Comic #1634

A common trope of science fiction of the Cold War era was the arrival of powerful alien beings who proceeded to either: deliver dire warnings that humanity has to learn to grow up and get along with itself or risk annihilating itself; or forcibly intervene in human conflict with their advanced technology that renders our own puny instruments of war ineffective. Either way, the lesson was clear: get over our petty squabbling and act like a united species, or risk destroying ourselves.

Probably the most iconic such story was The Day the Earth Stood Still.

2017-10-22 Rerun commentary: And we all know how that turned out...[1] [1] If not, go read the plot summary. Or better yet, see the film.[2] [2] It's getting to the point where sometimes when I reference things that I think everyone should know, people look at me funny because they've never heard of the thing I just referenced. This seems to be a hazard of getting older in a world where other people are born after you.[3] See, in my head, everyone knows the stories of the most significant science fictions films of the 1950s and 1960s (even though they were released before I was born). So when I reference them, I expect people to get the references. And when they don't, I feel old... I guess "current popular culture" is a more of fixed-width window that slides along the decades, rather than an ever-growing extension into the future with a beginning point that everyone knows. I suppose the generation before me is appalled at my lack of knowledge of 1930s and 1940s popular entertainment. [3] Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any viable alternative choice.

Comic #1633

The Carabinieri are Italy's national military police force, and operate widely throughout the country as one of several police forces. They perform security and public order operations, as well as counter-terrorism, paramilitary special operations, and forensic crime investigation, and may also be sent overseas on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. They are distinct from the civilian Polizia di Stato, which handles more routine law enforcement.

The Carabinieri are an example of a gendarmerie, a military force charged with civilian law enforcement. Such forces are relatively common in southern Europe, and many exist in Africa.

2017-10-21 Rerun commentary: The thing that I most instantly associate with the Carabinieri is... machine guns. Coming from a country where such things are never seen on the streets, it's rather confronting to visit a country where the police force is armed with highly visible automatic weapons. On another topic, I really should have rotated those flames in the background between each panel to give them the illusion of flickering motion. That would have been cool.

Comic #3750

I thought to myself: What very British thing can happen to have delayed Sallah's arrival? The answer came to me about 30 milliseconds later.

Originally, the fourth panel read as follows:
4 Caption: In Southampton:
4 Rail employee: Great Western Railway apologises for the inconvenience. Honestly, if you want to get to Tintagel, you're better off walking.
However I received the following email from Transport Historian Dr Rudi Newman:

Seeing today's webcomic made me wonder about the accuracy of the final panel, and led to an interesting little historical exercise I'd like to share. Some while back you might recall a lengthy debate on Britain's railway network, of which I was a contributor (it correlating with my Ph.D.). This time it may be slightly [very] pedantic, but your annotations show that there's always space for accuracy. The last panel notes "In Southampton" and "Great Western Railway" (that being the modern name, technically it was "The" Great Western Railway, but I digress). The primary rail link from Southampton up to the 1921 Grouping Act, whereby over a hundred railway companies were amalgamated into the "Big Four", was the London and South Western Railway (LSWR), which was sufficiently important that it owned/developed much of Southampton Docks. After the Grouping it became part of the Southern Railway (SR) until nationalisation in 1948. By comparison, the Great Western Railway (GWR) retained its corporate identity throughout until nationalisation (arguably even afterwards and now recently re-adopted). To travel efficiently to Tintagel would thus require travelling from Southampton to Waterloo, transferring to Paddington, and only then taking the GWR (then in Cornwall transferring again, ultimately disembarking at Camelford on the ex-North Cornwall Railway taken over by the LSWR). One could have taken the entire route via the LSWR/SR, but this potentially involved more changes, the GWR Penzance main line being more direct. This therefore suggests that for the initial Southampton stretch you referenced the wrong company in the panel. However... A lesser-known railway was constructed in sections c.1873-1885 called the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway (DNSR), running between Southampton and the GWR main line at Didcot. Independently owned until the 1921 Grouping, it was taken over by the GWR (who had previously run it) so extending their operations in competition with the LSWR. In the 1950s, after nationalisation, it was ultimately put under the ex-SR Southern Division. To travel to Tintagel via this route would thus require travelling from Southampton to Didcot, there transferring directly onto the GWR main line - cutting out London entirely and shortening the mileage. Consequently this suggests that (pre-1948) you referenced the right company in the panel. However... The DNSR was far from either an important or successful railway. While ironically becoming vital for moving supplies in the build-up to D-Day, the line was sufficiently minor that its rolling stock ultimately included celebrity record-breaker 3440 City of Truro (the first engine to do 100 mph - which coincidently I've fired) as essentially a retirement job after being deemed obsolete and surplus to requirements, but nonetheless preserved. Speed and up-to-date rolling stock was plainly not of importance here! Consequently services on the line were slow and unreliable, and becoming all but a freight-only route, passenger trains became increasingly few and far between, particularly by the 1950s. One could argue the exact timing of the Cliffhangers thread, but immaterial of this passenger services were probably still poor. As a result, while the Southampton-Didcot route was shorter in terms of mileage, waiting for connections, a limited number of services, and overall slower travelling means that the quicker and more comfortable route would have been the former via Waterloo and the LSWR. The GWR would, no doubt, have apologised for the inconvenience of the irregular service - as your station attendant does - but with rampant competition between companies may well have not recommended a competitor's service (LSWR/SR), so also covering your quip about walking. Therefore your final panel is entirely accurate, albeit not as clear-cut as it may originally have seemed. I can just imagine a final panel, though, with Sallah muttering about going by LSWR/SR instead. A pity it would not be particularly funny. However... (I'm sure you see a trend here) As the longer route would ultimately have been quicker than the shorter route, Sallah could have noted he seemed to be going a great (i.e. long) way round. Most railway companies had both positive and derogatory nicknames, the GWR being "God's Wonderful Railway" to its fans, but the long and winding route chosen by Brunel (as it had fewer gradients) was labelled by its detractors as the "Great Way Round" - a pun apposite for Sallah's situation, which any true-blood railway historian would find hilarious. ... good thing explaining a joke doesn't remove the humour!

Well, this correspondence was so long, so erudite, and so pedantically nerdy, that I felt compelled to adopt its advice into making the original comic even more erudite, nerdy, and - for true-blood railway historians - much more hilarious. You can enjoy the revamped and much funnier comic above.

Comic #1632

I hope it's obvious that this is not really a spoiler for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Of course the book isn't even out yet, and I have no idea how it will end, so it's not even possible for me to spoil it.

I must say, I think people get a bit too worked up about spoilers sometimes. I've had several things spoilered for me. I know who did it in The Usual Suspects, despite not having seen the movie yet (I do plan to see it one day). I know what Rosebud is. I knew what the Maltese Falcon was before I saw the movie. I knew Spock died before I saw Wrath of Khan. I knew what would happen at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince before I read it, because I accidentally saw it mentioned somewhere in the media blitz that accompanied the release of that book. I knew how Casablanca ended before I saw it.

And it hasn't ruined my enjoyment of any of those works.

Now, I don't go around deliberately spoiling things for people. I won't be mentioning anything that really happens in Deathly Hallows until well after the release date. But I figure a year or so after release is plenty of time for anyone who actually cares about spoilers to already know them. I have no compunction whatsoever in revealing significant events in Half-Blood Prince now, for example.

There has to be some reasonable limit beyond which you can talk about events from some fictional work without people yelling at you about spoilers. I recall a friend of mine got abused for revealing a plot point of a Shakespeare story, for Pete's sake.

And I certainly feel no need to avoid spoilers for a certain classic movie released in 1968.

2017-10-18 Rerun commentary: That classic 1968 movie is, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yeah, sorry, if you haven't seen it, it ends with a guy on a beach cursing at a half-buried Statue of Liberty. ;-)

Less busy weeks

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:56 pm[personal profile] avron
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I had expected to have work today when I left yesterday, I never got a text message though. So I went out last night to play games, getting quite unlucky in the Formula De game, scoring okay at Coloretto, and comfortably winning the Dominion game on the basis of seeing a combo my opponents did not.

My Saturday afternoon was spent in the park up the street, with the annual community event that involves a lot of free food and activities for children. I spent a fair portion of it with particular young people I know from church, and a short while with a couple of my second ex's children after they were happy to see me. Also spent a little while with the woman who inferred I was the father of a particular child at Mainly Music a month or so ago, minding her son on a couple of occasions as she got food for him.

The prior weekend was Mini-Con III for Saga and while I played only a few games it was mostly a good time. The only real downside, aside from not seeing people I'd have hoped to see, was the six hour game that should have taken about three with rules explanation etc. Having played once I now see more of what to do, and should both score much better, and play quicker in any subsequent game.

Four weeks from now I should be in Hanmer Springs, for the first Gamesfest I'll have attended in four years. I don't have any Saga thing keeping me here in the city, and money seems unlikely to be an issue this year. I don't expect to travel well, but with four full days there before coming back to the city I'll have plenty of time to feel "normal" again before needing to travel more.

About a month ago I started going back through the records I've kept at Board Game Geek to clean up inconsistencies in how I'd recorded seating, some played colours etc., missed data, and just generally making the data better. I have managed to get through about two thirds of the nearly 6000 recorded entries with 7 Wonders probably going to take the biggest time frame as the Boards used have many different notations. I've played Agricola and Race for the Galaxy more, but the clean up for each of them is simpler, I already dealt with the Agricola games.
Comic #3748

I feel like, given enough raw materials, tools, and time, I could quite possibly build a boat that I might be willing to go out on water in. A submarine? No way. I reckon the people who tested the first submarines were even braver/more foolhardy than the ones who tested the first hot air balloons and wing-flapping flying contraptions.

Comic #1631

Kyros' recounting of the story of how he defeated the Balrog uses some passages word for word from chapter 5 of book III of The Lord of the Rings (book III being the first book of The Two Towers). I did, however, have to condense Gandalf's own recounting of the story down considerably to fit it into a single comic. I left out the entire section about climbing the endless stair and smiting his foe's ruin on the mountain-side, opting for doing it all underground. If not purple prose, it's at least a deep shade of mauve.

2017-10-15 Rerun commentary: If you were hoping for this experience to change him into Kyros the White, the good fire mage, then you were sorely mistaken. Now, I'm no Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, but personally I would have written that last sentence in panel 3 as:
Of fierce battle that rent the very rock there were none to see.
Various online dictionaries, plus my large print one, list only "rent" as the past tense of "rend", though some online ones do also quote "rended" as an alternative form. And the "are none"/"were none" issue comes down to personal preference. "None" taking a plural verb is well established English usage. Maybe J.R.R. was just being edgy and hip with his writing, bending the English language to his whim for literary effect. And maybe that's why he was a Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and I'm not.


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