Friday, May 30, 2008

Wiki Fugue

I have invented a new disease. It is called Wiki Fugue and is characterized by suddenly finding yourself on a Wikipedia page with no explanation and no memory of how you got there. There is no reason for you to be at any of the following Wikipedia pages (except as a link from this one), so if you fnd yourself at any one of these, contact your Internet psychiatrist immediately:

Old Oak Common TMD

Carolyn Waldo


Rhodes Hall

Psychotria Bryonicola

Sunday, May 25, 2008

You're Part of a Dystopian Alternate Reality, Charlie Brown

Here's a cute picture of the Peanuts gang depicted as characters from Alan Moore's Watchmen, which I found on a German site called Nerdcore.

While I love the sentiment, I think the creator got the characters a bit wrong, to wit:

Charlie Brown is definitely Nite-Owl. Nite-Owl is an every man, who does his best despite knowing that most of his efforts are ultimately doomed to failure.

I like Schroeder as Ozymandias. They look sort of similar, and both clearly have some special gifts.

Pig Pen has got to be Rorschach. A traumatic childhood would explain a lot about why PigPen is such a mess.

I think Linus is Dr. Manhattan. Linus is sort of the moral center that the Peanuts world revolves around. Although Manhattan has his own unique morality, both he and Manhattan are Jesus-like figures in their respective universes.

By extension this would make Sally the Silk Spectre, since their relationship is a key element of both universes.

Finally I think Lucy is the Comedian. She sees the world as it is and finds it both wanting and entertaining at once, as she pulls the football away every time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'll See That Bet, and Raise...

Heroes of the big and small screen have found themselves in gambling situations for as long as television and movies have existed. Here are some common film and TV related gambling tropes.

Craps: Despite the fact that most craps tables have a throng of people crowding to get any piece of the table where they can bet from, and that most of the time the players are betting on someone else's roll, our hero will always be at the head of the table and will always be the shooter for the length of the sequence.

Roulette: Our hero never bets groups of numbers. He only bets a single number or on red or black. He never bets on odd/even. He almost always puts all his chips down on a single spin. This is especially true if he is playing red/black.


Blackjack: All movie and television heroes can count cards. Not only that, but this ability allows them to win instantly and consistently, despite the fact that real card counting may take hours of meticulous concentration before paying off. The hero will usually get escorted or chased away by casino security rather than getting up of his own accord.

Poker: At some point during the sequence, our hero, whether bluffing or holding the nuts, will go all-in for his entire stack. He is also likely to say "I call your (x amount) and raise you (y amount)" even though calling and raising are two separate actions and to try to do both is a clearly illegal string bet.

Slot Machines: Playing slot machines is not heroic. Our hero will play one coin by accident (he happens to have an extra quarter while waiting for a friend, for example). This coin will win him or her a huge jackpot, despite that most slot machines will not pay off a major jackpot unless you play at least five coins. If a secondary character has played a machine for hours to no avail, the very next person who puts a coin in the machine will win a huge jackpot.

Baccarat: Our hero will appear to be a very skilled baccarat player, despite the fact that there is not an iota of skill involved in baccarat.

Sports Betting: Sports betting is for losers. If our hero bets on sports, it's only to show that he has a gambling problem. Anyone else who bets on sports will usually lose, although a final bet may become a miracle win to save the bettor from total disaster, at least temporarily.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There Will Be Blood (But Not Too Much)

I finally got around to seeing the critically acclaimed Oscar winner "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel-Day Lewis as ruthless oilman Daniel Plainview. While the movie is a bit of a slow starter, it does get going late in Act II, and the pace of this expose of the oil world based on Upton Sinclair's best seller "Oil!" is not my issue with the movie.

My problem with this movie is it is simply out of date. This should not come as much of a surprise to anyone. The novel on which it is based was published in 1927. The problem is that Mr. Plainview, whom we are supposed to see as a sinister, diabolical, ruthless businessman, simply isn't that big a deal by today's standards. Sure, he ruins a small town or two, shows little compassion for workers killed in his employ, and takes revenge on one or two people who wronged him, but can this really compare with Halliburton's role in the war in Iraq?

Sinclair, who in his time turned a magnifying glass on the ills of industrial society, no doubt meant Oil! to be a cautionary tale on the dangers of business run rampant. Sadly, many more people then, as today, needed jobs than needed books, and the warning went unheeded. As a result, Oil!s bogeyman Plainview, with his odd gait, appearance, and speech patterns and his devastating fury which results in the death of a handful of people at most, is little more than quaint, and most of us probably long for the days when men with as little ambition posed the greatest threat to society.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Will the WSOP Ever Be the Same?

In a stunning move of corporate greed, Harrah's Entertainment has decided to reformat the main event of the World Series of Poker so that the final table, determined in July, will not be played out until November. This is almost universally thought of as a terrible decision by the players, except for the celebrity pros of course, who stand to benefit tremendously from the hype and the publicity, especially if they are chosen to coach one of the final table participants.

There are a ton of reasons why this is a bad idea. One that concerns me the most is the safety of the participants. With millions of dollars on the line, who is to say that some unscrupulous type might not pay someone to make one or more of his opponents "disappear?" It sounds dramatic, but things like this happen in other countries all the time, eliminating the competition, as it were, with a lot less money at stake.

Here are the main reasons why this idea is a disaster and how Harrah's addresses them.

1. Harrah's is getting the "float" from all the entry fee money while waiting for the main event to finish.

Harrahs: The money will be put into an interest-bearing account and the full amount of that account will be distributed to the players when the time comes.

2. The players may have only been able to afford one trip to Vegas this year.

Harrahs: All players will receive ninth place money once the final table is set. In addition, sponsorship deals made in the interim are likely.

3. The players' safety may be at risk.

Harrahs: Each of the players at the final table will be followed closely by television cameras and documentarians up until the final. This close scrutiny should protect them from harm.

4. The players may collude.

Harrahs: See above. Also, Harrah's will take every anti-collusion step they deem possible and effective.

5. A player may die in the intervening months.

Harrahs: A player could just as easily die in the day between the final table being set and the final table commencing under the current format.

I still don't like it, but the chances of my being at the final table of the WSOP this year are negligible, so I guess I'll just sit back and see what happens.