Saturday, 31 January 2015

Story: The Ninja of Health, II

( Part I , III )

The ninjas of health were a contradiction in terms, a tiny sect of stealth healers that had originated in the Far East, and now numbering less than than ten adherents in the whole of the known world. The fact that two of these rare specimens lived in Toddlingham simultaneously was not so much a coincidence as much as love winning out against all odds. It was all very fitting for their pacifist grouping.

The Man was once again meditating in the chapel, some days later. Opposite him, seated on another ball of the patterned floor, sat the Woman. They were serene and uncannily quiet. Twenty minutes before they had been deep in training, and an hour from now they would supposedly be back out in the wide world of their quaint town, living the normal lives that paid their bills and allowed them to use their talents for the greater good.

Toddlingham continued its merry mid-afternoon activities even as the Woman began to stir, something tickling her awareness. She had been more sensitive to deviations from the norm than her partner ever since their novitiates. Something was ever so slightly off. All through their years of training in Hull, their instructor and master had told them to develop their instincts and always trust them, a lesson each had taken to heart.

Swimming up from the serenity of the Ultimate Calm, the Woman rose from the floor and went to the window that overlooked the park. The pond shimmered in the breeze, and the noises seemed just as they should have been. Then the helicopter roared out of nowhere, speeding overhead, and she finally consciously heard the ambulances and fire engines.

"Oh no..."

The Man joined the Woman at the window, and then wordlessly they changed into regular clothes and left the chapel. There was work to be done, and very little time within which to do it. Running up the road, towards the scene of the disturbance, they were half invisible in their stealth, but intent within their speed in helping however they could.

To be continued...

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Die Is Cast

Will this be the last course I have to take? Will there finally be work stability afterwards? Will it all work out? Speculation must be cast aside as the die is cast, finally. Let the chips fall where they may! It's taken a long time to get to the point where decisions are made boldly, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without taking a few chances. Well done, world, even if all goes awry, something is done and a lesson is learned. It's nice to have steerage way at last.

What is 'steerage way'? Someone is surely asking that somewhere in the world, and not because they've just read the term here. 'Steerage way' is a minimal speed required such that you actually have some control over your direction. It's the speed required to not just be drifting randomly, as so many people do. In fact, I've been drifting aimlessly myself, and will do so for a few more months. Steerage way feels good, it's that sense of having a direction.

Hence, with the wind at the back, and still nothing to do for months, it's time to get back down to business! Yes, the students have dissolved into nothing, but proofreading goes on, and on, and on! Come, one and all, have me copy edit what you've been doing down to the abysmal level of the Quirky Muffin. Here on occasion whole sentences are missing, and giant narrative chasms passed over senselessly. We don't care, no! It's a world of it's own, a weblog, a strange little corner of cyberspace dedicated to nothing in particular. Ah, how interminable it would be to write to an audience constantly...

So, business as usual for a few more months. Expect more stories, more reviews or articles, more words of the day, and more general rambling and philosophical thoughts based on nothing in particular. It is the way of things, after all, especially when at least one wedding is being attended in the coming months. Oh, good grief, a wedding! No, no, no. Whose mad idea was that? I'll get my ex-housemate Steve for this. Mutter mutter. Foolish mortals, you know not what you do...


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Communication Barrier

In day to day activities, there's an invisible barrier that follows us all around, and it's the barrier of communication. Some people feel its presence more than others, but it is there. It's not an obstacle so much as a garbler, a distorting layer through which all words become subject to uncertainty and interpretation, and may become totally unintelligible despite all your best efforts. These are great thoughts for a potential educator of young children to be having, aren't they? Actually children are easy to talk to as they accept a lot of things at face value, thank goodness!

The garble barrier is also circumvented, ironically, by translating into another language. In my example, as a Spanish writer, often most of the potential for confusion is removed due to the logicality of the target language. It's pretty hard to confuse when you translate into Spanish; It's also almost impossible to be funny, but that's another story. (There's a reason why so many Spanish stories and movies are serious and/or tragedic.) Just don't ask me to understand something spoken as that's even more vulnerable to the garbling effect than English.

Oh, the perils of communication, always there but never crippling. What proportion of words will get converted into 'bungle bungle bungle' today? Did I actually just say 'salmon' in the middle of explaining bicycle gears to that bored looking woman? What did that man mean when he started going on about the mesmerising effect of rutabagas? What does it all mean? Yes, that was a rutabaga reference, you were not mistaken. I have been referencing rutabagas ever since they were referenced in 'The Belgariad', one of my primal early reading loves. What are you doing reading this, anyway, go read 'The Belgariad'! Sheesh, you just can't find good readers in this day and age...

It's bizarre that correpondence is one of the keystones of my existence, considering how much I think gets garbled in the process. Yes, bizarre, but it does happen. Welcome to the garbled mess that is the Quirky Muffin. You are now a correspondent. Don't be afraid, for it will all be alright.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Television: 'Get Smart' (1965-1970)

It was great; A legendary sitcom, and one not widely known here in the United Kingdom. Recently I finally finished watching the last episode of the fifth and final season of 'Get Smart', and realised that it was good for five years. Five whole seasons! You wouldn't think that a simple show spoofing spy movies and television could accomplish that remarkable deed, but judicious changes of emphasis and well-timed transitions in the writing room can work wonders, especially when your show is captained by one lead actor named Mr Don Adams.

The nerve centre of 'Get Smart' was not the creative team that devised the show, which included legends Buck Henry and Mel Brooks. No, the nerve centre was that lead actor, a consummate comedic performer who somehow made it easy to play a credible buffoon who was also a top spy. My knowledge of Don Adams is minimal, but the Maxwell Smart persona was so durable, so funny, and so flexible that he went on to voice Inspector Gadget, who also exactly the same character but with bionic enhancements galore. Yet, he was almost totally unknown here. It's hard to understand. Alongside Don Adams, there was the incredibly elegant Barbara Feldon as the perfectly capable Agent 99, and Edward Platt as The Chief of CONTROL, both cast to pinpoint perfection. The importance of Agent 99 as the capable female agent can not be underappreciated, even if she does play the love-stricken and doe-eyed second fiddle to Max for most of the time. It was a pivotal piece of progress, up there with Uhura's presence on the Enterprise.

'Get Smart' started off as a gag-laden spoof of spy stories, with every conceivable variation played out over the first two seasons, and then it seemed to consciously change as producer turnover hit. No longer a generalised spoof, it went on to parody movies of all genres specifically, within its own context, and succeeded. Then, in its final period it began to draw from literature too, and continued to succeed creatively even as the ratings continued to dwindle. In the 1960s, it was remarkable for series to run more than a couple of seasons without being meddled to death by network suits, and 'Get Smart' ran for five, albeit switching channels for the last year. Yes, it did lose steam and transition into a calmer show than it was at the beginning, but practically every comedy does.

Interesting things about 'Get Smart' include the incredible photography, especially in the later seasons, often stretching the boundaries of what you would expect on a comedy. Crane shots, low shots, car chases, ridiculous stunts, all could be found within the confines of the top secret counter-espionage agency CONTROL. Also fascinating is the emergence of the recurring villains Siegfried and Starker, adding a reliable extra dose of comedy and continuity in the ranks of the evil alliance KAOS, and even more catchphrases into the mix. Yes, catchphrases...

Catchphrases, especially as delivered by Don Adams as Max, are a lynchpin of this series. There are quite literally too many to list, but my own favourites are the wonderful "That's the second largest/smallest -- I've ever seen!" (and variants) and "The old -- trick! That's the second time I've fallen for that this --!" They may not convert to text well, but in the hands of Adams they were gold every time. Of course, there were also phones concealed in practically every conceivable device, including the super-durable shoe phones that prevailed throughout the run. Everyone should have an adjustable robe phone, by the way, I wonder why they never made them? Don Adams also directed numerous episodes impeccably in the later seasons, even while starring heavily, leaving a small note of awe in me for his abilities.

A final interesting thing about 'Get Smart' is that it managed to negotiate the muddied waters of network meddling gracefully, not letting the mandates for Max and 99 getting together, marrying and then finally becoming parents ruin the show. In fact, all those things were dealt with extremely economically and avoiding most of the obvious and well-worn pitfalls. It helped that Feldon had some of the best comic timing ever seen in a classically beautiful woman, maybe only challenged by Pam Dawber in 'Mork and Mindy', which latter show we'll get to eventually and had far worse network meddling problems than 'Get Smart' ever did. Oh, Barbara Feldon, if only we hadn't been born continents, decades, and entire cultures apart... (Ditto for Carolyn Jones, Pam Dawber, and Noel Neill.) Feldon truly was a one-off, and much like Don Adams vanished away from the series. Edward Platt, too, was fantastically gifted, and an expert at ridiculously difficult tongue twistery sentences as well as the harrassed put upon frown. No-one could be as convincing and competent as Platt, while still allowing the possibility of having hired Max somehow in the past.

This could go on for longer but for now will stop, pending new reference material. It's best to not tempt fate and get caught up in too many more tangents, for as we all know:

'This is KAOS, we don't tangent here!"


PS It was a great show. Great!

Friday, 23 January 2015


If I hadn't already written about being pleasantly surprised by the 'Supergirl' movie, that is what I would be doing right now. As it is, this whole post lies here, wide open to the possibilities of everything. The wonder of the great open page, so often a scourge to those in a worse frame of mind. Maybe it's time to ruminate on the great structure of the brain, and the safeguards contained therein to prevent us from going mad at the mad flux of being alive? Maybe it's time to contemplate the great disconnect between what we want to do and what we actually do, and the dissonance that stalks the spaces between those two things?

On the other hand, we could diverge into the welcome word reservoir of the Phrontistery, that great collection of unusual and lesser used vocabulary, always so tempting as a resource when all else fails. It's not that nothing has happened in the last few days to provide Muffin fodder, but that it's always nicer to be more philosophical and less personal in the great and invisible expanse of the Internet. Why talk about bizarre trips to the Job Centre, and odd new Draconian practices being imposed down upon us at the village library when you could just as easily do a snap mention of the word 'potamology'.

potamology: study of rivers

Some time ago, in the past of humanity, we used many more words. There were things to be said about rivers that required the introductions of whole new terminologies for every portion of the stretch of a river. According to the greatness of Wikipedia, the source of the river coincides with the 'crenon' zone, was then followed by the 'rhithron', and finally the 'potamos' as the settled remaining slow portion of the watercourse. As with most English language words, it has carried down from the old Greek 'potamos' or 'ποταμός'. Oh, Greek, where would we be without all your loan words, if not wandering about aimlessly and having to point at half the things we want and mouth 'ugg' for lack of nouns of verbs?

Some disused words just roll around luxuriously in your head when you discover them, begging to be used. Could I write a story around the word 'potamology'? Could I? There are still new phases of 'Wordspace' and 'Triangles' lined up, waiting to be kicked off sometime before the end of the world. Is there time to be self-indulgent about a word? Is there anything more worthy of indulgence than a word? Of all the luxuries in the world, is there anything more harmless than an obscure word? Discuss, and send me your reports within a week. All disagreeing papers will be eliminated in the approved manner. Gosh, this is old school, getting back to the obscure words early days of the Quirky Muffin, with not a mention of ridiculous travails. It's nice.


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Story: Oneiromancy, XIV

(Part O , XIII , XV)

They had gone to sleep finally, after much effort, with the words "And that's how Bonzo Bunsen invented the rotating electrical sheep drier." Kibbel had exhausted almost all of his tricks and techniques for inducing trances and resorted to the ultimate final measure of telling stories he used to tell his children at bedtime. At least Stanley and Helen wouldn't dream this time, in a meditative trance as they were. They had only been a few hours away from total meltdowns.

As they slept, he picked up the phone and dialled a number for the first time in seven years.


Helen was lost in a hazy tunnel of psychedelic colours. As she turned endlessly, head over heels, and rolled in the gusts of pinks and purples, the tunnel seemed to recede ever further into the distance. Helen continued to turn, and turn, and turn...


Stanley was standing in his class, at the whiteboard, with pen poised. The room was empty apart from him. Outside the window there was a clear night's sky, the stars clearly visible. He began to write, words issuing endlessly and being unwritten as soon as he looked to the next. What they were, he had no idea, nor what he taught, but he went on writing.


Dr Kibbel noted the growing restlessness of his patients with unease, even as he replaced the phone receiver on its old fashioned stand. Moving quickly, he reached for the smelling salts and cold sponge, and hoped that nothing was going drastically wrong. They really shouldn't have been dreaming at all in their state of sleep. How absurd it was, and dangerous/


Stanley wrote and wrote, while Helen turned and turned. She shrank to nothing and popped out of existence, appearing once more on the island beach. The gibberish on Stanley's board began to take on some meaning even as he forgot every word as soon as it was erased. The tweedy woman walked down the hill and examined Helen, with a malicious look in her eyes. Both the dreamers began to become aware of a vile aroma sweeping over them. Just before he woke up, Stanley saw the last words on his board. Helen was being struck across the face.


Kibbel jumped back as the two sleepers practically rolled off their couches in reaction to the industrial grade smelling salts. Even before Stanley had finished catching his breath, he gasped out, "Dreamline Omega!", even as Helen muttered, "That witch!"

Kibbel was astounded, and astounded further when the phone rang, and his call was returned.

There shall be more...

Monday, 19 January 2015

Icebergs? What Icebergs?

You can only be down for so long, and labour under so many burdens before it all becomes silly and pathetic. For goodness sake, people are dying by the continent load out there in the world, the environment is going to pieces, the planet overpopulated to the point of utter idiocy, and people still worry about themselves? Bah, humbug, I say to that. Self-pity, get ye to your kennel and stay there for another day. I don't want to see you until after my ex-housemate Steve's wedding, if then.

We can keep going. Sure, there might be endless obstacles standing there waiting to obstruct, but remember, "Obstacles are for climbing, Lenny, that's why God gave us grappling hooks." Even as an atheist, that line has such power that it cannot be excised. As human beings, supposedly the most intelligent species on the planet ever, we have devised tools to allow us to overcome every problem. Shall mere inconveniences get in our way?

Apart from all the rhetoric, it's always easy to imagine problems to be far bigger than they seem. Sure, most of Film Bin is down with the flu, my unemployment is becoming chronic and private students are running away screaming at the very mention of my name. Yes, the burden of being in the Benefits System is becoming harder with every passing day, and it seems impossible to win even the tiniest of projects on Freelancer, but there is hope. Hope: That flickering light in the night sky, so hard to see against all the streetlights, is always with us up until the final catastrophe or restaurant check. Apparently one of the side effects of great intelligence is great delusion. How else would we get through each stultifying stupid day?
Unerring human delusion must be one of the most bizarre jokes ever played in the Universe. Someone is probably laughing about it even as I type. Infinite money! Mwahahahahaha! Infinite space for everyone and their robot kitchen attendants! Ho ho ho. Attach fans to everything? Hee hee hee. Petty self-interest more important than saving the planet? Sign me up! Oh, even the sarcasm is having problems with keeping up. It's strange to think that in a period when the world really needs to become more unified to deal with its problems, Europe is trying to fragment into more of a patchwork than ever, as the peoples of countries and regions like Scotland and Catalan ponder on their own issues and dependences. Oh, humans, there is still hope. We still have cheese after all.

Hmm, this post started out being optimistic, continued into cynicism, and is about to conclude a full circle. There's a limit to the number of things we change as individuals, but we can make some differences. There's a General Election coming here in the United Kingdom, after all, and how about actually considering the candidates in your constituencies instead of voting arbitrarily for the parties that people always vote for. Our system is based on people, not parties, the great strength of 'first past the post'. I for one will try to find out who the best person standing for this place is, and whether they believe the things that will help us through this mess, whatever colour party they might belong to. Hope springs eternal, and things can still get better. Believe in the great mass of self-deluded people who really have no idea what's going on; That's what I do.

Oh, and if you get a chance, go and find a star to look at. Out there, in the whole wide universe, anything might be happening. Isn't it awesome?


Note: This post was brought to you by the 2015 version of naive idealism, available at most blog pages all around the world. We now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

Note: Alternately sponsored by Armageddon Shoes Inc.: "Friends, do you like shoes? Do you like the end of the World? Well, step on over to..."

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Television: 'Due South: Hawk And A Handsaw' (1995) (Episode 1x12)

There's more to my liking for the television series 'Due South' than just nostalgic indulgence. It's a show that ran for only two seasons (excluding the revival that shall not be named), and was of such high and quirky quality for that short time that it practically demands that its merits be shouted from the rooftops and crenellations of not just this decadently appointed mansion and sometime fortress, but also from the Quirky Muffin itself.

'Hawk and a Handsaw' is one of the best episodes of the first season of 'Due South'. and one deeply dipped into the psyche of Constable Benton Fraser RCMP and his relationship with his father. In many other shows, a plot that involves a protagonist going undercover at a mental hospital would become unceasingly awkward or either in its sentimentality or humour, but here all is saved by sheer unmitigated class, cleverness and quirky wittiness. Even dopey jokes about guessing computer passwords by noting that the key sequence sounded like 'I'll Be Working On The Railroad' will not defeat this master plan, especially when said plan is backed up by yet another knockdown monologue story from Paul Gross. That man could deliver speeches naturalistically like no other actor I know, except for possibly the Shatner.

Inevitably, any post about a specific film, book or television show requires a synopsis. 'Hawk and a Handsaw' begins with Ray's periodic psychiatric exam and Fraser saving a suicide from the mental hospital ledge, and then continues with Fraser investigating that patient's story for being out there. Ultimately there's a drug testing conspiracy and our dynamic duo clear up the mess, but that's only the plot of the episode. It's really about Walter Sparks, the patient on the ledge. This episode, much like the season finale 'Letting Go' manages to touch on intense drama, grieving, and recovery from grief and never loses touch with the quirky charm that defines the whole show. This was a series that could be heavyweight and funny in the same show and become doubly potent as a result, even quoting 'Hamlet' in the process.

Ultimately 'Hawk and a Handsaw' has its main strength in the dynamo acting power of the ever sincere Paul Gross, but it's all based in smart writing and beautiful photography. There have been very few series as beautiful as this one, and that's what pushes it over the top. Was it a super-expensive show, I wonder, back in the day on Canadian television? It may be impossible to ever know, just as it's impossible to file this show away in 'old television' with other things long forgotten. What a great episode it must be to make a story that resolves finally by the sudden absence of a beard, and allows insanity into the room but then refuses to let it take over. Also, Fraser sharpens his hat buckle. You have been warned.


Thursday, 15 January 2015


Today's trip to the Phrontistery leads to the word 'Adespota', an archaic term which means 'anonymous works'. Now, isn't that interesting, that there was a single word to cover all those texts with no known author? It used to be commonplace, or am I imagining reading that? Am I imagining everything?! Oh, that's a thought that is going to fester!

In the wake of a needlessly tiring day, with several hours of cycling and a punishing trip to the job centre, it's nice to kick back and relax, and think about adespota. The Quirky Muffin might have been adespota, if not for a twinge of fate, and the fact that Blogger is run by Google, and they know my name. Or do they...? Blast, why did I never adopt Herman Schmidtlap for the Internet? Why, world, why?

So, a terribly tiring day ends, and ends with something special to light the way into blissful repose. Someday soon, it will be time to write about this wonderful episode of 'Due South' known as 'Hawk And A Handsaw', which is one of the best of the series, and a great hour of television. How on Earth did they make a series so incredibly good, and why do we never manage to convey how good this excellence in our commentaries over at Film Bin? It's frustrating! The very act of making a commentary sinks us commenters into an analytical frame of mind, which frame of mind is immune to such joys. They may as well be adespota.

'Adespota' is by now pretty much obsolete and only listed on the Phrontistery, along with so many other lost words. Why did it fall away? Why do any of these words fade? Is it just because their contexts occur so infrequently that everyone forgot them? Or was it something darker, something more sinister? Did a dark lexical force eliminate it from usage? Oh, the possibilities...

Here endeth the incoherence.


Note: Check out 'Flux', the nifty little program that adjusts your screen brightness for time of day, and potentially saves your eyes a load a strain!

Note: Voynich manuscript, an enduring mystery, read about it.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Four Five One

Putting Darwin's 'Voyage of the Beagle' to one side, and recovering from teaching the card game 'Bohnanza' to my parents, it's time to once again take to the keyboard. Yes, it's a bit late and my thoughts are rather groggy, but it shall be done!

'Bohnanza', after some dodgy experiences with overly serious games players, has turned out to be nice as a gateway game with non-horribly competitive nice people. Sure, it's not a particularly difficult experience, but that's the point! 'Voyage of the Beagle' is proving fascinating very early in the reading, and makes one wonder what it must have been like to go out on those survey voyages back in history. How brave and fantastic to sign on with a survey vessel, and journey for years on end in a tiny sailing ship, subject to the winds and the tides! Trepidation would be laid aside, in favour of adventure and experience! A true gift for a beginning clergyman naturalist in search of life. If only there were similar experiences in the world as we knew it.

Four hundred and fifty posts down, it's a marvel that there are still things to write about. 'In The Park' even illustrated, to me at least, that there are still fizzy ideas to convert into silly stories, whether they be about programmable squirrels or giant teaspoons floating through space. Of course, not every random idea has a story attached to it. 'Random teaspoons floating through space'? Good grief! It's like having a mainline into a cut-price domain of substandard imagery! Yes giant teaspoons, used by a once-genius super-race to scoop out valuable portions of nebulae for resale back to gas vendors, element extractors or cosmic rag and bone men... Blast, it's actually beginning to sound good now. Except for maybe the giant teaspoon aspect.

Oh, Quirky Muffin, you'll continue for a while longer. There are stories to write, books and movies and television series to write about, and things to ponder as they emerge into topicality. There will be silliness to come, still!


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Story: 'In the park'

The squirrel wrinkled its nose and tucked into its acorns, and for a few seconds I was entranced. It was kind of cute, and the squirrel wasn't running at all. For a few moments, here in the city park, all was well.

The serenity dipped a bit when a bush twitched and a few acorns were flung. The squirrel, all alert in an instant, streaked up a nearby tree and vanished. The flung acorns lay there untouched. I lay there, annoyed. A bearded face bobbed up, and some shoulders, but was yanked down by some flailing blonde braids. The bush stilled with great artifice and all was quiet.

The squirrel was proving elusive. He, she, or it wouldn't be back for a while if at all today. The bush dwellers, not aboriginals but urban weirdoes presumably, didn't make a move. Neither did I, not wanting to tip them off to the presence of an idle short story writer observing their strange behaviour.

Another squirrel crawled down from a tree, this one looking as if it had already eaten far too many acorns in preparation for Winter, and approached the abandoned nuts on the ground. It sniffed them suspiciously, in case the acorns turned out to be the nut equivalent of a Great White Shark, before eating more assiduously. Suddenly it stopped, cocked its head, and something ridiculous happened.

"In the year 1860, the reputation of Doctor Wybrow as a London physician reached its highest point. It was reported on good authority that he was in receipt of one of the largest incomes derived from the practice of medicine in modern times." Said the squirrel approximately, as much as it could with a sciurine jaw, before it went back to eating the acorn.

"Yes!" roared the bush, and the beard emerged again jubilantly. "Yes!" The squirrel was gone practically before the first sound had emerged from his whiskers. I didn't pay much attention as I was trying to isolate the quote. Wilkie Collins? Ah, yes, 'The Haunted Hotel'! Why was I not surprised, you might wonder? Writers aren't normal; go ask a publisher.

Blonde braids got up as well. She looked proud but annoyed. "Now we'll have to start again, you dope. How we can test the squirrel if it's in hiding? Huh?"

Bemusedly, I decided to weigh in with my own presence. "Howdy. How are you folks doing today?"

The two urban weirdoes twirled and levelled their microphones at me as if they were loaded with grapeshot and set to kill. Bearded man turned bright red, and braids scowled. "We will tell you nothing. Nothing!"

"Nothing? Not even a hint about the talking squirrel that just recited Collins in my presence? Just a teeny hint?"

"No! Never! The NSA would lock us away for decades!"

I guffawed. "Yes, sure. For what? Is this some ludicrous cold war power balance? Are we training up acorn and squirrel data storage to counter Chinese efforts to code their archives into pine cones and beavers?"

They looked at me, aghast. "Splark! Now we'll have to take you in! Who told you?" Not a word more did I get of the beared man, or indeed his partner, ever again. The NSA agent was nice though, although... No, perhaps that's another story.

Friday, 9 January 2015

So this is what 2015 will be like!

Gibberish. Disconnected words. Reality disassociation. Bloop bloop. Jumper jumper. Strange week abounded, strange week gone, weekend to come...

Sometimes you can get so tired that normal sleep doesn't even apply. It's the tiredness that comes after cooking something new, or making a massive change in your future plans, or even just being on the computer far too much for far too long. Rest is needed, lots and lots of rest.

With a rough week now behind, it's time to be happy again. A little pile of library books is awaiting, and stories are waiting to be written. Yes, stories, as 'The Glove' and 'Oneiromancy' both got their humps fixed this week and will run smoothly through to their conclusions now. Huzzah! They'll even make really good stories when compiled into standalones, with all the difficulties ironed out or edited into oblivion. Oh, serial stories, you are wonderful to write but I'm sure horrible to read. It's lucky to have no audience, except for those Nicaraguan squirrels. Actually, the squirrels have been quiet recently...

As the potential horror of my squirrel readers no longer being with us, and the potential profits of inventing a 'squirrel reader' that will be able to retrieve data encoded into squirrels via special engineered acorns, settles into my mind the world swims a little. Yes, squirrel readers, that's a brilliant idea!

It's odd to think that in a year's time the Quirky Muffin could be being written by a trainee primary school teacher. Will it change the blog for the more normal or send it over the screaming edge of reality, where squirrel readers and parallel dimensions inhabited by sentient words are ridiculously conventional as compared to the mime marshmallows that keep invading kitchens at peak cooking times. We'll have to wait and see. If only I could get rid of this guilt for ditching yet another career...

Blast you, conscience, you'll make no troubles this time! Get him, marshmallow mimes!


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Story: The Glove, XI [Obsoleted]

(Part I , X , XII )

The gossip was unrevealing at first. The cantinas around the kirk were populated by upper class patrons out for dinners with loved ones and families. He spent twenty minutes on a beef salad sandwich and then walked out into the late evening. Edin didn't work the way he had imagined it would; It wasn't a clinical and sterile metropolis, or a heartless machine running endlessly and mercilessly, but a rich and warm place. It reminded him of home far more than he had ever thought it would.

On arriving in Edin some days ago, he had found that the best place for gossip was in the working men's cantinas down by the stock yards and the old space dock, so he walked away from the Kirk, down Angles Boulevard and circled the Obelisk a couple of times before setting off toward the Park. A shadow detached itself from a building and followed him discreetly. The Park Boulevard Omnibus ran directly to the yard square, and just a few minutes later he was in the Square And Round, ordering a draught and observing his fellow solitary patrons. This was the rowdier part of the city. Someone else came in just shortly after him, but he paid them no attention.

Billy the bender hadn't heard of the incident at Canterbury, and was shocked at the idea of bloodshed. Audrey from the paper reclamation plant merely stared silently, not moving a muscle, and Steffan changed the subject quickly. More might come of it later. Then he spent fifteen or so minutes blushing and dealing with some welcome but badly timed attentions from Enid the bored midwife, before leaving and moving on to the Starfarer's Ruin. The Ruin was named to commemorate the crashed first colony ship, an early disaster in the history of Ganymede. Within, some gloomier residents were nursing drinks at the bar and in booths. Steffan ambled up to the bar, and ordered a whiskey and cream, studying the famous mural.

A few minutes later he was joined at the bar by another lady. She looked more tired than seemed possible at that time of night. Some idle small talk followed between the two of them and the man on her far side, and it transpired that she was afternoon supervisor for the monorail lines leaving to the east. Chatter continued and she began to talk about the disruptions of recent days. The other man, a washed up cooper called Sean, got a bit wide eyed when Steffan interjected his own related experience and quickly left while Charlotte merely studied him wearily.

A few minutes passed, and then she suggested that they step outside for a moment. As the doors swung shut behind him, and the fresh air hit him, he wondered at the colossal waste of time at being indoors all night. Then something hard also hit him, on the neck, and suddenly even being inside the Starfarer's Ruin seemed preferable to blackness. The blackness came on anyway.

More shall follow...

Monday, 5 January 2015

Random Assemblage of Words

I've just been watching 'King of the Mounties', an excellent Republic movie serial. Yes, parts of the sound may be lost, but the subtitling is great and the pacing is excellent. It's strange to think, and yes I've said this before, that moviegoing used to be so different. There was a time when you had to wait a whole week between instalments of everything, or even longer, and without being able to refresh your memory. You went, you saw, and you waited. Television was like that too, once upon a time, without Wikipedia or whatever to feed you a handy plot synopsis before the episode. Ah, the old days, when being entertained required effort, and either a razor sharp memory or a willingness to wander in confused and out the same way.

We'll come back to 'King of the Mounties' some other time, as I try to not dilly-dally too long over this particular post. It's getting a bit late in the day for these words to be tumbling out in coherent manner, especially after all the tension of trying to pick out a training provider. Yes, it's time to take the plunge and choose places, and it's a pretty difficult process. How on Earth to choose one college from another, or one school-based experience from another, or even to choose any at all? It's tough, but fortunately as a non-driver, applying when lots of vacancies have already been filled, it's much easier. The only remaining question is the primal one: Why do this at all?

Primal questions linger, long after the trivial ones have been answered or left to wither away from negligence and neglect. However, one random read tweet later, it's better to try than to not try. Even a (non-tragic) failure is better than nothing happening at all! Also, a good experience will stop me from more and more time away on Minecraft. Oh, Minecraft, your appeal is a thing of habit more than novelty. Sandbox games with no well defined endings are so addictive and yet ultimately empty. Let you be gone again until a major update brings new features, or forever!

Yes, primal questions and doubts are normal and don't go away, but sometimes you just have to put them away and do it anyway. Or don't. Whatever seems best. How's that for wishy-washy? Now, back to 'King of the Mounties'... The villains have a secret base in a non-dormant volcano. Non-dormant! Take that, Roald Dahl and 'You Only Live Twice'!

Now, much like at the movie house in the 1940s, it's time to wander out just as confused as we came in.


Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Statement

When you write a statement supporting an application, is it really writing you? Do the reasons you cite crystallize into the only reasons and push all the others into the void, or is it all just powdery words of wishy-washy writing thrown away after you've been accepted or dismissed as a crank? Aren't both of those options kind of wrong?

Writing these statements is a daunting process, and is at times terrifying, so filled with horror that it's surprising that no Hammer or Universal horror movie was ever based on the experience. The whole application process condenses down to writing those words, and all the potentiality rests on whether they work or not, whether you have the stuff to back up what you're trying to do or if it's all just fakery. Two chains of destiny, maybe both good, or both bad, maybe decisive in their effects, or making absolutely no difference in the long run.

It's very hard to make these statements personal, far too easy to rely on clichés and things you write in every single example of the type. What exactly are you motivations for trying to do this or that? Are you genuine? Is it all just meaningless prose to try and fill the space that should never have been needed to be filled? What are all these words, anyway? None of it means anything any more! Oh, the insincerity of the job application procedure! Do they want to know about your liking to read or is it all going to lie unread in favour of your qualification. I know for a fact from several of my interviews that they never read my statements at all!

<pauses to fake calming down from a fake burst of excitement>

It's probable that I think about things far too much, an old failing picked up from thinking too much about thinking about things too much, and that's not an uncommon quality in human beings. It is true, though, that once you put something down on paper it can become a defining statement, an idea you cling to as self-evident and exclusive, when instead of might open your mind to all the possibilities in the world. Remember, something you wrote a year ago - we're not including legal documents here - doesn't bind you to think exactly the same way now or a year from now. All that matters really is that it was true when you wrote it.

Now, I had better get back to this PGCE Primary supporting statement. If nothing else, it's going to be true beyond all barriers!


Friday, 2 January 2015

Story: The Ninja of Health, I

It took nine hours, including all the foodcraft, talking and eating, and still not everything got done. Mass cookery is not for the faint hearted. Still, overall a success, with turkey dishes the clear winner. What else can people expect after only two hours sleep thanks to fireworks? Again, I’ll never understand the appeal of fireworks! Another new year arrives, the old one departs, and thoughts struggle to avoid the implications of all such things. So, instead, let us indulge.
- - -

Story: The Ninja of Health, I

( Part II )

The man was stealthy in his work. He walked down the street, not passing particularly closely to anyone. Occasionally you would see his hands blue or his feet move differently for a moment, and then he would move on. His aftermath was littered with suddenly straightened hunches, vanished aches and pains, and even one person looking at the back of her hand in utter amazement. It was nine o’clock in the morning in that shopping street.

He reached the end of the street, bowed to a small statue of a hippopotamus at the entrance to a discreet garden, and opened the gate. The garden inside was precise and orderly, with stepping stone steps leading in two different directions into the foliage. The man breathed in deeply, and stepped inside, closing the gate behind him silently.

It was a lovely place to roam, and roam he did, seeming to vanish and reappear as he popped in and out of the shadows. Finally, after pausing at the little pond, he stepped through another gate into the grounds of a small chapel. The chapel, unmarked by cross or symbol, was apparently in disuse, but the grounds were in good repair. The steps up to the main doors were clean, as the man stepped up and turned the doorknobs, opening both the doors. He stepped inside.

The inside of the chapel was serene, and the decor pristine and simple. It was empty in the nicest way, the pews long since having been removed and replaced with patterned carpeting. The pattern swirled around calligraphically, condensing into balls of solid colour in some places and thinning into white patches of void in others. The man settled down and sat cross-legged in one of the balls. He closed his eyes. Half an hour later silent footsteps entered the chapel and and lingered slightly at the door before walking toward the front of the room, where the altar would once have been.

"Welcome, my friend." It was a friendly voice. Feminine.

The man replied, "Thank you, my friend."

"Have you been here long?"

"Not long, 29 minutes approximately." The man opened his eyes. "I missed you."

"You always miss me, but away you go anyway, every time." The woman mock admonished him.

"That's why you trained me, milady." The man reminded her. "You needed a warrior of peace, a ninja of health."

"Yes, and it left me alone here. Oh, the loneliness." Green eyes wrinkled humorously.

"You're out there more than I am!"

"Yes, twinned ninjas of health, out in the wilds of the British countryside."

And so we have begun...