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The Last Gathering of Hidden Leaves or The Hagakure: My Summation

Hagakure

Let’s cut to the chase shall we?

Recently a friend pointed out that the way I was approaching The Hagakure was akin to me writing a book report. She thought I should read it and then give my thoughts on the book and what I took away from reading it. At first I scoffed. “I have to do this my way” was my response. I had been reading The Hagakure a few chapters at a time and digesting them mentally and then spitting out what I read in a simplified format.  My way of reading and summarizing was actually hindering my own progress in reading the book itself, as I began to see it as a chore. Then, suddenly, I woke up one Saturday morning at 5 to go to the bathroom and found myself wide awake with nothing to do and there it was, staring at me. By 7AM I had finished The Hagakure and began making a few notes here and there. I began going over in my head what I wanted to say so I could close the book, both literally and figuratively, on The Hagakure. I have struggled with this book. It is not light reading and not a book to be be taken up on a whim. It is serious in terms of what it is trying to get across, even if much of what is in it is brief parabolic anecdotes. Yamamoto Tsunetomo is great at telling small stories that illustrate how a retainer should act and live but as a teacher, he falls somewhat short. It is all well and good to tell story after story but Tsunetomo expects everyone reading to be able to relate at how each little parable he throws out relates to Bushido. The problem is Bushido is as much a personal thing as it is an actual formal code of honor and behavior. It is up to the practitioner to determine how he interprets Bushido. Thus The Hagakure is Tsunetomo’s interpretation and his alone.


Yes, there are the tenets of Bushido1 but how Tsunetomo sees something like Benevolence or Honour isn’t necessarily a Universal Truth on those tenets.
The Hagakure is by no means the textbook on how to be a Samurai or even a good vassal. It just represents one man’s ideal representation of the subject. Tsunetomo served one Lord his whole professional life and when his Lord died Tsunetomo chose retirement over serving that Lord’s successor. Thus Tsunetomo concept of Bushido was served in his mind and his mind alone. The fact that Tsunetomo chose to write about his views, and in so doing chastise those whose behavior he didn’t agree with, clearly demonstrates his passion in his way of thinking but it does not represent how all Vassals viewed their relationship with their Lord. It is just one man’s opinion. It doesn’t mean he was the only one that thought this way but it doesn’t mean that everyone else thought that as well.


The Hagakure
is NOT the be all, end all “How To” manual on being a Samurai/Retainer. It is a personal philosophy on the subject, that’s all and nothing else. In some respect, Tsunetomo has a form of tunnel vision in trying to hammer his stories home to illustrate his philosophy. Some are more successful than others. Some are even less so. The Hagakure didn’t exactly set the world on fire after Tsunetomo’s death. That isn’t to say it wasn’t studied, it just wasn’t as revered. It was elevated as a text during the Imperial Era (1868-1945) after both The Edo Period (The Tokugawa Shogunate) and The Meiji Restoration ended. That means it rose to prominence with the industrialization and military rise of Japan. One can read into that if they wish, but I think it may speak volumes. Volumes, on how after over 250 years2 of the Samurai class being transformed from a warrior caste to an administrative caste, that the newly industrialized nation of Japan began looking at The Hagakure differently and how the Imperial Army used it as a tool to transform a subdued populace into a military machine for close to 80 years. Of course that’s just one way of looking at it but it makes a certain degree of sense. I’m not saying that The Hagakure was responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor or any such thing, but I can see how making every man that joined the Imperial Army read The Hagakure can make understanding the concept of Filial Piety in regards to military command structure3 appealing to a people whose stock in the world was on the rise.


The question is: What did I take away from reading
The Hagakure?


That is a question without an easy answer. I get what Tsunetomo was writing about. I understand his point of view. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says because he has a very rigid concept of the Lord/Vassal relationship. He comes across as inflexible and not open to new ideas. Tsunetomo was living in at the beginning of the Edo period, when the old Samurai ways, those of the warrior, were being transformed. The Tokugawa Shogunate was taking power away from the feudal warlords to create a more stable and centralized government. Tsunetomo, based on my reading of
The Hagakure, comes off as something of a relic in terms of how the social order was changing. This despite the fact he was born 59 years after the Battle of Sekigahara4, thus demonstrating that despite the changing times he was really was born in the wrong era of Japan. He was a Sengoku Samurai born into the Tokugawa Shogunate. The thing is, the respect I get for Tsunetomo from reading his treatise on being a Vassal to a Lord is immense. He was dedicated fully to his cause. One service to One Lord. Read up on the time before the Shogunate, there was so much political maneuvering and betrayal that for Tsunetomo to remain loyal to serving one man almost seems like a radical concept after Tokugawa Ieyasu took power.


I think what I take from
The Hagakure and Tsunetomo as a person is that being Loyal is its own reward. Loyalty not just to a Lord but Loyalty to yourself and your ideals. Tsunetomo didn’t just spout platitudes about Loyalty. He lived, ate and breathed Loyalty. In my own life I strive to be loyal to my Friends, My Family and myself. It isn’t as easy as you might think, especially when one is as plagued by so much self-doubt and crisis of consciences as I am. But I look at Tsunetomo and I hold him up as a paragon of the Virtue of Loyalty. I want to strive to as Loyal as he was in all facets of my being. The difference between us lies in the fact Tsunetomo’s Loyalty would never allow him to openly disagree with his Lord. I do not have Tsunetomo’s self-control, his discipline and his unwavering will to master the tenets of Bushido. What I can do though, is use the Tsunetomo model of Loyalty and hold it as an Ideal. I can use his Loyalty as a metaphorical window so I can gaze at the other tenets and hopefully gain a better understanding of them, of life and of myself.


This is what I have taken away from
The Hagakure. Again, what works for Tsunetomo as a code of living is not something that might work for me but I’ve walked away from reading the book in question understanding the man who wrote it a little better and in turn might even understand myself better in the long run.

 

1 Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Honesty, Honour and Loyalty

2 265 Years actually from Edo Period – Imperial Period

3 I make it sound like The Hagakure is some sort of brainwashing manual but that isn’t my intent.

4 Oh for… Wikipedia is right there people! It can be an actual reliable tool! Otherwise open a damn book!

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Continuing To Comprehend The Hidden Leaves or Trying To Understand The Hagakure Part 3

Hagakure

I have been confused by the title of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s treatise on what makes a Samurai thus far. Why did Tsunetomo’s book translate to The Hidden Leaves?It is something that has confounded me since I began reading it. The only example of “Hidden Knowledge” comes from Chapter 2 and that might actually only be supposition on my part1. Chapter 3 & 4 however, introduce the reader to what I think might be the best example of a “Hidden Leaf” of knowledge as Tsunetomo introduces us to rgoup mentality of Edo Period Japanese society.

When reading Chapters 3 and 4 of The Hagakure: The Book of Samurai, one is bound to be confused by the sheer brevity of both chapters. It’s like when you read something by Douglas Adams and after reading a chapter of 20 pages the next chapter ends up being a simple sentence that is nothing more than a flight announcement. When you begin reading Chapter 3, you have already made your way through 42 pages2 of what is essentially a dissertation of what it means to be a Samurai. Yamamoto Tsunetomo has inundated you with his beliefs of what makes the “best” Samurai and bombarded you with parables to get his point across. One of the themes Tsunetomo keeps coming back to is the decline the “Modern” Samurai during the Tokugawa Shogunate/Edo Period. He never comes out and says the Samurai of the Edo Period are weak but he does imply it strongly. Chapter 3 is used to illustrate not just the decline of the Samurai but to strongly imply that, perhaps, the era of the Samurai is coming to a close… or is it?

Chapter 3

Tsunetomo uses 3 quotes of “Lord Naoshige” and that man’s reflection on what the Japanese concept of giri. Giri is the Japanese term for duty, more specifically duty through self-sacrifice. It has long been a cornerstone of Japanese society that one does things for the betterment of whole than for the benefit of just the individual. This philosophy is at the very core of giri. Lord Naoshige makes a reflection that one can havea family member die yet shed no tears but then ca nturn around and reflect on a person that he has no connection to that may have lived hundreds of years ago and grasp what that person sacrificed for the betterment of everyone and she many tears. Self-sacrifice or giri, is a theme that Tsunetomo continues to drive home to demonstrate what it means to be in service as a vassal. No matter if a Samurai disagrees with his Lord, he must carry out the orders asked of him because being a vassal isn’t about your own personal glory. It is about your ability to serve your Lord and in turn serve the group under the Lord’s protection.

Tsunetomo then relates a tale of Naoshige being told of an elderly man of 90 that lived nearby where Naoshige had been travelling. Naoshige’s retainers mentioned the old man and said he should visit him to commend him on living so long. Rather than seeing living long as some great accomplishment, Naoshige saw the man’s very existence as somewhat wretched because the old man had probably outlived everyone he loved or mattered to him. Naoshige had no connection to the man and felt there really was no sense of giri just because the man was old. In fact, Naoshige seemed to view the concept of the man as serving no purpose having lived so long. Rewarding a man that is decrepit just for having lived isn’t enough of an accomplishment because it doesn’t serve Naoshige any good and therefore does even less for the group under his protection. It may seem cruel to say it but Naoshige, according to Tsunetomo’s view of “The Way”, committed no breach of conduct by not seeing the man and thus is justified in not paying the 90 old man a visit. At times giri may seem cruel but never is giri fickle.

The last example of Lord Naoshige is a reflection on unnecessary struggle. Using the example of how time is wasted by trying to preserve a family, Tsunetomo makes Lord Naoshige’s reflection o nthe matter relate to giri. By trying to stop the march of time and struggling against the decline of one’s family and personal fortune, one may actually accelerate the the decline by not giving in to the natural way of things. In fact, one might preserve his own line/family by focusing n his service to the bigger group (i.e. society) more. After all, what good is it to only preserve only your good fortune if it isn’t benefiting everyone? These are three examples that Tsunetomo use from one man to illustrate the role of giri in “The Way”. The chapter is a mere 3 paragraphs long and probably the best example of using parable as tool to teach by Tsunetomo yet in The Hagakure.

I feel as if the last parable of Lord Naoshige is somewhat subtle, even subliminal. As if Tsunetomo is saying that those “Modern” Samurai are fighting against their caste’s fall from grace, when they should just let it happen and by doing so they might be able to restore the caste of Samurai to its previous greatness. Tsunetomo would rater the Samurai as they were in the Edo Period fall so that the strongest and true Samurai would rise again to serve in the capacity they were meant to originally. It just feels like a subversive call to arms using the words of Lord Naoshige.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of The Hagakure is only slightly longer than Chapter 3. In fact it is double the amount of paragraphs3 . Not that length is the issue here because Tsunetomo did more with 3 paragraphs to get his point across in chapter 3 than he did in the 42 previous pages about the role of The Samurai and “The Way”. The amazing thing is, Tsunetomo still manages to talk about 2 topics concisely. Fiirst he uses 3 different parables to demonstrate that while a Samurai should always fervently serve his Lord, thee are just simply times that restraint, mercy and courtesy must show themselves.

First is the tale of Nabeshima Tadanao, who at 15 pointed out that a sentence of death for a kitchen worker who killed a solider in self-defense. Tadanao made note that punishment did not fit the crime and that the kitchen worker deserved a lighter sentence of confinement (i.e. jail time). Tadanao, at 15, demonstrated the virtues of Mercy and Restraint despite the fact that the kitchen worker killed a man above him in station4. Justice is still served by having the charge brought down from Murder to Manslaughter via self-defense. The kitchen worker was defending himself from being beaten and by showing mercy and restraint in the sentence Tadanao’s clan elders showed that the law, even in a caste system, must be just for all depending on circumstance.

Next we are relayed the tale of a time Lord Katsuhige was hunting and had seemingly killed a a very large boar with one shot. When everyone went to examine the creature, it sprung u pand started running wild. Luckily Nabeshima Matabe was there and struck the boar down. Matae could have used that moment to gloat about his prowess and by doing so bringing shame on his comrades in how slow to react they were. Instead, Matabe decided to comment on the amount of dust the rampaging boar had kicked up. This allowed Matabe’s comrades to save face and showed courtesy not only to them but to his Lord as well, for Lord Katsuhige had not felled the beast with one shot as he had previously thought. Matabe’s example is a call back to Chapters 1 & 2, where Tsunetomo reminds us that a Samurai must serve his lord, remain humble and always display courtesy to his Lord and to others. Matabe also displayed restraint by not playing the braggard and realizing that doing so served no one but himself. He actually exhibited a sense og giri by not drawing attention to what he did, because humiliating everyone does not serve those around you.

The final parable involves the son of Lord Naoshige from Chapter3, Lord Katsuhige. Naoshige instructed his son to train his cutting skills with a sword by executing men that were already sentenced to death. So, Katsuhige took 10 condemned men to the gates of the city and began executing them via decapitation. He killed 9 of the condemned men, skillfully skillfully removing their heads. When he came to the 10 man, Katsuhige stopped. He saw that the tenth man was young and healthy and, if spared, would useful to the community. Lord Katsuhige displayed mercy by sparing the man, Restraint in seeing that killing all but one better served everyone since the condemned man could still be of goood use to everyone and Courtesy was displayed by sparing the man’s life and giving him back to society in hopes of putting his life to use. Katsushige displayed a sense of giri while putting forth all 3 virtues in the action of sparing the man.

The last 3 paragraphs of Chapter 4 are spent discussing Lord Katsuhige’s belief that there are 4 types of man. The Quick Then Lagging Man, The Lagging Then Quick Man, The Perpetually Quick Man and then The Always Lagging Man. The Perpetually Quick Man is always given a task and then that task executed without hesitation. The Lagging then Quick man is just as reliable but he takes time to plan how he will execute e order and then once that is done executes the order swiftly. The Quick Then Lagging Man will leave to do his task right away but then dawdles and procrastinates in the tasks final excution. Lastly there is the Constantly Lagging Man, one who never does anything. Based on what Tsunetomo has already written in the 3 previous chapters, one would think the ideal Samurai is the Lagging Then Quick Man, for Samurai should always serve his Lord but should also plan how to execute the order so as not to put himself or others in to much risk. The Lagging Then Quick Man also best displays a sense of giri because while the Always Quick Man is good, he is more prone to rush into something headfirst and make mistakes, possibly even getting himself killed. Then what good is that man in the end? The Samurai knows when to act right away but also knows that fweer things go wrong with careful planning.

So Chapter 3 of The Hagakure introduces us to giri and its importance, not only to the Samurai but to those around the Samurai. Everyone has their place within Japanese Feudal System. People perform their functions within that system for the greater good of society and thus fulfill their part in performing giri. Chapter 4 then cites 3 examples of fulfilling giri and then presents the 4 types of man and which of these men best represents fulfilling the concept of giri as it pertains to the Lord/Vassal relationship of a Samurai. Altogether, 2 chapters, 2 pages in total and one important concept on display through the eyes of Tsunetomo. The deeper I get into The Hagakure, the more it seems to be a a rather subversive book calling for a somewhat Darwinian cleansing of the Samurai caste. Either that or Tsunetomo is just telling the young Samurai to get the hell off his lawn.

Next Time: The Hagakure Chapters 5 & 6

 

1Remember, I’m assuming there is a Sempai/Kohai relationship between Tsunetomo and Tsuramoto. There is no PROOF of one.

2At least in the edition I have. In the obviously unspell-checked and poorly edited version I have that is.

3Whopping 6 paragraphs! Combine that with the 3 paragraphs from before and chapters 3 & 4 make 2 full pages!

4Remeber, its a society based on a Caste System in Edo Period Japan.

Continuing To Comprehend The Hidden Leaves or Trying To Understand The Hagakure Part 2

Hagakure

Yamamoto Tsunetomo was born Jun 11 1659. He served as a retainer to Mitsuhige Nabeshima for thirty of years of his adult life. When Mistuhige died in 1700, Yamamoto refused the standard practice for most Samurai retainers to commit Junshi1 mainly because Mitsuhige was vehemently opposed to the practice2. Yamamoto Tsunetomo opted to not continue his service to Mitsuhige’s son and instead retired to a hermitage for the last 19 years of his life. It was during this period (1709-1716) that he began ruminating about his thoughts and beliefs on Bushido to Tsuramoto Tashiro, who wrote them down, resulting in The Hagakure: Book of The Samurai. The Hagakure is pretty much Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s legacy to the world, as it gives a guideline for life as Samurai and also provides something of a literary snapshot of the slowly decaying caste system of Feudal Japan.

Chapter 2

Tsunetomo lived during the Edo period during the Tokugawa Shogunate. In his lifetime 5 men held the seat of Shogun during what was mainly a peaceful time for the still newly united Japan. While there were still problems among feuding clans, these resulted in far political struggles than outright military ones. The Shogunate ruled the day and with most of the old clans kept in check via political strong-arming3. The first chapter Tsunetomo makes a point of calling the modern Samurai out as being nothing more than glorified dandies. With lack of actual warfare to be waged the soul of the Samurai seemed to be, in Tsunetomo’s view, to be dwindling away.

The second chapter talks at length about what qualities a Samurai should posses both in terms of physical ability and mental prowess. Tsunetomo points, once again, to servitude and stewardship to one’s Lord as the primary focus of a Samurai’s existence. It is after one has committed fully to that can he move on to perfecting himself physically, mentally and spiritually. In Chapter one Tsunetomo talks of the importance of how important grooming, exercise and dedication to martial skills are a must for the Samuri. The second chapter focuses on the three disciplines that form the psyche of the Samurai: Intelligence, Humanity and Courage. According Tsunetomo, intelligence is bred through spirited discourse with others. It is through discussion that one acquires a firmer grip on his Intelligence and the Intelligence of those around himself and, in turn, forms the basis of “limitless wisdom”. Humanity is bred by doing things not for one’s own sake (or not even, necessarily just for the sake of one’s Lord) but doing things for the sake of others. If I understand Tsunetomo correctly, this is a simpler way of saying do things that benefit everyone and if not everyone then at least see that you try to make your world you live in a better place. The last part of this trifecta is Courage. Tsunetomo  oversimplifies Courage as gritting your teeth and pushing ahead, regardless of the circumstances.

Honestly, I grasp the first parts (Intelligence and Humanity) very well by my reckoning but it is the Courage aspect that seems over simplified to me, as it seems there has to be more to it than that. Courage usually has something to do with holding true to one’s principles because its your principles that are the cornerstone of who you are from a moral standpoint. Yet Tsunetomo makes no connection between morality and principle in the second chapter. By his own reckoning, the building of Intelligence leads to the formation of one’s sense of Humanity and then in turn the Humanity breeds Courage. One flows into the other like stream that flows int oa river that feeds into a lake. But if Courage is the greater lake in this aqueous metaphor I have made then Tsunetomo fails to properly expand on what exactly Courage is.

What Tsunetomo is mapping out is what a “Perfect” Samurai should be. The “Perfect” Samurai has the unwavering concept of Fealty and Loyalty with the physical foundation and grooming for Samurai that is laid out in chapter one. This is then combined with the Mental and Spiritual cornerstone of of the Samurai’s psyche in Chapter 2. Using this example of the ideal Samurai leads to one of the more interesting parts of this second chapter as Tsuramoto Tashiro takes a break from being Tsunetomo’s stenographer to actually question a comment the later man makes regarding how the “modern” Samurai was far less “Rowdy” than his predecessors. Tsuratomo doubts this as the case and Tsunetomo replies by saying that the old Samurai were for more rowdy because they had a stronger “Vitality”. They were rougher men, living in rougher times. Yet Tsunetomo points out that though the Vitality of the Samurai has dropped the “Character” of men has improved. Without coming right out and saying it, Tsunetomo is saying that civilization as made man, as a whole, less barbaric and this is to the benefit of all.

This is where I find Tsunetomo has just contradicted himself, as far as I can tell. He has just spent the last 2 chapters bashing the Samurai of his time period for being nothing more than a bunch of Japanese Jollyjacks but then he turns around and says they are better than the rougher, cruder, meaner Samurai of days gone by. The philosophy of what a Samurai should be all makes sense. He Physical, Mental and Spiritual must all come together as one to forge someone who is simultaneously a student and master of “The Way”. Yet, after saying the “modern” Samurai care only for wealth, Earthly possessions and luxury, he then turns around and says they superior simply because they are civilized. How Tsurmoto Tashiro sat there and didn’t say “Wait a minute Tsunetomo, you’re kind of full of it” amazes me. Ah, but there in lies the beauty of this chapter. It is Because Tsuramoto accepts Tsunemoto’s response after first questioning him that Tsunetomo’s point about being a good vassal who is about being dedicated to fealty and servitude that the older man’s point is validated. We don’t know the true nature of Tsunemoto and Tsuramoto’s relationship, but is it to much to assume that there was a Master/Student sort of respect between them? Is it even possible Tsuramoto may have seen Tsunemoto as a Lord whose judgement on the subject of Bushido should not be questioned.

Sadly I don’t have those answers. The only ones who are Tsunetomo and Tsuramoto and both men are long dead. I’d like to think that Tsunetomo was testing Tsuramoto. That presenting the “Civilized Samurai” of the “present” as superior to the “Rowdy Samurai” of the past was Tsunetomo baiting the younger man into challenge his instruction on what “The Way” really is and means. I’d like to think Tsunoetomo saw, that after initially challenging his authority, Tsuratomo sat back down and knew his place in their relationship. I’d also like to think that Tsunetomo smile and nodded, realizing that Tsuramoto got the point.

Next Time: Chapters 3 & 4 , plus some background on The 47 Ronin

1Junshi was the practice of a retainer committing ritual suicide in order to follow his lord in to death. This is different than Seppuku, a form of ritual suicide which deals with savign face for any number of reasons.

2Junshi was actually outlawed by Imperial Decree in 646 AD but the practice continued, unchecked, for centuries.

3The practice of keep political hostages as “Guests” in the Inperial Court was not a new practice by any means.

Comprehending The Hidden Leaves or Trying To Understand The Hagakure Part 1

Hagakure

My reading habits have, in the past, always leaned towards fiction or at least something with a defined narrative. Text books that do not offer narrative have the nasty habit of frustrating me or, worse, putting me to sleep. Even bad fiction will occupy my brain enough to finish it. So with this having been stated, trying to get through Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s The Hagakure: The Book of Samurai has been very much a challenge for me. It’s very much a manual on how the Samurai of Japan’s Saga domain lived their lives during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, or more aptly, how Tsunetomo believed they should live their lives.

The Hagakure is both an instruction manual and philosophical diatribe on Bushido (or as Tsunetomo refers to it, simply as “The Way”). Tsunetomo is kind of an interesting figure, especially since his approach to being a Samurai addresses such things as fealty, piety and death. More importantly it it also gives a small view of how the role of the Samurai was changing in feudal Japanese society and how, according to Tsunetomo, the Samurai were is a state of falling from grace due to warrior caste not adhering to “The Way”. Of course it is one man’s view on things. He is very critical of how the Samurai of the time were more focused on worldly possessions, trying to actively rise above their station in life and cheating death. Its interesting that Tsunetomo wasn’t more widely read until the first half of the 20th Century. Until then The Hagakure was not exactly a studied text, but came to prominence with the rise of Japanese Militarism under Hideki Tojo. I’m not saying Tojo and Tsunetomo shared similar beliefs but almost 70 years after Tojo’s death people are studying The Hagakure more than everin the close to 300 years since Tsunetomo passing at the age of 60 in 1719.

Chapter 1

Tsunetomo believed in the Samurai as a humble servant, whose role is to live for his Lord. Such things should reflect in a Samurai’s conduct, speech and manner of appearance. The Hagakure does address how a vassal should groom himself to reflect not just himself but his lord as well. The grooming aspect isn’t a vanity issue, as one might think, but more a matter of self-respect and respect for those around you. Tsunetomo’s argument is that one can be well groomed but flashy, in fact the simple dress with a well maintained appearance is preferable for a Samurai because a Samurai should not be concerned with personal wealth and material things in the first place because they only detract from the Samurai’s true purpose which is to serve. Humility in action and humility in appearance are addressed in such a manner. Tsunetomo took issue with Samurai of his period by saying they focused to much on carousing and amterial gain. While he doesn’t call them dandies outright, the notion is definitely implied and Tsunetomo’s frustration with those Samurai of the time period is very frustrating to him.

He also believed that one should never be complacent in what skills they possessed, that only through constant honing of one’s skills does one improve and only by improving does one grow. The example of Master Itteri’s Quote of “Even a poor penman will become substantial in the art of calligraphy if he studies and puts forth a good model”. Similiar short tales and parables are used to furtehr drive this point home, including the story of the dying spearmaster and his lone disciple. Tsunemoto is making a point here about the young Samurai of his time were not looking to the more distinguished, elder Samurai as role models by which to follow. Only by watching, learning, listening and following the elder Samurai could the younger Samurai shake off what Tsunetomo saw as their lazy, materialistic and vain downward spiral.

Tsunetomo also believed that conduct of a Samurai should be one of calm when dealing in all matters. Not necessarily to show a lack of emotion but rather to know what the proper time is to use very specific emotions. He is careful to point out that “calm” does not mean “lax”. The point being, one should be calm because calm allows the mind to be focused, whereas petty emotions like anger will always distract the mind and prevent execution of tasks to be done properly. Being lax is not being calm, the point Tsunetomo makes is that a lax mind is, in fact, easily distracted and more likely to succumb to being tricked or distracted. Better to be calm and focused, that way fewer misrtakes, if any are to be made.

Final Thoughts On The First Chapter:

Tsunetomo is good at illustrating what he viewed were the main problems with the young Samurai of his time period . The only problem is his writing style is kind of wandering. Trains of thought seem to start, wander to a different topic and then come back to the previous one every few pages or so. This is were my reading of the text is hard for me. Yes, he ends up tying each topic together but more than once I had to go back a few paragraphs (or even a few pages) to remember what he was relating his parables to. The edition I’m reading is also doubly frustrating for the large number of grammatical and spelling errors I kept coming across. My own penchant for typos and issues of tense, coupled with my own dyslexia, made it very hard to get through this. Still one could argue that perhaps Tsunetomo was rambling to Tsumaro Tashiro, the man who transcribed Tsunetomo’s thoughts during Tsunetomo’s retirement from service.

Tsunetomo also has the issue of making a point once with one example and then drives the same point home with 2 or more similar tales or parables that make the exact same point. I sense a kind of pattern wit hthis hough, as he seems to make a point an example from the military/marital side of things and then makes the point again with a non-martial example. The quote from master Ittei and the story of the Spearmaster and his disciple are the same point, just taken from different walks of life. Maybe I’m simply rebutting my own problem in trying to read The Hagakure, in that it is a manual and philosophical text telling a Samurai how he should act and then explaining why the Samurai NEEDS to act that way for the non-Samurai to comprehend?

Either way, I get the feeling the first chapter of The Hagakure is just doing what any book does, give a starting point for what is to come. Tsunetomo touches on his issues with the historical events of the 47 Ronin but doesn’t go in to great detail as to why. I’m hoping in later chapters he tackles it more in depth. Sure he he gives a reason for his dislike of the Ronins’ actions in a short paragraph, but I want more explanation as to why he feels the way he does about it. Either way, onward to Chapter 2!

Next Time: Chapter 2 & Some Background On Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Harry Potter & The Potential Ca$h Grab or What Exactly Is Pottermore?

Just WTF Is This Thing Anyway?

Oh look! It is another Harry Potter article. Thanks to J.K. Rowling I needed to discover just exactly what the hell this “Pottermore” thing is. Rowling’s initial video message made it seem like it was nothing more than just a chance to read the Harry Potter books only this time with FLASH Animation and some new written content. Of course every Potter fan out there is convinced there is more to it than that. I mean there has to be. Right? I mean Rowling has been way more respectful of her fans than other major franchise creators (Yeah, I’m looking right at your flannel shirt wearing ass George Lucas). But given the vagueness of the announcement, it is still isn’t clear what Pottermore is supposed to be or what purpose it will serve besides making Rowling just a little bit richer.

The registration process is quite a little pain in the ass unto itself. The fact that the registration is being conducted as a sort of treasure hunt/clue search is also kind of frustrating. The idea is that the registration will be opened to those who follow the clue given on July 31st – August 7th. Each day is a different clue and each clue corresponds with the book representing that day (i.e. Day 1 had a clue dealing with Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, Day 2 Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and so on). Figuring out the clue gives one access to a “Magic Quill” that once located allows for early registration to the site. That is some straight out of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory shit right there. It just needs Gene Wilder shouting “I Said Good Day” at you to make it more so.Now, I was late to the party and didn’t get involved until day 4. All things considered the day 4 clue was pretty freaking easy since it relied on me knowing 1 Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire related question and then using very basic math to get to the Magic Quill.

I then followed the instructions of cutting and pasting the math result at the end of the given Pottermore/Magic Quill web address and began my registration. I gave my basic info and then was quickly informed that I was indeed “Magical”. I get the feeling anyone who is registering for the BETA will get this result, though it would be pretty humorous to hear online rants from Potter-Nerds the world over lamenting their own Muggle status. Man that would lead to some great Emo blog rants that would make me laugh harder than “Who’s On First?” I promise you.

With my personal info and “Magical” Status confirmed I was given 5 usernames to choose from. This might be the biggest gripe that most people have with the registration, since you cannot customize your username. Now for me, I don’t care that much. I mean sure using what I use for all my other log-ins would be easier but I actually get where the Pottermore people are coming from with this. It is purely a security thing; I mean why risk someone swiping your account if they know you use the same username for all your log-ins. What? So I use the same username for pretty much everything. It is just a matter of convenience. Stop staring at me admit, at least I change up my passwords.

So with my shiny new username all selected I submitted my registration. I was given the standard “sign-up for new thing legal spiel’ about receiving a verification email and to click the link in the email. I have to admit, I was mildly excited. Soon I would be deep into the Pottermore experience… in theory!

I waited 5 minutes and no email. Already my dear friend Breann was getting ridiculously giddy about it. Breann is a Potter Fan of the highest caliber. She seems to know every little detail about every character, be they major, minor or completely insignificant. Trying to watch the movies with her can be quite the chore as she squeals in delight at every true to the book moment that crops up. She also isn’t afraid to comment on her more salacious intents for the male members of the Weasley clan. When rumors started leaking about what Pottermore was going to be she refused to listen to any of it because she wanted to be surprised. She still hasn’t forgiven me because I texted her some rumors about it. It was her finding of the Day 4 clue that reminded me I was going to sign-up for this Pottermore thing in the first place. She got the clue figured, got herself registered and validated in what seemed like no time. Me? I was still waiting as I traded quips with Breann about whether or not she was, in fact, a hipster or not.

90 minutes later I got the verification email. Let me state this again 90 MINUTES LATER!

I opened the email, clicked on the link and now my Pottermore account was officially made active. Well, save for the past where I can’t actually use Pottermore itself yet. See J.K. Rowling and the people at Sony knew that if they announced a Harry Potter Online project that literally millions of people would flood the main website creating chaos for all. Instead they are using the Magic Quill thing as a means to control the people they let in so they don’t crash their own servers. 7 days to register and each day they hit a quota. 7 days and when they hit 1000000 registered users then they will shut down the early bird registration and start letting registered Pottermore users into the site, albeit in small groups, to fiddle with it before the October launch.

I am very interested to see what lies within Pottermore. I hope it really is something special and not just a “re-read the books but now with pretty pictures” dupe that some are saying it will be. Part of me still holds out that this is actually an MMO or at least very bare bones MMO set in the Potter Universe. Really, all I care about is that the Pottermore experience is a fun one and a well made one no matter what it ends up being. After all, J.K. Rowling has been very careful about what young Mr. Potter’s name gets put on. She knows that if it carries the Harry Potter name on it, then a certain amount of quality needs to be upheld. She has the magic touch, she knows it and more importantly she seems to be doing her best to not abuse it. Let’s hope that Pottermore holds up that tradition.

Ready To Read or I Swear To F***ING God I Am Going To Finish This F***ING Book!

Why Can't I Finish This F***ING Book?

I complain a lot about being bored. My boredom is one of those things that trigger my depression and when I get depressed writing is very hard. Even worse is that when I am depressed I know something that can help it fade, reading. The problem is, when depression sets in the bookshelf seems so distant and my depression makes me extra pessimistic and lazy, so just the act of selecting a book is like some Herculean task for me. I’ve been trying to muster the ambition to finish reading Steve Erikson’s Gardens of The Moon for the last 4 months but given the depth of the story coupled with my depression, finishing it is like some nigh-impossible task.

It isn’t that Gardens of The Moon isn’t a good read. I was halfway through the damn thing and enjoying it quite a bit. It was probably the best fantasy novel I’d read in quite some time. Not too derivative of any of the major fantasy writers and crackling with a swarm of fun characters. Actually, it might have too many characters to keep track of as I was tempted to Xerox the front portion of the book that lists all the characters just for quick reference. I was really enjoying Gardens of The Moon because it opens at such a brisk pace that getting to the half-way point wasn’t a struggle. Also, it was the first fantasy novel I’d read in quite some time that didn’t feel like i was reading someone’s Dungeons & Dragons campaign in novel form. It is especially ironic because upon researching the book I discovered that is exactly what it was, a novelization of a D&D (and later GURPS) campaign. I was really enjoying this book and then my depression hit and Gardens of The Moon was put down and never picked up again.

Books are really what help occupy my time best. There is too much crap on TV for me to willingly sift through all of it to just find one decent thing worth watching. I only go to the movies if I’m really interested in what’s playing and that doesn’t happen enough these days. No reading is the activity I need to keep my brain flowing. Comic Books do help in these regards but I can burn through a comic in 5 minutes or less most times. If you need more than that to form an opinion of any comic then you over-think your comics reading. Trust me, as great as comic books are, actual books are better. Books make you rely on the theater in the mind’s eye and that is the best theater of all because it allows you to use your imagination to envision what you read. No movie, TV Show or comic book can match my imagination. That is why the theater of the mind’s eye is so wonderful; it is only limited by your own ability to imagine events unfolding as you read them.

The last two years I’ve plowed my way through a stack of books, most of them pretty good. Some good enough that warranted re-reading because they were so entertaining that I needed to make sure I didn’t miss a single detail in my understanding. I’ve read 2 of the 3 books in Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, I’m still looking to read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest), several books by Anthony Bourdain (most notably Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits), Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I re-read The Three Musketeers as I do every year since it is my favorite book of all time, all of Walter Mosely’s Easy Rawlins mysteries (still not happy with how the last book turned out) and more Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft than a sane man should.

Let me clear something up since I mentioned H.P. Lovecraft, just because his last name is Lovecraft, do not go in expecting tales of romance in the old west or the high seas. I have had to explain this to the uninitiated way too many times. H.P. Lovecraft is NOT a romance writer. If he were then his stories would take on a whole new level of weirdness. However, if you are interested in tales of horror or weird fiction I suggest you clear your schedule and dive right into Mr. Lovecraft’s work. Whether or not you end curled up in a ball in a corner of your house afterwards crying is entirely up to you.

Possibly The BEST Character In Modern Fiction


Of the books I’ve rattled off I can’t recommend Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy enough. Yes, you can watch the movies on Netflix and as good as all 3 movies are (yes I know I shouldn’t have watched the third movies before reading the book) the books are better and very engrossing. I honestly believe that Larsson has created one of the best characters in all fiction, one that will last the ages when people talk about heroes characters in literature. In Lisbeth Salander Larsson has created a heroic anti-heroine that a reader can identify with despite the fact that the reader may have nothing in common with her. I think why I like Lisbeth Salander so much is that no matter how much she gets victimized, she always overcomes adversity and in some cases exacts her own form of justice on the victimizers. She is an uncompromising individualist, utterly rugged but still seemingly vulnerable. Her role as heroic anti-hero makes for the most contradictory character to grace popular fiction in a long time. I think the real tragedy is that with Steig Larsson having died from a heart attack in 2004 we will never get to see the conclusion to the saga of Lisbeth and her counterpart, reporter Mikael Blomkvist. Rumors persist the Larsson had planned a ten book cycle for Lisbeth and Mikael. We were lucky to get the three we got. Hard to believe something this good was done as a hobby in Steig Larsson’s spare time with no real eye towards publication.

All this talk of what I’ve actually read over the last few years has kind of got me motivated. I’m looking at the bookshelf right now and staring at my copy of Gardens of The Moon. It is taunting me, daring me to pick it up and turn to the spot I left it at. Of course I’m setting a trap for myself because Gardens of The Moon is only the first book in another 10 book saga collectively known as The Malazan Book of The Fallen. Do I dare finish the first book knowing that I will need to read the second book and all books that follow? I mean the first book is 700 plus pages and each book only grows in length from there. Not that I’ve ever been daunted by a long book, I mean I read Rise & Fall of The Third Reich at age 12 and that was one hell of a tome to get through not to mention kind of dull when you consider that I know who won World War II.

Yes, I do believe today is the day. I will not be taunted by this book any longer. Today is the day I embrace the art of reading again. I mean with school only a month away I mine as well shake off some mental plaque with some right proper fiction before the drudgery of text books overwhelms me again. Hell, I might even finish Gardens of The Moon and move onto the next book Deadhouse Gates right away… or maybe not. Let’s just pick-up the book I abandoned, lo those many months ago, and see how it goes from there. Hell, I’m even a tad optimistic about it.

Wow!

Me, optimistic… will these wonders never cease?

I Really F*#%ing Hate Drittz Do’urden!

I Really, REALLY Hate Drizzt!

Speaking as a person who reads Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery novels I’d like to state something that is going to be divisive amongst my core group of friends. I really hate reading anything featuring Drizzt Do’urden. I bring this point up because R.A. Salvatore is looking to inflict yet another trilogy of books featuring Drizzt as the main character. Now ignore the fact that the any books put out by TSR/Wizards Of The Coast/Hasbro, that aren’t game manuals, are some of the most generic and predictable fantasy fiction you’ll ever read because as boring and predictable as all those books are, any book featuring Drizzt is even more predictable.

I really can’t think of one novel series related to Dungeons & Dragons that isn’t utterly by the numbers in terms of plot and direction. Sorry kids, Dragonlance is schlock. Forgotten Realms is just as bad. There is nothing that happens in any Forgotten Realms book that I haven’t predicted happening after getting to about the fourth chapter of any given book. Fuck reading a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide is more thrilling than reading any fiction based on Dungeons & Dragons itself. It is always the same shit. Let me break it down:

1. Book features a party of adventurers that will have at least 1 magic user, 1 fighter, 1 thief and any other random character classes
2. For some reason there must be some type of Halfling involved in the party proper.
3. There is a dark force rising… ALWAYS!
4. Someone will betray the party. They don’t have to necessarily been in the party but 9 times out of 10 they are
5. By the end of whatever book you read, be it part of overreaching saga or a standalone, nothing really gets resolved.

OK I promise you of the 5 things listed above, at least 3 will occur during the course of your reading. Now the first thing is a given. You can’t have a TSR Fantasy Novel without a party of adventurers. Given that most of these books were started as actual gaming sessions a party is a must. The problem is every party always seems to be the same dull line-up. I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons some 20+ years and never have I played with such a generic line-up. Sure I’ve had to deal with player’s who will only play elven rangers or someone who always undermines the party in general and thus undermines the story being toled but every TSR book there is 1 Fighter, 1 Magic User and 1 Thief. Now sometimes this will be circumvented by dual-classing a character so your Fighter doubles as as your magic user. It doesn’t change a fucking thing. It is still the same fucking dynamic.

Drizzt Do’urden is a Ranger, so already he falls under the Fighter category. Even worse, as a Ranger he has access to small number of spells. See? SEE? Fighter/Magic User right there! Even worse, he is written as an unstoppable superman in every book. You can only read so many books with Drizzt before you realize “They are never going to kill this fucker”. By Book #2 in Drizzt first series, The Icewind Dale Trilogy, you’ve pretty much figured it out that as cool as most of the other characters might be, Drizzt is Mr. Showtime. I mean c’mon, a Dark Elf wielding 2 scimitars and a mystic panther? How can the Dwarven fighter, Human barbarian and Halfling thief ever hope to keep up?

I’ve fucking lost count as just how many books Drizzt is the star of but there has to be a limit as to how many times he can kill 400 orcs in one go. To make it even worse, he is a tragically Emo dark elf who is an outcast among his own people and live amongst humans, dwarves and halflings. That right there makes me hate the character even more. If Drizzt Do’urden were a character on Degrassi he’d be either the girl that cuts herself or the girl that has self-body issues and has made herself bulimic. I mean seriously, at the end of every Drizzt saga we are beaten with the sledgehammer reminder that Drizzt is a dark elf and thus will never be accepted or because he is a dark elf he will never know true love with the human he secretly wants to put the hard high one to.

Fuck it! I can live without TSR and all of their fiction. There are far more entertaining fantasy authors out there. Some of them are dead and their material is far superior to anything put out to modern fantasy. Do you really people would read Tolkien if it didn’t have some fucking depth to it? I wear my love of Robert E. Howard’s work on my fucking sleeve but it isn’t like I’m the only one as volumes have been written analyzing Howard‘s writings and life. Sweet Jock Of Moses! Do you realize how many fantasy authors I haven’t read that probably have written at least one good book, if not more?

Cthulhu - Way Cooler Than Drizzt!

Hey all you gaming nerds! Put down the fucking latest book about Elminster and read some REAL Fantasy! I mean surely you know at least one person that has implored upon you to read some Michael Moorcock isn’t there? Hell I’d even say read the Sword Of Truth books by Terry Goodkind, even tough they are long… and generic… and kinda predictable… fuck it just keep reading the TSR books, they are on the same level as Goodkind. I mean obviously you don’t want to be challenged as a reader too much otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this fucking crap. I’m betting you sit there and play Call Of Cthulhu without even actually having read anything by H.P. Lovecraft. Except for you Jeff… I know better when it comes to you.

Actually that wouldn’t surprise me one fucking bit because I’m finding plenty of people love making references to Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos yet they haven’t even touched any of its creator’s actual writings. I mean don’t you find that a little fucking odd? I find that down right fucking disturbing personally. It is like saying you know everything about The Wizard of Oz without actually having read anything by L. Frank Baum. I know at least half of you are scratching your heads wondering who L. Frank Baum is right now and trust me, my disdain and downright contempt for you knows no bounds.

Do you really think the only stuff I read is comics and things that are gaming related?

So I beseech you, nerds across the world… just say no to novels from TSR/Wizards Of The Coast/Hasbro and go find something to read that is a bit more challenging. I mean you have some degree of intelligence and must be looking or something that will blow you away… am I right? C’mon you know I’m right! Put down your collected edition of the Cleric Quintet and find yourself a nice volume of something by Fritz Leiber. Trust me… I wouldn’t steer you wrong would I?

Well sure… there was the one time but you wouldn’t shut up about how awesome Drizzt Do’urden was, so I was totally justified in striking you about the face… you were obviously having some kind of seizure…

Freedom, Fighting Fate & The Cursed Man: A Quick Look At 3 Of Robert E. Howard’s Characters

Kane

The Cursed Puritan Swashbuckler - Solomon Kane

I like books, I always have… well maybe not always and definitely NOT every kind of book. I mean I am not going to pick up a math or science text anytime soon because both really bore the hell out of me. Now good fiction I’ll always have time for. I’m not just talking Fantasy & Sci-Fi either. I love a good deal of the classics including works by Dumas, Fielding, Joyce, Conrad and yes even the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. I think I could sit and read Coleridge with a side of Elliot all day but not necessarily everyday. I think not enough people bother to read Dorothy Parker’s work and in turn are missing one of the most brilliant writers/wits of the last 100 years. I’ve got a wide and varied list of books that I’ve read and sometimes I sit in amazement that there is even more that I HAVEN’T read yet. The mere fact that there are great authors out there that I haven’t read makes me want to read them even more.

Right now my big thing is reading as much of Robert E. Howard’s body of work as I can. Del Rey’s collections of Howard’s Conan stories are just really great dark sword and sorcery stories, filled with less of what most would classify to be fantasy and more of very grim tales that reflect Howard’s own philosophy of life (that being, when Barbarism and Civility clash it is Barbarism that must logically prevail). So far I’ve read the first 2 Conan collections (The Coming Of Conan The Cimmerian and The Conquering Sword Of Conan), the amazing collection of Solomon Kane (The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane) and the real eye-opener that is Bran Mak Morn The Last King.

I was recently blessed by my friend Jeff lending me his copy of The Black Stranger And Other American Tales, a great collection of Howard short stories that use the North American continent as their setting. It even includes a Conan tale depicting the Hyborian Age equivalent of the Americas and the Native Americans. I am really looking forward to getting Howard’s volume of historical fiction that features Red Sonya of Rogatino, first introduced in the short story Shadow Of The Vulture. The Original Red Sonya was a female swashbuckler fighting the Saracens. It was this character that was then modified to create the comic character of Red Sonja. I’m also trying to track down a volume of Howard’s Black Agnes stories printed in the 80s as The Sword Woman. There is so much Howard material out there and so much of it is making its way back into print, what’s more is that I have this hunger to read it.

Of the material I’ve read I actually like Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn stories best, even more than I like the Conan tales. The Solomon Kane tales are just pure fun and action, telling of one man’s quest to hunt and destroy evil where ever he may find it. Howard’s poem “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” is by far one of my favorite little poems by any author. It is so simple at getting across what the character of Solomon Kane is about. In it Kane returns home, to Devon, after years abroad fighting all sorts of supernatural evil. It is a straightforward and sad little telling of how Kane has finally come home to rest, share his tales of adventure with his townsfolk and be with a person he actually loves. The tragedy is that Kane has been gone so long that the woman that waited for him died 7 years ago. Realizing that what he returned home for is no longer there, Kane tells the people in the local tavern the things he has seen. He does this quickly because he knows that Devon is no longer the place for him that he hoped it would be. So instead of staying to enjoy a retirement, Kane stalks off into the night, returning to the work he has spent his life doing… hunting evil.

“Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” is 11 verses for a total of 88 lines. In that short amount of space you get to hear about the marvelous and yet horrific things Solomon Kane has seen and done. The tragedy of it all is that all he has fought for is for naught, as Bess, the woman that has waited for him and has been the driving force for him to return to Devon is long dead. It is because of his life’s work that Kane is denied the happiness he seeks. He can’t know happiness because there is always evil and thus there is always a need for Solomon Kane.

bran

The King Fighting Against Fate - Bran Mak Morn

The tragedy that Howard besets Solomon Kane with is nothing though, compared to the hopeless task he gives Bran Mak Morn, the last King of The Picts. Howard’s Picts are not meant to be the true historical Picts, as the Picts appear throughout his pseudo-Historical work. They are there in the tales of Kull, a barbaric people who live for pure savagery. They survive the Atlantean Cataclysm that ends Kull’s age and appear again several times during Conan’s Hyborian Age, still savage as ever. In fact it is the Picts that Conan is fleeing from in the opening of “The Black Stranger.” In the tales of Bran Mak Morn, set during the Roman occupation of Britain, the Picts still struggle to maintain who they are despite the march of Rome and civilization. It is here that Bran Mak Morn leads what few of his Picts are left in hopes to drive out the Romans and save his people from actual extinction. He rises up to be a figure of nobility amongst a people that have no sense of what it means to be noble. Thus is the tragedy that pervades all of the Bran Mak Morn stories, because he knows his people cannot change from their low and savage ways and are thus doomed to die out as a tribe of savages. He tries everything in his limited power, from summoning long dead Kull Of Atlantis to aid him, to assassinating a Roman Governor. He even goes as far as to make a pact with a Lovecraftian Elder God, only to realize that such a pact will not only doom his people but all of mankind.

2 different characters yet both are equally tragic. Both are amazingly deep despite their classifications as ‘Pulp Characters’. That right there is why Howard is such a magnificent writer. These characters deal with tragedy that isn’t directly presented by actions in the their tales, but rather by what you aren’t reading in the tales. Solomon Kane is cursed, plain and simple because it is impossible for evil to not exist. Thus Solomon Kane’s life’s work will never be truly done. Bran Mak Morn is all about fighting against a doomed fate that is inevitable. Bran Mak Morn would rather fight against what he knows is inevitable because otherwise, what is the point of there being Freewill?

There are layers to everything and the layers to any of Howard’s characters show not only men of action but men of reluctant philosophy. One fights against fate, the other fights against evil. Both are long term fights that neither will win. So what does this then make Conan Of Cimmeria?

conan2

Freewill In The Form Of Man - Conan The Cimmerian

Conan is the concept of Freewill given the shape of man. Conan lives by his own set of laws and guidelines. No man nor God will deny him his freedom and those that try usually end up dead. He is what every man dreams of being.. free, unbound and living as he pleases. For Conan that is the simple things like good wine, sultry women and a good fight now and then. That is why Crom is his God, because Crom has no real interest in the affairs of man. Crom lets Conan be Conan and doesn’t make the Cimmerian do anything that is contrary to who and what he is. As long as Conan is free, all is right with Conan.

Well this was so not what I was planning on writing about, but I am not upset that my little look at Howard came out. I was originally just talk about what other things I’m reading, yet ironically, right now all I’m reading is Howard. Mind you, I’m not counting my comic book reading because as much as I do believe comics are literature I still view reading a book is a more in depth experience. An actual book and the written word allows your mind to paint the picture of the story, where as comics take the mental picture away. Thus thee days, my mental pictures are filled with images of grim barbarians, a cursed Puritan and a doomed King. Thank you Robert E. Howard for letting me in your imagination, it is a truly marvelous trip.

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