Monday, December 28, 2015


Probe is an old (1964) Parker Brothers Game that is a kind of four player Hangman with various ornaments hung on it. What separates it from Hangman:

  1. You can include "blanks" at the front and back of your word, to make things more difficult for your opponents.
  2. It is up to four players, and on your turn, you can guess a letter from any of them. 
  3. The slots you put your letters into have different point values, and you get points each time you guess a letter correctly. 
  4. On each turn, you first draw an "activity card" which activates various random events "deduct 10 from your score", "opponent to your right exposes a letter", "add 25 to your score", "take an additional turn", etc. 
  5. After your word has been guessed, you can continue to play and earn points. 
It would seem that Probe is trying to draft off the success of Scrabble "The 384 cards in this game provide more combinations of letters than any other word game." 

Our playing experience was kind of "meh." The drawn cards are kind of irritating, and much of the game is spent trying to remember what letters have already been guessed for each player... and you feel kind of dumb if you reguess one that you didn't remember. It also involves no new skill that Hangman didn't already have. Rounds are relatively short, and setup is kind of a hassle... so, in all, it wasn't something any of us wanted to play again. But if you *love* hangman, this is an interesting four player twist. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In the Surgical Theatre

I found my first Dana Levin poem in an issue of Poetry magazine, and I was really struck by the fluidity, the clarity, and the cleverness of her poetry. So, I picked this up, her first book of poems, since it seemed to be her highest rated book, as well. Unfortunately, I mostly found it too disturbing to read! Most of the poems are about surgery, both real and metaphorical, and as a result are full of gory imagery. They were beautiful, nonetheless, but I have a low tolerance for gore. They weren't all gory, however. One weirdly poignant poem was about the sexual frustration of a teenage boy, and the one that was by far my favorite was just called "Movie." Some excerpts here:
   blood-red beacon in the dark.
The screen gray like smoke, gray
   as a scrim of ash,
the red curtains furling round it like flames.
   Red curtains, red walls, red seats and carpet, even our faces
under red reflected shadows--
   Me and two kids and a man.
   I went in, I waited, for the flashes and burns
of another blockbuster, for the requisite explosions
   and hip bon mots,
for the red aesthetic
   And the two kids: what did they want?
A little chaos, a little blood
   to make their day, their unpredictable fragmented day--
And the man,
   what did he want?
O long tunnel out of despair, distraction of someone else's
Arnold, Disney, Mafia two-step, make us, make us
something else for awhile.
To give up the burden awhile.
   To be an eye.
   God of the Kingdom
It is much longer than that, but those are the parts that most resonated with me. The notion that a film lifts our burden of existence by letting us be something else, someone else is a powerful idea.... but it ends with an even more powerful idea -- that watching a movie is to become God. All-seeing, all-knowing, but powerless to interfere. I've never heard anyone make this comparison before -- it simultaneously elevates the role of the viewer, and questions the role of God. Would would it mean if God felt as powerless, as frustrated, and sometimes as moved watching us as we do when we watch a movie?

Anyway, I certainly plan to seek out more Dana Levin poems... for her poetry has a beauty and a power and a whole living quality feels somewhat unique. I just hope it all isn't so gruesome!