The Barbarian Bard

Tales and Musings by Michael A. Espinoza

Archive for the tag “Barbarian Bard”

The Gem Stone’s Folly

Hail readers,
As many of you likely already know, this month is Pride Month. A while ago, I wrote this poem—a darkly-themed fairy tale-esque piece—but I wasn’t sure if or when I’d share it. I’m not entirely sure what the poem is specifically about, and it’s certainly far from uplifting. I guess I just want to share it and say please embrace the diverse array of wonderful people in the world. Don’t discourage a person from being who they are just because it clashes with your concept of who they ought to be. We all shine in our own unique ways, and whether it’s orientation, presentation, or identification, the world has enough love for each and every one of us, but we have to choose to share that love. Don’t just talk tolerance, take actions of acceptance.

In a family of rocks, a stone was born,
of like-body, and like-mind.
Of dark and solid flesh was he,
in each way alike in kind.
“Sturdy and strong,” their friends would say,
“a worthy rock you’ve sired.”
And the new stone beamed with every word
of praise that he inspired.
A life of stone was a good life;
stalwart, day and night.
He gave no ground, he felt no fear,
he let shine no light.

But a reckless sunbeam struck the stone,
angled perfectly,
and a dazzling light reflected from
his face for all to see.
The young stone smiled and spread his light,
amazed at his own glow.
Glittering, glinting in the sun,
an unprecedented show.
“Oh parents,” thought the joyous stone,
knowing they’d be proud of him,
“what great news I bring to you:
your stone son is a gem.”

A gem, of all things; glorious!
He could not contain his pride.
He’d never known of his own form,
that a glow was sealed inside.
Stones and gems were of equal worth,
for each could be of use.
But so rare was it, a young rock’s fate
to be free for them to choose.
And so he sought his family out,
gathering them all ’round
to see his light. “But what is this?
Why must you glow?” they frowned.

“A gem,” they wept, “Oh son, but why
have you delivered us this curse?
All gems are stones, but never should
this order be reversed.”
“We raised you,” his parents sobbed,
“to know your rightful place.
By your choice, you shun your folk,
and spit into our face.”
“But parents,” the young gemstone pled,
“I can be both bright and strong.”
“You can,” they said with somber eyes,
“but such a life is wrong.”

Bereft, the gemstone left from home,
uncertain now of life.
He’d thought his glow would bring delight,
not familial strife.
“A gem is no less hard,” he thought,
“no less able to be
a thing of strength and beauty.
This glow is part of me.”
He was not corrupted, nor defiled,
not deviant or “bad.”
But it seemed that all his light could do
was make his forebears sad.

There was no joy in a gemstone’s life,
if it shone on only pain.
He could not hurt his loved ones so,
he was not so vile and vain.
If being what he’d grown to be
was a curse unto his kind,
he resolved to be a stone,
and leave his glow behind.
But how could he eschew the light
that sparkled on his skin?
How could he take the gleam without,
and bury it within?

First he tried a layer of earth
and hoped one coat would do,
but no matter how he layered it
his radiance shone through.
Next he tried a staining dye,
that soaked in every pore,
but rain washed clean this new disguise,
and he shined brighter than before.
At last, the truth he realized,
the only answer there could be:
light cannot reflect upon
that which it cannot see.

So he delved down to the depths
of the dark and sheltering Earth,
and surrounded himself with the stones
so alike him at his birth.
There no light could ever chance
upon the facets of his face.
There no eyes could see his glow,
and know of his disgrace.
He stood still, and he stood strong;
he made his loved ones proud.
But less proud were they of his self,
and more so of his shroud,
for he’d found a way to lose their shame,
to hide his grievous sin.
And now the gemstone’s only light
was but a memory within.

Independence for a Blind Man: Crowd-Funding Accessibility

Hail readers!
I am writing this post from my iPhone. Why, you might ask? Well, as some of you may know, I am blind in both eyes, due to a condition called LCA. I have been blind since birth, and rely on a device called a BrailleNote to read, write, interact with the internet, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, the company that makes BrailleNotes (HumanWare) has a powerful hold on their niche market, and can thus make a device that is equal parts expensive and prone to breaking down. This is how I now find myself relying on my phone’s screenreader, which is useable, but not a long-term solution when it comes to my career as an English tutor. To that end, a dear friend of mine has started a crowd-funding campaign, which we are sharing along with the hashtag #Braille4ME. (My initials are ME, and I find this hashtag delightfully catchy. Kudos to my friend Kelsey for creating it!) We are over halfway to our goal, and now need less than 2,000 to help me get a new braille computer and retain my job, my blog, and my independence. If you can’t donate, it would still be a huge help if you’d share the link to the campaign page. Every share and every donation helps! Thank you all.

http://www.YouCaring.com/Braille4ME

A Challenge and A Triumph

Hello dear readers, I’m not entirely certain if this video will load, but until YouTube decides to resolve their frustrating copyright-claim system, with regard to fair usage policy, I figured I’d try and post this video here, for you all to view. It should give you a bit of an idea of what has been occupying my time as of late. Enjoy!

And, as an aside, let me just say that the true challenge and triumph here was editing a video as a blind person. Not an easy task, trust me.

Blind Man Gaming – Balance and Variation (audio transcript)

Below, you will find a full text transcript of all the spoken dialog in my latest episode of Blind Man Gaming.

Me (deeper voice): Coming to you live from an oil rig somewhere in international waters, it’s that one blind guy who plays Mortal Kombat almost as good as those other blind guys: Michael Espinoza!

Me (normal voice): Hey everybody, it’s Michael, with Blind Man Gaming once again. So as many of you may have heard, there is now a balance patch out for MKXL. Um, and I want to have a look at how that balance patch impacts my gameplay. Now, there were some rumors that Mileena would no longer be able to combo off Ball Roll. Uh, turns out that totally wasn’t true, so… that’s not an issue we’re even going to worry about. But uh yeah, I still want to see how things, you know, shake out. So let’s try, uh, Mileena versus Takeda. I have a hard time fighting him, so this should be… amusing I guess. But yeah, let’s see how the balance patch will affect my game play.

Takeda: I can read your thoughts.

Mileena: I am not of Earthrealm, you cannot.

Takeda (smug): I knew you were going to say that.

Me: Let’s do this! [later, after multiple stab attack] I tried to do a combo off Ball Roll and it didn’t work, but I think that was honestly just a coincidence. [after successful combo] Okay, yeah! Yeah, you can still combo off Ball Roll. [round one ends] Okay, still comboing off Ball Roll; that’s refreshing. [takes a few hits from Takeda] Oh crap.

Mileena (flirtatious, before pouncing on Takeda): I saw you staring…

Me: I don’t know Mileena, I don’t think you saw him staring. I don’t think he’s that into you. [after the final blow] Well, that was easy. [performs Fatality] Okay, you know what actually, the part that disturbed me about that was not uh, was not what she did. It was the fucking noise he made before she did it. Like, I don’t know if that, y’all caught that, but he makes this weird fucking noise like right before he dies. She is about to kill him and he just makes this weird “huuunh” noise, and it’s like, I don’t know if that was supposed to be sexual. I don’t know, I don’t know. Anyway, I’m going to try actually a variant Mileena and see how that pans out. I’ve never really done much with variants. And yeah, let’s do a um… I meant to go left and click random, but I didn’t. So let’s do a Mileena versus Mileena fight. To be honest, those are really rough for me, um, because I can’t hear which one is me and which one is the opponent in these uh, mirror matches. But let’s see how this pans out.

Mileena: Sister.

Other Mileena: I am Mileena.

Mileena: Not while I live.

Me (after leaping attack): Oh that, that was cool! Oh crap, I don’t have Low Sai anymore. That’s like my one thing. It’s like the one thing that keeps me alive. No! Oh I suck so hard at this! Oh God, stop Tele-Kicking me! [gets in a hit] Yeah! [gets hit] Jesus. [does extended leaping neck-bite] Oh shit, you can extend that. Okay. Cool cool. Okay I can live with that, that’s at least something. [gets hit, near the round’s end] No, bad Mileena. [amused] That’d be an interesting idea for a sitcom; like, multiple Mileenas. You know, and like, Shao Kahn tries to raise a whole bunch of Mileenas. Clones. And it’s like uh “Two and a Half Men,” but it’s like “Two and a Half… Screwed Up Clones of Kitana.”

Mileena (as she beats on her other self): Sorry, darling.

Me (still rambling): I’d watch that. That seems like it would be a good show. [Mileena and Mileena try to zone each other] Oh! A conflict of zoning!

Mileena (ecstatic; before leaping neck-bite): So much blood!

Me: Oh, I like that move. That’s a good one. [uses X-Ray attack] There we go. [back to rambling] But yeah, a multiple Mileena sitcom, where Shao Kahn has to put up with all their antics. [prepares Fatality] Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’d watch the shit out of that. [does Fatality]

Me (in deep voice): Now Mileena, don’t devour your sister’s entr- (normal voice) Never mind, you know what, never mind. That, that ship sailed. Fuck. Bad parenting! Bad parenting. [pause] Well, that was fun. Okay, so the balance patch has not completely screwed me up, though I still suck kind of at fighting, you know, myself. Um, now just for irony’s sake, let’s have some fun, let’s try a new character. I think I’m going to try uh… [clicks Kenshi] Yeah, Kenshi. Because, you know, blind swordsman. And I am also blind, that’s a thing. Uh, who should I have him fight? Oh let’s do… [clicks Cassie] Yeah, that’ll work. The blind playing the blind, let’s see how that works out for everybody. Mostly me, though. I barely know any of Kenshi’s moves, I feel like this is going to be kind of embarrassing. But just in case it’s not!

Kenshi: Cassie.

Cassie: Ready, Kenshi sir.

Kenshi: We’ll find out, won’t we.

Me: Ooh, confident. [gets hit] Don’t… Rude. Don’t you know not to hit a blind man while he’s trying to cut you in half? [manages a combo] Oh, that’s kind of cool. [gets hit repeatedly] Bad Cassie. [totally whiffs an attempted attack] Oh fuck. [gets it right] That’s what it is. [gets hit repeatedly] You stop that right now! [after round one] Okay, so I’m pretty clumsy with Kenshi, but not too bad. It’s passable. [immediately gets attacked] Ow! [does combo] Alright! [takes damage] Ouch! [almost manages combo] Yeah! Damn it! Don’t do that. I think there’s a move that reflects projectiles. I want to be able to do that. [loses round 2] Damn it!!! Ah man, I’m screwing around too much. I’m just not even. I’m trying to get that one move, and I keep screwing around instead of actually hurting her. That is my bad. [knocks Cassie away] Alright, there we go. Yeah! [gets hit hard] Ouch. Stop hurting the poor innocent blind man. Damn it. Wow, this is a slow fight. [is killed by Brutality; is angry] GOD DAMN IT! Okay, so I suck as Kenshi. Okay, note to self: I suck as Kenshi. You know what, no, I’m going to try that again. I will not accept this failure. You guys get to witness a rematch, because now you got to see me lose horribly, and that was embarrassing.

Kenshi: A word of advice?

Cassie: Okay, but you never listen.

Kenshi: I meant… never mind.

Me (attacking in earnest: Oh it’s on now, Cassie. There we go.

Cassie (coyly after striking a painful blow): You got a thing for punishment?

Me: Well yes Cassie, but that has nothing to do with what’s going on here. [uses X-ray attack] There we go! Yeah! That’s what happens when you mess with blind people. Any and all blind people have the ability to do that, just so you know. All blind people can do that, ask Helen Keller.

Kenshi (victorious after round 1): Two minds, one blade.

Me: Yeah, that was a real miracle worker. [knocks Cassie away] There we go. [does it again, after a decent amount of damage has been dealt] There we go! [gets knocked down] No!

Kenshi: Fear my blade.

Me (gets a Brutality, is excited): Oh!!! And the retaliation! Yeah! Okay, so I kind of only moderately suck as Kenshi. Note to self: get better with Kenshi. Alright, well thank y’all for watching, um, Like, share, subscribe, comment, send me happy thoughts, uh tell me I’m awesome. Alright, well thank you guys very much and I will see y’all next time on Blind Man Gaming.

—–

And as always, if you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to check out my novel, Bla
des of Cairndale
.

Testing My Might Against the Gate of Disability

A lot of you may be wondering why, of all things, I love Mortal Kombat so much. An equally large number of you probably wish there was a Chrome extension that blocked every post by me containing the terms Mortal Kombat, Carly Rae Jepsen, or heavy metal. No luck for y’all, but I’m happy to address the former question.

Why, you might ask, would an aspiring writer and a fan of complex, compelling plotlines in books, films, and games, be drawn to the maelstrom of gore that is Mortal Kombat? That question has many answers. First is that I must admit, my eyesight is getting worse. Not abruptly so, but I realize it the more I game, and the less I’m able to do so. RPGs and other games with complex menus, maps, and the like, become less and less feasible for me as years go by. I return to games I adored in my childhood, and find myself failing at things that my younger self would have never missed. I can’t describe how unexpectedly painful it is for me to miss a basic jump sequence in Spyro the Dragon, when I used to move over every world in that game with total precision. I know it’s just a game, but the loss of ability it portends is something I struggle with.

Enter, Mortal Kombat. It is not a simple game, and it is far from an easy game, but it is a sonically rich game. The sounds of feet scuffing ground, of deflected punches, and of blades on flesh, all in stereo, all trackable by my keen sense of hearing. In MK, I have found a place where my lack of sight does not too horribly disadvantage me. I’d likely do better against my sighted friends if I could see, but the fact that I can still handle a fight and come away with dignity in tact is heartening in a way I can’t describe. It makes me feel like gaming isn’t closed off to me. This isn’t Skyrim, where my extensive knowledge of lore and gameplay mechanics all amounts to aimless wandering because I can’t see a quest marker. Nor is it Tomb Raider, where my love of the plot simply cannot keep Lara from plummeting to her bloody demise. This is a game where, if I concentrate with all my might, I can keep up with my sighted peers. I may not always come out on top, but I never come away disgraced.

People talk about GamerGate, the frustratingly named-stop adding “gate” to every controversy and then coming up with an explanation later-conspiracy whereby male gamers actively strive to lock women out of the world of gaming. I do not doubt this malevolent conspiracy, nor am I targeted by it, being a male gamer myself. But there is a gate that effects me all the same. Not one maliciously erected, nor one held in place by the entirety of a single gender, but one inadvertently constructed by an industry that is, by design, for the sighted. Because visuals are an undeniable component to video gaming, I cannot expect this gate to be broken or surmounted en masse. Audio games exist, but they are ill-funded, and even more hit or miss than indie video games. I may not suffer from a gatekeeping conspiracy, but there is a wall between me and a subculture I love; a wall that grows higher as years go by. So, when I find a game like Mortal Kombat, that lets me struggle against that gate, that allows me to jam my foot in the door and refuse to be shut out, I cannot help but be overwhelmed and enraptured by the chance it offers me to throw all my might against the barrier that would otherwise cut me off from a world that I’ve embraced since childhood.

As for the lore of the Mortal Kombat world, it is true that you won’t find novels of expanded content, or prolific in-game text crawls that lay out a Tolkien-esque story of mind altering magnitude. However, that is not the type of game Mortal Kombat is, and such a lore system would feel tacked on, at best. That said, the series is possessed of a surprisingly rich narrative, brought to life by a diverse cast of characters with unique traits far beyond their move sets. And the openness of the lore is in fact one of the game’s greatest strengths. How will the fates of the various realms be decided? Will balance ever be attainable so long as they remain autonomous? On a more individual level: will Kung Jin’s sexuality be accepted by his teammates and his native culture? And what of the relationship between Takeda and Jacqui? There are numerous branches of interpersonal relationships and grand cosmic struggles to unravel, and I cannot fully express how joyous an occasion it is to find such a game, and to know I can actively participate in its community, and in the gameplay itself.

If you enjoyed this post, you might consider subscribing to my YouTube channel, where you will find videos of my experiences with video games and other such exciting things. You can also purchase my eBook Blades of Cairndale, for your reading pleasure.

Blind Man Gaming – Incubation and Indigestion (MKX, Audio Transcript)

As many of you know, I’ve taken up the process of making Let’s Play videos, in support of accessibility in gaming. In that spirit, here is a full audio-to-text transcript of my latest video, located here, for anyone who needs or wants to read the printed text in lieu of the audio dialog.

* * *

Me: Hello everybody. Welcome to another episode of Blind Man Gaming.

[The menu makes a sharp clicking sound as the winning faction screen pops up.]

Announcer: Brotherhood of Shadow wins.

Me (mildly surprised): Oooh, I guess we won a uh, uh, what do they call those? A faction war?

[Various clicks as I pass through screens and into the main menu.]

Me (rambling): That’s cool. I totally didn’t contribute to that at all. Um… but I will take credit for it. (focused again) Anyway, uh… so yeah, havin’ a good day so far. Hope everyone else is, too. Except I burned the roof of my mouth on a hotdog.

[I click on Mileena. She growls and her sai make a sharp blade sound.]

Announcer: Mileena.

Me: So now I’m kind of pissed off and I wanna take it out on somebody.

[The selector clicks rapidly as it scrolls to a random fighter.]

Me: And that somebody is…

Announcer: D’Vorah.

Me: D’Vorah! Oh how perfect, because of, you know, the whole Mileena, D’Vorah thing. Spoilers. Anyway, uh yeah, so I burned my mouth on a hotdog, and I’m all grumpy now, so I’m going to hurt D’Vorah, because it will make me feel better.

[As the fight begins, D’Vorah speaks up. Her voice sounds oddly distorted, as if speaking through a fan.]

D’Vorah: You know not when to quit.

Mileena: I will never give up my fight! [brandishes sai]

D’Vorah: Your lack of judgment led you here.

Announcer: Round one… Fight.

Me (calm): Oh it’s on, D’Vorah. Nobody criticizes my lack of judgment.

[Mileena’s sai sound with painful, fleshy stabs as she rapidly strikes the insectoid D’Vorah. The two fighters trade blows with audible striking sounds as attacks connect or are blocked.]

Me (pleased after landing an aerial combo): Ooh, that was cool! [after the round ends] Well, that was a relatively easy fight.

Mileena (lustful or very hungry): Delicious!

Announcer: Round two… Fight!

Me: I would agree to disagree with that, Mileena. I don’t think anything about this was delicious.

[D’Vorah makes more pronounced, high-pitched grunts of exertion as she dominates the fight.]

Me (as Mileena is beaten savagely): Oh! D’Vorah’s pissed now.

[D’Vorah’s projectile attacks sound slimy and foul, like retching phlegm. She blocks most of Mileena’s attacks, thus muffling the sound of Mileena’s strikes. Mileena screams.]

Me: Ouch.

[Mileena lands a basic combo and laughs quietly. D’Vorah retaliates with a barrage of attacks that have squishy or stinging insectoid sound effects.]

Me: Jeez. [after the round ends] God damn it! Okay, that came back out of nowhere. That was like…

D’Vorah (smug): I will end you.

Announcer (impatient or unamused): Final round, fight.

Me: That… talk about a comeback.

[The two trade blows, screaming and grunting with effort and pain. A shimmering sound is heard as Mileena is thrown away by D’Vorah burning two levels of her meter to disrupt a combo.]

Me: How rude, D’Vorah. [lands a few hits against her] There we go. [gets hit] Jeez.

[D’Vorah lands multiple hits.]

D’Vorah (assertive): You will incubate my young.

Me (shocked, horrified): Jesus Christ, did she just say, “You will incubate my young?”

Announcer: Finish her.

[Mileena deals an ordinary attack as a killing blow.]

Me: Okay, that distracted me. I couldn’t even do a Fatality, because that was-

Announcer: Mileena wins. [a new screen appears] Assassin battle.

Me (excited): Oh shit! An assassin battle! Let’s hope I do better in that. But seriously, did D’Vorah just say, “You will incubate my young”? What the fuck?! [more horrified] Seriously, what the fuck?! That’s so unpleasant!

[The next fight begins, facing off against Ferra/Torr. Ferra speaks up, in a perpetually mocking, childish voice.]

Ferra: Big teeth! Nasty!

[Torr roars.]

Mileena (low, menacing): I will sharpen them on your bones.

Me (annoyed at Ferra): Oh God, I hate this-

Ferra: She wants play, Torr.

Announcer: Round one… Fight!

Me: I hate this creature, so much.

[Torr grunts and Ferra snarls as the combatants engage each other. Torr’s movements are deep, slow, and rumbling. Ferra lands an attack and shrieks victoriously.]

Me: Damn it! I keep screwing up that… [trails off] I think my hands are just naturally slower for some reason. [the mic audio cuts in and out a bit] Because I’m having serious issues pulling off combos. Like, combos I’m normally pretty comfortable with.

Mileena (victorious): I will drink your fetid blood.

Announcer: Round two… Fight!

[The combatants trade a flurry of attacks; Mileena’s are sharp and stabby, Ferra/Torr’s are heavy and rumbling. Mileena lands the final blow.]

Announcer: Finish him!

Me: Okay, now let’s get a Fatality.

[A short, five note minor-key ascension plays on strings to signal the beginning of the Fatality. Mileena attacks Torr, who grunts as Mileena let’s out a victory snarl.]

Me (happy): There we go!

[Torr screams horribly, which fades to a pitiful groan as Mileena tears into him. Fleshy ripping, gnashing, and slurping sounds fill the air as she feeds on Torr.]

Me: I feel bad for the uh-

Announcer: Mileena wins. Fatality.

Me: -the larger portion of Ferra/Torr. I guess that’s Torr? Because he’s just kind of following Ferra’s…

Announcer: Assassin defeated!

Me (distracted): Alright, assassin defeated. (refocuses) Anyway, he’s just kind of following Ferra’s commands, you know? It’s not like he actually wanted to start, you know, some shit. He was just doing what he was told. That’s kind of messed up. And yet he’s the only one who gets, you know, Fatalitied. Why don’t we eat Torr? Errrr, Ferra. She was the one who started it. She was the one who insulted Mileena’s teeth. And then, you know…

[I select Mileena from the character screen.]

Announcer: Mileena.

Me (continues): Got Torr to fight on her behalf, so I mean…

[The random selector clicks about quickly before settling.]

Announcer: Sonya Blade!

Me: Oh, this is a good fight! Okay, cool. I still have a bit of rage about burning my mouth on a hotdog, so let’s uh, let’s do another fight. [pauses to gather thoughts] But yeah, that’s just, it’s not fair that Ferra/Torr, you know, Torr is the only one who really gets hurt significantly.

[The fight begins.]

Mileena (disdainful): Earthrealm witch!

Sonya (bored, dry): I wish. I’d make you vanish.

Mileena: Exactly what I will do to you.

Announcer: Round one… Fight.

[The combatants close. Sonya blocks at first, but and is able to counter Mileena’s onslaught.]

Me: Ouch.

[Mileena attacks more aggressively, making heavy use of her sai.]

Me: Huh. That was brutal.

[The two trade hand-to-hand blows. Mileena misses a combo.]

Me (slightly annoyed): Oh.

[The round ends in Mileena’s favor.]

Me: Well, this is at least going better than that D’Vorah fight. That was embarrassing, that second round.

Announcer: Round two… Fight.

[Mileena lands several successive hits.]

Me: Alright!

[The two battle fiercely, but Mileena dominates the round.]

Announcer: Finish her!

Me (angry that I struck a killing blow prematurely): Oh God damn it! I totally-

Announcer: Mileena wins.

Me: -screwed that up. I could’ve totally gotten in uh, gotten in a Fatality there. Let’s try one more fight. I think that’ll take off my uh, my fury. My burnt mouth fury.

[I select Mileena again.]

Announcer: Mileena.

Me: Let’s see, who does the machine want us to fight next?

[The random selector clicks rapidly, slows, and settles.]

Announcer: Alien.

Me (dismayed): Oh God, oh man, I hate fighting Alien. [mic audio flickers in and out] My best friend always plays as Alien, kicks my ass, and it’s demoralizing as shit, and maybe I can beat the computer. Let’s find out.

[There is silence before the fight begins. Alien growls low in its throat.]

Mileena: Face the might of Outworld.

Announcer: Round one… Fight.

[Alien screeches and shrieks as it battles Mileena. She lands several stabs.]

Mileena (confident and condescending): Run along now!

[The pair close again, and Alien deals a multi-hit attack.]

Me: Ow. That’s the move my friend loves to do on me, like constantly. He’s so good at constantly getting that particular move in.

[Alien screeches as it loses the round after a barrage of attacks.]

Mileena: You’re so much fun.

[Alien growls.]

Me: Mileena and Alien should get into a “who can bite things better” contest.

Announcer: Round two… Fight.

Me: I feel like that’d be an interesting fight. They both seem like they’d be really good at, you know, chewing on things.

[Mileena aggressively assails Alien with her sai.]

Me: Can’t you see them both just, you know, noming on things? Like to see who can chew stuff up more effectively? I feel like Alien would cheat and use his little second mouth.

Announcer: Finish him!

Me (arrogant): Oh what up, I win!! Okay, let’s see… [I fumble with buttons] Do do do do do…

[The Fatality sound plays as Mileena attacks.]

Me: Here we go, I remembered it.

[Alien lets out a dying screech and Mileena grunts with effort as she rips away its head. She crunches down on it like someone taking loud, echoing bites from an especially crispy apple.]

Me: Oooh, Mileena, I feel like that’s a really bad idea. Aliens have, you know, acid blood. Don’t do what you’re… Uh never mind, it’s too late.

Announcer: Mileena wins. Fatality!

Me: Yeah, she wins for now, but I mean the real winner in this fight is indigestion, ’cause… acid blood. You know that’s gonna hurt. Anyway, I’ll catch y’all later. Thanks for tuning in to Blind Man Gaming. Uh, Like, comment, subscribe, share, um, think happy thoughts, all that good stuff, and I will catch y’all later.

Review: Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast

Let me start this review by saying that I am a grown man who typically enjoys action and horror films, alongside heavy metal music. That said, I was absolutely captivated by this offering from Disney. So, when I popped online to see others’ opinions on the film, I was dismayed to see how many folks panned this film as being a “downer,” or according to one reviewer, “dark and twisted.” So, from the objective standpoint of one who is usually not into this sort of thing, let me try and dispell some of the confusion and concern for potential viewers, be they children, parents watching with children, or just odd adults like myself.

THE PLOT:

Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. In this film, the animal-talent fairy named Fawn encounters a strange and injured creature in the forest. Because of her reputation for bringing dangerous creatures into Pixie Hollow, due to her empathetic nature, Fawn resolves to keep this large, mysterious, and intimidating beast hidden from the Scout fairies, who are already unhappy with Fawn’s prior antics involving a hawk. The beast, whom Fawn names Gruff, has a tendency to gather and stack rocks, thus shaping large towers of stone. Fawn helps in this activity, partially for fun, and partially to satiate her curiosity about Gruff’s intentions once his towers are done.

Meanwhile, Nyx, the stern leader of the Scout fairies, begins combing through fairy lore for references to Gruff, whom she only knows as the menacing shape she’s seen glimpses of in the wilderness. At last, she finds that this creature is known as the NeverBeast, who awakens every thousand years to call down a massive storm with his great stone towers, and thus destroy Pixie Hollow. What ensues is a tumultuous, catastrophic sequence of events wherein even Fawn begins to doubt Gruff’s gentle nature, when indeed the storm does arrive as foretold, and Gruff takes on a horned and winged form. But, in the end, it is revealed that Gruff is not the cause of the storm. In fact, he awakens every thousand years to absorb the energy of the storm, and thus keep Pixie Hollow safe. In a daring flight, he and Fawn manage to halt the storm, but Fawn is left near death, and Gruff revives her with stored up electrical energy from his body, restarting her heart. It is only then, once the fairies have come to know and love Gruff, that they realize he is utterly exhausted and must now go back into hibernation until the next storm comes, which will be in another thousand years. They will never see him awake again; by the time he awakens, they will all be dead. Each fairy, including the Scouts, thanks Gruff for his service, and Fawn bids her friend a last, tearful goodnight.

THE POINT:

The meaning of this film is multifaceted, and surprisingly poignant for a movie whose suggested viewing age is 4 years-old. First and foremost is the classic, but always welcome, moral that one should never judge a person’s heart based on their appearance. The large and intimidating Gruff is a kind soul, who puts himself in harm’s way to protect even those fairies that fear him. Meanwhile, Nyx the Scout Captain seems like a hard-headed bully, but it is imperative to remember that she is doing her job in the way she truly believes is best. She is not a villain, nor is Gruff. There are no “evil” people here, just mixed priorities, miscommunication, and dangerous presumptions that set good people (or fairies, as the case may be) at odds, even though they all have good intentions.

A secondary, but no less powerful moral, is the notion of sacrifice and loss. This film will make young viewers, yet unfamiliar with loss, ask some serious questions. With Fawn’s near-death experience, and Gruff’s one thousand year-long hibernation, children will have a few curious inquiries about what it means that by the time Gruff awakens, all of the fairies he knew will be gone. There will be teary eyes and sniffles for many viewers, myself included. But the concepts that this film leads young viewers to consider are utterly worthwhile, and they’re packaged in a delightful, amusing story that will bring more smiles than tears, and that will definitely be on repeat in some households for quite a while yet.

BOTTOM LINE:

This film is not dark or scary. There is a definite tone-shift after the first fifteen minutes or so, wherein the plot goes from a lighthearted frolic to a meaningful conflict of wills, but that is nothing to fear. If you are willing to take the time to sit with your children, watch this film, and answer the serious questions it may spark, then Legend of the NeverBeast will become a family favorite in no time at all!

Skaði, Mistress of Winter

Hail to you who, in your might,
took up weapons of war to set wrongs right,
who alone marched on Asgard’s walls,
unafraid to fight or fall.
You, so bold, facing all odds.
You, unaided, against the gods.
No war-party at your back,
no allies in your brave attack.
Seeking recompense for your father’s doom,
you claimed a prize: a worthy groom.
From the halls of the gods, you claimed your mate,
that the Aesir might avert your hate.
But oh, Fair Lady, you found despair,
for you could not claim that god most fair.
Wed you Njord, God of the Sea;
a marriage that simply could not be.
And now you are alone once more,
up on your mountains, and him by the shore.

Oh Winter Lady, hail your might!
Hail your strength to set wrongs right.
True power it takes, to be as you are:
unafraid, unshaken, as you travel so far
across wintery waists and barren lands.
None may hold you under their command.
It might be easy for you to conquer us all.
We would fall at your feet, as you stand so tall.
But true might is not the strength to reign.
It rests in the power to spare others from pain.

And so, My Mistress, oh Lady Fair,
I rest well knowing that you are there.
You watch me closely, as I take my sleep,
you stand over me; my guard you keep.

I offer you a mighty hail,
for I know, Dear Mistress, you shall never fail.
Of your kindness I avail,
whilst I honor you, and tell your tale.

Blind Man Gaming

Hail readers,
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved playing games; from childhood bouts of imaginative play to digital, immersive stories of enthralling characters and events. In fact, it was the video game series “Legacy of Kain,” that inspired me to first become a writer. One might wonder how a blind man goes about the visual processes of video games. That question, along with others, is something I hope to address in my new YouTube series: Blind Man Gaming. In this series, you will see me playing some of my favorite games, discussing my process for doing so, and engaging in what I hope to be amusing dialog with my pixelated protagonists. In this video, for instance, you can observe my use of stereo audio to play Mortal Kombat X. I’ll be compiling videos from the same games into playlists
like this
, for easy viewing purposes. So, if you want to see a blind man take on the visual world of gaming, please consider subscribing to my channel, and I promise I will make that decision as worthwhile, entertaining, and amusing as I possibly can.

—–

And as always, if you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to check out my novel, Bla
des of Cairndale
.

An Impression of My Father

We are not our parents. We live our own lives and think our own thoughts. But we have been sculpted by our parents, and while we are our own selves, we bear an impression of their handiwork, as an artist’s sculpture can have been created by none in the exact way as its original artisan. In that way, we are like living sculptures; we shape our own images, but our parents have a hand in the subtle details.
To those who know me, the traits my mother has imparted are fairly clear. My love of reading is evident enough, and the Celtic music which she played in her car came to inform my tastes. But these traits did not come out in carbon copies; rather, they are subtle influences, impressions which manifested uniquely within me. My mother loves classic literature, I love fantasy, horror, and science fiction. My mother played Celtic music for my sister and I, and now I listen to folk/pagan metal. The influence is clear, the manifestation unique.
What, you may ask then, did I get from my father? This is a good question. My father is an accomplished athlete, dedicated to fitness, endurance, and pushing his physical limitations in both competitive and self-motivated feats of prowess. I, conversely, am a portly gent who detests cardio, plays RPGs, and writes fantasy stories. I’m a bit shy of confrontation, I prefer my dark, air-conditioned room to a rough biking course, and I’m on record as having gotten all sniffly at the end of a Disney Fairies movie. What, then, could I have in common with my father? How great is his impression on me? More than you could possibly imagine.
As my mother’s classic literature and soothing music became my fantasy and heavy metal, my father’s traits became mine in their own way. Speed, strength, and dexterity are profound skills, and even more profoundly beyond me, but it is the mind driving those triumphs of will that has been imparted unto me. My father taught me to win. My father taught me to find a goal, evaluate what stands between me and my objective, and do everything within my power to get from point A to point B. He taught me to never let others dictate my limits. As he persevered in the face of racial discrimination, so I persevere in the face of ableism. No one tells me who I am and what I can do, because my father never let anyone do any such thing to him. My father taught me to shrug off the judgments of others as easily as he out-maneuvered opponents on the field, and out-performed those who doubted him off the field. As an immigrant to this country, he faced a nation determined to dictate his career path, and they did not intend it to get far. So my father blazed a new trail, a better trail. As a child, I was told my blindness would effect my intellectual capacity, that I would never form a coherent sentence. My dad now holds his Master’s degree and has a career of many great successes. I am now a published author. He taught me to be who I now am.
This is my father’s impression, the way in which he sculpted me. As he sets his mind on a new task and deftly overcomes each obstacle in his way, so has he taught me to do the same. His victories are on the field or in the gym, mine are in Skyrim or on the D&D table, and just as he expertly handles his career with an endearing consideration for his coworkers and students, so have I learned these same mannerisms in my own career path. He has given me the drive to seek my desires, the strength to shake off my critics, and above all, the will to win. This is my father, and his impression is upon me, shaping the man I have become.

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