Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Satire Has Caught The Golden Snitch, As It Were!

Check this out. Tom DeLay's legal defense people, angry about an unflattering documentary coming out about DeLay, approvingly link to a scathing interview with the filmmaker conducted by Stephen Colbert. Nothing could possibly please a satirist more than to be taken seriously by the very people you're satirizing. The Colbert Report staff must be calling each other and uncorking some milestone-commemorating inebriants.

By the way, the reference to the Golden Snitch is, of course, a Harry Potter shout-out. I thought of it because my initial temptation for a title was something like "Satire 1, Tom Delay 0", but I realized this is such a great win for satire that it deserved more points. And as you probably know (since Rowling repeats the rules every time in every one of her books), in Quidditch, a regular score---ball through the goal---is one point. Catching the Golden Snitch is worth 100.

But this also raises a point that should have been mentioned long ago: Quidditch is the stupidest fucking game in the world. Forget the fact that it's played on broomsticks, and ignore the obvious risks of death from falling (if it were a real sport, wouldn't there be a net?), and look at that idiotic scoring system. By rights, any decent captain would see these odds and say, "You know what, to hell with regular scoring. Let's put every member of our team to work on catching the Golden Snitch!" Because who cares how far you get ahead---with a hundred points, the Snitch seals the deal so much that you don't need to do anything else.

"But wait!" some of you Harry-lovers are no doubt thinking, "The golden snitch is extremely difficult to catch, and so going after the Snitch would be like gambling on something extremely improbable!" But how improbable is it to catch the thing, really? To make the odds work out, it should be 100 times harder to catch the Snitch than to score a regular goal. But catching the Snitch is apparently common enough that every team has a snitch-chaser. (I believe it's 20% of their entire force, but it's been a while since I went to my closet shrine and checked the scrapbook clippings.) And I need hardly mention that Harry's caught the snitch every damn time he's played the game. So the strategy should be: take out the pther player's snitch-catcher---break his hands, smash his broom, whatever you have to do---and then send all your guys after the damn snitch. It's not rocket science, people.

(By the way, the same problem usually obtains with Yahtzee, to the point where I've started to call Yahtzee "Waiting for Yahtzee" or "First-Player-To-Get-Yahtzee-Wins." If one person gets Yahtzee and the other doesn't there's rarely any need to count the score.)

Of course, maybe Rowling knows this and is saving the big revelation for her final book. ("You mean," cried Hermione, "that we've all been blooming idiots? Strategically, I mean?" "Yes, you have," said journeyman mathematician Professor Beezlebrisket, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher Who Will Be Played by Jude Law...)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Berlin said...

I think it's as simple as this: Rowling ain't a game designer, and neither is anybody who read the first book in its earliest stages. The pointless scoring system just got by everybody. Once the first book was released, it took about half a second for people to start pointing out the silliness of the Quidditch rules, but by that time... well, they were already established, so what was she supposed to do?

Although, rules in professional sports change all the time. Football's rules seem to change annually -- adding the instant replay rule, taking it away again, the recent addition of "going for two" after a touchdown... hell, when the game's rules were first codified, there wasn't even a forward pass.

So I think Rowling should announce, in her next book, that the Hogwarts Quidditch Committee has decided to revise the rules of the game. Rowling can have them come to the same realization that we Muggles intuitively understood from the get-go. She can then have them adjust the scoring of goals or, better yet, get rid of the Seeker entirely.

On the other hand, this would mean still more pages in a book that's already destined to suffer from serious bloat. Forget it -- keep Quidditch as it is. It's hardly the goofiest thing about the Harry Potter series.

5/25/2006 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Trazom said...

I don't know nuthin' 'bout Quidditch, but the solution to the Yahtzee problem is to play the variant that was marketed in the '70s as Challenge Yahtzee. It stands in the same relation to Yahtzee that duplicate bridge does to rubber bridge: Everyone gets the same dice rolls, more or less, and the winner is the person who derives the best score out of it. 99 times out 100, a yahtzee for one is a yahtzee for all and provides no advantage. Instead, the game is won by eking out a small edge.

5/25/2006 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Trip said...

Yahtzee sucks as a competitive game. Sometimes when I am incredibly bored, I'll play it as a solitaire game. This works if you have a potential winning score in mind; for me, I consider it a win if I get 250 points without a Yahtzee or 300 points with one. (This works out to a win about half the time, which feels about right.)

5/25/2006 11:48 AM  

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