Tag Archives: Death

About Beethoven’s Last Night

I have already written about my peculiar relationship with music. Exceptions are usually songs that tell stories. I’m not the right person to assess musical quality, but stories are my life, so it does not surprise me that a song which incorporates a narrative catches my attention.

I am not necessarily talking about a musical number at the theatre or the movies. Those never sat well with me; it felt like the prose was being forced into the music. A story does not mean dialogue; it does not mean prose. A handful of good stanzas is enough when you know what you’re doing.

One of my favorite albums is “Beethoven’s Last Night” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is a brilliant rock opera that, across its 22 tracks, tells the story of the composer’s last night.

But like the best stories, it frames it as a battle between good and evil. At the gates of death, the artist despairs to finish his last work, and primordial forces arise to fight for his soul. Hell appears incarnate in Mephistopheles. The heavens send a muse, under the guise of an old love.

Music represents the dialogue between these three parts. Mephistopheles does everything to convince the composer of the futility of his efforts; the muse encourages him to persist, to create his final work in praise and honor to the Divine. Throughout the album, Beethoven vacillates between inspiration and despair, under the influence of these two forces. It is one of the most beautiful metaphors the artistic process that I had witnessed.

That all this is transmitted so vividly, so colorfully, through short verses and the power of music… That is simply exceptional.

So who wins, after all, the soul of the composer?

You can find out by listening to the album:

It is worth leaving my usual note here: we live in a fantastic time in which we have beautiful art at our disposal, completely free of charge. If such a work captures your imagination, if such art inspires you, then that is a signal to ponder the possibility of buying what is freely given, and thus support the artist.

Déraciné

Déraciné is, first of all, a story told in video game format. So the question is always: “Would this story be better told through another medium?”

Because it usually is. Most RPGs would be better books than they are video games. Most action games would be better movies than video games. When one make a video game and the focus is the story, one must make sure that they are telling a story that benefits from the medium. Alternatively, and even better: a story that could only be told through that medium.

I am pleased to say that Deráciné falls into the first of these categories, that is, while its story could have been told through prose or film, it would have been poorer for it. This alone is such a rare feat that it is worth celebrating.

Déraciné uses the gimmicks of time-travel and supernatural powers to explore the themes of fate and mortality. However, the thread that connects this is one of intimacy – an intimacy that the game builds by letting the players explore the world on their own, uncovering little tidbits of information about each character, like digital archeologists. 

Indeed, this approach could be replicated, let’s say, in literature. One could write a novel where now and then a paragraph would be written in code, and it would be up to the reader to figure it out. 

However, it does flow much better in an interactive setting, and doubly so through virtual reality, where the process of shuffling through drawers or peeking under the gap of a closed-door feel much more physical than in a first-person or point-and-click adventure. It also helps make the characters feel much more human and alive, even if they are, for the most part  – due to narrative and technical reasons – static.

So Déraciné is a success on three accounts: it does a good job of exploring the themes it sets out to explore; it is a better story for being interactive, and it is a better interactive product for being presented in virtual reality. 

That is pretty good.

(Dead) Men In Tights

I vaguely remember that I got my first super-hero comic as a second choice. What I wanted was a Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge comic, but there weren’t any at the stand that I hadn’t already read. So I half-grudgingly accepted a copy of Spider-Man. 

It was okay. I didn’t fall in love, but it was fun enough to lead me down the path of exploring the superhero comic book genre. 


It’s some years later, and Marvel Comics are ending. In Portugal, anyway. Or maybe it was just in my region? I was a kid, and this is about my memories, so it’s not worth the hassle of researching. I don’t know if it was local or national, I don’t know if it was due to the comics not having enough of an audience to be financially viable, but I do know that my usual comic books stands were to stop getting the Brazilian translations of the comics I so loved. 

In a way, it was pretty cool. They timed it with the storyline where Legion erases the universe. Closure. 


Several years pass. At the end of a Magic The Gathering tournament, my card shark introduces me to the new, shiny, European Portuguese Marvel Comic translations, published by Devir. 

One of the local Magic players is buying one. The first (EU Portuguese) issue of The (something or other) X-Men. It looks beautiful – the form factor is the correct American comic book format, much larger than our smallish Brazilian imports put together with a paper that was barely a grade above toilet paper.

In my excitement, I put my shoulders on top of the counter, trying to get a better look. My shoulder crumples the edge of the mint issue that my player friend had just brought. He immediately panics, frantically trying to smooth it over. 

I had two younger brothers. I was used to everything I owned being destroyed. The concept of “collecting” had never entered my mind before them. I was puzzled but felt bad for the guy, so I offered to buy him a new one and keep his copy for myself. 

Just like that, I was back on Marvel Comics.


Stan Lee, the man whose name adorned the covers and many of the headlines of all these comics, passed away on the 12th of November of 2018. 

I barely read comics now, and when I do, they aren’t Marvel Comics. I feel like I’ve read them all. There’s no closure. Every plot is regurgitated. Every hero who dies valiantly or tragically eventually resurrects, by the grace of some Deus Ex Machina event. 

Maybe someday, we’ll figure out how to bring people back from the dead and old Stan will be resurrected, like so many of the heroes that he had a hand (or two) in bringing to life.

(And yes, I know that the fact that heroes come back from the dead is supposed to be a metaphor, but it happens too bloody often!)

Stan Lee died on that day. Him, and 155519 other people. Probably more, because I doubt non-western countries are as accurate in their statistics. I always think about this whenever someone famous dies.

We like to claim that we are all worth the same. Yet the people who claim that loudest are the first to come out in sorrow for the one famous person who passed away on that particular date, with nary a prayer for all the other poor, unknown souls who shared the same fate.

All people are important. All people have a spark of the Divine within them. This is the basis of many of the systems that make our western society work. But not all people touch us with their work; not all people can be known to us. Stan’s work touched a lot of people in a lot of different ways. I wasn’t a fan of his work for most of my life, but I’m grateful for the brushes I’ve had with the children of his creativity.

He envisioned, imagined, created immortals. I wonder how long will his own immortality last.