Friday, February 12, 2016

The clock is striking twelves

About two years ago, I did a series of posts about each of the incarnations of Doctor Who.  (I consider this kind of sequence of themed posts to have many of the hallmarks of a "Glass Bead Game," so I added the list of posts to the new Glass Bead Games tab at the top of the blog.)  In January 2014, the current Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, had only a few seconds of on-screen time, so I had to guess about what kinds of unique traits he'd bring to the character.

In the original set of posts, I followed another blogger's idea that each incarnation behaved very much like each zodiac sign in the sequence of the solar year.  Under that system, Capaldi was set to be a Cancer.  Riffing on stereotypical Cancerian traits, I predicted that
"...we may see an emotional, intuitive, changeable, exceedingly loving, and over-protective Doctor."
It's been two full seasons now, so we can assess.  The only word in my prediction that seems a bit off is "changeable," since he's been someone who definitely knows who he is.  But I think all of the other traits are eerily SPOT-ON.

More than any Doctor before him I think, these qualities were so strong, they were almost his undoing.  The "duty of care" he felt towards Clara, his companion since before he wore this particular face, burned as hot as the Big Bang.  The sacrifices he made for her, and for his estranged, time-travelling spouse River Song, were quite immense.

Was he sometimes gruff and manipulative?  Sure -- some of that may have rubbed off from Capaldi the actor -- and some may be a counter reaction to two earlier incarnations that were more "manic pixie dream boy" than the show had ever seen.  The contradiction we see, between the depths of compassion and those scary eyebrows, seems to be a consequence of the fact that (to quote excellent reviewer Charlie Jane Anders at io9), "time imposes costs on him, even more than everybody else."  The Doctor is now more than 2000 years old ("I'm old enough to be your messiah," he once said gleefully), and he clearly has made the decision to hold on to caring above all else.  Good for him.


Nothing's sad till it's over. Then everything is.

- - -

This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine, and when I close my eyes… I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count. And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight… till it burns your hand, and you say this: No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.

- - -

Davros: Compassion then.
The Doctor: Always.
Davros: It grows strong and fierce in you, like a cancer.
The Doctor: I hope so.
Davros: It will kill you in the end.
The Doctor: I wouldn’t die of anything else.

Come on Ace, we've got work to do.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Janus Review

It's been a while since I've done a January blogiversary post.  Servitor Ludi was started on January 2, 2011.  It blows my mind to think of this weird project as 5 years old, but the data is the data...

The last two years have been busy in other areas... 2014 filled with uncertainty, interviews, and preparing for a leap into the unknown.  2015 being the first year in a new job and new state.  Are things settled down enough to get back to the 80-ish posts per year of the early days?  Probably not, but I do hope to inch my way back up to that neighborhood.

I recently got an idea for a theme for the infamous April A-to-Z Challenge.  I've been down that road three times before, and it's always been rewarding.  Stay tuned for a definite announcement once I've pondered it a bit more.

I've got more content queued up for the Youtube channel, and a few other ideas for posts clunking around, but I don't have any other grand plans.  Over the past few months, my family and I have been binging our way through the 1993-1998 TV series Babylon 5, which I may write about here when we're done.  Other than that, I guess you can just expect more of the same -- games and geekiness, all with a sprinkling of esoterica.

I hope 2016 brings you all joy and fulfillment!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Eve

My family and I may not be going to see the new Star Wars movie until early next week, but the premiere of Episode VII is nearly here!

In honor of the occasion, I wanted to give you fine nerf-herders a few interesting links...
  • I put up a new video on the Cygnus Youtube channel, with text from the evocative post about Luke Skywalker that I blogged about this past April.  (Hat tip to Fialleril for writing such great words!)
  • If you're an old-school D&D player and would like to role-play adventures in a Galaxy Far Far Away™, I propose avoiding all licensed games.  Just go download a copy of Encounter Critical, and staple on Jeff Rients' super-awesome Star Wars campaign guide from a blog post back in 2010.  (For added context, see two earlier posts that describe Jeff's motivation, here and here.)
  • When I was first exploring the Internet in the late 1980s, I came across a script titled "Star Wars Episode III: Fall of the Republic," written by someone named John L. Flynn.  It's essentially fan fiction, but at the time there was nothing like this in existence.  Go read it!  No worse than the prequels, I say.
  • I wasn't a subscriber to the original Star Wars Fan Club Newsletter ("Bantha Tracks"), but my best friend in 1978 was.  I enjoyed leafing through those things when they'd arrive... getting the inside scoop on what "Star Wars II" would be about.  Someday I'll have to get my hands on some old copies to relive those times.

  • Lastly, I think I may have already blogged about my experience with an, um, less than reputable mail-order publishing house.  In 1982, on the heels of Yoda's wisdom, I sent away for a book (advertised in the back of Starlog magazine) called "The Teachings of the Force."  Darn thing never came.  The P.O. box was in a town just 45 minutes away... and my Dad worked in our local post office... so he drove me over there.  We tried to learn what we could learn.  No dice, though; the perps were long gone.  Still, if anyone out there happens to know if the following thing actually exists, I still would like to know more...  :-)
Redacted, der.

May the Force be with you all, this fine holiday season!

Update:  Saw Episode VII on Sunday!  Woo-hoo, that was some Star Wars.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Whose Tube? My Tube!

The day is here.  Here is the big announcement:  I've started a YouTube channel called "Cygnus' Magic Words."

The URL may change eventually, but for now it's the following mush of characters:

The tag line is "Magic words for the soul."  More from the channel description:
Since 2011, I've been blogging at about games, philosophy, and whatever other weird bits of esoterica I can think of. I'm no master of the Game, just a servant who wants to see what the future holds for both the high-concept stuff (like Hesse's Glass Bead Game) and my old favorites (classic tabletop roleplaying games like D&D).

Here on Youtube I'm exploring another aspect of that weirdness: the magic of WORDS. On my blog I've posted a lot about my favorite creative people, many of whom are wordsmiths of some sort. Posting excerpts of text is fun, but sometimes the words need to be heard by the ear. Sit back, close your eyes, and see how the words will change you.
Right now I've got four videos up.  You won't see me directly, but you'll hear me reading a variety of things -- both poetry and prose -- that I hope will inspire and move you.  What you'll see with your eyes, in most videos, is a sequence of Kandinsky-like artworks that I've generated via a randomizing computer program.  Why?  No reason other than it was fun to make.  (I'm not the first person to think of doing this, but I haven't cribbed from anyone else's algorithms. I'm still tweaking and optimizing.)

That's all for now.  If you're inclined, go have a listen.  Please let me know if there's anything that you'd enjoy hearing, too.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Must be magic

I hadn't heard of comedian and poet Bo Burnham before, but I've been charmed by (some of!) his off-beat verse.  The following are all from his book Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone.

Click to enlarge

One can definitely sense the timing & beats of a standup comic in the words.  Many of these have likely been tested out on the stage.  Some, which I won't reproduce here, were designed more for shock value than for deep insight... but a comedian can't be blamed for getting laughs by whatever means necessary.

I think Burnham cites both Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein as inspirations.  You can see their influence, but he adds a unique spark of his own.

This post does have something to do with the big reveal teased over the course of the last few posts.  I'm nearly ready to do that, so keep an eye on this space over the coming week.  :-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Brand Inspector

I didn't want to bury the answer to the last post's quiz question in comments, so here's a quick post for closure.

Although the symbols I showed do look very astrological or alchemical, I'm pretty sure they're supposed to be American cowboy "brands" for cattle and horses.  They were displayed on the walls of the fictional Mel's Diner on the 1970s TV show Alice.  I don't think the characters ever actually talked about these decorations, but they were an omnipresent mini-mystery to me as a viewer.

Meaningless?  Maybe... maybe not.  I've always meant to learn more about the elaborate symbol system of cattle brands, and their ancillary use as the names of ranches and estates.  Most of the ones I've found online seem to be letters of the alphabet that have been morphed or transformed in some way.  That makes the ones from the TV show kind of odd.  The Wikipedia article on the show says the diner was decorated in an "Aztec and cowboy motif," but these symbols don't really look Meso-American, either.  I guess Occam's Razor points to some anonymous Hollywood set-painter who just had a vague idea of what diner decorations in Phoenix, Arizona might look like!  :-)

Anyway, that's all for now.  I've been plugging away at the sooper-secret project hinted at in the last post, but things aren't quite ready to be revealed.  Soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teaser & Quiz

Two quick things...

First, Cygnus has got something kind of big up his sleeve.  A new project will be revealed very soon.  (Well, maybe in a week or two; we'll see.)  I'm not quite ready to spill the beans about it, but let me give you all one hint:


Second, I'm curious if any of your memories might be jogged by a little trivia obscura. Long-time readers will know that I'm obsessed with signs, symbols, and alphabets of all kinds.  There is one set of symbols that I've had in the back of my mind for almost 40 years now.  They made their first appearance in popular culture in the 1970s.  Thanks to the internet, I've finally been able to reconstruct the full set accurately:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me where these symbols come from.  (I won't ask you what they mean, because I'm not quite sure about that, myself!)