Saturday, 30 April 2016

Television: 'The Invaders' (1967-1968)

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun." (Opening narration.)

Yes, David Vincent has seen them, in this excellent Quinn Martin production. Normally, Quinn Martin productions were so utterly humorous as to be unwatchable, but 'The Invaders' worked due to the silliness of the underlying concept, unlike 'The Fugitive' or 'The Untouchables'. Why silly? There was an architect who seemingly never did any designing, there were aliens that disintegrated in a red flash at the slightest injury, flying saucers, and an endless sequence of episodes where David doesn't quite procure evidence of the aliens but does find a small ally or two. In short, it was the perfect 'solitary man' episodic series. (Other notable examples: 'The Fugitive', 'The Incredible Hulk', 'Quantum Leap'.)

Back in the olden days, when it was repeated on the BBC at teatime, we used to have great fun with this show, as well as it's analogues on other days of the week. 'The Invaders' was the exemplar of shows to make fun of. Now, rewatching it properly, it's a series of improbably high quality. It only ran for a season and a half, but has lived on for decades and is very influential in the right circles. It's probably because of the high production values, the excellent dramatic structure of every episode (although some humour would have been nice), and the solid performance of Roy Thinnes as the protagonist. Thinnes might not have been able to crack a joke, but he could look serious in every circumstance for indefinite periods of time, unfailingly. (For more over serious Thinnes work, check our the dour 'Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun'!)

You could develop habits while watching 'The Invaders'. To this day, my mother asks 'Is he one?' at the debut of every character, due to the paranoia embedded in the show. The aliens disguise themselves as humans, so the audience is often teased with that 'are they or aren't they?' question. How could the aliens be told apart? The most obvious tell was that many of them had little fingers that didn't bend, which was a great touch. They also routinely wore green overalls when not undercover, didn't have pulses, and acted a little creepily. Yes, it sounds cheesy, but it did work. Maybe it was the music and the stellar guest casts that were pulled into each episode.

Sadly, 'The Invaders' didn't get to conclude definitely due to a cancellation, but it was showing encouraging signs of overcoming its own formula by introducing a secondary regular character to back up the protagonist, and developing an actual mythological arc for the show. The main plot was evolving, in a near-modern way, but was stopped in its tracks. We'll never know now what happened, but the series was a classic nonetheless, and one which has lasted much better than its more popular predecessors in the Quinn Martin stable. Yes, it's a classic, and the music was iconic.

"In the far reaches of outer space, the Invader reorganizes his plan for the conquest of the Earth. He's been delayed - but he hasn't been beaten." (Closing narration: 'Moonshot'.)


Subsequent follow-up post: Here.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Almost Comical

In the aftermath of a wonderful episode of 'Quantum Leap' ('Camikazi Kid' if you're interested), and a mutually tiring English session, it's time to relax and compose some words into post for the Quirky Muffin. It could be anything, absolutely anything. Did you know how easy it is to make scrambled eggs? No? Well, that's good to begin with. You melt some butter in a saucepan, into which you pour the egg batter, which consists of eggs beaten with salt and pepper. Then, over a medium to high heat, you stir the eggs until they've become solid and you can hear a cooking noise. Finally, you place the eggs on hot buttered toast and serve. You see, you can find anything here on the Quirky Muffin, especially when the writer is convalescing from an illness and preoccupied with the fate of the second phase of 'Wordspace'. The whole saga might actually be a publishable effort, in an alternate dimension.

The day is nearing its end and it has been reasonably nice. Tutoring went as well as it could, given that both the student and tutor had bad throats, and that the whole thing became almost comical at times. At least I didn't try to teach him how to make scrambled eggs via sign language and mime. Is any of this true? You'll just have to wonder. Sometimes, or all the time, 'The Muppet Show' is preferable to reality.

'The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou' is playing, as my mind wanders all over the place and the wild and woolly April weather continues to defy all predictability. Practically anything might happen, including snowstorms and droughts. It's a wild and crazy world, which is filled with all kinds of silliness. Maybe it's all totally normal, and the confusion of 'Armadale' is making me a little goofy. That novel has shifted gears and formats more times than is truly comfortable. I don't even think it's the same story any more...

We shall see.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, IX

( Part VIII , X )

'The Memoirs Of Ken' by Ken, as translated from the Swedish


It all started a long time ago, in a public library in Mariestad. I had little to do and was spending a lot of time reading. You see, back then, libraries were far more scholarly in nature. I had a fine time, devouring texts on all subjects, before stumbling onto the topic of Japan and it's traditions. Then there was no turning back, and I became, just a little, obsessed.

The idea of this order sounds rather daft, doesn't it? A bunch of highly trained operatives, skilled in the martial arts, stealth and holistic healthcare? It was rather a large leap for me, too, but it made sense at the time. It seemed to all to fit together precisely, like a keystone in the grand philosophy of life. A caste of stealthy medical practitioners appealed to me, as did much of the Eastern philosophy I had been exposed to. Before I knew it, I was deep into a whole new well of study, and making progress.

After some years, I compiled what I thought would be the bible for the order, and began to recruit likely novitiates. Little did I know that something quite unexpected was about to occur...

At the time, we were operating out of a very lovely old warehouse in Amsterdam, which was still partly cluttered with the historical detritus of its previous owners. For some reason, a large number of toy bricks were strewn across the floor, possibly as part of stealth or endurance training, just as we began our regular meditation, something seemed to click... and the bricks swirled into something totally unexpected. A pattern!

The Mosaic is difficult to explain. We think it's connected to some unorthodox teachings handed down from the Sumerian meditative healers, which are somehow tied in to the fabric of the cosmos itself. How? We don't know. We really don't, but we do sort of understand it when it's happening, wrapped up as we are in the inner peace. It's as if we sink into the pockets of the universe's comfy old robe and our local environment becomes wrapped up in the process, causing the Mosaic, a visual representation of the universe.

Through our explorations of the Mosaic, we came to learn many things. Never has there been a problem, so well behaved is the cosmos. Well, never a problem, except for one occasion, but we'll get to that later..."

There will be more.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Gently Spinning In The Wind

It's no fun to be sick, especially when it's a mystery lurgy that strikes during vacations and lingers for weeks afterward, leaving your family doctor mystified. Could it be air conditioning, the stress of travelling, the sheer dissonance of stepping onto a vehicle at one place and off at another? What does it all mean? And why are there always bubble machines?

Oh, bubble machines... Is it possible that outside the universe all of our little dimensions are literally bubbles being blown by some vast and incomprehensible bubble machine, being operated by a one-eyed pirate with a scandalous space parrot? The space parrot is scandalous because he doesn't like crackers, therefore breaking union rules out in the great extra-dimensional void. (If you've tried to eat an extra-dimensional space cracker, you would quite readily agree with the poor bird!)

Moving on, reading a mammoth novel can be very daunting at times, as the sheer length of time required sits upon your mind, physically represented by the weight of the volume. The current example is Wilkie Collins's 'Armadale', which weighs in at a hefty six hundred and eighty pages in my copy, and was exceedingly slow going for a long while. Then, as the pages tinkle on, and enjoyment continues, you get to the last hundred and fifty and everything begins to zoom by. Oh, 'Armadale', you've turned out to be much better this time than on my abortive first attempt. Only 'No Name' will be left of old Wilkie's big four after this. That won't last for long...

As this post winds down the inevitable spluttery conclusion, which could be imagined best as the rubber bands running out of oomph in driving a teaspoon propellor, it's time to wonder at the week ahead. 'Armadale' will be finished, six students will be educated or their tutor will be reconverted into a destitute scholar at large, sickness will be conquered or a slimy cough will continue, and we will have another week of negative roughhousing as the EU referendum slowly, oh so slowly, nears and the primary campaigns continue. Please, world, can we have a debate which is actually based in reality? Please? Too unlikely? Oh well.


Friday, 22 April 2016

Book: 'The African Queen' by CS Forester (1935)

I'm not at all sure what to make of this novel, perhaps because I read it after seeing the film or because it's just a little bit strange. On one hand, it's a rather innocent revenge-fueled adventure story, while on the other it's about a repressed woman's liberation and love affair in the face of peril. It's... strange... but I think it must be good. What it doesn't do is add anything that is missing in the film, except perhaps for a dose more of extremely light smut, and an extended run through the rapids.

It's curious to think that CS Forester had a writing career outside of his 'Hornblower' books, which I've not read in living memory. Is 'The African Queen' similar to those, or is it operating on a more adult level? The proof will be in the pudding, when the 'Hornblower' books finally come round again.

As a novel, this is a combination in style between bestseller simplicity and youthful adventure novel, skewed to the female perspective as seen through the mind of Forester. Does he do the lead character of Rosie justice? I think so, yes, as she gains in complexity over the course of the text, although never quite reaching the Katherine Hepburn level of the film adaptation. That movie is the elephant in the room. To me, I think that the movie is the better implementation of the film, almost entirely because of the three-dimensionality and reality of those two lead actors. If only this original novel had some significant additional ingredient to add, and didn't have that film's tonal stability.

As a review, this has been rather frustrating, but it's safe to say that this is a solid and enduring adventure story, with a well rounded lead heroine. All the natural and geographical details sound authentic, as do the military details from the era of the First World War in which the story is set. Ah, the story, I missed out the story. Of course! It's the story of a spinster sister, whose missionary brother dies, and who sets out to take some revenge using the boat of the man who rescued her from her African mission, all while learning how to really live in the process. Yes, just like the film.

Oh, it's a good book. If you get a chance, then read it.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Ah, another resumption! Yes, another trip has flown by, once again one crippled by illness, and it's time to get back down to recovery and pondering the grand insensibilities of the nothing in particular that is the world. Alternatively, why not find a darkened room and think about cheese?

Yes, let's think about cheese for a moment. Hmmm. Okay, enough of that.

Normandy was a lovely place to visit, and packed full of all kinds of history. It's one of the few places in the world where William the Conqueror is a local hero, and the region is packed with all kinds of medieval goodness as well as the far more recent legacy of the liberation of France during the Second World War. (Note to self: Who decides when things finally become important enough to be capitalised?)

The most notable aspect of the trip, apart from the utter kindness and virtue of my friend J who hosted me, and introduced me to her family, was undoubtedly the majestic Mont Saint-Michelle, a monastery on top of a little islet which could well be described as a hill sticking out of the ocean. It's a fantastical juxtaposition of medieval wonder with capitalistic horror to walk up the scenic little alley that is the high street of Saint Mont Michel and be faced with the barrage of tourist shops, but overall the medieval wonder wins by far. Oh, and you can get a horse drawn shuttle over the causeway. Doesn't that tip the balance just by itself?

Yes, a great trip, with some board game conversions made in the process. I will convert you, world, to the joys of 'Fluxx', 'Bohnanza' and even 'Ticket To Ride'! Oo la la! Now to consolidate and not let them get away... and get better...


Monday, 18 April 2016

Film: 'Superman Returns' (2006)

(Pre-planned holiday cover post)
I wasn't sure about 'Superman Returns' at the time, but it grew on me. It's an underrated gem, and it could easily be the last good Superman movie to hit theatres ever. Yes, it's derivative of 'Superman: The Movie', too much so, but it is the only one out of 'Superman I', 'Superman II', and the rest, to not have a bodged ending or be sabotaged by producer or studio antics. It's the only one that is complete in itself, unless you count 'Supergirl', another one of my guilty pleasures and one which is criticised by the confused for similar reasons.

'Superman Returns', and 'Supergirl', both capture the essential non-violence of the characters, and tap into something else instead. If we use the dreadful and meaningless term 'action movie' - normally used as an euphemism for 'violent movie' - then Superman should never ever be in one. He's from romantic adventures, not the land of bullets and punches. He's the character so archetypal that he's utterly wasted in anything so superficial as the modern blockbuster. He needs to be in an actualised and coherent film. 'Superman Returns' is that, for all its flaws.

'Superman Returns' is mainly criticised for its lack of action sequences, and an overdependence on reusing elements and patterns from the first film. The second is a valid criticism, and the first is problematic; Superman stops a plummeting jet, saves Metropolis from all kinds of problems due to a tremor and EMP pulse, lifts a small island into orbit, and almost drowns while stabbed with a shard of Kryptonite in this film. There is no shortage of action, only a shortage of fisticuffs and gunplay. You can make a point that it's all drowned out by the meditative atmosphere of the film, though.

Perhaps the story is a problem, or the sheer length of the film, but I love it anyway. Again, as in 'Flash Gordon', sometimes there's not much point in trying to be impartial. The overall concoction works, but it may not be the concoction the modern movie audience, or that of 2006, would expect. It's one of the great pities that Bryan Singer, director, never got to make his planned next film. It might have been extraordinary. Instead, what we get is something far worse, repeated over and over, with less and less content.

What is 'Superman Returns'? An homage too far to the Donner versions of 'Superman I' and 'Superman II', or the culmination of both into something partly new? A strange exercise in odd casting? A rehash, pastiche, or launchpad? It's only for the viewers to say, but I liked it, and it was the last of its breed, which is sad.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Television: 'Quantum Leap: Colour Of Truth' (1989) (Episode 1x06)

(Pre-planned holiday cover post)

'Quantum Leap' is a series with very mixed associations in my mind. On the one hand, it was definitely one of the prime shows of its era, and one of the rare time travel shows to actually work on any level, but this is counterbalanced by it essentially being an anthology of domestic dramas. Domestic dramas are the curse of television, but they work here, with just the correct amount of genre tweaks to be interesting, or perhaps it's the combination of Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell that does it. They are dynamite when written correctly.

'The Colour Of Truth' is the first episode which lets Dean Stockwell out of the comedic box he had been originally placed in, and confronts one of the greater social crimes of the United States, both while running a much smaller story about Sam's current leapee. This time, he leaps into the guise of an elderly black chauffeur, and the story revolves his relationship with his employer, the wife of the former governor of the state, in the deep South of the 1950s. Racism was rife, and slavery a barely forgotten crime of the ages.

This is really the first episode that completely clicks, and it's largely down to the subject matter and the reimplementation of Al's character, which boosts the dynamic to a whole new level. Yes, he may be a hologram, but he's also the heart of the series, and the reason why we kept on watching. Sam Beckett rarely changed, but Al Calavicci had level after level of character, being slowly peeled away, and always explaining his normal behaviour as a cover...

This is the template for future seasons of the series, and it's where many things begin. An excellent show, and one for the ages. There will be more about 'Quantum Leap'...


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Film: 'Eddie The Eagle' (2016)

(Pre-planned holiday cover post)

As a general rule, you shouldn't write about films immediately after seeing them. Even I, the grand objective, am subject to partiality in the very short time reaction. However, I ignore that rule very frequently, so why stop now? I throw away arbitrary rules with glee.

Firstly, of course I cried; It was a very well told version of the Eddie The Eagle story, and I cry at practically any appropriate film which is made even semi-adequately. (Again, I cried while watching Disney's 'Bolt', which is a very ambiguous symptom.)

'Eddie the Eagle' is a fictionalised version of the real Olympic story of Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, our entire British ski jumping squad for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. An unlikely hero from start to finish, and one with only a year of practice under his belt, our eponymous and bespectacled chap made quite the splash in coming last in two categories of jump while simultaneously breaking two British records and recording his own personal bests in the process. The rest of the film is entirely made up, I think, and involves his reluctant and inebriated coach, as played by Hugh 'I'm real in everything I do' Jackman.

It's a good film, and 'feel good' in almost every way that counts. Dexter Fletcher, who I know from his astonishing performance in the very old series 'Press Gang' (which I may have written about, some while ago), directs fantastically well. Who would have thought that guy with the fake American accent would have turned out so well? He even cast Colin! Yes, Colin from 'Press Gang' is in this! Isn't loyalty wonderful? He wasn't wearing a suit covered in half ping-pong balls, but you can't have everything. Eddie is played by Taran Egerton, and does have problems hitting the correct tone for a while, playing the real life mannerisms like someone halfway down a particularly demented alley. He does, however, pull it together increasingly well in the second half of the narrative.

Go ahead, be uplifted. It's a decent movie, a great underdog story, and deserves to be seen. Or, if you like, go see 'Real Steel' instead. Hugh Jackman is just one of those guys who can do no wrong...


PS Oh, and if you were ever under the illusion that the Olympics is actually about showcasing sportsmen, then let that go now. The cynicism underlying the whole endeavour is utterly appalling. They (you know... THEM.) actively changed the rules to prevent him from ever qualifying again. What abject creepery. Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Story: 'Diary of a Laundry Robot', Week VII

( Week VI , Week VIII )


Maintenance here is completely different to our old home! The Quergs are so advanced that they take us away for a little chat and a cup of coffee! Can a robot actually drink coffee? Well, apparently so, or whatever the Quergish equivalent might be. The maintenance Querg didn't elaborate. There aren't many robots here in the Continuum, so I think we are being treated very specially. I asked her about the lurker, but she said that there was no news. My systems have never been in such good order. What is in that coffee?


Laundry, laundry, laundry. It's a wonderful thing to be needed. We are beginning to get a bit fuzzy minded under the deluge of all the hats from the Bureau, though. It's always hats! Hats, hats, hats! Celia is starting to look a bit askance at it all too. Our supervisor Querg has mentioned that we will be getting other things in the next few days, but for now: Hats! At least there's a variety of colours... We even had our one and only gold bobble so far earlier today...


Golly, internal journal, we found a non-Quergish footprint in the grass (or pseudo-grass) outside the building this morning. Supervisor Querg looked at it most curiously and pronounced himself officially concerned. The Querg Continuum is a free society, but people are discouraged from lurking, especially in the environs of the official Bureaus. He says we are protected, but won't say how. We returned the gold bobbled hat today. It was nice to see something so rare.


The gold bobble hat is back, and so is our lurker! In fact, he is looking in through the window at us right now, and pulling faces! If I weren't programmed for unfailing politeness, it would be time to run for the hills! Are there hills? I'll have to ask. We can't see any from where we are. Oh now, the lurker has vanished from the window... The golden bobble has begun to glow... It might be time to have a mild circuit shutdown!


Yesterday was a very confusing day. The lurker turned out to be a nice elephant called Egbert, very pale in colour, who has promised to show us around the neighbourhood over the weekend. Supervisor Querg is checking him out right now, but Egbert is so eccentric and amiable that I can't believe that there's a danger. Celia immediately developed a great affection for him, possibly because he represents an entirely different form of conversation. How on Earth did he get here, though? It's puzzling. And why did the hat bobble glow?

To be continued...

NOTE: France, here I come, and so do cover reviews. Whoop whoop!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Alligators Are Underrepresented

This time, it was done punctually, and with great leisure. The tax return is done, and with nine months still to go before the deadline! In the paranoia business, this is called being late. Oh, so tardy it is. The whole tedious business did wipe out the chance of writing a story episode, though, which is annoying. It's true that I'm still partially blocked on all three stories, suffering motivation problems, and that my hair is due for a haircut, but it would have been nice to write something. Instead, we have the now customary hodge podge of words slung together while wrestling with Orpheus's alligator. If Orpheus didn't have an alligator in the myths, then I will be very disappointed.

What if Orpheus had an alligator? Or Odin? Or St Steven? Would those mythologies now be radically different? Would Thor have gotten away with so much misbehaviour? What if there were a Zappo the Supercroc? Was there really not one? I'm disappointed. What if Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson had had a pet alligator? Would Mrs Hudson have been so grumpy then? It would actually be possible to reinvigorate the whole of fiction writing with this one simple addition. I'll have to think about how to introduce alligators into my stories, possibly in the same way they did with tigers and Captain Marvel, the original Captain Marvel. We don't talk about the new one, invented purely to steal the name. [Please insert antiquated grumbling here]

Oh, the word well has run dry, in an alarmingly sudden manner. Could it be a sign that the brain has worked enough for today, having deployed ideas in multiple languages and piloted through an arduous swimming session, all of this after multiple bicycle trips of varying arduosity over the course of the week? Or does it just mean that it has run out of rice pudding power? Rice pudding power is second only to muesli power, but has the advantage of being warm and homemade. You can make rice pudding extremely easily, actually. All you need is the pudding rice, some milk, some honey and your own choice from nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla pods and cloves. You then mix it all up in a greased oven dish and bake it on medium/low for a few hours. Aha, you didn't expect any baking advice again, did you! There's a reason for that subtitle!

It's time to stop now, having wandered around alligators and rice pudding for long enough. A few mere days more and boats will begin to factor into the equation as the Quirky Muffin goes on sabbatical once again. One cover post out of three is in the bag, but will the other two get done at all? Only time will tell... Mwahahahahaha.

The Shadow knows.


Friday, 8 April 2016

Cover Posts

Going away is always a curious time, as I always end up writing cover posts, those curious pre-planned and pre-posted articles that pop while I'm gone. Who knows what they'll be? Well, I do, broadly, and have already scheduled one after going to the cinema yesterday. You'll just have to wait and see. It's difficult to write in double quantity while keeping up the now seven students, so the full minimum of three posts for six days of absence might not be fulfilled, but it's possible. Even now, ideas are percolating, and they're not all about 'Star Trek'.

France awaits, as does a friend not seen for a decade. It's shameless negligence on my part to wait so long. People shouldn't be neglected so, especially dear friends. Hence, I shall desert the sceptred isle of Great Britain, and visit the Continent for the last time before that referendum we're not talking about. Crikey, what if the Continent vanishes as a result? Gadzooks! Also, is my friend still recognisable, nice and mildly insane? Good questions all.

Notes for travelling to the Continent: Go to Sainsbury before the ferry and buy real food which isn't smothered in cream or sour cream; Wrap all your money in cotton wool, and hide it inside the false bottom of your suitcase (next to the publicly unacceptable mild cheddar cheese); Remember to not try to speak the local language as it will only spark hilarity amongst the locals and they will try to practice their English on you in any case; Beware strangers bearing gifts, unless they have coffee cremes.

Oh, the urge to watch 'The Beiderbecke Collection' is incredibly strong right now. It was the reference to strangers and coffee cremes that did it. Argh. That was a magnificent little series of mini-series that no-one has ever heard of...

Let's get to sleeping. Enough of this wordsmithing for one day.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Television: 'The West Wing: Take This Sabbath Day' (2000) (Episode 1x14)

It's a classic, and an hour of television that works for all of its comedic, dramatic and tragedic elements. It's hard to even talk about, because it's all tied so neatly together. This will probably be superficial in the extreme.

'Take This Sabbath Day' is about the dilemma that emerges within President Bartlet - a continuation of his fallibility introduced in the previous episode - when an appeal is rejected by the Supreme Court and the responsibility for commuting a federal execution falls at his door. It's also about Josh being trapped in some bright yellow waders when unexpectedly dealing with a campaign manager, and Toby's adventures at temple, as well as one of the most potent parables ever to be handed down via television. None of this might have happened had Martin Sheen's excellence not caused the president to be a regular character in the show, forcing some retroactive character flaws later in the season to lessen his burgeoningly impractical perfection. This is one of the examples of those that works best.

It's fascinating that a television episode would go into the essential dilemma of a Catholic president of the United States in a death penalty quandary, run a comedic counterpoint involving a hungover Josh and a deaf campaign manager, and then pull it off. If you then throw in interviews with a priest, a rabbi and an incidental Quaker, you would think that you would end up with an unwieldy mess, but instead we have a touching and tragic moment in the life of the West Wing. As an individual episode, it excels on all levels, and in the season as a whole it builds to the grand transition of the year, the moment when push comes to shove and Mandy is pushed ever closer to her bus ride to Mandyville.

'The West Wing' was an amazing series, and the sheer number of episodes that fulfilled the series' potential was astounding, especially in the first two years. This is just one of them. If you ever doubt the ability of Aaron Sorkin, showrunner and virtuoso screenwriter, then take those doubts back immediately. There was a man in bright yellow waders in a show about the death penalty, and it works. Meanwhile, the story of Jed Bartlet's fallibility continues...


Monday, 4 April 2016

Five Unrelated Topics, a.k.a. Six Hundred And Seventy Four

A lot of my stories seem to feature crazy people. Do you think it means something? Is it indicative? Is it connected with the shrine to pumpkins hidden underneath the floorboards? Is it because it's much more fun to write dialogues and monologues for people at least halfway out of their trees? Is it because I talk to myself and take long walks to nowhere while wondering about totally irrelevant things? Well, that last one is more in line with why I have never held on to a steady job, but that's a topic for another day. It's much nicer to be your own boss and help people, in any case.

'Armadale' is beginning to zoom by. It's a remarkable novel, although I wish that the foreshadowing weren't layered on quite so profusely. If there's one thing I loathe in narrative fiction, it is foreshadowing. Is it possible, however, that this is false foreshadowing, which will be averted? We can only hope. On an unrelated note, I got my import copy of 'The Peanuts Movie' on DVD today, and it is every bit as good as I remembered. Truly, it's very difficult to understand why it didn't have a bigger impact when it was out in the theatres.

The Easter holidays are almost over, and it's time to start thinking about the Summer, as the bonfires get up to full strength and the stench begins to settle over the valleys. It won't be long now until a state of permanent smoke sickness kicks in, complete with stinky clothes extraordinaire. Oh, it won't really be that bad, but the continuing craving that people seem to have for burning things is quite upsetting. What to do with the Summer? What? It's quite difficult when you have all the sunburn resistance of an albino mole. Perhaps it will be the season for keyboard practice, since the fingers be tempting frostbite in the process? One day there will be an electric piano, and a pile of ludicrous scores to play... Could there be another trip after that to France in a week and a half? Perhaps.

In a minor note, 'Kung Fu Panda 3' was disappointing. It didn't live up to its predecessors at all, and actually seemed to be a stealthy premature ending to the series that had been planned to go to six films. It wasn't exactly bad, but was much more superficial, and fell victim to being 'just a kids movie' on many levels. It's a shame. It also really felt like Tigress should have been the one who saved the day, but perhaps that's just me fixing the film in retrospect.

It's nice to not feel quite so blocked up about 'The Glove' any more, as the weapon of last resort has been deployed in the continuing of that story: Pen and paper. There's nothing so liberating as ink, when you're written into a scenario you just can't stand. More on this in a later post, for now it is time to cease, and look forward to the great repose. Ah, sleep, after a day of 'Armadale', 'The Peanuts Movie', and the great 'Quantum Leap' episode entitled 'The Colour Of Truth'. A lovely combination, which almost makes up for completely forgetting several important calendar events. I sigh.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Story: The Glove, X

( Part IX , XI )

The meal was large and tasty, and would have been wonderful is Steffan weren't still blimp-lagged. He did some grazing, and listened as Rook began to ramble.

"'What could be wrong?' is what you might be wondering. 'What problem could there be in this lovely little paradise we have created?'" Steffan's host stopped to drink some more of his milk, and then continued. "'Why should the steady flow of student exchanges between our two cities slow to a measly trickle, and why are the Pipers so worried?' Ha! Serves them right!"

"You have milk on your moustache," observed Steffan.

"What? Oh, I'll let it be. It's bound to be joined by some more in a few moments." Nevertheless, as vanity kicked in, Rook wiped himself clean and then returned to his baked potato.


"We've been losing scouts, Master Steffan. It's not just the Pipers of Burgh that have been losing people. Our people are vanishing, the messengers and couriers that take vital supplies out to the townships. Your grand and supreme master - bah! - had a plan for you here. I don't know what."

"He said it would be mainly the collating of information, and intermediary to the local authorities, but I didn't quite believe him." Steffan had the grace to look embarrassed as he spoke.

A large pile of beans vanished from Rook's dish, and he looked up, apparently replete. "That's a heavy responsibility for a student!"

Steffan remained silent.

"Here at the inn, we used to get reports about the exams and up and coming talent. That was before Octavius, though. A lot has changed in the last few years. Most for the good, but the bad is beginning to mount up." Rook leaned back in his chair. "Octavius..."

"You seem to know him well." Steffan was curious.

"Oh, he's my brother, but don't hold it against me. We have other things to think about. Have you ever heard of a daft jester who calls himself 'The Glove'?"

"Your brother!"

"I knew you wouldn't get over that so quickly." Rook took to muttering darkly. "It's no big thing. I'm sure you've got family too! Come on. Aggie will be home by now, and she'll want to get you shipshape for tomorrow. You'll want to look around, I take it. Look for a job, and so on."

Steffan felt as if everything was spiralling out of his control. "I--"

"We'll get you sorted. You'll be doing whatever it is you wanted, but in good style." Rook pulled him out of the banquet room, just in time to miss something exceedingly noteworthy...

To be continued...