The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #209: “Empty Hands” Reading – Elemental Alignments

Episode #209: Empty Hands Reading – Elemental Alignments

https://archive.org/download/podcast209_201908/Podcast%20209.mp3

This week, I’m reading a short excerpt from the martial arts novella, Empty Hands, as a follow up to last week’s episode on the Dungeons and Dragons influences.  This section touches on the five elements in nature (more back in episode 151) and how they fit the characters:

 

Jake and Aurora both fell into a character class Wally the wizard had called the “earth type.”  As the guys had mentioned, we’d done a little presentation detailing our strengths and weaknesses early in our training (I had to do mine twice since I didn’t understand the assignment the first time and had instead talked about Aurora).  Wally used that assignment to go into something he called “The Elemental School of Personality Assessment,” which he said was an important part of not only our magical studies but our training in general.  There were five main personality types corresponding to the five divisions of elemental forces in nature – earth, water, wind, fire, and space, as well as an infinite combination of blends.

Pure earth types were grounded, practical people who, like strongly rooted trees, were good at weathering the vicissitudes of life but could be a bit stubborn at times.  Dependable, practical, and steady types like Jake and Ben fell into that category.  Pure water types were kind of the opposite – adaptable and fluid, like water conforming to whatever container it finds itself in, though they could be a bit all over the place.  Phil, an easy-going sort who tended to go with the flow, fit this category.  He was not, however, a fickle person, prompting Wally to categorize him as an earth-water blend.

“You mean like mud?” Phil had said when Wally passed him the sheet of paper containing his alignment and its characteristics.

We’d laughed, but then Wally shrugged.  “Water is flexible, but it can be hard, if the force is right.  Earth is not fluid but mixed with a little water, it moves easily from one place to the next until it dries.  Too much, though, and it just becomes dirty water.  Do you get my drift?”

“Um … no,” Phil had said after a long pause.

“You will.  For now, it basically means you have the best of both worlds.”  Then to all of us, he said, “Keep in mind these are just predictions.  It’s up to you to figure out if they’re accurate and how to apply the knowledge to your training.”   

Like Phil, Aron also ended up a blend – part water and part wind.  Pure wind types, like Allan, were open-minded and peaceful.  Like birds soaring above the clouds, the day-to-day troubles of the earth-bound held little meaning for them.  They craved freedom, which fit Aron, but could be a bit impractical and out of touch with reality (definitely Aron and sometimes Allan, who preferred to think everything through prior to acting on anything).  Pure fire types, like Lance and Blake, were no-nonsense folk who believed the best defense was a good offense.  It was pretty clear that dynamic, straight-forward weapons like the bow and sword fit guys like that.  The downside of fire, of course, was that not all problems could be solved in direct ways. 

That left the last category, which Wally had initially called “empty space.”  Aron had burst out laughing at this, muttering something about it being the one that fit me best, and the others had joined in.  Wally silenced them, then paused and said that, actually, Aron might have been right for once.  This caused me to redden in anger and disappointment as Aron went bug-eyed and laughed hard enough to fall out of his chair. 

It wasn’t like I was especially taken with any of the previous categories, but as the youngest and physically smallest of the Rangers, it would have been nice to not be different at something – anything – for once.  I didn’t really care about not being able to run, swim, climb, fight, navigate, or use magic as well as the others.  Unlike some, I couldn’t imagine myself “a career man,” so excelling at soldiering skills (assuming I lived long enough), seemed a bit irrelevant for me and my life in the long run.  Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less whether I fit earth, wind, water, fire, or some blend of the four – but “empty space?”  Come on!

As if reading my thoughts, Wally frowned and said, “Empty space is perhaps not the right term.  The magic books sometimes use the word void (which produced a burst of hoots from Aron), but that, too, has always seemed a poor choice.  It’s …” he frowned, sighed, then continued.  “At some point in the future, science will catch up to what we wizards have known for eons – that all matter is composed of tiny particles too small to see.  They are the essence, the anima, that gives substance and life to all things in the natural world.  And, as such, particles from the void can become any of the four.  Add enough of them packed together, and they become earth.  Space them out far enough, they become wind.  Push them a bit closer together, they reform as water.  Add a bolt of lightning or some other energy source, and they become fire.”      

Allan nodded, saying, “Most interesting.  So this is the essence we harness when we generate magic.”

“Exactly!  You are pulling directly from the void,” Wally said.

There was silence for a time as we mulled this over.  Finally, Jake turned around in his seat and looked at me with his steady, cool brown eyes.  “I’m sorry we laughed, Logan.  It was wrong of us.”

I reddened further and stared down at my notebook, doodling with my piece of charcoal.  “It’s okay,” I finally said, still avoiding Jake’s eyes.  When I look back on that experience, I wish I had met and held the man’s gaze to let him know I appreciated his apology.  But … there are some things I suppose that only come with age.

After a moment, Aron asked quietly, “So … do you think there’s maybe a little void somewhere in me?”

Wally rolled his eyes and said “Aron, be grateful for what you have.”  After the lesson finished, Wally handed me the piece of paper containing information on my alignment.  On the side, he had written:

Read this over, and see if you think it fits.  Find me if you have any questions.

~Wally 

P.S. The woman you told us about from your town – the one you grew up with – sounds like more of an earth type, though at least from your description, she sounds like an earth – void blend.  I can see why you would enjoy her company.  Hope that gives you some more information about yourself that will be helpful in the coming months.

To be honest, it wasn’t then, but looking back years later, it sure has been.

Here’s a little character sketch I did about a year ago (a little different from their final iteration) when I was coming up with the ideas presented above:

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This page formerly had what I affectionately dubbed a “starving artist” section on little side hustles you could do (mostly on the internet, often with a phone) to make a few bucks here and there, often in gift cards.  Well, now you can listen to this show (as well as other podcasts) and get paid to do so!  Check out https://www.podcoin.com/ to listen to the show and start earning points that you can redeem for gift cards (Amazon, Target, Starbucks, etc) or donations to a number of charities.  Use the code “Thirteen” when you sign up to get 300 extra points.  The Thirteen Hour Podcast is now on BONUS this week, so you can earn more than normal (1.5x).

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #208: “Empty Hands” Behind the Scenes Part 4 and Musical Interludes

Episode #208: Empty Hands Behind the Scenes Part 4 and Musical Interludes

https://archive.org/download/podcast208_201908/Podcast%20208.mp3

This week, we’re discussing Empty Hands behind the scenes, specifically the influence of Dungeons and Dragons and the character creation process.  Just like the D and D alignments, the eight Rangers in Empty Hands have their own specific alignment that informs which sidearm they are assigned.  (If the idea of D and D morality alignments are as mysterious to you as they were to me before my brother explained them to me, check out the graphic I found on the internet below).

Image result for superhero d and d alignment

The rest of the episode focuses on two new synth tracks.  I add a second track to finish up “A Place of our Own” (see episodes 202 – 204 and the pixelart animation below).

I also start a new track that IG musician @nikeboyocta approached me about inspired by Van Halen’s “Dreams” (video above).  Look for more on IG and in coming weeks!

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In the meantime, this page formerly had what I affectionately dubbed a “starving artist” section on little side hustles you could do (mostly on the internet, often with a phone) to make a few bucks here and there, often in gift cards.  Well, now you can listen to this show (as well as other podcasts) and get paid to do so!  Check out https://www.podcoin.com/ to listen to the show and start earning points that you can redeem for gift cards (Amazon, Target, Starbucks, etc) or donations to a number of charities.  Use the code “Thirteen” when you sign up to get 300 extra points.  The Thirteen Hour Podcast is now on BONUS this week, so you can earn more than normal (1.5x).

 

 

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #61: Reflections on Replaying Jordan Mechner’s The Last Express

Episode #61: Replaying the PC game, The Last Express, after 19 years

https://archive.org/download/Podcast61_201610/Podcast%2061.mp3

Today’s episode is all about storytelling in a slightly different form than the books usually featured on this site.  It’s about how the 1997 adventure game created a sense of being an international traveler dropped in the middle of a web of intrigue and mystery in the days leading up to WWI and what it was like replaying this game almost 20 years later.  My brother and first played this game on the PC in 1997, shortly after it came out.  Interestingly, we both recently replayed the updated version and have now both written about our thoughts.  My bro’s are here:

http://pixelgrotto.tumblr.com/post/148786767031/favorites-murder-on-the-orient-express-i-had-a

This was one of the first games I ever played where characters move about independently regardless of what you happen to be doing.  They speak English, Russian, Serbian, Arabic, French, and German, not all of which your character understands, and much of the game consists of overhearing conversations and downright spying on your neighbors.  Doesn’t sound like it’d be interesting – but … it is.  The ever present ticking clock (which can be rewound to replay a sequence and try out new actions) running in the background as the Orient Express makes its way to Constantinople becomes a character in itself, just like the train, loving re-created from an actual Orient Express passenger car.  Little touches, like the clink of wine glasses and silverware in the dining car, the glint of gold in the art nouveau style decorations in the bathrooms, and the period paintings on the walls really capture the feel of what the gilded age must have been like and do just that much above the ordinary to create an immerse experience.

Here are some screen shots from the game:

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Your character, Robert Cath, is on the right.  In this scene, you’ve taken on the role of your murdered friend (who you’ve come to realize was into some heavy shite) and are trying to get gun runner Herr August Schmidt, the roly-poly gentleman on the left, to buy that you want to do an arms deal with him.  You have to convince him with this briefcase of gold that you can afford the hardware.

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Of course, not everyone is as they seem and not everything goes as planned.  Why so many guns on this train?  The war hasn’t even started!

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Much of the game centers around this mysterious firebird automaton that everyone seems to be after.  They seem to have killed your friend to get it …

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Much of the game consists of sneaking around, trying to figure out who everyone on this train is.  Sometimes, you can successfully sneak into their rooms when they aren’t there and the conductors aren’t looking.  In Herr Schmidt’s suitcase, you stumble upon his porn collection (probably an in-game easter egg) …

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… as well as a few spare Havanas and a small revolver that you can’t actually use …

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… even though, frankly, when it all goes south near the end of the game, a little firepower would probably come in handy.  Here is our hero with dukes up, ready to engage in fisticuffs like it is 1914.

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There are a few of these fights in the game, though this is the only one against an unarmed opponent.  The fighting mostly consists of timing your ducks to evade incoming blows and counter-punching at the right moment.

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In this sequence on top of the train, your opponent has a metal staff.

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If you win that altercation, you can thankfully liberate it from your opponent …

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 … which is handy, since your next opponent wields a sword!  Since this same character was brandishing a rifle earlier in the game, I guess she decided to dispatch you in style rather than just shooting you.

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And if you live through all that, the journey continues …

If you haven’t played this game, do yourself a favor, and give it a go.  You can find it inexpensively on Steam, iOS, and Android as well as old copies on CD on ebay.  Check out creator Jordan Mechner’s website for more info.  Here’s a great FAQ & walkthrough for the game as well as a link to an awesome fan site where there’s a visual walkthough on youtube with translations of even the languages Robert doesn’t understand, like Serbian and Arabic.

Image result for the last express

As always, thanks for listening!

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