It Felt Like a Trap

I’ve spent the last couple of days of soaking up more films by Adam Curtis, one of the best living documentary filmmakers. Last year I watched The Power of Nightmares; earlier this year I saw The Century of the Self; lately I’ve been working through his two most recent: The Trap (2007) and It Felt Like a Kiss (2009).

It Felt Like a Kiss is an experimental film that is a haunting evocation of the essence of life during the Cold War. Its cast features “Rock Hudson, Saddam Hussein, Lee Harvey Oswald, Doris Day, Enos the chimp, and everyone above Level 7 in the CIA.” The excellent soundtrack was composed by Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz, etc) and performed by the Kronos Quartet, with loads of additional pop tracks from the period. There’s no real semblance of a plot or, unlike Curtis’ other films, any sort of thesis. It Felt Like a Kiss is quintessential Curtis in terms of look: heavy use of montages (including some dizzying works of editing genius) and heavy use of archival footage, proving that Curtis probably spends 8 hours a day poring through old film reels. Yet this is also a new Curtis — less documentarian, more artist. The result is a trippy hour-long exploration of the ironies, oddities, and ambiguities of 3 or 4 of the most pivotal decades in American history. Were the U.S. a psychotic individual, this film would be its deranged subconscious bubbling up, exposing some of the roots of our modern American madness.


Goodbye PokerStars

So I’ve quit poker for good in anticipation of my impending move to Argentina. It was extremely bittersweet for me to cash out my entire PokerStars account today; happy for the money, sad to leave it all behind, disappointed I didn’t win more. But poker has enabled me to have a life that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, and the game has bailed me out of more than a few financial crunches. My trip to Buenos Aires, in fact, is largely funded from these poker winnings.

Pasted below are my results for 2009. It’s true that a lot of people have played more hands than me, spent more time studying the game, and have made much more money than I have — but I’ve done better at this game than 90% of people ever will, and so I take a little bit of pride in that.

Sort of a pretty graph, eh? So that’s a tad over 200,000 hands in 6 months versus 16,585 different opponents. It’s hella hard to get money onto PokerStars these days, so I hope this teaching gig works out in South America otherwise I am S.O.L. as far as career options go. At least I have another Stars t-shirt coming my way.

From Busto to Robusto

The video below is part of an upcoming documentary entitled “From Busto to Robusto” — meaning, “from rags to riches” — about young online poker pros. Like all good documentaries, I don’t think you need much of an interest in the ostensible subject matter to be engrossed. The main characters are two Calvin College alums and the one is relatively famous in the poker world (there’s even a theorem named after him). I’ve embedded one version below, but the best copy can be found here — it’s excellent video quality and I’m told the file itself was only 120mbs.

No Limit Kitten Hold’Em

On Sunday Scott, Kraig, & I took in a stray cat, henceforth known as Lady Macbeth. She was black & white and a little gimpy, with one deformed ear and one hairless patch on her tail. Ms. Macbeth was starved for affection and food, both of which we lavished on her unceasingly — even cobbling together a litter box and buying gourmet cat food.

She was a very cute, docile, loving feline and would’ve been welcome here indefinitely… if only her hairless patch hadn’t been identified as kitty mange. On Tuesday an open sore developed, which her biting/scratching obviously exacerbated, and radioactive tails just aren’t my thing. When sore-pus (I apologize for the graphicness) dripped on a couch pillow, I drew a line and booted Macbeth right back out the door. From catless to catfull to catless in three days ain’t no fun. 

Even worse, having Lady Macbeth around had a dramatic effect on my poker results. Below is a graph of my results for May (click to enlarge), and you’ll quickly notice that there is a direct correlation between money-won & cat-presence:

My Favorite Debt

I picked up a hitchhiker this morning and he identified me immediately: “You’re a Cedarville student, aren’t you?” Is it that obvious? Do I just radiate repressed fundamentalist vibes? But Samir assured me it was just a guess based on probabilities: C.S.U. students speed by, C.U. students pick him up. He’s living at Wilberforce but travels for undisclosed reasons (not a job, he says) to Xenia every day, a 4 mile commute that usually takes him an hour because he doesn’t have a car. “Neither do I, this is my brother’s.” We laughed. I mentioned my trip last summer; he mentioned his Chicago-to-L.A. trek in the ’70’s. Farthest N.W. he’d gotten was Eugene, which he described as an “enormous Yellow Springs,” which we both concluded was awesome. So I’ve now received some 40 rides as a hitcher, and given two in return. At this rate I might even pay off my student loans before repaying kindness owed, but at least this is a debt I don’t mind at all.

By the way, I stumbled across a book that echos some of what I discussed a month ago. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets “examines what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill.” I haven’t read it yet, but sounds interesting since it’s one-half of the same coin I blogged about earlier.

Also re: old posts, a friend gave me a copy of Phillip Lopate’s excellent essay “Resistance to the Holocaust,” an American Jew’s incisive look at the machinery of memory built up around the Holocaust and the ways in which this atrocity is used & abused. Unfortunately, I could only find a very brief excerpt online, the rest of which you’ll have to find in Lopate’s book Portrait Of My Body (1997).

Donk me

Work saps my energy to blog. This is unfortunate. I watched Helvetica the other week which was funny because I work at a very Helvetica-esque company. Trust me… it’s hard to keep my credentials as an anarchist when I’m working as a corporate drone. Plus, not being a bum means I have to pay taxes. So far I’ve contributed $56.95 to our military, which is enough to buy nearly 200 M16 machine-gun bullets to help kill Iraqi children.

In other news, I played a $4 Minesweeper tournament on Friday. By dodging all the bombs of 179 opponents I ended up sweeping my way to 1st place for a solid $216 payday.

Don’t Blink Now

Don’t blink or you might miss this: I’m actually kind of happy right now.

I got the job with Exel (pays $11.75/hr) and I start training Monday @ 10am.

My replacement motherboard arrived and my computer is back up with almost full functionality — I lost 1/4 of my memory sticks, and my onboard ethernet port isn’t working, but that’s relatively minor.

My kitten is also OK, though he’s now a pothead.

And lastly, tonight I played in a few Sudoku tournaments with Remy. In one $2.22 tourney, there were 996 entrants and I puzzled my way to 4th place for a $232 prize. I made $33/hr.

Failed plans

I thought I was going to Boston, now I’m not.
I thought I was going to Chicago, now I’m not.
I thought I was going to Bangkok, now I’m probably not.

Let’s check in on where my book/week project stands:

15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
16. Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
17. Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen

It would seem I’m somehow ahead of schedule. This is good since I foresee several epic novels in the near future that will undoubtedly take me 2+ weeks.

Lastly, congrats to RemyBub for finishing 6th out of 2,044 in a poker tournament on Monday; I finished 39th. Ship.

Brief update

Hey donks, sorry for the lack of posts. Work’s been really busy lately. I moved up in limits but got bitchslapped by variance – so had to move back down again. Probably just as well because I have to pay rent soon and can’t afford extra risks. Good news is that in a month I should have enough Frequent Player Points to get this:

Es nice, no? Very very sexy.

Book O’ Teh Week update:

  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers (highly rec’d)
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara EhrenreichI loved High Fidelity, by the way, but I think the movie absolutely blows. I’ve tried watching it three times and still think it’s awful. American Pastoral was the first book I’ve really struggled with this year. One of my most memorable reads for sure, but not one of my favorites. It’s supposedly the fifth best American novel of the last 25 years, but I just don’t see it. If you’ve read it and have an opinion I’d love to hear it. I found it a bit of a slog to be honest.

    Oh yah: the Johnsons are coming this weekend from Chicago so I’m very much looking forward to that. Maybe the Columbus juckets will visit too.

  • Playing the PS $1M

    Yesterday was the largest poker tournament in the world as 10,508 hopefuls showed up to fight over a $2.1 million prize pool — 1st place paid a whopping $271k. I won my entry via a $12 satellite (took a few tries though). This was my first shot at real life-changing money and I was very excited all day. Long story short, I ended up busting after 5 hours in 547th (top 5%!) for a nice $840. Very bittersweet ending — but I think I played well and got lucky in some ways and very unlucky in others.

    The full story is below. Beware: very heavy on poker lingo which I won’t bother explaining.
    Read more … »

  • At 1.5 hours in I take a key flip JJ vs AKo for about 75% of my chips. After flop he’s drawing to 4 outs and misses.
  • My 1st all-in is a re-re-raise AI w/ AKo…split w/ AKo.
  • 2nd AI at 2:15 open-pushed 99 no callers
  • 2:30 — 1st suckout! button raises 66, I jam A4s and river a straight. He says, “plz die.”
  • 2:40 — lose major coinflip TT vs KQs; he rivers flush
  • 2:45 — 2nd suckout! forced to move w/ K9o, run into ATo but river a straight. Back to where I was pre-flip.
  • 2:55 — AA for the 3rd time. Have yet to get any action.
  • 3:05 — jam QQ on button, no calls. Still in bad shape, need a double-up.
  • 3:07 — jam AJs from SB after button limps; both fold.
  • 3:15 — jam J8o from button out of necessity. Got one of the chipleaders at the table now, so that sucks. He is, unsurprisingly, quite aggressive.
  • 1st hand after 3rd break I open-push 22 in MP, thankfully no calls. Couple hands
    later 66 UTG and I’m pained to fold it because I’m so short and need the blinds/antes just to stay alive… after I fold there’s a raise and re-raise so glad I didn’t jam.
  • 3:30 open-push A8o on button and take it.
  • 3:35 — chipleader raises, there’s a re-raise, and I go all-in w/ AA. CL pushes too and other dude folds… CL flips up AA as well and we chop pot. GRRR$*3!!$*$&~ Boosts my stack nicely, but I really thought I was going to more than double up. Chopped pots can be frustrating.
  • 3:45 — re-raise AI w/ AJo and take it down PF. Very next hand I get JJ in SB and open-push on BB… he insta-calls with AJo (I’d been pushing on him a lot) and I double up. For the first time since hour 1 I have an M of 15 (almost 29 BBs) and finally feel relatively comfortable. Sitting 238th out of 1387 remaining. I can (and am) opening up my game drastically now.
  • 3:50 — raise in CO w/ ATo, BB calls. Flop an ace and he check-folds. We’re essentially on the bubble now. Play has grinded to a halt as short-stacks frantically stall for time in a stupid bid to barely outlast other shorties.
  • 4 hours in exactly — we hit the actually, literal, definite money bubble. An
    aggressive player raises and I re-raise from BB w/ AQo… he re-re-raises back. SUCK. I fold and take a nasty hit. Very next hand same player raises and I jam 66 to get a bit of my chips back; he insta-folds. We’re in the money now; some 15 people simultaneously busted. A Mr. “Balu0412” is the unlucky individual to finish 1 spot out of the money. The bust-outs immediately following the burst bubble are fast and furious as shorties start shoving left and right.
  • 4:12 — SB limps and I check my option w/ 43… flop is 425, he bets I call. He check-folds the turn when I bet. Go on a mini-rush: raise AKo, all fold. Raise A2o all fold. Raise ATc, LAGgy BB flat calls and I take it down on flop w/ Kxx two clubs. Very next hand A4c and this time I fold. Currently 139th out of 1025. My LAGgy nemesis at table is 35th.
  • 4:38 — AKo UTG+1, BB calls my raise. Flop is K-high but draw heavy; he check-calls the flop but then check-folds the turn.
  • Couple mins later get QTs back to back. First I raise, no callers. Second time I raise, SB calls. I flop an open-ended straight and bet 80% of his stack and he folds. Cracked the top 100 in chips now. Nemesis is now in 10th and still a PITA. Only saving grace is that 3 seats separate us so I can usually avoid him.
  • Few hands later I have JTd UTG and think about raising on, essentially, a steal play. I fold it though and of course the flop is all diamonds.
  • 4:50 — AA again. Again no action. I’m the 2nd or 3rd most aggressive at table yet they never play back at me when I get a monster; very frustrating.
  • Almost 5 hours in — disaster. Short stack in EP pushes, I re-raise AI to isolate with AKo… guy behind me calls! It’s 99 vs QQ vs my AK… Q on the flop. Down to 519/558. OUCH. Is that QQ call good?!? I’m 37% against both, 43%+ against the QQ alone (which is what really matters). If I win this I’m at 500k+ and TOP 10 in chips! ARGH.
  • Couple hands later I have KQo in BB and all-in versus 66… miss my 9 outs on river and GG me. out in 547th. AGONY. $840.64 is not too shabby though. Outlasting 95% of the field feels very good, especially since I know tons of pros who didn’t get very far at all. It also feels nice not having to second-guess myself: I really don’t think I made a mistake at all in the last two or three hours. I mean that; just seems unlucky to go down in flames so fast over what, to me, was an unavoidable situation. Was a very fun afternoon/evening though and quite memorable.« … Done reading!
  • Jim James connection

    This is all I’ve been doing for the last days before November hit us. I was trying to hit GoldStar (VIP club) and I did just 4 hours before the midnight deadline on the 31st. Now I’m on a bit poker’d out so I’m going to take it easy for a while and re-charge.

    I did nothing but listen to music yesterday. I’m really into a lot of older stuff right now (Dylan, Van Morrison, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, etc) but if I had to recommend a few cds off the top of my head they’d all be from 2006 and they’d all be connected to Jim James: start with the live masterpiece of Okonokos by James’ My Morning Jacket; then hit up M. Ward’s Post-War which James plays on (he might’ve produced it too, not sure). Last is the undeniably MMJ-influenced disc by Band of Horses called Everything All the Time. Dig it.

  • RIP William Styron
  • Stephen Colbert Has America by the Ballots – a couple weeks old but still a good read.
  • Open directory full of Ray Lamontagne demos and live cuts
  • The Daily Drawing
  • Extreme Cynic Makeover

    I’m watching Extreme Home Makeover because it allows me to set aside my cynicism for one hour and maybe even get weepy (ok, likely not). Good show, seriously.

    Did I mention how I completely rocked two goals in one week?
    1. Hit 20k FPPs on Stars and ordered my 30-gig video iPod. My black beauty should be here in a few weeks – hopefully before B’s wedding but if not, certainly before Christmas vacation.
    2. Hit 41 takedowns in Burnout 3. Geek champ, obv.