Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Television: 'Press Gang: A Night In' (1989) (Episode 1x05)

I wrote about the series 'Press Gang' a long time ago, and it all still stands. It's a witty and intelligent show, even when shown twenty five years later and to a far different audience. Great writing from Steven Moffat (look up his stellar list of credits), and performances from the cast and crew combined to produce a show that transcended its original place in the scheme of things for two brilliant seasons, and three further slightly strained ones.

'A Night Out' is notable for the ever deceptive Colin and his pink rabbit suit, the star-crossed Lynda and Spike beginning to understand each other, the complete absence of a news-related story or guest actors, and the fact that the usually format is completely dispensed with in favour of an evening in the office, chatting. If this were a spinoff 'Star Trek' series, this would definitely be a 'bottle episode', but can a show only on its fifth episode actually have a low-budget episode? Even if it's nominally a kids' show?

There's something about bottle episodes that I love, wherever they appear. They're usually as close as you ever get to theatre on screen, and fizz in a totally different way. Here, we get a restricted cast of five characters for the majority of the episode: Lynda Day, editor of the junior newspaper, in denial at being freshly dumped; Spike Thompson, wisecracking reporter, the universal foil, vulnerable in displaying his cooking talent; Kenny Phillips, the all round good guy, clueless as to recent events; Tiddler, the junior feature editor and pusher of the Spike/Lynda combination; and Colin Matthews, hideous entrepreneurial wannabe trapped in a pink rabbit suit on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It's really just a normal evening at the Junior Gazette, complete with Chinese food.

Bottle episodes are episodes that take place in one location, usually with few to none guest stars, and centre almost entirely on a singular character or relationship arc. In this case, we get a retooling of the two perhaps lead characters, Spike and Lynda, and a fleshing out of their natures beyond their primitive functions as established so far. Why exactly do they act the way they do, and why so much more with each other? We also get more of the psychology of Colin, the aspiring corporate bandit, but he will be expanded further later on...

Yes, a bottle episode, and a fantastic one at that. It's still a kids' show, but it pushes the margins like no other show ever did, and with great wittiness. There has only ever been one Steven Moffat, and this is where he began.


Monday, 27 June 2016

State Of The Thingie

The words dribble out of the finger tips once again, as I come to the keyboard without any well-defined plan. Sometimes there are plans, and sometimes not. There is no predicting the Quirky Muffin, especially after a hard few days of Kriss Kross puzzle compilation. I never really understood how complicated a process that might be, but it's done now, with nineteen shape names wrapped up into a not-too-difficult puzzle with a unique solution. It's the 'unique solution' part that really gets you, for managing to slot all the names together is hard enough as it is!

One really fantastic and useful thing to take out of a mathematics doctorate is a proficiency in the typesetting language LaTeX, which facilitates most of the high-quality handouts and documents I produce for students, friends, and occasionally ex-comrades in arms. It's a wonderful thing, and there's a template for practically every type of document you will ever need. Even KrissKross puzzles are supported, as part of a crossword compilation package, and it's all free! It's really important to be able to make puzzles and games for younger students, and for it not to be too difficult, once the roughing out on squared paper is done.

Getting back to this magnificent blogging challenge, now past the seven hundredth post, it seems clear that two of the stories have become far more interesting to write than the others: 'The Ninja of Health' and 'Wordspace II'. The other stories might pause or even be formally cancelled if a clear direction doesn't come to mind, although an epic session of plotting with pen and paper might clear it all up. Yes, it's time to get physical with the source material. It's almost impossible to do anything but maintain the status quo while writing on a computer. The mind really focusses when using paper, and also the eyes take far less of a battering, which is very much an issue when your optician changes your prescription. Mutter mutter.

Coming attractions here will include writings on 'The Time Tunnel', Mark Twain's 'Joan of Arc', 'Magnum PI', 'Star Trek V' and Wilkie Collins' 'No Name'. How does that sound?


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, XI

( Part X , XII )

Haagenport was just as grey and pungent as always. The little car rolled into a parking slot next to the Oracle's lair, and the engine subsided to a harmonious silence. The Woman emerged from the driver's side and waited for the Man to look a little less green.

"I swear that one day I'll find some reason to get these contraptions replaced by horses again..." Groaned the still incapacitated passenger. "Or pedestrian travel."

"I swear that I've never seen anyone get so travel sick in every possible mode of transport. Yes, travel wrecks our spatial and geographical orientation, but surely you can manage a little car ride to the seaside? Oh, my goodness, I'm getting flashbacks to our ferry crossings to the Frozen Isle for training..." The woman began to amble back and forth.

"Now, if only you got flashbacks of that time we reset the Mayor's spine in the frozen aisle at the supermarket instead, we'd both be much better off."

"Well, at least your colour's improving. Get out here and watch the sea for a little while." The Lady gestured at the lapping waters beyond a nearby fence. "Reconnect with nature, so we can get on to the Oracle."

"Thank you, milady. I will take that under advisement."

A little man emerged from the maritime store and ambled across to the car. "He stills get that sick from a little car ride?" He asked?

"Oh, for goodness sake." The Man half fell out of the car and stood up. With some pacing, he looked almost human again, and then looked at their amused new companion. "We have to ask you about some things, seer, but first you have to promise me that there's no seafood in there." He got a little greener just at the thought.

"Ah, that might be a problem. I got inventive with the pizza toppings. However, I aired out the place so it should be okay by now." He looked out at the sea, while the Woman dusted off her Man. "I also had some insight about what you wanted to ask me about, although it wasn't complete."

"Was it about our visitor?" Enquired the Lady.

"Yes, yes it was. Shall we go inside?" He offered his arm, and inspected her travelling companion. "Yes, you look okay now." Without further comment, he led the two into 'Crane and Nelson, Maritime Supplies', the lair of the Oracle."

To be continued...

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Blunt Pencil Tied To The Wall

The voting process has been completed yet again. The name has been highlighted on the list, a slip handed out, and the box crossed with the obligatory dull pencil tied to a wall. Another decision has been made, and another responsibility shifted on to the next people up the chain. Whatever the choice made, it's democracy in action, and that has to be better than all the other alternatives. It's not often that we see true democracy in action, mainly due to the electorate not having time or sometimes ability to examine problems in enough depth to make informed choice. Democracy, the governing of the people by the people, is almost unheard of. What we normally have are democratic republics (or the ever bizarre 'constitutional monarchy' in our case!): the selection of representatives of good character and judgement to make those decisions for us.

Note: Whenever people talk about electoral reform, you might consider the possibility that politics would be better if we examined those representatives we are choosing from in more detail than just the colour of their necktie or campaign button. Mightn't that help considerably?

Knowing what we do of our fellow voters, would anyone ever actually want a full democracy? It would be an incredibly dangerous experiment! How would it work, and what would become of the political class? Who would take and champion issues on both sides? Would there be a troop of trained debaters who would arbitrarily take sides or would citizen campaigners emerge on the two sides in each case? A string of citizens rising up to convince and argue on behalf of the issues they truly believe in? It's actually quite tempting, isn't it? It's also not far off being practical, if we could trust some centralised electronic voting system to not be corrupted almost immediately by the people who administrate it or break down at the worst moment. We can be funny about the blunt pencil tied to the wall as much as we want, but it's pretty hard to corrupt people physically counting pieces of paper under supervision. Paper voting would be pretty impractical and expensive in a true democracy, though. Good grief, how would the things to be voted on even be selected? Would that job have to be elected?

Yes, democracy has been foisted upon us once again, and now we can only wait to see what happens. The usual suspects will begin going on about electoral reform while missing the point at the very core of a republican system, whatever the result, and everyone else will go back to normal, happy at no longer having to agonize over affairs of state.

Never underestimate the power of that blunt pencil.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Story: 'Wordspace' Phase II, Part II

(Part I , Part III)

Club marched along with the rest of the scouting troop, toward the cloud of particles on the horizon, or what they called the horizon, given that the Wordspace was as flat as a potato that had just been run over by several steamrollers followed by a frog on a bicycle. The group had bonded fairly easily, although the sedate words were still getting used to the return of War and her fellow ex-prisoners. Club, being of a protective temperament, fell somewhere in the middle of them all. He had emerged from the Well of Vocabulary some time after the exile of the Destructives, and had never seen aspects like those of War, Defence, Survival and the others. Regulation was having a nervous breakdown somewhere, he was sure.

They continued to walk onward, and onward and onward. Suddenly, Zephyr twisted down and exchanged news with War and Peace, the expedition's co-leaders. In a sudden and coincidental moment, a cry cam from behind him: "Club!" The stalwart defender turned around and saw Cloud bearing down with Mystery in tow.

"Mystery?" The coincidence had jarred his stability for a moment. "Boss?"

"Go tell War that the invader is at the Zone. Those are survivors ahead of you! I'm going back to organise!" Cloud zoomed off, and Club regathered himself. To his surprise, War had already begun to turn the troop around and sent Zephyr on to the dustcloud ahead of them. She looked displeased beyond measure, all scrunched up in anger, but the troop turned around anyway. War sought him out, however, with a different mission in mind.

"Zephyr spotted that the disturbance ahead is caused by more survivors. He has gone back now to confer, and will be back to guide you over there at any moment. Please, go, and explain the present circumstances. You've lived through them, and will be able to answer many more questions than I would. Please, go."

Suspicions fired through Club's mind, but nothing was clearly wrong. "Are they to continue on their way or join us at the Zone?" He asked deliberately.

"To the Zone, or the Well of Vocabulary, should they be in a very bad state." Zephyr was returning once again, and War turned back to her troop, after a few last instructions. "I'll send your friend on, after you. Good luck!" With that, the group moved out, and Club stood by himself, under the nervous form of Zephyr. They had never talked before, to any great extent.

"They're over this way. Come on, come on!" Zephyr was ever flighty when agitated. Club began to walk faster over the foundation of random punctuation, dodging the occasional prefix bushes or suffix roots that threatened to trip. Slowly, the group of survivors came into clearer view, and he abruptly stopped.

He didn't recognise a single word in this new group, and was stunned.

There shall be more...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Go Stand Under A Tree

Ah, Sundays, the days when things happen slowly. Very slowly. The day when even rain falls in slow motion from the sky as you glance out the window, and the wavelets on the surface of a swimming pool might as well be features on a watercolour painting. Yes, Sunday can be a very worrisome day for its inactivity. Not everyone remembers how to relax, anymore.

Is any of this making sense? In retrospect, no, as I've just been out to stand under a tree and listen to the rain for a while. This is one of the most relaxing experiences in the universe, to simply wander out and stand under a tree. It's one of the most direct connections you can have with nature. Do raindrops falling on leaves and tiles have a naturally meditative effect, fostering introspecting and relaxation in the human psyche, or is it purely personal? Did all those days watching the rain from the arches at school have a profound effect on the psyche? It's such a soothing thing in the evening. More people should learn to love rain.

It's easy to get lost, to lose contact with the world, when you have the whole false world of the Internet to lean on. The Internet is a construct, though, and the world outside is something else. The sheer physicality of raindrops, and their noise, forms a far greater connection to the world than any keyboard or sunbeam could. It's a little like sensing air movement at your fingertips, swimming in a scenic bay, or sitting on top of a cliff and listening to the waves crash and the winds rush.

Yes, it may be a Sunday, but it can be turned to the powers of good. The so-called 'day of rest' can legitimately be a day of rest, of your own choosing and not in the way imposed by the daft world outside of commercialism, of politics, and even of religion. Take that moment, and if it appeals to you, go stand under a tree and experience the rain. You never know, you might enjoy it.


PS Without raindrops, we could never have rainbows.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Television: 'Garfield And Friends' (1988-1994)

What makes this more than just any other cartoon series? What makes it better? What stops this writer, who is normally disinterested in cartoons, smile and enjoy it, rather than turn it off like any other example of the type except for the 'Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show'? Is it the warmth that people feel for Garfield the cat, Jon Arbuckle and Odie the dog? Is it the musical content, the occasional existentialism, or even the bursts of surrealness that creep in around the edges? Maybe it's all of those things and more, with some points taken away for the non-Garfield segment that is 'Orson's Farm'.

Reviewing 'Garfield and Friends', it's fascinating to see just how much they pushed the edges of what a kids cartoon series was supposed to be. There are musical segments, whole minutes pass by with Garfield stuck hanging from a branch, dream sequences, bursts of angst from the hapless Jon, and yet it somehow exudes a wonderful and warm sense of family. Well, it is a show based in the hit comic strip of Jim Davis, after all, the only strip that is even vaguely comparable to 'Peanuts', and it is built around an unconventional family. Even 'Orson's Farm' (aka 'US Acres') is build around a family too, and another unconventional one too.

The humour embedded in this show is lovely, even in 'Orson's Farm', which segment is always just a bit less sophisticated than the bracketing 'Garfield' bits. It's far more subversive than you might expect too, with jokes thrown in at levels you would never have been aware of as a child. Most of those jokes wouldn't land without the stellar voicework of Lorenzo Music, though. That guy was created to play a fat, greedy and laconic cat with a sketchy conscience. Thom Huge too was a magnificent Jon, pulling off the melancholic goofiness of the misfit that lives on the edge of some bizarre alternate universe of nervous collapse.

Looking back at the early episodes, highlights include 'Box O' Fun', in which Garfield imagines some adventures while playing with a cardboard box, 'Up A Tree' in which Garfield is stuck up a tree, and 'Nothing To Sneeze At', in which Jon has a terrible first date with Liz the sarcastic veterinarian. Those are all segments with a minimum of plot, and they all excel. Plot is what you bring on when you don't have characters! Bring on the existentialism, people, or bring on lasagna. It's a great little show, and it will be fun to work through the whole thing.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

My One And Only Referendum Special

It's been a horrible and lengthy referendum campaign, and the opposing sides seem to have missed almost all of the important points while throwing their poisonous barbs about. Somehow, the simple question of whether to stay in or leave the European Union has become conflated with the question of whether we want to be in Europe or not. They are fundamentally different concepts, after all. Europe is the collection of peoples of the continent and that physical landscape on which they (and we) live, and the other is a political construct whose governance is at best appointed at three steps removed from any actual electorate, and one which cannot be removed by anyone.

In any case, it's almost over. There's only a week to go and the ultimate question of the referendum remains to be answered. Should Britain stay or should it go, without actually going anywhere? Some people seem to think we'll suddenly be teleported out into the middle of the Atlantic, never to see the continent again, isolated global hermits. Others seem to think that the electorate will respond to being scared witless, or that a decision to leave will take effect immediately, with catastrophic effect. Is the status quo good enough to duck a decision on change? Is the status quo even going to be the status quo?

It's much nicer to watch 'Sapphire And Steel', to be honest, even if dear Mr Tully is about to be sacrificed by the cold time agent Steel. He wouldn't have a problem making silly decisions. Of course, the problem with the EU is that it wouldn't even have given people a referendum itself. It takes an elected government to do that.

Around here, in Carmarthenshire, there are many many projects that were made using EU money, most of them of environmental benefit. Worker's rights are bolstered mightily by EU regulations. There are good aspects to being in the EU, except for the glaring problems that it's utterly out of control, elected by no-one, and ruining many of the poorer countries on the continent. Maybe it's more like 'Sapphire And Steel' than I thought, as the sacrifice is made. Which sacrifice should it be? Is doing the right thing more important than the consequences that might - might! - follow.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Story: The Glove, XII

( Part XI , XIII )

Agnethia was of course the opposite of her mountainous uncle, a winsome but steely looking young lady. Steffan was awestruck just by her presence. No, she wasn't classically beautiful, but she carried herself in such a wonderful way...

Hold on, if Octavius was Rook's brother, and Aggie was his niece, then wasn't she--

"If you keep staring at me, I'll have to assume you're a mute of some kind!" Aggie glared.

"I'm -- I'm sorry. You're nothing like the girls at home."

"Humph." She looked around his room, finally satisfied. "This is your entry chip, this is your food card, and these are your backup keys. The common eating times are listed on the door." Aggie turned to the door, and then turned back. "What's so different?"

"You're like a lady from times past. Someone so classy that I feel like I should be running off to hide in the kitchen." Was what Steffan wanted to say. Instead, he managed to stammer out, "Your eyes, they -- they seem to shine light when you look at me." Gibberish. He inwardly screamed at himself.

"Hmm. See you around." Aggie left.

*    *    *

Days passed, and Steffan spent his time looking for employment and information on the disconnect between Edin and Burgh. Rook refused to talk about the cessation of exchange students between the two cities for the moment, and Aggie was too busy with her linguistic studies to be of much use, as well as uncertain about him.

Work was elusive, but he had funds to keep going for a while, and the mystery was far more interesting. One day, on a trip to the satellite town of Canterbury, Steffan was wandering around a kirk and enjoying the forest, while the teashop was tempting him with cakes.

Then a shot rang out, and everything became slightly different.

To be continued...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

No, Not Another Dodecahedron!

It was a well meaning project to begin with: To make origami models of all of the five Platonic solids with each of my primary school tutees. They would enjoy it, I thought, and was right. However, the five Platonic solids require a total of twenty seven pieces for each tutee, and if I ever have to make another twelve-component dodecahedron after this week, madness might ensue! Thank goodness that the ending is in sight! Only two dodecahedra and two icosahedra await, and only ten pieces remain to be made, with a possible hexahedron or to in addition to display a non-Platonic solid. My hexahedra keep vanishing for some reason. They might be disappearing into an interdimensional void or secretly enfolding the secret names of the secret international overlords, and thus being confiscated at every opportunity. Anything might be happening to them. Do you think there's an underground market in origami hexahedra? Could that be it? Are they even now being smuggled into deepest Ruritania inside copper-lined urns?

Actually, the dodecahedron is a marvelously silly model, and quite an adventure to make for the first time. It's the second and following cases that become a bit tiring, as each one requires twelve individually made components. However, ours is to moan and whine, but to delight, covertly explain regularity in shapes, and support invisible tape manufacturers wherever they may be.

Here at the Quirky Muffin, you are safe from football. There will be no football mentioned here, nor will there be much on politics once this accursed referendum is over, and the Olympics will be but a barely mentioned shadow. Last time, the Olympics were mentioned only because of a strange fascination with the women's basketball tournement, which was wonderfully free of the hype and corrupting money you might have found in lots of the other events. The women's basketball was endearing and fun. Ah... happy times... It's hard to believe there was a time when this blog could have been about cricket, snooker and golf. And 'Star Trek', of course, always 'Star Trek'.

Now you, the imaginary reader, are returned to your regular existences. Nest time: Another story segment, or a post about the ridiculous episode of 'Star Trek' that was entitled 'The Alternative Factor'. There was much falling off of cliffs by people with dodgy moustaches in that one. It's an utterly daft show, but kind of fun.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Television: 'Three Men In A Boat' (1975)

This was lovely. A real treat. A production that wouldn't even be considered now, for all its simplicity, wit and charm. As an adaptation of a book in which not an awful lot happens but in a funny way, it fits its remit remarkably. Directed by Stephen Frears (a legendary name I know nothing about), adapted by Tom Stoppard (ditto), and starring Tim Curry, Michael Palin and Stephen Moore, this is a wonderful and utterly silly achievement. Ah, the wonderful Stephen Moore, the greatly underrated marvel of a man himself. You can't help but love him, whether he's voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android in the original 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' radio series, wandering about indecisively in the movie 'Clockwise' or hanging endlessly about on children's television in the nineteen eighties and nineties. He's just one of those guys. A treasure.

Adapting Jerome K Jerome's 'Three Men In A Boat' would seem to be a doomed exercise in many ways. It's legendary status as one of the great comedic written works stands in the way, inviting failure. There were many attempts to do the deed, though, some highly regarded. The 1950s film might be good. This one does its very best to adhere to the style of the novel, while abridging it internally by having those scoundrels George and Harris, Moore and Palin respectively, forestall Jerome's tangential stories before they even begin. It's just as well, as the highly relaxed atmosphere might become soporific given a running time any longer than its sixty-five minutes.

Watching 'Three Men In A Boat' was just as relaxing as the journey down the Thames seemed to be, until the very rain-soaked climax. You could become almost entranced by the experience, except of course for Harris, and even become oblivious to George's blazer in a blissful reverie. Yes, it is like being in a reverie at times. In fact, it's difficult not to become rather meditative again, having watched it so recently (within the last two hours) for the first time. It's good to see Harris completely confusing a trailing crowd in Hampton Court Maze, and George strumming his banjo innocently. The only negative to pick out is that Tim Curry's Jerome seems a little incongruous or ill-fitting. In all fairness, that may be a retroactive effect after knowing of his efforts in other movies and television shows, or a side-effect of him playing the narrating character. At least the narration is partially explained by Jerome actually trying to narrate to George and Harris at several points, and being told to be quiet.

If you liked the novel, then you will probably like this show. It was wonderful, and only the better for knowing the source material. If you didn't like the novel, then the Quirky Muffin shall know. You will be dealt with. Ready the tin of pineapple, readers! (Oh, how could I have not mentioned the tin of pineapple? Classical comedy!)


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Day Before

The day before your birthday is always a tricky one. My gambit on other people's birthdays is to send them the message 'Happy Inconsequential Day' on the day before and ignore the birthday itself! Birthdays are tricky. Actually, the day before anything ceremonial or important is often very difficult.

We're being buried in politics right now, and it's not the nicest kind. Thinking about a birthday is almost preferable to referenda, primary elections, nationalism running rampant (but mostly imaginarily) and the horrible histories of past prime ministers being revisited in the present. Do you think there was ever a time when we debated things sensibly in this country, or was it always just tit for tat name calling of the worst order? At least it's not the United States, where there's a good chance that a raving lunatic could be elected president.

Yes, welcome to the wacky world as it stands. It's a relief to have a blog to write and stories to compose, and a fantasy land of books and movies to escape into. Never has 'Star Trek' and its message of positivity been needed so much!

In side notes, the Preston Sturges movie 'Unfaithfully Yours' was rather good, but not really rewatchable. Sturges always did interesting things, even when the overall result was a bit bizarre. Oh, Rex Harrison, you're always so close to being an excellent fit...

And now, let us return to the wacky world of blog writing, just in time to realise we've reached the end yet again. E-mail remains to be written, as do the next parts of 'Wordspace', 'The Glove', 'Diary Of A Laundry Robot' and 'The Ninja Of Health'. Two of those stories will take precedence, but which?


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Story: 'Wordspace' Phase II, Part I

( Condensed Phase I , Part II )

Previously, in the first phase of 'Wordspace', the enigmatic word Mystery travelled to the Crossing Point, where all the dimensions of reality meet for tea and biscuits. The only permanent resident of the Point, the incoherent polyglot known only as the Silly Stone, explained how two visitors had made it to Mystery's own Wordspace, and then returned their companion, one of them, to his own universe. The second, a hostile to the core of their being, remained in the continuum in location unknown. Upon their return to their home, and their discovery of utter destruction, Mystery and his friends Club and Cloud were dispatched to the Zone of Meaningless Jargon to seek the help of the long exiled so-called Destructives, who might have been framed when they were jailed there for nefarious reasons many aeons ago. Now, with their willing assistance, they plan to neutralise the invader, and even think about what might happen if there is an 'after'.

*    *    *

The scouting force rolled out, and Mystery watched them go. His companion Club strode with them, and suddenly he was alone for the first time in days. Alone. No, he wasn't really alone, he thought, looking around him at the other words present, all familiar in their shiny curves, lines and tittles. Over there was Splendour, looking rather shocked by recent events, and sitting on a mound of semi-colons left over from some past mining effort. Seated high on the side of the Zone was Splash, a decent chap with a flair for the dramatic, and Yodel was preparing herself for some vocal exercises while guarding the portal.

"The portal..." murmured Mystery. What in the Wordspace were they going to do with that intruder if they did stop him? Could he or she, or it, be captured or would they have to do something unthinkable. Could any of them still manage to think the unthinkable? They only had one prison, and he was standing next to it. The portals in and out of the Zone of Meaningless Jargon were nowhere near big enough to admit the invader, and if they were forced to the extreme then what would happen if that giant was reborn? Would it begin anew here or back in its own home world?

Cloud descended and hovered next to him. Good old Cloud, always dependable and constant. "Would you like a look around?" Mystery asked gently.

"Yes." Cloud responded in her usual brief manner.

"Let's take a little trip."

Cloud took Mystery up into the heights once again, where he and she surveyed the area. The Zone was far larger than he had thought from his groundbound perspective, looming up in this remote portion of the Wordspace. The jargon glittered under the light given off by distant Sun. Fancy was taking a flight of her own below them, flapping her syllables frantically. Cloud then took off after the scouting party, who could still be seen, as could the dust cloud on the horizon. The party marched resolutely, with its aerial members roving ahead to get initial information. War was at the very head of the party.

The dust cloud was approaching, rapidly getting closer. Suddenly, the source of the activity became clear: It was a band of fellow survivors! A foreboding seized Mystery and he looked back at the Zone. Yes, it was as he had feared. The invader approached from the opposite direction. Cloud dove as she had never dived before. They had to get to the scouting party, or should they warn their comrades around the Zone?

To be continued...

Friday, 3 June 2016

More Platonic Solids? Change The Space-Time Continuum!

Let's go spelunking into the hole of words. It's dark down there, filled with unknown topics and ideas. Thankfully, politics is off the agenda, unless it's on something as silly as Team Ginger versus Team Mary Ann! (For the record, it's Ginger all the way, after a brief sojourn on the other side.) (See: 'Gilligan's Island')

Where shall we go this time? I had ideas this morning, before the ordeals of the day kicked in, including the preparations for the latest origami dodecahedron. Each one of those elaborate constructions requires twelve modules built from A4 coloured paper, set up in mated pairs. It normally takes an hour or two to prepare the modules for each student.

We could talk about the Platonic Solids, actually, those five regular and convex (which means they have flat faces instead of spikes) solids. There are only five regular such polyhedra, if you can imagine that. They are the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. There can be no more. Out of all the possible three-dimensional solids there are only five which can have identical faces, and where each face has equal lengths and angles. Five.

Are there any more such solids out there in the universe? Are any more possible? What if we changed the laws of the universe? Yes... if we changed the space-time continuum then more might be possible, but then we could also do all kinds of other things...


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, X

( Part IX , XI )

The Woman braced herself and communed with the Pattern awhile. Nothing unusual occurred, except for a bit more dust sparkling in the sunbeams than usual. The Invader had gone, to a destination unknown, for now.

The Pattern yielded no new insight, but the communing did calm the Woman's mind. After, she continued with the cleaning up of the invisible debris with her companion, who had yet to find time to relax properly.

"Okay, you, it's your turn. I'm not going to go visit the Oracle with you in an unstable state. You must be at least a little rattled." She pointed imperiously. "Vamoose."

"Yes, ma'am." Returned the Man semi-mockingly. "I suppose that we can't refrain forever." He settled down, and opened his mind the universe, while she took up a custodial role. Nothing seemed to happen, and she relaxed a little.

Time passed, and the last of the shattered tubes seemed to have been cleared away. The Woman made a phone call to someone highly relevant, and had some green tea ready when the Man opened his eyes. Thankfully, in her eyes, he seemed a lot less edgy than he had been, probably in reaction to their territory being compromised.

"I've called him. I said we would be there in an hour or so." She told him.

"Was he surprised?"

"Actually, no. He was already making some pizza, apparently from the 'finest nutritious ingredients'."

The man smiled, a little grimly. "Oh, please, I hope that he's not going to put on sardines again!" The two looked at each other, obviously still reluctant to say too much out loud in case the presence was closer than they thought. "I'll get the car out."

Two sandwiches later, the Man and the Woman trundled out into the early evening in a quaint little car, and set off the lair of the Oracle, which was also known by the name 'Crane and Nelson, Maritime Supplies' in nearby Haagenport.

More will follow...