Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

27 February, 2012

Brought to You by Patriot Brand Cigarettes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

This is visually spectacular!

– Mechanic #2.

Recently, while waiting for my next Audible credit to come through, I have been listening a good deal to the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. The Thrilling Adventure Hour is really a monthly live show, featuring various performers from Hollywood – some I’ve heard of, some I haven’t – doing a pastiche of 1940s radio serials. The podcast version takes some of the regular segments of the show and puts each in a little episode of its own. I imagine the live version has some bits us podcast people don’t get to hear, but that’s all right – what we do get is more than fun enough.

The podcast, as I said, gives us a different regular feature of the show each episode. I haven’t listened to all available episodes yet, I am only up to number 38, so I have not sampled all the regular features, and some less than others. Amelia Earhart, Fearless Flier is still a couple of episodes away from appearing, and I have only heard two episodes of The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock. Actually, looking at the list in iTunes, I should have heard an Earhart episode – maybe I accidentally skipped it?

It’s time to send the little ones to dreamland, and set your radio’s dial … to spooky!

– Narrator, Beyond Belief.

Anyway, I have been listening to the first 38 or so episodes. The bits that seem most frequent – without doing anything so scientific as to count and see if that’s the case – are Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars. These also happen to be my favourites. Beyond Belief stars Frank and Sadie Doyle, the upper-class mediums who are really only interested in spirits you can drink, while Sparks Nevada follows the eponymous hero in his effort to keep the peace on the new frontier. Up until now, Sparks Nevada has held my number one spot. I particularly enjoy the character of Crouch the Martian tracker, and his interplay with Nevada. I have recently gotten more and more fond of the Doyles as well, however, and the good marshal will have to work at it to keep the top spot.

 When crime appears upon the scene, so does Captain Laserbeam!

– Captain Laserbeam.

The quality of the segments vary a bit, in my opinion, but I guess that could also be described as a feature – “something for every taste, etc”. I like the utterly formulaic, and yet somehow always funny Adventures of Captain Laserbeam, and I find the millionaire-turned-hobo antics of Down in Moonshine Holler amusing enough. The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock has a great concept, and an even better theme song, but the execution has left something to be wanted in the couple of episodes I have heard so far. And they don’t even sing the full version of the theme! Speaking of themes, I should say that all the theme songs in this show are really, really well done. Even on the low end of the scale, where Nathan Fillion is completely wasted on the utterly bland Jefferson Reid, Ace American, and I’ve taken to skipping entirely the Tales from the Black Lagoon, I can say nothing against the music.

I don’t really have any basis to compare with when it comes to 1940s radio, but this sure sounds like what I imagine 1940s radio to be, which seems to be the more important goal to reach in this day and age. More than that, it is actually hilarious, beyond the joke of the pastiche itself. Good characters, great concepts, excellent actors and some wonderful music thrown on top. If you like comedy at all, go have a listen.

23 February, 2012

Kyrie Eleison

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.

We’ve entered Lent. Yesterday, members of churches more civilised than my own smeared ash on their foreheads, as a reminder of humility and a sign of penitence. We’re 45 days away from Easter, though the shops here started selling Easter candy last week. That little quote up there obviously doesn’t sum up Christian teachings on what a human is, but it is the focus of this particular season of the year – admitting fault, finding flaws, and making reparations.

Fasting during Lent isn’t widely practised these days, and I honestly don’t think that matters all that much. Fasting just for the sake of fasting won’t get you very far, I think. We’ve replaced abstaining from meat with giving up a luxury, in these parts of the world, and even that is probably not too widespread. While that, too, won’t really get you very far, I think there is a value in going without something you don’t really need, and making yourself realise how needless it really is. One of my former professors, a Hindu, told me she used to give up something new for Lent every year, to gradually pare down her dependence on non-essential distractions. I usually give up sweets, and maybe once of these years it’ll actually stick once Easter arrives.

Giving up luxuries isn’t really the point of Lent, though. It is about penitence. Penitence isn’t really something we Christians like to talk about any more –  it carries connotations of fire and brimstone and angry clergy threatening Hell and damnation; it just sounds dour and grey and oppressive, but it really shouldn’t. Penitence isn’t a bad thing, and it shouldn’t cause depression and existential dread.

Christians are sometimes perceived to be smug and superior bastards, insufferably arrogant twats looking down on the rest of the world. Sometimes that perception might be accurate. But that’s not they way it really is.  The best a Christian can hope to be is a penitent sinner, to steal a phrase from a vicar friend of mine (Don’t worry, I’ll be penitent for it later). Humans aren’t perfect, we make mistakes every day, and we don’t stop making them just because we’re religious. What Christ offered was forgiveness for errors, not inerrancy.

There is a prayer, and it is the easiest prayer to pray in the world. So many, many times I find myself using it. It has nothing to do with penitence. It comes from a parable, and can be found in Luke, chapter 18, verses 11-12. A Pharisee and a tax collector have come to the temple, and the Pharisee prays it aloud. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” It’s a prayer of judgement, of seeing the mistakes in others and ignoring them in ourselves, and becoming insufferably arrogant twats.

Penitence is about admitting the mistakes we’ve made, sins in the parlance, and then accepting forgiveness. Lent is the season leading up to Easter, when the central event of our religion is commemorated. Before the grand miracle of forgiveness, we have a period of penitence, where we get to use that other prayer, the hard one, the tax collector’s prayer, which gives so much comfort.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

20 February, 2012

Serious Business: Richard Dawkins’s Family Tree

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Someone twittered an article from the Telegraph, regarding Richard Dawkins.

My knowledge of Richard Dawkins is perfunctory at best. I haven’t read his books, nor the books arguing against him; I haven’t seen him speak, nor read many interviews with him; and I don’t really know what it is he does with his days. I think I have caught the gist of his opinions, from general cultural osmosis, but I am by no means educated enough on them to say anything useful about them. Luckily, this particular post requires me only to know that he is a controversial man and that he makes some people very angry.

Which brings us to the Telegraph article, which reveals, with an almost palpable glee, that Richard Dawkins’s ancestors owned slaves.

So what?

Seriously, so what? I mean, slavery is obviously a terrible thing and not something to tolerate, but how on Earth can Richard Dawkins help the fact that his ancestors did bad things? What is accomplished by throwing it in his face? How is it different from blaming Benedict XVI for the actions of Lucuis III? (An example, I should hasten to add, I just made up, which has no relation to anything Dawkins has said, since I don’t really know what Dawkins has said. See the second paragraph.)

The excuse for the article seems to be that Dawkins’s family is still rich from that past exploitation, a claim Dawkins refutes in his response to the article. In lieu of actual numbers, my instinct is to take his word for it. So what’s the point of it all?

I suspect I disagree with many of Dr Dawkins’s views, and should I ever find the time to educate myself on the finer points of them, maybe I’ll even write about my disagreement, but there has to be better ways of expressing disagreement than this. Especially if you’re an actual, real press newspaper. It just seems so childish, it’s hard to understand how it got published at all. Even if it turns out Dawkins still owns a giant estate somewhere where slaves are literally buried in the foundations, the article is more interested in embarrassing him than in revealing any real issue.

I don’t know much about the Telegraph either, really, or the British newspaper scene in general. Just from the apparent vendetta against Dawkins, I deduce that they’re on the conservative side of things, but this sort of article surely cannot be the norm? Either way, what a terrible first impression.

16 February, 2012

Abject Terror

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

So, some times you get results you didn’t expect.

Sunday evening I sat there panicking about the impending public shame that would result from a Monday with no post, so I hit upon the idea of making a quick and dirty one, that would be fairly easy – essentially a small list. I knew there would be some duds when I started, right? So I pooped this post out in about forty minutes of not very focused work – which doesn’t mean I picked the links at random, though, they really are very, very good – and then scheduled it for publication. Sure, it wasn’t my best work, but I went on with my day secure in the knowledge that I don’t really have many readers yet.

And then this happened:A tweet by David Willis


And then this happened: Graph of site visitors

And then this happened: A drawing of me hiding under a table

Sure, two hundred people may not be very many in the grand scale of things, but for a fledgling blog that still numbered its posts in single digits and had its previous high point in visitors at 12, it was a bit of a jump. And on that post, too! The half-arsed, minimum-work hackery! It’s very possible this is the largest audience I’ve ever had, and that is what I showed them? And these aren’t people who’ll be coming back, either, I had one chance at an impression here!

It didn’t even look good! The subheadings weren’t very aesthetically pleasing. I thought about trying to make them look better as I wrote the post, maybe make some nice lines under each of them, but decided to not get bogged down in that sort of coding minutiae. That’s the sort of stuff I’d use to distract myself from writing anything at all. So up it went, in all its lack of glory.

Obviously I’m glad Willis liked it enough to comment, that was a nice thing to do of him. But man, it was not a post designed to impress writers I admire.

So, lessons learned? Fear the duds. Try not to be mediocre where large groups might see it. And when you link to someone awesome, someone awesome might also link back to you, so … try not to? That’s the lesson here? Hell if I know.

13 February, 2012

Five of a Thing: Comics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

In its previous incarnation, this blog included a rather long list of links to various comics I read on the web. At the outset, the idea was to list all of them, but it quickly fell behind as I dropped some and added others to my daily trawl. It was too long to be in any way useful, something I tried to alleviate by dividing into sections based on the strength of my recommendation, but this too was something that quickly became outdated. By the end, I don’t think there was much overlap between the list on the blog and the actual list of comics I read in my bookmarks.

The rejuvenated blog you’re reading now doesn’t have many links – actually, it only has one, and that one more out of deeply ingrained habit than anything else. Hopefully, I’ll eventually find some more worthy websites to add a permanent link to, but I don’t plan to repeat previous follies by trying to squeeze in all the comics I read – certainly not into the present sidebar. In lieu of that, I’m going to share my love of various comics a different way: by listing a few highlights. I’m not going to call it a top five, simply because I don’t want to make that kind of ranking judgement. They are picked from the upper echelon of the about fifty or so currently running comics I follow. If you are not reading these, you are missing out.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

The absurd adventures of the ninja who is also a doctor. Who idolises Batman. And has a gorilla for a secretary, and a prepubescent side-kick who rides a dinosaur.

Not the easiest thing to explain to people, really, but absolutely one of the funniest comics I know.

Dumbing of Age

On the subject of funny, this is basically a good sit-com in comic form. David Willis is no stranger to the college room-mates setting, and in this comic he perfects the form so well that the tired premise actually works. He’s basically taken all the best bits of his previous works and mixed them all together to create new greatness and hilarity.


The tagline for this one is that the story is serious and the characters hilarious. It’s hard to put it better than that, really. Interstellar war between the Galactic Spanish Empire and mysterious aliens, seen through the eyes of a variety of interesting personages, including centipedes who write poetry. Both good humour and a genuinely interesting sci-fi setting.

Bad Machinery

I don’t know how to explain Bad Machinery. It is sort of kid’s adventure novels taken to weird lengths and told with John Allison’s very peculiar humour. There aren’t many laugh out loud punchlines as such, but the whole thing is steeped in an ineffable hilarity. Yes, that sounds good, ineffable hilarity.

Gunnerkrigg Court

I said I wasn’t going to rank, but screw it. This is the gold medal. This wins. All the prizes. Intriguing mystery, fantastic humour and absolutely gorgeous art. I don’t think I’ve seen a comic deliver mood as well as this since Sandman. It is absolutely criminal that Tom Siddell can’t make his whole living off this, and you should help remedy that situation by starting to read it right away.

There, that’s much better. Five recommendations, none of this link page to maintain nonsense. Now go read.

9 February, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: Damn It, Dewey!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

As you might have noticed, I am a big fan of books – both in the abstract and as the physical object. I am also a big fan of systems and organisation. This might not be readily apparent to anyone peeking at my floors, but in my bookshelves order reigns supreme. I am also an avid LibraryThing user, which lets me keep a catalogue of my books which approaches a library standard. This helps me organise them, and with tags I can have all subjects well described.

That’s an organisation of ideas, though. Tags can tell me what a book is about, in general, but they are not very well suited to shelving. For that bastion of order, I need to use something else. Currently, my shelves are separated into three sections – once by format, then by content. Comics are separated from the prose books, which are in turn divided into fiction and non-fiction. Actually, since Understanding Comics is in the non-fiction section, I suppose it is more accurate to say that my shelves are divided into fiction and non-fiction, and fiction further subdivided by format.

Fiction is easy; it’s shelved alphabetically by author. Non-fiction is where it gets complicated. Shelving by author doesn’t really satisfy me there – I want books grouped by general topic, in an orderly fashion, by a real system. Enter the Dewey Decimal Classification. No, Dewey is too copyrighted for thorough discussion, let’s talk about the Melvil Decimal System instead. They’re both based on the work of Melvil Dewey, who I imagine felt some of the same desires I do for orderly shelves. I’m sure you have at least passing familiarity with his concept.  I’m no librarian; I have no training in library science or in classification, which I imagine is a lot more work, requiring a lot more patience, than it would seem on the surface. LibraryThing draws data about my books from libraries, however, so most of them have already been placed neatly into order in the DDC – whose numbers translate easily into MDS – by qualified professionals.

The problem is that Dewey’s system sucks. It doesn’t make any sense. The logic behind it is obscure, and the attitudes it codifies are out-dated and extremely ethnocentric. Let’s just look at the 2-range: Religion. These are the divisions Melvil thought necessary for books concerning religion:

  • 20 – Religion
  • 21 – Natural Theology; Secularism
  • 22 – Bible
  • 23 – Doctrinal Theology
  • 24 – Devotional; Practical
  • 25 – Pastoral Theology
  • 26 –  Church; Institutions; Work
  • 27 –  Christian History
  • 28 –  Christian Churches and Sects
  • 29 –  Non-Christian Religions

That’s not Christianity, that’s Religion. A whole big lot about Christianity, and a single section set aside for the rest of the world’s religions. No good. I am also not wild about the way the Bible is classed alongside books about Christianity, while The Homeric Hymns end up in the Literature section rather than with the rest of Greek mythology. It makes little sense to me.

Another problem area is the 4-range, Language. There are a couple of sections set aside for general linguistics, and then English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin and Greek get their own sections, with the rest shoved into 49 – Other Languages. Norwegian is filed under German, while the equally Germanic English gets its own section. Latin has a section of its own, while three other Romance languages get one as well. It makes no sense, at least not today. Presumably, it made sense to Dewey.

I really want a more logical system I can use. I suppose it technically doesn’t even need to be robust enough for a public library. I have made some small attempts at making something logical, but it is no easy task – no wonder Librarians go to school for this kind of thing. I had some high hopes for the Open Shelves Classification, but that ended up not really going anywhere, so here I sit still.

It is a bit silly, I suppose. The MDS works, sort of, and the books are all in the shelf. I suppose I could just put them in willy nilly, based on what feels right at the time, but every fiber of me objects to such a chaotic approach. I’m sure there are smart people out there working on classification systems. The DDC is aggressively copyrighted, and its flaws well known, so alternatives are desired by people who are not me. Guess I’ll just have to wait, though I’m going to whine about it. I’m not a librarian, you see. I’m no good at being patient.

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