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Bob Alexander's Commentary

We Will Never Get What We Want or … The House Always Wins

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The saying, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is the condensed version of:

Every year people go to Las Vegas, and the billions of dollars they lose gambling … stays in Vegas.

The house has a built in advantage on all the games. The gambler who plays long enough … will lose. The Smart Gambler plays the games with the smallest House Edge like Baccarat or Craps. The Idiot Gambler goes straight to Keno or the slot machines. But lowering the odds doesn't mean you are going to win. It just means you might win some of the time, but overall you'll lose more slowly.

Commercial casinos gross about 34.6 billion yearly, Native American casinos rake in bout 18.5 billion, and state lotteries do a little better at 19.1 billion. Add it all up and you're looking at 72.2 billion dollars lost every year by people who don't seem to care that all the games are rigged in favor of The House.

The House Edge. Everyone knows about it. Everyone knows the rules. Gambling is a consensual act. If I gamble and lose … I have no one to blame but myself. Y'see I knew it was a rigged game before I bet my first dollar. And knowing the House Edge ... I would rather wager my life's savings in Las Vegas than vote in an American presidential election. At least I'd have a chance of winning in the casino.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 June 2016 22:30

What's the Signpost Up Ahead?

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For anyone driving through the American countryside before 1963 there was a good chance they'd see a series of six signs spaced along the side of the road written to entertain and promote the sale of Burma Shave “brushless” shaving cream. Here's one of the last set of signs from 53 years ago:

We don't

Know how

To split an atom

But as to whiskers

Let us at 'em

Burma Shave

The Burma-Vita company's original product was a liniment made of ingredients described as having come from "The Malay Peninsula and Burma." Sales were poor until the company hit upon the road sign advertising gimmick, and at its peak, Burma-Shave was the second-highest-selling brushless shaving cream in the United States. But now those quaint little signs of Americana are as dead as Dodo Birds.

You can find examples of them by Googling around the web, and you can find pictures of Dodo birds too if you want. But you won't find either one of them in their “natural habitat.” They're gone. As Monty Python would say, they've kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible.” They are extinct.

But Burma Shave signs are culturally extinct. In 1963 the company was sold to cigarette king Phillip Morris, spun off to a Phillip Morris subsidiary, and now is owned by the Energizer Bunny. Energizer could bring Burma Shave signs back by kicking off a nostalgic retro roadside campaign, but nothing short of Jurassic Park technology will bring the Dodo Bird back. The Dodo is really really extinct. They've been gone since 1662 and they're never coming back. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote many times, “And So It Goes.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 21:25

Symptomatic Nerve Gas

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One of the low-key lunatics who skulked around the Seattle's University District would set up shop on the corner of 47th and Brooklyn near the Safeway and rant to anyone within earshot about UFO’s and the CIA. He carried hand-lettered signs detailing in teeny tiny print exactly what the CIA and the UFOs were up to. Not a bad act compared to other street shouters I've seen. If you passed him on the street when he wasn't “performing” he'd mutter “Symptomatic Nerve Gas.” out of the corner of his mouth like a gangster from a 1930's Warner Brothers film.

I never stopped to ask him about Symptomatic Nerve Gas because I had learned years before to never engage with street corner crazies. They were on A Mission … while I was simply curious. Guys like that are searching for full-time converts … not dilettantes. They could get downright testy when they realized I didn't buy into their particular brand of crazy. Don't poke crazy bears with sticks I always say.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 11:50

God (or whoever) Bless You Mr. Vonnegut

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47 years ago I bailed out of a Medieval English Literature class just in time and took a Modern Satire class instead. I knew I'd get an easy “A” because how hard could it be? Read a couple of books, answer questions about the books I'd just read, and then I'd maintain a high grade average. Guys that didn't keep their grades up were destined to become soldiers instead of students. Without a high enough grade point average it could get pretty drafty going to college in those days.

The assigned reading list was fairly long. I can only remember two of the books from the stack I brought back from the bookstore because they changed my life. To be more precise they changed the way my brain worked. They were The Magic Christian by Terry Southern, and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. Both books are about money.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 April 2016 12:15

I'm not on Drugs … Maybe I'm Dreaming

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You can find just about anything on The Internet. I was looking for the right words to describe a state of mind so I clicked on Google, typed in “anxiety dream”, and in point 39 seconds Google served up over 58 million entries. I didn't need to look any further than the first one:

An anxiety dream is an unpleasant dream which is less disturbing than a nightmare. Anxiety dreams are characterized by the feelings of unease, distress, or apprehension in the dreamer upon waking.

That's exactly what I was looking for. Ain't technology grand?

Years ago, if I wanted to get an idea about What's Going On, I could talk to our next door neighbors and the 85 year old World War II vet who lived across the street. Every weekday, just before 3:00 pm, I'd be with all the other moms and dads at the front door of my son's elementary school waiting for our kids to get out. Listening and talking to these folks didn't lead me to think I had my my finger on the pulse-beat of the nation, but at least I had an idea about What's Going On in my little corner of the world. The information I gathered was firsthand. I didn't primarily get it from television, newspapers, magazines, or websites. I got it from listening to the people who lived in my city, my neighborhood.

Now we live in Canada. I can tell you all I know about The Great White North but I don't know shit about what's going on in the US. I can call up a couple of people I know, and get their take on Current Events … but it's their impression of What's Going On. I don't have any firsthand knowledge about what appears to be a nation-wide descent into full-blown madness.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 March 2016 22:02

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