Saturday, 28 May 2016

Television: 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: The Price Of Doom' (1964) (Episodes 1x05)

"The plankton! Anna! The plankton!" With those words, 'Voyage' begins its awkward spiral from a self-serious submarine-set espionage series into a goofy and mockable 'monster of the week' joke with moments of dramatic brilliance. It may never have lost its po-faced attempts at sternness, but they were consistently ruined by the men in the rubber suits and minimalist or non-existent writing. However, this is before all that, back in the monochrome first season, where effort was being made and the cast hadn't inwardly given up. There were still espionage spy stories at this point, and some memorably production values! If only they hadn't had such relentlessly melodramatic episodes titles.

'The Price Of Doom' is a very early episode, and one which combines a German scientist who collaborated during the Second World War, contemporaneous spy escapades, and a horrific plankton monster loose first in an Antarctic base and then on the submarine Seaview itself. Yes, a horrific plankton monster, which was the first of the goofy 'Voyage' monsters! This is the last episode in which the crew could conceivable express disbelief at the appearance of a crazy creature. After this, every expression of incredulity is ludicrous and only adds to the daftness, even when Admiral Nelson picks up his temporary and recurrent lycanthropy! In fact, given the recurrent of at least one of the giant sea monsters (Big Eyes), it becomes increasingly clear that the crew lost it's capacity for long-term memory at some point after this show. In a way it's sad to see a series with such wonderful production values and underwater work turn into something so mockable, but that something else is one of the great 'so bad that it's good' exemplars.

'The Price Of Doom' has its good points, and it is slightly less stern than the norm. It also has the ever excellent and underrated David Opatoshu as a guest star, which is a great boon. It will never, however, escape the legacy of the line, "The plankton! Anna! The plankton!", and maybe that's a good thing. For good or bad, 'Voyage' was a classic, and the plankton monster helped set it all up. Oh, good grief, what is still to come? Perhaps crew-wide amnesia does explain much? Was it the later alien Nelson doppelgänger that did it, in the very next episode? We'll have to wait and see...

O.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Seven Hundred

Welcome to the seven hundredth Quirky Muffin, where much bunting has been strewn about, and the mythical origami dodecahedron has finally been folded! Hurrah! Seven hundred posts! What lunacy! Who would have thought that that first piece of fluffy nonsense in 2012 would have led to another six hundred and ninety nine pieces of similarly silly stuff? And a dodecahedron?

Over the course of seven hundred posts, real life has passed through the end of a PhD, two postdoctoral jobs and the beginnings of a self employed career as a private tutor and freelance copy editor. Personal lives have changed, and circumstances have come and gone. Many reviews and chats about books, films, radio and television series have been written, numerous stories have been launched, and several creative crises. There has even been the occasional bit of promised baking!

Seven hundred posts in, some things have been written to the point of extinction. There has been quite a lot on the series 'Star Trek' and 'Due South', and some 'Superman' movies, as well as several attempts each at posts on the films 'Flash Gordon' and 'Joe Versus The Volcano'. In fact, it's probably time to try and write something coherent about 'Joe Versus The Volcano' again. That's such a great film. Wonderful. Let's have another go.

What is to come? Will the Muffin make it to eight hundred posts? Or a thousand? Will the stories continue, and the chattering about various kinds of entertainment? Will there be more 'Star Trek', 'MASH' and 'The West Wing' ramblings, and sheer randomness? Only time will tell, although the second phase of 'Wordspace' and the joined up version of 'Oneiromancy' are now in active development...

O.

PS Wanted: Someone with experience of rescuing writers from an excessive and imprisoning amount of bunting. Some urgency is present.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Story (?): 'Origami'

Just outside the universe, next to the cake shop that bobs up and down on the extra-universal quantum foam, and opposite the fountain dedicated to Bob the Notorious, five Beings sit calmly and fold little papers into origami shapes. Each of those Beings influences the destiny of the universe, our universe, by what they fold. Sometimes they fold generally, and sometimes very very specifically. A green crane by the Being of Order (One) could indicate the beginnings of life on the planet Oogalek, or the arrival of a parcel unexpectedly on time in Chiswick, while a little box by the Being of Randomness could send a box of chocolates into our Sun.

Three of the folders had spent time doing similar work as part of the ancient Greek mythology, but they had tired of the hours, and of the relentless harassment from Zeus and his army of unexpected penguins. Finally, after one sacrifice of fish too far, and one particularly unrelenting chase above the Parthenon, the three Fates retired to life back outside the realm of linear existence, and traded in their threads for a never ending supply of paper. The facts that the cakes were particularly good there, and that the fountain was wonderfully pretty, were not at all a factor. Oh no.

So, the papers continued, and the five Fates became ever more inventive. There, One made a unicorn and sent it fluttering into the foam, perhaps to found a new dimension all its own, while Two built ever more beautiful sculptures and houses, as well as the occasional little boat and simple bird. Three, Four and Five would alternate between their own little projects and combining their efforts into magnificent modular assemblies that reflected their prior partnership in Earthly the realm. It was an idyllic time.

What, then, did it mean when a small fish and chip shop popped up on the opposite side of the fountain, and a little girl called Regina began to watch the Beings fold, and was it connected to the origami works that had begun to return undelivered to the Beings that had folded them? And where was the fish and chip finding newspapers in which to wrap its food?

A beginning?

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sugar Free Apple Cake

On very rare occasions, normally when the quantum flux permits and the oven agrees to function nicely, the Quirky Muffin fulfils part of its original remit and actually does a little baking! This time, we have an adapted apple cake recipe from the original found at www.cooks.com. (http://www.cooks.com/recipe/fw1xn3vn/sugar-free-apple-cake.html) It's not exactly a sugar free cake, as it does feature more than half a jar of honey, but it works! The main substitution from the original is ground nut (peanut) oil for sunflower oil, and the complete omission of pecans. It also took more than twice as long to cook as the original indicated, but it's really really nice!

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1 cup honey
1 cup ground nut oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped apples
3/4 cup raisins
3 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

01 Combine the first the ingredients and mix for at least three minutes.
02 Add the vanilla and stir.
93 Sift dry ingredients together and gradually beat into 1st mixture.
04 Add apples, pecans and raisins with a spoon.
05 Pour into a cake tin and bake at 160C or 325F for roughly two hours.
06 Check every half hour to see if it might already be cooked.

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Now, let's get back to normal business, which is complete gibberish alternating with stories, reviews and fanciful words about nothing at all. It seems that I need the freedom of extremely long bus journeys to write well!

O.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Story: 'Diary of a Laundry Robot', Week VIII

( Week VII , Week IX )

Sunday

Egbert the eccentric elephant has been given into our care, while the Quergs check on his history in the Books. Apparently, the Quergs have books which map all of time and history in the Universe. Supposedly there's even a Book for the Querg Continuum itself, somewhere, but they have never been able to find it. Egbert is definitely one of the most eccentric beings I've ever encountered. Just yesterday, I found him making an origami donut and muttering about Easter Eggs. I wonder what 'Easter Egg' means. It appears to be an archaic reference of some kind... Today, our maintenance Querg is babysitting the white elephant while we explore some more.

Tuesday

Egbert wanted to write something in this journal, so I'm going to read his piece into the recorder now.

"My name is Egbert, and back home I'm called an 'eccentric elephant'. I don't know why. Egg! Egg! I have trained as a doctor, a yachtsman, a classical artist, and an engineer. Despite that, I have no idea how I got here! One moment, I was flipping an omelette at the White Elephant Restaurant, and the next... poof!

This Querg Continuum is strange, by the Great Egg. They have no mousse, for one thing, which is highly suspicious! It seems to stretch on forever, but have very little in it. This laundrette is such a great relief, though! Except, we don't have laundry robots when or where I come from.

Curiouser and curiouser. Is that enough, dear robot friend? Was it... egg-citing enough for you?"

He seems to be a very strange elephant indeed.

Wednesday

There were more footprints outside the laundrette facility this morning. A large bubble of coloured energy has appeared around the building, and now we all have to clear security to get in and out! The Quergs are becoming more and more concerned! Also, Egbert has been moved in to the building officially to keep us company and provide more conversation. The Quergs say that he'll be sent home pretty quickly, once they work out how he got here to begin with. They think it's in one of the Appendices of Wortle, whatever that means. Celia, being more conversant with their procedures, says that means that he's an anomaly in the continuity of at least one universe! What does that make us?

Thursday

A mystery is solved. The lurker has been revealed as what the Quergs refer to as a Blot, which is a manifestation of some problem in their perception of time. The Blot always hangs around Loopholes, apparently, acting as a marker. The maintenance Querg thinks we might be the Loopholes, or perhaps that an artifact got mixed in with the laundry. We have been ordered to examine everything carefully, which is difficult, when all we have are hats! Endless piles of Querg hats! Egbert looked at them all and laughed, before asking if we could wash his trunk warmer.

Friday

Celia has suggested that we go away for the weekend, to explore and let the Quergs get on with artifact hunting. Egbert immediately asked to come along, which made her rather angry. I can't think why. I said he could, and so tomorrow we set off for what is called The Ring of Querg. It's supposed to be spectacular, and require the wearing of special glasses, which supervisor Querg kindly supplied to us. Egbert said they reminded him of something rather 'egg-celent' from home. His puns never seem to stop. Tomorrow, the great outdoors, which is something we might never get used to! We can only hope there will be no more Blots.

To continue...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Kismet

It's getting more difficult. There is no denying that, at the moment, it is increasingly difficult to write Quirky Muffins. Seeing students is a draining process, as is the constant drain of hypotheticals about how to survive in the future. Perhaps it's time to take a turn sideways and check the Phrontistery for a word or two of motivation. Yes, to the Phrontistery!

Delving under the letter 'K', we find such words as:

kakistocracy - government by the worst;
kickie-wickie - a wife;
kismet - fate, destiny.

'Kakistocracy' is simply a fun word, and one which some would describe as being very relevant at the moment, but 'kickie-wickie' is funnier. 'Kismet' is on a whole new level, though, being an arabic word for fate or destiny, specifically meaning 'lot' or 'portion' in life. There are other meanings.

What if there is a fate, or fates? Would it be some abstract force embedded into the universe, or would it embodied in entities like the ancient Greek Moirai, spinning threads of life through from birth to death as they create the grand weave of the universe? The old Greek mythology is nice, amidst all the brutality and cruelty, a lyrical set of myths, as long as you're not wooed by the ever-voracious Zeus.

Fate, the old bugbear of philosophy. If there is a destiny, then everything is pre-ordained and is therefore immutable. Why should we try to change it, unless our trying to change something of which we are ignorant is what causes that destiny to begin with? Having a fate is only a curse if we know what that fate is, otherwise it's utterly harmless.

Factually, we do have fates, every single one of us. We live them every day, whether under the pseudo tyranny of kakistocracy or not. We can change them for the better, from our own perspective, which is all that matters. Alternatively, we could sing 'The World Is Just A Great Big Onion' repeatedly until the Sun novas out of frustration.

O.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Television: 'M*A*S*H: Tuttle' (1973) (Episode 1x15)

It's one of my favourite all time episodes of 'MASH', and one of the most watched. Back when we only had a patchwork of the first two seasons bootlegged on VHS, 'Tuttle' was watched a lot, and marvelled at. It's an episode centered on a character that doesn't exist, you see...

The first season of 'MASH' is pitched far more toward comedy than later years, and as such is a bubbling anomaly, but it really works. 'Tuttle' is awesome, as it sees all the early chemistry of a stellar cast in full action, as well as some of dopiest scenarios to ever be seen at the 4077th. Hawkeye makes up a fictonal captain called Tuttle in order to cover for his siphoning of supplies to a local orphanage, before pulling off a massive con, with the aid of Radar and Trapper, in convincing the rest of the staff that Tuttle exists. Unsurprisingly, the hospital falls for it, and Tuttle even wins a commendation before being killed off in order to stop the mounting complexity.

It's a classic half hour of comedy. If only I hadn't seen it so many times that it's become more like a warm blanket than a hilarious bout of television. Despite that, it still really works, partly due to some sparkling dialogue but mostly due to the winning performances or practically everyone involved. Never will a eulogy be quite the same, having seen that given to the magnificent Captain Tuttle. There's a little Tuttle left in all of us, if we just let there be. Such a humanitarian, such a wonder.

This was going to be the latest instalment of 'Diary Of A Laundry Robot', but I was just too tired to write it. In such cases, it's best to do a little mini-review, and think about things that you're familiar with. In any case, integrating Egbert the Eccentric Elephant into an extra-dimensional continuum with a couple of laundry robots will require some thoughtless stupidity in execution. When in doubt, write about Frank Burns and his ordeals in MASH...

O.