Monday, 31 July 2017

Television: 'Supergirl: Worlds' Finest' (2016) (Episode 1x18)

It's almost good enough to be the best of the season. It's almost good enough to ease my aversion towards crossover episodes of television shows. It's not quite good enough to make me watch an episode of 'The Flash' rather than jump in a tank of piranhas at the behest of a gloating supervillain, but there are some nice moments. It would be a much better episode if it weren't so light and fluffy and undermined by the cliffhanger at the end. Yes, that's it, this would have been twice as good if it weren't bookended by the hangover of Siobhan's story from last time and the setup of the Kryptonians' mind control for the penultimate episode. Exactly.

The most interesting part of 'Worlds' Finest' is the one involving the Flash, as guest star Grant Gustin drops in from his own series, via an interdimensional rift, to pep up this one and advance Kara's romance with James Olsen in the process. He also helps to trap the newly transformed Siobhan, the Silver Banshee, and the villain she helped to break out of the DEO, Livewire. He additionally sets up National City's police force with a metahuman prisoner containment facility and eases several of the morality problems associated with what had bee happening previously. Finally, he takes up the screen time usually given to Kara's sister, the problematic Alex, hurrah! Whoop whoop.

Grant Gustin is pretty good, and charismatic, but he couldn't make me watch another episode of 'The Flash', which was utterly dreadful and formulaic when last I sampled it. He's also the least solid when compared to the regulars on 'Supergirl', which seems to indicate that this might be a stellar cast, although one that will be crippled in the upcoming second season. Second season? Oh, I forgot that its existence was being denied. There is no second season! No! CBS cancelled the show, and that was it. There are no extra episodes, without CBS, Max Lord, Cat Grant, or even most of the dynamics in season one. Nope. It's a myth.

Getting back on track, this was a pretty good fluffy crossover, although it did highlight just how many experiences the two heroes had in common, and how little originality is kicking around in the DC telly-verse. It was nice to see Wynn get a little giddy at having someone to geek around with, and the confrontations between the two opposing duos were not too generic or formulaic, and indeed the final one was resolved nicely. Bebe from 'Frasier' popped in as an evil aunt, Cat was super-smart and spotted Barry Allen (aka The Flash) almost from the outset. In fact, it was good to see him non-plussed by no-one recognising his name or not very nice looking costume.

So, pretty good is the operative phrase, with some solid visuals. No Alex meant sadly no J'Onn either, but the Flash was pretty good. For those missing Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord... well, hold on until next time.


Saturday, 29 July 2017

A Review Of Reviews

Crikey, banging, chiselling and sawing is hard work. It's no wonder that people took to power tools so readily. However, it feels better to do it the less noisy and more hands-on way. In fact, it almost feels artistic to get in there with a hammer and a chisel and sculpt pieces of timber into the designs that you want. It might be excessively scruffy, and wonky in places, but it still feels good. With three pieces done out of the first set of six, it seems as if this project will stretch on forever, but it should be faster from now on. Hopefully. Please send help, and a spare arm for when all the hammer work takes its ultimate revenge.

Moving on, the next few weeks will see some cover posts here at the Quirky Muffin, pre-written to cover weekend trips to the vicinities of Nottingham and Manchester. As a result, more reviews than usual can be expected, with all that implies. Oh, they're not really reviews. We don't do reviews, but chats about things recently watched, read, played or listened to. In fact, there are almost no negative reviews here at all. You see, I don't believe in doing negative reviews. It's too much of a destructive thing to do to talk about all the things wrong with things that weren't liked, and at length. As a result, the in-depth reviews here are all middling to positive, for the most part, with some exceptions. Negative opinions tend to get dumped out with other things summary posts, such as 'The Literary Reflection' series.

Wholly reviews really aren't pleasant to write or to read, or to listen in podcast form. Often, it seems as if people forgot just how much effort has been made by so many people to make even the least successful things we all try out. Even a bad movie has hundreds of people doing their best, and it's just disrespectful to trash their efforts en masse. Why not just stick a 'not recommended' sticker on the item in question and move on? There are some things to be learnt from negative criticism, if its technical and has a constructive edge, but that's not what most negative reviews do.

Hmmm. Maybe there should be a movie equivalent to 'The Literary Reflection' here at the Quirky Muffin. What would be its name? The answer to this question may require some lengthy contemplation...


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Story: 'Wordspace' Phase II, Part XI

( Part I , X , XII )

Mystery and Cloud were flying off to rejoin War's troop, Club was leading the group of returned Ordinals, and Dream had awoken to find herself at the Well of Vocabulary, where Surprise revealed to her something extraordinary indeed.

Long ago, it had been concluded that there was nothing underneath the impenetrable foundation of the Wordspace. That foundation was all that stood between the words that lived cheerfully above it from the existential nightmare of a space that might or might not exist, with or without any lexical life.

As a result, Dream was surprised when Surprise led her down a tunnel that apparently led down into the underside of the Wordspace, and showed her an immense structure, a word that somehow seemed to stretch on forever. Deep in that underside, every so often a booming 'Infinity' was heard, bouncing along the ceiling.

What was it?

*    *    *

Dream looked upon the mystery under the surface of their world, and felt a shadow of familiarity.


There was a twist of half-memory teasing at the edges of her mind. Was it connected to her eons-long sojourn elsewhere?

She turned toward the exit, deciding that a trip to the common room might be in order, in this odd complex under the world.

"Infinity?" Boomed the voice.

Dream turned back.

A massive eye opened up before her. She looked upon this eye, the eye of Forever.

*    *    *

Mystery was astounded when the Wordspace far beneath himself and Cloud seemed to convulse once. War, at the head of her troop, stumbled and fell, as did most of her comrades.

*    *    *

Club and the Ordinals also stumbled as the foundation moved beneath them. When they regained their footings, First looked stunned. He began to mutter under his breath, and moved away, gesticulating his syllables wildly. He looked so frustrated that Club worried for his etymological health!

It will continue, somehow...

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Few Moments More

I'm running late. This is dreadful. The first attempt was the wrong kind, and has been put into pre-planned holiday cover, so now there are but a few minutes to manufacture a few words out of nothing. Unfortunately, the woodwork project doesn't provide much content, unless planing and sawing in preparation for joinery is of interest? No, maybe not. Finger joints, people, finger joints!

It has been a brave few days. with the notable highlight being the first attempt to deliver a Spanish lesson, which went absurdly well. This whole plan to build up a multi-disciplinary tutoring service and remain independent might actually work out. Who would have thought it? The subsequent lessons will have to be very well thought out, though. It might be time to start digging into teaching intuition and working out the best balance for revision and moving on. It was fun.

In a scattershot summary of things gone by in the last few days, the film 'The First Men In The Moon' (1964) turned out to be pretty good, and volume two of 'The Conan Chronicles' continues to be as excellent as volume one. Robert E Howard surely had a great head for pulpy adventures. It's not even as sexist as you might have expected, with some sparky heroines being thrown into the mix. You would think that there would have been more productions of the Conan stories in this era of digital effects, wouldn't you? Perhaps, in a world with more credible film writers with some creative freedom, it could happen. That is a story for another day, however.

Now, it is time to settle back and think about the happy things, before falling into a deep and wonderful sleep. Then, tomorrow, amongst other things, there will be the episode of 'Supergirl' that I suspect will be the best of the season, the crossover with 'The Flash'. It will probably round out the mini-series of posts on individual episodes, and leave only the season (and, for me, series) wrap-up. What an unusual season it has been.



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Television: 'Mork And Mindy: Mork Learns To See' (1980) (Episode 2x17)

'Mork And Mindy' had a pretty troubled run, with many reshufflings and reschedulings coming down from the network and studios involved after an extremely successful first season. As a result, every season has a new settling in period to be dealt with, before getting into a new normal. The higher-ups just didn't understand why the show worked, and kept messing around with it in vain attempts to make this series about an alien living on Earth with a human flatmate fit into one of their templates!

'Mork Learns To See' is one of the most successful episodes of the second season, and features one of the most interesting uses of Mork (Robin Williams) and Mindy's (Pam Dawber) downstairs neighbour Mr Bickley, the legendary Tom Poston. Most of the time, Mr Bickley existed to complain and make snide remarks, but on this occasion, we got to see the most touching part of his history writ large, as he struggled to deal with a visit by his blind adult son, a pianist and musical performer, and decides to run off and let his neighbours deal with him instead.

There's a remarkable turn in this episode, once Mork and Mindy discover that their painting of Bickley as a villain for avoiding his son is not quite fair. It turns out that it's not nasty behaviour but rather crippling fear that is driving Bickley, and that he is effectively the wounded person in the relationship, after having given up so much to see his son end up an independent and valiant person. You have to think about it for a little while, but the extended sequence of Mork learning and living how Tom Bickley lives in perpetual darkness is really there to establish Bickley the younger as an independent person, while his fully sighted father is the weaker of the two. Oh, and it gives Williams a chance to emote freely, as was his gift. It seems that 'Mork And Mindy' was where Williams had the most control of his emotive energies, although that might have been the result of strong leadership inside the series.

'Mork And Mindy' was all about telling the truth, often when it wasn't the polite thing to do. Sometimes it went too far, or misfired, or had absolute disasters such as the season two premiere, which is the single worst hour of television that I've ever seen. Here, they hit it exactly right, with a great red herring of Mr Bickley as a rotter, before wheeling around and making it clear he is the self-punishing victim. Also, Tom Sullivan produces a very strong performance as Tom Bickley, portraying great inner strength before finally confessing that he misses the father he hasn't seen for more than a decade.

Very good. Not for the cynical.


Friday, 21 July 2017

Pardon Me, That's My Horse

My penguin is giving me the evil eye. At least, he would be if he were real. As it is, a fluffy toy penguin is giving me the fluffy evil eye. I might need some fluffy toy fish, except that would be somehow very disturbing. Perhaps the penguin is reminding me to write this blog, which is proving extremely difficult even with the bonus powers associated with a recent haircut. The Reverse Samson Effect is in full play, except for this piece of anticlimactic writing. Well, we don't know if it will be anti-climactic yet, do we? There might be a UFO landing partway through, or the invention of a new term for redundant cheeses.

It has been an interesting week, primarily concerned with mysterious gallivanting timber consignments, the re-ignition of working through the final French coursebook, and the booking of the second year's modules. Yes, the madness will continue for one more year! After that, it will be time to reassess, if the courses are passed. Language courses aren't like those you might find in mathematics degrees: It's entirely possible to miss the point, make errors and not know it, and then be caught casting around wildly for what is going wrong. The second year will be half French and half Spanish, so that's potential enough for confusion...

Is it possible to take French and Spanish courses at the same time? Well, it's not impossible. Some fearsome mental ingenuity and stamina will have to be imagined, as well as some unknown pots of energy from the secret stores that exist in the vicinity of the mythical karma core. Ah, karma, that grand feeling of not having harmed anyone or anything in the world, and doing as much good as you could have while making recompense for any mistakes that slip by. No-one's perfect, after all. Maybe it will be karma that gets this second year completed successfully? Maybe it will be the penguin. I say, Mr Penguin, are you an imaginary expert linguist?

In upcoming posts, expect some book blather, more 'Wordspace', more reviews of various things, and the beginning of the woodworking horror stories associated with Summer Project 2017. There's not much mathematics here at the moment, is there? Perhaps there will be, sometime soon. Perhaps. It's probably time to get back on that particular horse, before it leaves the barn for good.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Television: 'Supergirl: Solitude' (2016) (Episode 1x15)

The good: Everything with Kara and the CatCo people, the missile interception, most of the things with Hank/J'Onn but without Alex, the Fortress of Solitude and its Key.

The bad: As usual, most things with Alex, most of the militaristic DEO things, negative Lucy Lane, a lot of the fighting with Indigo.

The neutral: Wynn and Siobhan the Weird, Indigo the wannabe Brainiac.

You never know what you're going to get. Will it be the frustratingly violent punch-fest episode, or will it be something special and unique to a Super-character? Will it be fitting to what makes these lead characters special, or not? To cut to the core of all the recent problems with interpretations of Superman: A hero is someone who saves people, and a warrior is someone who fights people. The overlap exists, but is hard to capture. To be explicit Superman and Supergirl need to be heroes, not warriors.

'Solitude' wins, on the whole, by virtue of the Key to the Fortress of Solitude. It's made out of collapsed matter and so dense that only a few people in the Universe could lift it, and is essentially a golden S-shield on a stick. For any one with even a passing knowledge of the old Superman comics continuity, it's the homage that finally tells you that this is a show that loves Super-lore. It's so cute that it's the same as a sign saying 'Welcome Home, Stranger, The Fridge Is Full'. Sadly, the next episode will throw it all away with some humdrum 'Red Kryptonite Turns Kara Bad' shenanigans, but for now we have the Key, and it is good.

We also have a great non-punchy Labour of Supergirl as she stops a runaway nuclear missile (sound familiar?), which is executed brilliantly, and some nice moments with James Olsen at the Fortress. James is really being played out well on this show, although his ascendancy is at the expense of Kara's other admirer, the now-rejected Wynn. As a result, we have a strange imbalance, with James being lined up as a Super-lover, and Wynn being set up as a partner to Cat's second personal assistant, the sadly ill-omened Siobhan, in order for him to not fade away out of the show completely.

If there's anything to complain about this time, it is again Alex, and I will not beat up the character at length, but merely say that she is from another series. Chyler Leigh is a fine dramatic actress, but she's not even remotely of the same comedic/hearty mold as everyone else and collapses down to flatness in comparison. On the other hand, David Harewood has steadily improved as Hank/J'Onn, especially as his real identity has emerged and been expanded upon. If he could only be extracted from the DEO, and instead be a straightforward mentor character, he would be perfect and actually collapse onto the character as he was in the 'Justice League' series by Giffen and DeMatteis back in the 1980s and 1990s. Oh, some of the stuff with the computer creature Indigo was not great, especially the technobabble, but they managed to avoid generic fights with her, so that was a partial success too. Lucy Lane's negativity was so annoying that it was a relief to see her break up with Jimmy Olsen, but that could be debateable. That's enough carping.

Yes, a definite hit. The Fortress of Solitude was great, the missile sequence was great, and the hand holding with J'Onn to mend the personal rift touching. Very solid episode. Only five to go until this iteration of the series is over, and we finish.


Monday, 17 July 2017


How will this go? Will it be funny? Will it be serious? Will it be about the mysterious timber delivery that is currently roaming the country apparently at random, never to arrive at its ultimate destination? No, that last one would be too mean. Instead, this can be about the perils of never having time to think about rhubarb. Yes, yes, we all know about the dangers of not having time to think things through and form actions instead of reactions, but the risks involved in disregarding rhubarb are far more devastating.

For one thing, disregarding and neglecting the word 'rhubarb' robs you of one of the most famously amusing words in history. Yes, 'rutabaga' is pretty good too (the common swede to those of us who live outside the United States Of America), but 'rhubarb' has a great theatrical tradition behind it. It's a mighty and historical noun. Just saying 'rhubarb' is enough to build internal energy and summon resolve for the day ahead. On the other hand, it may just be a funny root that is used in some desserts. You take your pick and make your choice.

Apparently, and this may be apocryphal, extras often said 'rhubarb' over and over to make convincing crowd noises in old dramatic productions. I can just imagine it now, the 'rhubarb' iterations going and on and on, overlaying and reinforcing, until a resonant frequency was achieved and all the extras went hopelessly insane. Even now, I suspect, there are homes full of victims of the Rhubarb Practice. Maybe, one day, a cure will be found. Of course, this could also all be rubbish. You're not reading a blog with a high ambition for sense or logical reasoning.

Logical reasoning. That's one of the great challenges in teaching mathematics. My own learning had logical reasoning as an asset so intuitive, but also oddly polarised, as to make its teaching perversely difficult. So, if there's one area for improvement in the next few weeks, that is it. How to teach logical reasoning, and of advocate rhubarb in all its forms. Without 'rhubarb', how can we ever impart the wisdom to solve for two unknowns at the same time?


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Story: 'Wordspace' Phase II, Part X

( Part I , IX , XI )

Club's knowledge of the Ordinals was limited to a few stories told by School and some of the Old Timers. He had never met them back in the earlier days of their world, which no-one had ever really come to understand, as he had replaced an earlier word who had met an untimely end. The Ordinals had been just a story told to fill the long evenings of his early years, and dreary days out camping at the foot of Mountain and Vale.

To Club's left, the enigmatic Fifth walked, a mostly silent word who looked around him in wonder at the parts of the Wordspace that he and his friends hadn't traversed in many eons. Ahead, the Zone of Impenetrable Jargon loomed, and his head cocked to one side. "What is that?" He enquired of Club.

"It's the Zone."

"The Zone?" Fifth looked confused. "There was never a 'Zone' when we were here. What is it?"

"It mystifies us. It is a great dome build out of punctuation an syllables of no practical use, that became embedded here in the ancient history of the Space. We have used it as a prison." Club was unused to being the one who answered questions.

Eighth, one of the younger Ordinals, had been listening along. She seemed sceptical. "A great mass of jargon does not simply form a dome out of nowhere. It is... interesting..."

Spying an opportunity to change the topic to one he didn't have to explain himself, Club asked a question. "Why have you and your friends been out here for so long? Did you not want to come home?"

Fifth looked embarrassed. "We couldn't find our way back. The Wordspace has many interesting places beyond the Frontier, but also vast expanses of featureless punctuation tundra. "We have been utterly lost." The Invader could now be seen dimly in the distance. "By the Great Conjugator! It is massive!"

The Invader loomed above the dome of the Zone, crashing its clenched digits down in futility. Suddenly, it seemed to them, it crashed over in complete spontaneity.

"That was odd." Was Eighth's only comment. "Very mysterious."

Club smiled. Where mysterious things happened, his old friend would not be far away. "Yes. It's a Mystery."

To be continued...

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Experimental Chocolate Cake

Returning to baking for a glorious moment, here is the latest prototype for a sugar-free chocolate cake. It's approaching good, ridiculously! How to improve from here? It's hard to know...

Ingredients2 medium apples, finely chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup margarine/butter
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5/2 cups flour (and maybe a bit more to stiffen it up)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup set honey

Procedure01 Preheat your oven to 160C, and line a cake tin with greaseproof paper.
02 Sift and combine the soda, salt, flour and cocoa.
03 Melt together the margarine/butter and honey.
04 Mix together the dry and melted ingredients.
05 Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Combine.
06 Finally, mix in the apple.
07 Pour into the baking receptacle and meditate on the nature of success, for about an hour. My prototype was cooked after fifty-five minutes!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Relentless Quest

It must be possible. There must be a  way to make a good chocolate cake without sugar or synthesised sugar substitutes. There must be. How to work towards that holy grail, that marvel of unattainable goals, is the question.

The last attempt involved tinned pears and their accompanying juice. It was nice but wet. There has been lots of success with honey recently, but it's a little too easy to overheat concoction and bake out the sweetness. What is the third option or combination that works? There should be one.

It's a relentless quest to find nice to things to eat while being as sugar-free as possible. You wouldn't think it would be difficult, but it is. When you have a moment, take a look down the list of ingredients of your favourite foods, and marvel at what you didn't know about.

Maybe it should be apples. We have lots of apples. Yes. It will be an apple-oriented chocolate cake, with some extras thrown in in the most arbitrary of manner. For a more arbitrary cake medley, please see 'Carry On Cruising', arguably the second to last of the 'good' movies in that series. It has Kenneth Connor, so it can't be bad.

Oh, the unattainable dream...


Monday, 10 July 2017

On The Book Piles, VI

Once again, it's time to dig into the book piles and have a short ramble on about what's being read, and whether they're good, enjoyable, interesting, dumb, smart, or any of the above. Once more, the game is afoot!

'The Ship Who Won' by Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye (1994)

I have read this two book series out of order, this one being set and published before 'The Ship Errant' by Jody Lynn Nye alone. It's very much a different work to its sequel but also has lots in common. A brain-ship and her companion mark out a first contact on a world, but discover a bizarre mock-feudal society run by apparent wizards. It sounds good as it's described, doesn't it? It's an adventure, but a bit less substantial than the follow-up, unless the last few pages turn up something unexpected.

'Murder Must Advertise' by Dorothy L Sayers (1933)

This is one of the most famous of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and on first reading it shockingly unveiled the rottenness of the advertising business. So far, only a few pages in, it's a witty bit of mystery fluff. We'll see what happens in this entry in the excellent series.

'Journey To The West' (Volume 2) by Wu Cheng'en (~1590)

Progress is being made. There are only another fourteen or fifteen hundred pages to go in the whole story and a few hundred here in volume two. It's fascinating and inventive, but ultimately a massive set of short stories, and short stories are my kryptonite. It's hard to believe that 'Journey To The West' was written more than four hundred years ago, as the translation is so crisp and modern, and the fantasy on a par with many a modern work. Very good.

'The Voyage Of The Beagle' by Charles Darwin (1839)

Stalled. Even more stalled. It will get back to the top one day. Somehow. It's really not bad.

'Jokes And Their Relation To The Unconscious' by Sigmund Freud (1940)

A non-fiction book that's actually reaching its conclusion? Good grief! That must mean that it's good and readable. Seriously, folks, this has been a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, and a lot of the reasoning on jokes, jests, and the comic, makes a lot of sense. Also, I learnt a new word in 'cathexis', for which I will always be grateful. Why not grab a few more of the Freud books?

'Kentucky Thriller' by Lauren St John (2013)

Barely begun, but it seems to be keeping up the quality of this young adult series. Hopefully, it will not go so far afield this time!

'Galileo's Daughter' by Dava Sobel (1999)

A third non-fiction book selected from the piles for this summary, and it's abour the surviving correspondence between legendary astronomer Galileo and his convent-bound daughter. Sadly, only the correspondence going to Galileo survives as his letters in return were burnt by a convent official. Still in the early stages, but it seeme interesting.


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Act, Don't React

It's quiet out there. Too quiet. As if on cue, an airplane flies over. A dog barks. Blast. Another promising beginning sent to narrative jail. Let's begin again.

It's not quiet out there. It's eerily noisy. Children scream over at the playground, in the nice way. The sunshine continues, and it becomes a miracle that no-one has brought out a lawnmower to annoy everyone. However, a power saw is heard, and muttering begins deep in the heart of the writer of the Quirky Muffin. Why, oh why, do people like the Summer? Presumably it's not for the insects. Oh, to each their own in the grand scheme of things. Let's not be negative, but positive.

<Thinks for a while>

Positivity has to be found internally in these days of media cynicism and utter pessimism. No change is good according to the powers that try to shape out opinions, and nothing good can come out of people having ideas anywhere. It's of course not true. Good things can come out of current processes like the Exit from the EU, or the eventual aftermath of Trump. Nothing absolutely must be bad. Hopefully, and the hope is really there, we can escape the reporting tyranny, bypassing it completely, and actually find out how things are working in the world. Is it possible? Yes, for we have positivity. Good things can happen! Let's not assume disaster when some measure of success is possible!

How do we find positivity? Much as in 'City Slickers', we can say that the answer to that question is different for every one of us. Some people watch cheering television shows and movies, and read books that they love. Some others lean on the innocence of their children and live vicariously on their optimism. Sadly, some people don't find their inner smile, but they could. It's just a question of finding space to act instead of to react, and in which to relax. Everything in the world is pushing us to not think about what we do. We need to think. That will be next two hundred part lecture, complete with illustrations and cracker recipes. (No, not really.) To think is to plan for better things.

Better things can happen.


Friday, 7 July 2017

Television: 'Supergirl: Bizarro' (2016) (Episode 1x12)

This could so easily be a great season of television if it could stop being lazy. I've already mentioned the uninteresting fighting scenes, but there is also the element of using all the standard superhero episode stories. Twelve episodes into the series, we've already had the ceremonial losing of powers/memory ('Lois and Clark', 'The Flash' (1990-1991), 'Superman II', 'Spider-Man II', 'The Adventures Of Superman') and the bizarro evil clone ('Lois and Clark' Season 1, 'The Flash' (1990-1991), 'Superman III') and we're only a four episodes away from the hero going bad after exposure to something silly ('Superman III', 'Spider-Man III', and arguably every superhero show). We also have a blatant retread of Lex Luthor in Maxwell Lord, and a carbon copy of Daily Planet dynamic at CatCo, right down to the presence of James Olsen (coincidentally in the 'Supergirl' movie). On the other hand, we don't seem to be getting the visit to a parallel universe where the hero failed, which is something.

Wow, that turned into a much longer rant than I expected. 'Supergirl' is definitely not that bad. It just needs a different emphasis.

The good parts of 'Supergirl', however, are very good. In this episode, for example, we get great character work between the four regular characters at CatCo, who consistently do their best to save each episode. This time, we get the rapprochement between Kara and the heartbroken Wynn, a touching scene between James and Wynn as they ponder their feelings for Kara 'Supergirl' Danvers' in the wake of her somewhat callously revealing her new boyfriend, and some great moments between Cat and Kara on the latter dating the former's son. Even the dodgier side of things over at the alien-busting DEO has a moment or two, but it's mostly undermined by the clone storyline being a complete ripoff of those other examples, right down to 'Maxwell Lord' being written in where it would have said 'Lex Luthor' in a previous version. The Bizarro storyline almost works anyway, and is saved by the final reconciliation between Supergirl and her doppelganger, but 'Lois and Clark' did it better, as did the 1990 'The Flash'. If only they could have put a new spin on it here, and not just had a carbon copy. We also saw the departure of Kara's first boyfriend, henceforth to be known as Captain Bland.

It's a remarkably charismatic cast. Mehcad Brooks and Jeremy Jordan make an especially good double act at CatCo, and really need to be used more. There is also a good moment of daring rescue, which they manage to work in most episodes, which is to their credit. Rescues are the super-thing. Will the season end up being good? We'll have to see how it works out over the next eight episodes, but the episode synopses aren't looking good...


Book: 'The Complete Brigadier Gerard' by Arthur Conan Doyle (1894-1903)

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote many different series of stories. It wasn't all Sherlock Holmes, although the Great Detective is predominantly what he is remembered for, as the writer feared might happen. There were also historical novels, the Professor Challenger stories, a host of one-off stories, and these Brigadier Gerard stories. The Gerard stories were and the historical novels are the black hole of my knowledge of Doyle, but at least that hole is slightly smaller now.

The titular Etienne Gerard was a fictitious French cavalry officer during the Napoleonic wars, who was excessively vain of his abilities on the battlefield and with the ladies, and of course of his looks. It's an impressive set of seventeen stories, clearly from the prime of Doyle's creativity, and it manages to maintain a delicate lightness of tone even in the stories around Waterloo and the downfall of the Emperor. Yes, it's a light satire of the French but it's also that for the British, effectively neutralising any offence taken by those who may have missed the very affectionate prose. There is no hatred toward anyone in the Gerard stories.

It's definitely refreshing to be reminded that Doyle was a master storyteller. He had it all. He wrote some of the best detective stories ever made, he did a dinosaur adventure in 'The Lost World', he wrote historical novels set in the middle ages, he created short stories in practically every genre, and these Brigadier Gerard stories as well. He had a twinkle in his prose, an eye for context, and a disregard for the punctilious maintenance of continuity.

The Gerard stories cover twenty-one years of history, and are all fascinating. My expectation was that boredom would seep in at some point, but Doyle did well and maintained variety and focused more on adventure than the horrors of war. Having said that, the horror of Waterloo is not glossed over, even as Gerard himself races through it in a mad dash to save Napoleon from his pursuers. In many ways, these are the stories that I really wished the Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe stories could have been. There is humour, stunning construction, excellent prose, and a smooth flow from story to story which makes it easy to read all the stories consecutively. There is also a far amount of globetrotting, which you might not expect and some little examination of the aftermath and consequences of the fall of the Emperor.

Yes, it's a recommended set of stories. If you fancy reading them, then get the illustrated collection, which has pictures which are easily the equal of those done for the Sherlock Holmes stories.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Do It Yourself!

What should be written about this time? If this weren't a 'Type A' post, I could write a little about 1961's 'Master Of The World', which is oddly beautiful and erratic, and in its adaptation from the novel the movie has essentially become 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea' in the sky. Oh, Vincent Price has some silly eyebrows in this one! However, this is a Type A, so we will simply waffle on without any particular plan. It's not difficult, but it does require getting into a frame of mind that is loose and freewheeling. And not talking about muffins.

'Loose and freewheeling'? That was the original point of this exercise! It's easy to forget that this is a therapeutic activity above all, a soothing of the mental stresses that afflict us all from time to time. That's why the stories are really wonderful, when they work. Sometimes they don't work, and we end up with the multiply dead-ended 'The Glove', but the first part of 'Wordspace' was worth it. I think. It's hard to tell from the outside.

The next few days will be strange, as a new Summer side project opens and adds woodworking into the mix. No, that wasn't a typo, it did say 'woodworking'. When you have a few quiet months, it's good to challenge yourself, and so some bookcases will be made. It will be difficult, completely new, and probably a completely daft thing to do, but a good idea nonetheless. If they work out well, then who knows what else might follow? It's nice to make things for your yourself when you can, and not just accept the generic items handed out by the homogeneous would of retail. People from a hundred years ago would be shocked at how limited and inflexible the size ranges of items available today can be. Do it yourself, people of the world! Do it yourself! It's actually cheaper, if you re-use whatever tools you buy, and you get life skills in the process...

Blather blather blather. It's time to close up this post, embrace the thrill of unconsciousness for another night, and read some more of the 'Brigadier Gerard' stories if sleep proves difficult. That collection of stories is awesome, and really proves Doyle's eminence in adventure stories. He was amazing. There will be more on Doyle and 'Brigadier Gerard' sometime soon.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Board Game: 'Thunderbirds' ('The 50th Anniversary Cooperative Board Game') (2015)

This is an impressive game. If it hadn't been for some enthusiastic reviews on the 'Dice Tower' for the expansions (Thank you, Zee Garcia) and great playthroughs on Youtube from 'Dad Vs Daughter', it probably wouldn't have popped into the mental category of 'buyable games', but it thankfully did. However, you do need to get the 'Tracy Island' expansion, which makes it all just a tiny bit easier more intuitive. It's essential for getting the full effect, and playing without that little mountain miniature would be a gloomy business indeed.

It's exceedingly unusual to find good licenced games which aren't just 'Star Wars' or war games of some other flavour. Exceedingly unusual. 'Thunderbirds' bucks that trend. In it, one to four players share out some characters from the show between them, and spend an hour to two hours moving around the board, dropping off and picking up each other and utility vehicles, and averting disasters with the help of various bonuses and the disaster dice. On each occasion, if you're lucky you get a reward and save the day, or you fail and possibly advance the progress of the arch nemesis known only as the Hood. Why is he called the Hood, despite not having a hood? These questions are best left for finer minds than mine. Arching above these pursuits, you also need to stop three of the Hood's schemes before he moves far enough along his progress track to launch any of them. It is surprisingly tense, and the integrating of the 'Thunderbirds' mythology into this classic Matt Leacock ('Forbidden Island', 'Forbidden Desert', 'Pandemic') cooperative game is great.

Ultimately, 'Thunderbirds' is what is called a 'pick up and deliver' game. You have nine characters, each of which has a primary active power, and a secondary power which is active when he or she is in his home vehicle or location. By carefully optimising, and burning out your brain in the process, how you're going to move, you try to have all your pieces, vehicles, and tools in the right places at the right times (including in space!) to avert the disasters and schemes before the Hood can win. All with gorgeous art from the 1960s television show, and a rather gorgeous board and solid miniatures. It's lovely, and quite difficult even at the lowest level of difficulty. Sometimes you have to plan things out carefully, and sometimes you just have to rely on your luck and hope to roll your way out of an unavoidable crisis. Sometimes you lose, and learn a life lesson in dealing with impossible situations, as the world falls to the machinations of that purple fiend. Hopefully, you have a plan for most of the time.

Yes, it's a good game. I do wonder if it would be lessened by a lack of exposure to the original television show, which saturates the experience. Sometimes you do want to just get John Tracy back on the space station and out of the way, and I would be surprised if anyone ever could resist the temptation to do Parker impressions while driving Lady Penelope around in FAB 1. Recommended, but you really do need to get 'Tracy Island' too! (The other two expansions aren't particularly important in comparison.)


Saturday, 1 July 2017


It's never too early to start planning. We are now only one hundred posts away from a thousand Quirky Muffins, at which point the universe will end and the world as we know it will convert into rice pudding. Hmmm... rice pudding... what a distracting thought. What could the thousandth post possibly be that would prove fitting? How about something utterly banal and silly or extemporised? That's a good plan. Let's stick to that. It's worked nine hundred times so far.

One hundred posts will take a while to fill, so we will have a large number of words to write, hopefully in the correct order and making some sense. It's not hard to do, but it is hard to contemplate the final result. The joined-up version of 'Oneiromancy' was a beast to check and lightly edit, and that was only the equivalent of thirty or so parts! As with all grand projects, you take each day as it comes, and write what comes to mind.

It occurs to this writer that there is a massive amount of repetition in the blog by now, which is inevitable. Some of the rambling ideas have probably been imagined several times over, and the existing pile of posts is so vast that we would never be able to check through it all. Yes, tags would have been a good idea, nine hundred posts ago. The 'Chatter' links serve as a rudimentary replacement, indexing as they do all the reviews and story episodes posted to date. It's true that tangential and minor references won't be in there, but there's no going back and fixing things now!

As an example, this reference to the 'Magnum, PI' episode 'Home From The Sea' won't make it onto the 'Television Chatter' index, as I'm simply going to state that it's a very good example of the show. 'Magnum PI' helped me get through writing my doctoral thesis, and a rewatch is very much in order, so anticipate a lot more on the subject as time winds on. It actually is one of the best series ever made, despite it being so manly! Yes, more 'Magnum PI', more of the stories, despite their debateable qualities, and a lot more on books as the habit becomes more ingrained. In fact, another 'On The Book Piles' must be imminent, as there have been many changes since the last post. We might even get to talking about board games. What a turnabout that would be!

For now, though, we close another post, and wonder what the world will deliver next. Hopefully, it won't involve sharks, a giant marshmallow man, or a trip to an antimatter universe.