Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

8 March, 2012

Luddism Vindicated

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

As I believe I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. In that same mention, I said that I also enjoyed the HBO adaptation of those books, Game of Thrones. The second season starts in April, and I am all a-jitter with excitement for it, but what concerns me right now is the first season, which has just been released on DVD and blu-ray.

Now, I knew damn well that I’d end up getting this anyway, so I saw no reason to wait. Since I am currently suffering a bad cold, I thought I’d buy the set and spend the evening vegetating in front of the screen consuming commentaries and extra features. The question was: DVD or blu-ray?

Up until now, I have stuck with DVDs. My old DVD player still functions, my laptop has a DVD and no blu-ray drive, and it’s not like I have a TV that shows high definition anyway. In this case, however, I thought it might be time to take the first step into the future everybody else seems to have joined three years ago. The blu-ray set had more extra content than the DVD, people who notice such things say the image quality is markedly better on the blu-ray, and the price difference between the two was only 40 kroner (presently about 7 US dollars, or 5 euros, or 54 rand). Although I have no blu-ray player myself, there is a Playstation 3 in this apartment, which I understand can quite adequately perform the function.

So, overcoming my Luddite instincts, I strode boldly into the technological present, purchased the kind of disappointingly slim box and marched home through the wind and rain, coughing all the way, imagining the fun to come.

Unfortunately, the TV in this apartment remains steadfastly in the technological past.

Now, I’m not a complete idiot, I knew I wasn’t going to get the full HD blu-ray experience on an old SDTV, but I figured I’d at least get the same level as I get from DVDs. And indeed, my googling these past thirty minutes support me in this notion, but the actual experience says otherwise. The disc played, all right, but it played in black and white, all colour drained from it.

I’m not sure where the fault is here. This is a localized edition of the box, so I assume any NTSC/PAL-discrepancies have already been sorted. The Playstation menu displays colour normally; until the actual disk is activated, there’s no problem at all. The various wires and cables are all thoroughly plugged in, I have made sure of that, at least. I’ve fiddled around with various settings, and tried to adjust every variable I found, but to no avail, there’s just simply no colour.

Guess I should have gone with Casablanca.

I suspect the problem lies somewhere in the Playstation, as I dragged out my own little TV from its storage and tested that with the same result, but in truth it could as easily be a problem the two TVs share; neither of them are exactly fresh off the conveyor belt. I’d have to try with a different player to be sure, and I don’t, as previously mentioned, have one.

So do I regret getting the blu-ray over the DVD?  No, not really. All my reasons for going with it still stand, and in the long-term I think it will work out. Sooner or later I’ll end up buying an actual player for the darned things, and at some point after that I’ll probably own a TV of a more recent make, and live happily until the format changes again.

But it did spoil my plans for the evening.

5 March, 2012

Five of a Thing: Graeco-Roman Gods

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

Yes, it’s that time again, where the deadline haunts, and I need something useful and easy to say, and I turn to a list. Seeking to avoid a repeat of last time’s debacle, I’m aiming for a safer subject. My head is currently full of Greek and Roman mythology, both from reading through course literature and from a recent re-watch of HBO’s Rome. Great show that. Rather than try to sort out something coherent on this topic right now, I’m going to give you my favourite gods. Yes, and ranked this time, by my interest. You heard it here first folks, the final and definitive mythological popularity contest! (Hubris? What’s that?) So here we go, top five Graeco-Roman gods!

5 – Janus

The only really Roman god on the list, and at the end of it at that. Janus is one of those gods who seem like they should be hugely important, what with controlling doors and such, yet somehow don’t figure to much. The reason he gets on my list right now is because I really like the concept of one of his temples in Rome, the one with the gates of war. Whenever Rome was at war, the gates were open – this was most of the time. Augustus apparently bragged that he managed to close the gates a whooping three times in his reign.

4 – Zeus

Head lecher of Olympus, but he only reaches the number four spot on my list. Sure he’s big and strong and kingly and all that, but he’s not terribly interesting. Where he really shines, though, is in his, ahem, sexual escapades. There’s really nothing else to call them. This is the guy who seemingly slept with at least half of Greece, and never as the same animal twice.

3 – Dinoysus

Zeus may be a party dude on paper, but Dionysos is the real Michelangelo in the dodecatheon, at least when he’s counted among them. Sex, drugs, women, wine and song – no wonder this guy was popular. My interest in him comes more from his foreign status, though – something I had never heard about until I began reading about this for my course. Dionysus was a god who came from somewhere else, in his fundamental conception an outsider that invaded Greek order with his man bacchanalia. That’s worth a number three spot for sure.

2 – Hephaestus

Who got a rawer deal than Hephaestus? His whole reason for being is to prove the point that women aren’t any good at doing stuff for themselves, and he goes on to be the Olympian butt monkey. Even when he does smithing well, he gets no respect. There’s something eminently loveable in an underdog like that, but not enough to outweigh the sheer cool-factor of the number one spot.

1 – The Erinyes

Well …

We are the skilled, the masterful,
we the great fulfillers,
memories of grief, we awesome spirits
stern, unappeasable to man,
disgraced, degraded, drive our powers through;
banished far from god to a sunless, torchlit dusk,
we drive men through their rugged passage,
blinded dead and those who see by day.

Then where is the man
not stirred with awe, not gripped by fear
to hear us tell the law that
Fate ordains, the gods concede the Furies,
absolute till the end of time?
And so it holds, our ancient power still holds.
We are not without our pride, though beneath the earth
our strict battalions form their lines,
grouping through the mist and sun-starved night.

– Aeschylus’s Eumenides

‘Nuff said.

1 March, 2012

In the Beginning

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

In the beginning, there was nothing, only a great void, empty and lifeless. Then, at either end of it, two realms were created; one of smoke and ashes and ever-burning fires, the other of cold and snow and never-melting ice. The ice from the cold realm spread into the void which remained between the two, and there it met sparks from the realm of fire which melted it, and from the meeting of the two forces, a giant was born. And a cow. The cow provided him with milk, and fed itself on the salt stones from the cold realm. As it licked at a stone, a man appeared from within it, and came to life. He had a son, presumably with one of the creatures created from the giant’s sweat, who again had three sons. These three killed the great giant, plopped his corpse down in the void, and created the world from it – mountains from his bones, soil from his flesh, and the sky from his skull, that sort of thing. Finally, they took two logs of lumber, and made them into a man and a woman, and got the human race started as well.

I am currently reading a book which contains creation myths from various cultures all over the world. Not full holy books or epics, just salient excerpts concerning the creation of the world, the world order and mankind. The one I just recounted, as I’m sure you sussed out somewhere around the second sentence, is the Norse creation story, taken from Gylfaginning, a charming tale of a Swede getting swindled – just the sort of reading we like here in Norway. Though it would have been even better if he was a Dane.

In the beginning, the Plough married the Earth, and they had the Sea and the Cattle God. Then the Earth seduced the Cattle God, who killed his father and married his sister, the Sea, and had the God of the Herd, who also killed his father, and then married his mother (the Sea), who then killed her mother (the Earth), and they had a son who married his sister, the River, and killed both his father and his mother, and had the Shepherd God who married his sister, Graze-and-Poplar, and I think you see where this is going.

Ancient Babylonia was a bloody soap opera. I’m not really sure what lessons that particular tale of a generational bloodshed that puts the House of Atreus to shame imparts, but I am sure the ancient Babylonians saw their society reflected in it somehow. Mythology fascinates me, both the phenomenon as an expression of human culture and what it says about both the culture and humanity in general, and frequently also as stories in their own right. And what story could be more intriguing than the start of everything? As someone who endeavours to write his own stories, getting under the skin of the oldest and truest ones can only be a good thing.

In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded.

OK, that one’s not in my book, that’s a Pratchett quote, and while I don’t mean to say that the scientists who work with this particular area don’t know what they’re talking about, I do think that the idea of the Big Bang has become a pretty much mythical event in the popular conciousness. Pop culture is, in a way, the mythology we produce in this day and age. I doubt there are many outside the labs who actually understand everything  about the theory; I am certainly not one of them.

In the beginning, the Earth fell from the sky – stones and mountains and soil and water plummeting down from the great Above to settle down here and into the shape of the world. From the soil, plants grew, and people too sprouted from the earth as little children, feeding of the soil. A man and a woman appears to give them clothes. As they grew up and became many, they cried out for dogs, and dogs appeared from the earth as well. Then people learned how to die, and society could get started.

That tale from Greenland is so refreshingly straightforward and unconcerned; I think it is my favourite so far, but there’s no guarantee it won’t have to share the limelight. I’m not very far into the book yet. I’m still at the beginning.

Ba-dum-psh.

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