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.

26 November, 2012

Priesthood of Almost All Believers

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

Last week, the General Synod of the Church of England failed to pass legislation that would have allowed women bishops.

You can read all about it in various news articles one the web, like this one, as well as several reports on the fallout. MPs and bishops alike calling for the Church of England to lose its exception to equality legislation, calls for Parliament to overrule the Church and throw the bishops out of the House of Lords, and bitter, bitter disappointment from those supporting the legislation that failed to pass.

You can understand their frustration. The vote failed by the tiniest margin. It needed two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the Synod. It passed easily in the House of Bishops, and by a good margin in the House of Clergy, but was six votes short in the House of Laity. In that last House, 132 voted for and 74 voted against, and so the against vote won.

Even though I do sympathise with the reasons for such a system – the Church should be mindful of significant minority views within itself, and should change slowly, not just at the whim of society – I am not at all sure the result actually reflected the views of the Church as a whole. I have seen several articles say that outside the Synod, the vast majority of the Church supports women bishops, and that a few hardline conservatives managed to get themselves elected and scoop the vote. On the other hand, they did manage to get themselves elected, so it’s hard to object to that after the fact.

I myself rooted for the legislation to pass. My own church, with which the Church of England is in full communion through the Porvoo agreement, has had women bishops since 1993. At present, four of the twelve bishops in the Church of Norway are women, among them the praeses. Other Anglican churches have also had women bishops for a while, and the Church of England itself has had women priests for 20 years, but now it failed to move further.

From what I understand, the Porvoo agreement states that members of one church is to be considered as if they were members of the other, and those ordained in one, are then fit for service in the other. I’m not sure what would happen if one of our women bishops wanted to move to England. It’s not something that’s likely to come up, really, but ordination to bishop isn’t really a temporary thing that disappears when you retire. I would imagine that the agreement had specific rules for bishops, since they’re their own thing any way, and that the exchange of ordained ministers referred mainly to priests.

I’m not going to talk much more about this – people far smarter than I have already said most of it anyway, I think. Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed. I feel for those who have laboured for years to make this legislation happen. I hope it won’t really be seven years before it can be attempted again, and that the Church can move forwards in the way that the majority of its members actually want it to soon. It’s a dangerous thing, to claim that someone is on the right or wrong side of history, but I cannot help but believe that this was the wrong decision for a Church for which I have great affection and affinity. Ultimately, though, I guess I’ll have to take the difficult advise of a vicar friend of mine, and trust God.

5 November, 2012

Musings on Piracy. I Mean, Arrrr.

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

I’m fairly certain there is a name for the phenomenon that the easier way wins out, that the concept is formulated in a law named after some clever word-smith who managed to relate the path of least resistance to consumer activities. I’ almost completely positive that there is such a named law when it comes to user interfaces for computers, that states that a better interface is the one that requires the least number of actions. For all my googling, though, I can’t find these names, so I shall have to proceed without them.

The point is, consumers will do what is easiest. We’ve heard this in the debate about piracy for some time, and it is obviously true, but the legitimate content providers are very, very reticent about being the ones providing the easiest path. In my youth, I downloaded shows I wanted to watch, because they weren’t on TV where I lived, and I really wanted to watch them anyway. There was no way to get them legally, so I downloaded. Arr, me hearties, etc.

I stopped that after a letter from MGM scared me straight.

Anyway, that’s years ago, but the situation today isn’t all that different. There’s loads of good TV being made, and not much of it makes its way to channels near me – or if they do, they do so months or even years after original airing. Being fickle consumers seeking instant gratification, the pirates are there to fill the gap. I manage to stay on the right side of the law while still getting to see the shows I want – it’s all technicalities. Morally, what I do is no different from piracy, I know, but legally, I’m in the clear. And I do it, because pirates successfully deliver the content in the easy way that the legitimate content providers won’t. It’s not a matter of wanting it for free; even in my downloading days I would go out and buy the DVDs as soon as they were available. It is about ease of access. I have always maintained that I would prefer the completely legitimate way. People in the US have it easier there, with services like Hulu and Netflix.

But now, see, Netflix has launched in Norway! My legitimate path is open to me!

And it’s still shit.

Well, OK, not completely. Netflix Norway has a very limited selection of shows and titles, and most of them are at least a couple of years old. They have shows that are currently airing, but only let you watch up until a couple of seasons ago. I assume this is because the industry is still locked in the model of thinking that gave us the utterly moronic zone system on DVDs – they want to control when people in various regions get to watch their stuff. And never mind that with current technology, they can’t.

I do sort of sympathise with the problem here. I imagine the profits from sales of airing rights to various markets are significant when it comes to making TV. And I don’t want TV production stifled by lack of funds. I’m not really sure what the solution is, but the Internet has so globalised communication that the model just doesn’t work any more.

So, Netflix Norway has poor selection, and I can only get it to work in (gag) Internet Explorer, and it only has Norwegian subtitles with uninspired language. It’s a step in the right direction, at least. I’ve spent the past couple of days diving into some older shows I might not have bothered with had they not been all that was on offer. Andromeda isn’t bad, it turns out. Presumably the selection will expand in the future, but until I can actually watch the latest episode of Modern Family as soon as it’s aired in the US, it won’t hold a candle to the pirates.

And isn’t that just a sad state of affairs.

1 October, 2012

Idle Desires

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

I’m having a bit of D&D withdrawal.

It’s been a good while now since last I played the game, and a few months since I even wrote something about my world to release some of the steam. Today, I finally watched this year’s Acquisitions Incorporated episode, and many laughs were had. I also recently got caught up on the excellent Critical Hit podcast, after having fallen a month or so behind. It all adds up to a great big desire for more D&D. Before you know it, I’m scouring Obsidian Portal for interesting wikis, trying to soak up the mood like some desperate sponge.

There’s a new edition of the game on the way. I have barely skimmed the playtest materials currently out there. I like some things, am very sceptical about others, but I’m trying not to make up my mind before I see the finished product. I quite like 4th edition, though – and I already have a bunch of the books – so I doubt I’ll be switching any time soon. Late adopter, that’s me.

But as I’m not really playing, it hardly matters at the moment. I don’t have the time for running a game; that much is certain. I suppose I could try to find someone else to run one and just play in it, but that’s not the easiest project in the world either. No, gathering a group around a table at this point seems an unassailable task.

But, there’s always the Internet. I have been toying with the idea of putting up an ad on Myth Weavers. I don’t have much experience in play-by-post games; I’ve participated in one that sort of petered out pretty quickly when the DM disappeared, and been the DM of another, on Google Wave, that also did not last long. People do make it work however, so maybe I was just unlucky. I could try signing up for a player on a game, I guess, but there aren’t that many 4e games advertised on there, and among those even fewer that I think look interesting.

If I decide to try running one myself, I think I would want the story to circle around exploration – adventurers sailing off into the unknown to explore the world and discover what lies in the blank spots of the map. Possibly structured around a central search for a lost treasure. It’s all in the vague not-even-early stages.

It’s something that I think I will eventually talk myself into, even though I have no idea if I actually have the time to run it properly; I don’t even know what the time requirements will end up being. It’ll take a little more time, though, so while I wait, I’ll just have a look at Obsidian Portal …

21 June, 2012

I want a pad

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

I’ve recently started wanting a tablet. No, that’s a lie, I’ve wanted an iPad pretty much since they came out. The thing is, though, even though I am sent into fits of “ooooh, shiny!” and would really love to have a toy like that, I have not been able to justify to myself the expense of one. I want an iPad, but I don’t need one. I have a computer, I have a phone, I am already drowning in the conveniences of the modern West (so, yeah, when I say “need” I don’t really mean “need”, you know). A tablet on top of that would just be gilding the lily, getting something for no good reason but to play with it. And I don’t mind that in most cases, really, because I am a filthy wasteful materialist, but in this case the price tag is too high.

The last couple of days I have started to reconsider, though. Maybe I do need one. I’ve been sitting at work, bored out of my mind for long stretches of time when there are no tourists to mind (oh, as an aside, I recently started working as a tourist guard. Long, tiring hours, many of them empty). If I had my laptop, I would think to myself, I could do something useful with this time! This completely disregards the reality which is that if I had my laptop, I would be wasting lots of time. It’s all moot anyway, since my laptop is actually kind of big and clunky and not suited for taking anywhere nice.

A tablet, though, that might work. I’d need one with a keyboard, since I like typing at things, and would want to do some writing while I sat there. A tablet would also be a pretty good thing to have when I am going on my ill-advised trip to Crete this summer. Can’t bring my laptop there.

Do I have room in my budget? Would it get delivered fast? The answers to both are probably no. But I have gotten so far as to look at options. It need not be an iPad – in fact, I understand those don’t have the greatest keyboard solutions. I don’t know enough to make an informed decision, and I don’t feel like investing a lot of energy into learning about the field. The Asus Transformer Prime looks neat, and has a pretty awesome name, should I go for one of those?

I don’t know what sort of point I’m building towards here. Maybe the lesson learned is that my desire for shiny toys will always overpower my better judgement in the end. I’d ask for tablet recommendations, but who’s to say I would even read them. I am liable to just walk into a store and ask them for advice, even though I know how bad an idea that is.

Actually, it would be very feasible to go by the Apple store after work tomorrow…

No, I’m going to stop now and go to sleep before I end up talking myself into something stupid. Good night all.

3 May, 2012

Writing on a Schedule

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

All right, time for some rambling. The time is rapidly approaching midnight, and if I am to stick to my schedule I need something to go up, and I have no good ideas popping up.

The thing is, I do have a few ideas. I have a list of draft posts which consist mainly of a title and maybe a few words describing the core of the idea, but these are ideas I think are pretty good, and they require a certain amount of time and effort to do right. Lately, I have not found much of that time. My writing, as a result suffers, as I try to squeeze out something passable despite lack of inspiration and time to polish.

Now, forcing yourself to write regardless of quality has some merit. That’s part of the reason why I made this schedule in the first place. It’s also the core idea behind NaNoWriMo; quantity can in some cases be better than quality. If you don’t write some crap first, you won’t get to the good part later. I read a book on writing once that said the first million words you write are practice, and don’t count. Even if you publish books and win awards, put them away, and keep practising. I don’t recall who wrote that book, but presumably he’d written a fair bit himself, and the message seems sound. You have to write through the crap and the duds to get good enough to write the real things.

I’ve tried my hand at NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Once, I even made the target, 50 000 words written in November. The other time I petered out after 14 000, as I found myself without time – there’s that word again – to devote to the project. November just isn’t a very good month for that sort of undertaking, I think.

In neither project did I have a clear idea of what I wanted to write. I had some characters in mind, and a couple of settings that I still think are pretty neat, but no clue whatsoever on plot. Both of the texts ended up being mostly a series of events without much conflict attached – a very long introduction, essentially. The first go, the one where I actually finished, was a story about a young ghost. The idea was that ghosts and goblins and all manner of mythological creatures were actually related beings made of some dark energy, and they had set up a society of their own on the other side of reflections – not mirrors, mind you, reflections. The story was basically this young ghost, having been born in the real world, travelling there and settling in … and that’s that, the end. 50 000 words of exposition. Like I said, no good ideas for plot materialised. I might go back to it at some point, though, I think there’s something good to extract from it.

The other attempt was much less developed, but also a concept I’m more excited about and which I absolutely intend to return to. It was a fantasy about a group belonging to a monastic religion focused on fire worship establishing a small foothold in a Victorianesque industrial city on the far side of the world. Picture a Buddhist missionary monastery opening in 1850s London. Except they can control fire. Anyway, I didn’t really get far enough for much plot in that one either, but I’m real invested in the world building there.

Right, that’s stream of conciousness for you. Started with whining about blogging, ended up talking about writing fiction. The point of it all was the idea of forcing production, as I’ve done for this very post here. Actually, I think it ended up not being half bad. Made me want to star up the fiction writing again, too, though I doubt I’ll find the time before the holiday. Still, not bad, twenty minutes before the deadline.

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