Skull & Roses

@GridironGrammer

Like most gimmick Twitter feeds, @GridironGrammer has one joke; like a great gimmick Twitter feed, @GridironGrammer tells its one joke well, and with remarkable versatility. Here’s that joke: One mundane observation about football, followed by a piece of “trivia” from Kelsey Grammer’s acting career. For example:

I love football, but Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t do it for me. There was a mailman on Cheers.

— Kelsey Grammer (@GridironGrammer) September 11, 2014

Or:

I love Gruden and Tirico on MNF. They’re the best primetime duo since Niles and Frasier. I was Frasier.

— Kelsey Grammer (@GridironGrammer) November 18, 2014

Or this piece of poetry:

On Friday nights, I drive out to small towns to watch high school football. Just to smell the grass. Hear the crowd. Frasier was on NBC.

— Kelsey Grammer (@GridironGrammer) November 15, 2014

It’s all so sublimely silly, a combination of armchair quarterbacking and the type of non-trivia you usually find floating beside giant Coca-Cola logos during your local megaplex’s pre-show entertainment. @GridironGrammer came to my attention via re-tweets from Wits host John Moe, whose own feed is a wonderful resource of online non sequitur and dadaist Twitter humor, like his long-running garbling of the Ghostbusters theme song. (#Ghostcatchers!) Both @GridironGrammer and @JohnMoe perform valuable 140-character services, breaking up the dark side of Twitter (the puffed-up punditry, the flagrant self-promotion) with little reminders of how absurd much of the site’s content is. In a way, they’re like professional football mascots, court jesters deflating the pomp and circumstance of the social-media games playing out in front of them. If Frasier had a mascot, it would be Eddie the dog. [Erik Adams]

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Hiatus Kaiyote, By Fire

The Australian outré-funk band Hiatus Kaiyote isn’t initially easy to pin down. Lead singer and guitarist Nai Palm is a classic, ear-trained soul belter, and the band’s best-known song—the Grammy-award nominated “Nakamarra”—is warm neo-soul with a straightforward pop structure, making it an appealing but misleading introduction. Despite its R&B window dressing, Kaiyote’s music veers closer to the bass-focused, ’70s jazz-funk of artists like Gary Bartz, Jaco Pistorius, and Miroslav Vitouš, which is jarring if you’ve come looking for something to tide you over until Erykah Badu (a notable Kaiyote cheerleader) puts out something new. But there’s no baiting-and-switching on By Fire, a just-released three-song teaser ahead of Kaiyote’s sophomore record, scheduled to bow in March 2015. The title track is all sharp angles, with Palm’s deployed as one of many instruments rather than a focal point, hopefully in indication of what’s to come on the forthcoming Choose Your Weapon. The world already has one too many pleasant but forgettable R&B singers with Fender Rhodes accompaniment, but a retro-funk band with off-kilter rhythms and muscular musicianship isn’t as easy to come by these days. [Joshua Alston]

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Skull & Roses

Skull & Roses is one of those games exceedingly simple in its mechanics but really tricky to win. Like poker (but better), Skull & Roses is all about reading your opponents, calling bluffs, and cultivating habits to throw off or deceive other players. The setup is as simple as its execution: Each player has a set of cards—which feel more like drink coasters—decorated with a different “tribe” motif. Each set contains four cards. Three are flowers; one is a skull. The game is played in rounds, with each player playing one card face down. After all players have placed a card, they have the opportunity to either continue placing cards or to issue a challenge. The challenge is a number—the number of cards I believe I could turn, face up, from the top of my opponents’ discarded pile without finding a skull. The next player can either increase the bid or pass. This is where players get seriously neurotic. Because if I were to issue a challenge, for example, I could be bluffing, trying to force another player to up the bid when I’ve just placed a skull. Or I could genuinely think I have a chance to turn up two, three, four, however many cards and find the roses. If I do it—say I end up with the challenge of four, and am able to turn the top cards of my opponents’ cards face up and find four roses, I win that round. Players have to win two rounds to win the game. If I lose, and find a skull, a different player randomly selects a card from my hand that is discarded for the rest of that game—so the possibility of losing a precious card is a real consequence of turning up a skull. It’s a fascinating exercise in reading people and deception. And it doesn’t get any easier; if anything, the more my group played Skull & Roses, the more manic the play became. By game seven or so, strategy had become more deranged guesswork than sound method, and we were reduced to wildly issuing challenges and bids. Turning a skull at that point is half the fun, since any semblance of strategy was replaced with bundles of nerves desperately trying to outmaneuver each other. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

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