far more consistent manner. Practically everything is easier than writing a statement/letter for a job application. Sometimes I wonder if it's worthwhile! This coming week will see harder things though as I have to move out of my place in Aberystwyth and churn the wheel on the latest draft of my paper, which has again been delayed due to circumstance and family holidays which simply had to happen. Writing the paper has proven to be far harder than I ever supposed it could be, as the economy of language demanded by custom and tradition requires discipline of the first order. That discipline, combined with my current extreme fatigue, is making it hard.

I will miss Aberystwyth. There's a chance I could return at some point but that beautiful town is the nicest place to live I've ever experienced. It's a perfect compromise between town and country, and one that a rural bumpkin would think very unlikely to ever beat. Being by the sea is one of the nicest things in the world. Failure always imposes change, but slowly and painfully, unlike success. If then there's no difference between success and failure, why not go for success?


Monday, 9 September 2013

Movie: 'The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes' (1970)

The legendary director Billy Wilder had quite the checkered career. In between classics such as 'Stalag 17', 'Sunset Boulevard', 'Double Indemnity', 'Some Like It Hot', 'The Apartment' and 'The Fortune Cookie' he made many movies you might not have heard of. Some of those movies are too heavily rooted in their timeframe ('Kiss Me Stupid', which is also quite weird), while others are rather misconceived in their origins (again 'Kiss Me Stupid', as well as 'Irma La Douce'). Quite often he pushed the boundaries of crumbling censorship to the detriment of his own films, but 'The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes' falls into a funny little category of its own.

'Holmes' was intended to be a roadshow movie, a mammoth epic that would tour the country, showing with an intermission, and comprising four independent but inter-related episodes in the career of Sherlock Holmes that would otherwise not have been revealed. This would have been a capper on Billy Wilder's career as his twilight approached, but instead fate intervened and the cinema roadshow died a death, leading instead to a theatrical release. The movie was mauled in theatrical editing, losing two of its stories, and resulting in two tonally disparate cases that make up a minimal version of the film. The other two cases are apparently and unfortunately lost to posterity.

The reality of 'Holmes' is that we see the bookends of a mammoth story that do not quite have the substance required to make a truly coherent movie. The first portion is effectively a sex farce while the second and longer portion is a kidnapping case that eventually morphs into an international espionage mystery. The unifying theme is the mystery or heartbreak that lurks in Sherlock's personality, that bleakness that motivates him in his lonely course of life, and which remains untouched since in his era no-one would dare to approach him on the topics of love and sex. Indeed, the farce of the first act is constructed entirely to force Watson to ask Holmes about his romantic past, which question is seemingly answered for the audience in the second portion by Holmes' heartbreak at being deceived by the beautiful German spy Gabrielle. Presumably these two points in the arc would have been complemented by events in the missing portions.

It should not be said that this is a bad film, though, as it is in no ways that. It is merely intangibly slight and bizarrely patched together in the middle so that we move from farce to irony over a small chasm. The acting is solid, especially Robert Stephens as Holmes himself, managing to pull off an aristocratic air as well as a cynicism and urbane worldliness that is not normally seen in portrayals of the Great Detective. Colin Blakely in contrast is almost ridiculously buffoonish to the point of caricature, partially defusing the dramatic bombs that could easily have detonated more effectively. This is surely one of the best Sherlock Holmes films made to date, that collection being replete with noble attempts that never quite seem to hit the mark. The problem with a Sherlock movie is that remaining close to the source material is more limiting than anyone can ever quite imagine; The movies which seem to succeed more take new turns and distance themselves while remaining true to the core of the character, as in 'The Seven-Per-Cent Solution' and 'Murder By Decree'.

Points of interest for this movie include the presence of Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes, the excellent score by Miklós Rózsa, some witty banter scripted expertly for Holmes, and that strange sense of melancholy that permeates the piece. It's not for nothing that this film is referred to often as inspiration for the modern day BBC series 'Sherlock' in the commentaries for those shows. It does have a similar air to it quite frequently.

This is a well motivated patchwork of a film, but one well worth viewing. It's my second favourite Sherlock film after the aforementioned 'Seven-Per-Cent Solution' and might one day become my favourite as tastes change over time. Of course the main crime here is that we will never see the full and coherent film, and that more than an hour of footage is lost forever. Perhaps it would have been a bloated mess, but just as equally it could have been the masterpiece that crowned the career of the late great Billy Wilder. At the very least it's better than 'Kiss Me Stupid', which I shall talk about quite soon.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Maze Analogy

There is a massive hedge maze at Longleat, one in which it is very easy to become incredibly lost in that bewildering catacomb of narrow passages, walled in by the tall leafy walls. This particular maze is of the variety that is full of loops and swirls instead of dead ends, and in truth did stump both me and my sister in our quest to find the centre. We made it to bridge five out of six and then had to abort after almost an hour and a half to make it to the safari bus. It was a heady mess. Maybe next time we'll crack it.

A maze is an analogy or perhaps an allegory for what we all go through in the course of things. We trundle down our little corridors of time, not knowing where we might end up and hoping that we can retrace our steps if anything goes too wrong. And then when things don't go as planned we have to go back to the last turn and go right instead of left or just give up in disgust. Life is a merry of miserable little maze and all we can do is navigate it with good grace or be lost in the frustration. It's the journey, not the destination!

This it the two hundredth edition of the Quirky Muffin and in many ways very little has changed in net terms since the first edition. There has been a job, and a holiday or two but at this moment everything is exactly the same except for being one year later. One could almost say that I've taken a turn around the maze and ended up once again where I started once before. Perhaps the world is a little older now, and I certainly am of course, but the one irrevocable and essential advantage of the passage of time is that we learn. Learning is all we have so we had best enjoy it. Isn't it lovely?

The one hundredth post was about interactive fiction and went out mid-February of this year. It is entirely possible that I haven't even thought about the legendary medium of the text adventure since that day, as I became utterly absorbed in the work I was doing at the time. Someday perhaps there will be more work to become absorbed in. Work is itself a little maze that sweeps us all into strange swirls and loops of activity that always leave us energised and deranged in equal measure. Did that make sense? No? Then it fits entirely in with the theme of the previous one hundred and ninety-nine Quirky Muffins.