It's only a Play for Today. Just today.

But so dour! So bleak, so brown, and literally every single play seemed to be about trade union meetings. (Or, in one case, “the expansive tale of a clash between the state and a housing association trying to resist rent rises”.)

Christ! Who were they for? If you actually had the sort of life that involved 1970s trade unions and housing associations trying to resist rent rises, wouldn’t you want to go home and see a bit of Disney? A bit of Morecambe and Wise with Shirley Bassey putting her foot through a step?

Victoria Coren-Mitchell there, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt how far the BBC has fallen. “Who were they for?” Why, the millions and millions of people that tuned in every week to watch them, of course. And the condescension of just assuming that the general public wouldn’t want to watch them…Further, what is the problem with a drama focusing on things like ‘rent rises’, as opposed to ‘the life and times of a complaints department’, anyway? Why is the latter something to be plastered all over the BBC schedules and social media, but,, say, a drama based around similar events of Leeds — United! anathema?

Anyway, Drama out of a Crisis was a great celebration of the Play For Today strand. Some great moments all around, but I had a soft spot for the producer of Brimstone & Treacle explaining the plot in a paragraph completely deadpan, pausing for a beat, and then saying to camera “do you still wonder why it was banned?”1

In local news, Stranger Cat is now known as Nemesis Cat. Helvetica has decided that Nemesis has hung out on the patio for too long now, and is starting to make her feelings on the matter known, resulting in a hilarious afternoon where both cats chased each other around all the windows trying to attack each other through glass. Stay tuned for further updates!

  1. In fairness, it might have been even more useful to explore how a play could have been commissioned, written, rehearsed, filmed, and edited without somebody in the hierarchy saying “you know, this is the literal Devil sexually assaulting a handicapped woman and it makes her gets better…maybe we should run this by somebody?” But I get with 300+ plays to cover, you have to skip over some of the details… [return]

Introducing: Stranger Cat!

View this post on Instagram

Stranger Cat!

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Stranger Cat turned up last week, wandering around the side patio looking rather hungry, unowned, and unloved. We obviously made the mistake of feeding Stranger Cat, and so they now return every morning and afternoon in the hope that there will again be tuna (there isn’t, but there probably will be a treat or two). Helvetica’s reaction to Stranger Cat was initially one of total indifference, but as the week has progressed, she has taken a slightly more aggressive stance, moving to the highest point on the cat tower by the window to do her best Obi-Wan “I have the high ground!” impression and to let this interloper know that these humans have been claimed already. So step off.

(additionally, yesterday, Helvetica seemed to eat her food and then return to the window to gloat that she had a full belly. Not sporting, Helvetica!)

Apparently, it’s also a year this weekend since Tammy made lifelong enemies while playing Blood On The Clocktower at SHUX in Vancouver. It has been…both a long and a short year. We had vague plans to go again this year, but obviously the pandemic stopped any notion of a) travelling, and b) the convention actually taking place anyhow. But! We probably will watch some of the virtual AwSHUX online thing next weekend.

Also next week, expect the weekly update to be themed around “Ian’s first adventures with a combi-steam oven”. Look it’s that or you get subjected to the panic and obsessiveness that sets in two weeks before an election, so I think the oven is really a better topic for all of us…

Minute by minute we make the world. We make our own world

Ah, October. The heat has been taken out of the air, leaves are falling constantly, and as 2020 decides that it’ll go out with as much craziness as it can possibly muster (the murder bees are back, as well as everything else), it’s time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Play For Today! Come on! You! Over there! Celebrate!!

I’m pretty sure that the first Potter play I ever saw was Karaoke, so after he had died. I can’t say for certain, but I’m guessing that my first real memory of him is the MacTaggart lecture from 1993, a veritable fire-and-brimstone sermon that, like the old sermons of Scargill, all came true, and the “croak-voiced Daleks” won the day.

A lot of his work has faded away with time, to the point where for a lot of people he’s just “that guy who wrote the shows with people lip-syncing to old songs”.

Obviously, my condition is nowhere near as bad as Potter’s was; until he got an experimental treatment in the late 70s (which I wonder if it was a precursor to Humira), he was essentially bed-ridden and his skin 100% covered with psoriatic plaques. But there are days like Saturday, where the pain of moving was a problem and my skin crackles and burns in the newly-crisp air. I think of Potter a lot on days like that1.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that I intend on going through all of Potter’s existent plays on here in 2021. So consider yourself warned. If you’re really good (or bad…), I’ll go through the novels too.

But in October, I’ll likely be dipping into the more hauntological side of PFT. We’re talking Panda’s Fen, A Photograph, and Robin Redbreast. Such fun!

  1. honestly, I’m mostly fine, I swear. Flare weeks aren’t great, and I’ve noticed it on my hands in the past few days for the first time. But not much I can do about it at the moment, seeing as how the pandemic means Humira is currently a terrible idea. [return]

Learn To Become Invisible

Astronomically speaking, it’s the first day of Autumn. But the sun is hanging round like summer’s hungover. They’ll knock the garage down and build flats where I sit.


A week of completing things. Well, one specific thing, over twenty-five years in coming. With the final eBay shipment arriving on Saturday, I now own every single copy of The Invisibles in single comic form. Yes, admittedly, I own it all in graphic novel collections, and I have the single omnibus collection. Plus every comic in digital form. But now? Every single physical issue from Vol. 1 Issue 1 to Vol. 3 Issue 1 (…it went backwards in Vol. 3. You had to be there, really).

But that’s not all! This beast also arrived:

The TMK run on Legion! The only Legion of Superheroes that I’ve really read and viscerally hated by a large section of its fandom! It’s a bit like if the Snyder Cut was focused on a day-glo optimistic future of 2995. Except the TMK run is good (o-ho). This slab of a book is 1424 pages long and I can see the bookcase sagging a little already. I will need to put the Morrison JLA omnibus on a different shelf when it arrives…1

My mini-Potter September marathon this week reached Gorky Park. As an adaptation, it mostly stays clear of what you’d consider to be the usual Dennis Potter tropes (no metafiction here, nor visitation themes, no psoriasis). It did feel like a bit of a British affair, as about half the cast of Tinker, Taylor/Smiley’s People turn up in it, and Alexei Sayle turns up as a Moscow spiv wideboy for an entertaining ten minutes or so. Anyway, probably the best 80s film where the plot hinges around six sables? We also watched Bill & Ted 3, which…well. It wasn’t quite as bad as I had been told, but I was surprised at how Reeves was blown off-screen by Winter throughout the whole thing, and it just…ended. Billie and Thea were fine though, and I was glad for one last final ‘STATION!’.

Finally2, Autumn baking & confectionery has really begun in earnest now. Another funfetti cake, lychee bear gummies, and spiced pear macarons! I will be taking next weekend off, but oh, there’s still so much more to come.

  1. The release date of JLA is 11/3/2020. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not just yet.
  2. I did think about writing a response to this piece, which I think makes a lot of good points in general, but is unfair to Dishoom in particular given that its focus on the old Irani cafés brings in a bunch of colonial history that is troublesome for ‘both sides’, if you will, and it puts that heritage front and centre in a way that other Indian fast-casual chains don’t (and I really don’t understand the complaint about the Vada Pav — Chip butty comparison — as the article points out, it’s actually a good physical & cultural likeness, so…given that it’s basically a step up from McDonalds or Five Guys, I feel that it’s a good description to actually include. It’s not like Pret talks about the history of French baguettes. But then I decided not to write anything because I’m clearly not the person who can really do that. [return]

When Things Get Worse

settles down on Friday evening. It has been another week, but surely things will be quiet tonight…

Yes, so the bottom may have fallen out on Friday evening. The Onion, as ever, put it best:

It’s like they knew what was coming.

Meanwhile, I have been doing more preparations for Christmas. Introducing a brave new world, a world where Caramac is just a distant memory:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

I think I’ve used the melangeur more in the past month than in the past six combined. Anyway, this is cocoa butter, sugar, and Biscoff biscuits ground for 12 hours. There will be more experiments to come…and did I hear that somebody wanted it in Cadbury Miniature size? Well…

…yes, I can produce 600 Cadbury Miniatures in one go. Fear me.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Finally, I did a small deal with…well, I suspect some sort of mafia, but no idea which. The upside is that Tom Nook no longer holds any power over me. By sending $1.50 to a totally-above-board website, I received a visitor and sixteen million Bells.

I have crashed the economy of my island and I can do whatever I please. Muahahaahahahahaha. Take that, Nook!

Unknown Pleasures

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Finally, chocolate that looks like it listens to Joy Division.

Not a lot to talk about this week, I think; at least nothing that doesn’t make me want to go and walk into the sea.

Instead, I’ll leave you with Big Train and…a Big Train?

Is It Better With One? Or Two?

My twelve-year hobby with chocolate has gone through a few turns, almost always arcing upward in complexity to the point where “the chocolate room” downstairs could probably compete with a small chocolate shop in terms of the equipment on offer. There’s a tempering machine, a melangeur for producing bean-to-bar chocolate (in itself not something that you’d probably find in many shops…), and of course molds. So many molds. But where do you go from here?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Obviously, you get your own custom-mold made. Above is the test run from a prototype that CCFX have run off for me, before final production begins with plenty of time before Christmas. The mold itself is a direct replacement for the classic Cadbury miniature, and will of course play a big part in my upcoming Roses 2020 assortment, as well as my recent acquisition of a proper Cadbury money bank (though we’re not going to be limiting ourselves to just milk and dark chocolate. Oh no). The recessed “FESTIVE!” is supplied by Rian Hughes’ Blackcurrant font. And you thought it’d be Helvetica. Sometimes I just like to have fun!

Anyway, as if on cue, the leaves have started falling as Summer officially ends in America with the Labo(u)r Day Weekend. Which has also seen a drought of Diet Coke cans that I haven’t seen for a long, long time. Aisles full of regular Coke, Dr. Pepper, and the Devil’s Own Creation1, but a complete lack of silver boxes. And we checked multiple Krogers! Big and little! A nightmare of imaginable proportions! I only have about 40 cans left in the house!Absolutely terrible scenes as we head into Autumn.

But! We did have a little celebration this weekend; COVID disrupted any plans of a big party, but we gave Tammy a happy birthday with a roast dinner, a sugar-free funfetti cake, and a fun phone-enhanced boardgame. Quiet, but nice. Plus, in a fortnight, we will re-run the celebration, except this time I can use sugar, so it will become Part 1 of the Winter’s insane desserts trilogy. It’s going to go great!2

  1. No, Pepsi is not okay. [return]
  2. We’re probably coming up to around 50 or so desserts total so far, and nobody knows about my secret extra lists right now… [return]


Yes, it’s August (just about). But this is a post that’s about Christmas. Two Christmases, in fact. Christmas 2020 and…either Christmas 1988 or 1989. The memories are a little hazy. Firstly, this picture, which took 30 years to produce.

Fort Max

I still don’t know how exactly The Pied Pedler in Bicester ended up with two Fortress Maximus toys (and a Sky Lynx). They were never officially released in Britain, and it seems odd for grey imports to end up on shelves alongside official Hasbro UK product. But they were there, and I got one of them for Christmas (in 88 or 89; I’m leaning more towards 89 because the Headmasters had been out for a couple of years at that point). The only problem with Fort Max is that he completely towered over Scorponok, his equivalent in the Deception faction. Well, 30 years later, Hasbro got around to fixing that with a 21” version of everybody’s favourite scorpion robot. He even includes the double-Headmaster gimmick along with all the modern articulation improvements. Hasbro: “We will sell your childhood back to you, but just a little better, and you’ll love us for it.”

(We won’t talk about how I’m eager to get the new Beast Wars toys from Transformers: Kingdom already and they probably won’t be out until 2021)

For Christmas 2020, welcome to the slow reveal of a project that I’m working on along with about 20 other desserts: Roses 2020.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Given the state of the world, and I guess in particular the US and the UK, it is incredibly unlikely that I’ll be going home for Christmas, the first time I’ve missed returning for eight years. That makes me sad. And I fill the void of sadness with desserts. So many desserts. One of my ideas is to restore the honour of Cadbury’s Roses by creating a new selection of chocolates over the holiday that recall their glory days instead of the flow-wrapped monstrosities with sub-Dairy Milk chocolate that you find in them today. Also, those kids need to get off my damn lawn. Anyhow, this is my take on the classic Hazelnut Swirl…without a swirl because I hate swirl molds (you can just never clean them properly). Milk chocolate shell, a roasted whole hazelnut inside, and the rest of the filling is a milk chocolate gianduja that’s mostly chocolate, but gives it a softer, more hazelnut taste than the traditional Swirl. More of these to come in due course, including some Very Ian Takes on a couple of classics.

And finally, after three years after the initial transmission on BBC4, we finished Series 3 of detectorists. Look, I know it’s Last Of The Summer Wine, But For Hipsters, but it’s so good and bloody nice. Take the final episode, which refuses to resolve the main subplot of the series until the very last tracking shot, and gives everybody, even the series’ main villains, such a happy ending…which is a day out in a field. There’s even a montage of putting up a gazebo. In the final episode. This show is a cup of tea and a pair of crumpets on a Sunday night and it knows that’s what you need.

The Actor Kevin Eldon puts in a masterful appearance, and if the looks exchanged between Terry in the field and Sheila sitting in the tree don’t make you well up, you are Officially Dead Inside. Not a nasty bone in its body and yet somehow never cloyingly sweet, it is probably the best BBC comedy in the past 20 years. At least.1 How exactly did Mackenzie Crook become this good, and why isn’t he as fêted as Gervais, who could never, ever write something like this?

  1. Yes, that’s right, Fleabag fans. And I do love Fleabag! But detectorists is a little bit better. Or maybe I’m getting old enough that I just love something that completely discards cynicism and irony and just revels in the interior of the world it has created. [return]

Molding Molding Molding

Christmas update: I spent a lot of the week perusing Alibaba and talking to a company in Chicago about getting a custom chocolate mold created. That, I hope, lets you know what you’re dealing with here. Festive Ian Unleashed. I haven’t even put a lot of thought into decorations yet. Be very afraid.

Otherwise, a standard but slightly different week. More corrections for the German copy of the book (though I’m assured that it goes to the printers on Monday, which I believe means that I’m officially done with it almost a year after finishing the main text[^1]), more additions to the Christmas dessert list, ‘classic’ BBC sitcoms arriving in the post, waking up at weird hours of the night, absolutely terrible dreams, a cat’s insatiable need for chicken, and an odd week at work. But! I did go outside!

Devou Park is one of those weird artefacts of American cities, where some rich person 100 years ago donated 500 acres of land to the local Government and somehow it’s actually survived (whereas in a lot of Britain, let’s be honest, it’d have at least four different Barrett estates plonked on it during the 1980s). In fairness, a lot of it seems to have been infected by the golf virus, but it’s still a pleasant walk providing you keep an eye out for rampaging golf carts. We didn’t actually find the overlook part (did I mention how many acres it is?), but we did manage to walk off the pizza from Newport Pizza Company.

Next week: hopefully work and non-work interests combine: transformers at work, and Transformers at home, with an old toy coming back to address a long-standing discrepancy between him and his opponent. And another that can only be described as Magnificence.

Dai-X Again?

In case you were wondering, do not decide one week to go back to your childhood and re-watch Star Fleet when it pops up briefly in your YouTube recommendations. Admittedly, the original Japanese version is 40 years old this year, but you’re better off watching any episode of Stingray. As at least with that, you get this:

(Lots of “what?” parts, the biggest of which for me was towards the end where Dai-X destroys the mothership by flying into its landing bay. Why didn’t you try that back in episode 2, lads? The back half of the show is a lot more into using Dai-X than the first 12 episodes too, which makes me think that they realized that getting a man dressed up in a robot suit was probably a cheaper way to fill time than all the puppetry)

Honestly, I think I had more fun watching the first series of Hi-de-Hi!

Bit of an odd week at work, but I finally got around to playing with Optuna, which has turned out to be very easy to use even for scenarios that aren’t entirely envisioned by Preferred Networks’s documentation. If I’m feeling bored in the next few months, I may add a short tutorial into my PyTorch book repo. Completely free and exclusive online content! And not included in the new Russian-language version:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

(I’m guessing the German version of the book should be out in a month or two. It’ll have all the expanded content I have added so far on quantization and self-supervised training, along with a bunch of PyTorch 1.6 fixes. The definitive version! If…you can read German)

Finally, I have begun exploratory work on the Christmas festivities. This will eventually form the basis of my “Toblerone, but not” chocolates (they’ll be in a triangle log mold):

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

There’s very little chocolate in this - the filling is just hazelnut praline mixed with cocoa butter, passed through a cream whipper and left to set at a 50% vacuum. It gives a bubbled texture that’s much lighter than my normal aerated chocolate and instead approaching the texture of a real Aero bar. And as there’s nothing else to cut the flavour, it is very hazelnutty. Mostly a success - though I need to work out how to cut out enough of the filling to give the chocolates a proper capping. Next week: a pastry experiment!