Archive for August, 2005

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27 on the 27th

August 30, 2005

(This post written over the course of several days as a test of Ecto.)

Saturday was the birthday. I’ve done this 27 times now, with mixed results. Two years ago, Mars drew as close to the Earth as it ever does, and it did it on my birthday. This year, I turned 27 years-old on the 27th. I’ll never do that again.

Let’s break it down:

I’m 27 now. (9,729 days.) Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain were each 27 when they died.

I share my birthday with Mother Teresa and Pee-Wee Herman, as well as Peter Stormare, who’s film The Brothers Grimm I saw on Thursday. Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshikazu was born on August 27th in 1407 but Chokei, Emperor of Japan, died on the same date in 1394. He’s not the only emperor to do it, though: Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, died on August 27th, 1975.

Pope Sixtus V died on the same date, back in 1590. Beatles manager Brian Epstein died on the same date, 377 years after Pope Sixtus.

All of the above deaths are outnumbered by those at the Battle of Dresden or the Battle of Long Island, both of which took place on August 27th. The Visigoths finished with Rome on August 27th, 410, while the Persians gave up on Greece the same day in 479 BC. Also on this date, Union soldiers killed Confederates at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Russians killed Turks at Akhaltzikke, and Krakatau killed Indonesians residing in its shadow.

It hasn’t all been deaths and birthdays, of course. The first successful oil well started pumping in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, and look how that turned out. Spacecraft Mariner 2 launched on the 27th of August in ’62 and the first jet aircraft flew in ’39. Julius Caesar first set foot on Britain on the 239th day [1] of 55 BC, which is one of those facts that I carry around in the hope that’ll somehow become synergistically relevant to my life.

August 27th is also a holiday, if you’re a Roman pagan. Volturnalia is celebrated that day, in honor of Volturnus, god of the waters and of fountains and, eventually, of the Tiber River. Traditionally, Volturnalia is a day of feasting, wine-drinking and games. We ate dim sum at Sampan, drank Strongbow and played Halo 2 and liar’s dice.

The number 27 is also the smallest positive composite number that’s not divisible by either of its digits. It’s also a perfect cube: 3 x 3 x 3 = 27. Dial 27 to call South Africa. Atomic number of cobalt? It’s 27. It’s also half of comedian/actor Charles Fleischer’s (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) moleeds theory, which I memorized as a kid when I saw him perform it on The Tonight Show. Looking back on it, that may have been my first exposure to occult numerology. (Charles Fleischer, by the way, was also born on August 27th; he turned 55 on Saturday.)

For me, this August 27th was spent with Marty, Tony and Jackie, who flew in from Chicago as a surprise, and my lovely wife, Sara, who arranged the whole thing. Phil and Sara (make your jokes) joined us for dim sum, much to my delight, and gave me the book about HBO’s The Wire, which is excellent because it contains sentences written by David Simon.

It was a good year for gifts. I am a materialistic bastard who loves to get, have and give things of all sorts. This year I got a great ibrik, a gift certificate for Threadless.com, a life-like dragon, a goblet full of “byud,” a book of snappy put-downs (“If I had a face like yours, I’d walk backwards.”), cigars, a rad mix CD, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and tickets to see Henry Fucking Rollins doing his spoken word show live this fall.

(If you’re still doing some shopping, may I take this opportunity to remind you that I do not yet have seasons 3 through 7 of Homicide: Life on the Street or any seasons of The Wire on DVD.)

Also, saw The Aristocrats.

A good day.

Noise: Jem, “They”

1. You guessed it: August 27th. Of course, that count is based on the Gregorian calendar, and so doesn’t quite jive with the count Julius Caesar would’ve come up with using the Roman calendar, in use back when he first trod the not-yet-English grass. Ten years after his British landing the Julian calendar, which he invented, was put into effect, but even that doesn’t quite line up with our modern count. Anyway.

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Ecto One

August 29, 2005

Marty’s got me trying out this Ecto software for writing blogs even when I’m offline. It seems nice, but I’m still skeptical. Still, how many fancy doodads does have to have to be worth my while, really?

What do you all use to write your own blogs or journal entries? Do you write straight into LJ or Blogger, or do you do something else fancy and technochic?

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The Brothers Grimm

August 26, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s new one is clumsy, overcrowded and kind of charming. I hear Harvey from Miramax sent someone to go and block the camera if Gilliam went through with his plant to shoot Matt Damon with a prosthetic nose on his face. Dunno if it’s true, but I’d believe it. This doesn’t feel like a film that resulted from a singular vision or a smooth production. Even if we account for Gilliam’s visions alone, we’re hardly dealing with a consistent voice for the picture.

In a way, The Brothers Grimm might be his new Time Bandits, what with its cult-classic potential and its comedic and adventurous gems buried like kidnapped children in a forest packed with distractions, errant characters and obnoxious pleas for attention. Peter Stormare is rapidly becoming a catalog of cartoon characters (Minority Report, Constantine) and Jonathan Pryce’s role in the hands of anyone else would have been a gaudy and annoying imposition. (To this day, I think he wants me to buy a Lexus.) On the one hand, I know I laughed at these cultural caricatures sometimes, but on the other hand I was actually sorry to see them come back on the scene (more than once) when the story finally found it’s momentum at the beginning of the third act. This film would’ve been a great romp if a whole third of its ingredients had been stripped right out to make room for the Brothers Grimm.

Matt Damon and especially Heath Ledger play against type and against a lot of Hollywood buddy standards here and, particularly near the end, are a lot of fun to watch. They’ve got a great rapport and a dynamic that’s intriguingly strange and sometimes believably unpleasant. Best of all, they’re quaintly (and sometimes obviously) funny, if you can spot them buried two or three layers down in the audio mix or standing behind the myriad other, lesser characters stomping across the stage here.

On top of that, there are some entertaining fantasy elements to enjoy. If you like European folklore, twisted Germanic castles, slanted ruins buried in leaves and menageries of weird monsters without exposition, there’s plenty to like in here. If you’re a D&D or Warhammer player, you may find a lot of the movie feels like a game session: lively, convoluted, loud and confused, with the delight that comes from in-the-moment gags and crazy plans. (More on this later.) But don’t forget that it’s also jerky, wildly inconsistent, often stymied and disappointing at regular intervals.

But then there’s a bit with a kitten that must have had just the most marvelous stage direction in the screenplay.

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Marriage Misexpectation

August 26, 2005

Something that happens after you get married, which I did not see coming: I get birthday cards from grandparents, though my grandparents are all dead. Peculiar, that.

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Synchronicity Report

August 25, 2005

Every so often, you get a day where something peculiar or uncommon just keeps coming up. For me, today, it was Zork references. And I never even really played Zork!

What’s with all the “grue” today?

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Quizzed On Robin’s Laws

August 25, 2005

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but it’s a quiz based on Robin’s terrific book, so here you go. No great surprises, but that’s just because I’m an honest, self-aware gamer type, I guess.

You scored as Storyteller. You’re more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You’re quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it’s orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.

Storyteller

83%

Method Actor

67%

Specialist

67%

Tactician

58%

Power Gamer

50%

Butt-Kicker

50%

Casual Gamer

25%

Law's Game Style
created with QuizFarm.com

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Gen Con Haul

August 23, 2005

Gen Con was fine, but more about that later. First, what really matters: what I chose to bring home with me. Unlike previous years, I didn’t bring home much extraneous bullshit or, really, even much at all. Though I made the decision to buy several products, many of those purchases must necessarily be paced out throughout the fall and beyond. Here’s what I actually paid money for:

Dogs in the Vineyard, by D. Vincent Baker. It is shameful that I hadn’t brought this home earlier.

Bacchanal, by Paul Czege. Not because it looks absurd and charming, though it does, but because Ken told me to.

The Mountain Witch, by Timothy Kleinert. Although Tim got only a B- when I administered the Laws Test on him at the Forge booth, the game looks solid and elegant. Sharply produced.

Artesia: Adventures in the Known World, written and illustrated by Mark Smylie. Never thought I’d buy another Fuzion product, but good lord is this a lovingly produced book. My copy should arrive in, what, October, because I am neither Ken nor Robin.

Old World Armoury, by Robert Schwalb. I am recently infatuated with the new Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but have been unable to play it. Alas.

Old World Bestiary, by T.S. Luikhart and Ian Sturrock. Since last I wrote about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, above, I have still been unable to find time to play this game.

Swag was minimal, but excellent. The German edition of Rites of the Dragon, for example, is a better size and in a better language (for the material) than our English edition. It feels like a real tract when held in the hand and truly resembles a manifesto when under the eye. Very nice. Indianapolis was nice, but the dining experience this year was somewhat lackluster, with the exception of some excellent company and one particular steak dinner, which provided enough wood-grilled wild mushrooms in truffle-herb butter and tomato fennel risotto to insulate me from a good handful of forgettable rum-and-cokes at the White Wolf party.

Industry-related blather, lofty nonsense and much opinionated posturing to come when I’ve digested the week.

Noise: Daft Punk, “Television Rules the Nation”