Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Ode to Joy Game: Move 4

Apologies for the long gap between posts.  When planning updates to the Glass Bead Game I started last time, I was hoping that each post would provide more than one "move."  But if I keep waiting for the crystalline perfection of multiple interconnected ideas, I'll be waiting forever.  So let's keep things moving by filling in just one more cell in the TenStones HipBone board that I set up in the last post....

In the second cell up from the bottom, I place the concept of Laugh Lines.  These creases between the nose and mouth -- which I've learned have an official medical definition that's nowhere as evocative as their colloquial name -- are said to indicate a life spent smiling and laughing.  I was dismayed that a large fraction of search-engine hits on this term seemed to lead to sites devoted to removing these endearing features, rather than celebrating them.

I colored this new cell in honor of the idiomatic phrase "laugh till you're blue in the face," and I also took advantage of the happy (!?) coincidence in English that the lines themselves kind of resemble their own initials.  Visual onomatopoeia?

Links:  The association with Beethoven's joyous golden Ode, and with Japan's optimistic and evergreen New Year celebration, should be pretty straightforward.  The connection to the scarlet passion of Aerosmith's Dream On should be evident if you remember its opening lines...
Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer...
But what Steven Tyler sang with mock gravitas (he wrote that in his early 20s, for cryin' out loud!), I say with a slightly more experienced smile.  Honor those lines, especially the ones born while guffawing.

- - - - - - -

(I'm still open to ideas on how to continue with this game, and I'm still processing the comments on the previous post.  We'll see how frequently I can update this thing... the next month is going to be a busy one for me, work-wise...)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Shall we play a (Glass Bead) Game?

One thing that's been a constant refrain on this blog since its inception in 2011 has been my wistful (and/or whingy) musing about someday wanting to construct a real-life version of Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game.  See here for a summary of those initial thoughts.  I haven't had any major insights about how that might come about, but I have realized that progress can come in many guises.  Why wait around for those elusive A-ha design moments?  Instead, I should get down out of the ivory tower and just start playing!

Despite the fact that I'm not sure what my own chimerical game-to-beat-all-games will look like, there are plenty of perfectly fine "game variants" out there that can be used in the meantime.  I've also realized that getting more experience working with them will also help me to build up a database of possible game moves that can only help when I'm designing my own forms.

I've blogged before about a few of these other game variants, and today I'm going to use Charles Cameron's Hipbone rules.  The basic idea is to lay down a pattern of inter-connected regions, like this one...

...then start composing a game by "placing" specific ideas in each circular cell.  The challenge is to make sure that neighboring cells, connected by lines in the diagram, correspond to ideas that can be inter-connected (in some way), too.  The ideas can be words, images, pieces of music, logical arguments, or references to whole other works of art or science.  The connections between the ideas can be whatever you want them to be, but it's best when the connections are interesting or even surprising.

(Seems simple, right?  The initial moves may be... but then it gets progressively more difficult to think of ideas that will mesh well with the ones already on the board.  The last few moves that bring the game to completion can be real head-scratchers.  But when done right... sublime!)

So here's what I'm planning:  Today I'll start the ball rolling by filling in three cells.  What comes next?  I don't know!  Please feel free, dear readers, to make suggestions about new ideas to add, or to point out connections between existing ones that I missed.  As of right now, I have maybe one or two additional thoughts about what to place in some of the other empty cells.  Beyond that, I have no idea how this game will be completed.  The future is wide open.

Okay, here are those first 3 ideas:

In the central spot, which is connected to all but one of the other cells, I place Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.  So many superlatives have been spilled in praise of this masterpiece that I hesitate to add more.  Maybe my use of gold for the image of the cell says it all.  I first discovered it as a kid, when this toy came packaged with some pre-programmed bleep-bloop music pieces that included the main leitmotif of the Ninth.  In college, it was like a religious experience to hear the whole thing for the first time.  I memorized the first few stanzas of the choral poetry (Schiller's schmaltzy but earnest Ode to Joy) when taking German.

In the cell "southeast" of the central one, I place the Japanese New Year's tradition of "Daiku."  I just learned a few days ago that it's grown into a pretty core tradition for millions in Japan to listen to, or also to sing along with, the Ninth Symphony in the final days of December.  It's very similar, I think, to the western practice of putting oneself in a hopeful frame of mind by crafting resolutions for the new year.  I used a deep verdant color for the cell because I found a list of Japanese symbolic colors for each month of the year:  January's new beginnings include pine and sprout green.  The connecting link between this cell and Beethoven's Ninth itself is an obvious one, but this phenomenon seems to be a quite unique thing of its own.

In the lowest spot -- which I don't mean to imply is low in importance, but instead can be a firm foundation to all the rest -- I place Aerosmith's 1973 song Dream On.  It was one of their first major hits, and its emotional lyrics still -- after decades of repetition on classic rock radio -- have the power to make you re-examine your life.  Songwriter Steven Tyler once said that he came up with much of this song by thinking about his childhood.  When still just a toddler, he would crawl beneath his father's piano and listen to him play classical music.  The links to "Daiku" are the passion and hopefulness of living one's infinite dreams in a finite world.
Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away
For the cell image I used what I think is the most iconic logo from an Aerosmith album, stylized wings that evoke the band name's origin from pictures of aerial ballet, and also may symbolize the flights of dreamy fancy brought to mind by this song.

Okay, that's it for now.  If you'd like to help make this a crowdsourced Glass Bead Game, please chime in with ideas.  Like I said, I've got a few thoughts about my next few moves, but nothing definite.  Play on!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The 12th Regeneration of Christmas

Now we're all about the future.  Just mere days ago, Peter Capaldi took the reins of the TARDIS to become the Twelfth Doctor.  WHO will he be?  We don't know, but being significantly older in appearance than the previous few incarnations, we might be in for some increased space-time gravitas...

In fact, he's exactly as old as the First Doctor was when he originated the part in 1963.  Given that current companion Clara Oswald (who witnessed the transformation from the Eleventh to the Twelfth) is now working at the school where the First Doctor's granddaughter attended, and other companions were teachers, we may see callbacks.

I'm not sure if there are any tea leaves to read in the one earlier episode of Doctor Who that Capaldi guest starred in.  He played a harried Roman pater familias in the doomed town of Pompeii.  I'm more interested in going back to a TV movie that I remember seeing in the dorm as a college freshman... since in it Capaldi portrayed my favorite Beatle, George Harrison!  :-)

According to the cycle we've been following, the Twelfth Doctor is set to be a Zodiacal CANCER.  The urge to compare and contrast with the First Doctor (LEO) is strong, since Leo is the sign of the Sun and Cancer is the sign of the Moon.  Thus, we may see an emotional, intuitive, changeable, exceedingly loving, and over-protective Doctor.

If the above is true, this Doctor is going to be an empath worthy of Deanna Troi.  Thus, he may need the final New Year's Resolution of our cycle, which is to elevate your mood.  Some people with great sensitivity can feel buffeted by the winds of others' emotional lives, so it's worth while to maintain a positive, proactive core.

That's it, folks!  I hope I've lived up to the lofty goals I set myself (here and here).  I've learned a lot about the baker's dozen of Doctors, and had fun pulling together these weird strands.  Now that I think of it, these posts may comprise a strange kind of Glass Bead Game with beads made of time, space, and the stars.

I hope you're all ready to face the new year with wibbly-wobbly energy and optimism!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 11th Regeneration of Christmas

We're coming nearly to the end now.  The Eleventh Doctor was played by Matt Smith from 2010 to, well, December 25, 2013.  By far the youngest actor to play the Doctor, this incarnation was full of energy, eccentricities, and playfulness.  Smith continued the trend for "New Who" to focus on the (often harrowing) emotional journeys of the characters, and many of his stories feel more like fairy tales than sci-fi.

Apologies for the use of a staged press photo, but I think it captures his character pretty well.  I quoted the word "cheeky" in the last post about the Tenth Doctor, and I think the Eleventh doubled or tripled that particularly British quirk.  In the 50th anniversary special that aired in November, they hinted that these more recent incarnations have avoided grown-up seriousness because they associated that with the dark deeds they believed were enacted by the War Doctor.

For the first time in the history of the show, the human companions tended to be more mysterious than the Doctor himself, and many of the stories dealt with figuring out the puzzles of their existence.  Who was the rogue archaeologist River Song, and how was her fate intertwined with Amy and Rory, the first married couple to travel with the Doctor?  Why did cute-as-a-button Clara appear randomly throughout time before joining the Doctor in the 21st century?  They've answered many of these questions, but who knows what lies in store as we move forward....


"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don't always spoil the good things and make them unimportant."

"There are fixed points throughout time where things must stay exactly the way they are. This is not one of them. This is an opportunity! Whatever happens here will create its own timeline, its own reality, a temporal tipping point. The future revolves around you, here, now, so do good!"

The Eleventh Doctor's identification as "such a frikkin' GEMINI" was what spurred blogger Dawn Ellis to piece together the Zodiacal order that we've been following this fine holiday season.  :-)  It certainly seems to fit, since traits of the sign include "witty, nervous, youthful, lively, communicative, and inconsistent."  Ellis also referred to a Gemini's "ping-ping-ping demeanor" to refer to their tendency to bounce around randomly like in a pinball game.  Yup... I recently saw Matt Smith's Doctor referred to as a "Manic Pixie Dream Boy."  If you've seen examples of that trope in action for the other gender, you'll see how it fits.

So, you can guess what the New Year's Resolution is for the all-over-the-place Gemini, right?  Focus and commit.  Not always easy, but definitely worth it.  You've stored up all the horsepower you'll need; you just have to get all those horses to be pulling your chariot in the direction you want to go.

[See the introduction for more about sources and motivations for this series of posts.]

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The 10th Regeneration of Christmas

The Tenth Doctor was portrayed by David Tennant from 2005 to 2010 -- the longest stint since Tom Baker's in the 1970s, I think.  My family and I recently finished watching all of his adventures, and I've got to rank him as my favorite Doctor so far.

Despite just having watched all of his episodes, it's a bit difficult of me to sum up the Tenth Doctor's personality in a few sentences.  It doesn't help that his physical characteristics and conceits are an amalgam of (or conscious homage to?) Doctors 1 through 8.  Tennant showed huge emotional range and depth.  I suppose that I agree with Wikipedia's assessment that "the Tenth Doctor generally displays a light-hearted, talkative, easy-going, witty, and cheeky manner, but nurses profound anger, regret, and vulnerability beneath his more glib exterior."  However, I also think the upbeat notes outnumber the downers.


"Mankind doesn't need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honour and valour. Let's hope that from now on this country can find its heroes in smaller places. In the most ordinary of deeds."

"Look at these people, these human beings. Consider their potential! From the day they arrive on the planet, blinking, step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than -- no, hold on. Sorry, that's The Lion King. But the point still stands. Leave them alone!"

The Tenth Doctor is supposedly a TAURUS.  However, this is the one case in which I don't see a good match.  Tauri are traditionally all about security, patience, persistence, and a love of material things.  Much more Bilbo Baggins than the Doctor, I'm afraid.  Although I could cherry-pick a few Taurus terms such as reliability and warm-heartedness, the whole picture just doesn't seem to fit this time.  In Dawn Ellis' original description of this Zodiacal/Doctor theory, she said simply that "David Tennant is the best kind of Taurus that ever lived."  I'll leave it to those more well-versed in astrological personality types to judge.

The New Year's Resolution for our stereotypical stability-loving Taurus is to keep moving and changing.  Having staying power is great, but sometimes that can lead to stagnancy or the frustration of being stuck in the mud.  Similarly to the sign characteristics, though, I'm not sure if it's a good fit here.  I don't think any incarnation of the Doctor has ever needed someone to tell him that he needs to keep moving and changing!

(Well... there was that one time that the Tenth Doctor needed to hide out from evil mind-readers, so he gave himself amnesia and became a, well, pretty typical Taurus human schoolteacher.  It took some serious prodding to get him to put that calm, settled life aside when it came time to remember who he was!  Okay, maybe there's something to the Taurus thing after all...)

[See the introduction for more about sources and motivations for this series of posts.]

Friday, January 3, 2014

The 9th Regeneration of Christmas

Doctor Who got a new start in the 21st century, and the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston in 2005, ushered in "New Who" for a new generation.  I haven't yet seen any of his episodes, but that will change as soon as we're done with Space: Above and Beyond -- my family got the Eccleston DVDs for Christmas.

The Ninth Doctor was with us for only one season's worth of episodes, but he kicked off a renaissance for the franchise that's still going strong.  Writer and show-runner Russell Davies held the reigns for all of the Ninth and Tenth, and he transformed the show from a cliffhanger-based action adventure to a much more character-driven mix of tragedy and comedy.

Coming right from the devastation of the Time War, it's been said that Eccleston played this Doctor with a definite subtext of post-traumatic stress disorder.  He was definitely hard-edged and intense, and he dropped the borderline-foppish eccentricities of nearly all prior incarnations.  Still, he retained the quick wit, charm, and dynamism that's always been a hallmark of the Doctor.  He formed a rapid and deep bond with his primary human companion, Rose Tyler.  This series also introduced the first pansexual companion, the unkillable Captain Jack Harkness.


"Your wish is my command. But be careful what you wish for."

The Ninth Doctor is an ARIES.  The first sign in the Zodiac seems appropriate for this new start for the show.  Again, the characteristics seem to just line up as if this was all part of the plan: adventurous, courageous, assertive, and confident (on the plus side); impulsive, foolhardy, and hot-tempered (on the minus).  The leather jacket and northern accent probably make him look like he's about to bash some skulls for the glory of Manchester United or something, but his sense of personal honor and optimism round out his embodiment of this cardinal sign.

The New Year's Resolution for the dynamic Aries is to be patient.  According to my source for these resolutions, "You love to burn through things as fast as possible but the good things take time. Commit to cultivating more patience and interest with the slower parts of the process and you can totally change your life."

[See the introduction for more about sources and motivations for this series of posts.]

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The 8th and a Half Regeneration of Christmas

Eighth and a half?  Well, after the Eighth Doctor, but prior to the Ninth, there was a brief incarnation played by esteemed actor John Hurt.  We only met Hurt's so-called "War Doctor" in November of this year, but his role in the life history of this thousand-year old time lord was pivotal.

The last part of the Eighth Doctor's era was tainted by the Time War, a huge conflagration involving his people, the Time Lords, and their eternal enemies, the Daleks.  That war created so much collateral damage across space and time that when the Doctor met new people, they recoiled in fear when learning what he was.  He came to believe that a doctor -- a helper and healer -- was no longer needed.  To end the war, he needed to become a warrior.


"Never give up.  Never give in."

(Of course, things aren't always what they seem.  Future incarnations were ashamed of the things they believed the War Doctor did, but it turns out... well, spoilers!)  :-)

Occurring outside the normal cycle of regenerations, the War Doctor doesn't have a Zodiac sign per se.  His place between Pisces and Aries does seem to fall naturally at the Vernal Equinox, a pivotal time that's been enshrined in Earthly cultures by renewal feasts such as Passover and Easter.

However, I kind of like to associate him with the constellation of OPHIUCHUS, whose stars intercept the classical Zodiac.  Some astrologers treat this as an honorary 13th astrological sign and give it the symbol of the snake-entwined Rod of Asclepius.  This is an international symbol for doctors and healers of all kinds, which is appropriate for the one incarnation of the Doctor who tried to cast off that mantle, but found that it was just too much a part of who he was.

[See the introduction for more about sources and motivations for this series of posts.]

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 8th Regeneration of Christmas

After the Seventh Doctor's final episode in 1989, the show was off the air for a while.  It would be 16 years before it came back as a regular series.  However, midway through that hiatus, in 1996, there was a TV movie that introduced us to the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann.  He appeared on-screen for that one adventure, then did a bunch of audio dramas for BBC radio, and then appeared again earlier this year in a 10-minute web short that closed the book on his story.

I should probably try to watch the 1996 movie, but the snippets that make up this 3-minute super-cut don't exactly convey confidence that the producers really got the concept too well.  Still, the Eighth Doctor kept on chugging through the audio plays, novels, and comic books, and actually racked up far more adventures than any of his predecessors.


"I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there."

The Eighth Doctor is a PISCES.  According to an authoritative source, this Doctor "...showed a romantic and sensitive side not displayed by previous Doctors."  That seems pretty on-target for a Pisces, whose traits include compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and dreaminess.  Even many of the negative traits listed for this sign don't seem so bad to me -- escapist, overly idealistic, secretive, and vague.  Those last two may be on target for the Eighth Doctor, but only inadvertently.  The writers of the TV movie slipped in some things that were a bit out of continuity for the Doctor -- psychic powers? a human mother? -- which, if we're being charitable, can be written off as the kind of playful misdirection that other incarnations sometimes employed.

So what does the overly galvanic Pisces need to work on as a New Year's Resolution?  The suggestion from my source is to create boundaries.  I'm not a Pisces, but I definitely need to learn more about how to say "no" to things that will otherwise pull me in too many different directions.

[See the introduction for more about sources and motivations for this series of posts.]