Legend of Zelda: Link’s Enlightenment

I’d like to say that this is another video game review, but that isn’t exactly true.

I first heard about Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening back when I used to get Nintendo Power Magazine. I remember that day. It was the summer time and the bus dropped me off from camp in front of my old elementary school. My Mom was there with Issue 50 of Nintendo Power that I’d been waiting impatiently for. This is what I saw:


This mysterious owl sat near the sword. Originally I was annoyed that my copy of this issue got tattered, but it and the faded tan-bronze cover only added to the mystique that Nintendo no doubt wanted to build around this issue and the game they were featuring in particular. Well, for me, it worked.

It didn’t work in getting me to get the game however. Not initially. And when I did get it I didn’t really have as good a head for puzzles and video game combat strategy back then. By that point, my friend who’d gotten the game before me proudly spoiled the ending: or maybe I asked him. I don’t actually remember. So I don’t know why I picked up the game again years later, but I did. By that point I had a little more common sense and I’d played a few more games. Also, I’d read some philosophy: a lot more philosophy.

You are Link. You are on a ship in a storm that leaves you marooned on a strange Island. You figure out that the only way to get off of the Island is to awaken the Wind Fish in its egg on the top of the highest mountain.

There are puzzles and mysteries and secrets. You have many moments: most of them fun, a lot of them dangerous and you get to know the mysteries of Koholint Island. There are strange people, weird creatures, a talking owl that periodically advises you in riddles, a man who eats things he shouldn’t … and a girl who likes to sing and just spend some time on the beach with you.

I’m going to go into Spoiler Territory right now. Unlike Super Mario Brothers 2 where the “it is all just a dream surprise ending” just seems like a cop-out, in Link’s Awakening it is a gradual realization that comes with some sadness at the end of the game. In fact, the spirit of this game is perhaps even more emblematic of mono no aware–of understanding and having empathy towards the impermanent beauty in life–than even Terrangima.

Then you take the chronology that Nintendo claims the Zelda games all have into account. Personally, I liked the idea that each game in the series was a “legend”: a story with some elements of history but each being an account that has ultimately been changed over time as memory fades. However, in this case, I like that Link’s Awakening apparently happened after A Link to the Past as I’ve understood it.

Let me explain my take on Link’s Awakening and what I feel is really significant about it. From my North American understanding, there were three games before this one–the two Nintendo and the Super Nintendo ones–and all of them involved Link rescuing Zelda and dealing with the Triforce.

Here is how I see Link in this game. He has done all of these heroic things, but after he has completed them, he’s tired. In Hyrule, he is known as the rescuer of Zelda and the hero of the Triforce. If he had a normal life before this, it is gone. Maybe he just wants to get away. Maybe he lost much of what matters to him. Maybe he just doesn’t know who he is anymore.

The fact is, before this point Link didn’t seem to have an identity outside of being Zelda’s hero and the gatherer of the Triforce. Link’s Awakening, despite the franchise title, is Link’s story. It is not only a hero’s story, but the story of a man who journeys into his own subconscious. The owl that he finds on the Island is that part of him–the wise being or animal archetype–guiding him through this inner journey. Every creature and obstacle is his unconscious mind trying to keep him in a state of ignorance. Every time Link reclaims or gains a new item, he starts to remember more of who he is: or begin that process of knowing who he is.

You can  get even more Jungian and say that Marin–the girl he meets–is his anima: the feminine aspect of his mind that reveals things through subtle intuition and actually has him pay attention to the things he has taken for granted in the other games. He plays around, he laughs and he learns to enjoy the sunset and the sentiment that can feel when watching it. He also has to face Eight Nightmares that could represent emotions or attachments: seals of power that keep the Wind Fish–or Link–from waking up, while the ultimate Shadow Nightmare at the very end of the game symbolize the essence of his greatest personal fears and then ultimate universal horror.

He has to gather eight instruments to create music from a tune that Marin sings him to get into the egg that the Wind Fish sleeps in. And when the Wind Fish wakes up … it can fly. And it does.

It is a symbol of awakening: of enlightenment. It is a symbol you would find in some Eastern thought or even in a very mythological way. I know you can easily say that the Wind Fish dreamed Marin, the Owl, the Nightmares and the entire Island: that they were all aspects of its dreaming mind.  Link might even be a part of its mind and it has awakened to another reality. It is a valid interpretation given how Link physically wakes up on a floating rafter in the ocean. Does a man dream of being a pebble or does a pebble dream about being a man? Does Link dream about the sleeping Wind Fish and its Island, or does the Wind Fish dream about a sleeping Link?

The thing is, when I talk about all this, I believe I’m actually talking about Link as a symbol and not necessarily with regards to the ambiguous continuity that Nintendo is trying to make between games. I think, that at that moment above when Link destroys the last Nightmare and wakes up the Wind Fish, he is really awakening himself. At that moment, in that moment, Link is more than just a silent hero that goes around fulfilling tasks and doing what Zelda cannot or will not.

When Link wakes up the Wind Fish, when the illusion of maya that is the Island disappears, when Link regains consciousness: he actually gains consciousness. He expresses emotion through his interactions with everyone on the Island: each one of them aspects of himself. He realizes he has a whole world in himself that is a part of a reality outside of him as well. He experiences mono no aware: that sorrow and acceptance with regards to the passing of beauty in life. In one tiny hand-held 8-bit console with grey graphics or crayon-colours, Link is depicted as having achieved enlightenment and self-knowledge. For the first time, the hero of Hyrule knows who he is. He someone who dreams and is dreamed of. He is an archetype.

For the resources of the time that made this game, isn’t that just … beautiful? I’d really like to think so. I know many of you might think that I am reading too much into this and that it is just a game. Certainly I would not say that Link’s Awakening is a tool for personal enlightenment, though it is tempting to say in a creative sense, but it does depict some cultural depictions of it well. It is a beautiful artifact and I’m glad I knew it. Obviously, if this were an official review it would be getting five out of five.

I would like to leave you with just one more thought. When Link wakes up, it’s as though it was all a dream. When we finish playing a video game, the game is over. We put down the console or turn off the computer and go do something else. Our interactive electronic dream is over. Yet do all of those challenges and experiences: and those touching moments all fade away and mean nothing because they were not physically real? Did they not happen? Somehow, I don’t think so because, even when we finish sleeping, our dreams never really go away.

They continue stay with us. Because dreams are memories too.


Film Review: The Innkeepers


I’ve been meaning to make this particular review for a while now. I first saw Ti West’s The Innkeepers at the Toronto After-Dark last summer as the last film of the entire festival. It was also the best film to end it off.

I actually didn’t know what to expect from this film and I only got it because it was the last feature. The title of the thing itself along with the little bit of information provided didn’t really say anything. I will say that I knew it was a ghost story or a “ghost film”: about two employees at a hotel wanting to find evidence of a haunting before it closes.

It didn’t start the way that I thought it would. In fact, the film started off with Claire and Luke–the two employees–ribbing and scaring each other. Claire herself–the protagonist of the film–was energetic, positive and very likable. Luke himself had more of a weary, somewhat laconic personality but you could tell he loved what he did: which was managing his paranormal site online. In their spare time they were both ghost hunting enthusiasts. There is something really effective in a horror movie about making protagonists that are so relatable and likable people.

I like the fact that you look at both characters and how they are dealing with their lives. For me, I really felt invested in them and their relationship with each other and they were the kind of people I would like to be friends with. I especially liked Claire and every moment in which she would ring the bell on the front desk just to annoy Luke and just do … do it. Those little touches gave a lot of nuance to the film right there. They almost make you forget that this is a horror film. Almost.

The tone changes from light-hearted interactions and antics to something very creepy and disturbing and then … sad: ultimately so very sad. You see these very human characters pursue something in a very playful way and watch as this something seemingly becomes very serious, very dangerous and very real fast. And I am not just talking about the ghost-hunting either: but rather a divergence between these two characters that costs them. I find at the end that I really wish that didn’t happen to them. That was one of the strengths of Chernobyl Diaries–to have sympathetic characters–except unlike the stupidity in them, these two were really intelligent, if only somewhat more tragically curious and naive.

What the film lacks in blood and gore, it possesses in slow-mounting psychological terror and unexplained creepiness. The Innkeepers reminds me of the ambiance in Are You Afraid of the Dark? with finer tuning, three-dimensional characters and a plausible background made all the more terrifying by hints and moments of building paranormal activity: things made all the more disturbing in that you don’t know whether they exist outside the characters or in their minds. Either way, this film is both scary and tragic.

The Innkeepers gets a five out of five for an excellent story, pacing and brilliant character depictions and interactions. I could not recommend this film more highly than this.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Blog Posts, Or Something


So that is what my Blog entries are like with graphics in them. I’m actually of a few minds when I look at what I’m starting to do now.

I like the fact that when I put an image in my posts, it actually becomes the default icon for the entry when I post it somewhere else. It makes it look more elegant and perhaps more “professional and serious”: certainly it beats seeing WordPress’ “W” as the icon every time.

On the other hand, it does take more work to find these images: and these are just for my reviews or articles on established things. To be fair, for this past while I’ve been posting almost nothing but reviews and adding the graphics into them for emphasis. It has been fun in some ways and I can see just how necessary it is. Human beings are very visual creatures and something needs to be attention-grabbing in order to get someone to look at your work: be it an image, a very strong starting sentence, or even a turn of phrase. Or all of the above.

I’d also like to mention that adding graphics into my works–for all I’ve mentioned writing comics scripts–is very different for me. I’ve done it before, but not very often because my medium is prose or sometimes poetry. Adding pictures into writing does change things. It is something that one would find in a respectable or popular journal, magazine, or newspaper.

As for me, sometimes I feel like I’m just stating my opinion, or writing a few stories from time to time: and not as many stories as I’d like. This change in format–I guess–makes me think differently and wonder how the focus of my Blog may or may not be changing.
It might sound strange that I’m thinking about this with the mere addition of pictures to the mix, but I’m wondering now what exactly it is I’m making here. What am I trying to say? What is Mythic Bios? Is it me trying to show you–as a creator–what the world around us actually looks like to me: what it is and what I want it to be? That would be a nice thought.

What I do know that this shouldn’t be just a collection of reviews. I know that it still needs further organization and that its aesthetic will continue to evolve. I’ve also been thinking about something else: of which I’ll have to see if I still want to follow through with because it would be more commitment time and concentration and technology-wise.

Because after all, human beings aren’t just visual creatures: they are aural ones as well. We like to actually hear things and I like to actually read things out loud. I’ve been thinking about doing a Vlog for a while: maybe reading some writings of mine aloud or even just voicing some opinions like I like to do. I could really get all of this to be a multimedia tool of expression for me and–who knows–it might make some good practice for when I start making more serious things.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep posting some stories in my Stories and Things section here and also keep writing in my Mythic Bios notebook: which I am really glad I still do. Even though it is excellent to make your writing public, it is always good to keep something to yourself as well for future uses: or not.

Now to find a graphic for this non-review post: summarizing all of this writing into one image. Take care, my friends.

Comics Review: Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum

The first time I’d ever heard of this game was in reference to the video game that exists out there. But I’m not talking about that. No, I am talking about this.


I’m specifically talking about Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth the 15th Anniversary Edition. Considering that it has existed since 1989, the book has no doubt had many reviews at this point, but I feel that I have a few things to say about it: things that have been on my mind since I last read it.

What I find very unique about this comic is not what it is about, but who. You might think to yourself it is obviously about Batman, but while he is obviously a main protagonist in this work and it deals with him facing his own fears and psychological issues the story is not purely about him. The story is not about the villains that he has incarcerated there either: though they have lured him into the asylum to face said fears and the torments that they have waiting for him. It isn’t even about Amadeus Arkham: the tragic founder of the mental hospital that was supposed to save and repair criminally insane minds.

No, Arkham Asylum‘s main character is Arkham Asylum. Character as place is not a new idea. Certainly, I had to face something similar when I was writing part of my Master’s Thesis on Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire: where the protagonist of that work was actually Moore’s hometown of Northampton. But unlike Northampton that has many layers of different gritty and earthy human activity, Arkham Asylum is many nuances of madness.

Morrison doesn’t pull his punches here. He draws on Jungian psychology and archetypes, the Tarot and mysticism, and poetry and crazy itself as he depicts Batman’s essential descent into the underworld or the demented collective unconscious that Arkham has become. He also has an Alice and Wonderland reference or two. Morrison seemed to really like using those, just like Alan Moore in his Miracleman comics. Then there is the name Arkham itself to consider. From what I understand, it is derived from H.P. Lovecraft’s creation of the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts: the seat of the strange and eldritch Miskatonic University. It has been used as a name for various fictional places, but it really has a nice and eerie parallel with Gotham’s most terrifying asylum.

The fact that it was once a house–a very Jungian archetype for the makeup of an individual’s consciousness–and the person who once lived in it failed to turn it into a place of healing and ended being locked away inside of it speaks some major volumes right there. The atmosphere of this comic is distorted and schizophrenic to the point of making even Batman seem disturbing and this is in no small part thanks to Dave McKean’s drawing style and painting.


Do not misunderstand though. The piece has its weaknesses and, ironically enough, those weaknesses are can also be construed as its strengths. For instance, I really like the broken mirror-reality that Dave McKean has depicted with his twisted nightmarish images and the different kinds of dialogue font, but at the same time they are very distracting and it is hard to make out key details that may have actually made all the difference in understanding the plot. The reason I like the 15th Anniversary version of this book is because of the detailed comic book script at the end of it.

You know, in some ways I liked the script a lot more than I liked the comic that came from it. If Arkham Asylum is of any indication of how Morrison writes comics scripts, it represents something easy to follow and enjoyable to read. In the script the mythological and archetypal references and many more uncanny details are much more apparent. It is also an added bonus to be able to understand what it is going on and what the characters are saying. At the same time, I will be honest: I respect his interpretation for Batman in this story, but I don’t agree with it.

The fact has less to do with Morrison’s choices and more to do with the popular idea that Batman is as mentally-imbalanced as his enemies. Do I think he was influenced by a trauma into a cycle of behaviour? Obviously. Do I think he saves people’s lives just out of a compulsion? Not completely. Perhaps each time he does do it to save himself or to save the lost innocence of the child he once was. I also think he saves peoples’ lives and doesn’t use a gun because he has principles and he has a certain sense of honour influenced by his own experiences like anyone else.

But there definitely were a lot of things I liked about this book: about reading the story of Arkham Asylum and the progression of the horrifying ritual and gathering of insanity over the decades that made it into the nexus of insanity that we all know and love. I also like how it makes you look at what precisely madness is and just where that fine line may–or may not–be. It was a psychological horror story and I loved it.

I do wish that I could have gotten more out of it without having to read the script, and I could be very mean and say that there is something wrong when you like a script more than the comic it is supposed to help create: but I do love McKean’s work here and the script is a nice complement with some scenes that didn’t make it into the finished artistic product. I’d definitely give this work a five out of five.

And that is it for now. Tune in next time, my friends. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

ETA: It would be interesting to see someone compare and contrast Alan Moore and Grant Morrison’s use of Alice imagery as well as how they use the ideas of “reason” and “madness or intuition” or the “Dragon” and “the hero” in Miracleman, From Hell, Arkham Asylum and Red King Rising respectively.

Video Game Review: Terranigma

Imagine a game where you play as a person who needs to create–or resurrect–an entire world. With each challenge you solve, you restore not only continents but the cycle of life and the souls of all living beings as well. Then you find yourself in a battle between good and evil over what you have brought back. You find yourself between two worlds. You find a world awakening in yourself. Things are definitely not what they seem to be and eventually you wonder just what it is that you are fighting for.

You’re not exactly what might be considered hero or saviour-material. In your village, you’re known as a bit of a trouble-maker and something of a brat. You cannot leave things alone and this is what ultimately precipitates your ultimate quest and the strange, terrifying and wonderful places you will find yourself in.

Your name is Ark and your game is Terranigma. Terranigma was an action role-playing game created for the Super Nintendo in the mid-90s. It was never released in America: which is a really great shame, but it was launched in Japan and Europe.

To say I like this game would be an understatement. What I wrote above is merely a summary of a very fun and poignant story. This game has a wide range of emotional depth and covers a whole lot of themes like death, reincarnation, and life itself. I keep thinking myself whenever I think of Terranigma that if there was ever a video game with a Buddhist paradigm, this would be it. I do not exaggerate when I say that you, as Ark, have to create or recreate the world. You also help civilization evolve while becoming a part of it as well.

The character of Ark is interesting because with his mischievous and good-hearted nature and his staff weapon he reminds me a lot of Monkey in Journey to the West: a reluctant god-trickster hero–with something of a magic staff weapon–who is impelled by forces in the outer world to help others. So in some of that sense, Ark does fit the hero archetype. And believe me, this game does not skimp on archetypes or the hero’s quest.


This is also an action game. It is not turn-based and you don’t gain spells when you level up. Instead, you fight. You have to think on your feet and adapt to your enemy. Defeated enemies explode into a satisfying cloud and often leave some gold behind for you. There are puzzles as well and those can be challenging but not difficult. I confess that when I played the game, I looked up a lot of guides to help me through it because I wanted to see how the story unfolded more than getting stuck in places at times.

What else can I tell you? The areas that you visit are great … fond stereotypes of places that exist in our world but they are fun to interact with. I wouldn’t learn history from this game though, just to warn you, but just take it as it is meant to be: a game with its own logic.

All this said, I feel I should definitely mention that in addition to its lush 16-bit graphics and memorable characters, Terranigma has one other very great element: its music. In fact, its music does what any video game music should: it complements the story and the characters. It is integral to the emotional complexity inherent in the game. The music can be playful, grandiose and conflictive, and sad. Really sad.

But there is something about “Terranigma Sadness” that is different. It portrays this … transitory sorrow, this acceptance of loss and gain as a cycle of life. It–and really the entire game–has this resonance with the Japanese concept of mono no aware: an awareness or an empathy towards the impermanence of life. You can really hear it at towards the end of the main musical theme in the above link. It reminds me of an old man dying peacefully in his sleep under a sunny tree or an unnamed and unsung warrior resting after a long life of battle: leaving forgotten but satisfied by the depth of his life and accomplishment.

As I mentioned before, the spirit of the game has an almost Buddhist nature or a distinct link with some aspects of Far Eastern culture: a perceptual lens which has a very unique way of looking at the world.  Being able to combine these elements with fun gameplay is a mark of genius as far as I am concerned.

All and all, after a few years of not playing this game, I would still give it a five out of five. A friend sent it to me and it only reinforced the fact that I’m glad I got over my reluctance to play old games. No, this isn’t an old game. Games like Terranigma are never old games. No, this game is a classic, and this is what a classic truly is.

I’m going to leave you with this last video. I don’t know how long it or the above link will be on here. The following was a fan video created by one TheStarOcean. I thought it was lost forever years ago and while it doesn’t use the original track, it truly captures the heart of this game. Do not watch if you don’t want spoilers and you want to play this wonderful game for yourselves. If you have played it though, I hope you will enjoy it for what it is.

Film Review: Sucker … PUNCH!

I’d almost like to say that Sucker Punch actually sucker punched me, but you can’t claim to be sucker punched when you can pretty much see it coming.

So I watched this film the other day and I almost feel like just giving you my rating right now. What I can I tell you? It could have worked. It could have. All the components were there. You had this girl who was wrongfully put into an insane asylum by her stepfather who wanted her family’s money: and had her unofficially scheduled to be lobotomized to keep her silent about his dealings.

You had different realities going on after this in which you have the protagonist retreating into the fantasy that she was sold to a brothel where she’d learn to dance for the patrons there. You also had a few realities where this same protagonist is a bad-ass warrior who has to fight things that symbolize her inner demons and even has something of a guide: a man who is respectively a sage and a military commander. He is known as the Wise Man and has some pretty crisp, elegant, and pragmatic things to say with a proviso at the end that always comes after him stating, “Oh and one more thing …”

You also had other female protagonists who were also in the asylum, in the brothel and were in her teammates in the combat worlds she found herself in under the guidance of the Wise Man. One of the worlds the girls found themselves in was apparently a steampunk (though I would say dieselpunk) WWI.

Here is essentially a movie where you can play with realities and have some nice transitions between worlds. Here is a romp through the collective unconsciousness: through the subconscious of a girl who is probably being drugged and trying to save herself from a lobotomy in five days’ time. This could have been a movie of character development along with some fitting musical tracks,  flashy special effects and fantasy sequences.

Instead, it was just the good soundtracks and the fantasy sequences. A few other critics have actually stated something to the effect of being amazed at how bored they were during the fight scenes and such and I have to agree with them. They could have been cool. If the girls had been developed a lot more, it would have been.

You know, I can almost see how it could have been: like a warped dieselpunk psychological-Alice and Wonderland fairytale. I could see there being very clear, if somewhat distorted, plays between the different realities: even the point where you as the viewer might not be sure where one begins and one ends. Keeping in mind that the initial setting was in an exaggerated 1960s asylum would have been–and I suppose even is–a good start. I also think it would be fascinating to consider that a lot of the music that the protagonist is forced to dance to in the brothel reality does not even exist yet in her actual time line: which makes you wonder if what is construed as madness is something that goes beyond space and time.

Instead, what we have here is a video game with a very flimsy premise and attempt at depicting female empowerment: which did not work and I feel did the exact opposite. But the sad thing is: it could have worked. It could have been done if it had been done a little differently. For instance, in the beginning of the film itself instead of trying to depict a bunch of silent black and white sequences ala Sin City style, the film-makers–in my opinion–should have basically developed some character even then with a few verbal exchanges or what-not. I mean, even the “silent treatment” they were attempting to give us–a “show and don’t tell us” situation, could have worked for me if the body language and facial expressions of the characters weren’t so … over-exaggerated and melodramatic. It seriously made me wince to see that and I hoped it would improve as time went on.

The thing is, in creating this film, they followed a formula and a cycle. They had a quest, they had antagonists, heroines, items that needed to be found, and even a moral: which is that you have all the tools to take care of yourself you just need the will to use them and do what must be done. But it didn’t work. It just didn’t work.

And seriously? Naming the girls Blondie, Rocket, Sweet Pea, Amber and the protagonist Baby Girl made me wince. A lot.  You could argue that they are just monikers given in the brothel reality to these girls by patriarchal chauvinist forces, or that they were plays on Charlie’s Angels, but it still makes me wince. Their overly-fetishized little girl costumes did not help matters either. In fact, the way they were depicted in general wasn’t something I could really relate to or sympathize with. That, again, could have been done but it wasn’t. Also, Blue–their “owner”–for all he is a misogynist piece of garbage, and despite his moments of intelligence, really wasn’t that intelligent at all or consistent in how I would think he’d operate: especially when he doles out punishments. He might be a sadistic criminal, but I imagine he is also a pragmatic businessman and would have dealt with things a little more differently.

I do like the idea that he knew that in the brothel reality or fantasy that they were trying to escape and he figured it out, but that twist was never followed through because I’d assume the girls would adapt to it as well somehow. I don’t know how to phrase it beyond that. It just felt like a whole lot of flatness with special effects with a very forced “meaning” or “moral” stapled on at the very end and music sequence in the credits that has nothing to do with anything.

It just felt like a video game and honestly–if I wanted to see Alice with a machine gun with a similar psychological element–I’d probably play a game like American McGee’s Alice or its sequel Alice: Madness Returns. If you want to make a dark and gritty Alice story, make a dark and gritty Alice story or play one of the above games. But I’ll be fair: as a video game this film might have actually been better. If Snyder had created Suck Punch as a video game script and worked with other developers to make the game and then made a film from it, it might have been a lot better.

I guess since I am trying to be fair, it was his first original movie script and you can see these different elements coming together: but they just don’t make it in the spectacle that follows. I could also have seen this as a comic book first: with more development and time. I don’t know if that would have improved a lot about it, but with writing and time stories could have been made and maybe some essence might have been established along with form. Perhaps something along the spirit of David Mack’s excellent and insanely innovative Kabuki comics series might have been something interesting to see.

You might ask why I bothered to review this film at all given what I’ve said about it. I guess if I had to summarize it all under two words, it would be: could have. Although not exactly the same, after mentioning Kabuki I remembered a Noboru Iguchi film I saw at the Toronto After Dark film festival called RoboGeisha: the story of two sisters abducted and termed into geisha-assassin cyborgs. What I find really ironic is how even though it somewhat parodied Bandai’s Power Rangers, a lot of gore, and was in a lot of ways incredibly ridiculous, it laughed at itself and made you laugh with it. But not only did it do that, it got me invested in the characters. And while it didn’t have all of Sucker Punch‘s special effects or mien of grandeur, it was a lot more fun.

Oh, and one more thing: while I do think that Sucker Punch‘s heart might have tried to be in the right place (I appreciated that Baby Girl actually went into a fighting world when she danced to the music: something that I’ve visualized doing when I used to go to dance clubs myself), there was something about that just didn’t sit well with me. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theatres, though it has its entertainment value at times and I’ll give it a two out of five.

The Experiment, It Continues

I know that the above title covers a vast amount of ground.

First, my Blog’s gotten some more Followers since the last time I wrote here and I want to thank you for adding me: and of course I’d like to thank those who are continuing to read my work as well. It is more than encouraging for me and it’s one of those things that keeps all of this going.

As many of you know, I’ve still been tweaking and fine-tuning this Blog for a while now and I’m still as amazed as ever as to how many new things I keep learning. I won’t lie and say that it’s not without its frustrations–specifically with regards to formatting and technical issues–but it definitely has its rewards as well.

I would definitely like to thank the good Gil Williamson of Mythaxis Magazine–my friend and publisher of many of my own short stories– for his advice in continuing my Writer’s Blog. I am still trying to figure out how to make so that another separate tab will appear when someone clicks on a link here. Hopefully by the time this post is all done and sent out, I will have figured that out properly. You should definitely check out Mythaxis sometime either on this link or on the lower right hand Link Section of this Blog. If you are a science-fiction or “weird story” fan, you will not be disappointed.

One other thing that Gil suggested was that I include more graphics with each post that I make. I know that is good advice: because graphics do catch peoples’ eyes and they are part of a journal-format: but I don’t know. It does add some more work to the process of creating a Blog entry. It’s funny: going through the process of hyper-linking can be just as slow-going but for some reason it registers differently in my brain than actually going out to search and hunt for new graphics.

This isn’t as much of a problem, or it is a different kind of challenge for Bloggers that regularly create photographs or draw and illustrate their own pictures. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to finding the right graphics for things. One cool thing that FreakishLemon, for instance, does on his Vlog–his recorded reviews and public journal on YouTube–is that he includes the graphic of a weird-ass anthropomorphic lemon with a lion roar behind it: hence his handle. The symbol is his mark in a lot of ways and I can see the advantages to having something that distinct to identify you or get peoples’ attention on your Blog. Coincidentally, you should definitely check out FreakishLemon’s book reviews. He is an awesome geek and it shows in the background of his room with all of his books and collectibles as well as just the sheer enthusiasm he has when he examining a book he read. It could I just like a lot of the stuff he’s read already, so I’m somewhat biased, but there it is.

So I might add graphics on here eventually: at least with regards to my future entries. I do have one other thing of note to mention. Gil suggested that I create separate Pages for my stories and creative works. So for future reference, you can find these stories that will periodically come up near my “About” section entitled Stories and Things or you can just link to them on this post.

What can I say? I like it when people look at my Stories and creations. I really like having an audience. That is one of the many reasons I love having a Blog: just to know that there are people viewing my work and it’s not just me looking at my notebook, or just having the occasional glance at a story from someone I know.

In other news, I am going to be sending a long-term story project of mine to an experienced writer to see what she thinks of it and to see if it can be tweaked at all further. It is a story very close to my heart in this case, but I look forward to seeing where it can go. I have a lot of ideas and old projects written down in various places and dwelling in my head that I need to deal with at some point. Do not be surprised if you find more story pages on here.

So that is it for today. I hope to write more about what’s going on at another time. Take care, my friends.

In the Superheroes’ Playground: ItsJustSomeRandomGuy’s “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC”

I don’t remember how exactly it was I found ItsJustSomeRandomGuy. It must have been me looking for material on YouTube with regards to Watchmen or some comics related thing. You know: when I was either researching for my paper or indulging in one of my favourite past-times.

You all probably know and remember the old “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials. Well, RandomGuy did a spoof of that: with superheroes. He created “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC”: where he animated action figures of heroes from different franchises comparing and contrasting themselves as well as bantering and even sometimes finding common ground.

The sample below is the very first skit that I came across:

What I like the most about these skits–which are highly satirical pieces that often break the fourth wall–is how JustSomeRandomGuy captures the personalities, and the voices of the superheroes that he represents through his collection of action figures. ItsJustSomeRandomGuy himself is a voice actor and teacher and it shows. Yet it is more than that. The fact of the matter is that he is also extremely well-versed in DC and Marvel story-lines, the comics franchises, and the medium itself. He also brings an incredible wit and creativity all of his own to what he has made.

As he goes on, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy actually begins to build story-lines of his own from the simple skits he began with. The arc begins with After-Hours, followed by Happy Hour and then the Zero Hour that’s still in progress. It is really fascinating to watch this evolution happen: from the usual two figure-skits–partially stop-motioned or edited–to full on interactions between figures from the Marvel and DC Universes.

It’s what a lot of us geeks did when we were children. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of us played with our doll–action figures, making voices and then new story lines for them. But JustSomeRandomGuy takes this–this same love for the superhero and villain toy-box–and does something really wonderful with it that I’d not seen too much of. He essentially, like I said earlier, creates a satire of superheroes with these figures. Yet at the same time, he keeps them in character–with a few humourous exceptions that somehow mesh well anyway–and captures their essences.

Watching these characters interact reminds me of all the Saturday morning cartoons and comic books and actually makes me feel good about myself just by watching them. They are my old friends from childhood–on my cards, in my cartoons, movies, and comics–but at the same time they have kept up with the times and have their own changes. Yet they are for the most part still fundamentally the same: while being very aware that they are actually comic book characters. I like this kind of meta-fiction and the fact that, yeah, if anyone would be intelligent and experienced enough to know that they are characters it would be these guys. Just how many universes and realities have they already been in themselves within their own stories?

ItsJustSomeRandomGuy gives back the Saturday morning and afternoon wonder, but also it also let the heroes and villains grow up with us: the slapstick accompanied by a certain degree of seriousness and the meta-fiction and fourth-wall breaking always placed under Marvel’s much lauded sense of, “Continuity! Issue #Etc.”

ItsJustSomeRandom Guy recreates and creates a golden magic that I am glad I came across. It’s nostalgia without the bitter part of the sweet. It continues to evolve with more hilarious parodies and touching messages.

The fact is, in my opinion, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy is a genius. Through the posing of these toys, he manages to cover issues from inter-character relations, different universes, the nature of and the issues surrounding comics, the effectiveness of the films around the comics, and a whole lot of popular cultural references while never making these self-reflexive heroes anything other than what they are in a series that knows exactly what it is.

If I had, say, two requests of ItsJustSomeRandomGuy–if it is in his power at all–and if you are reading this ItsJustSomeRandomGuy I’d say this. I would love to see an episode with the figurine of Animal Man in the Grant Morrison understanding of the character.

And I would love to see an exchange between Miracle/Marvelman and the rest of the Family–or even Shazam, Captain Marvel, and Superman–talking about the series that has not been published in forever. I would love to see your take on that if you have the figurines (of which I know the Miracle/Marvel Family are rare now and expensive and I do not know the legal elements involved, so I hesitate in asking this). But as a fan of yours, I simply can’t resist asking.

(And there is a custom-made action figure of Miracleman. I think only the Todd McFarlane statues were made, which is a pity)

For those of you who have never watched any of these YouTube videos and just want to surf through them, here is ItsJustSomeRandomGuy’s channel. They are worth every moment.

So to properly conclude this, I would just like to thank ItsJustSomeRandomGuy for his work, and leave you with this message.

So remember kids: the moral of today’s story is that continuity is important. Thank you, and Excelsior!

Making a Receipe for a Creepy-Pasta: With Uncanny Filling

Now, I haven’t tried to make any of these yet–not seriously anyway–but I have been thinking about how to make one a lot. Consider this a follow-up to my “Horror as a Universal Power: The Function of a Creepypasta” only with more emphasis on how to potentially write an effective creepypasta.

Since I wrote my last post on that matter, I’ve been reading a lot more of these stories and coming to a few of my own conclusions. Honestly, some of them are … just not that good. I mean, some of the writing is just awkward and some of it really contrived. At worst, I’ve been confused by a lot of the stuff: with their events and details. In this case, writing something as if it is an urban legend or word of mouth situation–as though it’s the product of a distorted broken telephone–takes away from the story’s readability or worse: eliminates even some of a fun suspension of disbelief.

Then you have the other hand. If you write the story too well, then that suspension of disbelief is all but gone. What I mean by that is if you have precise sentence and even images that you can just tell a writer created, and everything is nice and orderly than you have an excellent story but not always a believable one.

Even as I write this, I’m trying to wrap my head around the entire issue: which is a hilarious image given that these stories are being called “creepypastas.” But like some pastas, there is a certain hollowness inside them as well: a darkness and mystery that can’t always be revealed or it will become something else. Of course, you can say that about the horror genre in general.

So I have been thinking of how I can make one of these. I have a few options actually. One of them is that I bastardize something from my childhood, or use enough elements from to make something reminiscent of Candle Cove. Another option is to do something with a video game: to make a game where actions in it actually have consequences like a few of the stories I’ve already read. I can actually play with a place I actually know–a restaurant in the dark–for another one and make something new from it. Then there is just that perception of something watching you from the side of your vision, or behind you, or hidden in the back of your laptop and one night having the ill-fortune to see the actual thing looking right at you all misshapen and horrible. I could do something with that.

I could even be a total smart-ass and write a story where Jeff the Killer and the Slender Man are playing haunted Pokemon games or talking to Ben online (I can imagine him saying, “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” when one of them loses a game) while Candle Cove and the Dead Bart Simpson episode are playing in the background on the television and computer respectively. And one of them, maybe Jeff, eats a My Little Pony Cupcake. If you type some of these on Creepypasta Wiki, you will know what I’m talking about: including the cupcake. But beware: they will be disturbing … especially the cupcake.

I am not responsible for what you might find. Remember the age-old at least Lovecraftian saying: “Do not call up that which you cannot put down.” You have been warned.

As such the thing is, in my mind, there are two kinds of creepypastas. The first is one that is clearly a story and simply there for one’s enjoyment. The second is a meme that goes around and places doubt as to whether or not this happened or someone thinks it did. Of course there is a third type where an idea just keeps getting passed around and changed by several people.

But I would definitely love to make at least some of the first two types: send them out and see if they would catch on somehow. It will be a project to put in the far corner of the dark back-burner.

So remember, if you take nothing else from these musings, “the uncanny” is the centre of a creepypasta … or a My Little Pony confection: though really that would actually be just a whole lot of “disturbing” filling.

Creativity and Academia: The Glass-Bead Game That Never Ends

It’s amazing–to me–that I forgot to talk about this at all in my review of Hermann Hesse’s The Glass-Bead Game. I was originally going to write this as an addendum to the piece, but then I realized that the issue I want to address actually covers some much broader ground.

One that that is always stressed in Hesse’s novel by the Castalian Order that developed the Game is that it is not their role to create new things. Castalians are not supposed to be artists, but scholars of a spiritual bent and–according to them–anything that comes from the Game is simply to be contemplated and there is great discouragement against changing the rules that create and make up the Game proper. Basically, the Game itself seems to have been developed from pre-existing knowledge and there is usually great resistance from the Order itself in altering any of the rules or guidelines that were made to create it.

However, it is not only this. As I said before, creativity apparently is discouraged in Castalians in general: but that is simply not true. At one point in his studies, Joseph Knecht is encouraged–like other developing students in his Order–to write creative pieces about what they could have been in their lives. Also, he makes many changes to the rules of the Game even before he is Magister Ludi and they are accepted. Knecht could–of course–be the exception due to his gifted nature and not the rule–but it goes further than that.

To combine different disciplines together to create different patterns of expression is creation. There is analysis and study involved, but there is a synthesis of the parts into something new. Therefore, even during Knecht’s time before his reforms and his demise, the Glass-Bead Game–a contemplation exercise of intellectuals and academics–is a creative venture.

It reminds me of why I chose to pursue the Humanities at my University and why I pursued them in the way that I did. I learned about a great many things to do with literature, philosophy, history, social theory, and even to an extent art and expression. My program was by its nature very interdisciplinary and it looked not only at how certain philosophies and conventions work, but what forces make them and why.

Humanities also encourages scholars or humanists (as they are apparently called) to apply a plurality of “lenses” or “frames of reference” to a particular subject. For instance, when looking at a book we would look at the history of the culture that it was written in, the philosophical movements that existed then, the potential other sources that might have influenced its creation, the writer’s life, and how that book influenced other books and other cultures even and what the implications of what that book says might mean and how it might have meant different things to different people. So instead of looking at it from one view or lens, the theory was that we were to look at a thing with different mental tools or perspectives. We are even encouraged to look at how those tools and “lenses” were created: and why they exist the way they currently are.

All of that can be really difficult to articulate and sum up into a few sentences. Indeed, when people asked me what my Major was and I told them it was Humanities, more often than not they didn’t know what I was talking about: or they had a very different understanding as to what the Humanities actually is. For instance, the University of Toronto’s Humanities is different from York University’s: in that the former has certain divisions of Humanities, while the latter has an entire program that combines all those elements together: or tries to.

The fact is, for me, it often seemed like my Program–and maybe even Humanities as I know it–seeks to justify its existence by trying to be a discipline like Science or English. Sometimes even I feel it is just a “jack-of-all-trades while mastering none” perspective or that I personally just possess a whole lot of “party-cocktail trivia” and nothing more compared to the specialists of different fields. Personally, to make a gaming digression, I think of it as multi-classing and spreading certain dots or numbers of Experience Points out that–while it may take a while–will eventually pay off a very well-rounded character.

My role-playing game analogy and tangent aside, sometimes I felt like–just with the Glass-Bead Game of Castalia, the Humanities is very stringent on its guidelines of scholarship and what scholarship is because it is a “relatively young” discipline as we understand it and it wants legitimacy. The thing is I think both are already legitimate and allowing for flexibility in what scholarship and academia can be–by allowing for change–they distinguish themselves. I know sometimes I really wanted to say that I shouldn’t have felt like I had to apologize for my choice of Program and–more specifically–the Humanities shouldn’t have to apologize for what it is.

As an interesting side-note, apology originally was derived from the concept of defense: defending your perspective through logical debate known as argument. I also think there are many other ways to make your point instead of being defensive or not testing what your discipline–or your medium–can do. Film and comics were very similar to that regard in that both wanted to “fit in” and be accepted but they are different. I know I’m making a lot of very potentially bad analogies here in equating disciplines with media, but in my mind they are very similar if not one and the same.

What I love about the Humanities is that it let me put so many things together–it let me be analytic and synthetic–and I think I had more opportunity to do so in that discipline than anywhere else. I got to look at my favourite authors and writings. I got to analyze some of my own stories in a final paper. I even wrote a comic book script as a final assignment in another course: using my knowledge of the course material and comics media. I know York has an Interdisciplinary Studies Program as well where students are encouraged to do independent work and even create art as their final project.

As you can see, I feel very passionately about this. I think that gathering and critiquing knowledge is important, but that once you try to look at the why of something–to contemplate it and its application to yourself … to look at the human in it–creating something can be just as important. I like that my Program allowed me that freedom, for the most part, and it’s just amazing how The Glass-Bead Game applies to so many of these issues that I’d been thinking about for a very long time now.

I firmly believe that when you make a work of any kind, you create knowledge: and that viewpoint challenges not only what scholarship is, but what art is as well. There was a time in history when apparently there was no division between what was art and what was science. They were all apparently unified under Philosophy along with a whole other lot of disciplines we separate and specialize now. I’m obviously not saying that other disciplines are not as important or that their distinctions should be eliminated: specializations can be very important because they focus on a particular subject or task quite efficiently and with necessary detail.

But I like the differences in the discipline I chose and that potential for growth that I always felt there. It certainly feels like it fit my mindset: at least at the time. The best part is that even when school is out, you still keep learning about the Humanities. You can still keep making things. The Game doesn’t end after you graduate college or university. It doesn’t end when you leave Castalia for the unknown. You keep playing and, you know, I think that is a very good thing.