Monday, January 02, 2006

2006? Craps. It's A Dice Shoot.

Dice Man from Schoenbartbuch,
an illustrated manuscript from Nuremburg, c. 1600

I called a friend in St. Augustine, Florida this morning, and we were talking about how things in life can change so quickly. Another friend of ours had left Washington to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, stayed there a short while, then shifted to Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. Once she got to California, all of these dramatic shifts happened in her life: health, family, work, yet when I heard from her at Christmas the card was a photograph of the sea with a breezy "ping me in e-mail so we can catch up." I got the real story this morning from the St. Augustine friend who was more in the know than I was.

Over the weekend I had been thinking about my previous year and ongoing problems I am dealing with that would carry over into 2006, as well as that big "unknown" of the future. Ironically enough, a friend here in Washington had given me a book for Christmas called, Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck, written by sleight-of-hand artist, Ricky Jay. After hearing about the California friend's multitude of new issues facing her this year, I started thinking about the randomness of change and what we can have land on the table as our life plays out.

In the book, the small chapters cover the history of dice, deceptions with dice, and when a die dies. Jay has a vast collection of dice, and many of the pieces were made of celluloid. These cellulose nitrate dice were the industry standard until the middle of the 20th-century at which time they were replaced by the less flammable cellulose acetate which has a greater stability rate. As you can see from the photographs, celluloid dice can dramatically decompose: the dice stay stable for decades, then crystallization begins on the corners, spreading to the edges. Nitric acid is released in a process called outgassing, and the dice split, crumble, then implode. Mr. Jay had a photographer who specializes in studying decaying objects photograph his collection, and I have included some of Rosamund Purcell's pictures of the dice along with this piece.

The modern rules for craps are: a player rolls two dice. If th
ey total seven or eleven, he wins; if two, three or twelve are rolled, he loses. Any other total rolled out is called his point, and he must then try to throw for his point. If he rolls his point before seven comes up, he wins, if seven comes up first, he loses. Crapshooters often think if they handle the dice a certain way, it will alter the outcome of the game. I wonder what random rolling techniques I will be shooting and how it will affect my odds this year.

"Going for the winner five on the front line.
Air Force One. Let it ride."

NPR : Ricky Jay: Crumbling Dice

** Dice Photographs by Rosamund Purcell


Blogger Bobby said...

I have got to stop eating those dices.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Wow I love the disintegrating dice pics. They are beautiful.

Part of my morning divination includes throwing just one of my set of amber dice. They're fabulous ... no bugs inside them but nevertheless they're beautiful. I used to throw both of them but found I prefer to work with the numerology of 1-6, rather than 2-12.

My old friend Karl's grandmother used to "throw the bones" - old bleached out vertebrae (I wonder whose vertebrae they were? --). Part of the bone throwing was divination, but they also played some kind of game. Karl said sometimes the bones they threw were knuckles. He swore it was his grandmother's version of dice.

I also have large red glittery dice which were my favorites until I got the amber dice.

Hope your 2006 is NOT dicey.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I love it. Bush is probably throwing "horses", right?

9:54 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Phil? I love you, right on the spot, for even knowing about horses.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Smash said...

While I agree that sometimes the things that happen to us in life are random, it depresses me to think of life events as a crap shoot.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

Well, at least six coaches are now unemployed, so no more moneybags for them. At least you gots yer job.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Megarita said...

Is it bad that I thought one of those dice photos featured dice made of feta cheese and it made me hungry? I'm totally dragging your site down, sorry.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Smash: I don't think it's all random, but I guess this turning of the year thing makes a lot of us introspective.

Bobby: Spit it out. It is bad for you. :)

Reya: I think they are fascinating, myself...and I love amber, btw...I'm wearing amber earrings today, as a matter of fact, each with a tiny insect trapped inside screaming, "LET ME OUT."

Johnny: Huh? Did you mean to post this on I-66's blog? But I know what you mean about the coaches.

Mega: I love that you visit my site, and very funny about the cheese.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I've shut down word verification to see if what I heard is true: that once it's been on, then off, it still keeps the spammers off. We'll see.

12:32 PM  
Blogger A Unique Alias said...

I surprised no one has thrown out soeme play on "The Diceman Cometh" yet . . .

12:55 PM  
Blogger always write said...

I'm with Megarita; I was totally thinking cheese. Great minds, I guess ;)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Lizzie said...

Apparently my mind works in the same way as Megarita's and Always Write's, except I thought it was uncooked cookie dough.

I like the analogy, but I guess I don't think of the "rolling techniques" in life as random. That's the one thing we can control. It's once the die have been released that we're just along for the ride. Just my two cents.

Great post!

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Dice are Cubes, no ? So, the Carmel-by-the-Sea in California friend... can you tell us ? Too confidential ? A Carmel-by-the-SeaCliff hanger ? I'm not touching the dial...

8:13 PM  
Blogger ThaiMex1 said...

Dave, is this tuna I'm eating? Then why do they call it "Carmel-by-the-Sea?"

Is it Carmel-BY-the-Sea or is it Carmel-OF-the-Sea?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Siryn said...

Very few of us have loaded dice, and even they have their own personal hell. All we can do is our best.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Chicken of the Sea ? Bumblebee ? Ackshully, at some point the name of the town was officially changed to Carmel-by-the-Sea, then Dirty Harry became Mayor b/c he thought people outght to be able to walk down the street eatin' their ice cream cones... Go ahead... make my day !

1:46 AM  
Blogger MissThi said...

The disintigrating dice looked like
white chocolate with painted dots on it. It made my friend who was looking at the blog with me, hungry. Now I
want to find a mold for those, and
offer them :)


10:46 AM  

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