Reflections on Game Theory

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

  Reflections on Game Theory:

            In 1933, Johan Huzinga released a book called Homo Ludens, whose title roughly translated as “Man the Game Player” or “Man who Plays”.  His concept was simple, that the notion and practice of play is important within and to build culture.    

            Hip Hop often refers to “The Game”.  As with most vague analogies, one can take it to mean several things depending on context.  For instance, “the Rap Game”:  Learn how to produce engaging content, usually music.  Retain rights to this content while procuring distribution and promotion.  Promote and establish a brand.  Capitalize with paid appearances, performances and sell associated product.  Diversify and elevate your portfolio. 

            Simple enough in theory.  Some play this as a zero-sum game, which means that in order for me to win, my opponent has to lose.  This never works out that well for that long.  Some, like Jay-Z, play an advanced form of non-zero-sum game wherein a rising tide lifts all ships.  The trick here is to engage other players who understand that the brand is set and can be added to but never diminished.  It is necessary for all players to ‘know their lane’ and work hard in their role for the co-operative pay-off.  The Game is sequential mixed strategy in that one must adjust or change completely their strategy at each stage or series of actions in order to continue to participate in the ever-evolving Game. 

            It is this sense of play and gamesmanship that advances Hip Hop culture, in fact that advances civilization at all.  In this greater Game of Civilization, many agree that non-zero-sum strategies are best. However, it is imperative to remember that many advanced players have switched to versions that are zero-sum. They are willing to declare as sacrificial large groups of people, races, countries, and even planets in order to feel that they are winning. 


Time After Time (1979)

[NOTE:  Books and other media are discussed on this blog from my private viewpoint. These are not reviews and will probably contain spoilers.  For pure reviews, please consult my Goodreads profile. The discussions will be updated as I feel apropos.]

My man Herbert George Wells and Jack the Ripper.  The best and the worst of the 19th century.  Throw them in an easy co-option of H.G.’s Time Machine and make them run around the 20th century in some sort of wacky chase. With a love interest so we can hire a pretty chick.

I first watched this on a lazy Saturday afternoon in a bar sometime in the mid-00s.  Watching it again in 2018 while puttering in the book shop was about the same.  Nice time, dumb plot. H.G. deserves better.

Variations of Self

   I am not a proponent of the Single Self theory. We wear variations on the various roles, job-titles and social labels we are given. Masks if you will.  The masks can take on a life and personality of their own and when we are weak-willed and/or merely superstitiously enthralled they can lead us and change us.  Jack Vance touches on this briefly in the first of his Planet of Adventure series The City of the Chasch.  citcha The tribal nomad humans that the hero Adam Reith meets incorporate masks (or Emblems) and the Emblems' personalities into their society.   Reith's first companion, Traz Onmale, wears the Emblem of the tribe's leader (Onmale, the origin of his surname) but Reith convinces him to give it up and escape the tribal life with him.  Be observant of what mask you are wearing when and if your actions are of your core self or the mask.  Learn to exert yourself above the Will of the mask.  Learn to give in to a mask when it best for a situation. 

   This can be used for self-programming.  Uncle Al used to use a large ring, probably some gaudy Masonic thing, and each finger would be assigned personality traits.  He would exercise his Will so that when the ring was on say the vegetarian finger, he would act accordingly.

  This may seem similar on a lower scale to when we fetishize objects into being our "lucky" T-Shirt or "holy" underwear.  However in these cases we think the object comes to us with these special 'magical' properties already endowed, having nothing to do with us ourselves as higher beings.  Like that T-Shirt came from the factory cosmically attuned to help Favorite Sports Team win or your G*d only approves of those in certain mass-produced undershirts. 

Chthon by Piers Anthony

     'Chthon' was Piers Anthony's first novel.  There is no hint of Xanth in this book, no preponderance of puns. Word on the net is this book took Piers 7 years to write, some of those years while he was in  the army.   'Chtnon' has a dark oppressive feel about it at times. Hell, the title itself refers an underground,  'inescapable' prison.

The book begins with our protagonist Aton 5 entering Chthon as a prisoner.  Interesting name our protagonist has. Aton (or Aten) was the sun god that the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep (aka Akhenaten) tried to set up as Egypt as the center of a monotheist religion.  So at the beginning of the book we have a sun god thrown into the darkest underground with no hope of escape.  This theme appears in classical mythology with Ra's chariot traversing the underground every night.  I always saw a correspondence as well with Christ's apochyphal travels through Hell in between Good Friday and Easter resurrection. Seen in that light, the book starts to take on the stance of a more personal struggle by the author, Mr Anthony (Aton?) determined to cross the Abyss and free himself.  A 7 year journey to break out and become the author he wanted to be.

    There is a second plot/theme in this book.  Aton 5 as a child met a siren, a 'minionette' named Malice.  The unfolding folklore is interesting, everyone has a vision of an idealized love interest created as from childhood. Then about three quarters of the way through this second plot takes on a dimension that can easily be confused with misogyny.  I don't think it is.  Frankly it seems to me that Piers had seen many abused women in his life, maybe raised by one or early formative dating, and projects that onto female characters.  Or he goes the other route and shares with us an internalized idyllic fantasy. Not misogynist merely unenlightened. Keep in mind that this is Piers' first novel and he went on to change and grow.   I'd recommend his Incarnations of Immortality series to a difference 15 years later. 

Sundiver by David Brin


[NOTE:  Books and other media are discussed on this blog from my private viewpoint. These are not reviews and will probably contain spoilers.  For pure reviews, please consult my Goodreads profile. The discussions will be updated as I feel apropos]

     This is my second time reading Sundiver and again I enjoyed it immensely.  Two of my running favorite concepts are here: applied schizophrenia and engineered evolution. 

   The applied schizophrenia seems more of a plot saver placed to give the protagonist a device to win the final showdown.  I was left wondering if it was really necessary for the book.  Was this a concept that Mr. Brin had been mulling over while writing the book?  Did he really feel that Protagonist needed it to win the day?  Is this foreshadowing for the rest of the series?

                The engineered evolution, used on a galactic scale, gives our myriad alien encounters a social structure which I enjoyed in a Star Trek/Babylon 5 kind of way. 

                I have read several of Mr. Brin’s books and they have all struck me (so far) as flawed masterpieces.  He lays down some really heady concepts while being able to flesh out characters that I enjoy.  He tries hard to make his work accessible and this seems to translate as the need for a Final Confrontation.  This climaxes usually disappoint me, maybe I find them unnecessary, maybe I just don’t agree with his methods of resolution.  I’m not sure yet but whatever the perceived flaws they certainly don’t stop me from picking up another Brin book or devouring his thoughts on Quora.

                The most frustrating thing about this book?  Both times I have read it with the full intention of continuing through the rest of the Uplift series.  Both times I have gotten distracted and moved on to other things.  In fact it I finished this book at the beginning of the summer and haven’t had time to collect my thoughts about it much less continuing the series.  I’ll keep trying.

Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore

A patron recommended this book to me & I’m very glad she did.

811wT2-uD8LAll the classic elements are here:  books containing occult secrets, an ancient wealthy secret society, quirky technocrat side-characters helping with the quest.

The incorporation of Google corporate culture (pun!) is nice.


We are ….


[NOTE:  Books and other media are not discussed here as reviews and will probably contain spoilers.  For pure reviews, please consult my Goodreads profile or Amazon reviews]

Heroic rebels for the modern age.  Insolent jerks with too much time abusing  the technology and advantages given to them.  Neither and all of the above.

What the advancement of the internet represents is really information and communication.  This is for better and worse sure but so is every technological advance.  To sit down and read every tweet from 2014 would take more than one human being’s lifetime and frankly why would you want to? Communication does not always equal concrete information.

Watching the human race learn, adapt and evolve to this is fascinating.  On the forefront of this are our First World expendables (and I mean that in the nicest way) the over-intelligent and underutilized who were never given the direction and motivation that their privilege could have.  Surrounding them are their mates the internet masses who are striving to create a digital culture with all the foibles, beauty and savagery the human race can offer.  What a virtual petri dish of human potential.

I loved this book and you should read it.

39 clues series (original) by various

I devoured these 10 books in about a week and a half and recommended them to middle school kids for about 2 months after.  Then I was done. No interest in the 2nd series. I had completion. It was a great run. I never felt dumbed down to, the concepts were equally something both my 42 year-old self and your favorite middle school-er could investigate. There is definitely a bit of conspiracy horror, but there is no overt racism or idiot “symbology”.  That is still not a word, Dan Brown.  After a good cooling period I went on to the 2nd series. No interest here, I’m afraid. The writing was up to par. I can deal with vague Modern World settings but vague Pre-Industrial, I lose interest. My fault. Props to all the authors that involved themselves with this project, you are mighty mighty unto the lore.