Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Peril Of Form-Filling

Losing a passport is a tough thing. Not only do you go through the trauma of hunting that vital piece of identification, but if you don't find it then you face the expense of having to get the replacement, and the expense isn't just one of money, but time, you face the peril of form-filling, that horror from times long past...

It's a tedious thing, this completion of forms, whether they be online or on paper. Information has to be collated and compiled, questions have to be asked, and there's always a required document that you don't quite have at hand. There is always a problem somewhere... even if it's just the printer jam of fate breaking in at the worst moment.

'What was your parents' wedding date?' 'What happened to your old passport?' 'Have you reported it?' Yes, I have reported it, thank you, and the police said it was a waste of time and a waste of a phone call. Once your passport is gone, then it's gone, and they'll destroy it if it's handed in. Yes, thank you very much, world. I sigh at it all, in a good humoured way. Well, I'll pretend to be good humoured, but really there's a fair amount of unrest and muttering.

Mutter mutter mutter. I wonder where it was lost? Was it on the bike trail to Bucharest? Or in the interdimensional tube transit to Splotty Newt Nest? Did the time travelling vagabond with the green shoes swipe it, or did I just drop it somewhere dumb in the normal course of events? We will never know.

It's a mystery to me that everyone with a passport knew someone qualified enough to be their counter-signatory. I wonder how that works? Is there a grand conspiracy of qualified counter-signatories wandering the country, signing things for a ridiculous fee? Is there? Is there? How do people know who they are? It bears investigation. Expect a scandal-breaking post in the near future...


PS A very nice woman tracked me down, having found my passport on one of my routes from earlier in the day. Sadly, it was a little too late. Thank you, nice lady, that was a very nice thing to do.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, XVI

( Part XV , XVII )

The incidents were piling up, accumulating slowly but steadily and in extremely unlikely fashion. The Man had already fixed Mr Costa's back three times within one week, while the Woman had fixed three hunches and two colds in just one afternoon at the Toddlingham library. They had begun expanding their regular patrols, and lengthening them, to sometimes dangerous extents.

Toddlingham could not have become a magnet for the accident prone, suddenly, or could it? The accident and emergency room was becoming more and more hectic, and the ninjas of health could only make the smallest of differences, with all their skills and abilities. Minor ailments were springing up everywhere, very worryingly.

On the day that a reply arrived from the Keeper of the Appendices, Peggy, the Woman was strolling along the High Street on what was an altogether frazzling day. On walking past the Post Office, she brushed past a young man adjusted his twisted arm, before administering the  karmic cold cure to three people at a bus stop and stumbling a little as she entered the supermarket. A man helped her get her balance, and in return straightened up a little more and lost his migraine. It was her ninth migraine cure of the day, in that small town.

The duo were more than a little frazzled when a reply arrived from the Appendices. Finally, a reply! They checked the Oracle, and marked their activities on the pinboard map before they settled down to read. There seemed to be no pattern to the pins scattered around their old chapel. No pattern at all, except --

"It's almost as if that power is following us around, the way we always find so much to do on our patrols." The Man muttered to himself. "Is there no pattern at all?"

"Perhaps the letter will help." Reassured his companion. "They will have analysed that tablecloth vision, hopefully."

"Yes. I just keep getting this nagging feeling that that force out there is watching every move we make."

"Perhaps it is." The Woman waved the letter in his face. "I'm hoping that it can't read English though, so let's do this and not say a word."

The two read the letter silently.

To be continued...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Seven Hundred And Seventy Four

Twenty-five posts from now we will hit number eight hundred, and I will have to decide whether to continue the Quirky Muffin project or let it go on indefinite vacation. The leaning is toward continuation, but the original challenge of the blog has been met. It is possible to write, and write, and write some more, and not quit. An archive of eight hundred posts is a wonderful pile of evidence for that and managing to write in a coherent or incoherent manner on a regular basis.

Oh, the Quirky Muffin will probably continue. It has a lot of momentum, and far too many unfinished stories to just stop on a dime. That mass of unfinished stories will weigh on this writer's mind. It might be time to stop shirking, and focus on finishing them one at a time, until nothing is left and then start up new ones? Could that be true? Every single one of these stories has a sticking point, or gaping void, holding it back, but perhaps the 'Ninja Of Health' should be put through the analysis machine until something pops. There is something there, the germ of a useful idea encased in much procrastination and waffling. The key is in not just repeating the outlines of already completed stories. It can't be a rehash of the first parts of 'Triangles' or 'Wordspace', or 'Oneiromancy' and 'The Disappearance'. How best to proceed? Analysis or endless rambling until something pops out.

Analysing a story's status is a very vague procedure. You mainly summarise what has happened so far, and then ramble on introspectively about the nature of both stories in general and this one in particular until something clicks or you run out of hard drive space. That second option has yet to occur, but it has never been totally out of the question! At least 'The Glove' is out of danger now, and is now only stalled, with some vague outline peering through the creative mists. Maybe, just maybe, time can be scraped together and not wasted on a thousand silly little things. Degree studies? Ha! The Quirky Muffin will win out!

Now, in first assignment news, I just need to scrape together the content for seven hundred words on a notable intercultural encounter from my past... It's pretty difficult to come up with 'notable' examples of anything when your whole history is buried in a deep sepia emotional tint. Perhaps that time with the elephant at the ball of twine would count, but how would I ever explain the sherpa's boomerang skills?


Friday, 21 October 2016

Film: 'Superman' - The Fleischer Cartoons (1941-1943)

The seventeen 'Superman' cartoons made by Fleischer (and Famous) Studios are a marvel to behold. In this era of limited animation, those fully animated mini-masterpieces are spectacular. It's a little sad that the new management that oversaw the last eight packed those examples full of war propaganda and some awful stereotypes, but the quality of the workmanship is unparallelled. All the previous expertise developed from the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons is concentrated and condensed until the whole screen is filled with technicolour exploits.

The Superman in the Fleischer cartoons is radically different to what you might expect if you have experienced only the modern DC screen universe. The cartoons are filled with rescues of every variety, and some of the best screen action you could ever imagine in a modern television show. It's fantastic. My favourite example so far is the train rescue in 'Billion Dollar Limited', which captures so much of what was wonderful about Superman as to render practically every other version redundant. You may think this is hyperbole, but the Fleischer cartoons really are that good. They're magical. In 'Billion Dollar Brain', Superman ends up pulling the train himself, after the locomotive goes off a precipice, in a spectacularly rhythmic fashion, while pulling off a dozen other feats.

Superman in the Fleischer cartoons is a rescue machine. His main interaction with the villain is at the end, after defeating the scheme, when he picks up the fiend and drops him off with the police. Clark Kent is just a bit player, working at the Daily Planet as it's one of the rare places where he can get up to the date news. He also turns up at the end to do the George Reeves wink to camera that apparently didn't start with George Reeves! Yes, the wink originated here, or in the comic strip. It's hard to say without more research. The end wink might have originated in principle in the radio serial, as did the voice actors used, the legendary Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander.

The Superman phenomenon can be pretty hard to understand now, so long past the relevant time frame. Superman began in Action Comics in 1938, leaped into the radio sphere in 1940, then theatrical cartoons in 1941 and movie serials in 1948 and 1950, before George Reeves took over for television in the 1950s. Superman was massive, a wonderful burst of positivity in a depressed world, exploding out of the chaos of the 1930s. He was the first popular superhero.

These Fleischer cartoons are also utterly gorgeous, with the best technicolour and a truly drop dead gorgeous pinup version of Lois Lane. Lois here is a gutsy newshound, always following stories in the most dogged fashion, and getting into a dust up whenever possible! Yes, she may end up in distress, but not without giving a good account of herself. Oh, Lois, you have either the most wonderful or terrible luck... She also gets to kiss the man himself, which would be frowned upon in many a following year. The artwork is amazing in these cartoons, and puts a lot of modern animation in a box of shame from which it would never recover. Colour, full animation, music, sight gags, and some of the most fluid visuals you can find now, and which you wouldn't even have imagined at the time; all combine to make something special.

Oh, and if you're not sold: These cartoons are in the public domain and available at the Internet Archive. Try 'Billion Dollar Limited'. Go on.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

In Brief

We're homing in on eight hundred posts, gentle readers of the Quirky Muffin, an unimaginable landmark. Eight hundred posts, and all without any kind of underlying agenda. In fact, this blog's agenda is to avoid, as much as possible, having an agenda! The closest we have come here is to perhaps talk about 'Star Trek' and 'Superman' a lot, two properties with deep underlying optimism. Maybe our agenda, if it does exist, is to highlight some of the more positive works of popular entertainment out there.

Maybe that faux positivity agenda has been how the temptation to go into a full political editorial mode has been averted, no matter how barely. The sheer nastiness of the moment will go on, and eventually something will change. There's just no status quo here to cling to, and there it shall be left. Politics is out for the foreseeable future unless something diabolical happens in the presidential election, perhaps. Let's hope that doesn't happen...

The season has definitely shifted and Autumn is upon us. The OU work continues to pile up and things continue to become more fraught, even as my own students grapple with their stress-filled upcoming GCSE students. The symmetry of stress is maintained, in a thoroughly frustrating way, but it will all work out, given a monumental amount of effort. No-one ever said this was going to be an easy academic year. The work load will continue to grow.

Ah, October, the time when Christmas shopping is finalised and purchasing continues. Why wait until the last minute when we have so much time to get it all exactly correct? Followed searches exist on eBay for a reason, and some bargains are sure to be found. Let's hope that Jasper Fforde, 'Schotten Totten' and some other things really work out.

What will the eight hundredth post celebration be? It's time to start thinking. All suggestions happily received.


Monday, 17 October 2016

Story: The Ninja of Health, XV

( Part XIV , XVI )

The two of them settled down at a small desk to one side of the chapel, with a baby monitor keeping them linked to the sick room, and began to write.

"Dear Peggy, Keeper of the Appendices,

We are faced with a serious problem, here in Toddlingham. The Oracle, and his shop assistant, have been struck down by a mysterious force that apparently hatched from an unexplained item that crash landed in a town allotment. That entity manifested itself here in our Sanctuary, and imprisoned us in invisible tubes directly around our focii in the Pattern. Upon our escape, the being fled, but is still active and perhaps haunting us.

A sketch of the receptacle from which the being emerged is enclosed, as is an interpretation of the imprisonment scene in the chapel. Perhaps you might know something about this which we do not.

We turned to the Oracle for some insight, as a prelude to seeking your assistance and sagacity, but the Oracle was struck into insensibility by forces unknown and remains unconscious, now for the third day. We have relocated him to our Sanctuary, compromised though it may be, and care for him still. A similarly affected shop assistant remains at the hospital at Haagenport, taken before we could reach them.

We have recalled some stories about the supposed ability of the Pattern to offer some recuperative effects via immersion, but lack any more information of the subject. We also seek any insight you might offer on the prophecy-laden tablecloth, a high quality photo of which we send in the SD card with this missive.

We ask a lot, Keeper of the Appendices, mainly because we dare not leave the Oracle unattended or each other for very long, with that entity on the loose. Why it hasn't done more to affect us, we do not know.

Please advise,

C and C."

There shall be more...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Notes From A Museum Trip

The Earth is amazingly old, roughly four thousand six hundred million years old in fact, a slowly cooling molten mass hanging in space that became our own miraculous habitat. Four thousand six hundred million years old! If that's not amazing, then how about this factoid: The oldest rock found on planet Earth is some gneiss (a metamorphic rock) found in the NW Territories of Canada, which is three thousand nine hundred and sixty two years old... Or it might be in Greenland at a slightly older age; it really depends who you believe. Wikipedia or Cardiff Museum?

Apparently, very old stone is hard to find on planet Earth due to the reformation process wherein volcanic and tectonic processes recycle massive amounts of geology. You only get the oldest rocks away from those danger zones, in the shield regions. Supposedly, the oldest rock in Britain only takes us back into forty-per-cent of the Earth's history, and the oldest one in Wales fifteen-per-cent. Do those percentages make sense? Well, I've not worked them through yet, but they're fascinating even if they're wrong.

Aren't museums wonderful? It was nice to spend the time after an OU tutorial today in wandering around Cardiff Museum and examining it all on a superficial basis. The first few visits to the museum contained a lot more scrutiny, but familiarity allows you just to go around semi-randomly, and make notes of interesting things. For some reason, the ages of rocks, and Wales' shortage of geological history popped out this time, as did the term 'submarine landslide'.

If only art galleries could be more interesting. It seems like most are filled with endless and rather uninteresting portraits, with only a few striking and different pieces that pop out. If I ever go to a gallery, I wander around disinterestedly, becoming attached to just one or two pieces, which are never portraits. Never, ever, portraits! Often they're landscapes or impressionistic, except for today when an Augustus John picture called 'May Earp' popped out. It was the most interesting picture in the gallery, except for predictable exceptions like a Monet or two... Art is probably more interesting than I've claimed in the past.

If you have time to spare, and there's a museum, then don't be afraid. There are fascinating things to be found.