Archive for November, 2008

The Wonders of WordPress

29 Nov

WordPress has been so very, very helpful so far.

The wonderful thing about WordrPress is, it isn’t afraid to overstep its boundaries a little. Not content to merely punch the clock, post the posts and call it a day, WordPress goes above and beyond the call of duty. If it feels that a post is quite frankly missing something, it won’t hesitate to edit it.
For example, quite often it will feel posts are excessively choppy, without enough content to make it flow well. It leaps into action, confidently vomiting excessive quantites of meaningless html directly into post proper.

At other times, WordPress will be apologetically critical of my formatting choices, humble as they are. WordPress, not wanting to disturb me by suggesting some solution, takes the initiative. Why, often I won’t even know it has messed with the paragraph formatting until I view the published post!

And in these duties, WordPress is persistent. It isn’t the type of clockwatching software that’s happy to let a point drop and head home, no sir. It will stand up for its beliefs regarding my post, even after I have repeatedly corrected it.

Indeed, WordPress has far, far exceeded my expectations. I’d even say it’s helpful to a fault.

Yes, yes, that’s probably exactly what I’d say, come to think of it.

 
 

World Creation: Full Steampunk Ahead

29 Nov

In the following series, we take our first steps into the dank and murky waters of unrepentant nerdliness, wading blindly forward to a point of no return. Follow if you will.

In this series of posts, I will be chronicling an ongoing project. What I am to do is create a world: more specifically, a fantastic world, a world that is to be used for various purposes of storytelling.Why? For fun, if you can believe that. To write about in the future, to use for Dungeons and Dragons campaigns–the sky’s the limit, really.

I intend for the series to fulfill several functions. It give me an outlet for creation, a place to sound off and possibly hear suggestions. It will examine the process of creating a fantasy world, and give a look as to what goes into designing the setting, characters, factions. To some degree, it will deconstruct fantasy as a genre, dissecting the various tropes and commonalities of settings. Also, it will cure leprosy and purify drinking water.

Granted, what I intend and what I accomplish have, traditionally, respectfully disagreed.

Without further ado, the series begins.

I knew when I began that I wanted to create something with a steampunk flavor. For those who aren’t up on their geeknobabble, “steampunk” refers to a setting with an outdated aesthetic, but futuristic technology. At its weakest, this can simply refer to settings where gears replace circuits and steam power appears common. At its strongest, this implies top hats, monocles, brass bolts, leather interiors, ball gowns, etc. Examples of the form can be found in the popular webcomic Girl Genius, written by Phil Foglio.

A steampunk setting appeals to me for a variety of reasons.

1.) Steampunk is different.

Most fantasy settings are, obviously, Ye Olde Vaguely European Middle Ages. This is largely because most of western mythology, the basis for modern fantasy, is based in this time period. Knights, dragons, kings, obtuse accents, the whole nine yards. This isn’t bad, per se, but it’s beginning to feel a bit stale. Go to a local bookstore or library and head for the fantasy section. Get a list of 20 fantasy books. Chances are, these books will have at least four of the following elements:

  • Guy with a glowing or obviously magical sword
  • Girl whose tailor must have charged by the square inch
  • Dragon
  • Elf
  • Prophecy of some thing wanting to conquer and/or destroy the world, and only the hero being able to stop it.
  • Monarch
  • Wizard dressed in flowing robes
  • Some ostensibly good force working on behalf of Nature. In case you didn’t get the memo, Nature=Good, Humans=Bad.

A fantasy enthusiast could be forgiven for getting a certain sense of déjà vu after a while.

A fantasy enthusiast could be forgiven for getting a certain sense of déjà vu after a while.

It’s not that it’s impossible to create a new or interesting medieval fantasy setting. Eberron has some good ideas, and some of Salvatore’s work occasionally showed that he was capable of writing something beyond the standard fare. I myself have, with a friend, created a fairly unique universe. It’s just that steampunk, being more of a mood than a setting, resists falling into certain ruts. It feels like you’re beginning with more of a blank slate, which is part of the idea here.

2.) Steampunk has better technology.

Technology can be cooler than magic. On some level, magic is invisible. Even when you see the generic, seizure-inducing swirls of psychedelic energy, whatever is causing the cup to fill with water, the wounds to heal, or the building to blow up is somewhere behind the curtain. On the other hand, technology is very visible. Everything about a steampunk apparatus is right there in front of you: gears turn, steam rises, pistons pist, and everything clanks along towards the desired objective. To some people, myself included, actually seeing how something works can invoke wonder beyond that of magic.

Plus, there are some elements of technology which I find useful in storytelling. Guns, for example: they’re more dramatic than a bow, and level the playing field for nonwizards. Technology is also more novel than magic. A dragon is old hat; an airship, less so.

3.) It felt right.

I’ll be honest: some of the above reasoning is rationalization after the fact. I decided I was going to do a steampunk setting before I ever really weighed the pros and cons. When I set out to create something, I felt on some instinctive level that this was the way to go, and I trust that instinct. When you’re beginning on a creative endeavor, instinct is infinitely superior to reason.

Obviously, this series is to be continued.

EDIT: I spent perhaps half an hour writing this post. I spent another half hour wrangling WordPress. The formatting is still messed up all to hell.

This is not conducive to the goddamn creative process.

 

Hell in a Handbasket

27 Nov

At this point, I would like to address one of the great sources of moral decay amongst our citizens. I refer to a form of “entertainment” that is both senseless and lurid, a maelstrom of sex and violence without coherent structure or the pretense of meaning. I refer to a form of degenerate activity in which participants rot their brains out for hours on end, sitting motionlessly in padded chairs, eagerly subjecting themselves to moral decay of the worst sort.

I refer, of course, to opera.

Opera is, without a doubt, the most dangerous issue facing our society, easily dwarfing poverty, starvation and the economy. It is corrupting the essential moral fibers of our country, presenting behaviors that go against all of the traditional family values of our once-proud nation.

Filth such as the popular operas Carmen and Der Ring des Nibelungen portray characters who are utterly, appallingly immoral. The “heroes” of the piece—who the audience is naturally intended to sympathize with—engage in criminal acts, murder, conspiracy, incest, and adultery. We are encouraged to cheer these characters on as they engage in their degenerate behavior, behavior that is offensive in every degree and on every level. Something must be done.

Think of the children. Sure, children aren’t supposed to be admitted into these operas, and sure, they probably can’t understand Italian anyway, but we must deal with the hard truth that bilingual adolescents can and will find ways to view this garbage. We cannot take the risk that our youth, the pure roots of the tree of civilization, will be poisoned morally by these outrageous productions.

I, for one, am calling for the crooks and vermin in the Opera industry to be taken to task by every good and upstanding moral citizen. There is no reason this smut should exist in any enlightened society, a fact which should be plain to any sane, red-blooded American. I call for a return to decent, family friendly entertainment that respects our cultural values and contains uplifting themes for all ages, such as the quiet reading of approved segments of textbooks.

We must not stand idly by while opera despoils our culture.

Tune in next time for a plan of action to combat the two most potent, subversive glorifiers of violence in our nation: Football and Hockey.

EDIT: Sorry about the disabled comments, but every time I come here, there’s 40 more spam comments only on this post. Let’s see what this does.

 

The Gateway to Madness

26 Nov

Welcome, ladies, gentleman, bipartisans. Welcome…to Chocolate Hammer.

As the first “real” post of Chocolate Hammer, one would assume that this would inform the reader as to the purpose, schedule, and author of this blog. Fair enough; let’s go point-by-point.

Purpose: Not entirely sure.

Schedule: To be established.

Author: You may call me Rutskarn, at least for now.

Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s take a look at content coming down the pipeline. We have a series of reflections, the subjects of which are as follows:

  • The Cultural Fad from Hell

  • The Hypocrisy of Wrath

  • Creating Worlds

  • Fallout 3

On the bright side, this post contains roughly 78% of your allotted daily allowance of Crypticism, thus justifying the electricity required to display the text on your monitor.

It can only go downhill from here.

 
 

Test Post

17 Nov

This is a post. This is a test post.

In short, a post that tests. This post will not cure cancer, or save puppies from Communo-Fascist regimes. Unless it is by serendipity. Because this post is a test.

A test.