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Archive for September, 2012

Barbarians at the gate

It’s a little-known fact that Robert E Howard (of Conan fame) invented the literary genre of Sword’n’Sorcery – or Heroic Fantasy if you prefer. As a keen young writer for the 1920s boy’s adventure magazines he tried his hand at any manly genre that he could sell a story in. You can try his collections here, of which I prefer his historical fiction during the Crusades. I’m not sure if he’d gotten hit hard at one of his regular fight club nights at the local meatpacking plant or was divinely inspired but he had a gem of an idea. Why not combine the historical actioneers of Sabatini and Dumas, tales of dashing derring do, with the supernatural horrors of Lovecraft and Stoker? The modern fantasy was born and Solomon Kane it’s first hero.

Great stories. A dour 16th Century English puritan swordfighting his way through Romania and Africa to right wrongs and bring death to evil doers.

“It hath been my duty in times past to ease various evil men of their lives – well, the Lord is my staff and my guide and methinks he hath delivered mine enemy into mine hands.” – Solomon Kane

As the genre gained popularity it finally produced it’s killer app – Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I personally find the Tolkien brand much too beardy and verbose. It’s like the creation of an alternate universe with it’s own mythology has superceded the purpose of telling a crackingly good story. Once Tolkien tilled that soil we’ve had to put up with ham’n’eggers like Robert Jordan and the ilk producing multi-volume sagas without crossing out a single sentence in their life. Ah well, at least the occasional George R Martin and Brian Lumley dragged themselves above such dross.

But I digress. The most interesting side to LoTR is it’s real-world inspiration. Compare the map of Middle Earth with the real globe*

The Shire is middle England, probably Kent. Here dwell delightful little Hobbits who are blissfully unaware of the real dangers of the world. Major drama in the Shire is when the Sackville-Bagginses steal your best turnip before the Flower Show. The narrative arc of LoTR is three Shire natives being pulled into an adventure across Middle Earth where they eventually see the world for what it really is – very dangerous.

The Elvin paradise of Rivendell is Scandanavia, a last bastion of an elder race shrinking under outside pressure as the population seeks to escape West (to the USA). Like the real world place it is crumbling under outside assault and the great genetic lineage being corrupted and dying out. Heading south we get through Germany and France (Rohan) which are the industrial and cultural centres of Middle Earth where real men live until we get to the outer perimeter of the world of men, Gondor. The two towers are Israel and Istanbul, last outposts against the malignantly evil muslims orcs. From even further south (Africa) come the dark-skinned mercenary armies to aid evil against the Men.

Pretty striking parallels really. It’s no surprise in the movie that all the good guys have white skin and the bad guys are all dark orcs. When the Hobbits finally return to the Shire they feel alienated. They can’t unsee the world as it really is, they can’t go back to the blissful ignorance of little Englanders. They know that Hobbits can only live their rural ideal because the rangers patrol the hinterlands and a deadly struggle of border defence is raged thousands of miles away, completely out of the sight of those who chose not to know.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell.

Thus considered, LoTR is a prescient takedown of the progressive/liberal alliance that seeks to destroy England. The Islington socialists are Hobbits (and in Polly Townbee’s case, she really is dumpy and hairy) who willfully refuse to recognise the structures that need to be in place to insulate Western European civilisation against the barbarians at the gates. Like the Hobbits, they even mock the rangers that keep them safe, putting on airs and graces. I’ve travelled to Istanbul and personally witnessed the eddy and flow as the tides of Islam push against the frontier of civilisation. I’ve read the history of the crusades. I know about the siege of Vienna.

And thus I have undying respect and gratitude for those rough men that protect the life I hold dear. God Save The Queen.

* The point is even more obvious if you consider the first ever Heroic Fantasy kingdom by REH. Conan was born in Newcastle, near the Picts of Scotland. Aquilonia is France, Zingara is Spain, Stygia is Egypt, Kush is Nigeria, and so on out East.

Refilling the war chest

Over the past two years I’ve barely lifted a finger. I can’t remember what it’s like to wake up early and board a rush-hour Underground train with all the shambling grey men struggling to open their eyes, drained masculine women reading chic lit with tacky fluorescent cover art. The rat race is an odd thing, a wholly artificial creation.

Work hard, earn status increment, worry about year end bonus, pay tax…. year after year after year. That’s not for me.

Regular attendees at the Count’s table will be aware that I’ve lived the past two years all across God’s green earth. Like a campaigning army, this does require some funding. Smart men have control of both their top and bottom lines. On the expenses side I’ve pared things down, downshifted if you will, so that I can maintain my monthly rooms in London on just one day’s salary. I believe in simplicity. While jetsetting the world as a corporative executive I became accustomed to First Class long haul and five star hotels. It’s a pleasant way to live. If you fly on Saturday to begin work on Monday morning in a different timezone then you really do appreciate the comfort of a flat-reclining airplane bed and a room at the Tokyo Imperial or the Santiago Intercontinental. It rejuvenates the body as much as it pleases the ego.

I once sipped a whiskey in that chair

It’s also utterly unnecessary when you’ve remodelled your life to claim all your time as your own. The world doesn’t care if you fly a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 or a cramped Ryanair jet. You can pick up a nice private apartment on Airbnb for £30 a day in most European countries thus relieving yourself of the £150+ burden a hotel will place upon you for a room you’ll barely see (Cervantes tip – Just buy a coffee in the lobby bar of the city’s best hotel and you’ll find yourself equally welcome to bask in classy surroundings as if you were a guest).

So now I live an almost spartan existence. Everything I own fits into a tiny storage unit, less than a double-bedroom’s worth. I no longer collect Stuff. I buy quality when it suits me and no more than I’ll need. The bottom line is small.

Still, I do require a topline so I recently made a decision between Plan A and Plan B. The former is the lifestyle of true geographical and financial independence acheived by earning passive income streams. I toyed with this idea but it’s not as easy as Tim Ferris makes out. I refuse to dabble in the murky world of affiliate marketing and selling of empty promises. Such nefarious behaviour would hurt my vibe and intrigue. Although I’m capital rich I see no good traditional investments in the stock market as I believe we are in the early stages of a decade-long depression. The market will shuffle sideways like the walking dead if not simply fall. So Plan A is out.

Fortunately I have a real career and great resume so Plan B is to contract three months a year and use the accumulated loot to live the lifestyle to which you see me accustomed for the other nine months. A perfect marriage of tax efficiency and retaining my mastery over my skill set. It was with this in mind I attended a recent job interview. I think I’ve only had two interviews my whole life where I didn’t get a job offer, so my spirits were high. Only 24 hours after sending recruitment agents my resume and I’m walking into exactly the kind of role I want at a rate 25% higher than target.

The frame is crucial. I don’t need to work and I don’t need the money. Although I’d like a job and this one interests me, it’s not my only option. That said, nobody wants to hire an inflexible egoist who has disappeared up his own arsehole with a frame so brittle he won’t allow any bend in it. All the interviewers really want to know are:

  • Can I do the job
  • Do I want to do the job
  • Am I the kind of person they’d like to spend time with

I like to enter every environment as the best-dressed person there. I respect men who have good aesthetic style, are physically fit, and carry themselves with appropriate professional decorum. I hold myself to these same standards. So I bought a new Saville Row style suit and had it tailored to perfection, and some Italian leather shoes. I feel good. A strong intitial presence.

God Save The Queen

My body language is a balance between alpha (cool guy, can’t be pushed around), sigma (independent) and beta (reliable, polite). I make good eye contact but don’t get into any eye challenge battles. Then I let them talk, let them invest, while I nod my head thoughtfully and make listening noises. I answer every question concisely. They try it on a little with frame control and trying to make me chase (e.g. “Your resume isn’t as strong as what we’d usually accept for this role”) which rolls off me without ever changing facial expression or knocking my voice off its politely formal tone. I show a little warmth and a smile where appropriate.

Within ten minutes they are selling me on why I should join. After half an hour as I walk out they are seeking to befriend me. It’s in the bag. As it should be – this is a company that meets all my requirements (professional, talented, flexible, high salary) for the type of work I like, and I tick all their boxes.

Funding is secured. The legend of Cervantes lives on.

Blogging Hiatus

Chaps, I’ve not really gotten round to posting in the past couple of months. A lot has been going on – starting work, busy with girls, travel etc. This blog is not dead. I fully intend to come back to it as soon as I can make some time.