Archive for August, 2006

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Recipe for Nothing

August 28, 2006

Ingredients:
1 screening Sin City
1 episode Deadwood (I used the first episode)
2 episodes Carnivale
1 episode Rome (I used the first episode)
1 episode Animaniacs
2 screenings Brick
1 screening The Illusionist
10 episodes Band of Brothers
1 favorite The West Wing (I recommend “Life on Mars”)

Directions:
Mix into birthday weekend in any order. Let sit. Enjoy.

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Stuff, And Giving It To Me

August 27, 2006

If you’re looking for something to give me (and I know you are), here are three fine choices for you, all from the talented blokes at Fleet Street Scandal:

Minerva
The Legionnaire’s Lament
The Forbidden Key of Salazar

As a gift to yourself, go and browse the rest of their prints. Good stuff.

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28 Years Later

August 27, 2006

Today’s the 28th birthday. The lovely Sarah Chalke, from Scrubs, is also celebrating her birthday today, and Hallmark tells us it’s Long-Lost Friend Day. Don’t you dare buy a “Long-Lost Friend” card, though. Just write an email.

28 is the third Keith number (repfigit, or repetitive Fibonacci-like digit), as you know, and the atomic number of nickel. Nickel, roughly, is my mother’s maiden name. 28 is also the second perfect number, after 6 and before 496 (or so they say).

It takes Saturn about 28 years to orbit Sol, our sun, so it should be wrapping that up once again sometime this year. Go, Saturn! Because of this, by some astrological reckonings, the number 28 is a sign of turning points and significant personal changes. We’ll see, I guess. Some sufi dervishes perform dances to 28-beat songs in honorable reference to Saturn’s journey. One of them is called “the Big Circle.” I’m not a dervish, whirling or otherwise, but that’s still pretty rad for them.

For the most part, a calendar from 28 years ago is accurate again this year, because of the 28-year cycle these things go through. The cycle’s not perfect, though, so I’ll probably have to buy another damned calendar anyway.

I may be back with more nostalgic garbage this afternoon. In the meantime, here’s what’s happened so far on August 27th, recycled from last year, ’cause history’s not going anywhere:

The Old Birthday Post
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.)

(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.)
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.

Noise: The Decemberists, “Shanty for Arethusa”

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Weird Peril

August 23, 2006

weird peril: The dread that comes from the possibility of a work’s imminent failure to fulfill expectations, continue excellence or achieve its artistic goals, especially in genre fiction (across all media). Also, a sensation that occurs in writers and informed genre fans while partaking of a work from within an area of their expertise. While experiencing weird peril, the audience gets a psychological rush of meta-jeopardy that comes from doubting the ability of the creator or the work itself to succeed, rather than doubting the success of the protagonists depicted in the work.

Through weird peril, a reader may feel palpable fear that the writer is not going to “pull it off” and will instead “cop out” at the tale’s climax, perhaps relying on deus ex machina or a cliched rescue to let the protagonist(s) “off the hook.” Alternately, a viewer may experience weird peril during a favorite episode of a television series he fears will “jump the shark” at any moment. (see Lost)

Weird peril is similar to meta-suspense, but more immediate. Whereas meta-suspense is the broader effect that occurs between artistic works (e.g., the meta-suspense that the follow-up to a favorite album will be shit), weird peril occurs while the work is being read or viewed.

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Crazy. Violent. Cool.

August 22, 2006

Reservoir Dogs : Pulp Fiction : : Narc : Smokin’ Aces

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Yes, Yes — But First

August 22, 2006

Still getting back on track after my return to the ATL. (That means: I’m only now unpacking.) When I’ve done that, we’ll make with the time travel promised earlier. (Seems like a good thing to do this week as we creep toward my birthday this Sunday-ish.)

But first, for those of you who delight in such things, I’ll offer up a quick summary of the books I brought back with me on this trip. Some of these I traded for at Gen Con, others I bought at full price, others I bought used in Chicago or recovered from under the piles (and piles and piles) of junk in my old room outside Chicago. You understand, I’m writing this to you so you won’t think I’m made of money. Even if I were, I wouldn’t be, on account of all these books.

At Gen Con, I picked up the rulebook for Hollow Earth Expedition, which seems to solve a lot of my problems with “pulp adventure” RPGs by focusing on a setting and core adventure model rather than trying to force-feed genre conventions to me. That said, it is startlingly light on things like traps, mystical surprises and specifics on the titular Hollow Earth. Beyond that, its rules are bravely simple (woe to he who thinks our combat system in the World of Darkness is unrealistic) and startlingly derivative, but in the same way any straight line between two points is simple and derivative. So, all that said, I’m eager to give this game a whirl.

Likewise, I’m looking forward to trying the eccentric, miniatures-loving Rackham-born Cadwallon once I can make heads or tails of its charmingly (read: laughably) translated text. This book speaks with the kind of accent that makes me want to ask it stupid questions just so I can giggle at its answer. (The book’s complete descriptive passage for a healing potion: “The beneficiary wins back to a health status at once.”) That said, stretches like pg. 234-245 are just so fucking cute. Already, when I show my copy of Cadwallon to people, I introduce it like an enchanted Yankee schmuck with his new European friend: “This is Cadwallon. (It’s from Europe.)”

This year’s indy RPG haul was respectable, if sometimes out of date. Further analyses of these books may come in the future, but for now you have to do with their titles (and, sometimes, the short sales pitch I should’ve been given): Run Robot Red and Lacuna need no introduction. Mortal Coil is best teased by listen to Paul Tevis’ stellar podcast, “Have Games, Will Travel.” Agon is a game of mythic Greek contests and battles, dressed in cleverness and convoluted mechanics. Cold City is a game of monster-hunting foreign spies in Cold War-era Berlin, though I think it may also be The Mountain Witch (I’ll let you know). Dread is a horror role-playing game that uses Jenga in place of dice, honestly. Shock is “social science fiction” roleplaying in the brainstorming sector of Philip K. Dick’s brain. If I sound a little snotty about some of these now, that’s just me substituting sass for, you know, not having read them yet. I’m eager to read and try out each one of these games. (Maybe I’ll set up a monthly session just for that.)

As for books, I have a truckload still coming Chicago. Seriously. A truck will be loaded. It’s magnificent.

In the meantime, I picked up a dinged copy of The Watkins Dictionary of Magic by Nevill Drury (I love that name, Drury) at Chicago Comics and a bunch of books from the used bookstore at the corner of Clark and Wellington (what the hell’s the name of that place, anyway?). Books like Urban Design Downtown and The Mole People and Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Or rather, not books like those but those exact books. From home I brought back Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which I adored but lost in the wilds of a million loose papers in my old room, and Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia, which I don’t remember ever buying but am happy to feel like I got it for free.

What the hell, I also dug up (or bought) a bunch of CDs: Kinky’s self-titled album (which is eh, but was cheap), the not-as-good-as-it-sounded-on-iTunes soundtrack to the mediocre Code 46 by David Holmes and Steven Hilton (which a sticker on the front even advertises as contributing to a “sense of austerity and alienation”), Orbital’s Orbital 2 (to replace my vanished one), Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine (which I never actually owned), Front 242’s Fuck Up Evil (another replacement) and the Headhunter 2000 remix compliation (which is surprisingly excellent). Somewhere in there I also picked up a way-way-underpriced copy of the third season of The X-Files in the original, swanky DVD set. (I still don’t know the best spots for used CDs and DVDs in Atlanta, so this is what I do when I get back to Chicago and Reckless Records.)

Oh, and thanks to Netflix I’ve now seen the pilot to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which is good but not great, despite a cast that I like quite a lot and subject matter that fascinates me. Something in the pilot doesn’t quite crackle yet, but I believe that it will when the cast falls in which itself a bit more. Here’s something, though: Watch how Bradley Whitford does Sorkin’s dialogue differently than everybody else in the cast. He knows just what to throw away and just what to raise up, while Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson are projecting too much and Steven Webber is playing it just a skosh too natural. But, again, it’s a terrific cast and I’m looking forward to watching them do a couple years’ worth of Sorkin scripts.

Did lightning just hit the house? Is the building on fire? I’ll go check. But while I do, I’ll marvel at just how fucking fast I wrote all that up there. This is what happens when you keep me away from a keyboard for too long, I guess. I ramble on and on about material goods until the power goes out.

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Plane Delayed. WiFi Slow. Send Help.

August 21, 2006

Sitting in airport. STOP. Wireless intermittent. STOP. Getting dark. STOP. Eager to see wife. STOP. Dog. STOP. Had deeply retrospective trip. STOP. Still contemplative. STOP. Write more soon. STOP. Use the damn comment button. STOP.

Oh, and listening to Quantazelle‘s coaster CD. STOP. Recommended. STOP.