Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Breakfast Club in the Jungle

Two nights ago I was so desperate I watched Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle.
Now, first things first: I don’t like to original Jumanji.
OK, Robin Williams, great special effects, fun premise and all that but I guess I was too old when it first came out.
When the new movie came out, I saw the usual hue and cry on Facebook, people tearing their hair off because someone was killing their childhood, and other people complaining about the female lead’s costume.

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Business as usual on Facebook1.

So, what’s this thing I’m talking about? Continue reading

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Graustark

And talking about small imaginary European states…
I guess everybody out there is familiar with Brewster’s Millions, if not the original novel from 1902, at least with the Richard Pryor movie of 1985, directed by Walter Hill. One of the dozen or so movies based on that novel, that was written by George Barr McCutcheon.

Now, McCutcheon’s other claim to literary fame is the creation of Graustark, a Ruritania-like, romantic European micronation that he explored in six novels.

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Indeed, such was the popularity of McCutcheon’s novels that if a whole genre is known as Ruritanian Romance thanks to Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda, that same genre is also known as Graustarkian Romance. Continue reading


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Drachenstal: halfway report

I am terribly late – and the bout of flu did not help – but I’ve been working on the Hope & Glory: Drachensthal mini-supplement this last month.

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The thing will be small but hopefully pack a nice punch:

  • a small gazetteer of the Grand-Duchy of Drachenstahl
  • a game Master’s section
  • a scenario
  • five quick adventure hooks

As all the Hope & Glory material, this corner of the world will also come with its own flavor – in this case, political intrigue and revolution. Continue reading


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The man from the Nile

In July, 1878, when serving as lieutenant in H. I. H. the Crown Prince Rudolph’s regiment, the 19th Foot, on the Bosnian frontier, I received a letter from General Gordon, inviting me to come to the Sudan and take service with the Egyptian Government, under his direction.

Rudolf_Carl_von_SlatinRudolf Carl von Slatin, later known as Slatin Pasha, was born near Vienna in 1857. In 1873, while attending a commercial school, he heard about a German bookseller in Cairo that needed an assistant, and he left for Egypt.
He ended up in Karthoum, and he traveled extensively before he had to return to Austria to fulfill his conscription in the army.
While in the Austrian army, he was contacted by Gemneral Gordon, ad mentioned in the opening of his 1896 best-seller Fire and Sword in the Sudan.
Because when he finally accepted Gordon’s invitation, things got interesting: appointed governor of Dara, and when rebellion erupted in 1882, Slating tried to face the music, but without much success. Continue reading


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Going with the Zeitgeist

Sometimes I think I’m getting too old for comics.
One of my Christmas gifts was a complete set of the first ten issues of Flash Gordon Zeitgeist, the series by Dynamite Comics written by Eric Trautmann and Alex Ross with art by Ron Adrian.
And I said, hey, it’s Flash Gordon, right?

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Now I’m somehow halfway through it, and I will do a more in-depth review as soon as I’m through, and I wonder what that will look like, because right now I am still trying to decide if I like it or not. Continue reading


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The Barbarian, 1933

“In the older days, they’d have built the Nile for you. Nowadays, films have become travelogues and actors, stuntmen.”
(Bette Davis, while filming “Death on the Nile”, 1978)

The_Barbarian_FilmPosterAnd so, on Christmas night, I went and watched The Barbarian, also known as A Night in Cairo. Not exactly a Christmas movie, as we’ll see. The movie features Myrna Loy and Ramon Novarro, and was directed by Sam Wood in 1933.
While the name might not ring any bell, Wood was the man behind the camera for A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Raffles, and The Pride of the Yankees, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Not an amateur, in other words.
The movie is a remake of a previous, silent film, called The Arab (1915), and based on a play of the same title.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to see the movie because of the reconstruction of the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Because, true to the Bette Davis quote above, this pre-Code movie was really shot in a time in which the studios recreated whole chunks of exotic locations in their backlot. Continue reading