Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book: 'Leave It To Psmith' by PG Wodehouse (1923)

It's funny while being intricate, and manages to juggle numerous distinct character lines without any apparent effort. It is the culmination of the 'Psmith' sequence of stories and only the second episode in the 'Blandings' saga. In short, it is 'Leave It To Psmith', and it is easily one of Wodehouse's best novels, in my limited experience. The 'Jeeves' stories are still to come, and a whole era of Wodehouse remains untouched.

There's a mighty freshness to Wodehouse's work prior to the Second World War and his dubious misadventures, beyond which it feels somehow unnecessary to tread at the moment. Reading his works for the first time is like the first taste of an ice cream soda, or singing and dancing in the rain on a blustery day, and this is one of the best.

What is 'Leave It To Psmith' about? On this occasion, that's quite a difficult question to answer. There's Psmith, one of Wodehouse's earlier characters, seeking employment after resigning from an odious, and odorous, family job in the fish business falls into fairly innocently impersonating a poet who is about to visit Blandings Castle, as a means of following the extremely freshly discovered love of his live Eve, who has been hired to catalogue their library. Simultaneously, the Earl of Emsworth's brother-in-law, Joe Keeble, and Emsworth's idiot son Freddie conspire to steal Constance Keeble's fabulous necklace and then return it as part of a scheme to liberate some money from her control for the noble purposes of helping some friends, and themselves. Freddie enlists Psmith, and then Eve (love of both their lives), in the necklace scheme, little suspecting that a fellow guest and poetess is also on the hunt for the jewellery. Not only that, but the efficient Baxter, secretary extraordinaire is hot on all their trails, and flowerpots feature heavily in the plot, with a recurring theme of hollyhocks. Ah, hollyhocks... All in all, it would be complex, if not for the wonderful prose.

'Leave It To Psmith' is a daft and entertaining diversion, with some excellent juggling of all the various elements, and some endearing silliness all around as we untangle numerous impostures, attempts at theft, flingings of flowerpots, and one throughline in which everyone, except Lady Constance Keeble, is out to help the course of true love for Psmith's and Eve's old friends Mike and Phyllis.

It's lovely.

O.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Returned Once Again, For The First Time

Greetings, and welcome to the resumption of this piece of prosaic fluff, which is otherwise known as the Quirky Muffin. Ah, such bliss it is to write with the sure skills of someone who has made it through a whole day without doing anything correctly! Perhaps this blog post will actually be resolved in dodgy Spanish, without it ever being realised? It's entirely possible after a few particularly bizarre episodes. "I meant to write 'plus', not 'flop'!".

'Condorman' is playing to one side as this is written. Ah, it's a classic, misunderstood by the masses, and yet strangely compelling to people who still have contact with the silly romantic sides of their natures. Don't believe the nay-sayers, for they have no idea what's going on! It's a nice way to finish a day of triple tutoring after a long and relatively sleepless weekend away.

Trips can be nice. On this occasion the weekend away incorporated a trip to scenic Dove Dale, home of some of the most famous stepping stones in Britain. It was ever so pretty, but unfortunately combined with a bleak and overcast day to make something less than ideal. At least the littler people had a nice time, which is something. The bigger people got to play 'Ghost Stories', 'Card City XL' and the evergreen 'Ra'. Ah, a classical game, that last one.

It's time for school holidays once again, which means the board game theme continues as a board game party is due for the students. What on Earth to play with a bunch of year fives, sixes and sevens? The current plan is to keep it simple and go with the classics: 'Forbidden Island', 'Mississippi Queen', 'King Of Tokyo', 'A Fake Artist In New York' or some selection of the above. Isn't it grand?

Uh-oh, Natalia just found out the truth in 'Condorman'. The dreaded romantic break is surely coming...

O.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Movie: 'Around The World In 80 Days' (1956)

(Pre-prepared to cover for a trip)

If it weren't for a couple of things, this would be one of the greatest adaptations to be filmed, but it's not. Every Jules Verne adaptation seems to founder bizarrely, caught on the rocky shoals of production or conception. This one, to get the bad out of the way early, seems to have taken Spanish funding and inserted a freshly fabricated sequence involving a balloon and landing mistakenly in Spain that lasts for about forty minutes of the one hundred and seventy minutes. Almost an entire quarter of a movie based in racing around the world in record time is stuck in Spain, doing practically nothing and messing around with bulls! It's infuriating! Utterly infuriating! The movie bombs in that first hour after a very encouraging beginning, and then doesn't pick up until afterward, when presumably most people have given up and gone back to counting their fingers or watching the wallpaper.

It's doubly infuriating since the movie sticks very closely to the original adventure after the interlude the air and Spain, and is actually very well made, pretty and watchable after it completes the transition back to the properly adapted story. Alas, sometimes that's how movies were made. The introduction of legendary Mexican star Cantinflas as a suddenly Spanish servant Passepartout, (originally French) results in a huge amount of time spent on showcasing his talents in the Spanish sequence, annoying a lot of viewers in the process, and undermining his excellent work later when he's treated as a regular character. Oh, the movie of two parts... If only, if only.

That's enough of the bad. The remainder of the film, which can be accessed easily by skipping the aforementioned Spanish sequence, is pretty solid. It omits some portions of the travel, and instead concentrates on certain passages. For example, they skip directly from the place of cinematic doom to Suez, and miss out everything between, but do reproduce the story of the novel whenever they choose to keep a sequence. The music is very patriotic and lampoons the stuffiness of David Niven's hero, the dispassionate Phileas Fogg, as much as Verne did in his prose. 'Around The World In Eighty Days' wasn't an entirely serious work, after all. It was meant to be humorous. It's also fast paced once you get into the good part, and David Niven is brilliantly subdued as the great traveller. A very young Shirley Maclaine is oddly cast as an Indian princess, but doesn't do badly with what she's given. Robert Newton is funny, but a bit too caricatured as Detective Fix, the policeman tacked on to Fogg's party, who is intent on arresting him once he reaches his home country once again.

Apart from the sheer length of the movie, the music, the brilliant photography and production values, a great closing credit sequence by Saul Bass, and a very odd production story that includes Orson Welles going bankrupt from the stage version, the most notable aspect of this film is the ridiculous number of high profile cameo appearance. The movie is stuffed with notable actors and performers popping up for a few seconds, and almost buries itself under the burden of featuring them all. However, ultimately it does benefit from the accumulated star power. David Niven is lovely, and caught the comedic moments perfectly when they come his way.

It's a good film, if you know what not to watch. If only it had been two hours long instead of three, then it would have been great. Go ahead, give it a try, but forward through that bizarre addition and save yourself an hour. There are no balloons in the original story. It's a nice experience, which lovely trains and ships.

O.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Movie: 'Blind Date' (1987)

What a curious movie. It doesn't feel like a movie that should fit into the usual sensibilities, but it does. Very much so, except for one particularly crude moment. Perhaps it's childhood familiarity coming into play, but it seems nice without being twee. Sincere without being arduous. It's incredible to think that Blake Edwards, who made the 'Richard Diamond, Private Detective' radio series in the 1950s, 'The Pink Panther' and 'A Short In The Dark' in the 1960s, as well as 'Peter Gunn', also made this twenty years later. That's history. He worked for a long, long time.

Let's not get carried away though, as this really is just silly fluff. However, why not have some silly fluff around the place from time to time. That's what 'Blind Date' is for in the grander scheme of things. Everyone needs some silly movies kicking around in their collections. They're more useful than emotional traumas and relationship melodramas.

What's 'Blind Date' about? It's a fairly standard romantic comedy that briefly goes berzerk, businessman Walter (Bruce Willis) is set up with blind date Tania (Kim Basinger) for an important business dinner, but she goes off the rails after some drinks, and causes chaos in his life in combination with her pursuing deranged ex-boyfriend David (John Larroquette). Ultimately, after some extreme destruction, they end up together, after some comedic sequences and the traditional separation, and all is well. There's nothing super-special, but it works very well at what it does, and marks what could have been for Bruce Willis, if he hadn't been sucked into idiotic action movie land. Oh, if only 'Moonlighting' had inspired his destiny instead of 'Die Hard'. If only.

When we originally watched 'Blind Date' here, we had no real idea who John Larroquette was. Now, in the context of having seen him in 'Night Court', and his guest shots in 'The West Wing' and a few other things, it's wonderful to see him appear here. Oh, Larroquette, the great underdog! He was also in 'Baa Baa Black Sheep', which will be popping up on a DVD review sometime in the future. He's good here, too, working with fairly standard material.

'Blind Date' is a fairly standard romantic comedy, but it zips along and oozes style when you least expect it. On the other hand, you might think it's terrible. Such is the way for these things.

O.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Perception?

As may have been obvious for a time now, these extemporised off posts of the Quirky Muffin have been running on nothing for quite a while, but they will continue! It's fun to pump out words without any idea of what it's all going to come to.

It's really all in the perception. If this blog were perceived as a worthy thing, as a project of meaning, then it would have ended long, long ago. It's not that. The Quirky Muffin is a challenge in being able to write, often without any particular topic! It's an excuse to write. That's why it continues, and that's why it will continue to exist. Quality? We smirk at the idea of quality! Consistency? Consistency is for people who care not for rhubarb!

Oh, perception, that great deceiver. The perception of things is so important that the newspapers, other press, and the political class, have been competing for centuries to change and warp our perceptions of things for their own ends. Perception is everything. Do any of us get the real idea about anything in the world? Fortunately, the world of the Internet could allow direct perception of the world on many levels, and the power of the press is slowly ebbing away. Perception may be getting truer, or more wrong. It's hard to say. The perception of a mob of people may not be quite the same thing as reality, after all.

Hmm. Perception. At some point, we'll have to have a post about how perception is altered by headlines, and the power of loaded questions to shift your opinion before you even think about the answer. That should really be something to do in English lessons: a full debunking of brainwashing by the media, and the masquerading of opinions as news. Maybe it would be a bit dull, though.

With that, it's time to put away the keyboard and get back down to sleepy time. Beware the Jabberwocky, people!

Oh, that was a nice ramble. Sometimes the random jumble of words does make sense after all.

O.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Erg, The Blue Paint Is The Worst

Paint can really get to you. Being sensitive to smells has constant drawbacks, especially in bonfire season, but paint is one of the worse ones. Especially blue paint, for some reason. Is the unnatural nature of blue something which requires a deep pong? Yes, with every colour comes a dodgy whiff, it is a law that always has been true... And it lingers on and on, and on, for days... What is it. you wonder, that can make it all worthwhile? Is this why artists and painters are sometimes so wacky?

It's a Friday, and Halloween is coming very soon! The non-event that never stops giving! There will be no trick or treaters on this desolate stretch of road, just as there are never Christmas carollers or people trying to sell atomic tin openers. Ooh, an atomic tin opener! What an idea! What would an 'atomic tin' be, though? A little microscopic tin used to store small talk? Small might be too inconsequential to store in an atomic tin, though. It would probably rattle. Oh, that icky small talk! Halloween is a week and a half away, and thoughts turn to the Halloween episode of 'Star Trek' once again. How strange 'Cat's Paw' truly is.

The world is awash with small talk. I wonder how it all gets generated? This human need to be talking becomes irksome sometimes, when there's not a huge amount to be said. It's probably just my Bohemian soul screaming in anguish, though. Having written that, it's time to worry about whether 'Bohemian' has picked up unhelpful connotations since the last time it recurred. Just in case, the Quirky Muffin here and now denies all information on the fake dolphin trade. We know nothing. About anything. But we do like 'Star Trek', and unnecessarily and erroneously talking about ourselves in the plural, and using long words.

Yes, it is a Friday, and the weekend looms. Then, there will be a short trip at the end of next week, followed finally by half-term, Halloween and the holiday board games party for the perennially lucky students. This time around: 'King Of Tokyo', 'Fake Artist In New York', 'The Mississippi Queen' and not a lot else! That's enough for two hours.

O.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Television: 'The Man From UNCLE' (1964-1965)

Let's talk about Napoleon Solo, the suavest spy of them all. Let's talk about the first season of 'The Man From UNCLE', the best season, the monochrome year, the one overseen by the series creator Sam Rolfe before he wandered off and it all went a bit wonky.

'The Man From UNCLE' (UNCLE) was a revolutionary series, which built on a lot of the strengths of 'Maverick' and to a lesser extent the 'James Bond' movies. In fact, Ian Fleming helped set up the series in its earliest formative stages. There's a lot of early Bond in there. However, UNCLE really deviated from Bond in the introduction of an innocent character in each story, whose life intersects with the story of the episode in an unpredictable way, and in eventually having multiple lead characters. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves too much.

Dramas on television were for a long time exceptionally serious. The word 'grim' comes to mind. There was very little between dramas and situational comedies. You either had stone-faced dramatic hams gnawing away on tragedies (see 'The Fugitive', or other Quinn Martin  or Irwin Allen productions, for example, or even 'Mission: Impossible') or clowns merrily plotting away ('The Phil Silvers Show' being a brilliantly funny example). 'Maverick' really bridged that gap by being able to do both, sometimes even at the same time. UNCLE plotted a far more precarious path, but in its best season it was definitely a show bent on mixing spy stories with the real world, and on not taking itself too seriously. Later, it would be a parody, but at this time it was well balanced. It also has the first appearance of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the same episode of anything in 'The Project Strigas Affair', even if they never exchange a word.

The titular man from UNCLE was Napoleon Solo, played by the extremely cool Robert Vaughn. He dominated the early episodes, twinkling as he navigated his way through the thriller and spy stories that dominated, and safeguarding the civilians caught up in the mayhem. Later in the season, David McCallum ascended to full lead character status as Solo's dispassionate Russian partner Ilya Kuryakin. In fact, Kuryakin was known as the Blonde Beatle for a time, so popular was he as a character, and can now be seen clearly as a Spock prototype. Ilya added something special to the show, but he also weakened Robert Vaughn's Napoleon Solo. It was a precarious balance.

The writing was smart and the acting and direction was excellent (Richard Donner, hurrah!). Yes, subsequent seasons wobbled over the place, but here it worked. The list of guest stars is stellar, with my own favourite being Barbara Feldon having a first spy story here, before appearing as Agent 99 on 'Get Smart'. In some ways, 'Get Smart' is a parody sequel to this series. 'The Man From UNCLE' was definitely a product of its times, but it was a wonderful show. It was probably a purer experience earlier on, when Napoleon Solo was king of the castle, being directed around by Leo G Carroll's Mr Waverley, but it didn't fail for a whole extended season*, and it did it with an inward grin.

O.

* Maybe 'The Shark Affair' breaks this. Maybe.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Storms That Dare To Fret And Blow

The ex-hurricane known as Ophelia is blowing with gleeful abandon outside the window, making the darkness even more scary than it usually is. Wooo.... wooo.... No, it's not the scary monster of a hurricane that menaced the Caribbean last month, but it's still disturbing.

When you walk in the wind, and stick out your hands, or even your whole arms while doing an airplane impression, you get a very interesting feeling as the air rushes under your fingers. It feels a little like the way flying is in the imagination: A cool rushing sensation and a sense of freedom. It's very nice, apart from the flying debris in this case, of course. Ophelia is, after all, an ex-hurricane! It was a nice walk home earlier. Very fun, in a slightly perilous mode.

It's probably the meteorologists' fault. They had to give the storm a Shakespearean name from his most famous play, didn't they? Of course it was going to be a gigantic drama! Of course! If only I knew enough about 'Hamlet' to comment further! Ophelia is in that play, yes? Oh, Shakespeare, you and your storms. There was famously a storm in 'The Tempest', wasn't there? Well, it would be hard for there not to be a storm in 'The Tempest'! Cancel the redundant question. Cancel everything. Bring back woodcuts as the prime form of entertainment.

Shakespeare is a massive weak spot in the pile of literary knowledge that lies behind the Quirky Muffin. We studied 'Macbeth' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at school, both of which seemed interminable, but which probably weren't motivated in the best way in class. Is there a good way to motivate reading 'Macbeth'? It's one of the dreariest plays. We even went to see one of the incredibly clich├ęd productions set in Nazi Germany. Oh, those hideous days... 'Julius Caesar' seems a far more interesting play, in prospect, and 'The Tempest' seems more approachable after a brief read through some time ago.

What would Shakespeare have written about storm Ophelia? Would it have involved a long sketch about someone painting little bookcases, and watching them repeatedly being blown over? No, it would have been something much different. Or would it? Would Ophelia have been the main character?

O.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

That Was Actually Kind Of Nice AKA Game: 'Fake Artist In New York'

It's nice to get out of your groove and play a few games from time to time. Yes, there are vital projects, but we have to be able to relax, right?

This time, it was 'Small World', a home brewed version of 'Fake Artist In New York' and some observation of 'King of Tokyo'. Three radically different games for three different locations. 'Small World' was more tricky to play than I remembered from the last playing, but good, and 'King Of Tokyo' was excellent as always. 'Fake Artist' was a nice surprise, however, that everyone easily 'got'. It's a shoe-in for the next students' games afternoon, which is supposed to be coming soon. It involves drawing, so it's a natural!

'Fake Artist' is a simple implementation of the 'hidden traitor' breed of social deduction games, which are typically far too stressful to be fun. This one, however, is actually very nice, mainly because it ditches most of the arguments and interrogations in favour of... drawing! Hurrah! It's a hidden fraud tricky pictionary game! Nyahahahahha! Much better than 'The Resistance' or 'Spyfall' might be for more sensitive people.

Each round, one player takes the role of question master and declares a category. They then write their chosen word on some cards, one for each player, excepting one card which has an 'X' written on it. The person who gets the 'X' card is the fake artist, who has to get by without anyone suspecting. Everyone gets to make a mark on the paper in turn with their unique colour, without giving any hints as to the real subject of the drawing. At the end, if the fake artist evades suspicion, or if he's spotted but guesses the word anyway, the fake artist and question master win two points each. If the fake artist isn't spotted, or if he is spotted but can't work out what was being drawn, then the real artists get one point each. The target is five points, but that can be changed easily. That's it. It's actually very good, and light. It's the epitome of drawing games with a twist, acting as a nice complement to 'Pictionary' perhaps.

Good. Relaxation? Ha! Oh, and Project Wood has completed assembly. Only a few rounds of painting to go now.

O.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Compartmentalisation

It seems as if my life, and perhaps this is normal and I just don't know it, is divided up into the discrete bubbles, and that no-one crosses over from bubble to bubble. Period A had one set of friends, period B had another, and that they go away when the bubble bursts. Is that normal, after all? It doesn't seem so. Perhaps it's a sign of inflexibility that all these different spheres have been kept so discrete, or perhaps it's a sign of a deeply buried reluctance or complete bewilderment when considering how to push different parts of life together and not go mad in the process?

Compartmentalisation is a psychological phenomenon where we, and this is mostly being conjectured on the spot, break our sets of people and experiences into sets so that we can handle them all at the same without going completely mad from holding all the variables of our entire lives in our minds at the same time? Does that make sense?

We all compartmentalise, but do we all get a bit confused when the work sphere crosses the family sphere or either crosses the friend space? Is it just me? Isn't there always squeamishness? Is it something to be dealt with, or something to be cherished? Are these defined spheres good for us, preserving different senses of identity? It seems natural to try to keep work as far away from your personal life, doesn't it?

As a private tutor, the dividing line between work and personal life is far less rigidly defined. It's interesting, and will require more thought as to whether that's a healthy thing or not. Do we need all these compartments, after all?

O.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Movie: 'The Big Year' (2011)

It's a curious world that we live in, where a charming little movie such as 'The Big Year' can be such a dramatic box office flop. What went wrong? Did it get marketed badly? Did people think that a Steve Martin/Jack Black/Owen Wilson movie would be a riotous comedy instead of a comedy drama with indie undertones? That was probably the case. Nothing else really makes sense. The world is strange.

'The Big Year' (TBY) is based on the similarly titled non-fiction book by Mark Obmascik, chronicling the experiences of three aspiring record breaking birders, out to spot the most birds in a calendar year in the United States and Canada. In fact, the movie is based on the book very closely, changing only the names and adding one melodramatic subplot to the arc of Wilson's character Bostick, the reigning champion birder. Actually, that added subplot is the most infuriating part of the movie, it being the most melodramatic and signposted thread to be found. It's actually vexing.

As mentioned earlier, TBY is a charming comedy drama, showcasing Jack Black and Steve Martin at their most approachable, and Owen Wilson at his most charming. It takes the real world phenomenon of birding, during a peak spotting year, and turns it into a very enjoyable romp with a nicely studded cast. We get Joel McHale in a not particularly rewarding small role, Rashida Jones being as bright and beautiful as she ever has been, the great and underrated Brian Dennehy brilliantly cast as Black's father, and Dianne Wiest doing her usual role as the lovable mother. They all pale against the backdrop of all the beautiful birds, though, which are what make this movie special. Lots and lots of birds!

When the three leads are off on their birding adventures, it's a very good romp. (Birds!) When each of them are having their character arcs, it jumps up and down a little. Wilson plays the obsessed Bostick, who is neglecting his baby-crazy wife, and who has already ruined one marriage through his birding. This subplot is the weak point of the film. Martin plays Stu, a retiring CEO, who keeps being pulled back into action at his business, and who is coming to terms with his age and future. Black plays Brad, a worker bee, who is pulling off his Big Year and job at the same time, while trying to appease his parents and credit card companies at the same time. Most of it works very well. Nothing is super excellent, but it is nice and moves along pretty quickly. If only the Bostick arc could have been done in shorthand more. It's incredibly obvious what's going to happen...

There are nice comedic beats from a subdued Jack Black, some heartfelt moments from Steve Martin, and the usual Owen Wilson excellence. This gets a good recommendation, but gets promoted closer to greatness by all the birds. Huzzah! Not excellent, but very good.

O.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Where Would You Go?

Let's be brief: It's late on a Sunday, after a day full of swimming and teaching, and there is currently no plan for this post. What on Earth could this possibly be about? What? Could it be about the joy of learning to swim through experience and learning to be comfortable in the water? Well, maybe. Could it be about the joys of being at the very end stages of Project Wood 2017? Could it even be about the relative joy of realising your story can be about anything you want, and feeling free to jettison the path you were on in order to move forward on another? What about being very happy with student progress, or the perplexing nature of language teaching? All these topics could work. Ack. They're also all pretty boring and expected, based on recent writing. There's nothing particularly interesting there, from the writer's point of view. There's not even a reference to cheese of the world of competitive pleating.

Ah well, when you have your back to the wall, and a deadline looms, you just go with what you have: If you had your own submarine, what would you do with it? Now, this is not a segue into 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea', where Admiral Nelson made a deal with the Navy to get a deeply deranged nuclear reactor on his private underwater scientific vessel, which people operate by pulling out orange rods with their bare hands. No. No, where would you go with your own submarine, really? It's a nice question. We know so little, in the popular sphere, about the underwater world that we have absolutely no idea where we would go. Yes, the name Mariana Trench pops up pretty commonly in fiction, but what else do we know? Anything? There were some references in 'The Hunf For Red October', and you can count on 'Voyage' to throw in some made-up nonsense, but otherwise it's a blank mystery. Where would we go if we had our own submarines?

In the spirit of scientific investigation, my choices would be to go explore a deep submarine trench, visit an active underwater volcano, explore a darkened cave, and then visit any (friendly) underwater civilizations that might be hiding out down at the bottom of the sea. You can never have too many friends, even if they have tentacles or a tendency to squish when they walk. Actually, that would be kind of silly. An underwater species wouldn't need to walk, unless they have their own sealed habitats of course. Hmm. What would be the point of being an underwater species and then having sealed air filled habitats, presumably stuffed with oxygen filtered from the ocean? What would be the point, indeed? Maybe, they would really be refugees from another planet, landed in antiquity, or a race that just likes to have their own version of the swimming pool, which would be the air bubble. Yes! Yes! It's an aquatic version of a swimming pool! They might just to go squilching from time to time. They would have to have lessons: beginner's squilching, improvers' squilching, and competitive amateur squilching clubs. It would be nice.

That's how you end a post on a bewildering note, isn't it. It feels like it would be a good theme for something, actually...

O.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Television: 'Alias: Remnants' (2003) (Episode 3x10)

Season three of 'Alias' is frustrating. It's not really surprising since it had so many things to fight against, including behind the scenes drama between actors, the showrunner mentally wandering off after writing the series into a massive second season cliffhanger, cast members being written out and a whole layer of the show going with them, new people being brought in at the acting, writing and directing levels, and a shuddering change of tone and disconnect that naturally came with putting a two year time lapse into the narrative coupled with amnesia!. It's amazing that it recovered at all!

'Remnants' is notable for bringing back a sense of what the show used to be, by temporarily returning ex-regular Will Tippin, as played by Bradley Cooper, and reinstalling a sense of fun that had been missing for quite a while. Yes, it was a fun episode! It doesn't matter that the previous episode's cliffhanger didn't work into this one very well. No, not at all. For a brief moment, things were okay with the series, which had been picking up anyway, but would forever be saddled with a bewildering number of reboots, retcons and reimaginings after the second season, and indeed after this very episode. It also became much more gruesome after the first season, which is never good.

Why is 'Remnants' a success? The return of Will allowed for Sydney Bristow to have a personal life once again, which has been missing, and for some resolution to Bradley Cooper's exit from the series. He got to have a ball as someone who's best friend had unexpectedly returned from the dead to surprise him out of his witness protection seclusion, and who eventually managed to get the ultimate revenge on the woman who had doppelgangered and murdered his girlfriend. Well, we never said this was a series based in reality, did we? His rock star accent was good, though, as was his always excellent chemistry with Jessica Garner. In fact, his arc allowed for some resolution to the extremely jarring beginning of the season and failed follow up to the seasonal cliffhanger. The other better aspects were Sydney being funkily and funnily undercover for the first time seemingly in ages, Sloane once again being his ultimately untrustworthy self, although it might have been better if he had been being honest for once, and the return of Rambaldi references. Ah, Rambaldi, the blessing and the curse of the series. If only that whole thread could have been resolved in a better way. If only they could have kept a throughline going without starting again every season. If only they hadn't thrown away the essential duality of the series as a whole. If only Sloane had made some sense. If only, if only...

It's a nice episode. What's coming next? Well, Sloane will be sneaky, and Jack will be ruthless before having his end of season cliffhanger in turn retconned into oblivion. For now, we have a great one-off moment in the middle of the run. Well done, Will Tippin, and bon voyage once again.

O.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

"Yes, Guv, it was the milkman that did it!"

Ah, much is explained. Entirely unscientific experimentation seems to indicate that a lot of my recent fatigue has been caused by dairy products. Of course. Yes, there is the usual seasonal factor, but those mugs of hot cocoa and bowls of yogurt had quite a lot to answer for! Slow poison by warm cocoa is a very unusual diagnosis, isn't it? At least it's an easy fix to implement and the last week has seen a great improvement, to the point where the maddened students have even noticed a great improvement. Huzzah, huzzah, bring in the yo-yos! Not even an accidental wood mallet blow to the head is a problem this week, although the mark is going to take a while to go away. It's amazing that that wood project went so well as to not result in a serious casualty!

Now, with a swift sideway swerve, let's awkwardly shift from one topic to another. Did you notice? Did you? Have a mug of cocoa. It might help.

Autumn is now fully upon us here in the green and soggy county of Carmarthenshire, and pretty soon we may all have to invest in dinghies to sail down the hills to the shop, down torrential water rapids that used to be roads. Of course, in that instance we would have to invent some means for the shop to not be underwater, but nothing is impossible. Perhaps there would need to be some ridiculous engineering works to elevate the petrol station and shop, or put in some water locks in new waterproof walls surrounding the place? Oh, but it wouldn't need to be a petrol station any more? This will require some thought. It would probably be easier to just build another one up a hill. Oh well. The petrol station will be obsolete in a few years anyway.

Having written myself in to a particularly hypothetical corner, and not being willing to write about the confusion around the third season of 'Alias' yet, or the book and movie of 'The Big Year', it's time to stop. Yes, it's a short post, but it's dark outside, and sleep beckons. Oh, the joy of uninterrupted sleep!

O.

Note: Cocoa paste with honey and a little cold milk is still nice though. It's what was nice the whole time anyway. Yum!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Story: 'Wordspace' Phase II, Part XIV

( Part I , XIII , XV )

Fire blazed prettily as he stamped toward the Invader, while Earth rumbled mightily as he moved ominously onward. Cloud was almost blown toward the horizon by Air's massive drift, and Water undulated impressively across the punctuation specked terrain of the Wordspace. The four gentle Elemental giants were not presences to be taken lightly.

Mystery didn't dawdle long over the impressive sight, however, as Cloud wheeled around and whisked him quickly across to another approach to the Zone of Meaningless Jargon, where another group of words was ambulating purposefully. One of them waved up familiarly.

"It's Club!", Mystery exclaimed, "But who are those peculiar words with him? They look like refugees from a different age! What angularity!"

Cloud landed, and Mystery went forth to meet the newcomers.

*    *    *

Infinity's eye was becoming more focussed. It's letters contracted, relaxed, and then contracted again. "How long?", the question rumbled along the undersurface of the world.

"I don't know," Dream replied, "I've been away as well, somewhere far far away, perhaps..." A memory nagged at her, but then slipped away.

Infinity continued to look at her.

"Surprise would know. He always knows things that no-one else does. At least, he always used to."

"I will ask."

Dream had no idea how he would ask someone who wasn't there, but then Surprise stumbled into the balcony area looking highly, well, surprised. "Egads!", he exclaimed, before fainting clean away.

"You would think that someone with such a name would be able to handle a shock or two as well as handing them out.", thought Dream.

When Infinity chuckled, it was as if the whole universe was having a laugh.

To be continued, again, and then again. And again. You get the idea.