Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Story: Oneiromancy, XXV (Finale)

(Part O , XXIV , Revised Whole )

The setting was a marvelously plush country house hotel. Pictures of unknown authors from other times and places hung upon the corridor walls as fragments of memories left haunting the Dreamline. A harassed bellboy could be seen rushing in and out of the stairwell with luggage, despite a guest never appearing, and no other staff being visible from the reception area.

Minutes or hours passed, and the bellboy finally staggered behind the desk and collapsed to a crouch.

The bell on the desk rang. A gentleman stood before the desk, politely averting his gaze from the wretchedly tired bellboy. After a few moments, he coughed and asked the wall (a wall always a good listener),  "Excuse me, can I please book in?"

"Of course," answered the wall, smiling loopily. "Would you like a single room, sir?"

"No, a double. My lady friend will be arrivigng within the hour. In fact, a suite would be better, if you have one available?"

"Of course," repeated the wall, whose conversational scope was a little on the limited side. "Name please, sir?"

"Simonson." The gentleman paused dramatically for a moment. "Stanley Simonson."

*    *    *

We now pause for a moment for a message from our sponsor:

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*    *    *

The lady dropped on to the roof and let her parachute fall around her. Quickly, she gathered up the silk and packed it into her bag expertly, before stripping out of her jumping suit to reveal elegant evening dress and descending into the building via a handy roof door, which may or may not have existed exactly there a few moments before.

At the bottom of some steep steps, the lady emerged into a regular staircase, and descended all the way to the ground floor, and the foyer. The recovered bellboy had long since run away after working three shifts in a row, and now a mature woman was waiting behind the desk. She looked at the lady sternly as she made eye contact. "Yes? How can I help you?"

"You could offer me a chocolate? Or tell me which suite my gentleman partner checked us into? His name is Simonson, and mine is Helen Ostrander."

The receptionist grumpily examined the register and proffered a pen for the obligatory and non-negotiable signature. A moment later, the lady was heading up to the Macnee Suite with all despatch, or at least as much despatch as suitable under the watchful eye of the steely receptionist.

At the suite door, she stopped to make a specific sequence of knocks. Rap! Rap! Pause. Rap! Then, five seconds later, the door opened, and she entered with some trepidation. The suite seemed empty.

*    *    *


Helen twirled and scowled at her partner in crime. "You crook! You scared me almost to waking up!"

Stanley had the grace to look abashed. "That would have been a problem, yes. Nice dress. You made that up out of your imagination?"

"Stop leering. We have something more important to do."

"You have the package?"

"Yes, I have the package."

"Then, let's go down to the casino." Stanley offered his arm to Helen, slung a jacket over his shoulder, and the two of them left their suite smiling."

*    *    *

The casino was on the lower ground floor, and overlooked a lake where some evening boating was taking place in the late summer sun. It was also manned by abstract shapes, which Helen and Stanley had some problem understanding to begin with. Finally, after a few rounds of 'Name That Fruit' roulette run by a dodecagon, a perplexing fall through a penalty trapdoor up to the basement, and then an utterly futile attempt to play a game called bluejack which seemed to depend on being able to name one hundred shades of blue between ultramarine and Egyptian instantly and precisely, they returned to the casino proper. They found themselves loopily back at the roulette wheel, but this time Stanley pulled Helen away before they could be dragged into any more dreamlike chaos.

"I feel like I've been dragged through nine nights of utter delirium!" whispered the waitress to the teacher.

"And now it's over. Take a look at the window."

Helen looked, and beheld their nemesis, who was staring absently out at the lake. The boats had gone, they noticed, and the water was still. The duo looked at one another and then quietly went over.

"Excuse us, but would you be interested in Box 31?" Stanley asked of the Tweedy Woman. She looked up, startled.


"Me. And her. And this." A key labelled '31' dangled from his right first finger. "Your friend, the one you had locked up for all that time, he said you might be interested in this. Sadly, then he faded away to nothing." Part of this was a lie, but how would the Woman know.

The Tweedy Woman grabbed angrily at the key, and Stanley yanked it out of reach. There followed a tussle, which was finally resolved when Helen pulled in a zebra security guard from location unknown, who promptly inserted herself between the combatants implacably. In one corner of the casino, the Prisoner rolled a ninety four on some apples in the dice game, but of course no-one noticed.

*    *    *

The dream segued unconventionally onto a golf course. Helen and the Tweedy Woman were playing a round of matchplay, which had so far been marred by several putts into lifesize lighthouses and ramps of little apparent purpose. Indeed, the par nine trick hole which led around a half scale Windsor Castle snow globe was won by Miss Ostrander only when Tweedy's cheating with a boomerang and five small mice was discovered. The small mice were released back into the wild, and were last seen in a jazz club pretending to be a vibraphone.

At the tenth hole, Helen squared the match, thanks to a massive dash of good luck and Stanley falling over the golf bag at the best possible moment while caddying. At the twelfth she fell back to one down with six to play and then at the unlucky thirteenth a full cast performance of 'Happy Camping, Mr Jones!' forced a rain delay when the chorus accidentally activated the course rain machine. The Prisoner eventually fixed it, but again no-one noticed him.

It all came down to a tumultuous deciding eighteenth hole, which the Tweedy Woman was set to win with an easy putt, except for the fact that the Orient Express chose that moment to run directly across the green, and steal that moment of glory.

*    *    *

On the Orient Express, Stanley was enjoying his luxurious cabin when the knock came on the door. A porter came in, looking distinctly zebra-like, and invited him to the grand reopening of the gallery car and fortune telling service. Ambling toward that august carriage, he passed by Helen, on her way to the buffet and car wash, and finally entered the gallery. It was magnificent; Every artistic treasure he had ever bothered to notice, with a few more thrown in for variety's sake. Of course, it didn't make any sense within the geography of a train car, but then neither did the the Greenwich car, which smelled oddly of thyme, or the engine, which no-one had ever seen. Moving toward the far end of the gallery, and the fortune telling compartment, he spotted the Tweedy woman, who was beginning to look confused despite her long imprisonment in the bizarre Dreamline. She was hovering just outside the door to the august seer's room so be barged her in before she could notice him, and continued on his merry way.

Inside the fortune telling compartment sat the Prisoner. He and the Woman looked at each other.

"Madeleine." He acknowledged.

"How odd to find you here, Philo. Looking for something else to fail at?" The Woman was defiant.

"No, actually, I'm planning to do something very very successful."

The fortune telling compartment was ejected off the train directly up into the air.

*    *    *

The Prisoner and the Woman hung in mid air, engaged in an invisible battle which neither Helen nor Stanley could truly perceive. It was obvious that something was happening, but what?

"Do you think we should try to help?" Asked Helen.

"How? They're so much more poweful here, and experienced that we would probably just get in his way. I suppose we could send positive mental energy, but what else."

"That actually made some sense. It must be a Tuesday again. Positive mental energy." She took Stanley's hand, and they both did their best to help in whatever way they could.

"You know, whichever way this turns out, I guess this story's over." Stanley mused, while sending all the energy he could.

"What story? Have you been thinking of this as some sort of adventure?"

"Well, a romantic thriller adventure, perhaps. Or one of those stories that jumps out of any category you try to force it into." Stanley looked at her. "At least it's not a horror."

"Hush, look up there!" She pointed as the Tweedy Woman spun away wildly in an instant, and the Prisoner pursued.

*    *    *

"So, how long have you been a Gingerbread person?" Helen asked.

"Not long. It just came over me. You?"

"I think it's genetic. My mother said my father was a fruitcake."

"That figures. He probably gave her raisin to." Stanley punned in the quiet moment.

"A pun? You dare to pun? And at a moment like this?"

"What moment? We're suddenly in a forest, have turned into gingerbread people, and there's a quaint if spooky little cottage in front of us."

Indeed, a quaint little cottage did stand before them in the forest.

A loud voice came from within: "What, a witch? I haven't had to play a witch since the blasted beginning of this interminable exile!"

Stanley and Helen, gingerbread both, looked in at the door and saw the nemesis clad in the daftest of hats and pointing angrily at the furnace that inexplicably took up most of her living space. The nemesis looked up, and stared at them indignantly. "What are you supposed to be??? Oh, it's you two troublemakers, saving me the effort of hunting you down." She advanced menacingly upon the gingerbread teacher and the gingerbread waitress, who backed away from the door. "It's strange. You're not supposed to change yourselves. It's against the rules. Hand over the key."

"No." Stanley and Helen said together.


"Yes, why should they?" Asked the Prisoner from beside a tree. He strode forward, touched the gingerbread duo on their shoulders and returned them to humanity, and they surrounded the Woman. "You're already beaten." He took the key from Stanley, and they led the Woman back to the cottage and locked her in. Then the Prisoner slid to the ground and breated heavily for a few moments. "Thank you."

*    *    *

Stanley and Helen woke up in Goosing's facility and looked at each other. "Is it over?" Stanley asked.

"As over as it can be." Helen looked at him concernedly. "What do we do now?"

"Run away into the hills. I saw it in a television show once."

"That sounds nice. What about afterwards?"

"Well, I think we'd better think about that once things have settled down. I can be a right bore when not in soul-endangering strife."

"As long as you save me a plain chocolate biscuit, you can be as boring as you like."

They did run away into the hills, eventually, after a few nights of less eventful sleep and some fussing from Goosing and Kibbel. There was gingerbread, if you're curious, and a few more odd interludes in the Dreamline, but they will remain undocumented.

The End.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Epic

The caper is underway, and the final episode of 'Oneiromancy' is in full progress. It may take days yet, but things are rumbling. It's curiously difficult to regain the weirdness of the beginning after the comparative normality of the middle, but it is coming around slowly. It's a bit like first trying to re-locate your youthful wackiness before just relying on instinct and jumping in at the deep end, or a bit like magicking a thousand or so words out of nothing but a napkin and a copper bucket. None of this means anything more than that the story isn't finished yet of course, and so confusion reigns still at the Quirky Muffin. It might be a good time for a 'State of the Union'.

Pending completion of 'Oneiromancy', there is a mass of material waiting to come through into the mainstream of the blog, including the promotion of the 'The Ninja of Health' or 'The Glove' into prime story position, and a host of reviews. When I say 'a host of reviews', there's no joking involved. There will be lots. Just off the top of the list, there will be a book/movie post on 'The Hot Rock', movie posts on 'Kiss Me, Stupid', 'Troll Hunter' and 'Batman', and book reviews for the two Shatner 'Star Trek Memories' volumes as well as 'One Hit Wonderland' by Tony Hawks and Bramah's 'Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat'. That last book I haven't read yet, but it will jump right up the list once these masses of short stories finally get read. The short stories just sit there on the pile.

Short stories can be so wonderful, but they are dreadful to read en masse, with all the stopping and starting wreaking havoc on concentration. Perhaps that's why novels are more popular, because they allow a whole book to rush by in a single stream? Could that be it? Looking at the fiction pile right now I see 'The Uncollected Stories' of Arthur Conan Doyle, the 'Golf Omnibus' of PG Wodehouse, the collected 'Ghost Stories' of MR James and 'The Most of SJ Perelman'. The stories themselves are individually wonderful, but as a bloc? Yikes! It's taken years of selectively not reading them in deference to novels to reach this stage, and this is even with several anthologies stowed away for the future! What an enjoyable and intractable road block! It's best to plug away, and use every journey and spare moment to power through the fun.

Sleep time awaits, a much delayed sleep, and then tomorrow back to the coding I will go. The horror of the singular matrix continues. Is it time for a full rewrite of everything? Sadly, yes. I sigh in frustration and resign the day.


Friday, 26 June 2015

A Long Wait

This long stalling and procrastination about the serial story 'Oneiromancy' has to end! If I had known things would get so busy, I wouldn't have vowed to only do 'regular' posts until the finale was ready, but now it has been weeks! Even 'Advertising' from a couple of days ago was a bit of a cheat on that vow. You need to be told soon about how nice 'The Hot Rock' was as a film, and how weirdly the 'Round Ireland With A Fridge' film was botched. Argh, all this for a story without an ending. Let me think out loud for a moment, if you will.

A teacher (I've forgotten his subject) and a waitress have been tied into an adventure surrounding their combined ability to exist coherently in the Dreamline, which is an aspect of the collective unconscious that allows fragments of memory, knowledge, wisdom, and communication to zip up and down and across humanity, outside of time and mostly of space. There's a malignant entity there, who is after them and first appeared as the 'Tweedy Lady', and our two characters of Helen and Stanley have been coached to a certain proficiency by operatives of a now defunct research project that used to investigate so-called Dreamline incidents and users. Now, having released the Tweedy Lady's prisoner in the other realm, our two main characters need to be in at the finale. How difficult could that be? Yes, there has to be a hotel involved somewhere, and a zebra, and an unusual incident in the basement. It would be nice if there was a mystery that had nothing to do with the story, and a portal through a wardrobe, and an insurance scheme that involves a yogurt fountain.

Endings are difficult, as in general they have to follow fixed rules and patterns, and simplify everything down so that the ultimate end is elegant and graceful, and consists of exactly one thing. The non-traditional ending is to ignore all that and just stop at an opportune moment, such that it's clear that the overall story and world goes on while the part you're telling is now over. That's the interesting kind of ending, the messy kind. Which should it be? Both? Maybe the whole thing should collapse down to our two people running a caper, and then giving up their parts in proceedings to go back to their regular lives? Maybe they shouldn't even get together in the end! Maybe I'm lying and misleading everyone with this speculation? It has begun to coalesce now that the magic word 'caper' has been thrown out there, maybe as a result of 'The Hot Rock'. There's something so fun and unusual about capers in this cynical and gloomy modern world. To be fair, it's hard to not be cynical when you consider the news headlines, but entertainment does exist in order to break the gloom of actual events. Let's be cheerful.

Yes, a caper of some kind, tinged with all the flexibility and surrealness available to a story supposedly based in a shared Dreamline, and influenced by all involved. That could be great! And the zebra could be an ambassador or minstrel! Yes, and no, and yes, and no! Okay, now there's something to write. Yes, it's going to be a long, long finale.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015


"Roll up, roll up, for today you'll find out about the best thing you'll never buy. Yes, the true secret to domestic bliss, the greatest thing since sliced bread, the one great new appliance to roll out of research and development since the turn of the century. You, the lucky consumer, could be the owner of a brand new digitally controlled mechanical pillow picker!

Never again would you be the slave of pillow rotation or any other pillow-related trials. Never again would you suffer the most heated domestic arguments around the sordid chores of pillow redefinition and renewal, or the horrible risks run by relationships around the world on the topic of pillow forts left too long in the bedroom. Why ever run those risks again, when you could buy the FluffKicker3000? Feel those stresses melt away!

'A new model of the FluffKicker?', I hear you ask in wonder. How could that happen after all these years? How could any new product live up to the illustrious original FluffKicker? How could it even compare to the products released by our competitors? Well, we have something that no-one else does here at Pillow Masters, the DownyBrain artifical intelligence system! Yes, our FluffKicker3000s are equipped with AI systems so advanced that you won't even notice they're around, and are designed to integrate their behavioural patterns in with those of other Pillow Masters products you may have in the home. You need never worry about those nasty conflicts between pillow picking, mattress flipping, and the trusty old toothbrush cleaner Mr Waggles at two o'clock in the morning again. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Don't you want to scream?

What's stopping you from buying a FluffKicker3000 right now? Well, it's fictional nature might put you off, but let's not stop ourselves due to mere technicalities of reality. Welcome to this world of opportunity where every possible labour saving device is available to help you get through the day. For only a measly few thousand pounds you could have a pillow picker of your own, one with a fully developed fuzzy logic system and the ability to play chess should you ever get bored. That's right, the FluffKicker3000 can even play chess, and even theoretically talk to your pet tropical fish. What value!

Don't stop to think, don't even stop to wonder, just get yourself down to your local Pillow Masters outlet and open that wallet straight away. Your delivery is promised within ten calendar years, and satisfaction according to your then levels of anticipation is of course guaranteed.

Go, FluffKicker3000, go!

* Also available with heated attachments, subject to moderate supplemental charge, for those days when warmed pillows are not to be sneezed at."

Monday, 22 June 2015


My code is blowing up into a singularity, and I don't know why. To explain a little, and invoke the mathematics portion of the Quirky Muffin's subtitle, I'm using a process called 'continuation' to try to solve a tricky problem. What's 'continuation'? Well, imagine you have a mathematical problem that is being solved by a computer, but is very difficult for large values of some important number. Let's call that number A. With continuation you would solve it for a small value of A, for which we assume the problem is easy, and then progressively increase the size of A, using what we've learnt from the previous calculation to make it easier for the computer.

Is that understandable? I hope so, because it's mostly been accurate so far.

Sometimes, continuation can fall apart, and in my case the cause of the collapse is unknown. At some critical value of BN, BN taking the place of A in my calculation, the whole thing falls over and I can not work out why. Changing the size of the time step when the crash occurs doesn't make any difference, as it always falls over into singular matrix horror at that point no matter what. It's a mystery, and it's probably a programming bug. Programming bugs are the worst things, as they are many many times harder to spot than a typo in proofreading. Typos stands out plainly from the page, whereas bugs are usually conceptual problems. Bugs are subtle and abstract.

One reason for my continued computational incompetence is that, when faced with a bug, I tend to do the stupid thing and run the program a few more times to see if anything changes, and then change things haphazardly while running it even more times. Sometimes, annoyingly it does! However, such dawns always prove false and you're back in the land of the serious problem. How do you proceed? To begin, you display as much information as you can each step to see if there's anything strange going on. Then, you start reading through the code on the screen for obvious problems. After that, you consider mathematical problems in the theory of whatever you're trying to do, and then finally you print out the whole thing and pore over it like a demented data miner seeking espionage gold. Programming is nightmarishly difficult once you have to start incorporating tensor algebra into the mix. It would be better to program strawberries.

Tensors? Let's not talk about tensors, for they are both disgustingly difficult in practice and simple in theory. How will this problem be resolved? Is it even a problem at all, or is it the mathematics talking? How do we find out the answer to that question? What does it all mean? Oh, infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!


Saturday, 20 June 2015

Coming Along Nicely

No, this isn't going to be about appropriate behaviour when arrested by the police - no police officer ever caught me! - but instead the relief at finally getting the final episode of the current story fully under way. If the beginning is any indication, it might even be good! Sadly, it won't be finished by the end of today, though so it will need to wait for another day. Another shorter day, as the summer solstice is upon us once again, and so we will be in a whole different phase of the year.

Yes, that final episode is coming along nicely, which is finally something to be happy about. It's also running long, which is far more worrying. Sometimes not sleeping for two nights over ridiculously trivial stresses can beneficial in bringing out the most wonderful goofiness to insert into prose. There was a great episode of 'MASH', from the first four years (also known as the 'Good Years' or the 'Gelbart Era') called 'Dr Pierce And Mr Hyde', about Hawkeye going through just the same thing, albeit with lots more surgery and for much longer. Oh, 'MASH', you were and are a great influence, and one I'll have to write about properly in the future.

Another thing about not sleeping for a couple of nights (yes, it is an exaggeration; there was a nodding off somewhere in the wee hours for a little while) is that it does allow a lot of time for obscure thoughts, and a lot of opportunity for getting to grips with your own lack of mental discipline, or indulging with ultimate freedom. The sign of stress, of panic, and of the disordered mind is that tumultuous cascade of worries and impulses that sweeps over you when you're lying awake, scared. It's not random, but may as well be, and one of the ways to settle that panic is to promote something less chaotic and more peaceful. It may even be the semi-mythical 'inner peace' people talk about so often in meditative modes.

Does any of this mean anything? Well, thought is happening, which is very good. Maybe it's a sign of 'coming along well'? In the next few days, there will be lots of thought, and maybe even a little premeditation. 'Premeditation? Actually thinking about what you're about to do instead of being rash and impulsive! Your brain will break into a million pieces and you'll start calling every woman 'Mindy' again for months on end!'

Well, that's another post sorted, and it's about as nonsensical as usual so that's a standard met. This blog doesn't have any standards, in case you haven't noticed. It exists purely as an experiment and as such has no guidelines whatsoever except for my own sensibilities. Isn't that what blogs are supposed to be like?


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Editorial: Thoughts on a Dispute

(Our village library had our stock slashed and a forced reorganisation from the 'centre' that we really didn't need.)

Is there an argument to be made here, in this situation, about collaboration? Is there? How much of a collaboration is this library between Llangyndeyrn Community Council and Carmarthenshire anyway? Surely there must be some consultation to the local people and the owners of the facility, or is this arrangement purely one-sided and the administration totally autocratic? Every indication from the county is that the library service is indeed totally autocratic, monolithic and driven from the centre; driven from the centre to the point of madness. Throughout our times as volunteers at the village library we have striven to remain unnoticed, so as to avoid the hammer strike of utterly implacable and unmovable authority, and it has rankled from the beginning. Do people not realise that they are not dealing with employees any more, but living representatives of the communities they are serving, and that these restructurings towards uniformity are being pushed through everywhere, with no public consultation, no regard for the volunteers who work in our local libraries, and with no feedback from local members as to how to improve the service for their community? As the library services of this county, and of Britain in general, move into a phase of working with volunteers to keep front line services open, there will surely have to come a reassessment of how to work with people who are not employees, who are not stooges and underlings, but who are collaborators and partners in keeping the wheels of public service moving. It is unavoidable and inevitable that this relationship will have to change, and it would be far better for local government to champion this change in the status quo than resist it to its last breath.

Libraries may be among the first public services to go volunteer-led, but they surely won't be the last, and this issue will rise again. It will have to.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

There Shall Be Hotels

All I know so far about the final part of 'Oneiromancy' is that there will be a hotel, and that at least one zebra will appear. How will the zebra appear? I don't know. Will room service be a vital part of the end plot? Perhaps, if room service includes complimentary greenhouse facilities and optional pickaxe sharpening. What this really needs is a strong resurgence in good and solid randomness to sluice freshness into the piece as a whole. Yes, it needs a well fell of badgers, a magic bag which only provides spaghetti, a talking cloud called Lenny and a man who enters the story only to say 'Yankees took my horse' in response to every question. That's what it needs.

So, randomness must be fostered, and to do that one must be random or pseudo-random. Just let the words flow, like honey down the sides of Mount Everest. I wonder, in a digression, just how much honey would be needed to coat Everest. It would vary from type to type, but it's an interesting question nonetheless. Could Everest even be coated, or would the upper reaches be long free of the sticky stuff before it reached the base? Would honey even coat snow to begin with? Good grief! This is a nonsensical question! It's fortunate that the interdimensional rift is open at the summit at the moment, for otherwise we would surely find out, as well as discovering the results of the next three US presidential elections and the reason why film studio executives are bred in special facilities deep at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Did you know that the Great Pyramid was actually a mistake, and that it was actually designed to be a pyramidal pen for training camels? No? Of course, once the engineers went ahead with the badly scaled plans they had no choice but to carry on as best they could, filling it in and converting it into a ludicrous giant tomb and star signal, which every subsequent pharaoh would deludedly try to replicate. The camel training went away, sadly, and hence to this day the brutes remain as sullen and vexing as ever. Oh, camels, if you only only had a single designer instead of a committee. (For those not in the know, search for 'camels designed committee' and see what you find.) Also, the Great Pyramid was originally purple in honour of Mad Pharaoh Sploosh, but no-one ever seems to believe this fact.

The gloom is settling in, the turtle doves somewhere are dozing happily, and somewhere cubes are dropping from the sky into a bucket of apples. Somewhere that must be true, statistically. It may not be on Earth, or even in this galaxy, but if the Universe is infinite or approaching infinite size then everything possible happens somewhere. Yes, there are square circles (look it up) being used somewhere, giant green albatrosses being used as hang gliders, and freak trampoline offices where no work gets done unless the inhabitant is locked in staggering vertical oscillations. Yes, trampoline offices! Take that, world! Surreal success!

Maybe the zebra should be playing chess? Or even playing cheese? I wonder how long you can play a cheese before it disintegrates, and whether Dutch cheeses have a sweeter tone? And does it make a difference if it's a zebra doing the playing? Do ostriches allow greater or shorter cheese spans and frequencies? Someone should research this for the good of science.


Monday, 15 June 2015


A rush job, due to rampant disorganisation, and a day spent doing job applications and finally getting the finalised article off this desk and onto someone else's. With all luck, the publication is finally going to be put to bed, and then what? What will happen next?

If I hadn't promised to not do a review or story until after the finale of 'Oneiromancy', I would be writing about the 'Star Trek' episode 'A Piece Of The Action' right now, or the novel 'This Island Earth', or even about 'Bravestarr: The Legend'. Instead, not having finished 'Oneiromancy', and being between bursts of inspiration, this will turn into... A brainstorming session! Yes, that makes sense. Thank goodness.

What can you do to resolve a story which features two people visiting the Dreamline - another plane of existence where information can travel through time and the collective unconscious as dreams - and being caught in a monumental conflict between a titanically crazy evil prisoner and her warden? Can it be resolved satisfactorily, and should someone even try? Presumably this all falls into the 'Should traditional narrative matter?' debate.

It would be tempting to try and wrap up the story in a totally conventional way, and it would be just as tempting to try and go to high concept and end up unintelligible. Is it possible instead to go goofy and reclaim the original intent of the piece? I wonder how PG Wodehouse managed to remain to goofy during his stories? When I write something for here, it always veers away from silly despite all my intentions under the restrictions of getting a plot from A to B, whatever B might be. However, perhaps that's it. The plot is what gets in the way. Blast you, plot! Where's the gibberish when you need it????

So, this didn't out to be about brainstorming very much, but it did reveal something about the horrors of plot. That's the way the rushed Quirky Muffin rolls! There will be more pondering on the directions of 'Oneiromancy' next time.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Compulsive Quote

"There will be no peace as long as Kirk lives!"

Please excuse me, but sometimes you just have to quote a little. There's no withstanding that urge. You could be wandering along quite peacefully, and then suddenly that feeling comes over you and you just have to say:

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."

Oh, what joys lie in wait for the compulsive quoter, and what troubles. You can hardly use the last quote while waiting to board a plane, or asking a question of a policeman, for example. Before you knew it, you would be off to a holding cell, while members of the secret service stampede down from London to ask you all kinds of questions about your dog's shoe size and the reasons for your choice of Maine as your favourite state in the Union.

"Of course you forget, Peter. I was present at an undersea, unexplained mass sponge migration."

Incidentally, if you get any of these infamous movie quotes you will win two Quirky Muffin bonus points, redeemable for absolutely nothing but the honour of knowing nerdy things.

"Just by asking that question, you put me down to a level four. You now owe me 2000 energon cubes."

Sometime in the next week, the final part of 'Oneiromancy' will be completed and posted. This is daunting in the extreme! Until that happens there will be no reviews or other story segments. None! There will be no talk about ejecting out of the 'Modesty Blaise' movie in its first ten minutes due to utterly abominable performances, no review of the book 'This Island Earth', and no chatter about the final season of 'Parks and Recreation' that has recently landed through the post slot. None! You - the fictional you - will have to wait and see what happens, and then shudder with relief once it's all over.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Communication through the Dreamline was a neat idea, and there's a better story waiting out there somewhere; a story that will use the conceit better. Maybe the long fabled complete rewrite will do the job, bearing in mind that the rewrites of the first phases of 'Triangles' and 'Wordspace' remain to be done... It seems like there's a mountain of work to be done, even before counting all the maths and job applications!

"Hop it, hoppy."


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Story: Oneiromancy, XXIV

(Part O , XXIII , XXV)

The Professor stared at the crying Stanley Simonson, and then awkwardly began patting him on the shoulder. "Well, lad, what's this all about then?" The man continued to shudder. "Now, now."

Stanley, so far stoic through it all, wept for a long time and then came up dry. The professor looked at him concernedly, and Stanley began to throw out words from the cautious recovery that follows every intense bout of tears.

"For so long, for years, I had strange dreams. I tried to stop sleeping. People thought I was going mad. Then I began to take things just to get through the nights in one piece. I was haunted, but I made it through. I thought I was mad, or differently crazy, but now I know I'm not crazy. There really are strange things happening, and that Tweedy Woman has been haunting me for an awfully long time. I'm not crazy. Am I?" He asked the professor.

"Well, lad, we're all crazy in our own ways you know." The professor looked abashed for a moment. "I could tell you things about dear old Kibbel that would astound you, but perhaps another occasion would be better for that. Do you feel recovered? Let me get you a glass of water." Goosing stumbled over to the other side of the room and poured a bottle of water into a pint glass, and returned with rather more care and rather less shambling to the bedside. (This was one professor who liked his academic shamble.)

"Yes, I think I feel better. It's been a long time since I had such a release. I've been like a sleepwalker for the last few years, just playing it safe and getting through life in one piece." Stanley looked around, for the first time since waking. "Where is she?"

"Your lady companion has gone off to wash and freshen up. I'll not tell her what us boys have been up to, I think. What happened after she left you Over There?" Goosing continued to look at him reassuringly.

"I untied the prisoner. What consequences will follow, I couldn't tell you." Stanley outlined the details of the small interview he had had with the prisoner in the collective unconscious.

Professor Eobard Goosing was keeping an astute eye on his charge, but still mused on what he heard. "You realise that if you and Helen return there you could be in the middle of a conflict?"

"We'll certainly be in the middle of something!" The teacher looked at the researcher with some determination showing for the first time. "I'll tell you one thing, professor: Whatever we do end up in, that fellow is going to need help with the fiend who imprisoned him the first time. He's going to need us."

"That, my lad, is the reason why we're going to make some preparations. You and Miss Ostrander, while undoubtedly being quite busy, aren't the only ones to have been occupying yourselves. Kibbel and I have a plan to level the playing field, so to speak. You may even enjoy it." The professor smiled thinly. "Your opponent will be surprised, if nothing else. Then, when there's time, I'll help you understand what's been happening with you your whole life."

"Yes. After."

Next time: Showdown at the Butternut Squash.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Hodge Podge

Tiredness strikes, and a stream of words is faltering through these fingers. Could it be that it's just too late in the day to be trying to extemporise? We'll see, we'll see. It's a fascinating time to be writing, in the wake of several job rejections and a birthday, and with whole new worlds to try and explore in the days to come. Research is picking up steam again, as motivation begins to build, and bids keep going in for translation projects without ever winning. Where does the future path lie? Teaching English abroad? Research? Endless dithering?

The future vistas never go away. That grand horizon of opportunity is always there, if you can keep your eyes upon it and not be swayed by the grim realities of everyday reality. Sometimes life is great, and serves up delights galore, but it also has this innate habit of bringing down your ambitions at every turn, and trying to kill that sense of wonder that drives us onward. The opportunities are always there, if you can only allow yourself to see them. Even on the deathbed, you might have to wonder at the vista of what might be there. We have no idea, none, of what that undiscovered country might be, and what vistas will be seen, if any. However, enough unnecessary talk about death, in this grand week of frozen summer sunshine.

Gosh, these words are difficult. A few days of article editing can be very disruptive as can determined solitude away from the things of man. Communication, and I've bored about this before, is a skill and one that needs to be exercised. That's what this is for, whether it's reviews, stories or simply blather. Today was all about reshelving books in the village library and doesn't lend itself well to prose in this frame of mind, and the short story 'Oneiromancy' is back on hiatus after being interrupted by innumerable things including a trip to Aberystwyth. Where is that story going? It's a mystery, in that finding a fitting ending is always difficult. Oh, that brings up something interesting about narrative structures and rules. I'll just clear my head for a moment.


People think that there have to be rules about being creative. Isn't that crazy? They think that you have to write books in chapters, or films in three or nine acts, or poems and short stories in a fixed pattern. Why do you think that is? Why are there so many rules about so many things? Why? In finding a way to finish a serial story satisfyingly, or any story, you really need to put all those rules away in a box and try to think in a new way. What new way? It's different for each person. Will I succeed in this case, or for 'The Glove', 'The Ninja Of Health' or even the eventual second phases of 'Triangles' and 'Wordspace'? Perhaps and perhaps not, but any failure will not be for wont of trying!


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Television: 'Randall And Hopkirk, Deceased' (1969-1970)

One of the most fascinating obscure television shows ever made? A grand melding of drama, action and comedy, set against ghostly themes of mortality? A daft bit of nonsense? An excuse for ghostly special effects and two regulation fights per episode? All of the above? Yes, it's all of the above. 'Randall And Hopkirk, Deceased' was one of those shows we used to watch for its silliness in reruns, along with 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea', but now it's better than the vast majority of shows currently airing. What a time it was in the 1960s for making shows of broad mass appeal, and what a thing that's been lost! Oh, nostalgia for a time I never saw.

So, 'Randall And Hopkirk, Deceased' was a television series that ran for exactly one season, and was created by the legendary Dennis Spooner. Starring Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall, private detective, and Kenneth Cope as his late business partner Marty Hopkirk, it ran haphazardly and erratically for twenty six action packed episodes of noirish crime, femmes fatales, ghostly parody, and much of the invisible partner 'shtick' that would be resurrected for the invincible duo of Sam Beckett and Al Calavicci in 'Quantum Leap' many years later. The formula was simple after the introductory episode: Jeff takes on a case, which turns out to be a ruse of some kind and sold to him by a beautiful woman, gets into a lot of trouble, and then has to be rescued by Marty in some way. Usually widow Jeannie Hopkirk would be somehow involved (played by Annette Andre), and all would be resolved after Jeff had lost at least one fight and won the last. That formula, however, would be routinely tinkered with and bent as much as possible, and that humour was increasingly built into the show's bones as it went on. It was a cheeky series in its writing, and far more clever than it first appeared.

For a series that you might consider a dismal failure on its first showing, it surely has lived on a long time, via repeats and fond memories. The writing is one key to that longevity, as is the remarkable central acting duo of Pratt and Cope. Once again, Britain wins out for casting on ability as well as telegenic appeal. Yes, Pratt's Jeff does look a bit lived in, but he sells it with great gravitas and Cope's comic abilities shine magnificently after a brief settling in period. The comedy was a tough sell to producers of a show already in production and it works once they begin to lean to it. Did you ever see a ghost dance a can can with a bunch of show girls? Well, you will now. Another thing that is remarkable is the extent to which they mastered the various methods for Marty's ghostly shenanigans. Never has the jump cut or transparency or even the ghostly gale been used so well or expertly. I wonder how they do super-breath anyway? That's a good question to ask a Superman fan, if you know one.

It's fascinating to note the continuing impact of 'Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased'. The central mechanic was re-used in 'Quantum Leap' and probably other series, and was probably inherited a little from Spooner's inspiration, the film 'Angel On My Shoulder'. Ghosts have appeared in films for almost as long as there have been films, but how many of those shows or movies got a remake, even a disappointing one? How many lived on in repeats for decades? 'Randall And Hopkirk' has, and it continues to spread to new fans. That must mean that it's a classic. A lot of excellent shows are, you know.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Last week, on this bat-channel...

Last week, during 'We Have Concerns', I wrote about the reports we had been getting of planned changes to our little village library, which we run as volunteers and as a community project under the country library service. A lot of the report was exaggerated, but we are going to be refurbished, and our stock of paper books essentially reduced without our agreement, which seems somehow wrong. You wouldn't expect local government to be so tyrannical but it is, despite new book budgets being stated to be higher than they have been for ages. The problem is that they seem committed only to buying in new books, slashing the stocks they already have, and centralising all policy, all of which seems strange. You would hope that there is some contingency in there for the classics, but hoping things when bureaucracy and politics is involved is rarely wise. We will have to wait and see...

Look, up in the sky, is it a backwards upside down flying pig called Horatio? Is it the world of wonder turning and turning as the fate of Film Bin flutters in and out of phase with reality? Is the Quirky Muffin flitting further into the realms of fantasy with every passing day, or will the beneficial powers of the recent haircut push everything back into equilibrium? And what does it mean to be deeply buried under chores so much that being unemployed becomes meaningless?

Oh, Film Bin, the podcast of uncertain fate... It's very difficult to bring so many disparate people together and produce fan commentaries for so long. With all the good will in the world, if your collaborators don't like 'Ball of Fire', then maybe they should be shown the podcast door to the cyber-Underworld, whether they're family or not. Ditto for 'Explorers'. Be gone, dislikers of Howard Hawks, there can be no refuge for you here! Oh, maybe it's not that bad, but good grief it is getting hard to find things we can all watch without ending up violently disagreeing or bashing someone else's choice. It was never supposed to be about bashing, but the reverse! We'll have to see how it goes, amidst the tortures of article editing, mathematics and fruitless searches of work.

Mathematics? Did you see the word 'mathematics'? It might be a harbinger of things to come, so be afraid. Very, very afraid. Mwahahahahahaha. Ha.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Comedy: Paul Merton And His Impro Chums

That was fascinating. I may have been zonked out due to exhaustion and long term dejection, and thus incapable of appreciating comedy at any level, but it was still interesting. I suspect it may even have been funny! There will be no details, however, for fear of spoiling. All I will mention is the Druid's Robe, and leave you wondering.

It was fascinating to see Paul Merton in what must be his most natural habitat, and yet he remains exactly the same personality that you've seen in a thousand episodes of 'Have I Got News For You' and listened to in 'Just A Minute'. There he stood amongst his troupe. Yes, he is part of a longstanding improvisation troupe that includes Mike McShane, Suki Webster (the Bride of Merton), and two other blokes. Who would have known? (The two other blokes are Lee Simpson and Richard Vranch.)

One of the unique aspects of improvisation is the audience participation: Every portion of the evening is partly determined by details supplied by the audience, prompting a different content every night within a partly fixed set of games or bits. At least, I assume it's a parly fixed set of bits! It surely can't be an entirely different performance each evening, that's for sure. It must be impossible to perform an entire improvisational tour and not build around some structure for each night! I know I couldn't do it, but then I'm only one person! More viewing is necessary.

Yes, in retrospect it was a good evening in the windswept rainy misery land of Swansea. How brave that gallant five must have been to venture this far off the beaten track, and how valiant to soldier on through it all! It was a brave performance, especially when you consider that they're so close to the end of their tour. The only thing that put me off was that it got a bit sweary after the intermission, which otherwise spoilt the most improvisational part of the evening for me personally. It's so troublesome to be so sensitive!


Monday, 1 June 2015

Off To The Improv

It's easier to write posts when you're busy doing things, and tonight I'll be off to see 'Paul Merton and his Improv Chums'. Will it be good? Hopefully? Will it be nice to get out of the house? Yes! Would it be better if it weren't quite so late, in Swansea, and a dreaded birthday present? Probably. Birthdays! Oh, birthdays aren't so bad, but it would be nice if they weren't highlighted quite so much. It will be fun to see Paul Merton live, that great figure from so many episodes of 'Just A Minute' and 'Have I Got News For You'. Apparently, he is a real person. Who would have thought it? Do you think Tony Hawks is real too?

In other trivial news, I broke finally into the fourth and final season of 'Mork And Mindy', and the dynamic twosome finally got married, even though Mork turned into a dog. You wouldn't expect any different, really. If only they hadn't specified that stupid reverse aging back in season one, this would now all be so much easier. At least they've finally jettisoned the baggage of that imposed extended cast and reverted to something like the original setup. Is the curse of network meddling finally gone, but too late? Dawber and Williams may well be the most convincing, vulnerably and heartfelt couple I've ever seen in television show. Of course, it's all a great distraction from paper corrections, along with 'The Bionic Woman', 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' and the last few episodes of the beloved 'Addams Family'. Gosh, isn't archive television awesome? And archive literature too?

This is probably going to be a short Quirky Muffin, a prelude to the reaction to the show that is planned to go up tomorrow. It's so unusual to be going anywhere in the evening, and nerve-inducing. At least a double bill of classic 'Star Trek' earlier with the parents calmed things down a little, as has my continued trek through the epic 'Journey To The West'. If I ever finish all four volumes then I'll be able to watch the series 'Monkey'. Four volumes, comprising thousands of pages, including some extensive extremely blank verse. At least, I assume it's blank verse. In the original language, it was probably not blank at all.

That's enough. A shirt must be retrieved, and perhaps a tie. A tie? No, that would be madness! Never the tie!