Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unforgiven: A cold-blooded killer of a movie

Part 6 of a 10-part series in which I examine my favorite films, and the reasons why I love them so.

If you take a look at my top 10 list of favorite movies, you'll notice that my taste very rarely coincides with the Academy awards voters or the critics at the American Film Institute (AFI). To put it bluntly, you won't see Conan the Barbarian or Excalibur cracking many reviewers' top 10 lists.

Unforgiven is an exception to that rule.The western to end all westerns, director and starring man Clint Eastwood in 1992 delivered what I consider to be the finest film ever made in this particular genre. It won Best Picture and Best Director honors that year, among other awards, and at last check it sits at no. 68 at the AFI's best "100 Years...100 Movies" list.

I can't say I've seen every western, or even the majority, but I have watched a lot of good ones--The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (along with just about every other Eastwood western), The Searchers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Magnificent Seven, and others I've forgotten--and for my money Unforgiven is the best.

Unlike Europe, America is too young a country to have knights on horseback as its heroes, but in the westerns Americans had their own paragons of virtue, men like John Wayne or Shane. Prior to Unforgiven, these westerns were one of the last refuges of the myth of the white-hatted hero, where virtuous sheriffs battled black-hatted cow thieves or masked train-robbers. Morality is simple in these films--there are lawmen and bandits, and you know who to root for and who would win in the end.

While some cracks in this facade first appeared in the spaghetti westerns of the late 1960s and 70s (with their shades of grey characters and bloody gun battles), Unforgiven shattered the myth of the knight-as-cowboy completely and forevermore.

Eastwood portrays William Munny, an aging gunfighter who is living a sad, squalid life as a pig farmer trying to raise two young children. He's recently buried his wife and is living out his days trying to get by as best as he can. When some drunken powpokes rough up some whores and cut up one of the unfortunate woman's faces, and the other prostitutes put a modest bounty on the cowpokes' heads, Munny decides to take up his guns once more.

Watching Eastwood try to regain his old form with a gun or to ride a horse is borderline comical. But when it comes time to pull the trigger, we realize that it's not his skill with a gun that makes Munny a different breed--it's his cold-blooded approach to killing. Although he admits to being drunk on whiskey much of the time during his days as a killer, Munny holds no illusions about death. He is the meanest, most dangerous man walking because he is able to look death coldly in the face, recognizing it for what it is:

It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have.

Just like Eastwood is no hero, neither are the men evil whom he and his companions seek to kill. Their leader, Little Bill Daggett (played by Gene Hackman in a remarkable role) isn't very likeable but is three-dimensional, a man who's trying his best to build a house in which he can retire. Another of the cowpokes asks for forgiveness and offers to give up his best horses to the women. Despite their deeds, it's hard to feel hate for these men. But Munny pulls the trigger with no remorse.

"Guess he had it coming, huh?" asks one of Munny's companions, a braggart who nicknames himself The Scofield Kid, but later drops his act and vows to leave gunfighting forever when he finds that killing isn't what the legends make it up to be. "We all have it coming, kid," Munny replies.

My favorite parts of this movie are watching the dark legend of Munny's past unfold itself from Eastwood's craggy, weathered features. Men and women, young and old, stand in awe of his legend. In disbelief they spill it out, using names and places that mean nothing to us, the viewer, but speak of murderous deeds:

My guess is you're call yourself Mr. William Munny...the same one who shot Charlie Pepper up in Lake County. You're the one who killed William Harvey and robbed that train up in Missouri.

He said how you was really William Munny out of Missouri ...and Little Bill said, 'the same William Munny that dynamited the rock island in Pacific in '69, killing women and children and all?' And Ned said you done a lot worse than that. He said that you were more cold-blooded than William Bonny, and how if he hurt Ned again that you was coming to kill him, like you killed a U.S. Marshall in '70.

One of my favorite scenes in all of cinema occurs at the end when Munny, vengeful and looking like the grim reaper himself, rides into town on a pale horse and enters Greeley's saloon to avenge his slain friend Ned (Morgan Freeman):

Who's the fellow owns this shithole? You, fat man. Speak up.

You'd be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children.

That's right. I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I'm here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.

What comes next is killing. It's not prosaic, no guns are shot from hands, there's no accompanying glory and spectacle. It's bloody revenge, the real myth of the cowboy laid plain and bare.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gates of Fire: What 300 should have been

Do you want to know why ancient Sparta had the most feared warriors of their (and possibly any) era? Look no further than Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire. It’s the semi-historic account of the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans and their allies sacrificed their lives in a narrow defile ("The Hot Gates") between the cliffs and sea to stall the 2-million man army of Persia. All were wiped out, but not before slaughtering thousands of Persians, holding the pass for three days, and inspiring the rest of Greece through their example to unite and defeat the invaders.

Far more than just the tale of a single battle, Gates of Fire examines the mindset of this society of proud warriors. It demonstrates their brutal methods of training and how they governed themselves, in the process painting a vivid picture of day-to-day life in bronze-age Greece.

Soldiers' fear in battle is greatly underrated by the mass of writers and historians, and plays a significant part in the outcome of a battle. Most battles are not won by wiping out the other side or inflicting huge numbers of casualities, but rather by breaking the other side's morale and causing rout or retreat. Historian John Keegan explains this oft-overlooked truth in his wonderful examination of combat, The Face of Battle.

Pressfield in Gates of Fire offers a very convincing explanation of how the Spartans managed to control their fear in battle. The Spartans were raised from birth with a rigorous--borderline torturous--training regimen, that honed not only their combat skills to a fine edge, but also allowed men to accomplish great acts of sacrifice and valor.

Pressfield also creates a cast of memorable characters. These include:
  • Xeones, the narrator, a non-Spartan who starts his life as a slave but gradually becomes a respected squire, fighting alongside the Spartans and acquitting himself with great glory in the heart of battle;
  • Dienekes, the platoon leader, a scarred veteran and natural leader, a salt-of-the earth soldier yet also wise and fearless;

  • Alexandros, a young Spartan who loves not battle but the strains of music, a singer and poet who fights not for glory but out of duty and pride;

  • Leonidas, the Spartans' king, 60 years old but still a fearless figher, a man who sleeps beneath the stars and enters combat in the front lines, scorning any advantage of his station; and

  • Polynikes, a physical specimen and greatest of Sparta's warriors, haughty and merciless, demanding to the point of sadism, who undergoes a transformation and eventually embraces the humanity and valor of Alexandros and Xeones with tears in his eyes.

Pressfield writes so well, at times you feel like you’re in the shield wall, amid the hot, straining press of men ready to clash with spear and sword, tooth and nail, against the enemy. The ending is quite poignant, as Pressfield leaves the reader with a simple, utilitarian (i.e., Spartan) line carved on a plain monument that marks the battlefield at Thermopylae:

Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here obedient to their laws we lie

Gates of Fire was what I hoped to see adapted to the silver screen instead of Frank Miller's 300. It tells a much better story than Miller's graphic novel, and also paints a much more realistic picture of what the events of the battle must have been like. I wish 300 had cut out a lot of the extraneous nonsense that in some places reduced it to the level of silliness (War rhinos? An ogre? Please).

And yes, I've heard all the justification for 300's over-the-top elements ("it was told from the perspective of an old soldier who embellished the tale, yada-yada"), but it still didn't make it any less ridiculous in my eyes. The story of Thermopylae should not need any fantastic elements to make it more "exciting" or to put butts in movie seats. Its bare facts: 300 men who knowingly commit themselves to death in defense of their country--are more than enough.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In which I argue the reasons why Conan the Barbarian crushes other films, drives them before it

Part 5 of a 10-part series in which I examine my favorite films, and the reasons why I love them so.

Director John Milius' Conan the Barbarian is a significant departure from the character created by author Robert E. Howard. Its events bear little to no resemblance to any of Howard's stories, and in fact, other than borrowing some of Howard's names, places, and gods, it may as well be an entity unto itself. I note this because I know that many in Howard fandom despise the film for these reasons, and for spreading the myth that the lumbering, fallible Conan of the film is one and the same with Howard's creation.

Nevertheless, Conan the Barbarian resides firmly in my top 10 list of all-time favorite films. While the fantasy film genre is pretty weak overall (witness turkeys like The Beastmaster, visually appealing but empty films like Legend, the recent King Arthur, Troy, etc.), Conan the Barbarian rises to the top of this heap, just below The Lord of the Rings, because of its well-crafted visuals, its attention to detail, its nice casting choices and amazing score, and most of all for its single-minded adherence to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. This latter element in particular makes for a a rich viewing experience and makes Conan the Barbarian worth returning to again and again.

The following is a list of what I just plain like about this film:

The score. There's not much more I can add to the praise that's been heaped on Conan the Barbarian's exceptional soundtrack, except that I'll take it one step further and say that composer Basil Poledouris put together the best score for any film, ever. Lest you disagree, I present The Anvil of Crom:

Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know he gets criticism from a lot of corners for his sparse, halting lines, occasional foolish, un-Conan-like behavior, and (at times) awkwardness swinging a blade, but has anyone ever looked or sounded more the part? Schwarzenegger's thick Austrian accent, smoldering eyes, and massive physique make him look every inch the barbarian, and while he's not the most gifted actor he exudes an undeniable charisma.

A giant f-ing snake. Directors, if you're reading this: You can make your film better by a degree of five simply by adding a giant, man-eating snake.

The opening sequence. Darkness. Fire. A forge. Glowing embers. Molten metal. A bearded viking of a blacksmith pounding on an anvil with a big hammer. A glowing sword plunged into a snowbank. Classic.

Max Von Sydow. This legendary German actor has only a bit part as King Osric, but he plays it with conviction, and seated on a throne and clad in fur utters one of film's most memorable lines: "There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child."

Sven-Ole Thorsen. What's not to like about a jacked 6-5 bodybuilder who plays a warrior named Thorgrim, and wields a massive war hammer capable of knocking over stone columns?

This exchange: (General): "Conan, what is best in life?" (Conan): "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women." Words to live by.

The riddle of steel. I've watched this film a dozen times and I still haven't settled on a satisfying answer to the riddle. Conan's father starts the film by stating, "The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline. For no one in this world can you trust--not men, not women, not beasts, but this (points to sword) you can trust."

This theory (steel is mightier than the flesh) seems straightforward enough, except that, later in the film, arch-enemy Thulsa Doom seems to undermine this lesson when he demonstrates to Conan the superiority of flesh over steel, as exemplified by his rabid followers who obey his commands even unto death. "What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength of your body, the desire in your heart," says Doom.

Later Conan's father's sword is shattered by Conan's own vengeful hand, which seems to reaffirm Doom's statement. But then, Conan beheads Doom with the broken blade--before casting it away. So is the riddle of steel the combination of steel and flesh, impassioned by the purity of vengeance, which drives men to singleminded deeds and great heights? At the end--like Conan himself--I'm left contemplative, hand upon chin. If you have any ideas, please post them here.

And finally, Friedrich Nietzsche. Conan the Barbarian opens with the modified Nietzsche quote, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." And with a laser focus, Milius sets out to prove the truth of this statement over the next two hours. There's no compromises, no equivocation, no fussing around with morality. Just a mighty-thewed barbarian kindled by the bright flame of vengeance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Broken Sword: A masterpiece from the fantasy forge

Poul Anderson is an author who seems to be largely ignored and unappreciated these days, save for those who are true fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres. Even in those circles he's known primarily as a science fiction author, and for good reason--Anderson was a voluminous SF writer (I say voluminous because he wrote a metric ton of it, and I don't have an accurate number) with much fewer fantasy/historic fantasy titles to his credit.

But Anderson was also an avid fantasy fan. He helped found the Society for Creative Anachronism, and according to Wikipedia was also a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (can I get a membership, please?). He was also a truly great fantasy writer, perhaps best known for Three Hearts and Three Lions, a book which serves as the inspiration for a pair of classic Dungeons and Dragons icons: The paladin character class, and the green-skinned regenerating troll, D&D founder/author Gary Gygax admits. Anderson also wrote some awesome Nordic-flavored fantasy, including Hrolf Kraki's Saga and War of the Gods, books to which I'll devote some blogspace at a later time.

But for my money, Anderson's best work of fantasy was The Broken Sword, published in 1954. If you haven't read this slim, 200-page classic of epic fantasy, rush out to your local used book store or purchase a copy on Ebay and do so now. It's a kick in the pants of "fat fantasy," a welcome relief from the bloated tomes choking the fantasy section of book stores these days.

The Broken Sword combines Norse mythology, inexorable tragic fate, faerie races vs. encroaching humanity, and Christianity vs. Paganism in a quick-moving, bloodthirsty saga. The basic plot is as follows: Imric, an elf chiefain, steals away the child Skafloc from his parents, Orm and Aelfrida. Imric replaces Skafloc with a changeling, Valgard, identical in appearnce to Skafloc but born from Imric and a she-troll. Skafloc grows up among the elves as a child of the light, while Valgard, feeling like he's an outcast, turns to the dark.

Meanwhile, an old witch with a grudge (Orm burned her home and slew her sons in a raid during his younger days) swears to continue the feud against Orm and his family. She enlists Valgard as a tool for her revenge, and Valgard slays Orm and his siblings. The witch also tells Valgard about his true troll heritage, and Valgard leaves to join the trolls' ranks, taking Orm's daughters/Skafloc's sisters, Freda and Asgerd, as tokens for the troll king.

Still unaware that Orm is his father or Freda and Asgerd are his sisters, Skafloc leads a raid against the trolls to test their strength, and winds up rescuing Freda and Asgerd. In a familiar tragic device, Skafloc and his sister, Freda, fall in love, which guarantees that their unnatural relationship will end in disaster.

Later the pair escape near death from the invading troll armies, and Skafloc learns that he is fated to free the land from their scourge, and recover and reforge the broken sword--a weapon of great power, but also cursed with an evil sentience that will ultimately spell doom for its wielder.

You can imagine the havoc that ensues when Skafloc learns his true identity, that his father and siblings were slain by his traitorous twin "brother," and that he's been sleeping with his sister. Skafloc's quest to reforge the sword, his internal turmoil and agonies, and the final epic battle are amazing and a joy to read.

There's also a lot more going on under the surface of The Broken Sword than mere plot. The reforged evil sword is a terrible weapon that represents military technology, like atomic power or gunpowder, that are as much a blessing as a curse. And once reforged (or conceived by scientists) the cat is forever out of the bag. At one point Imric decides to take it and cast it into the sea, but realizes that even this drastic measure cannot undo fate: "I do not think that will do much good though. The will of the Norns stands not to be altered, and the sword has not wreaked its last harm." There's shades of the Excalibur myth here, albeit much darker and more sinister.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the sword's properties--smelted iron--are anathema to the trolls, elves, and other races of Faerie. The broken sword can thus be viewed as the power of the one god--referred to by Anderson as "The White Christ"--driving out the many gods of the old pagan religions. This theme runs throughout the book.

Interestingly, Anderson paints a bleak picture of mankind in general. Men, while physically weaker than trolls and elves, will rule in the end, not because they are inherently superior, but because of their lust for science and the power it brings. And they care not for the consequences: "'All men are born fey,' said Skafloc, and there the matter stood."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hail to The Cimmerian

Blogs are a funny business. There's millions of them all over the Web, each an expression of their author's particular interests. Given their sheer number, it's amazing that any of them even get discovered, let alone read. While I can't speak for everyone, I feel confident speculating that the best a typical blogger can hope is for someone to stumble across their site during a misguided Google search, and dwell for 30 seconds or a minute before moving on. Comments are hoped for but never expected. Yet blog authors slog on, unsung, mostly writing for an audience of one.

But recently (and miraculously) one of the Web's most respected fantasy blog sites, The Cimmerian, picked up on The Silver Key and wrote a very flattering review. You can read the post here.

Thanks to author Leo Grin for his very kind words, and as I briefly mentioned in a recent post about Robert E. Howard, please go check out The Cimmerian. The insight of its authors are amazing and, despite its name, it covers an impressive breadth of material, much more than just Howard and his works. For example, a recent post by Steve Tompkins, "An Irish Bard at King Hrothgar's Court", starts out with a preview of the new Beowulf film, but then launches into an erudite study of the history of the Beowulf poem and its recent translation by Seamus Heaney. It's the kind of high-quality article you'd expect to read in a literary journal, frankly. (Yes, that is a sucking up sound you're hearing, but frankly, it's true. They do great work over there).

In conclusion, I started The Silver Key as a sounding board for my own thoughts, but it's nice to know that someone out there is reading. And thanks again to The Cimmerian for the acknowledgement.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Heavy metal fantasy: The wonderful music of Blind Guardian

As a life-long heavy metal fan who writes a blog that celebrates all things fantastic, it was only a matter of time before I got to the subject of Blind Guardian. About all you need to know about this wonderful, semi-obscure German metal band is that they wrote an entire album about J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion ("Nightfall in Middle Earth").

Need I say more? I mean, look at the picture I've embedded--that's a Blind Guardian album cover, and it looks like it could have been plucked off the cover of a Robert Jordan novel.

I've always been drawn to heavy metal for its power and grandeur. Narrowing that down further, I prefer bands with a clean, epic sound and soaring vocals. Even more specifically, I prefer those metal bands whose subject matter covers the fantastic, be it dark magic and the occult (Black Sabbath), medieval/ancient history (Iron Maiden), or sci-fi (Judas Priest and The Sentinel, Electric Eye, etc).

Blind Guardian fulfills all those requirements. To get an idea of what they like to sing about, all you need to do is view some of their song titles, of which I've included several in the below list. Note that Blind Guardian doesn't just make oblique or occasional references to Tolkien, King Arthur, Dragonlance, etc., like other bands have done (Led Zeppelin's mentions of "The Dark Lord" and "Gollum" from Ramble On spring to mind), they write songs--nay, entire albums--about fantasy, without a hint of satire:

  • The soulforged

  • Born in a mourning hall

  • Lord of the Rings

  • Mordred's song

  • Skalds and shadows

  • The Bard's song

  • The curse of Feanor

  • Noldor

  • By the Gates of Moria

  • Gandalf's rebirth

  • A past and future secret

  • Valhalla

I'm not making this stuff up, folks. These guys are hard-core fantasy fans. Their music may as well be the soundtrack of a Dungeons and Dragons game. In fact, I've seriously considered incorporating some of their lyrics/subject matter into that D&D campaign I'm hoping to someday get off the ground.

In a lesser band's hands, the combination of long hair, electric guitars, and some German dude yelling "Mordor--dark land under Sauron's spell" could be embarrassing. But Blind Guardian is able to pull off this material successfully and with a straight face because a) They're passionate and obviously well-versed in the material; and b) They're damned talented.

Don't believe me? Check out this clip of one of their acoustic numbers, "The Bard's Song," from Youtube. I don't think you'll be disappointed:

The bard's songs do indeed remain alive and well in the capable hands of Blind Guardian.

To read more about Blind Guardian, go to their Web site:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

By Crom, Robert E. Howard could write

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars…”

…and thus begins "The Phoenix on the Sword," the first published tale of Conan of Cimmeria.

The first thing that strikes you about Robert E. Howard (who took his own life at 30 years of age) is, Damn, can this man write. It's hard not to spout the cliches when describing his writing: Howard’s prose indeed burns like coals, and yes, his words do leap off the page. Is it literature? No. But if your idea of fun is swordplay, colorful characters, clashing armies, wondrous lands, decadent civilizations, sanity-bending magic, monsters, and voluptuous women, then Howard’s your man. He was and is the reigning champion of the branch of fantasy known as swords and sorcery.

If your only exposure to Conan is the big, dumb brute of the film Conan the Barbarian (which I admittedly liked), get ready to meet a Conan you never knew. He’s smart, ruthless, ambitious, three-fourths savage, and just plain cool. And he’s a barbarian to the core, the walking embodiment of Howard’s philosophy:

Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

You can feel this phrase at the heart of all of Howard's Conan stories, and it's what makes them so different than the mass of "fat fantasy" novels lining the shelves of bookstores today. Howard truly felt that, as a nation became more civilized, it grew correspondingly decadent and ultimately, corrupt. Men who fight and struggle to claim their kingdoms grow soft in times of peace and plenty until greed and sloth set in. Old kingdoms weaken through internal strife until they collapse from within or are invaded from without. Conan knew that tension as he simultaneously sought to rule the great kingdom of Aquilonia while experiencing the ever-constant pull of freedom and adventure, living life as a wild corsair on a ship or a raiding cossack on horseback.

In Howard's works and in the mind of the author himself, the howling "barbarians at the gates" were always waiting to pounce when kingdoms grew weak, and Conan himself was one of the horde. And maybe, Howard believed, rule by might and the axe was for the best. While at times that philosophy seems appealing to me, I can't say I agree with it. But there you have it.

Howard himself was a paradox: While he was a bit of an eccentric, attached to his mother, and wrote out of a small bedroom in his parents' home in Cross Plains, Texas, he nevertheless had no patience for academics and pacifists. He embraced rugged individualism and boxed and exercised himself into formidable shape. And he was a prolific, self-taught writer. Alas, his life ended far too soon, and we can only speculate on what works his prodigious talents may have eventually produced.

My first exposure to the barbarian came as a young boy of 10 or so through the old Conan the Barbarian comic book. While not a bad read, I didn't understand true greatness until I stumbled across a trove of back issues of The Savage Sword of Conan and Conan Saga. These magazines are loving adaptations of Howard's classic tales, and featured some amazing black and white artwork that captured the savage wonder of Hyboria, Howard's setting for the Conan stories. I still have my old back issues and I guard them jealously. One of these days I might even pull them out and read them again.

While great, the old black and white mags aren't as good as the classic Howard texts, and I was lucky to find the whole series of Conan paperbacks next. These helped start me on the path of becoming a lifetime reader and lover of fantasy. Of course, it wouldn't be until 15 years or so later that I realized even these books--published by Lancer and Ace--were in fact heavily modified (some would say mangled and bastardized) by editors L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Many of the stories were in fact pastiches, or stories told by different authors than Howard, and thus, not "canon." Some were bad. Even so, overall I found the old Lancer and Ace editions to be great reads, at least at the time.

Howard's best stories are the following: "Red Nails," "The People of the Black Circle," "The Hour of the Dragon," "Beyond the Black River," "The Devil in Iron," 'The Queen of the Black Coast," and "The Jewels of Gwahlur." But hell, they’re all good. None are novels; Howard’s longest tale is "The Hour of the Dragon," which checks in at a slim 174 pages.

All of Howard’s stories first appeared in the 1930’s pulp magazine Weird Tales, noted for publishing not only sci-fi, fantasy, and horror between its lurid covers, but also H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories. While Howard had a loyal following in the magazine, it wasn’t until well after his death in 1936 that he and his tales gained widespread acclaim.

Just make sure that if you read Howard, look for the unedited and pastiche-free stories. Real, raw Howard in his own words is fortunately now available in a nicely illustrated collection by Del Rey, which I highly recommend.

Until then, think on this quote from "Queen of the Black Coast":

“In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle … Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

Postscript: There's a ton of cool Howard and Conan Web sites floating around the internet. Check out these:

Post-Postscript: If there is a god, and his name is Crom, he will let this movie be made: