Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jerry, Where Art Thou?

It's been nearly six months since Jerry Yang won the World Series of Poker.

Since then, there's been no sign of him. Sure, he hasn't had any big tournament success since then, but Jamie Gold didn't have any major cashes in his first six months and it seems like his name and face were everywhere.

Now, of course, circumstances were a bit different. Gold was involved in a massive lawsuit involving the right to his winnings. But this did not affect the fact that Gold has appeared on numerous televised poker programs featuring celebrity pros, such as Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker, while Yang is nowhere to be seen. A Google search of Yang turns up mostly links to the guy who owns Yahoo:

Yahoo Champion----------Poker Champion

So where is Yang? Is it simply too soon? I don't think so. The word was that Yang was going to be an "Ambassador of Poker." He was going to usher in a new era of poker that would wash clean the stain of Gold's lawsuit-tainted victory.

But I think maybe people like the taint. They like their poker champions with a little edge. Either that, or maybe the poker boom is finally coming to a head. With U.S. restrictions on Internet poker and nearly five years since Chris Moneymaker's historic victory, maybe the bloom is off the poker rose.

Time will tell. In the meantime, I'm playing in a tournament next week.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Evil for Dummies

Last night, as I prepared to slip off to Slumberland with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, I suggested to my girlfriend "why don't we watch a pleasant Christmas show to fall asleep to?" Purposefully aiming the remote, she responded: "How about MOST EVIL?"
MOST EVIL is a gratuitous program on the Discovery Channel wherein Dr. Michael Stone fetishises serial killers by placing them on a scale which he has the audacity refer to as a "scientific tool," his MOST EVIL scale.

The only scientific tool anywhere near this scale is the guy who invented it. Calling a scale of evil a scientific tool is like calling One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi a scientific time measurement. There is no conceivable diagnostic value in deciding that Charles Manson is a 15 and the Reverend Jim Jones is a 22. Stone offers no suggestions for treatment of those on the scale, and it's clear that the designations are fairly arbitrary and mostly speak to how strong the ego is of the subject (if you got other people to kill for you, you score high. If you killed for someone else, you score lower).

Will Smith, Basically a Good Person

In an atrocious example of yellow journalism, attempted to stir up some trouble last week by printing that Will Smith thought that Hitler was a good person. This is of course not what he said. He essentially said that no one with any modicum of sanity wakes up in the morning planning to do evil, or thinking they are evil. This wild, politically incorrect idea was first suggested by well-known close-minded bigot Socrates. So Will, why don't you go hang out with your own kind at any Philosophy department in the country if you love Hitler so much?
That last bit was sarcasm. The fact is, people all think what they are doing is right and good. That's why we have those terms. Does it seem more likely that Saddam Hussein woke up in the morning thinking that he was evil and George Bush was good, that he wanted the dark forces to win like he was some kind of desert Sith Lord? Or did he probably think that a white infidel was evil for threatening his and his people's way of life? If he didn't think he was evil, did this make him a good person? Obviously not.

Labeling others as evil is just a way for us to feel superior. Feeling superior is not a good starting point if you are trying to understand others who behave in a way you don't care for. This does not mean that people cannot commit horrible acts and be deserving of punishment for it. It's even okay to hate them. But calling them evil is just howling at the moon, and I think that was Will's point, and it's a good one. Take note, Dr. Stone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The True Meaning of Christmas

At this time of year, as people rush around trying to finish off their last minute Christmas shopping, I think it's important for all of us to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas, as Sol Invictus, has been a pagan ritual for thousands of years celebrating the winter solstice. Why is the winter solstice so important? It represents the time that the Earth's orbit begins to bring the Northern hemisphere closer to the sun; in effect, the days get longer again. For ancient peoples, this represented the Sun God's reemergence, hence, the celebration of Sol Invictus: "the unconquered sun." In later years, Jesus ("the unconquered son?") fit neatly into the pantheon of gods whose rebirth was signified by the solstice.

The point being that it's okay to get psyched about Christmas because of the presents. Christmas is a celebration of new life and rebirth, "the sun will come out tomorrow," as it were. Save your whining about peace on Earth and goodwill towards men for Easter.

Christmas is also a good time for us to remember Odin. Odin, the Norse God who was All-father to folks like Thor and Baldur, also liked to fly through the air on his eight-legged horse. Did he give presents to all the good little boys and girls? One can only look to the skies and wonder.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Users are Losers

So, the Mitchell report is out, and it turns out that....wait for it....a bunch of baseball players use steroids. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. The biggest revelation the report revealed?
No one cares.

No one I know, anyway. I mean once you get past the fact that the best player in the game, the best slugger of all time, went from looking

like this:

To like this:

What else is there? So a bunch of names came out. There are probably a bunch more that didn't, and who knows, maybe even one or two on the list are wrongly accused. The point is, America has gotten far beyond the point of being so naive about its national pasttime as to believe that its players are moral paragons. We know they cheat, we sort of hope our favorites don't, but we watch them anyway. I don't think there's a name on that list that shocked anyone, and if there is, there shouldn't be. If Major League Baseball thinks steroids are a problem that should be corrected, they should fix it, with better and more frequent tests and harsher penalties. Naming names is boring. Besides that, it's fascist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution!

Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! is a system for beating Craps promoted by gambling authority Frank Scoblete.

I have nothing interesting to say on the subject of Craps. It's a casino table game which can be a lot of fun if you have money to burn and don't mind a lot of people around you screaming.

I just love saying "Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! Doesn't it sound like the name of a Japanese Game Show?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Show Me the Money

I signed with The Gage Group on Thursday. My agent, Josh Orenstein, is a smart guy who always seems to be hustling and has a lot of stuff going on, so I'm pretty sure we're going to make a bunch of money together once this strike ends.

If it ever ends....

Anyway if someone happens to stumble upon this blog and wants to hire me for something, contact him.

Once this wretched strike ends....

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Casino Games that Sound Dirty But Are Not

1. Three Way Action

2. Around the World

3. Big Split Poker

4. Double Exposure

5. Flip It

Saturday, November 10, 2007


So as of last Monday, the Writer's Guild is on strike. Although I am not currently a member of the guild, I had hoped to be one soon, so this is still bad for me. To me this is reminiscent of one of those TV or movie scenes where the executive slides a piece of paper over to the hapless worker and says "this is what I am prepared to offer you" then cackles with glee as the worker opens the paper to find a big fat zero written on it.

The worst was the New York Times article which referred to the Rockefeller Center picketers being just like real picketers except "instead of hard hats and work boots they sported fancy scarves and arty glasses," or something to that effect. I guess journalists somehow consider themselves superior as writers to screen and television writers. I look forward to seeing you pull on your work boots and tool belt when your union strikes.

The fact is that when labor knuckles, all workers lose, whether it's Hollywood screenwriters, baseball players, sanitation workers or fry cooks. In almost every case, whatever labor wants, it's inevitably about one percent or less of what management is getting, despite the fact that labor does all the work (hence "labor"). The writers are asking for very little, just a small piece, ANY piece, of the new media pie. Considering that there is no new media without them and that the producers are offering nothing, does that really make them worthy of derision?

By the way, has everyone heard about "Aqua Dots?" They are this new candy imported by the Chinese that contain the date rape drug. Aren't the Chinese scoring enough points with us without making Christmas come early for American pedophiles? It seems to me like we didn't have these many problems with the Chinese when Clinton was in office.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Poker Guide for Tourists

If you're planning to play live poker, you should expect to find different types of players at different types of games. Of course, every game will have their share of nice guys and jerks, but certain types seem to gravitate more to some games than others. To wit:

7 card Stud: This game tends to consist of elderly players waiting to die.

Omaha: Omaha seems to attract the most wretched refuse of poker playing society. Omaha players always seem to be looking for a fight, whether it's with other players or the dealer, and often display some of the sourest pusses you've ever seen. A fun tactic Omaha players seem to enjoy is lying to the dealer about the strength of their hand. Omaha hands are already the toughest in poker to read, plus the dealer has to make sure that the pot is split properly, which if there are side pots and quartering, can be extremely difficult to do correctly, so for a player to announce they have a straight or a nut low when they know they don't really adds to the fun. And of course, the players will not hesitate to berate the dealer mercilessly if he/she makes any mistake.

Limit Hold'em: I've actually found limit players to be among the most pleasant of poker players. Life or death (by way of your entire stack) does not hinge on the turn of every card, so it's a much more relaxed atmosphere. These players are much happier to chat with you and enjoy playing the game.

No Limit: This game, being the most popular, attracts the biggest mix of players. There are some very nice players in the NL game, and some miserable SOBs as well. Many NL players want you to think they are professionals (generally the ones who really aren't) and a lot of them look around as if they are waiting for a bigger game, especially if they've just lost a huge pot in this one. On the other hand, this game also has players who very quietly and patiently collect everyone's chips.

Tournament: I find that a lot of tournament players have something to prove. That is, they want everyone to know that they're not the dead money at the table, somebody else is. This can be characterized by wild, inappropriate aggression or a lot of big table talk. Tournaments are also where you will find the most Internet wizards, skinny kids who are barely old enough to shave and calculate every move seemingly perfectly as they push chips into the pot and build their stacks, mostly unfazed by the occasional, inevitable bad beat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

High Stakes

If any of you out there are poker fans (if there is anyone out there) you owe it to yourself to check out High Stakes Poker. I had a previous post that explained why:

This season, season 4, the players came up with a brilliant innovation that should have the producers kissing their collective feet. Unlike the usual prop bets that no one outside of the game can appreciate, they came up with an ingenious one that drove the action like crazy. It was this: Anyone who wins with "The Hammer" (7-2) gets $500 from each player.

The most brilliant thing about this is that the amount won from each player was less than one big blind, but every player is willing to put thousands at risk in order to win the prop. Think of an arrangement in your $5/$10 game where everyone has to pay you eight bucks if you win with 7-2, so every player ends up risking $200 or $300 in order to collect a $60 or $70 bounty.

I also enjoyed when Phil Hellmuth says "Mike, explain to the viewers at home what it means to 'buy the button,'" when it was clear that Phil didn't know and there were probably about a hundred thousand "viewers at home" who knew exactly what was going on.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Do Pink's Hot Dogs Contain Peyote?

There's a very famous Hot Dog stand on La Brea in Los Angeles called Pink's. No matter when you go, any day of the week, day or night, there is a line down the block for this place's specialty sausages, hot dogs and other assorted junk foods. Now I don't want to slander anybody, but I just want to point out that I (and others) find myself experiencing strange, vivid dreams after a night at Pink's, and even immediately after ingesting one of their spicy sausage dogs find myself feeling in somewhat of an altered state.

Think about it. What could REALLY make someone stand in line for two hours to get a stinkin hot dog?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Here She Is.....

Miss New Jersey has a problem.

Apparently some unflattering photos of her have surfaced and some blackmailers are attempting to use them to extort her.

These are far from the guys in Tony Soprano's crew trying to pull off this caper. Would you really want to brag about using photos you pulled off the Internet (Facebook, to be exact) to try to blackmail MISS FREAKIN JERSEY? Is there any reason to believe Miss New Jersey even has any money?

She's not standing for it, inspiring beauty pageant contestants with checkered pasts everywhere. "Go ahead," she defiantly cries, "show my Girls Gone Wild tryout to the world. See if I care!" It's an admirable stand, and it brings up an interesting point. As of this moment I'm calling for Smut Unrestricted Beauty Peagants.

They have this in Body building, some contests are tested for steroids, and some aren't. Sure in the drug free competitions you see what heights the body can attain naturally, but for the real musclebound behemoths, you've got to go to the steroid guys.

I say it should be the same for beauty pageants. Did you ever see a beauty pageant winner and think, "gee, with all the incredibly beautiful actresses, musicians, supermodels and athletes out there, this is the best of the best?" More to the point, did you ever think "oh, there was a beauty pageant?"

Beauty pageants used to mean something in this country. Now, no one cares. Some may argue that this is due to a moving away from sexism and objectification of women in this country, but both Donald Trump and I say, "pshaw!" The Donald was happy to forgive his current crown holder, Tara Conner, her indiscretions, and he's got the right idea. Other competitions have changed with the times. The Olympics started allowing pros to generate ratings, and it's time for Beauty Pageants to follow suit. Let's allow the most ethically bankrupt contestants possible. Give me your Meth heads, your dominatrices, your prostitutes, your huddled heroin addicts yearning to be free. THEN you'll see a beauty pageant worth watching, one in which the winner can hold her smutty head up high with pride.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Arrivederci Tony

So the final episode of the Sopranos has come and gone, and the virtual watercooler has been buzzing non-stop. First, the theories. I've heard three popular theories about the meaning of the final scene.

1) Life goes on for Tony, but what a life! The building tension of this scene tells us how Tony lives his existence and how he will continue to do so until he ends up either whacked or in jail, that is, constantly on the lookout for enemies, even during something as mundane as a family dinner outing.

2) The sudden ending of the scene represents Tony getting whacked, probably by the guy who just headed to the bathroom, as a bit of a Godfather homage.

3) The sudden ending of the scene means that we, the audience, have been whacked.

I like the first theory a lot. It fits. Tony's existence has been alternatively glamorized and made to repulse us. In the end, Tony doesn't change, and therefore nothing in his life does, hence the final song lyrics "Don't stop--" as in, perhaps, don't stop looking over your shoulder, even when spending quality time with your "real" family.

The second theory just doesn't make any sense. There's no reason to assume that anyone has it in for Tony right now. It's politically expedient based on the episode for New York to keep Tony right where he is, and he has a good relationship with the Feds too. In fact, other than the fact that the core of his casa nostra family has been decimated, Tony has emerged pretty much on top, with his position as Capo di Tutti Capi secure, his daughter looking at a bright future as a sleazy lawyer and his whiny bratty son finding his perfect niche as a future whiny bratty movie producer (anyone notice the irony of Tony pushing his son into the Hollywood life that Christopher longed for but Tony would never let him have?)

The third theory is just stupid. We've been whacked? This show has never broken the fourth wall in any way before, why start now?

All in all, I think the finale was satisfying not in spite of the abrupt ending, but because of it. The bottom line is nearly all series finales are unsatisfying if the series was of high quality, because no matter how you slice it, it's over. Might as well cut it off in the middle to show that nothing ever really ends. In fact

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Are NBC's HEROES the X-Men?

There was some buzz after one of the later episodes of Season 1 of NBC's "Heroes" regarding its similarity to the classic X-Men story arc "Days of Future Past." But how similar are "the Heroes" to "The X-Men?" Let's see how many Heroes have X-Counterparts:

Claire Bennett /Healing Factor/ Wolverine
Hiro Nakamura /Teleportation /Nightcrawler
Niki Sanders /Combat Ability-Strength/Beast
Nathan Petrelli /Flight /Angel
Peter Petrelli /Absorb others Abilities-Benign /Mimic
Sylar /Absorb others Abilities-Parasitic /Rogue
Matt Parkman /Telepathy /Professor X
Micah Sanders /Technopath /Forge
D.L. Hawkins /Phase through Solid Matter /Shadowcat
Candace Wilmer/Change Appearance/Mystique
Isaac Mendez /See the Future /Destiny
Linderman /Healing Ability /Healer

I recognize that there are only a limited number of powers out there and a lot of mutants in the X-men universe AND that these powers are not exact analogues, however, most of the major Heroes and primary X-men seem to be represented here although Mimic is a secondary character, Healer is a Morlock and Mystique and Destiny are Brotherhood. Are the similarities to close to be ignored? You be the judge.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Ten Most Influential Mainstream Comic Books In History

In no particular order.

1. Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 "The Anatomy Lesson" By Alan Moore, Steven Bisette, John Tottleben and Rick Veitch.

Alan Moore received critical acclaim and his legendary status in graphic novel writing history with his seminal work "Watchmen," but it all started two years earlier when Moore was called upon to save the struggling "Swamp Thing." Moore's take on the character, that he was a monster masquerading as a man rather than a man who had become a monster, revolutionized mainstream comic books, and set the stage for what was to come.

2. The Dark Knight Returns #1 "The Dark Knight Returns" By Frank Miller

As Moore was doing his part to change the way people thought about comic books, Frank Miller was contributing in his own way. His saga of Batman at 50 brought Batman back from the freewheeling, camped out version of the 60s and 70s and restored the character to his darker roots, without which hit movies like "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" would never have happened.

3. Watchmen #1 "At Midnight All the Agents..." By Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

The graphic novel Moore is best known for, and recognized as one of TIME's 100 greatest novels of all time, Moore deconstructed super heroes in Watchmen in a way that had never seen before, but has been often imitated since.

4. Giant Size X-Men #1 "Deadly Genesis!" By Len Wein and Dave Cockrum

The X-Men are arguably the most popular superhero group of all time, and it all started with this "reinvention of the super team in the mid 70s, which gave us Wolverine, years before Hugh Jackman ever graced a camera lens.

5. Sandman #1 "Sleep of the Just" By Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth

Where Moore started things, Neil Gaiman took over (literally, in the case of another popular Moore book, "Miracleman"). In Sandman, another struggling DC property, Gaiman made a rich mythology all his own, drawing on sources as far ranging as Crowleyan Mysticism and Chinese Legend.

6. Uncanny X-Men #137 "The Fate of the Phoenix" by Chris Claremont and John Byrne

While Len Wein may have reinvented the superteam with the X-Men, Chris Claremont defined it. The pathos of his stories kept readers rapt for years, particulalrly this one, where he was bold enough to kill off a major character who had been beloved for years. In contrast to most comic book deaths, she actually stayed dead for quite some time too.

7. Action Comics #1 "Superman" by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

This is really the one that started it all. Although there were costumed crusaders before Superman appeared, Siegel and Shuster's creation truly represented the birth of the costumed superhero.

8. Amazing Fantasy #15 "The Amazing Spider-Man" by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

While much of the four color world of Superman was cast in black and white, Spiderman was the first hero to live in a world where life was not perfect, and the problems he evaded when he put on his super-suit and fought crime were still there waiting for him when the mask came off.

9. Detective Comics #27 "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" by Bill Finger and Bob Kane

The comic book that spawned a thousand stories, books, T.V. shows and movies, Batman is the archetype of the "human" superhero, one that is pushed to become something better than a mere mortal by circumstance and his own indomitable will.

10. Flash #123 "Flash of Two Worlds" by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino

Before the idea of parallel universes became commonplace, the Flash introduced us to the idea of Earth-2, a world that was much like our own, but different in some very significant ways. This concept reshaped the entire D.C. Universe, and perhaps the way we look at our own universe as well.

Two final notes: 1, I apologize for my DC bias. I grew up a DC guy, and I'll always be one. 2. I recognize that many people go into the creation of these books, including inkers, letterers, and colorists, and I honor and respect their contributions, even if I did not have the room to include all of their names here.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Back in the Game

Here's my first successful foray back into big multitable no limit tournaments this year.

Hopefully more and better results to follow...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virginia Tech

I don't have too much to say about what happened. I don't know anyone who goes to Virginia Tech, and from what I know about the story, the kid responsible was alone, mentally ill, and needed a lot of help that no one knew to give him or were able to give him.

I do have a lot to say about the issue of gun control, as do many others at this time. One wonders why our government thinks the threat of terrorism is so grave that our freedom of speech and privacy need to be abridged, but our freedom to own the types of weapons terrorists use to inflict their terror must be unfettered. One should wonder about a government that puts the Second Amendment before the First. Here are a few of the main arguments the gun-toters put forth.

If Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns

Interesting that those who propose this argument seem to have forgotten about the Police. Perhaps they are against them too. This argument is so stupid it's mind-boggling. You could say this about any law. "Murder shouldn't be outlawed because it penalizes law abiding citizens who like to hunt gays, since the criminals are going to murder anyway." Having a gun is not going to save you from a psycho or a terrorist attack anyway. The whole point of these things are that they are UNEXPECTED. It's maybe about 10% more likely that you carrying a gun around will save someone's life. It's about 1000% more likely that you carrying a gun around will result in you getting drunk or scared and taking a life by accident, or someone taking that gun and taking your life. More guns, more gun violence. It's simple math.

If Criminals Knew that More People Were Carrying Guns, They Wouldn't Commit Crimes.

Really? Or would a criminal just shoot first so you can't get the drop on him? This argument is like the argument for capital punishment, that fewer criminals would kill if they knew that they might get the needle. I have a newsflash. These people are deranged. They are outside the bounds of civilized society. They don't think like you. That's what makes them CRIMINALS. Applying the logic of a law abiding citizen to a criminal is pointless and bears no weight whatsoever.

The Second Amendment Protects My Right to Bear Arms.

No, it doesn't. The culture of this country protects that right. The Second Amendment states that "A Well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." This, for all the 6th grade dropouts out there, is an archaic form of what is known as a CONDITIONAL statement. It's like saying "The pool being full of water, it is okay to dive." Does this mean you have the unfettered ability to dive safely, even when the pool is empty? No. Similarly, does Amendment 2 give you the right to own a Glock even when there's no danger of any Redcoats smashing down your door? Also no.

People can argue that if one of those students or professors had a gun, at least some of the tragedy could have been averted. There's no way to know that. It can't be disputed however, that if Cho DIDN'T have a gun, all of it would have been averted. And that's the bottom line.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, Don Imus, and Me

On April 12th, 1971, I came into this world. On April 12th 2007, I entered a world without the voices of Kurt Vonnegut and Don Imus. Two very different men to be sure, but both with a profound influence on my life.

I vivdly remember listening to "Imus in the Morning" every day as a child while my father drove me to school. Being a kid, I didn't absorb all of the humor, mostly remembering and being amused by the colorful nature of characters like "Moby Worm" and "The Right Reverend Billy Sol Hargus." What I learned though, especially as I grew up and was able to better understand what was going on, was that it was okay, and even preferrable, to voice an opinion, even an irreverent one. Even one that might raise the ire of the establishment. For me, the firing (and presumably retirement) of Don Imus is the end of an era.

This is in no way meant to excuse the statements that got him fired. They were inappropriate and insensitive. They were racist although I do not think he said them AS a racist, meaning I don't think he was in his mind saying "I hate that these black women are succeeding and I need a way to express that." In fact, I don't think there was much going on in his mind at all when he said what he did. Again, that doesn't make it okay. He should be punished. His producer Bernard McGurk should also be punished, since he has made similar and worse statements without penalty, but he is not in the public eye, so he seems to have escaped scrutiny.

I can't help feeling though, that the Imus incident has more to do with its inherent "sexiness" than the quality of the statement. While Imus' referring to black women as "nappy headed hos" is horrible and racist, is it really worse than the way Howard Stern has denigrated women every day for over twenty years, making millions in the process? As long as you don't use code words, as long as it's women and not minorities, go crazy? I think there's some hypocrisy here. I also think the dirty secret is that there is a fine line between bigotry and comedy, that comedians like Sarah Silverman and Lisa Lampinelli (is it more acceptable for women?) make a living parodying stereotypes against blacks and other minorities, becoming caricatures of the racists they lampoon in order to do so. Don Imus, and to a much greater extent, Michael Richards, crossed that line. But I wonder if we can assign the same level of hatred behind a comedian's ill advised words of hurt as to, for example, the alcohol fueled tirade of a Mel Gibson?

Kurt Vonnegut's brand of controversy was more on the level of being labeled an anti-capitalist than of being guilty of any kind of bigotry, which is great for me since the man was one of my heroes (to my girlfriend's chagrin, why that is I'm not exactly sure). I first read "Breakfast of Champions" when I was 14 and was blown away. Although Vonnegut is labeled a science fiction writer, the tenor of his work was far different than the Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein I was used to reading. Here was irreverent, thought provoking social commentary. Here were literary devices (including sketches!) that I had never seen used as effectively before. I loathe reading books more than once; it often feels to me like wasted time I could be using to read something new. BoC remains one of the only books I have read more than twice. (The others being Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Trilogy" which I got into the habit as a kid of reading every time I became very ill, as a pick me up.) I devoured the rest of Vonnegut's books and was rarely disappointed, being particularly awed by Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard (interestingly, not as impressed by the favorite of most, including Vonnegut himself, Slaughterhouse Five). Vonnegut, along with authors like Joseph Heller, definitely and conclusively helped to shape the person I am today.

I was fortunate enough to hear Vonnegut speak at Adelphi University years ago. I was delighted to find he was just as charming, smart, funny and thoughtful in person as was reflected in his books. Here was one idol who didn't let me down.

Although Imus and Vonnegut came to very different ends, I think the common lesson they left us with was that it's okay, even preferrable, to express yourself. That it is by sharing our opinions and being willing to hear and integrate the opinions of others, even if we don't like them, that we become a stronger society, and better people. Eventually Imus abused the privilege of the national stage to do this, and Vonnegut's last novel was far from his best, but I prefer to remember them as they were. Entertainers who helped a young man learn to think for himself and demand to be heard.

So it goes...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Craig's Poker Tip #1: 2-3 offsuit is not a very good hand

Well I played in the Hollywood Park "Sport of Kings" $200 NL HE tournament, my first tournament in awhile and busted out early, but I think there may be something instructional in my donkeyesque play so I figured I'd post about it here.

Apparently the secret is out that one of the keys to success in multi table tournaments is to play super tight early, because the table I sat down at was indeed super tight, although I expected some aggression from the looks of my opponents. In fact, most people folded pre-flop even if there was no raise in the first round. The only sort of exception was the kid directly to my left who looked like he had just stepped off the court of the Ohio State-Georgetown game, who was fairly tight but also pretty aggressive, he would come into any pot for at least 5 times the big blind, any raise he made was usually big enough to end the hand, and he called off a substantial amount of chips with QQ on a board of 8h 3s Ks 7d 8d to a player holding 8s 7s.

In any case, although I had INTENDED to play super tight myself, the table was so rocky that I decided to switch gears and get aggressive. A few sample hands (blinds are 25/25 for all hands):

I have Qs 6s on the button and Jerry Buss makes it $100. Normally I would throw this hand away but I have seen Buss play a lot and felt like I could outplay him after the flop. The flop came Qh 3c 4c. Buss bet another 100 and I called. The turn was Ts. Buss checked, I bet 300, Buss folded.

I have 99 in the SB. One player in middle position limps and I make it 125. Ohio State calls and Middle Position starts seriously sweating me. Finally he makes the call. The flop comes Ace high. I check, Ohio St checks, and MP checks. The turn is a rag and I bet out 300. Ohio St folds quickly and MP starts sweating me again. Finally after about five minutes he mucks JJ face up. "Good laydown," I say as I collect the pot. "Yeah I put you on a big ace, I was considering going all-in pre-flop" he replies.

I have 5s 7d in middle position. I limp and an early position player makes it 100 more. Feeling invincible, I call. The flop comes Kd 6d 9d. He checks and I bet out 300. He mucks JJ (no diamond) face up. "Jacks are a tough hand to play," I offer sympathetically as I rake in the chips.

All this set up my Mike Matusow blow up. Before the tournament started, I overheard an experienced tournament player suggest "sometimes in late position you should play small cards. If they hit, no one expects it, and if the flop comes all low cards, you can be pretty confident it didn't hit an early position raiser."

Why I'm incorporating new advice received 5 minutes before a tournament I don't know, but this is what was going through my mind when an early position player who hadn't played any hands raised to 150 and I was staring down at 2 3 off suit in the Cutoff. I called, and Ohio St. called behind me. The flop came 2 4 T of mixed suits. Early Position bet 150 which I was positive was a continuation bet. I called (maybe I should have raised), and Ohio St. called. The turn was a 5, and Early Position checked. I was confident I had him beat and bet 1000 (I meant to bet 600, a 500 chip and a 100 chip, but I had just made change for somebody and had an extra 500 chip which I didn't realize and threw two 500 chips in instead). Unfortunately I forgot a cardinal tournament rule which is that even if you've got a dead read on the guy in front of you, you can't act on it if you don't know what the guy behind you will do. Ohio St. Hollywooded it a bit to try to get Early Position to call, then called all-in and turned over A3 for the wheel. No A or 6 came to save me and I was crippled. I went on tilt after that and finally moved in with A4 suited vs AJ which held up to knock me out.

It seems like there are a few good lessons here:

Playing garbage cards is not so dangerous because of the pre-flop cost, but because of the cost post-flop if you can't get away from the hand.

2-3 off suit is not a strong hand (Thank you!)

No matter how good your read is on the player in front of you, if someone is behind you you can't make a move based on that read.

Don't get overconfident early in a tournament even if you take down a few pots.

Sooner or later someone who is playing tight will wake up with a big hand.

Perhaps people have others, I'd love to hear.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Passivity Pays?

I ran into a guy I used to know from New York the other day, and as often happens in such situations, I ended up in a random poker game at 3 AM. I lost $40 in the usual way, (1) I get Q6, limp, flop Q 6 3, I move all in, get called by AQ, turn is an A;(2) I get AK, someone bets, someone raises, I go all-in, get called by Td9d(!) board comes T 7 A 3 T, etc.) But what was interesting was what happened with one player, who I'll call Player "X".

Player X could have been right out of a classic sitcom. You know him, he's the guy who comes to the game saying "oh, I just learned how to play and what beats what." He's the guy who never seems to know when it's his turn to act. He's the guy who sends the cards flying whenever he tries to shuffle. And he's the guy who walks off with everyone's chips.

What was particularly interesting though, was the strategy he used to win all the chips, which was this. He never raised. Ever. Even if he had a monster and was last to act on the river, he did not raise. If he was the first to act, he would never bet. He was pretty much the classic calling station, letting everyone do the betting for him.

This had a twofold effect. First, before anyone caught on, he won massive pots by showing weakness all through the hand, then picking off huge bluffs on the river. Since he took a long time to call and then never raised, no one put him on the flopped flush or two pair or full house that he often seemed to have when someone tried to move him off the pot on the river.

Second, once everyone caught on, no one knew how to play him. Anytime he would call a bet, anyone else who was in the hand would slow down, knowing the call could mean he just had no idea where he was in the hand, or it could mean he had a monster. On one hand, three queens flopped, and the two people in against this player both made full houses, and neither of them would put in a chip, quite certain Player X had the fourth queen, even when he checked on the river. Using this "strategy" this player amassed over $100 in a 50 cent/$1 no limit game with a $20 initial buy-in.

Who says you need to be aggressive to win at No Limit?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Did Somebody Say Democracy?

There's a story on the AP wire today about the fight to get a North Dakota anti-cohabitation law off the books. Basically, the law says that it is illegal for a man and a woman to live together unless they are married (presumably this means that two homosexuals can shack up with impunity). This in itself is not that big a deal. It's just one of those "wacky laws" that everyone ignores but no one wants to waste government man hours to change.

What makes it interesting is the following quote, by Senator Tim Mathern:

"I think the majority of people think they ought to be married if they're living together."

Maybe that's true, and maybe it's not. It depends on who the majority of the people are. The majority of the couple's neighbors? The majority of the state? The country? The world? I'm guessing the majority of people don't even know about this (until they read this blog of course). The point, however, is that when I was in school, we were always taught that the beauty of American democracy is that majority rules, but minority rights are protected. Meaning, essentially, if the majority of people think a man and a woman living together ought to be married, then they can get married to someone they want to live with, and leave the minority who don't agree alone.

This concept seems to have been totally lost in the current political climate, which seems to suggest that if the majority of the people think that something is morally wrong, then it is wrong for everyone. That pretty much goes against everything America stands for. What grates on me about social conservatives is that whereas I'd like to believe that for most people, if they are asked whether they want someone they don't know to be happy, and it doesn't affect the interviewee one way or the other, the person asked would say yes, or at least not care. In the case of social conservatives, they actually want people they don't know to be unhappy when it doesn't affect them, and feel like good Christians when they espouse this attitude.

I have news for these people. If you want someone to suffer, especially when their happiness comes at no cost to you, you are not a good Christian. In fact, I would go so far as to say you are not a very good person.

If you want people you don't know to be prohibited from getting married, or to be forced to get married, whether it's because they're gay, or black, or they live together, or they're communists, or whatever, you are not a good person. You are in fact, a bigot.

If you would rather see a clump of microscopic cells that cannot think, feel or sense anything go in the garbage rather than be used for scientific research to save millions of pepole who can think, feel, and sense everything, you are not a good person.

If you think people of a certain race or religion should incur additional police scrutiny for no other reason than that race or religion, you are espousing an attitude that is positively unamerican, according to the first amendment.

Some might argue that this "live and let live" attitude is a slippery slope. They say, for example, cannot we extrapolate from this that people who think slavery is wrong shouldn't own slaves, and leave the slave holders alone? If it's okay to abort an eight month old fetus, why not a two day old baby?

I personally do not think it's okay to abort an eight month old fetus. I think a mother has a right to expel her fetus at any time, but if the fetus is viable, every effort should be made to save it. However the issue is not about personal feelings. It's about respecting both the majority and the minority opinion, and I think it gets down to what is in dispute. Nearly everyone can agree at this time that slavery is wrong, and at the very least it is not in dispute that slaves are human beings whose rights are infringed upon. Even if the first part is in dispute, the second is not, and the rights of human beings to be protected should rule. In the case of abortion, everyone can agree that the mother is a human being whose rights should be protected, whereas the rights of the fetus in this case is what is in dispute. Again, the rights of human beings must be protected.

By the way, the couple who are the subject of this piece are in their 80s and in ill health. Even the hardest hearted among us can't possibly want these people to be unhappy, can they?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

CAA? ICM? William Morris? Who Will Be the Lucky Winner?

I've been selected as a finalist for the 2006 Scriptapalooza TV Awards, in the 1 hour spec category.

My second time as a Scriptapalooza TV Finalist, and yet, still no agent. Where are you guys? Get me while I'm hot!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Turning the Other Cheek

There's a new trend popping up on television shows these days; the Conservative as victim. Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing of Late Night Sketch Comedy" Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, features a character named Harriet Hayes, who is (in theory) creative, artistic, good spirited, funny, and *gasp* a fundamentalist Christian. She faces persecution from all sides, whether it's from Christian groups who accuse her of not being Christian enough, to people on the street who unfairly accuse her of being a soulless bigot, to her own colleagues, who have to bite their tongue to keep from mocking her (in their eyes) neanderthal religious views.

In a recent episode of Law and Order, Charlotte Ross plays a thinly veiled Ann Coulter who is the victim of a homicide attempt. At the same time that we are meant to revile her hate filled speech, we are consistently reminded that extremism from the other side of the political spectrum is just as dangerous.

What's this all about? Has the hopelessly left leaning Hollywood machine which controls all dramatic media finally come around? Is this an olive branch in response to the recent power shift in Congress? Or are writers just running out of victims to save in their dramas?

I'm not sure. For one, I think it is dangerous to assume that everyone in the television industry are liberals to begin with. I think it does make sense that there are a lot of liberals in Hollywood and the television world, simply because the left wing has always been more protective of the right to creative expression than the right. However any talk of "liberal media" of any kind tends to degenerate into ad hominem arguments and anti-semitism.

That having been said, there is some extent to which these representatives of the right are shills. While Harriet Hayes is portrayed as thoughtful, kind, funny (she does funny voices anyway) and intelligent, in the end, verbal jousts with her Jewish, rationalist boss Matt Albie always seem to leave her at a loss for words. Charlotte Ross' character may be a victim, but she is also unapologetically bigoted, belligerent, and much more interested in being inflammatory in order to sell books than in bringing people together through rational argument.

The problem is, so is the real Ann Coulter. The problem is, people whose credo is to put faith over reason are not ever going to win a rational argument convincingly. I applaud the efforts of these television producers to present a wide range of viewpoints, but I suspect that most people who identify as Christians or Conservatives will not identify with these characters, and in fact will see liberal puppet masters pulling the strings.

I personally do not object to the portrayals I have mentioned. As someone on the left side of the political spectrum, they ring true to me. However, if the television powers that be really wish to bring the entire political spectrum under one big umbrella of television watching consumers, I think there are other ways. I think they can present Christians who identify as Christians because they are nice even to people who are jerks (which would put them at odds with the current "Christian" administration). I think they can present Conservatives who believe that an overly active Federal Government stunts the ability of individuals to grow and succeed in the business of their choice and thereby undermines capitalism (also putting them at odds with the current administration).

Maybe those portrayals are not dramatic or interesting enough. On the other hand, maybe it's a crawl before they can walk situation. Portrayals of minorities on television went from non-existent, to stereotypical, to (at least in some cases) realistic. Perhaps portrayals of Conservatives will go the same way. In the meantime, I guess we can all sit back and enjoy the show.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Wrapup

Well, the big game has come and gone, and a few observations can be made:

The Game:

I remember for years people complaining about what a blowout the Super Bowl always is and how it's not worth watching, except for the commercials. The final score (Colts 29-Bears 17) may not have been close, and the game was a bit ugly (the NFL managed to make sure that there was no rain during the Super Bowl for 40 years and now we know why) but for more than three quarters the two teams were separated by no more than a touchdown (with conversion).

The AFC Dominance:

This makes 8 out of the last 10 Bowls going to the AFC. They've got a long way to go though, prior to that, the NFC won a whopping 15 of 16 Bowls. These things are always streaky; 11 of the first 15 went to the AFC.

The Winners:

Good for Peyton for finally getting his ring, but couldn't you feel a little sting behind Dan Marino's smile at the post game wrapup?

The Losers:

Lots of credit to Lovie Smith, since it seemed like these Bears got to the Super Bowl through smoke and mirrors a lot of the time. I'd like to note though, that now my NEW YORK JETS share a perfect winning percentage in the Super Bowl with only the 49ers, Buccaneers and Ravens.

The Halftime Show:

I took a nap, but my girlfriend tells me Prince should have danced more.

The Commentary:

No complaints, Phil Simms is a class act.

The Commercials:

Ah, the infamous commercials. Every year, the fans complain that the commercials "aren't as good as they used to be." But I'm not sure they've ever been as good as they used to be. I think every year, there have been one or two groundbreaking commercials (Thanks Mean Joe, Apple Computers, etc.) that people remember as representing a slew of brilliant ads. The fact is I think most of the ads have become more disappointing the greater the hype. Also, the years when the games themselves were so abysmal probably cast the commercials in a better light.

That having been said I actually thought this was a pretty good year for commercials. The Robert Goulet commercial had me laughing my ass off (you've got to give someone props for going to Robert Goulet and saying "OK, in the end, you'll be crawling away like Spider Man on the ceiling" and to Bob for saying "Sure, why not?"), but maybe a lot of today's viewers don't know who Robert Goulet is. The Bud Light hitchhiker commercial similarly had me in stitches. I'm not sure how I feel about these talking animal commercials, since they seem like an original idea that has been beaten to death, but people seem to love them, so what can I say? If we can just put the talking babies to rest though, that would be great.

Well, time to put away our football hats for another season (after the Pro Bowl of course). Good luck to all the guys who don't have a clue what to do with their Sundays for the next 6 months. May I suggest starting a blog?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Political Philosophy

You know when the terrorists win? When we happily hand over our civil liberties to authoritarian leaders because of fear, when we turn innocent people into pariahs and diminish our own humanity to avoid an ethereal foe, THATS when the terrorists win.

Also when I get dealt KK on the button and the big blind gets AA.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

360 Degree Spin

So Fox News is taking shots at Anderson Cooper, calling him the Paris Hilton of T.V. news. What a shock. Long before Geraldo was playing in a sandbox giving out troop positions, Anderson Cooper was taking his own camera to war torn areas, putting his own life at risk to get real stories with no promise of reward.

But it's no suprise that Fox used this tactic, since it is the classic Right Wing move of accusing the enemy of what you yourself are guilty of before they have the chance to accuse you (like calling judges who refuse to put Christian values over the law of the land "activists" for example). The last time I remember seeing this was a clip of the aformentioned Jerry Rivers on Papa Bear Bill O'Reilly's show accusing John Stewart of "showing pictures of old ladies slipping on ice and laughing." Have we so soon forgotten Al Capone's vault or any of the other sensationalist "exposes" Rivera has put on in a desperate attempt to recapture the magic of the Willowbrook story, the one good story that made his career over thirty years ago?

In reality, Fox News is the Paris Hilton of T.V. news. Disgustingly rich, overexposed, inexplicably popular, and a public embarrassment.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nostradamus I'm Not

It occurs to me that the blogosphere is a great spot to make predictions. I've made some good ones in the past (gas prices are going down as a result of the current U.S. administration's collusion with oil manufacturers to make things look better during election season and will go back up as soon as the election is over) and not so good ones (in 1990 "Mark McGwire will one day be the all time home run king." Barry who?). In any case, it's time to get another one out there, for all to see.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is your 44th President of the United States.

Not such a bold prediction, you say? Well, while some agree that she is the Democratic front runner, you will find just as many if not more people who will tell you she is unelectable. Why? Three reasons: She is a woman. She is a Clinton. And she is a liberal.

To take these points one by one:

She is a woman. There are more women in this country than men, and they are allowed to vote. Some will argue that many women, especially conservative women, hate Hillary. Maybe. But maybe what they say when their authoritarian Republican husbands are around, and what they do behind the protective sheath of the voting booth are two different things entirely.

She is a Clinton. This is actually a huge asset. People quickly forget what a political juggernaut Bill Clinton is. The Clintons have been hanging back and saving their good ammo for the big fight, battling with their off hand up until now. The Clintons are smart, politically savvy, and can be quite charming (yes, Hillary too). When they get back on the big stage, they're going to make big trouble for any opposition.

She is a Liberal. Thanks to the current administration, terms like Conservative and Liberal have lost all their meaning. Certainly George W. Bush, who favors big businesses over small ones and government intervention in people's private affairs, is no conservative, and while wanting affordable health care for all citizens may be seen as the first step towards a Communist state by some, I'm betting a lot of others (sick, old, poor people for starters) think it's a pretty good idea.

There's a lot of talk about Barack Hussein Obama as a potential 2008 President. I think Obama's campaign does have a lot of potential: For 2016. An African American (not to mention one whose name bears uncomfortable similarities to our Mid East foes, just silly semantics of course, but don't imagine that matters to FOX News) with as little experience as Obama has in the big political arena just isn't ready for the Oval Office, no matter how eloquent he is.

In 2008, it's Hillary. You heard it here first.

Sunday, January 07, 2007