Thursday, 31 March 2016

Gosh, Crikey, Gadzooks!

Tomorrow is April Fools Day, and once again there will be no jokes whatsoever. My only contribution to such hilarity was to once swap around the drawers in one of my frigid student houses. It did get a mild reaction. Mwahahahah. Apart from that, practical jokes and All Fools Day have been foreign countries, odd abstracts in alternative lives. Practical jokes are one of the most divisive forms of humour, aren't they? They tread awfully closely to cruelty a lot of the time.

Job rejections are never nice to take, but it does get easier after a while. I, for example, just got a fairly significant one. It's fortunate that I do have a budding tuition business to keep going in the face of failure, but that initial bite is always sharp. At least it's followed immediately by the reassertion of the monotonous nature of real life. It's pretty hard to feel bad when you have a pile of laundry to fold and record cards to complete. Enought about such real world things, though. Humbug to the real world on a Thursday evening!

Here's an interesting word from the Phrontistery: 'kalon'. Apparently it's from Greek and referes to beauty that is more than skin deep. In a world so superficial that inner beauty never even makes it into contemporary media, the ancients had such concepts and even specific names for them. It's rather thrilling to stumble over such things. Even if every other source of Quirky Muffin fodder fades away, there is the accumulated weight of archaic words to sift through, and all the fascinating ideas based in other languages, even in music itself. How many people know what Dionysian means, without looking? Ooh, how impressive.

Yes, April kicks in tomorrow, time lag from Daylight Savings Time continues, and the world continues to spin. Also, 'Choose Your Own Adventures' may be the way forward with some of my English students. We will see...


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

On The Book Piles - March 2016

Once again, it's time to delve into a selection from the reading piles, and throw in some insight or lack of insight about the assembled mass of pages. There have been changes since the last time, but some things linger on, and on, and on...

'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth' by Jules Verne

I've written about this classic from 1864 before, which you'll find if you check out 'Book Chatter', but this is really is one of the best adventures to ever hit the page, and set the stage for all the subsequent science fiction stories Verne would write. Descend into the bowels of the Earth via an extinct Icelandic volcano? Sure. Why not? It's also a perfect vehicle for breaking up 'new book fatigue'.

'The Complete Peanuts: 1955-1956' by Schulz

Yes, it's still there, a classic of its kind. Schulz, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy, and Schroeder are all in place. The only reason it's still on the pile is that television and Minecraft have been stupidly soaking up too much personal time. Back we should go, to the Peanuts gang!

'Journey To The West' (Volume 2) by Wu Cheng'en

No progress on 'Journey To The West', but it's still a classic and fantastical in the extreme. It won't be unread for much longer.

'The Voyage Of The Beagle' by Charles Darwin

It's fascinating to read about the travels of such a naturalist on a five year journey around South America. Five years. It's not just about natural history, though, as we get snippets about the peoples encountered and even some of the odd phenomena encountered. Utterly fascinating, although I'm dipping in so infrequently as to be hypocritical in even mentioning it.

'Armadale' by Wilkie Collins

There's a clear sense of doom hanging over 'Armadale', and it's a very potent and dissuasive tone. I'll get into the mid-section of the narrative somehow, but it will take some doing, and possibly a long journey of some kind. Fortunately, just such a journey is coming. Woo hoo? This novel may be finished or put away. Only time will tell.

'Personal Recollections Of Joan Of Arc' by Mark Twain

It's still too early to tell, but the Mark Twain touch could pull off a triumph here. Yes, it might have an extremely well known and sad ending, but on the other we can only wonder how exactly the master satirist will handle it? Will he manage to be less satirical than in 'A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court' and keep the narrative going this time? Again, too early to tell.

'Les Trois Mousquetaires' by Alexandre Dumas

It's my French project book, and one which languishes on the bottom of the book pile as a result. A Spanish project book would be nice too, if only I could be recommended a light-hearted one!

'Jokes And Their Relation To The Unconscious' by Sigmund Freud

Incredible interesting, and being munched through steadily. Freud could write well in addition to being a deep thinker and being at the forefront of the founding of psycho-analysis. You wouldn't think there would be so much to think about and analyse in joke making, but there is. One term to take and use forever more is 'psychic expenditure'.

'Kidnap In The Caribbean' by Lauren St John

The followup to 'Dead Man's Cove' starts off well, and then I got slightly frustrated with what was obviously going to come as the narrative continued into the future. Did those predictions actually come true? I don't know yet, but this is the penalty of reading books for younger readers. Time will tell. The first book was pretty good, though.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Pineapple? What Pineapple?

I won't be able to write about 'Dr Mabuse - The Gambler' until after finishing the second part of that four and a half hour epic silent movie by Fritz Lang tomorrow. Likewise, the next 'On The Book Piles' can't be posted due to the alternating post rule, so this is going to be about cheese. Oh, that's just a joke. I don't know enough about cheese to fill a minimum of four paragraphs of semi-coherent mess on the day following the time adjustment. Yes, daylight savings time lag has struck, so settle in for some gibberish while the internal clock recalibrates. Hopefully, it won't take long until it doesn't feel like it might be lunchtime in Utah. (Why Utah? I have no idea. I blame Trump*.)

On a passing note, daylight saving time is still a menace to society, but I choose not to rant about it again at this time. That can wait until erudition is not endangered by chronological dissonance. Oh, it was a wonderful day when I learnt what 'dissonance' actually means, as it's useful so much of the time! In this context, and the more general psychological case, dissonance refers to a harmful and destabilising conflict between an inner feeling or belief and the environment or actions being committed. When you do something you think is wrong, you are most likely bringing dissonance upon yourself, which could be mightily debilitative.

I'm on a long word binge, if you haven't noticed, which could just as well be expressed as an inclination toward polysyllabic constructs. It's rather fun to try and say things in the most elaborate way possible, although there are no plans to convert the Quirky Muffin to a 'high style' version for the long term. 'High style' would probably lead to a small nervous breakdown, with endless pages of elaborate flowery prose that would surely exhaust this writer in almost no time at all!

Easter continues, and with it the enforced idleness of a long long weekend. It's fortunate that there are letters to write, students who need tailored teaching strategies and fascinating books to read. Also, and with no flourish as of yet, a route has been found to extend and make practical the serial story entitled 'The Glove'. It shall not be abandoned!


* For readers in the far future, 'Trump' refers to Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination now in 2016. It would be funny, if it weren't horribly scary. Oh, please, USA, take Bernie!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Book: 'The Assassination Bureau, Ltd.' by Jack London (completed by Robert L Fish) (1963)

It's a fascinating novel, and one that reshapes my idea of Jack London, of whom I have had very little experience. The name 'Jack London' is synonymous with 'White Fang' and 'Call Of The Wild', neither of which I have read, but maybe he had a lot more strings to his metaphorical bow? 'The Assassination Bureau' (TAB) suggests that could be true. Oh, enough with this meta-commentary. What about the book itself?

It's a wonderful novel, with tinges of the great GK Chesterton woven through it, or perhaps Chesterton's works had tinges of London. The transition from London's prose to that of Fish is seamless, and is only detectable due to a slight change in the energy of the last sections. TAB is a novel that runs on parallel tracks as a book of ideas and a thriller/adventure. It's also spell-bindingly good.

What if there were a bureau of executioners who only accepted contracts if they believed the victim deserved killing, and who were founded on a strictly ethical basis? What if you discovered their existence and lured them into contacting you as a possible client, before selecting their chief as your candidate for assassination? Then, what if their chief turned out to be the uncle of your betrothed? The story is told mostly from the point of view of Winter Hall, and that is the situation in which he finds himself.

It's a witty and philosophical story, which would fall under a misnomer if we called it a comedy. Unsurprisingly, the movie version was a farce, but the book is a bit more complex. Sometimes you might be tempted to use the much abused term 'boys' adventure', while adventure and thriller could be applied at others. At its core, it's a thriller through which its characters are bound by their own codes of conduct, and as such it's also a mild exploration of ethics, morality, and questions of humanity.

Overall, 'The Assassination Bureau, Ltd.' was a great read. Apparently, London never finished the story because he couldn't quite come up with an ending, and bought the original idea from writer Sinclair Lewis. It was eventually completed from notes made by London by Robert L Fish, to some success. It's a fascinating read, and one to be recommended. Also, more novels should visit Hawaii and feature ethical discussions by lunatics!


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Insert Content Here

In the aftermath of a nice day, and in a state of mild fatigue, this is where the content is scheduled to go. Yes, the content that is my regular challenge. Why struggle for content in an era when the majority of the Internet is filled with worthless gossip, baseless opinions and assorted bits of unpleasantness? Because we can. That said, this content may not be anything more than a trailer for the next post, which will be the next 'On The Book Piles', a grand summary of what is being read. It has changed quite a lot since last time, and Jules Verne is back in the mix. I still can't quite understand that my student in English didn't take to Verne...

Words aren't flowing well today, as the increasingly late hour and the toll of so many lessons makes its presence felt. Talking so much is quite the drain on internal resources, especially on those rare occasions when it doesn't go well! However, it's good exercise for the social muscle, wherever it may be located in the psyche. I wonder what Freud would say about it all, and whether 'psychic expenditure' would factor into the equation anywhere. As with all things, you can't just write or talk forever, for reading and listening must take their turns to maintain equilibrium in the so easily toppled human mind. You can't keep giving without taking in from time to time, after all.

It's a bit better now, as the fingers tap more confidently at the keys, perhaps in response to a recent foray into practicing on the other kind of keyboard. I was never able to play well, but it's nice to practice anyway, and work towards something lyrical and intriguing. The ultimate goal has always been to play some Scott Joplin and get into rag-time, in that mythical other world where such progress is possible within a normal lifetime. A great piano player is a genius in most respects, and often a madman in others; this is part of the great paradox of greatness. How many great people have been deeply flawed? It's probably easier to count the ones who weren't. Please let me know when you think of one.

Another post crawls to a climax, and bed calls as anticipation for seeing 'Kung Fu Panda 3' tomorrow grows. It has been five years since the second instalment. Five years! We can only hope that it gets close to meeting the first two in quality, and be less of a hodgepodge than this post!


Monday, 21 March 2016

Board Game: 'Tales Of The Arabian Nights' (2009 and 1985)

It's a great game. Just two days ago, I was ensorcelled twice, repeatedly imprisoned, spent nine tenths of the game grief-stricken, was wounded, struck by envy, and finally send on a pilgrimage to Bulgars in a most determined and blessed state. On the other hand, my opponent fared even more strangely! I told her not to check out that abandoned fountain...

It's a fun game, a storytelling experience that harks back to the old days of 'Choose Your Own Adventures' books, and even a tiny bit to interactive fiction. You do, however, really need to be at ease with reading. Perhaps I'm putting the cart before the horse, however, with my non-explanation of the game.

Played upon a historical map of the world, the players each choose a character from the Arabian Nights, select a quest card, and then take turns moving around the map and drawing encounter cards, which lead into passages from the monumental 'Book of Tales', a hefty wirebound book which has thousands of fragments which are looked up according to the rules of the game, and to your own choices on the much smaller booklet of decision matrices. Does that sound boring? Well, it's not, not if you do it right and embellish when it's your turn to read...

I really like this game, but rarely get to play it. It's not particularly about winning or losing, but the stories you accumulate and the experience of playing it with the people you know. Some people will hate 'Tales of the Arabian Nights' because the winning and losing is so peripheral, and other people will love it for the same reason, and because they spent a whole game turned into a female ape, and couldn't win until they happened to find a treasure in the Undersea Kingdom that returned them to normal.

Yes, it's really rather cool. Genies, naiads, sages, magicians, beggars, hags and princesses, witches and mermen: All things to be found in an average trip around the board. A very lovely experience.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Fling Those Words

It's time to fling some words around and see what sticks. They won't be about the never ending referendum debate, now into its second or third week of negativity, nor will they concern the never ending presidential elections over in the USA. What will they concern? It's very difficult to say at this point. Perhaps nothing at all. Please, consider this lovely void I have for sale, with only three previous victims.

This post could be about the always nerve-wracking first session with a new student, or the existential threat posed by cannelloni to the universe, or even the fun of coming up with a new story idea, no matter how brief the story itself may have been. One great advantage of having a student in English is that you get to write things for them to go over and correct, and get ideas for your own scribblings in the process. That is exactly how you end up writing about a bed and breakfast for alien visitors...

I can't provide any references, so the following will fall into the realm of 'unsubstantiated tosh', but it does seem true. In an introduction to a novel, which may have been 'The Master And Margarita', a famous writer was mentioned as thinking that writing a story without some kind of fantastical concept was a worthless exercise. It's difficult for me to argue with that. Without that genre twist, aren't you essentially just writing soap opera? Where's the imagination in writing something which doesn't go out beyond the realm of normalcy? Even adventure stories exist in heightened versions of reality, after all? Yes, perhaps you could do it in classical times, when there were still original ideas, but now?

Ah, unsubstantiated tosh, you have saved me from talking about the silliness of writing while extremely fatigued, and the delights of homemade sugar-free rice pudding. One day that pudding will work perfectly, one day.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Story: 'Knock, Knock'

'Tick tock', went the clock, as I entered the house. It was six o'clock in the evening. The door creaked, my shoos squeaked, and my stomach rumbled. Even the cat meowed. It wasn't an auspicious start, so I moved on quickly. Food time couldn't wait much longer.

The kitchen was warm and welcoming; a haven in blue and orange. The spaceship seen through the window didn't make any difference at all to my improving mood.

Hold on. I thought for a moment. 'The spaceship'?

Yes, it was a spaceship.  My mind raced, but not for the reasons you may have predicted. No, I was worrying whether tourist season had begun early? Had I missed the official date? I didn't have any crackers in the cupboard yet! Nor apple pies! The long Winter had seemed like it would never end.

Some steps were approaching the back door. A pulsing light speckled the walls of the kitchen. Some moments later, five precise short raps sounded on the door, which shuddered a little.

Tourist season already! It had to be! I checked the kitchen over quickly, and noted the washing up that still waited to be done, sadly. Then, before the guest rapped again, I opened the door.

"Welcome, welcome." The visitor was the usual excited mess. He even had an extra arm, and wore a baseball cap. At his feet (thankfully, only two), there was a large bag. The bag had a number of stickers, presumably emblems of previous holidays. "Yes, you can come in."

"Blarp. Blap blip. Clak!" The visitor smacked himself in the nose, and then continued. "Sorry about that. Did you get my reservation?"

"No. There must have been a mix-up of some kind. However, there is a room available. I will just get a form for you to fill in. Here, have a seat."

The alien took the chair and held it confusedly.

"Oh, umm, we usually sit on those. 'Take a seat' means to sit down. Like this?" I demonstrated.

"Woo hoo! Civilization! Local customs!" The visitor looked excited. He took a photograph. "It's like a whole new world! My mother said to take lots of photos. What's this?" He pointed at the cooker. The visitor took another picture.

"That's what we use to heat and cook food. Okay. Let's fill in this form and check you're up to date with inoculations, vaccinations. And other things.''

Plainly, it was going to be a long week...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


It's a personal challenge for me to continue the stories that are running here at 'The Quirky Muffin' and get them finished in a less than geological time scale. Does that ever happen? Well, it used to. Let's not get into mental blocks or creative ennui, but at the moment they're not zipping along at all...

Maybe the creative muscle is out of shape. It might need some fine tuning, as does the language muscle. Teaching mathematics all week isn't exactly the best thing for creativity, after all. Maybe it just needs some spitballing. What are the story project right now, anyway?

- 'The Glove' is becoming ever more tortured, with three abortions and returns to earlier sections. It's extremely close to being stamped 'abandoned', but there is something there in the idea of a colony world that has had its technical and artistic cultures segregated centuries before. The vital question is this: Into what exactly is Steffan going to get mixed up?

- 'The Ninja Of Health' is rather more promising, as it seems to be flowing and have some momentum. The end point is shrouded in mystery, but I would be amazed if it didn't involve a poodle and a bucket of paper clips being deluged from above. Such is the way of things. There is a path. It has been prepared for.

- 'Diary Of A Laundry Robot' is an entirely closed book, but the principal obstacle seems to be in producing a drama in the world of the Querg Continuum, where the most thrilling events involve hats and openings of the great Book Of Histories. Oh, that was an idea I just had. Of course! It can be a prophecy story!

- The joined-up version of 'Oneiromancy', with actual continuity is coming, once a green pen and a bucket of ice water have been produced for editing purposes. (The ice water is for refreshment and tuning the columns of the aqua-phone. Ping!)

- 'The Wheels In The Sky' is in deep storage, but will kick in as other stories close, as will the second phases of 'Triangles' and 'Wordspace'. There will be words!

Hmmm, I'm actually feeling much more positive about it all now. There just needs to be an idea for 'The Glove'!


Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Season For Admitting Ignorance

Apparently, it's the season for admitting ignorance here on the Quirky Muffin. I had no idea that Darwin's voyage the Beagle lasted five years! He went away from his home, and wrote that journal book, for years and was part of a circumnavigation of the whole world. For comparison, I get worried when I'm out for a whole day! What wonders he saw, and what ideas he conceived and then articulated in later texts...

When I finally finish reading it, I'll write a little about 'The Voyage Of The Beagle'. It's a fascinating snapshot into the geography and natural science of the Southern Hemisphere in the 1840s, and even relates a little of the local socio-political structures of the time. However, for now, I will just boggle at the idea of a five year trip around the world. Five years without British rain! Yikes!

Fascinatingly, the Beagle went on three separate surveying expeditions, and now they seem very much like the kind of 'five year missions' we saw on 'Star Trek'. Yes, those people, and their paying passengers like Darwin, committed for the long haul. Can you imagine that kind of trip, on a tiny sloop? It's true that Darwin spent long periods of time on land, rendezvousing with the vessel at fixed times and places, but it's a monumental achievement for the sailors and the ship as much as for him. A literal real world five year mission of surveying and charting. How wonderful.

If our progress has been marked on a timeline of exploration, then does that explain the weirdness of the last century, as infighting continues to erupt in the human species. Without a clear path of exploration, or at least one that anyone will pay for, is the sheer irrationality connected to spending far too much time under one global roof instead of being out on the great unexplored plains, breaking trails to new undiscovered countries? Do we need to make 'Wagon Train To The Stars' a reality out there before we can he happy back here?

Oh, to have been on that ship, or another like her. It would have been quite the experience, especially after dumping the phone in the trash at the first opportunity.


Friday, 11 March 2016

Freud, Jokes and Disorders

Sigmund Freud was a smart man. As I read through 'Jokes and the Unconscious', it becomes blindingly obvious that he was a pioneer beyond all measure, even when tackling seemingly superficial topics. To say that he was smart is such a non-contentious thing to write that it may as well be ignored completely! Of course Freud was a smart man, and some of his ideas linger on still, while others have been superceded entirely. Ultimately, should I ever read and understand enough, there will be talk of Freud and Jung, and perhaps some others too. Psychology can be very interesting... Even when it's not focussed on the ideas behind jokes!

Ah, jokes, those ephemeral and unclassifiable remarks and verbal constructions that can make our lives so much more enjoyable. If only I could remember a good one... No, I can't think of any! To be fair, jokes have always been less amusing to me than the humorous situations you find in dramatised entertainments, except for in the book form. Jokes work astonishingly well on the printed page. It may be that, having discovered the existence of a condition called hyperlexia, it now becomes natural to automatically try it on for size and see if it fits, even if it's just because jokes seem better written down. It's funnier to either read a joke in a Terry Pratchett novel or see a funny situation in a comedy. Of course, there are always 'Airplane' and 'Police Squad' to cite as counter-examples, both of which take the concept of a joke, and overload the shows so much that some of them have to work statistically, and the whole makes up a critical mass.

Hyperlexia is something I had never heard of before, but apparently it is the inverse of dyslexia, a clear challenge in interpreting verbal communication and ensuing preference for the written word. Logically, it had to exist, but I never considered that it might for an instant. Yes, hyperlexia could fit many people who have no idea that it exists. I'll add it to my own list of possible disorders, along with geranium fixations, mild Asperger-iness, office chair spinning, and an utter inability to look into clear blue skies without keeling over in horror. That last one is definitely real, but is it possible to have agoraphobia in only one respect? This too requires some research.

Returning to the beginning, Freud was a smart man. It's all in the unconscious, if we only know where.


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, VIII

( Part VII , IX )

The Ninjas of Health had originated in the late twentieth century, as a post-modern innovation in the realm of Eastern traditions. Before, ninjas would not have been concerned with holistic healthcare and altruistic social work, but rather mercenary endeavours and espionage. What happened to make this change? It was a little man called Ken, from a small town in the south of Sweden.

Ken, not having been well employed at the time, fell to studying in the local library and became besotted with ancient Japan, especially the various levels and castes of the society of the time. He concocted a plan, adapted philosophies, and then fell to practicing before preaching. Seven years later, he reached out to a select few people, and an order was born. It was an order with some unusual teachings, unusual practices, and a few members of quite extraordinary abilities...

These ninjas were always few in number, and went forth into the world to fix whatever ills they might encounter. They went where they felt they were needed. Their connections to the world around them, and their readings of the seemingly chaotic causal chains that it contained, combined so that they were rarely wrong.

Our two operatives had moved to Toddlingham several years earlier, and renovated the old chapel in which they lived. The wellbeing of the town slowly improved as they undertook their extracurricular activities and waited. There was always a purpose, a culmination to every assignment, and to everyone's time in the order. The two went about their day jobs, helped where they could, and worked on their arts as well as their mutually assured devotion.

Now, it seemed as if their waiting might be over.

To be continued...

Monday, 7 March 2016

Spin Those Wheels

There has been a distinct turn toward gibberish here in recent times, a pleasurable distinction which relieves the writer of any real need to make sense. Yes, the turtles understand, but very few others do. It's probably something to do with quantum potentialities actualising into assemblages of only tangentially related facts. Ah, the joys of being sleep deprived...

Tutoring continues, as does the recurrent glooms. Mothers Day has been and gone, and the requisite deeds done. Reading continues, as does a rejuvenated interest in Minecraft, thanks to a new release. There are some pretty nasty combat options in the game now, and some rebalancing has been incorporated into the works, but it's ultimately the same and I'll probably lose interest and return to reading in a few days. The book piles are waiting for fresh attention after all the rotation of recent times...

As the existential demons of fatigue continue to wander around the periphery of consciousness, and the weevils of doom gnaw at the biscuits of success, it's time to think about the rest of the week and how to stay awake! Perhaps giving up cocoa would help, or eradicating the baked potato habit. Muesli could be a good idea. It's impossible to fall asleep while thinking about muesli. Hmmm... muesli...

Actually, now would be a good time to get down to some reading, so it's time to close down this post and head for Darwin's 'Voyage of the Beagle' or Freud's 'Jokes and The Unconscious'. That's what we call happy bedtime reading.


Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Literary Reflection, II

It is time to once again reflect on recent readings, and stop for a moment the random consideration of rice pudding, puzzle cubes, and 'The Six Million Dollar Man'. The literary reflection must strike once again, with great vigour, lack of concision, and a tendency to list slightly to larboard. This time, it's even more of a mixed bag than usual.

'The A-Team' by Charles Heath (1984)

Yes, a novelisation of an adventure series pilot from the 1980s. 'The A-Team' actually spawned ten novelisation from it's first two (and best) seasons, and they are in many ways better than the show itself. By all accounts, Charles Heath was a fictitious umbrella nom-de-plume for a bunch of jobbing authors, who took the show and made it a bit more consistent, refined some of the humour, and added a bare minimum of extra framing material. This one has the advantage of being based on the double-length pilot episode. Is it good? Yes, in a bare manner. Actually, I really loved these ten novelisations when growing up, and this one is still pretty solid, even if it adds very little to the screened version in terms of solid narrative. The world can only be enhanced by the addition of more Howling Mad Murdock, however. This was a plan that definitely did come together.

'The Master And Margarita' by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)

I already wrote about this briefly in its own post. It's a classic Russian novel, a great work, and one that did leave a definite effect. The novel is split into two very distinct parts, and the casual reader might be confused at the abrupt change of pace and lack of a definite climax, but it is definitely a worthy read. No, the diabolical entity isn't defeated, but it's a different kind of story than that, and one to not be missed. Also, in a definite advantage, a great genre novel which doesn't leave you miserably affected and broken from an overload of dystopia and or tragedy is something to be treasured. There's a reason why I've heard that enigmatic title being bandied about for so long.

'Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat' by Ernest Brahma (1928)

The works of Ernest Bramah are little known today, as are most works of entertainment more than a couple of decades old. 'Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat' is the third in the 'Kai Lung' series, and is a sequence of shorter stories set into by a substantial framing story. The narrative is based around the storyteller Kai Lung and his quest to rescue his spouse from her imprisonment by a robber baron. As it is a short story collection, and my talents lend themselves more to novel length narratives, it took a long long time to read, but was definitely worth it. I'm not sure that I'll dig up any more of the entries in the Brahma bibliography, although I really don't know why. The writing was exquisite and witty, and the immersion into the Oriental world of language and etiquette was profound. Perhaps it's because I was looking for something to follow the superlative 'Bridge Of Birds' by Barry Hughart, or am in deep short story fatigue. What? Written myself into a corner? Okay, I'll read another. Mwahahahhahah. 'The Moon Of Much Gladness' will follow in due course.

'Going Postal' by Terry Pratchett (2004)

It may be the last definably classic Discworld novel, and it's certainly one of my favourites. As with most of the Discworld novels, it's ultimately slight but a brisk and enjoyable romp. The story is that of Moist von Lipwig (yes, it is an unfortunate name), an inveterate conman who is given a second chance by the tolerant tyrant of Ankh-Morpock and asked to reopen and popularise the city's post office. Much symbolism and hijinks ensues, as does thinly (if it's covered at all) veiled criticism of corporate business behaviour. I love it, and it has one of the best love interests in Adora Belle Dearhart (he did indeed go the whole hog on names this time around). Oh, for an Adora Belle Dearhart!

Yes, it was a mix of books both old and old. The book piles have rotated substantially, and now it's time to dig into some Greek and the great Freud himself...


Friday, 4 March 2016

A Leak

This was supposed to be about the books I've read since the last 'Literary Reflection', but the predominant aspect of my life today is far, far different. The integrity of my Wellingtons has been compromised. My right wellie is leaky. The world has come to an end. What is life when your Wellington fails? What is a Wellington if it fails in its one crucial task? What is a Wellington if it leaks water?

Is wellie-ness (the quality of being an effective wellie, impermeability) conserved? Did a duck in China suddenly become a shade more waterproof even as my boot began to take on water? If wellie-ness is conserved, then that has great implications for the navies of the world! Could it be that freighter suddenly popping a seam means that overall wellie effectiveness improves on a global scale! Good grief!

Oh, of course none of this is true. Global conservation of wellieness? Are you mad? Conservation laws operate on a universal scale, not a global one! My wellie springing a leak presumably means that something impermeable improved slightly somewhere in the universe. Yes, perhaps an Arcturan Otter's waterproof hat repaired slightly, or a gigantic hole in the water galaxy of Zoot33's core shield reduced in size slightly. There's probably a story in there somewhere, if I can just get my mind into gear! Please, let not entropy enter this conservation. Wellieness is surely conserved ideally. Surely.

Yes, it was a good week for tutoring, and reading, and even not going completely insane, but the wellie incident rankles. They were good wellies, nicely coloured and patterned, but Wellington boots are apparently pretty much unrepairable! It's a travesty to crown a day that had its problems... Wellies wellies wellies wellies.

Why not talk about wellies for the remaining lifetime of the Quirky Muffin? Why not rename it to the Quirky Wellie? It's an idea? Oh, never mind. Next time there will be a book report.


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dum Dum De Dum

'Mission: Impossible' is kicking off a three-part story to the right of the screen, and 'The A-Team' just helped keep my mother happy. A life lived by television doesn't leave much time for reading! The new 'combat' version of Minecraft has also been released and is unfortunately much, much nastier than it used to be. Beware those skeletons, people of the world. In book world, 'Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat' is finally in its closing pages, while the wait continues on various job opportunities. Waiting is the hardest part of anything.

Tutoring mathematics is a fascinating activity, as lots of the progress is made when you're not there. It seems that the main part of the job is to explain things in such a way that their schoolwork suddenly becomes intelligible and the homework becomes easy. It's not as easy as it sounds, but instilling confidence isn't too bad at GCSE or below as you just have to show them the exams! It is very dispiriting to get to a year three or year four primary student and find out that their school hasn't even done fractions yet, though. That's the rough end of the tutoring stick. There's no way that that can be good!

Oh, if only we could teach numeracy and mathematics well across the board. It, along with literacy, would fix so many problems. Those two things really do form a 'silver bullet' set to eliminate the werewolf of ignorance. If I could just flood all the schools with buckets of great, and probably unapproved books and have them stay, it would make an amazing difference.

Oh, but this is not a time to be serious. The sun is long gone, and the Earth continues to spin, even as it rotates about the Sun, which in turns circles the centre of the galaxy, which is itself moving away from the notional centre of the universe. Think for a moment about just how absurd this all is, as we zoom through space at cosmic speed! That absurdity is the key to going to sleep with with a smile on your face. It's all utterly daft!