Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Rest Interval Continues

As may be freely observed, the Quirky Muffin sabbatical continues. I, as a suffering sick person, burdened with an apparently immortal virus, just don't have the energy to do much of anything. Surely, there will be an eventual recovery? Surely?

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Absence Of Horizontality

The prevailing theory is that the writer of the Quirky Muffin is suffering from a twelve week virus combined with a ripped throat, causing extreme fatigue, endless coughing, and absolutely no sleep due to problems with being horizontal.

Oh, the joy of being horizontal, so long absent. What is sleeping the night through really like? Will there ever be enough energy to get the Quirky Muffin back in full operation? How on Earth do people sleep while sitting up? How?

Next time, it will be the next episode of 'The Man From UNCLE', but for now it is time to rest. Or not rest, but desperately try to, while being increasingly confused.


Saturday, 3 March 2018

A Reflected Starscape, AKA We Will Return

The Quirky Muffin will return, once this hideous marathon of ill health has come to an end. However, to write something, if you have your head over a dark bowl of hot water infused with vaporub, all covered over by a dark towel, the points of light that come through the weave can look like a reflected starscape in the water. It's almost romantic...

Recovery is inevitable. Recovery is inevitable.


Note: 'The Worm Ouroboros' seems to be a very good novel. Bold beyond all belief.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Some Disconnected Yarns

After a few more days of coughing and feeling run-down, there's not a lot to write about here in the Quirky Muffin. Admiral Nelson has had a relapse of lycanthropy in 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' as I write, which is proving difficult, and Lady Jane's replacement has been a bit of a letdown in the next episode of 'Lovejoy'. 'Star Trek Logs 5 and 6' by Alan Dean Foster has been pretty good though. It's a set of adaptations of 'Star Trek: The Animated Series'. 

No, there's not an awful lot to write about in the realm of the real world. What about in the land of make believe? Would you believe that nine leprechauns have stolen the keys to the Grotto of Galoomba deep underneath the house? Perhaps they think we've been storing the family treasure there, but in reality it's where we keep the scale models of the Seaview and the Penguin submarine from the 'Batman' movie of the 1960s. The latter is always very popular for rides in the Summer.

Oh, good grief. Will they never catch that werewolf? Now, they've locked him in the circuitry room! Not the circuitry room! That's where every goon causes problems!

The main problem with being sleep-deprived is that you don't get to be very creative, just incoherent. Since reality is something we create or interpret by our consciousness, does that mean reality is itself distorted when we get sick? That could get rather interesting, couldn't it?

Ah, lycanthropy is cured by deep water pressure or maybe the Bends. That's okay, then. Jolly good. What madness!


Friday, 23 February 2018

Books: A Curious Blend

It's a curious set of books that can be seen around the lair of the Quirky Muffin. It's a genuine hodge-podge, in fact! There are Arthur Conan Doyle and Jasper Fforde, Frederick Pohl and GK Chesterton, Douglas Adams and Roger Zelazny, John Dickson Carr and Woody Allen, William Shatner and James Blish, and piles and piles of 'Star Trek' and 'Discworld'. The only significant absence is of anything very contemporary. That needs to be assessed. Is it a problem, or just a result? A modern author with that level of interesting prose hasn't stumbled across my path in quite a while.

It really is a strange set of novels. Would you like a comedic Chinese ghost fantasy, with a gigantic twist? Then you should really read 'Bridge Of Birds' by Barry Hughart. What about a truly mystifying mystery? 'The Hollow Man' by John Dickson Carr. A classic fantasy adventure series for boys? 'The Belgariad' by David Eddings. Something bizarre and totally unclassifiable? How about 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' by Douglas Adams or 'To Say Nothing Of The Dog' by Connie Willis.

The 'Star Trek' novels were a lifeline while growing up, a window to a different universe, and a series I hadn't really seen very much of at that point. 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was on the rise back then, but it was never as interesting or as solid as the old series, and sometimes even 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' reflected well in comparison! Oh, that reminds me that Bob 'Chip Morton' Dowdell died last month, which fact was discovered here yesterday or the previous day. Goodbye. Dowdell, you could definitely pull off a serious face. It's a shame that there weren't a significant load of 'Voyage' books.

There is a prevailing theme in the books around here, now that some thought has been squandered tangentially. There is humour everywhere, coupled with strong leanings toward fantasy and mystery. Oh, and there is almost no swearing or gratuitous sleaziness. Hence, there are strong presences for Glen Cook, Terry Pratchett, GK Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, David Eddings, and PG Wodehouse, amongst many others. Oh, and Patrick O'Brian, even if I did conk out before the last few novels due to the gloom permeating the end of the sequence. There are also the one-offs, like 'Gateway', 'The Seven-Per-Cent Solution', 'Bride Of Birds', 'To Say Nothing Of The Dog', 'The Master And Margarita', 'Three Hearts And Three Lions' and 'The Three Musketeers'.

It's a nice mix. Books are good. Read more, people of the world.


Note: I missed off a few names: Jules Verne, Roger Zelazny, Donald E Westlake, Dorothy L Sayers, Wilkie Collins and probably more.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Taxing Day

Wow. After several nights of barely sleeping, a student with an associated hike, the holiday board game afternoon, and the departure of the beloved Lady Jane Felsham from 'Lovejoy' in today's episode, this has definitely been a taxing day.

It was a nice board game session too, despite a hideously low attendance. We actually played games! There were 'Rhino Hero: Super Battle', 'Anomia', 'Twin Tin Bots' and a fill-in at the end of 'Fluxx'. Good grief! Four! Or two and two bits! That was a nice thing. It's a shame that I'm inwardly asleep most of the time, due to sickness. Ah, will this thing ever go away? Will it? Argh. All thank yous to my deputy, who will go nameless.

Lady Jane's last (regular) episode of 'Lovejoy' was pretty harsh. The series, which is phenomenally patchy after the first run, has a horrible tendency of pulling off its handbrake turns with all the subtlety of a boulder rolling through a greenhouse. You actually feel physically yanked around after some of the messing around that has been pulled to affect changes. However, this time it was done pretty well, although it still doesn't really make any sense. Tissues were needed aplenty. She's gone, and now we head into the twilight of the series.

With that, and with exhaustion knocking at the door, it is time to close up another Quirky Muffin. Goodbye, Lady Jane Felsham.


Monday, 19 February 2018

The Literary Reflection, IX

It has been mostly mysteries on the completed reading lists this time around. Let's get to it!

'Groucho Marx and the Broadway Murders' (2001) by Ron Goulart
There is a deep craving inside me for this series to be more than just good. It is good, without doubt, but nothing more. Maybe it should be funnier. Every so often, it touches on the history of it all and rises, but then descends again. In this case, the most fascinating part is the first half, which mainly takes place on a cross-continental train ride from Los Angeles to New York, and sees Groucho doing some impromptu entertainment in the saloon car as well as general loitering. Oh, what a joy that would have been! To be on a long train ride with a legendary entertainer. Pretty decent, pretty decent. Now, there are only two books left in the series to read. That's a bit sad.

'The Chinese Orange Mystery' (1934) by Ellery Queen
This was potentially undermined by a particularly bad case of old book smell, but in recollection it was a very good mystery novel. It did, however, lose me in the final technical explanation of the locked room murder, which never happens. That's a definite negative. The character of Ellery Queen seems to be an inspired creation, as does his relationship with his policeman father, and his status as a writer of mystery stories. The prose is elegant and witty, and only the stereotype of his servant lets down the whole affair. Now, if 'The Judas Window' weren't below, this would be the best of the four. The impossible crime here is simply nowhere near as neatly resolved, though.

'Star Trek: Spectre' (1998) by William Shatner
The Shatner 'Star Trek' novels, also worked on by Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens are deeply paradoxical. They follow on from the not particularly good film 'Star Trek: Generations', resurrect James T Kirk, and then run him through some new adventures while allowing for the massive passage of time and co-existence with the characters of 'The Next Generation', 'Deep Space Nine' and even 'Voyager'. The other casts seem to be an intrusion most of the time, though, and the main impetus of 'Spectre' is in following up on the events from 'Mirror, Mirror', long before in the original series. That strand is fascinating, much more so than Kirk's love for Teilani or Picard's own doppelganger issues. The writing will probably put some people off, though, with short chapters which constantly end on portentous statements, but you do become used to it eventually. The power of these Shatner-verse trilogies is in the overall arcs, though, and that story is rather good, covering as it does so many different points of continuity and bizarrely also keeping Scotty, McCoy and Spock in on the action. Normally, I hate overtly linking too many points of history together, but since this is all broadly non-canonical anyway, it becomes a point of fun. Recommended, but for the 'Star Trek' lovers.

'The Judas Window' (1938) by Dickson Carter
The pick of the bunch by a wide margin, 'The Judas Window' could easily flow into a mammoth entry here in the Literary Reflection. This John Dickson Carr (Carter Dixon is a pseudonym) novel is a classical example of how to write wittily and warmly, of how to introduce and resolve an impossible crime, of how to relate almost all of the story within a courtroom scene, and beguile the reader from the very first page. Carr really was that good, funny and smart. Good grief, if I knew of a current writer as good as him, they would be trumpeted here constantly.

The story: James Answell goes off to meet his prospective father-in-law, in order to formerly obtain consent for marriage, and drop over into a drugged stupor after accepting a drink. Upon awakening, he discovers that the drugged drinks have vanished, that the doors and windows are all securely and impenetrably closed, and that his host Avory Hume is lying dead on the floor, stabbed to the heat with an arrow covered in Answell's own fingerprints. How exactly is he going to get out of it? Is he even sure he didn't do it? And how will series hero Sir Henry Merrivale prove he didn't in court? And what is this 'Judas Window' he keeps referring to anyway. There are many tangles in the web, but the main thrust is impressive.

This one is up there with 'The Hollow Man', and both together lift Carr up into the highest echelons of mystery writing. He's up there with Doyle, and very few others, as his best also has vital re-readability necessary to genuine classics. Excellent.