Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

7 January, 2013

Sticky Stories: The Tolkien Legendarium

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

There are some stories that just seem to stick. Some stories that latch on, and stay with me, never leaving my brain, and resurfacing every now and then to make me ponder the intricacies and details and themes they explore. Stories that I periodically just have to read or see or experience again.

The Myst franchise contains such a story. As does The Dark is Rising Sequence. And the one that’s currently bubbling around near the surface is the vast story found in the works of Tolkien.

Obviously, what has brought this fit of bubbling thought on right now, is the first Hobbit film. I’ve seen it twice now, and enjoyed it greatly both times. It has its flaws – I’m basically of Dave Kellett’s mind here. While it is a very entertaining film, I am far from convinced that it needed to be split in three. And when it is split in three, it does not need to be three hours long.

But while the film is greatly entertaining, it isn’t the book, isn’t the depth and mad brilliance of Tolkien’s writings. Much like the Lord of the Rings films, it is a good, nay great, effort to tell that story in film form, but it mostly just whets my appetite for rereading the books. I want to see again how it all fit together in the text.

The Encyclopedia of Arda did a series of articles back when the Lord of the Rings films came out, the Movie-goer’s Guides, which listed some of the most important changes from book to film. I wish they’d do more of those for the Hobbit, I’m always game for a good explanation of Tolkien’s work.

I did find another list of changes, but it seemed less thought through and coherent in its presentation, listing even the most minor of quibbles as its own huge point, and I was so annoyed by its Cons section I eventually couldn’t read on. Oh, no, this change means using a word of dialogue that Tolkien didn’t write! Horreur!

The point is, I’m now in a mood to revisit this story. The best way would be a reread – Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion all – but considering how little reading I get done these days, I doubt it’s be the best idea. Maybe I can just do the Hobbit, and contend myself with that.

Or maybe I’ll just watch the Lord of the Rings films again. Yeah, that sounds nice and lazy.

19 November, 2012

Oziana

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

I greatly enjoyed Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

I am by no means an Oz aficionado. I have vague memories of checking the Norwegian translation of the original Oz book out of the library as a child, but I have no memories of actually reading it, so it cannot have made a big impact. I actually just bought a copy of the book in English the other day, on account of finding it at a bargain, but I haven’t read it yet.

I do recall the film, of course. You know the one I’m talking about, I doubt I need to specify further.  I don’t recall when I first saw it, but I’m fairly sure it was somewhere in childhood. It was never a big favourite, but I appreciate it for what it is now. Still doesn’t add up to a big Oz interest though.

That came with Wicked. Which is a bit sad, I suppose, that it takes a drastic reimagining to make me take notice. Really, though, it is a testament to the quality storytelling Maguire pulled off in that book. It really was an excellent novel.

I didn’t care to much for its first couple of sequels, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men. They were all right, I suppose, but nowhere near as engaging as Wicked. I’ve never felt moved to reread those two, but I was still interested enough in the world to read the final book in the series which came out last year, Out of Oz.

While I still wouldn’t rank that as good as Wicked, I felt this was much more of a return to form. I might actually reread this at some point! It somehow made Maguire’s vision of Oz much more interesting that the previous two. I do enjoy his ordered take on the world of Oz. Baum’s books seem to be the sort that rewrite the past whenever convenient, which isn’t the sort of approach I care for. Maguire’s Oz, on the other hand, takes all these confused elements and order them into a coherent whole. It’s like how Don Rosa organised Barks’s myriad references into a coherent whole in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

Come to think of it, Wicked‘s full title is even Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Like I said, I’m no Oz aficionado, but having finished this series now, I’m almost tempted to become one. I do have Baum’s first book already, and I’m sure plenty of others are on Project Gutenberg or something.

Of course, first I have to find the time.

24 September, 2012

A Post with a Foolish Conclusion

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

Blog posts are pretty disposable things, really. I’m typing this in a simple little input box in the WordPress back-end; it hardly feels permanent. It’s all bits in the end, little ones and zeroes stored on one hard drive or another, ready to be copied and accessed and viewed whenever convenient.

I feel like this with most things written on a computer, really. It’s disposable, copyable, temporary and flimsy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m sceptical about e-books; they don’t feel real. Sure I can write up a story or other text on a computer, and really should, considering the convenience, but it doesn’t feel real until it’s on actual paper. That’s how it was with my master’s thesis, at any rate.

Of course, just being on paper isn’t enough to make something feel non-disposable either. I often print out stuff that has a limited use and is then discarded – bit of my thesis, to continue the example, that were very much work-in-progress, used for a time and then crumpled up and recycled.

I used to carry notebooks around – and really should start doing that again – to jot down ideas and thought and stories while I had them. I scribbled in them with pencils and wore them out by forcing them into pockets they didn’t really fit in. They were cheap little things, flimsy – there’s that word again – and while they weren’t ever discarded, they were definitely a temporary vessel for thoughts. On the whole though, paper, and books in particular, feels more permanent than typing electronically.

And some books feel very weighty indeed. I’m not talking about printed books here, they’re a thing of their own, I’m talking about notebooks – books for producing text, not consuming it. I recently bought a fancy notebook, to use as a log book for the next part of my study course. Since I knew I was going to keep a log, I decided I wanted a proper book to keep it in, not just another folder of lecture notes. I ended up buying a Paperblank, one of those that imitate the look of old leather binding. I got a hardback one, so it feels solid and looks pretty. It felt so proper that I felt I had to sit down and take some time to write out a title page, with proper letter spacing and as pretty looking letters as my clumsy hand can make. I used pencil sketches I had to erase after using ink and everything!

Like I said, I bought this to keep a log in; it has a specific purpose, which is why I felt I could buy a fancy book for it. I’ve been burned on this before, you see. I bought a couple of Paperblanks a few years ago, pocket sized ones, and found myself stumped. They looked to neat to just scribble notes in. A book that looked that good, I felt, had to be actually filled with something good as well.

And that’s Paperblanks, that basically just fake looking good! I am tempted to get something like this, something that legitimately is awesome, just for the sheer coolness of it. The problem, however, would be compounded; what on Earth would I put in it?! It’s the same urge that makes me want one of those hollowed-out books for hiding stuff in, even though I have nothing worth hiding it it! I would like to have bunches of beautiful books in the shelves, but what do I put in them?

I basically need more intrigue in my life.

3 September, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: The Conclusion

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

Although this little project will probably never reach a completely finished state, I’m aiming to wrap up talking about it in this post – at least for now.

After a bit of back and forth, I decided to keep a category for General Works, and forego Applied Sciences, based on an educated guess as to what sort of books I might end up owning one day. That leaves me with the following top-level:

  1. General Works
  2. Formal Sciences
  3. Natural Sciences
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Philosophy
  6. Religion
  7. History
  8. Language
  9. Literature
  10. Arts

Although some of these aren’t very applicable to my current collection, I want it robust enough for future growth. Now comes the hard part – sensible subcategories. For the sciences, it actually wasn’t all that hard – Wikipedia has good lists of the various branches of science, look at Natural science for example, so I simply copied them over.

Although I ended up with ten top-level categories, this will not be a decimal system. The top-level will be identified by number, but after that the categories are identified by letter. Add an initial marker for non-fiction, and the final code will end up looking something like N-7CE-J.

I won’t go through every single category here, it would take too much space, but let’s look at Religion and History. I’ve attempted to find a balance between topics big enough to stand on their own, and topics that can be grouped roughly according to geography.

5. Religion 6. History
  1. Religious Studies
  2. Abrahamic Religions
    1. Judaism
    2. Christianity
    3. Islam
  3. Indian Religions
    1. Hinduism
    2. Buddhism
    3. Jainism
    4. Sikhism
  4. European Religions
    1. Greek Mythology
    2. Roman Mythology
    3. Celtic Mythology
    4. Norse Mythology
    5. Sami Religion
  5. African Religions
  6. Middle-Eastern Religions
    1. Mesopotamian Religion
    2. Egyptian Religion
    3. Zoroastrianism
  7. Asian Religions
    1. East-Asian Religions
      1. Taoism
      2. Confucianism
      3. Shinto
  8. Oceanic Religions
    1. Australian Religion
  9. American Religions
    1. North-American Religions
    2. Mesoamerican Religions
    3. South-American Religions
  10. New Religious Movements
  1. Historiography
  2. Archaeology and Pre-History
  3. Ancient History
  4. Eurasian History
    1. European History
    2. Asian History
    3. Middle-Eastern History
  5. African History
    1. North-African History
  6. Oceanic History
  7. American History
    1. North-American History
    2. Mesoamerican History
    3. South-American History
  8. Biographies

You can see the general idea, I think. For Religion there are a couple of categories encompassing some of the biggest currently active religions, and then geographic categories to encompass religions that aren’t universal in scope and to a greater degree limited to a single area.

In History, Eurasia is collapsed into a single super-category, to account for books that span the whole of it, and then subdivided for more specificity. That’s the general idea behind the whole system, of course, I can always subdivide a category further to get a more specific category. Hierarchy ftw, as they say. I have made no effort whatsoever to maintain equality in the hierarchy across top-level categories, because there are limits even to my madness. With the geographical division, I have tried to find the balance between purely geographical and cultural groupings – it is no accident that the Middle-East and North Africa end up next to each other on the shelf.

And this is how it goes, basically. Literature will also be divided geographically, I think, with a general literary theory category on top. Languages will be divided among major language families, and then subdivided as their genealogy goes. For the Arts, I turn again to Wikipedia for neat subdivisions – the Norwegian Wikipedia had a curious list which I quite liked, so it has both painting, music and architecture, as well as comics, cooking and role-playing games beneath it.

Like I said, this won’t ever be done, there’s always room for more subdivision and precision and clarification, but I think I am approaching something that’s usable. There are still some top-level categories to flesh out, and I want to work it all into a notation that will allow me to sort my book database accurately in the same order as they appear on the shelves – even the fiction – but I am getting there.

But for now, I’ll shut up about it.

30 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: But I Try

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

OK, so let’s look at top-level categories. You’ll remember the MDS from last time, but let me line it up with some other systems as well, just to get an idea of the variation.

Melvil Decimal System Universal Decimal Classification Library of Congress Classification Bliss bibliographic classification
  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History
  1. Science and Knowledge. Organization. Computer Science. Information. Documentation. Librarianship. Institutions. Publications
  2. Philosophy. Psychology
  3. Religion. Theology
  4. Social Sciences
  5. empty
  6. Mathematics. Natural Sciences
  7. Applied Sciences. Medicine, Technology
  8. The Arts. Recreation. Entertainment. Sport
  9. Language, Linguistics, Literature
  10. Geography, Biography, History
A – General Works
B – Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion
C – Auxiliary Sciences of History
D – General and Old World History
E – History of America
F – History of the United States and British, Dutch, French, and Latin America
G – Geography, Anthropology, and Recreation
H – Social Sciences
J – Political Science
K – Law
L – Education
M – Music
N – Fine Arts
P – Language and Literature
Q – Science
R – Medicine
S – Agriculture
T – Technology
U – Military Science
V – Naval Science
Z – Bibliography, Library Science, and General Information Resources
2/9 – Generalia, Phenomena, Knowledge, Information science & technology
A/AL – Philosophy & Logic
AM/AX – Mathematics, Probability, Statistics
AY/B – General science, Physics
C – Chemistry
D – Astronomy and earth sciences
DG/DY – Earth sciences
E/GQ – Biological sciences
GR/GZ – Applied biological sciences: agriculture and ecology
H – Physical Anthropology, Human biology, Health sciences
I – Psychology & Psychiatry
J – Education
K – Society (includes Social sciences, sociology & social anthropology)
L/O – History (including area studies, travel and topography, and biography)
LA – Archaeology
P – Religion, Occult, Morals and ethics
Q – Social welfare & Criminology
R – Politics & Public administration
S – Law
T – Economics & Management of economic enterprises
U/V – Technology and useful arts (including household management and services)
W – The Arts
WV/WX – Music
X/Y – Language and literature
ZA/ZW – Museology

It all adds up to quite the mouthful. And they’ve got some pretty different notations, too – I don’t know what’s going on with Bliss. To get way ahead of myself, I think maybe using the alphabet is a good idea, just for the extra room it gives you to expand – although the UDC has left a whole number unused by collapsing subjects into others. Combining language and literature certainly isn’t for me. So what do they all have in common, then? Can I draw out some main topics?

  • Philosophy
    • Grouped with Psychology (or Logic, in Bliss)
  • Religion
    • Grouped with Philosophy in LoC
  • Social Sciences
  • Language
    • Frequently combined with Literature, but screw that!
  • Literature
  • Mathematics
    • Generally grouped with Science, specifically Natural Sciences
  • Arts and Recreation
  • History and Biography
  • Geography
  • And they all have some sort of General Stuff-category

Some of them divide sciences and history further on the top-level, but my instinct is to go as broad as I can for the top-level, and go for greater granularity later. I’m actually tempted to go for just a Science top-level – Wikipedia organises its articles into Formal, Physical, Life, Social and Applied Sciences, and that seems like a good subdivision of a big field to me. Of course, I immediately get into trouble, as Linguistics should then be a Social Science, but I want Language on the top-level. Dangit.

OK, let me compare these pulled out with my own tentative categories, then.

General Works
Philosophy
Religion
Social Sciences
Language
Literature
Mathematics
Natural Sciences
Arts and Recreation
History and Biography
Geography

Philosophy
Religion
Politics
Language
Literature
Education
Food
Art
History

I actually quite like this boiled-down list. Let me redo my list a bit, and see if I get a top-level I can work with, and throw in some of the rest as sub-levels just to see how it’d work.

  1. General Works
  2. Formal Sciences
    • Mathematics
  3. Natural Sciences
    • Geography
  4. Social Sciences
    • Politics
    • Education
  5. Philosophy
  6. Religion
  7. Language
  8. Literature
  9. Art
    • Food
    • Music
  10. History
    • Biography

That even shook out to ten! I’m not sure if I should be happy about that; if I go with these as top-level, I’ll obviously use numbers, and leave myself no room to expand. And I’ve surely overlooked something. And what are General Works, really? Like, encyclopaedias and stuff? Do they even sell print versions of those to private consumers any more? It seems like a good category to have, you know, “stuff”, but I don’t know that I’d really use it. Maybe I should have some sort of Applied Sciences instead – though it’s not like I’ll use that much either. I think this set-up will pretty much work for my current books, though… I think I’m on to something here.

27 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: Classification Redux

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

About six months ago, I complained about my dissatisfaction with the Dewey Decimal System as an organisational tool. I bitched and moaned about its nonsensical hierarchy, and generally expressed a desire for something that made a bit more sense for organising my shelves.

While I’ve managed to keep quiet about it since, the dissatisfaction remains, simmering away out of sight, and bubbling up every now and then – usually when I look at my shelves. Now we’re in August, the start of a new semester, and with it comes a whole bunch of new non-fiction books. This is when the dissatisfaction boils over.

Proper classification systems are a lot of work and a lot of planning and a lot of careful considerations. That’s why there are professional librarians who do it, and why the people who own the big systems charge a good deal of money for licensing them. I have, reluctantly, conceded that a system of organising my own shelves does not need to be universal in scope. If I trim it to the bone, it really only needs to cover the books I own – though I do want it to be open enough to accommodate topics which I currently do not own any books in. So, forging ahead in ignorance, without any classification experience or qualifications, I am trying to make myself a system I can live with. This post will be partly what I have done already, and partly me doing it on the fly; let’s see where I end up.

I started with making little digital cards, with book titles on them – one for each non-fiction book I own. I then started sorting them into piles based on the broadest categories I could think of. This resulted in seven clear categories – History, Religion, Literature, Education, Philosophy, Language and Food (I own a single cook book).

Some of these probably shouldn’t be top-level. I’m looking at you, Food. There are some books left over which I have not quite decided where to put – do my books on comics go with literature, or should there be an art-category, or should comics finally get to be their own thing? The Communist Manifesto doesn’t feel like it belongs in History, should I have a category for economics, or maybe politics? Should The Federalist Papers and the US constitution, in that case, go into that bag, or should there be one for law? Do Michael Moore’s political satire go in with politics, or does it belong with the other humorous non-fiction I own? I guess I did put the satirical literary history in with the rest of literature. And what about my two quote collections?

Say I do add Politics and Art. Let me compare my categories to the tags I have used for these books on LibraryThing. I’ll line up the top twenty tags that describe contents with my proposed categories.

religion (44)
history (36)
ancient (18)
Christianity (18)
classic (16)
mythology (16)
epic (15)
literature (13)
Greece (12)
linguistics (11)
language (9)
Rome (8)
America (7)
Bible (7)
Antiquity (6)
English (6)
humour (6)
American (5)
biography (5)
empires (5)
History
Religion
Literature
Education
Philosophy
Language
Food
Art
Politics

Several of these tags aren’t really all that useful on their own – that’s the beauty of tags, they can work together to paint a more complex picture than a single subject label can. That’s also what makes them less than ideal for shelving systems. Books tagged Greece or Rome or America could easily be literature, religion or history, with no way of telling from that one tag itself. Tags like Christianity and mythology obviously belong as a subset of Religion. After talking the matter over with a friend, I also grouped biographies under History. The politics tag didn’t make the list, but it has five books associated with it, while art only has one.

I think it would be a good idea to look at how other systems do it – even if I am trying to tailor-make something for my own collection, there’s no reason to struggle to reinvent the wheel. Melvil Dewey’s top-level goes something like this:

  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History

Education would go under Social Sciences in this system, as would Politics and, indeed, economics. Food would go under Applied Sciences and Technology, which admittedly makes cooking sound pretty bad-ass, but I’m not quite sure about that particular delegation.

This isn’t a project that will be finished in this post. I think I need to look up some other classification systems, and compare more top-levels, before I hash out which ones I think make sense, but I want to do as much of the process as possible in public, so that others can let me know when I’ve done something dumb.  I think I’ll pause here for now, and go do some reading.

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