Wednesday 15 September 2010

Phase 1 Complete

Or, whadya think of the new look?

I had a wee look through the templates, fiddled with the colours, and came up with something I liked.  I tried to keep the background colours of the posts so they're like the old style.  Let me know if it's easy enough to read.  I'm also trying to figure out how to do the "click to read more" bit, though I'm having problems.  Any ideas, blogger users?  (EDIT: As you can see below, I've figured it out.)

The map background is a placeholder for something else I've been working on... Something rather crazy.  Still trying to figure out gadgets and widgets and whosits and wotsits: I want to have a random quote generator with quotes pertinent to the blog (REH, JRRT, SF, fantasy, dinosaurs, Transformers!), as well as a random image generator.  That's more phase 3, though.

Anyway, since you're here, how's about this fellow?

Beyond the Black River, by Robert E. Howard
DragonCon involved a lot of waiting in line, and what better way to spend your line-waiting time at a fantasy con than by reading Conan? Howard novels are energetic and short, and filled with vivid descriptions of monsters and magic and cool action scenes, and this one was no exception. Beyond the Black River emphasized more than most, however, the underlying racism of this generation’s fantasy (Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Rice Burroughs), not to mention Howard’s almost neurotic love-hate relationship with barbarism. Civilization is “good” and barbarians are “bad,” except for Conan, who’s always the hero and always embodies the greatest ideals of untamed barbarian freedom…yet always in the service of civilization. It’s an odd mix, but a fascinating one, and if you’ve never read Howard you really should. I don’t know if I’d start with this one, though.

Later, after responding to David J. West's comment:

Howard portrays civilization as inherently corrupt, but barbarism as inherently evil (except for Conan). He hated civilization but could never, in my mind, escape his natural distaste for the “savages” who lived outside of it. Here was a man who could never be happy with what he had.

I must say, this is the first time I've encountered someone who seems to think that Howard was pro-civilization and anti-barbarism, to the point where he thinks Howard viewed barbarism as inherently evil. Weird, and rather interesting at the same time.


  1. I actually know Dan, (he is well on his way to being a very successful horror author-I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER)
    I suspect he just hasn't read enough Howard.

  2. I like the new look, for the most part. I'm not sure about the orange color backing the map, but that may just be because I'm using a widescreen monitor. The map slowly dissolving into mist as you scroll down is cool, though.

  3. The lettering under The Chronicles of Taranaich gets lost against the map background's details. Maybe try a different color for the font?

    The orange background and the font color further down the page don't work together for my eyes (I gots to squints too much to see 'em.) YMMV, but I'm just sayin'.

    (10-4 on the map dissolving into the mist)

  4. I like the new look. Very sleek!

    As for Dan and David I don't know how you can read a Conan story and come to that conclusion unless you're not reading past you personal bias, or just not paying attention.

    Dan might have been distracted by the sights at DragonCon (Celebs, weaponry, women in skimpy costumes).

  5. I had to read that twice to make sure I was seeing it right. Howard was pro-civilization? WTH? Plus, barbarians (Cimmerians, say) and savages (the Picts) are not necessarily the same thing. Under such a blanket the ancient Scots would be considered of no more advanced an order of society than the headhunters of New Guinea. Ridiculous. I wish people would actually read some Howard before they presume to pass sentence on the man and his entire body of work.

    And while I'm here I also wish people would stop looking for racism behind every sentence.

    And he wouldn't start with Beyond the Black River? A story many consider to be among the best, if not the best, and which perfectly exemplifies Howard's style and strengths as a writer? What, pray, would he recommend starting with?

    My eyes have been opened since I've been coming here as to just how much ignorance exists about Howard and Conan. Nay, worse than existing it insists on assaulting our sensibilities like the bray of a proud ass.

  6. Thanks, all!

    T, I think that's the widescreen. Blogger doesn't allow for background images of a certain size, and for some reason they don't "stretch" to fit, so sorry 'bout that.

    Tex, I haven't really done much with the title because I'm going to be doing away with it... in a manner of speaking. Nonetheless, I'll have a look at other colours.

    M.D., it has been scientifically proven that scantily-clad women affect cognitive processes in males (no, I'm never going to stop bringing that up!) so you may have a point.

    Blackstorme, excellent point. There is a fundamental difference between the savage Hyborian Age Picts and barbaric Cimmerians, but even so, Howard treats the Picts as sympathetic on a number of levels from very early in the story. It can be unfortunate coming across ignorance about Howard and Conan, but I'd wager it's a similar ratio to other things. Like the people who claim Star Trek is communist (how can you apply a scarcity-based social system on a post-scarcity society?)

  7. Oh, I agree, Conan's sympathies were clearly with the Picts who in that story were fighting encroachment on their traditional lands. Which, if I'm remembering correctly, is when the subject of Venarium came up. Which makes the idea that Howard was portraying barbarism as "inherently evil" even more off the mark.

  8. As for Star Trek, I'm no expert but it seems Picard made references to how money-grubbing was a thing of the past and work was now aimed at the "betterment of humanity" or some such clap-trap. Enough to make a die-hard communist sit-up and take notice :)

  9. It always felt to me that Howard simply applied the second law of thermodynamics to history. He wasn't the only one to do it.

  10. Blackstorme, I think that's about right.

    My feelings about the "communist" elements of Trek economy can be summed up here:

    We cannot and we should not compare the economy of the Federation to 20th century communism, even if there are certain parallels in the ultimate goals (that were never close to be reached in any implementation of communism). Communism was an ideology to liberate exploited workers by expropriating the capital owners in an act of revolution. Quite contrary to that, the Federation economy may have developed in a slow process, owing to a tendency in which money became unable to keep up productivity any longer. The reasons may be twofold. Firstly, it is already visible now that Western industrial (secondary) societies are turning into service (tertiary) economies and ultimately into financial (quaternary) economies. Automation has largely replaced human power. Hardly anyone is still "productive", in a way that his workforce would be needed to produce new values. The quaternary economy we are facing would just shift around assets, which would gradually lose its equivalent in the form of industrial goods. Secondly, the availability of plenty of energy may give the death blow to the idea of money as a driving force. There is clearly no money equivalent to something ubiquitous.

    That said, there are many instances of Picard saying something shockingly stupid/insulting/offensive in certain episodes, but they run the gamut of subjects, not just economics.

    Nice one, Lagomorph. Second Law of Civilization, perhaps?

  11. I like this, but like the other guy said some of the text is lost due to lack of contrast. For example the heading (The Blog that Time Forgot) is in bright highlight and easily visible but the tagline beneath it is lost completely in the map, sort of like the (Chronicles...) section he mentioned. Another is the very bottom of the page (Whispers...) which has a nice background and starkly readable title but the text is almost the same color as that backing.

    Other than those contrast issues this is actually more easily readable than the way it was before, the design is much more inviting. As far as the map image—I use a widescreen too but I haven't seen any problems. I can't explain why it's working fine for me but not the other guy, though, as I have no technical knowledge of this type of thing!

    And I can't wait to find out what it is that renders that fantastic map a mere placeholder...

  12. Thanks, Butcherhammer, glad you like it! The text under the heading is a problem to handle: bright *and* dark colours seem to suffer the same legibility problems. Nonetheless, they won't be a problem much longer. I plum forgot about the "Whispers" text, I'll need to get on that.

    As for the widescreen, I'm guessing T's widescreen is a higher resolution than 1800 pixels wide (or he's zoomed out on his browser).

  13. Well I didn't, alas, come up with it on my own.. I believe it was one Brooks Adams who wrote "The Law of Civilization and Decay" in 1895 and that was partly responsible for the outburst of "Creative masculinity" which lead the US into war with Spain..

  14. I see, cool. I'll have to read that one of these days.

  15. For what it's worth, the map seems to be a lot wider now. And the background orange maybe a little darker?

  16. well that particular volume is now in the public domain and is now on Google Books.. so its fairly easy to get a hold of.

  17. Hmmm. I do find Star Trek (Original Series and TNG) to be quite socialist in the society it portrays as (near-)ideal. But then, I'm a socialist, and to me socialism is all about building a civilization where people humans can spend their time doing the really interesting stuff.