Nothing Matters, On the Battlefield We Lie (4/4)

November 29, 2007

The final band I’m going to look at is Týr, who hail from the Faroe Islands.

They’re a much younger band than the others; they only have three albums out, of which I have two. It’s interesting looking at the progress in bands from album to album; it seems to me that bands tend to peak at about album number six or seven. At least, my favorite Blind Guardian album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, was their sixth; my favorite Kamelot album is a tie between Epica, six, and The Black Halo, seven; my favorite Rhapsody of Fire album is their latest, Triumph or Agony, number seven. I wonder if Týr will continue improving over their next four or so albums…

Anyway, the two Týr albums I have are Eric the Red and Ragnarok. The former’s usually considered the better of the two, but I prefer Ragnarok. Perhaps because I tend to like concept albums, which Ragnarok definitely is.

Now, Týr is different in a few other ways from the other bands I’ve described here. For one, they’re viking metal with folk metal influence (or the other way round depending on who you ask), while the other three were various sub-genres of power metal. For another, while the other three don’t explicitly state their religious beliefs (though you can puzzle out some of them from their songs), Týr is quite clearly pagan in nature.

Their paganism seems to take a few different forms, though. At times, they seem quite fatalistic, nihilistic, and generally hopeless. One of their most powerful songs, the title track of Ragnarok, has these lines:

With heavy hearts we head on towards the end
I’ve done all I can, never will I bend
Battle clad we ride, for we have to try
Nothing matters on the battlefield we lie

I shudder contemplating the despair that could bring one to write those lines. Yet, it seems like a truer expression of paganism (and I have little doubt that Týr considers itself pagan) than that often seen in various neo-pagan, new-agey artificial constructs.

Then there’s the song “Wings of Time”, a few tracks earlier than “Ragnarok”.

One thousand years facing your fears
Hide all your doubt deep in the crowd
Unload the blame cover the shame
Cast it all out try to stand proud

[…]

The great wings of time are still in their prime
Maybe in some age to come we shall see
The talons of time take hold of a tree
Time folding its wings, the end of all things

The world will end, all will be destroyed – but not yet. In the meantime, there is naught to do but try to preserve your dignity by crushing down those around you. Not very hopeful this, either, but it seems to me it isn’t exactly the same as in the previous song.

Then, at other times, Týr sings of the beauty of the ancient tales. Take “Dreams”, from Eric the Red.

I’ve learned all the lore, I’ve been told all the tales
Ancient legends of war are the wind in my sails

The deeds of the brave come alive in the rhyme
And the myth is my ship on the ocean of time

Though at times all they see in the old tales of the Norse is doom and despair, Týr sails the ocean of time back to the realm of myth. This, at least, sees intrinsic value in something – the tales of old seem to be a genuine good.

Finally, there’s the militant paganism found in songs like the title track from Eric the Red. About Christianity, they say,

Like a virus you’ll go on, and when I’m dead and gone
Both sides waging war will be raging in the
name of one true divinity

They are, shall we say, not well disposed to the Christian faith.

All of this reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse, which I recently read. In book III, the Christian King Alfred the Great travels to the Danish camp and, after playing the harp himself, listens to four of the pagan Danes describe their gods. The first, Harold, claims

“For Rome was given to rule the world,
And gat of it little joy–
But we, but we shall enjoy the world,
The whole huge world a toy.”

The second, Elf, sings of the story of Baldr the beautiful. And his story itself is beautiful. He says that

“There is always a thing forgotten
When all the world goes well;
A thing forgotten, as long ago,
When the gods forgot the mistletoe,
And soundless as an arrow of snow
The arrow of anguish fell.

“The thing on the blind side of the heart,
On the wrong side of the door,
The green plant groweth, menacing
Almighty lovers in the spring;
There is always a forgotten thing,
And love is not secure.”

The third, Ogier, that

“There lives one moment for a man
When the door at his shoulder shakes,
When the taut rope parts under the pull,
And the barest branch is beautiful
One moment, while it breaks.

[…]

“And you that sit by the fire are young,
And true love waits for you;
But the king and I grow old, grow old,
And hate alone is true.”

The final, king Guthrum,says that, indeed, man is naught but a beast,

“And a man hopes, being ignorant,
Till in white woods apart
He finds at last the lost bird dead:
And a man may still lift up his head
But never more his heart.

[…]

“Wherefore I am a great king,
And waste the world in vain,
Because man hath not other power,
Save that in dealing death for dower,
He may forget it for an hour
To remember it again.”

These seem to correspond roughly to the various aspects of the paganism Týr embraces. What I find interesting is that, while Alfred and his men kill Harold, Elf and Ogier, Guthrum is converted to Christianity. Does this mean that Týr is closer to redemption when singing Ragnarok than when singing Eric the Red?

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Love is the Only Truth (3/4)

November 26, 2007

Then there’s Kamelot, an American band led by Roy Khan on vocals and Thomas Youngblood on guitar, with the two of them co-writing the songs. (I’ll mention right off the bat that those two names are pretty awesome. Roy Khan’s actual name is Roy Khantatat, and Thomas Youngblood is the guy’s real name. I think that’s amazing, since those names seem like perfect power metal musician pseudonyms.)

Kamelot is in medium much more like Blind Guardian than Rhapsody of Fire. This isn’t surprising – I doubt anyone else could pull off what Rhapsody of Fire does. It’s just too weird. Most epic metal groups, Kamelot included, are better off with albums in which different tracks are about different things (though all of them epic), with a concept album or two thrown into the mix – but no concept albums so engrossed in their conception that they forget they’re albums at all.

I have four of Kamelot’s albums – Karma, Epica, The Black Halo, and Ghost Opera. Karma is roughly analogous to Blind Guardian’s earlier work, in that it is fairly standard power metal (and quite good power metal at that). Epica and The Black Halo are, taken together, roughly analogous to Nightfall in Middle-Earth; they’re concept albums loosely translating the story of Faust. Ghost Opera is roughly analogous to A Night at the Opera, with the basic idea being “these are various stories you would see if you went to the opera-house one night”.

Interestingly, both have tracks centered on the story of Pontius Pilate (“Up Through the Ashes” and “Sadly Sings Destiny”, respectively). I also wonder about the beliefs of the member of both of these bands – it seems to me Kamelot is inspired greatly by Catholicism, and I think at least one of them was probably raised Catholic, but they seem to have a mixed view of the Church. Blind Guardian is similar. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it’s certainly more interesting than Avantasia‘s blatant anti-Catholicism.

Anyway… despite these similarities, Kamelot’s work is not analagous to Blind Guardian’s in content. They never talk about mythopoeia directly, except in their most recent album Ghost Opera, and even there the idea is only implied. Blind Guardian might be best termed an “artist metal” band, in that they deal with artistry per se, and Rhapsody of Fire could be called a “myth metal” band, in that they don’t just talk about making myths, they do make myths, but Kamelot is probably best called a “philosophy metal” band.

Let’s start with Karma. The first track (with lyrics – “Regalis Apertura” is instrumental only), “Forever”, is about a guy wondering what has happened to his dead lover, and whether they will be reunited once he dies as well. “Wings of Despair” has to do with, well, despair, at the idea that everything is predestined. “The Spell” laments that the modern world is too scientific and isn’t magical enough (at least that’s my take on the lyrics). “Don’t You Cry” is a tribute to Thomas Youngblood’s deceased father, talking about how father and son are still connected. “Karma” has an evil king realizing he has lived an evil life, and wishing he could trade his karma with someone else. “The Light I Shine On You” – well, I don’t really understand it, but it seems to be about the power lovers have over each other. “Temples of Gold”, well, a simple love ballad. Then right back to the philosophy with “Across the Highlands” claiming that immortality would be torture, that the narrator “is dead if life itself is condemnation”. The final three tracks are the Elizabeth Bathory series, about the historical Hungarian countess who bathed in the blood of virgins because she believed it would give her eternal youth.

Ghost Opera is quite similar. “Rule the World”? Man’s fear of the Other. “Ghost Opera”? Perseverance through hardship, or something like that. “The Human Stain”? Life itself is perhaps an evil. “Bluecher”? The fate of love when facing death on the battlefield. “Love You to Death”? Same thing, sans the battlefield. “Up Through the Ashes”? Whether or not Jesus was the Christ. “Mourning Star”? War and the fear of death inspiring belief in God. “Silence of the Darkness”? Similar to “Rule the World”. “Anthem”? “What’s the miracle, if life itself is not? /Who am I to praise it’s worth / With a hymn?” Finally, “Edenecho” is about the despair felt at romantic love – destroyed.

So it seems to me that Kamelot has two main interests – the meaning of romantic love and death/afterlife/immortality. These seem to be the predominant themes in Karma and Ghost Opera, anyway.

Now let’s take a look at Epica and The Black Halo. First, note that they chose the legend of Doctor Faustus for their concept double-album. Like Blind Guardian’s choice of the Silmarillion for Nightfall in Middle-Earth, this tells quite a lot about how to view the two albums. The story of Faust, especially as Goethe tells it, is one of love versus pleasure versus eternal salvation. (If you don’t know the basic plot, you should look into it – it’s a fascinating story, and several great works of art have been inspired by it.)

All this is well and good, but… now that we know what Kamelot’s questions are, we should ask – what are their answers? The entirety of the Faust sequence is Faust searching for these answers, but in the final few tracks – “Nothing Ever Dies”, “Memento Mori”, and “Serenade” – we see what he arrives at. I think that Faust’s answers are ones Kamelot would agree with, though of course I can’t be sure.

In Nothing Ever Dies, Faust proclaims that

Love is the only truth
Pure as the well of youth
Until it breaks your heart

He follows this up with

And the final winter comes to us all
Life is treacherous
But you’re not the only who must pretend

We’re a second in time
We’re the last in the line
Of the prey that walks the earth
Good and evil combined

I am the god in my own history
The master of the game
I may believe if she would come to me
And whisper out my name

So – man is doomed to die, a beast, and yet a god, and he achieves this godhood through love. I find it fascinating that “love is the only truth”. This seems similar to Rhapsody of Fire’s emphasis on “pure love and great emotion”, but it is much stronger. Love is the only truth? And I ask – what is love? Romantic love? Since in the next song Faust talks about how “she (Helena) [will] come to me / and whisper out my name”, I think that is what he means.

Interestingly, Kamelot seems to place romantic love in opposition to sexual desire. Kamelot’s idea of love seems to be quite spiritual and ethereal. I like that in many ways, but I wonder if they don’t tend too much towards that extreme – after all, humans are physical, and the purpose of romantic love is in some sense procreation.

Onwards and upwards. The final track, Serenade, isn’t part of the Faust saga per se. It seems to be meant as a summation of the ideas discussed in the preceding two-dozen-or-so tracks. The chorus goes,

So bow down with me
Where summer fades into fall
And leave your hatchets of hate
Bow down with me
And sing the saddest of all
The song we all serenade

This saddest song that “we all serenade” is apparently the fact that, as humans, we are doomed to death. The idea seems to be that we ought not to fight each other, because death will come for us all anyway – instead, we ought to love. It sounds cliche, but it is a noble sentiment nonetheless.

I find it interesting that in the track “III Ways to Epica”, from Epica, Faust says that

Maybe God is the melody
We all serenade

Kamelot seems to be suggesting either that God is death, or that God is love – two very different ideas. It seems that death and love are deeply, perhaps irreversibly intertwined in Kamelot’s philosophy; perhaps the ambiguity is intentional.


Primordial Myth (2/4)

November 20, 2007

Another of my favorite epic metal groups is Rhapsody of Fire. Formerly known as just Rhapsody. That can be confusing at times. Anyway…

Rhapsody of fire is in some ways the opposite of Blind Guardian. They do not present themselves as bards telling a story. In fact, they do not really present their albums as stories at all – they present them as histories of true events. These aren’t just concept albums, they’re series of concept albums forming a single giant story arc – two, really, the Emerald Sword Saga and the Dark Secret Saga.

In a way, they do what Blind Guardian talks about doing. Blind Guardian’s songs talk about mythopoeia, but Rhapsody of Fire’s songs are mythopoeia to an extent that Blind Guardian never reaches, and I think precisely because they are completely un-self-conscious. Their art is not like literature, it is like the most primordial myth. And myths don’t have storytellers, they simply are.

So Rhapsody of Fire is in a certain sense less sophisticated, less complex, than any of the other groups here. The result of this is that you don’t view their works from the outside to appreciate the artistic skill that went into them. You are either completely immersed in them, or you find them absurd.

That said, even if they are in essence more myth than literature, they can still be analyzed for meaning. Mythopoeic worlds are hard, I think impossible, to create ‘without bias’ – i.e., without arguing at least implicitly for some view of the fundamental nature of the world. In any case, Rhapsody of Fire makes its views quite plainly known through the lyrics of the songs.

Their main focus is the eternal struggle between good and evil. This takes mostly the form of good guys versus bad guys. As band’s lyricist (and guitarist), Luca Turilli, has said,

Evil can be found everywhere. But it will never win as long as there are enough good people who fight against it.

But I think they go deeper than this simplistic us versus them. Consider the following passage, from Son of Pain.

I’M THE SON OF PAIN
WELCOME MY NEW FATE
THUNDER GODS I PRAY
I DENY HELL’S FLAMES

The meaning of this may not be immediately obvious. The speaker is Dargor, who is half-demon, half-man. He has chosen to deny his demon nature and fight for the Light (represented here by the “thunder gods”… I’m not going to get into their cosmology, which I think is vaguely pantheistic). Though the Warrior of Ice is the main character of the Emerald Sword Saga, he does not in the end turn out to be the main character; that would be Dargor. This same Dargor reappears in the Dark Secret Saga. Dargor is indeed half-man half-demon, but he is in many ways the most human character in the sagas. He shows that when Luca Turilli says “evil can be found everywhere”, he means even in the hearts of good men. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said,

 If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, an it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

But, then… what is meant by good and evil?

I think we can see Rhapsody of Fire’s answer to this in what happens to be my favorite song, “Silent Dream”:

FLY, FLY HIGH
ENLIGHT MY HEART AND MY EYES
BRING HOPE WITH YOUR HOLY SUNLIGHT
THE ANGELS’ FIRE

I’LL BELIEVE
IN WHAT THE WIND BRINGS TO ME
IN PURE LOVE AND GREAT EMOTION
I WILL BELIEVE

Following the “pure love and great emotion” is the good. The evil characters in the sagas are truly evil – they are for the most part demons. One is named “Queen of the Dark Horizons”. The main enemy is Kron, the War God. Their division between good and evil is quite simple. That which is evil is abhorrent, disgusting, focused on eliminating all life from the universe. That which is good loves life. I don’t think this simplicity is necessarily bad, though I disagree with the implied pantheism.

Incidentally, it’s kind of ironic that I like them, since in many ways I distrust emotions and would prefer to be a completely rational creature. I think I like them because what they believe is what I wish I could believe.


Powerful Themes (1/4)

November 15, 2007

I’ve mentioned before that I have, in essence, four favorite bands. There’s Blind Guardian, whose magnus opus Nightfall in Middle-Earth tells the story of the Silmarillion; then Rhapsody (of Fire), who sing of the Enchanted Lands; of course Kamelot, the only American band I really like; and finally Týr, who hail from of all places the Faroe Islands.

These four artists are in some ways quite similar. They all, except Týr, play a style of music known as power metal (though all in quite different ways); Týr plays what I think is a related style, viking metal. (Incidentally, all of them blur at least somewhat the lines the demarcate their genre – I don’t think you can be a great band if you view genre definitions as unbreakable.) It seems to me, however, that though these groups are quite similar in style, their subject matter differs greatly.

This post will be about Blind Guardian.

This German band portrays itself as a group of wandering bards, singing tales to lighten the hearts of those that hear. This fits perfectly with their band’s theme, which I postulate is that of mythopoeia.

Many of their songs – “Imaginations from the Other Side”, “The Bard’s Tale”, “Skalds and Shadows”, etcetera – are about this very idea. Take these lines from the last of those:

Just hand me my harp
And this night
Turns into myth
Nothing seems real
You soon will feel
The World we live in
Is another skald’s
Dream in the shadows

Not all of their songs are about this directly – NiME itself is entirely a concept album, after all – but they all reflect this sentiment. All of the songs are, I think it could be said, self-consciously artistic; they are not just acts of mythopoeia, they are about acts of mythopoeia. They are about, though often indirectly, art – about telling stories.

Take “A Past and Future Secret”, about the King Arthur legend. A minute or so in, you hear this chorus:

My song of the end
I had seen it in my dreams

And take that concept album NiME that supposedly had no self-reference. First of all, they chose as the basis for their concept album the Silmarillion, written by the master of mythopoeia, Tolkien. Second, the album is constructed so that every actual song has an “interlude” to go with it – not really a song, just a short dialogue or somesuch to bring the sotry along. Track 5 is “The Minstrel”, and in it Fingolfin says,

So I stand still
In front of the crowd
Excited faces
Whar will be next?
I still don’t have a clue

And so on and so forth.

Finally, there’s the fact that their latest two albums are titled “A Night at the Opera and “A Twist in the Myth”. The significance of that should be obvious.

Now, what do I make of this?

Clearly I think they do a good job with it. After all, they’re one of my favorite bands. I have many of the same concerns, obsessed as I am with writings random stories and Wesnoth/Orbivm campaigns and trying to make them into actual art not just amusement.

But still, I wonder – is the meta-ness of this all really a good thing? If the best art is about making art, then how is art actually about anything? It can be taken to the extreme, and it then becomes too self-referential. If there’s nothing to ground the art it has no value.

So Blind Guardian’s meta-art seems to me to be, in a way, dodging the question. They should be singing about something else – what, I’m not sure exactly. And they do, much of the time. The problem is that the subtext is always “what does this mean for the bard and his audience?” That might not be a problem, but it strikes me as somehow wrong.

Also, if art ought not to be about art… it seems to imply that art is not the highest calling. That there are better things to do with your time than what the artist does. In which case, why should the artist bother? I find that a rather depressing thought. I know intellectually that art isn’t the most important thing we can do in this life, but it is very hard to motivate yourself to make art if you don’t have that illusion to some extent. At least it seems like that to me sometimes.


Humility and Intelligence

November 10, 2007

I’ll just come out and say it – I find it rather odd how people, including me, are expected to downplay their intelligence.

When you do better than someone else on a test, you’re not supposed to brag about it. You say that “It’s just because I test well,” or that “I just have good memory,” or (strangest of all) “I’m just good in {that particular subject}.” If you study a lot, you’re supposed to say that you do well just because you study – you’re not really smart. If you do well because you’re smart, you treat it as dumb luck – genetics and all that. You never actually take credit for intelligence. Basically, you’re supposed to make the other person feel like they’re really just as good as you are, you just happened to do better for some reason beyond either of your control.

I understand that humility is a virtue. I don’t think that if you’re intelligent you should go out and proclaim “I am smart, much smarter than you, Hibbert!” But I don’t think we’re right in our current approach. The problem I have is that it seems like false humility to claim that you don’t possess a virtue you actually do.

And the current approach is, I think, rather dangerous for the egos of all involved.  At least I know it’s given me a giant one. The problem is that it convinces the listeners, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t convince the speakers.

Here’s what I mean – Whenever I say stuff like the above, I may appear to others to be humble. But I know what I’m saying is kind of nonsensical. It goes the other way too. When I meet someone who might perhaps be smarter than me, I don’t treat those explanations as nonsense. If they understand an area of math I haven’t learned yet, I say it’s just because they’re had that class and I haven’t. If they’re doing well in a class and I’m not (at least not as well), I’ll say it’s just because they’re working hard and I’m not – but if I wanted to, I say to myself, I could easily do just as well as them. I suspect it is the same for other people – though perhaps this is just me and other people are perfectly willing to admit there are a bunch of people much smarter than they are.

I’m not sure. But I bet that if we didn’t perform this charade, people might appear more arrogant, but they would actually be more humble. So here, I’ll say it – I’m intelligent. I’m not going to qualify that with a “fairly”, or a “most people consider me”. I am. I have other flaws I need to work on, but there’s no point in denying my intelligence just to make other people feel better. I’m not saying we the intelligent ones are better than the less-intelligent ones (I know several people I consider myself smarter than whom I also consider much better people than me, on a few different levels), just that we are indeed more intelligent and that it isn’t good for us to deny this.

Now that I’ve gone and been arrogant, does my above description seem like an accurate portrayal of how smart people are expected to act? And does my interpretation of its effects sound right?


The Crawling Chaos

November 5, 2007

I recently read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. For those who don’t know, H.P. Lovecraft was a horror writer from the early twentieth century most famous for his Cthulhu Mythos.

Now, the Dream-Quest is not from the Cthulhu Mythos. It is from the Dream Cycle. Though there are occasional cross-references between the two, they are usually considered separate entities, and I endorse that view. Of course, Lovecraft was not nearly as, shall we say, rigorous in his mythopoeia as J.R.R. Tolkien was. He described what he was doing as creating “pseudo-mythology”. The world(s) Lovecraft describes isn’t coherent, and it’s not supposed to be; it’s just supposed to evoke a certain emotion, namely, terror. In fact, he probably wanted it to not only make no sense, but nonsense; after all, one of the main themes of the Cthulhu Mythos is that mankind cannot understand the universe and that, if anyone comes close, he becomes a gibbering idiot because of the sheer horror contained therein. Note that I don’t really like this approach to mythopoeia, but I do recognize Lovecraft’s genius for it.

On to the story itself. I’m a big fan of the Dream-Quest; it’s probably my favorite Lovecraftean tale. It’s not exactly typical Lovecraft, though. It is fairly long, a novella really, unlike most of his pieces, which are short stories. It focuses not on one particular horror, but on a long sequence of rather surreal and disconnected adventures. Most importantly, though, unlike most Lovecraft pieces, it has a happy ending. At least somewhat happy.

Now one reason I like the Dream-Quest is that it seems to me like Lovecraft’s best statement of the idea of an illogical, absurd universe with no inherent meaning, in which there may be deities but they are neither good, nor bad, but amoral. The tale is filled with mentions of the Other Gods, who are described as “mindless”, and whose herald Nyarlathotep is called the “horror of infinite shapes and dread soul and messenger of the Other Gods”. The lord of this world is the Daemon-Sultan Azathoth who rules from the outer abyss that would drive any man who perceived it into insanity.

I think this idea is well summed up in my favorite quote from the Dream-Quest, from when Randolph Carter, the hero of the tale, thinks he has completed his quest: “Carter had come to unknown Kadath in the cold waste, but he had not found the gods.” Carter had come through innumerable dangers in the hope of finding the gods and pleading before them to be allowed to enter the golden city, only to find that they do not even live where he thought they did. That is the bleakest picture of a world with a deity that I can imagine. It is a rebuke to those who assume that it logically follows that if there is a God, he must be good. He could be the Daemon-Sultan set on mocking us, toying with us, and eventually leading us all into oblivion.

So the Dream-Quest seems to be pretty clearly espousing a cosmology that makes no sense, or that if it does make sense is to vast and terrible as to be incomprehensible to humanity. It is a rather depressing idea. At the same time, the happy ending seems to refute this world-view. I actually don’t know why Lovecraft would have the story end how it does – it seems to refute his theology (if it can be called that). Perhaps because, while Randolph Carter isn’t turned into a gibbering idiot by the nameless horror of the Outer Gods, the story still ends with the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep brooding and devising tortures for the inhabitants of the dream-world. It shows that, while you can perhaps escape from the creeping darkness for the time being, eventually it will find you and catch you and rend the veil that protects you from the dark beyond. There is no salvation.

Of course I don’t believe that the universe is like that, that God is really Azathoth, or that his messenger is Nyarlathotep. Nor should you. But I read H.P. Lovecraft because it seems like a good idea to examine other possible cosmologies in order to learn more about what I actually believe. In other words – yes, I think reading H.P. Lovecraft has made me a better Catholic. I’ve heard that it can be damaging to faith to read him, but I think no more than it can be damaging to read Homer or Virgil. The only danger is if you read uncritically – if you fail to consider the possibility (probability) that the author was wrong.


A Year Later (November)

November 4, 2007

I started this blog back in November of 2006. It is now November of 2007. Thus I have been blogging for one year. I guess I’ll keep going, since I still have stuff to say. When I run out, or find that I’m repeating myself, I’ll probably stop.

I don’t really know if anyone reads this (I get about 20 hits per day, on average, but I don’t know how many of those are bots). But I don’t really care, becacuse the point isn’t really to reach a bunch of people and convert them, its to work out what exactly my opinions are. I don’t need anyone reading this to do that. The reason I keep a blog instead of a private journal is that I’m too lazy to write this kind of stuff down if I don’t feel like someone else might possibly read it and get something out of it. Plus putting it in public makes the ideas available for critique and improvement.

Well, like I said, it’s now November. For the last year, I’ve been assigning a Wesnoth character who I will resemble each month, to make clear what I expect the next month to be like. It’s usually fairly accurate. So far, I’ve been:

  • Alfhelm (November)
  • Mal-Ravanal (December)
  • Thursagan (January)
  • Dacyn (February)
  • Vaniyera (March)
  • Alfhelm (April)
  • Leithan (May)
  • Meneldur (June)
  • Dacyn (July)
  • Baldras (August)
  • Malin Keshar (September)
  • Gali (October)

Interestingly, I was Dacyn twice and Alfhelm twice, but never for the same reason. The first time I was Dacyn, I was thinking “math! math! math!”. The second time, I was combating Gnosticism. Similarly for Alfhelm.

So – who shall I be in November 2007? Well, the month isn’t looking like it is going to be all that interesting. I went to a math conference yesterday, learned a bit about knot theory, but it was nothing life-changing. Next week I have a 24-hour biology lab that’s going to be irritating. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks. But, there’s very little of actual interest occurring. It’s going to be the same old stuff – go to class, go to the cafeteria and talk to mostly uninteresting people, go play Smash because that’s the most interesting social activity around, go do homework and finish it way before it’s due, go read random H. P. Lovecraft stories and perhaps start Dune, go do Wesnoth/Orbivm writing and art. The monotony is getting kind of irritating.

So who does this resemble? Not really any of the characters from any currently-released campaign. But it is somewhat like the main character of the new Orcei Gladiatores campaign I’m working on (though not as much as I should be). The main character is a Samnis – a type of gladiator – named Sparxus. He and several other orcs/goblins decide to break out of captivity and make their way to their homeland. They don’t like having to fight random other orcs they have no personal vendetta against; they want to get somewhere where they have freedom – where they can be allies with who they want, mate with who they want, and kill who they want. Now, I don’t want to leave civilization and revert to the state of nature,  but there is something tempting about not having to do the same thing every day simply because it is expected of you. So this month, I am Sparxus. He probably looks something like this…


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