Episode 192: Erotic Poetry Night IV

Episode 192 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Erotic Poetry Night IV

This week features our 4th annual Erotic Poetry Night, featuring Jesse Bradley, Teege Braune, Stephanie Rizzo, Danielle Kessinger, Amy Watkins, David James Poissant, Ashley Inguanta, Sarah Viren, and (ahem) John King.

NOTES

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Get tickets for Litlando here.


Episode 192 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

21st Century Brontë #9: The Dance Macabre

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21st Century Brontë #9 by Brontë Bettencourt

The Dance Macabre

Last fall, I couldn’t step into the University of Central Florida’s Anime club without stumbling into an Undertale conversation. This unassuming 16-bit indie game (8-bit in combat) took the gaming community by storm in under a month, earning numerous awards proclaiming it the best game of 2015 when barely any of the year was left. I was more than ready to gush over the characters’ endearing quirks and emotional plot twists.

Undertale 2

My friends had another topic in mind. I was shown an online fanmade comic drawn by the lovely Nostalgia-Phantom that involves one of the game’s beloved characters interacting with the story’s antagonist. This could only end horribly.

After I managed to stop gnashing my teeth, I noticed the odd amount of glee from my anime club friends. This comic was brought out in the open among friends, who took in such images of betrayal, helplessness, fragility, and morbidity, and recapped them with smiles on their faces. Reveling and revulsion coalesced.

Do we, as humans have some affinity for experiencing experiencing the macabre?

In fifth grade, my best friend and I were obsessed with Yu Yu Hakusho. I remember illegally selling candy just to buy the DVDs, $30 a pop, and had only had three twenty something minute episodes (four if the distributor was generous).

Team_Gorenja

There’s one battle toward the end of the Dark Tournament arc, where my favorite character faced off against a demon who could conjure bombs. The character survived by the skin of his teeth, sopping wet from his own blood, flesh littered with shrapnel wounds. The agonizing screams are still vivid in my mind.

The gruesomeness was why it stuck with me for so long. I could exactingly describe the gore of the battle, the shoddy bits of animation, and the pitches of the dialogue delivery. I did not know why I gravitated toward the depiction of suffering.

On a surface level, a story cannot exist without opposing forces butting heads. But at a base level, we require discomfort great enough to drive the opposing forces to decisive action. But the greater we can feel the anguish, the more in tune we are with the character.

I’ve been told that a healthy amount of suffering is cathartic in a story because it is not ultimately happening to us. (Thanks, Aristotle.) By it happening vicariously, we then reflect on our own lives with appreciation. But full on suffering triggers a little more than an appreciative prayer.

Perhaps we can empathize more with physical pain. Psychological pain, such as death of a loved one, or mental silness, or divorce caters to a more tapered audience. I haven’t been married yet (to my knowledge), and although death is imminent for all living beings, I haven’t had anyone close to me pass away. Those who have experienced this will comprehend that primal ache associated with the psychological. But physical pain is easier to depict, and the sight of blood creates an immediate, visceral connection to pain.

Luke

I feel phantom aches depending on what is being damaged before me. The thought of a solid bone cracking. Seeing a character that we’ve developed an emotional attachment to suffer is–

And these characters are fictional.

With adrenaline compelling us to act, we’re instead left to our imagination of what the character is undergoing. There is a mutual helplessness felt by both audience and character.

Michael Stevens in the Vsauce video Why Are We Morbidly Curious? states that “we find uncertainty more unpleasant than unpleasant certainty.” This coincides with a method the idea of writing less equals more, allowing the audience’s minds to work against them when faced with gruesome scenarios.

Stevens claims that experiencing the macabre allows our aggression to burn off, allowing us to experience a release of strong or repressed emotions. Maybe there is truth to feeling happy due to suffering, or at least witnessing the suffering of another being. And because this being is fictional, there is little to no guilt involved, just a tangle of other emotions.

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There’s an audio file of Undertale fans voice-acting the mentioned comic above. The better part of me would like to say that I haven’t listened to it.

_______

21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

McMillan’s Codex 25: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

McMillan’s Codex 25 By CT McMillan

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

In my last entry, I brought up the subject of level design in Dishonored and how it is adapted to accommodate any play style. Loud or quite, there were many avenues of approach one could traverse depending on how they want to play or what direction they want to take the story. Any game that gives you such freedom should be standard practice in the industry, no matter the genre. Videogames are an escapist medium and why restrict players by not giving them as many options as possible? One of the best examples of such depth-full choice is the original Deus Ex from 2000. Though I have not played it, I did play Human Revolution, a prequel and worthy successor according to most. Was it good enough to make me play the original?

DEHR1

Cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres. It is a science fiction fan’s dream come true with advanced technologies integrated into the fabric of society to the point of dystopia. Robots and cyborgs walk among regular people as massive corporations run the world, killing each other to gain the upper hand. Ordinary citizens must resort to crime to survive be it with conventional weapons or cybernetics. Communication has reached new heights as one can access another’s mind through neurological enhancements, opening up the possibility for total control by those with malicious intent.

While Ghost in the Shell, Shadowrun, and Blade Runner are classic cyberpunk, Human Revolution is about a world taking its first steps into embracing technology. Biological augmentation is still a new phenomenon as society gradually takes it in and struggles to adapt. The over-arching conflict of the world is normal people do not see cyborgs as equals and feel augmentation should be banned. It gets to the point of civil revolt as dissidents riot against the corporations responsible for introducing such technology.

While it does not make any sense why people would rebel over a voluntary procedure that you must pay for, it is a good enough excuse for the game to explore themes of human transcendence and corporate control. On the one hand, technology allows us to become more than who we are, but sometimes we forget what we are giving away in exchange and what it means for those providing. People with augmentations have problems with their bodies rejecting implants and depend on drugs supplied by corporations. They are also at the mercy of their enhancement’s creators who can do whatever they want at the flip of a switch. As the character Adam Jenson, a corporate security officer turned cyborg after a terrorist attack, it is up to you to determine if augmentations are truly worth becoming more human than human, or just another puppet.

DEHR2

In gameplay you are able to explore these themes. Like its predecessor, Human Revolution allows you to play however you want with upgradable augmentations. If you like stealth, there are radar enhancements, a vision mode that lets you see through walls, and the ability to activate a cloak. There are also combat enhancements like fast reloads, increased strength for throwing objects, and stronger armor. Whatever the situation there is an augmentation or a weapon to suit your needs. With tranquilizers and tasers you can put down a foe without taking their life or kill them with firearms.

Each level is designed with many options in mind. Waist-high walls can be used to take cover when in a fight or to sneak around patrolling guards. Timing and quick movements win the day if you take the stealth route. There are also plenty of vents and high perches that can take you around enemies and circumvent a lot of potential trouble spots.

Peppered throughout levels are instances that help you progress for completing. In the first level at a factory taken over by terrorists, you have the option to rescue hostages, one of which is the husband of the woman in charge of the facility. Come the end of the level you confront the terrorist leader holding the wife at gunpoint. If you talk him down and get him to leave peacefully, you will reunite the wife with her husband, and earn an experience bonus.

There are all sorts of side options and methods that can help you out depending on how you approach them. The social element is as important as your augmentations where you can get what you want if you know the right thing to say. On a mission that involves infiltrating a police precinct, you can convince the desk clerk to let you in through the front door without having to sneak in at the risk making a scene. Later you confront an anti-augmentation politician on his hypocrisy and talk someone out of suicide. There is even an augmentation to assist you in making the right choices in dialog.

DEHR3

True freedom is something all videogames should strive for, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution does its best to make you feel in control. With the sequel Mankind Divided on the horizon, I am excited to be entrenched in the world of cyberpunk once more. Until then, I feel obligated to visit the classic that started it all.

_______

CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

Buzzed Books #37: Application for Release from the Dream

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Buzzed Books #37 by Amy Watkins

Tony Hoagland’s Application for Release from the Dream

Application for Release from the Dream

I enjoyed the second half of Tony Hoagland’s fifth poetry collection, Application for Release from the Dream (Graywolf Press, 2015), so much that I almost felt guilty for how critical I was of the first half.

Many of the poems in the first half of the book have a thematic counterpart in the second half. For example, one of the poems in the first section is “Special Problems in Vocabulary,” a poem about the limitations of language. It begins:

There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

Those lines could almost be an early draft of one of the last poems in the book, “There Is No Word”:

…we have reached the end of a pretense
–though to tell the truth,
what I already am thinking

is that language deserves the credit–
how it will stretch just so much and no further;
how there are some holes it will not cover up…

The book contains several of these pairs–two poems about language, two poems about his father, two poems about divorce. I’m not certain whether the later poems are meant to be further reflections on the themes or answers to the earlier poems. I’m not sure if I would respond differently to the early poems upon a second reading, but in all these pairs, I prefer the second poem.

Both halves of the book contain plenty of Hoagland’s signature humor. He gives the business to corporate tools, uptight academics, clueless suburbanites, his father, his ex-wife, and the fool who blasts his radio at 2 in the morning. In the second half of the book, he turns his wit on himself. “Summer Dusk,” for example, is as close to a pastoral as you’re likely to get from Hoagland. It begins, “I put in my goddamn hearing aid / to listen to a bird…” The poems in the second half in particular are funny, a little melancholy, sometimes a little mean, but they work because they “aim up” or, better yet, aim in.

In “The Story of the Mexican Housekeeper,” his father recalls “family friends” who “hired a woman from across the border, // then kept her hostage for seven years.” The poet/speaker is disgusted that his father apparently finds the story amusing, but when the exploited woman appears near the end of the poem, he imagines her anger directed at him, not his father or even her captors: “she’s mad as hell / not at my dad, but me–yelling // that she doesn’t want to be in this poem for one more minute.” Does using the story in the poem make him complicit in her exploitation? The poem doesn’t answer that question, but it is full of a powerful tension worth exploring.

Like much of Hoagland’s work, these poems “balance on the fence / between irony and hope.” It’s a difficult position to maintain gracefully. When he does, the poems are wry, challenging, and emotionally complex.

Pair with: a Princeton, a pre-Prohibition drink of Old Tom gin layered over chilled port. It’s pretty. It’s classy. Its two flavors don’t totally mix.

_______

Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins (Episode 124161, 164) grew up in the Central Florida scrub, surrounded by armadillos and palmetto brush and a big, loud, oddly religious family, a situation that’s produced generations of Southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl and earned her MFA in poetry from Spalding University. Her chapbook, Milk & Water, was published in 2014 by Yellow Flag Press.

The Global Barfly’s Companion #23: The Treehouse

The Global Barfly’s Companion #23 by Josh Dull

Bar: The Treehouse

Location:  68 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801

Treehouse outside

Located near Magnolia Avenue and Pine Street in Downtown Orlando, The Treehouse is one of the city’s better kept secrets. For curb appeal, a single black chalkboard sits outside a narrow, shadowed stairwell only during operating hours. Or if you happen to walk through the right door in The Attic nightclub, you’ll find yourself in the small, AstroTurf carpeted space, lit by the amber glow of lanterns and string light bulbs. Should you enter by the stairwell, vines and overhanging leaves line your way into the enclosure.

Treehouse stairs

The space is warm and inviting, with polished oak tables, chairs, and bar top, a digital fire blazing on one of the two TV screens behind the bar. The entire space is about the size of your living room.

Seating area

Due an increase in popularity and a decrease in demand for craft cocktails, their drink menu has become more limited, however their infusion shots are still very much present, featuring flavors like apple pie and blueberry.

Morning Wood Prep

If you ask nicely, bartender Dan might even make one of the old craft cocktails Treehouse was once known for, such as the “Morning Wood” which begins with the bartender running a torch across a maple plank and capturing the smoke with the mason jar the drink will be served in, giving the cocktail a naturally smoky flavor. A full liquor bar leaves Dan more than capable of making classics such as the Old Fashioned or Cosmopolitan and a wide variety of beers lines the shelf and cooler, including hard to find brews such as Shiner Bock.

Bar top

Overall, the greatest strength in this establishment is its novelty. With its secluded location and distinct woodland aesthetic, the patron feels they’ve found something rare, exclusive, and dare I say it, magical. The arboreal walk up the stairs is a stark shift from the urban environs outside, as is the abrupt change in scenery should one enter from the Attic. Coming to the Treehouse feels familiar, like you’ve come to a friend’s house to watch a game or just relax with a cold brew. It’s an excellent place to begin a night of barhopping in Downtown Orlando, or an interesting stop in the middle of your festivities. Bring your friends here and they will definitely be impressed.

_______

Joshua DullJosh Dull is a U.S. Air Force veteran and an aspiring fiction author with an emphasis on social issues. He has recently completed his Bachelor’s degree with Honors in the Major from the University of Central Florida. When he isn’t at his computer writing and revising, he enjoys finding new and eclectic venues in the nightlife of whatever city he happens to be in. He currently resides in Orlando, Florida.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #16: As You Like It (2006)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

#16. As You Like It (2006)

Some enthusiastic newbies to Shakespeare crave an authentically Shakespearean experience, something satisfyingly old-looking, true to history, and they will primly turn their nose up at productions that have the gall to change the setting of a play.

This is a truly silly position. Oh, there isn’t anything terribly wrong with having a traditional setting for Shakespeare’s plays, as Olivier’s Richard III proves. But there is an obligation for every new production of Shakespeare to actually be new, not just enact the plays like a theatrical jukebox for eternity.

Also, the idea of the purity of a setting is problematic if we consider that the plays, including the history plays, are historically imaginative or else inaccurate (such as the tolling of the clock in Julius Caesar). There is a theatrical approach to Shakespeare called period practice, which strives to painstakingly recreate a theatrical experience that Shakespeare’s own audience would have witnessed. Such shows forgo modern effects, pyrotechnics, staging, and lighting, yet they don’t take this approach all the way and have the female characters portrayed by men. Such productions imagine the bard in heaven blessing them for not using all of the tools of modern theater to entice an audience to buy a ticket for the show.

What is an appropriate historical setting for Macbeth? The eleventh century, based on Shakespeare’s source material, or the early seventeenth century, when the play was written and performed? Or in an alternate universe where the eleventh and seventeenth centuries overlap? Or Ontario, circa the winter of 1967, perhaps?

Getting too excited that a production looks sufficiently dusty is in absurdly wretched taste.

In his essay “The Art of Fiction” (1884), Henry James wrote, “We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donee: our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it.”

In the case of a play like As You Like It, the setting isn’t especially all that clear in the first place. A dukedom in France. The forest of Arden. It’s basically another comedy, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that is about flight into a pastoral landscape, in this case caused by Frederick claiming his older brother’s title as duke and then exiling his brother. The court’s loyalties are split in two, with the Duke Senior’s entourage following him in the wild.

As You Like It 1

Kenneth Branagh set his film in late 19th century Japan, in an unnamed treaty port, thus making the presence of Englishmen, well, plausible. Treaty ports were places where the countries that signed such treaties enjoyed extraterritoriality, meaning they were not subject to the laws of that land. Traders brought families and followers with them and created “mini-empires,” according to a caption at the start of the film. This choice of setting allows for a more believable sense of the drama, that jealousy in families could lead to tragic trajectories.

You know the difference between comedy and tragedy, in Shakespearean terms? Comedies end in marriage, tragedies end in a pile of corpses. Hamlet could be a comedy until he ups and stabs Polonius. And the comedies could turn more dark, if a confrontation were to turn fatal, like it did with poor Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.

A caption in Branagh’s film tells us that the traders and their entourages in Japan “tried to embrace this extraordinary culture, its beauties and its dangers.” Now I can’t help but wonder at the colonialist privilege entailed in this setting, which Branagh tries his best to alleviate by representing very few Japanese people, and by lavishing cinematography upon impressive examples of Japanese architecture, costumes, and painting. Yet traders are not necessarily interchangeable with colonial powers, and unlike colonialists, these traders do try embrace Japanese culture, in a mixture of East and West that looks rather opulent and Romantic, yet not altogether fake, either. Branagh isn’t vouching for the political worldview of his characters, just as Francis Ford Coppola was not serving as an apologist for the mafia, I suppose. The politics of this film, the degree of cultural appropriation involved, remain an open question for me.

Patrick Doyle’s arrangement for the song “Under the Greenwood Tree” includes a koto, which sounds awfully strange, or strangely awful, plucked with the melody.

There is something fascinating about Branagh’s casting, though: Branagh does not star in this film, apart from a clever cameo at the film’s close.

There is something else fascinating about his casting: it’s not his pathological pandering-to-Hollywood approach.

As You Like It, Molina and Kline

Oh, Alfred Molina plays the clown Touchstone, and Kevin Kline plays the gloomy Jaques (the original Eeyore). But Kevin Kline has training in Shakespeare, and proved himself in a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Alfred Molina acquits himself deliciously as a fool, adding a dash of zaniness like Michael Keaton in Much Ado About Nothing. And despite being known as a Hollywood actor, Alfred Molina is, I’ll be damned, actually British.

As You Like It Brian Blessed

Most of the cast is British. Brian Blessed plays the two brothers, both the gentle soul and the angry usurper.

'As You Like It', front: Romola Garai, Brian Blessed, Bryce

Romula Garai, Brian Blessed, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Bryce Dallas Howard, not terribly famous, sounds reliably British as the play’s main character Rosaline, despite Howard being American. Romula Garai is by turns touching and delightful as Rosaline’s cousin. And Richard Briars brings compelling dignity and nobility to the role of Adam, an old servant who is in search of a world in which loyalty and kindness are rewarded.

As the jumbled nature of the previous two paragraphs reveals, the cast of this film coheres and makes my binary dissection of their performances by country of origin (as is easy in other Branagh films) difficult. These actors are all in the same movie. Branagh has stopped slapping unprepared actors into the bard’s work. And he likely took a more careful hand as a director of his actors by not acting in the film himself. Perhaps someone spoke with him after Love’s Labour’s Lost. Perhaps he had trouble getting funding after that. Perhaps Shakespeare’s ghost visited him in a dream and asked him, “What the fuck?”

As You Like it Klein

As You Like It is a tremendous film, actually, moving and sad and a romp, with actors delivering the music of Shakespeare’s language so naturally, and acting so well together, that it does what great art does: it wakes us up. It makes us more alive. It fills us up with the intelligible world.

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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 191: Erin Belieu!

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Episode 191 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing, literature, and drinking, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview poet Erin Belieu,

Erin Belieu

plus I share the Miami Book Fair International reading she participated in with Carl Phillips, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Kevin Young.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Slant SixReconnaissance Carl PhillipsHeaven PoemsBook of Hours

NOTES

  • Check out my first interview with Erin Belieu back on episode 44, when we talked about VIDA and the count.
  • On Superbowl Sunday, February 7, 7 P.M., The Drunken Odyssey will be Super Balling at Writer’s Atelier. More info is here.

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Get tickets for Litlando here.


 

Episode 191 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing, literature, and drinking, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror: International Version #2

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror

International Version #2 by Simon Bluespire

My distant cousin Clement Hooker, once a townsperson of Funkstown, Maryland, is currently stationed in a secret location in Finland doing genetic experiments. Once a proud portion of the fourth estate, The Funkstown Mirror has merged with several other newspapers during the last hundred thirteen years, and insists on the old-fashioned process of publishing the news on paper, which leaves Clement without any reliable access to it in a timely fashion. But he has used bitcoins to have it digitized in Odessa, where it is then translated into Ukraine, emailed to a foreign exchange student fluent in Esperanto, who then translates in into Morse Code that is then turned into sick beats in discos in Donghae, South Korea, where an obese deejay who suffers from motion sickness translates it back into English. Before he prints out the results on a dot matrix printer, Clem sends them to me, and I hereby share the results with you…

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion 2

New Dark Horse GOP Candidate Emerges for New Hampshire Primary

Jabba for Prez

The Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror is proud to present this exclusive interview.

FCHTM: How did you learn about this race?

JH: We get The Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror on Tattoine.

FCHTM: How?

JH: It’s too complicated to discuss here.

FCHTM: What made you want to run?

JH: I just didn’t feel like any of the other candidates could serve as the symbolic representation for conservative values the way that I could.

FCHTM: Your campaign seems derivative of another high-profile candidate.

JH: Is that a question?

FCHTM: Why does your campaign seem derivative of another high-profile candidate?

JH: Because I actually make it look good.

FCHTM: Your opponent’s, I mean, your slogan claims that you will restore America to the greatness of a former time. Which time specifically do you mean?

JH: The era of Richard Nixon, of course. He had class.

FCHTM: You’re an alien not only to this country, but also to this planet. Aren’t you ineligible to actually take office, if elected?

JH: I will be elected. Then, my first act as president will be to propose a constitutional amendment—

FCHTM: But how can you take the oath if—

JH: And for my second act as president, my enemies will publicly be made to understand a new definition of pain and suffering.

FCHTM: Will you be seeking the endorsement of Sarah Palin?

JH: Certainly not.

FCHTM: Weren’t you strangled to death a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away?

JH: That rumor simply isn’t true. I freely admit, that slave woman did stun me with how well she yanked that chain, but when you’ve engaged in rough trade for as long as I have, it’s going to take a lot more than that to put me down.

FCHTM: Is this sudden campaign a hoax of some kind?

JH: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

FCHTM: Is that a yes or a no?

JH:

FCHTM: I’m sorry, what did you say?

21st Century Brontë #8: Notes on Aesthetic Afterlives

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21st Century Brontë #8 by Brontë Bettencourt

Notes on Aesthetic Afterlives

It has been a couple weeks since we lost Alan Rickman. My Facebook feed was a steady stream of pictures consisting of flowers being left outside of Professor Snape’s classroom in Hogwarts castle, silhouettes of wizards pointing their wands skyward. His stoic visage coupled with quotes from the books incited emoticon tears from my peers.

Rickman Snape tribute

I found the posts to be annoying after a while. I don’t mean to be a grouch.

What does it mean to live on in one’s work? Clearly we aren’t imagining horcruxes here.

Do you think about how your work may endure? It’s possible that schools that may add your work to their canon. Biographies might be penned about your psychological state and the influence it might’ve had on your work. Or maybe your work will be used to dissect the zeitgeist of your time: Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt.

The celebrity I still miss, although it’s been well over a year, is Robin Williams. I grew up on Aladdin: King of Thieves and Flubber, and loved him in Jumanji when I finally saw it in college. His voice was unmistakable, cracking spontaneous jokes, somehow familial with its warmth.

King of Thieves

It felt unreal on that day to learn not only of his passing, but how it happened—so different from any of his characters I could have imagined.

On a grimmer note, it might not matter one way or another once we pass on. Your consciousness may very well cease to exist, your art only affecting you in the now.

I was six when my own mortality hit me. I had just finished making a fort out of a foldable beach chair and worn blanket when it suddenly occurred that one day, I wouldn’t be here anymore. The TV faded to a low murmur and the living room clock felt much more ominous with its ticking hand. I’m not sure what triggered those thoughts, but since then I’ve been contentious of my time and what it’s spent on.

I think what bothered me about all the Facebook posts, was seeing Alan Rickman’s life be boiled down to a figure who didn’t actually exist, like taking a fully fleshed out character and flattening them into one dimension. Considering all the recollections from various cast and crew members, he was nothing like the bitter, stoic individual clad in billowing black fabric.

Harry Potter Half Blood Prince

For me, the difference between the losses of these actors rested in personal connection. In the books, Professor Snape had a goatee, but more importantly, I had source material that reminded me that the movies were an interpretation. Alan Rickman was separate from the character on the big screen. I might’ve been too young to differentiate Robin Williams from his roles, and even as I learned the difference, he always played the endearing character with an ability to make me laugh.

Yet the way that these actors passed away are polarized from the way I’ve come to know them. Alan Rickman was surrounded by friends and family, with a grim forewarning, but a warning nonetheless, of his mortality.

Robin Williams, for all the years of making others laugh, was overcome by his own inner darkness. The spark that prevails in all of his roles is all the more moving with knowledge of that hovering darkness.

I became aware of death at six, and I’d like to believe that with success, I will be read pleasurably by others. Maybe I take comfort in knowing that my craft may endure time much better than I can. I’d like to believe in a god and an afterlife. But the feeling of potential nothingness has haunted me for years. I can say with some certainty that my work will endure, evidence that I was here. On this spinning, suspended rock revolving around a gaseous, fiery ball in a cluster of stars within our expanding universe, my voice mattered.

And to the author of Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt, please don’t inflict too much psychoanalysis on my characters.

_______

21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

 

McMillan’s Codex #24: Dishonored

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McMillan’s Codex 24 By C.T. McMillan

Dishonored

Dishonored

If you watch enough entertainment, you realize all stories are the same. Godfather is Game of Thrones; Conan is Django Unchained; and Goodfellas is Scarface. It gets to a point you can predict how a story will turn out without seeing it. Blake Snyder, the avatar of banality, took the predictability of narrative and broke it down to a science of the safe and boring. What differentiates stories is how they are executed. The Revenant is about typical survival, but it was shot artistically and it had spiritual themes. Inglorious Basterds is about revenge while paying homage to classic WWII movies. The same case could be made for most video games, like Dishonored.

Dishonored 1

You play as Corvo, the personal bodyguard of the Empress of Dunwall and the possible father of her daughter Emily. After the Empress is murdered, you are blamed for her death and put in prison, while a tyrannical regime takes over. Before long you are freed by a mounting resistance movement and embark on a quest for revenge. After effectively assassinating members of the new government, the resistance attempts to kill you for fear you will interfere with their plans and takes Emily for themselves.

While the story fits the bill for many revenge narratives, the game uses it as a jumping off point for some great gameplay. Dishonored is from Bethesda and player choice is an important element in all their work, most notably their role-playing. This time, in addition to having your choices affect the story, how you play affects the world.

Taking note from Dungeons and Dragons, there are two states of gameplay: low chaos and high chaos determined by what you do in each mission. This includes how many guards and other persons you kill, how you approach side objectives, and how you deal with the main target. There are always two ways to dispatch a member of the regime: easy and passive. They die like any other enemy so a good bolt, bullet, or knife in the head will do the job just fine. However, there are always opportunities to get rid of them in a way that will keep your body count low or nonexistent depending on how you play. These methods are more difficult, but they help maintain a low chaos rating.

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How you proceed through missions is up to the player with each level and tool designed for versatility. If you want to be a ghost and not kill anyone, there are passages, windows, perches you can use to traverse Dunwall like a proper assassin. If you want to go loud and nasty, you have a small arsenal worth of lethal equipment. You possess supernatural powers like teleportation to assist you in either method. There are also various traps spread throughout levels that can be hacked to turn against guards. Exploiting your abilities is a part of the fun as you mix and match powers with your equipment to achieve objectives or just have fun. I think I had the most enjoyment playing Dishonored thanks to its freedom and the available abilities.

Each play style has a clear difficulty curve that will increase or decrease. Low chaos will encourage guards to stay alert, but high chaos will make them more aggressive, employing all manner of offensive measures. Chaos rate also determines the severity of the in-game plague, a rat-borne sickness. The more people you kill, the more visible the plague becomes as swarms of rats and infected citizens fill the streets. The way characters react to you will change where people see you as a hero or vilify you for being a mass murderer.

The art style is the most interesting aspect of Dishonored. Like XCOM, its aesthetic is characterized by deformity, but in the context of an old Popeye cartoon. Guards and thugs are ape-like with barreled chests, large arms, and heavy brows, while the aristocracy is thin, tall, and narrow with regal features. The only character that looks like a normal human is Corvo. The rest of the game is arguably steam-punk with a lot of modern touches. While many of the buildings and the general architecture is Victorian inspired, the vehicles, technology, and authority-based elements like guard posts and weapons are angular, ridged and metal, usually colored in light gunmetal black. Cars operate on train rails and the Tallboy enemies walk around on robotic stilts as they shoot you with arrows. The way things move is mechanical and jerky as gears crank and scrape with the sound of metal on metal while running on whale oil for fuel. The clothing is reminiscent of late 18th century Britain with a lot of coats decorated in gold stitching with breeches and tall leather boots. Everyone looks like a pirate, but it works well with the overall aesthetic.

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These days, originality is hard to come by. With the mass influx of reboots, remakes, and sequels, one must take what they can get. The story of Dishonored nothing new, but how it uses the revenge story as a means to build upon good gameplay makes it worthy of consideration. If you do not mind not being surprised by twists and turns you have seen in every story ever, you will have a great time getting revenge in the streets of Dunwall.

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CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

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