Week Three summary

So I am not really certain what to continue talking about here, I read some western stories, read some interesting things about content from the time period, and voiced my opinions on some of it this week. I definitely prefer assignments like the character concept much more than the ‘write a letter to mom/your past or future self’. The cow brand dailycreate was sort of fun, though I wish I had been more creative than just my initials. Finding history in my neighbourhood wasn’t so great though, so I made a more jokey post than anything (I am not that vain as to think that me moving in there years ago was actually important!)

Thoughts on written westerns

Character concept: Richard Crawlston

A Letter To Me

The Shape of a Story

 

 

 

 

A Letter To Me

To see what has changed about me in ten years time, here is a letter to myself to read and reflect on.

In ten years time I will be 31. Quite a large gap, so I am not really certain how my wants will change, but right now I mostly just want to get a decent job and alright place to live. I am alright with living somewhere fairly local, but anywhere along the east coast no further south than Virginia is alright with me. I would hope that I would have a healthy marriage by the time I’m 31, but at the moment am not at all fond of the idea of kids (I wonder if I’ll ever not dislike babies).

My big dreams, that I doubt I’ll ever really accomplish, are of course winning the lottery and being able to do a world tour, but that’s not particularly surprising, nor doable and I wouldn’t doubt that myself reading this wen I’m 31 would want to win the lottery too. So yeah, not too much exciting stuff here. The only real big change I could ever see between my wants now and my wants when I’m 31 is possibly having a child, since that often becomes more of a biological imperative at some point, but right now looking forward I do not want one at all.

Oh also, VR is a dumb, overhyped gimmick. This is my thoughts on it right now, so I’m putting this down in case it becomes actually cool in the future so I can definitely have something to look back and laugh at myself over

Character concept: Richard Crawlston

Age: 51

Height: 6 feet 2 inches

hair: bald

Dress: Worn-out dress clothes, shoes, and top hat

Description: Gaunt and bony, but not stooped with age. Richard has long legs and deep lines on his face. Always has a long barreled revolver on his belt and a cane in his gnarled hand. Has sunken eyes and no missing teeth. Lives in a small cottage in the town of Glint’s cemetery..

Bio: Avoided by most of the townsfolk, Richard is the groundskeeper, undertaker, and mortician of the town’s dead. Nobody quite remembers when he moved in, to the townsfolk he has seemed to be around indefinitely. He only appears to quickly take a body away and occasionally is spied walking through the graveyard at night. It is always quite the argument to see who will be sent to Richard’s cottage to fetch him in the event of someone’s death, with whoever sent often just knocking on the door and leaving a note instead of facing the man in person. It is often said that the streets empty twice in a gunfight, once when it happens, and again when the undertaker’s black cart rolls down the street.

Stories abound through the town about him. Many theorize that he is a sad old man who lost his wife or child to Typhoid, and now lives on their grave to be close, others simply say he is a man who realized his dreams of gold in California were for nought, and now lives out the remainder of his days waiting to die. Yet more say that he is the reaper’s personal assistant and that he dances with skeletons on full moons. Few, if any have tried to talk to him to set the record straight.

The Shape of a Story

I just watched Vonnegrut’s “The Shape of a Story” video on youtube. It was a pretty funny satire on the stereotypical stories, but I’m not certain it is necessarily true. Some parts are true of course, because it is making fun of stereotypes, but it’s not universally true.

Many stories in all media have varying ‘wellness’ archs. There are many that act as the inverse of his story, stories about evil snobs getting brought low, or shitty people staying shitty and miserable. One of the most popular types of stories in history, the tragedy, by definition does not have happy endings!

So yes, you can pump out a thousand formulaic underdog, boy gets girl, or standard good day-conflict-victory style stories, and assuming its quality isn’t abysmal, get good returns, but you can also make good movies that do not follow the model at all.

Talking about story shape, ‘The Wife Comes To Yellow Sky’ and ‘Ice Man’ illustrate my point pretty well. Yellow Sky fits Vonnegrut’s first shape near perfectly, there’s the post marriage bliss, there’s the conflict of the gunman, and then there’s the resolution of the gunman to leave them in happily married peace. Meanwhile, Ice Man does the exact opposite, going from the main characters in the story coming off of a victorious high, to the end that has the protagonists losing their money and heading to jail. Both are fine stories (I didn’t feel like Ice Man flowed well, but that’s not due to its structure), but one follows the story shape and the other does not.

Thoughts on written westerns

So having read a few westerns, one of the most noticeable things seems to be a strong sense of cultural norms, beliefs, and values, which makes sense seeing as westerns are written in a specific time period normally. There is a strong emphasis on race, with Ice Man being a modern take specifically playing off of and making fun of the classic Western ‘white man’ and ‘The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky’ being an almost archetypal view of races with races always being clearly described and black men being referred to as ‘negros’ who, in the story, universally worked in servant roles.

Men were also always the main actors in both stories with the women doing relatively little other than slight commentary and deferring to the male in the story.

Of course Westerns can have many forms and there are going to be many that will have strong female or non white leads, but even in those stories they will most likely be facing the challenges unique to the time period/place for women and minourities. Of course Western stories also have more to them than just these cultural norms of the time, but they are an excellent example of how a large part of the Western is its unique culture

What a second week

Whoo boy, did I almost goof up week two really hard! I figured looking over everything on Wednesday like I had last time would give me plenty of time to do everything (2 and a half whole days seemed like more than enough time!) I didn’t think things would pick up so rapidly!

Turns out I needed to turn in week 1’s stuff on Canvas, I needed to come up with ideas due that night, and I had 3 days to do 3 daily creates and 3 of the assignments! Then, what’s worse is because I fail at reading, I ended up doing three assignments from the same set before realizing I needed to do assignments from different sets! I feel fairly confident I pulled through though, other than my motivational poster which is a bit light on text (I don’t know what else to add as far as that’s concerned) but, boy, I got everything done! I even added an image of good ol’ Django to my side bar. I sort of like the current theme honestly though.

Next week: Start earlier!

Here’s my posts

Yes, he knows.

A blunt guest

 

Create a character: Mannfred ‘Sandbar’ Black

 

Here are my daily creates for the week

Yes, he knows.

78415387

You know, generally I dislike memes, including motivational posters, but I thought this was vaguely funny.

note: most people that play d&d (or other rpg) are of both average intellect and average social competence, heh.

also note, if you’re making a wizard character, night caps are silly! Silly wizards are of course the best type of wizards, but if you’re trying to be serious while you describe your character as having a night cap, then he isn’t serious!

By the way, it’s really easy to make a motivational poster, either with a simple program like paint with copy-paste, or by using an automatic website (which is what I did in my infinite laziness). I just used this site http://diy.despair.com/  which is pretty self explanatory, upload an image, write the caption, and you’re done.

Create a character: Mannfred ‘Sandbar’ Black

Name: Mannfred ‘Sandbar’ Black

facial hair: thick dark brown beard

clothing: tall, worn boots, brown legs with tattered ends, simple cloth tunic with leather chest piece over it

weapons: two cutlasses at his waist

personality: loud and boisterous, as willing to spend a night in the bar getting plastered with his mates as he is to rough up a man who hasn’t paid his protection dues to whoever is paying Mannfred to collect debts.

Backstory: Once he served on one of the most famous privateer ships that sailed the seas, hunting down foes of the city of Cairno and ravaging enemy merchant ships for loot. After it got sunk by a mysterious ship that did not fly any flag, he washed up on a sandbar near Cairno where he was saved by some fishermen, since then he returned to Cairno and started simply making ends meet in the slums of the harbour, often acting as an enforcer for the multitude of crime lords there and occasionally smuggling things into and out of the city on his small dinghy. He hopes to one day get back out onto the open sea as the captain of his own ship

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I’m actually somewhat surprised I found this in fanfic, and very glad I did. Sounds right up the alley of a person that plays d&d, so I am pretty much putting down the character concept of my most recent player character in a D&D campaign I’m playing in.

A blunt guest

Men and women in bright server uniforms dashed about, carrying dishes piled high with delicacies from around the world. Shellfish from the great ocean to the west, pies made with exotic berries, and roast beast of all forms sat upon the long dining table, cooling to just the correct temperature prior to the grand banquet. At the head of it all, standing on a raised platform in front of a pair of massive, antique, doors, stood an old bald man in the brightest livery of them all. Deep purple stockings lead into a gold tunic that looked to be woven of the metal itself. His hand and feet were clad in shiny, black leather gloves and shoes no doubt made as a matched set from the same animal.

“Hurry Danton, get the silverware laid out! Our guest will be here any minute, and I will not be seen as some low brow swine on account of you louts!”

“Of course Lord Fandil, it’s all almost done being shined! We’ll have it out in just a moment.”

His voice carried an unspoken threat, if he was at all displeased with any part of their preparations, every single one of them would most likely be homeless and jobless by the end of the night. As demanding and harsh as he was, none of the staff preparing the dinner wanted their families kicked out into the cold nights like those who came before them and the entire room quickly picked up its pace to a near fever pitch after Fandil’s demand. The knives, spoons, and other utensils came out on a massive trolley, gleaming in the light of the chandeliers, and hordes of servers rushed it, picking up utensils two at a time in gloved hands and carefully setting them on the table.

Fandil clapped his hands as the  last servant stepped back from the table. With military precision the entire cadre turned on their heels, did a deep bow, and walked out of the room in two long lines, leaving just Fandril and the massive feast. Careful, so as to not ruffle any part of his immaculate outfit that had taken thirty minutes and the help of two servants to properly don, he walked down the small flight of steps to the head of the table. There he sat in a high backed throne made of dark wood with rose engravings, padded with cloth made by monks in the far south. The throne had already been pulled out so he would not have to sully his hands with manual labour and with another clap, a pair of servants came hurrying out to push the throne closer to the table before disappearing through the doors they had entered through. All was ready, now all he had to do was wait for his guest.

It was rare for the king to give such a responsibility to one of his nobles. Normally envoys from other nations were fast tracked to the capital to see the king, so when a letter arrived for Fandril that he was being given the honour of hosting a leader of the mountain men he was more than happy to oblige. Just thinking about the prestige this guest would bring him made his mouth water more than anything on the table ever could, finally after all the years of petitioning the king for more acknowledgment and sway in the kingdom, he was finally being noticed! He, Fandril, would be the one allowed to show the mountain men the wealth and power of the lowlands and convince them to stop their petty border skirmishing.

“A man approaches! He says he is of the mountain men!”

Fandril was taken out of his revelry by the shout, only one figure? It was true the mountain men would only send one envoy, but decorum and prestige warranted a large train of guards, servants, and supply follow him, surely no noble would disgrace themselves and walk all this way on their own. Fandril thought for a moment before responding, perhaps this man was just a scout or a messenger for the envoy, coming to tell him that they were delayed? It was terribly bad form to get the message so close to the intended time of arrival, but maybe the mountain men were slightly more lax in their manners than the more civilized lowlands. The thought irritated him ever so slightly, he would have to send a letter of complaint to the king about the slight later, but for now he knew he had to play the gracious host.

“Let our guest enter!” Fandril called.

A pair of double doors at the other end of the hall swung open, letting in a chill breeze, and a massive man stepped through, easily a head and a half taller than the armoured guard that had just opened the door for him. He wore a thick fur cloak that hung around his shoulders, and was secured around his neck with what looked like a bone clasp. Underneath the cloak he was bare save for a pair of thick rawhide boots and loincloth of similar make to his cloak. Fandril’s mouth slightly opened at the bizarre figure standing before him. All decorum was lost for a moment and he only barely restrained himself from standing up before protocol demanded it.

“I welcome the envoy of the mountain man and all his allies into my home, I welcome you to my home” Fandril said, regaining his composure, and only now, with the greeting done, being able to stand.

The man continued to stand, looking around as if he had never been in a mansion before, and seemed to almost totally ignore Fandril’s welcome. Finally after what seemed like an eternity to the noble, the envoy’s gaze settled on Fandril and for a brief moment, Fandril thought the strange man might finally do things in a civilized manner, instead, the man took a step towards the table.

“You are the leader, yes?” he said, continuing to stare at Fandril.

“Yes, yes of course I am, where is the envoy? What news have you of his travels you beast of a man? When he arrives, I will have words with him over your crude conduct here!”

Fandril could not hold his temper any longer, his hands were planted on the table as he leaned over, all thoughts of his golden tunic crumpling forgotten. He was nearly ready to call his guards on the man, but he knew the envoy, whenever he arrived, would not take kindly to such an act.

“I am champion of mountain man, we meet yes?”

“Oh, of course!”

Fandril immediately straightened up, putting on a large smile. Within he was raging at this fool. It would seem the mountain men saw this as a mad lark if they sent such a buffoon to treat. Even so, he knew he had to treat the beast with respect as a noble to another ‘noble’.  He tried fixing his clothes, but the crease was already set, and would take a servant to properly set, failing that, he looked up and flung  his arms wide.

“We will meet now! I am lord Fandril of the lowlands, come, let us figure out these grievances between our lands now.”

At that the mountain man smiled “Let the victor feast this night!” and pulled out a barbed mace from underneath his cloak.

The mountain man jumped up on the table and charged down it. Fandril, taken totally by surprise, stood in front of his throne, staring at the charging ‘envoy’.

“What is the meaning of this? You, no, guards!”

The food on the table did not make his steps falter at all, He leaped past or kicked through everything on the table, sending near priceless delicacies and ceramics crashing to the ground. Fandril turned to start to flee, but it was much too late and the mountain man leaped through the air, mace held high, to have it come down on the noble’s skull. The last thing he heard before his skull was shattered was the mountain man screaming “Vain lowlander, you believe you can best me without a weapon? The lands are ours!

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Well, this assignment might not fit the theme exactly, as it’s not literally me hosting the mountain man, but I could imagine myself as a slightly less nasty version of Fandril in this generic fantasy setting. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do at first with this story prompt at first because there’s not many things I’d really want to have dinner with, or for that matter that it’d make sense to have dinner with assuming it was real. I could have gone with something funny I guess and that would’ve opened up more doors for goofy things, but I wanted to do something semi serious. A lord ordering his orderlies around to prepare a feast seemed fun to start, but probably a bit boring after, so I was thinking about what his guest could be. Some sort of barbarian was my first thought since it’d be a kind of funny butting of heads, but then I was thinking about why he would be visiting and it sort of fell into place. A conflict, between the lowlands and the mountain men, an attempt to end that conflict, and a lot of miscommunication between customs and cultures and what ‘conflict resolution’ means.

My week in review: The west

So, after reading some articles talking about the Western genre and how it’s current relevance is, I have to say I am a bit surprised at their (and assumedly, their readers) grim views on the matter. Yes, clearly the ‘day’ of the westerner is over in that they’re not being churned out like candy before Halloween, but it seems to be at a place of decent stability. A new western movie gets put out every year or so, which is not too terrible a rate, and while there were a few flubs (The Lone Ranger, which failed for other reasons than that it was ‘a western’), there have been a tonne of successes. The Hateful Eight literally just released over Winter break even! Not only that, but in other forms of media the western is still pretty highly lauded with strong western themes appearing in comics (like the Red Wolf comic I previously mentioned buying) and in games such as Red Dead Redemption, a western in the truest sense that is met with huge critical acclaim (and is getting a sequel). And this is before taking into account the numerous more minour ways Westerns pop up in ‘cameo’ rolls of archetypes like ‘the lone gunman’ and ‘the bounty hunter’ in almost every form of media.

 

Honestly, I gave it some thought, and honestly the only thing that I really feel is needed to get a ‘Western’ feel is a sense of lawlessness, not necessarily like rioting random acts of murder lawlessness, but in that there are regular means of resolving conflicts through non judicial means (feuds, bounties, etc), mixed with a theme of a dangerous frontier. Many different popular media take and use this, from the ‘Outer Rim’ of Star Wars to the bounty hunters of Cowboy Bebop (the only anime I ever particularly liked). One doesn’t need a horse, a Stetson, and a revolver to make a Western, and while I am uncertain I agree with some of the lines of reasoning and evolution that the author of the article “The Grand Horse Opera” makes, I definitely agree with his overarching argument that the western can be used to tell a myriad of stories (although some of the best come from the theme of becoming outmoded relics of the past, which the western often does particularly well in stories involving the civilizing of whatever frontier, land, or problem that often lead to the generation of hardened people who grew up only learning how to deal with those problems)

As an aside, not talking about Westerns here, I feel like Flickr, at least on the computer (I have not downloaded it on my phone yet because I never felt the need to share my photos in that way before) has a somewhat poorly designed webpage.