Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Enchanted Forest

Throughout my journey into my vast collection of fairy tales, I often come across different types of forests. I am a bit fascinated by them. In many ways, they hold the same mystique as going into a building. I suppose it's the canopy that give it this feel. Yes, you can occasionally see the sky, but unless you are some sort of bird, you aren't escaping it. Similarly, you can look out of a window from within a building, but that doesn't mean it will open for you.

Forests are one of the ways people end up getting trapped in fairy tales. Many types of beasts and creatures can live there. Despite seeming very open, a person can very easily get lost, walking in complete circles while thinking they are going in a straight line. It's a wonderful trap.

Another interesting thing about forests is that they are forever primitive in nature. There is no way to modernize a forest. The moment people move into them, they cease to really be a forest at all. No, a forest is merely a collection of trees and grass overgrowing but for what pathways people have stomped into them over time, and if such a forest be afflicted by fairy magic, one may have a little bit of trouble escaping. Because the forest cannot be modernized, they exist as they have since the days fairies inhabited them in old stories and could likely still inhabit them now.

In classic fairy tales, the forest has always been a good staging ground for encounters. Since most fairies tend to be uncivilized by nature, they tend to prefer such areas the most. Little Red Riding Hood first meets the wolf in a forested area. Although it seemed like a friendly meeting, there was a sinister work in progress. The famed Rumpelstiltskin was a forest dweller as well.

I've seen many cases of an enchanted forest that simply sends people in circles so that they never find a way out. In some cases the trees will actually stand up and walk around, rearranging themselves to throw off the traveler. In the Disney movie Babes in Toyland, the trees out rightly would prevent the travelers from leaving through threat of violence. In the case of that movie, the characters knew what they were getting into, as the forest was plainly known as "The Forest of No Return." Quite a good movie, by the way! I'll review it sometime.

If you were to meet a talking animal near your home, you might ask it where it came from. There is a very high chance that it will lead you into the forest first, and from there it will take you either to its home or somewhere entirely out of this world. I've fantasized about this a little bit. Back when I was working on my book "A Wolf in my Bedroom," I had an original version where the wolf had a portal to his own world hidden within a nearby forest. I went in a different direction, but the idea is still very strong in my mind. I expect to do something with it at some point.

Next time you are walking about in the woods, think about it within the context of older, more fantastic, times. Consider that there might still be things out there somewhere. You may not be as alone as you think. By its very nature, the forest is a very large and living thing. It's brimming with life. Sometimes I wonder just what sorts of mysterious things might still be in there. Ancient... impossible things.

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Supraland [Video Game Review]

I'm a bit mixed on Supraland. I admire it for many of the things it accomplished. Yet there are problems with it that I could never shake. Even so, I choose to review it so that I can get my feelings out.

Supraland is a video game released in 2018. It is a first person game that combines elements of Zelda, Portal, and Metroidvania type gameplay. The basic idea of it is that you are a little toy figure, placed down into an elaborate sandbox by a human child. Here, all the other toy figures have life and go about their daily tasks with little to no awareness that they are living in a child's sandbox.

There are two colors of toy figures: blue and red. They have their own kingdoms and, for the most part, don't like each other very much. The moving force of the plot is that the Blue Kingdom turns off the Red Kingdom's water, and so you, being the prince of the Red King, have to travel over there and find out why they are doing it.

Getting there isn't so simple. The entire world is laid out like a puzzle. Just to get inside of the Blue Kingdom's walls you have to just about travel the entire sandbox world just to get what you need to break inside. Along the way, enemies spawn in at these points where crosses are posted like gravesites. Fighting is extremely frequent and often difficult and punishing if you are not very swift on your feet.

I was able to finish the game in about 30 hours. It was long and punishing. The ending was a bit confusing and seemed to have very strange religious undertones that I had difficulty understanding. My main problem with the game is that I can't figure out if they are making fun of Christianity or not. It doesn't come up very much, but when it does I always got uncomfortable. Even so, there are very interesting religious aspects to the game of which I did like.

Every so often, you can spot the human child standing high above the sandbox, gazing down at you with an eerie domineering look. He isn't always there. There are just random moments I just looked up and saw him there. None of the other figures seems to be aware of him, although a religion did form around the idea of him. Those who were believers are shown to have halos above there heads.

The whole idea that this strange boy was able to give these toys life is utterly fascinating to me. But there is also a creep factor in that he is not really acting much like a child. It had to do with the way he just stares at you, acting more like an adult. That effect is probably the thing that drew me so hard to this game.

The thing that made me most uncomfortable was the character of Mr. Miracle which was sort of a take on Jesus. He looked like a toy but had a really odd looking face which seemed a bit more human that the others... but it was twisted and hideous.

If you are a fan of innovative fighting, puzzling, and platformer games, then I recommend Supraland for it's genuinely fun and challenging gameplay. It will take a lot of skill and mental abilities to push through it though. If you don't want a challenge, then skip by it. For me, it was really that human boy that did it for me. All the connotations surrounding that was what make this game wonderful. Still, you gotta wonder what they were thinking.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Is God Primitive?

Whenever most people think of God, they usually think of him in context of the Bible. What is the state of things in the Bible? Well, for the most part, it seems like everyone is living in a primitive society. No cars. No airplanes. No electricity. Everyone is living off of the land. They all have cattle. Leprosy is a thing. Sand. There was a lot of sand. Sand everywhere.

The point is that most of the bible is incredibly primitive by dint of being set in a primitive time, and it is the basis of today's Christianity. Not to mention that most every time I hear people quote God or the Bible they obsessively add old English "thy's" and "thou's" to their language, even if they aren't directly quoting anything. It's gotten so bad that it's become a part of Christian culture.

There's some weird psychology that goes along with this that has even affected me. Because the religion seems primitive, it sometimes makes God feel primitive as well. But how can this be? Realistically, how could God be primitive? Yes, He's much older than dirt. He's one of the few people who can actually say that and mean it. But I don't understand how God can be primitive and remain that way throughout all of history. I don't buy it.

One problem with the idea of a primitive God is that we would be expected to be primitive as well in service to Him. Once more, how can this be? What sort of God would not want us to progress? I don't understand the whole mentality of this. Sometimes I look at people like the Amish, and I just cannot understand why they would put themselves through that sort of torture. How is remaining primitive a benefit to anyone?

I think perhaps the Amish believe that modern innovations lead to corruption. There is a modicum of truth to what they are saying, but the innovations themselves are not the source of evil. It is the humans utilizing it. In that light, the human race has always had evil no matter what tech level has been in place. This leads me to believe that the whole concept of a tech level to evil ratio to be a moot point. People and the individuals among them are either good or evil, period.

Another thing that seems apparent to me is that the resources to create such things as computer, cars, and airplanes were always available on this planet. They were here in staggering abundance. They had to be or else we would have never gotten to the point at which we finally arrived. If God intended us to remain primitive, He certainly planned everything with a ridiculous amount of redundant material. This of course leads me to assume that, even in primitive days, God was a modern thinker.

I am also reminded of that very interesting command "Be fruitful and multiply." "Fruitful" would be the operable word in this case. The word essentially means to be productive. Now, the primitive view of this word just means to keep harvesting more and more crops, but a more modern take would be to keep innovating. In and of itself, there is no evil in innovation. We can make lives easier on everyone through innovation. Evil people can still ruin it. An axe is just as good at chopping wood as it is in murdering someone.

But in summary, I should say that I think God is and has always been modern, perhaps far more than even we can understand in this day and age--ahead of our time, if you will. He must be. And to equalize Christianity with the primitive times in which the Bible was written does it an extreme disservice. He is not the God of the primitive; He is simply God. All that exists happened because he could imagine it. He is beyond all the things we use to hold ourselves back: culture, laws, language, accents, and levels of technology. None of these things could not even have happened if He did not exist first. Again, He is not the God of the primitive; He is only God. And we exist because of him. Please consider it.

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Monday, May 31, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Leviticus [Book Review]

"Leviticus" is the third book of the "Holy Bible" and was written by Moses in his usual redundant fashion. Seriously, I cannot stand him as an author, but the stuff he wrote was still important. I'll suffer him for now.

"Leviticus" is a list of laws given out by God to Moses while he was still back on Mount Sinai. It covers various topics:

1. Sacrifices and how they must be performed.

2. Information pertaining to the priesthood.

3. Uncleanliness, such as how to deal with leprosy.

4. Another pass at sin and what is considered a sin.

5. Punishment for sin.

All in all, the book is just a list, save for one interesting moment where a man is caught swearing against God outside of the camp and that he ends up being stoned for it.

I particularly found the parts about sinful acts to be interesting. God talks a lot about bestiality and incest in every way that it could redundantly be described. At one point he refers to both acts as "confusion." That is an interesting perspective from God himself, and it should be important to remember that in context. God has the greatest third party perspective on us, and such acts would seem confusing to Him.

There was also a passage about delivering your seed unto Moloch. Moloch was a god who demanded the sacrifice of infant children where they would be burned in the fire. This was the precursor to what later became abortion. It was actually done for the same reason but in the style of infanticide. The context of Moloch is not actually given in the book, because such things were just known at the time. However, I just happen to know what they were talking about.

The only other thing I should mention is the confusing name of this book. "Leviticus" has to do with the tribe of Levi who where the priestly tribe of the Israelites. The name actually just translates into "Law of the Priests." That should clear things up a bit more.

Should I recommend "Leviticus?" If you are interested in the original laws given out by God to Moses, then go for it. If you are looking for a more narrative story, then skip it. Once again, Moses is not a pleasant writer.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Herbert West--Reanimator [Book Review]

[Some spoilers included.]

"Herbert West--Reanimator" is a serialized story that ran between October 1921 to June 1922 in a publication called "Home Brew." It was written by H. P. Lovecraft, and it is the first of his stories I have ever read in my life. The reason for me picking this one first was because I am a super-fan of the 1985 film and its sequels. Another reason was because I felt a little jipped out of a mad scientist story after the incredibly disappointing "Frankenstein." Whatever the case may be, "Reanimator" ended up being one hell of a story!

The story is told by the assistant to the titular Herbert West as he attempts to quite literally cure death. He developed a reagent that can revitalize humans, but in order to get the formula correct, he needs a constant flow of "fresh" bodies. This necessity is what leads this story to sink into the realm of madness.

West comes across as a sociopath that is dedicated to his work. He seems to believe in what he is doing to the bitter end. The only reason his associate stays with him is because of the belief that this really has some strong scientific significance. The problem is that the reanimated humans always come back acting more like animals rather than people.

"Reanimator" morbidly crosses every line of comfortability that exists. It shows how far science can go without regulation, and ultimately, this one ends up a horrific failure. But I still really like and admire people like this. I don't think he was doing anything wrong. He never killed anyone. He was just trying to cure death. No big deal, right?

The Mad Scientist genre is one of my favorites. I adore these men who break free of the rules and regulations of the world and strike out on their own to discover the strange truths of the universe. Although evil, they have more ambition than most, and that makes them so very interesting.

I do recommend "Herbert West--Reanimator." It takes about an hour to read and I found it on Kindle for $.99. Worth every penny.

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Monday, May 24, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Shadow Man: Remastered [Video Game Review]

Shadow Man is a video game that came out on Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 back in 1999. It may actually be the very first horror themed game I ever played, and I played it quite a lot on my old Nintendo 64. They recently came out with a supreme version of this title in 2021 called Shadow Man: Remastered, and it is one of the best games I have ever played, improving on just about every aspect of the original masterpiece.

Shadow Man is actually an obscure super hero from Valiant Comics and later Acclaim Comics who actually has a fascinating history. The actual Shadow Man has actually been a number of people. They merely need to have the mask of shadows knitted into their ribs by a voodoo priestess, and it gives them a number of great powers such as strength, agility, depleted fear, and a gun that can steal souls. They can also travel back and forth from our world into the land of the dead known as Deadside. It's some pretty awesome stuff. In the case of the game, the present Shadow Man is one Michael LeRoi.

The game is a horror masterpiece that employs gloomy visuals, a constant sense of dread, and a disturbing musical score that rivals most of Silent Hill's tracks. The latter aspect is seriously the best part of the overall experience. It drives the atmosphere of the game much farther than it would with its already excellent sound effects library. The people who put this game together back in '99 were masters of the craft, and this remaster only makes everything better.

Everything is better now. All the blurry and pixelated textures are now crisp and beautiful. The squarish polygons are still the same, but somehow they don't bother me. If anything they make everything all the more disturbing. The game's story and progression is slow and sometimes maddening, yet the game was only about 19 hours in length. The intention was to make you feel lost, yet you always seemed to know what needed to be done.

The plot itself is very good. Legion, the one-yet-many demon, comes to five very evil men, contracting them to assist in his efforts to create an apocalyptical event that will open a doorway for the forces of evil to cross over into the land of the living. Each one of these men had a particular talent that could be used. Jack the Ripper, being one of the five, was an architect, and so he created the blueprints for a Cathedral to Pain as well as other horrible things that would be used to enact the rite.

Another surprising thing about the Shadow Man himself is that he is also a poet. Generally when he crosses over into new areas of the game, he will recite these dark, yet beautiful, poems that always satisfied without fail. I say this as a person who generally finds poetry uninteresting, but damn! This stuff is amazing!

There are literally too many things to cover in this game, but I will, for a friend, mention the Sisters of Blood. They are a rather bountiful group of witches that guard three areas of the game where you gain special powers that allow you to deal with heat and fire. The witches come at you in such great quantities that the fights with them are as exciting as they are a bit overwhelming. They come in these fantastic waves that have you gunning them down for sometimes up to hours. It's not bad, really. They always act as a serious trial that must be circumvented in order to gain your new power. Very well implemented enemy type.

To summarize, Shadow Man: Remastered is a solid re-do of an already great game. It implements two new areas that were canceled from the original release. It perfects the janky controls of the original, giving it more modern third person controls. The game is an amazing game when it comes to exploration. You WILL enjoy exploring Deadside and all of its horrors. Play the game. It's seriously a wonderful creation!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Ojo in Oz [Book Review]

[Contains spoilers or an old book nobody reads anymore.]

"Ojo in Oz" is the 27th book in Baum's Oz series. It was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson and published in 1933. You may remember that my last Oz book review was not a very nice one. I stand by it though. "The Purple Prince of Oz" was a pointless mess of a book, but I held out some hope that the next one would be better. I am glad I continued!

Ojo is a character that had not really had much of a role in the Oz universe since waaaaaaay back in "The Patchwork Girl of Oz--that's number 7. Yes, Ojo finally comes back twenty books later, and how wonderful he was this time around!

Ojo is actually a Munchkin boy whose past was never really well developed by Baum. The interesting thing about Ojo is how truly un-incredible he is. He is just a boy. He naturally prefers the color blue, because that is the color of the Munchkins. However other than that, he is a pretty standard boy.

In this story, he has a few sudden and rather exciting things happen to him. Right off the bat, he is captured by gypsies who want to sell him to someone who put a price on his head. He makes friends with a very friendly bear named Snufferbux. He is stolen from the gypsies by a highwayman named Realbad, who also wants to collect the boy's bounty.

By the way, Realbad is a lot of fun. He is a swashbuckling and witty robber who actually has a good heart, despite his name. He has a ring that keeps him protected and offers one of them to Ojo. He is brimming with confidence and never shies away from danger in any event. He loves to fight, and he is constantly leaning into danger, or bored otherwise.

The collective of characters in this story came across as extremely organic. Everything really fit well, and you don't really get to know why that is until the very end. It's like one of those situations where you sense connections but you don't exactly know what the connections art yet. Ruth was very clever to write it in this manner.

I also noticed that she seemed to be employing some techniques I have seen in more epic style fairy tales. There was a grittier feel to this one. Even when things got goofy, everything felt more grounded. There were even J.R. Tolkien style dwarves present, although they had this really weird obsession with unicorns for some reason.

I actually don't want to completely spoil this one. I just want to put forth that the story is worth a read. It does end very well. Ruth gave Ojo a story that Baum neglected to do, and I was perfectly fine with the one she came up with.

If I have to make a complaint, I'd say that some of the small encounters in the story, although genuinely interesting, seem to happen more as filler. An example would be about this great bird that appears when someone blows on a specific whistle. The bird was really intense and surprising, but it only happens once and is never mentioned again in the book. I found myself wondering about the origins of the bird, but the silly boy lost the damned whistle!

I recommend "Ojo in Oz," not just because it is a vast improvement on the previous story, but it is, in its own right, a very heartwarming and exciting adventure consisting entirely of resident Oz characters this time around. That includes Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, by the way. They came back for this one, and it was a whole lot of fun to see them again. Enjoy!

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