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”



  1. Happy Birthday, Mr. Will. Let’s see…
    27 – the worst starting hand in Texas Hold’em Poker. Don’t fret, AK is only a 2-to-1 favorite to beat 27 heads up. We all root for the underdog. I remember seeing 27 catch a straight on the river to beat four other players who held AA-KK-JJ-1010 to quadruple up and knock out three of those players and cripple the fourth. Glad I folded with 10-6 (my birthday hand).
    And 28, which is 4*7… 4 sevens, a nice high hand that makes 160 bucks bonus at Harrahs.

    Nickel: the magic underrated unit of currency that was the favorite of SOON Studios and brought out a great story about a guy and his gun written by a man whose conversations over coffee are greatly missed.

    The lunar orbit is 28 days, and the lunar day is 28 days as well.
    To quote the Prime Glossary:
    “Early Jewish commentators felt that the perfection of the universe was shown by the moon’s period of 28 days.”

    I never knew about the 28 beat sufi dervishes. I need to hear this. It’s hard enough playing songs in 9/8 or 11/8.

    Sending you many good wishes this birth day, and many more to come. Wait till you’re old enough to be a sestina. Cheers.

  2. Happy Birthday, Will!

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