Friday, April 9, 2010

Monopolizing the Game Board: I Play to Win

Monopoly is a classic board game full of competitive spirit. It challenges a player’s resourcefulness at threat of falling bankrupt and any respectable Monopoly player should be aware of a few faux pas and strategies. First of all, Monopoly is not a game of chance and nobody likes a quitter.

Don’t resign your strategy to chance. Chance is a boring and uncontrollable, it is simply rolling the dice to inquire who to pay money to or collect from. Your monopoly strategies should include bargaining and alliance building to avoid influence of chance. If you do decide to avoid a strategy and hope for the best, don’t make your opponents feel like thieving capitalists for negotiating themselves to success.

Quitting – making bad decisions and running out of money isn’t a get-out-of-the-game-free card. Desperation sparks creativity so use those last few Monopoly dollars and strike a deal. Premature quitting or being a Sullen Sally robs the livelihood so remember to be a dignified Monopoly player. Nice guys may finish last, but the ones who throw temper tantrums don’t get invited to play again.

Clarify the Monopoly rules before starting because wishy-washy rule making as you go is far too Wallstreet 2008. Reviewing the rules is boring, but it is better received than constantly interrupting the game to haul out the rulebook. Let the die-hard Monopoly fan who knows the rulebook by hand shine by reciting it for you. Try to prevent discovering rules such as “houses can only be purchased before a player rolls” after the player has rolled.

Negotiating rules can be complicated since there isn’t a “government” to monitor transactions. Petty arguments about when and what types are bargaining are allowed are a waste of energy. The easiest rule to enforce is no rules, all bets are on. Initially some will be inclined to reject this approach in fear of their own bargaining skills, but it is simple to enforce and sparks creativity.

Since being a good sport is never as much fun as talking smack, here are some tips to dominate the Monopoly board:

1) Holding cash won’t do you any favors

Buying properties enables you to collect rent whereas holding cash allows you to pay rent. Holding cash has comfort, but it is a defensive strategy instead of offensive.

2) Buy Every Property You Land On

Refusing opportunities to buy properties saves cash, but purchasing mismatching properties creates leverage. When another player collects 2/3 properties in a set, owning the 3rd property is very powerful. Position yourself so that other players approach you with offers, it pays better than playing landlord and collecting rent.

3) Hotels are King

Rent is insignificant before introducing hotels. Be the first player on the board with a hotel, if you can’t afford it, borrow money. If you can’t borrow money, go play Sudoku.

4) Ignore the Boardwalk

Entering the real estate market, you can purchase a small condo, or you can hold out for a luxury penthouse you may never be able to afford. Inexpensive Monopoly properties are easier to acquire a set of 3 for because your opponents are more willing to trade inferior properties. Owning an inexpensive set of 3 properties also leaves you with more money to purchase hotels, and hotels are king. Putting a hotel on “Connecticut” has a $950 rent which is enough to bankrupt most players.

5) Railroad Rules

Railroads tend to hold more prestige then they’re worth. There are potentially 4 players battling to obtain the railroad set and ownership of all 4 railroads collects only $200 when landed on (compared to $950 hotel landing on Connecticut). Your effort is best spent encouraging railroad owners to independently hold onto their properties which will minimize the rent you pay when you land on them. When railroad owners hold only one property, they collect just $25.

Monopoly isn’t just a fun way to spend time with friends and family, it is a life lesson in strategic thinking. It reinforces lessons of leveraging oneself through negotiations instead of submitting to a victim of chance. Monopoly was created in 1934 and continues to be timeless. You may as well improve your Monopoly skills because if the financial crisis has taught us anything it’s that society values an opportunity to play with strategy, chance and money.

Published: The Cavalier April 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Place Your Oscar Bets

Combat lengthy Oscar commercials and boring speeches by getting together with friends to bet on the awards. Everyone must wager $X on each Oscar category and the pot goes to the winner or is split between multiple winners. Don’t forget to indulge in copious amounts of snacks while chastising each other’s outfit choices.

Choosing your bet can get overwhelming when balancing personal preference, expectations and trying to remember that Avatar wasn’t the only film released this year. It helps to think of who chooses the Oscar winners, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, an exclusive society with over 6000 members chosen for their accomplishments in the film industry. This includes actors, writers, directors and the subcategories even extend as far as “public relations.” Otherwise, voting privileges aren’t awarded based on some impartial wisdom possessed by the academy.

I like to hope the academy will take off their 3D glasses long enough to remember earlier 2009 films like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Impartial voting isn’t what comes to mind when I picture A-list celebrities bumping elbows at dinner parties. It only takes a few cocktails to brazenly suggest a voting alliance between friends, especially when “public relations” are involved.

Every Oscar win is an honorable moment for an actor, director, or artist. Their publicists and agents share in that glory, but when they look onstage they see the statue as a brick of gold. Economically there are influences on Oscar choices, an Oscar winning film that is still in theaters is a gold mine. The Best Picture nomination list has also been increased from 5 to 10 films this year to direct our impulse “it was nominated, it must be good” video rentals.

Maybe I’m being skeptical, or maybe I’ve lost too many bets on the Oscars. I’m conflicted weighing the recent nominee favorites against my personal choice and remembering that the voting system is all too democratic. When I narrow the winner down to two choices I sometimes even consider the likeability of the nominee. Charisma goes a long way, especially in Hollywood.

Here are my opinions, uninfluenced by what I think will happen:

Promising Best Picture Nominees:

Avatar, though absolutely epic, I am not convinced it should take best picture. I am bored of the predictability of its win, but while blowing the film industry out of the water with innovation the story was plain. I would give Avatar Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects, then call it a day.

An Education, is undoubtedly Oscar nominee material, but their expectations of winning anything have been resigned to the best dressed list. Go and see it, just don’t bet on it.

Inglorious Basterds was brilliantly complex much unlike Avatar. However, I worry that Avatar will take the stage, partially as an unconscious attempt to rectify the fact that we have destroyed our planet. I know our race is greedy and a win for Avatar is a win for environmental responsibility, but everyone please remember Quentin Tarantino’s heart stopping portrayal of the Nazi’s.

Up in the Air won Best Adapted Screenplay 10 minutes into the film which is enough to be proud of.

District 9 was a gripping masterpiece with a sense of morality. The film’s presentation of aliens and racism in a manner everyone could relate to was shocking. If my mother’s assertation of “Prawns” being people in costume was an indication, I would expect District 9 to take Best Visual Effects but I think Avatar has already spoken for that Oscar. I would be very happy to see District 9 take Best Picture.

Animated Feature Film Nominee:

Coraline was absolutely terrifying! It sent young children home worrying about their parents becoming possessed by witches. The term “Other Mother,” referring to the possessed mother is now a household threat to my siblings aged 3-8. (Example: Eat your vegetables or you will be sent to your Other Mother.) My vote is for Coraline, and if The Fantastic Mr. Fox wins, I will attribute it to its more recent release date.

Best Picture Nominees That Shouldn’t Be:

The Blind Side – it was heart-warming. Sandra Bullock donated 1 million dollars to Haiti which was nice as well. Get off my Oscar nominee list!

Up, who nominated this film?! Refer back to “voting alliances.” Boredom was the cost of Up’s attempt to be charming which was later ruined by annoying talking dogs.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Railway Club

Monday night muffled music poured onto an odd section of Dunsmuir Street. I looked around anxious to discover a hidden nightclub and through a discreet door I climbed stairs to The Railway Club. This intimate jazz, soul, and rock club has entertained Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and countless music legends since the 1930’s.

“Its sing-a-long night” the doorman informed me as the dimly lit room and vintage d├ęcor drew me in. Distracted by the incredible atmosphere I admired the modestly hip crowd from the back of the bar. Only when I started making my way towards the music did the legitimacy of the doorman’s comment sink in as I was handed a song book.

It was truly sing-a-long night at The Railway Club. An event improper for a stage, five jazz musicians gathered around a table while everyone sang to classic songs that have touched the lives of most people in the dynamic crowd. Between songs a band member held up number cards indicating the page of the next song, sometimes switching “14” for “41,” but everyone always found the lyrics.

The nonchalant attitude of the Hard Rock Miners transformed the crowd into performers. They sat at the table in love with music, forgetting an audience. Admiration fuelled each song as talent and grey hair explained that these men pursued their passion in life. Every voice sung serenely, feeling connected to the unforgettable jazz era we have only heard about.

I left having lived a moment classic movies and novels are based on. At the bottom of the stairs one of the intoxicated musicians had taken a spill. Standing under the flashing ambulance lights I reflected on the overindulgent lives of many great musicians such as Ray Charles, Chet Baker and Thelonious Monk, playing in bars not unlike The Railway Club.

Leaving nostalgic for the bliss and chaos of a more soulful music era, The Railway Club is a window into the glamour and the grit of 1930’s. The Hard Rock Miners host a sing-a-long on the first Monday of every month.

Published: The Cavalier January 2010

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Death of an Accountant

Never have I made a decision with such conviction. It began with a sudden outburst in my accounting class about how pitifully boring the whole thing was. What followed was a character breakout from the most composed and brilliant accounting student I had come to admire.

He put forth regrets of not studying journalism or economics, “anything but accounting!” He had the passion of child and the regret of an old man. I realized that my lack of inspiration in the topic was shared by many, and I just handled it less gracefully.

Looking around the boring room I imagined the passions these people would rather be pursuing. I waited through class, giving my condolences, and went to the career centre to liberate myself of the subject. I am now a “general business” student. It doesn’t command nearly as much respect at cocktail parties, but I would rather be dancing anyhow.

It is tricky to know when to apply hedonism or focus on the luster of tomorrow. Surviving the jazz age, F. Scott Fitzgerald warns his daughter:

For premature adventure one pays an atrocious price. As I told you once, every boy I knew who drank at eighteen or nineteen is now safe in his grave. The girls who were called “speeds” at sixteen were reduced to anything they could get at marrying time. It’s in a logic of life that no young person ever “gets away with anything.” They fool their parents but not their contemporaries. I think that despite a tendency to self indulgence you and I have some essential seriousness that will manage to preserve us. Whatever your sins are I hope you never get to justify them to yourself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

Old dogs walk heartbreakingly into doors, and their aging tendencies are far from entertaining. At best, they are a reminder of better days, not unlike Robin Williams and John Travolta’s acting careers before Old Dogs. Similar to how scrubbing the last pee stain out influences the decision to put an old dog down, the paycheck received by Willams and Travolta must have consoled their choice of selling out on this lack-luster children’s comedy. The film is geared purely towards children, not throwing a witty comment or clever innuendo to the parents purchasing the movie tickets and suffering through the boringly predictable story line.

Two successful business partners enter the most important business deal of their lives when they are haunted by the repercussions of a wild trip to Miami. No it wasn’t a hangover, this is a Disney movie. Robin Williams’ character discovers he’s the father of 7 year old twins who need babysitting while their mother goes to jail.
Ella Bleu Travolta, daughter of John Travolta’s daughter makes her charming debut as a fraternal twin in Old Dogs. Comfortable on camera, Ella has elegance rather than playing a destructive blood pressure raising child. Instead, the slapstick comedy is rooted in fatherhood tribulations of balancing work and family as the intentions change from enduring the children to gaining their respect.

Bernie Mac makes his final appearance since his death in August 2008. His character is true to himself as a loud, fun-loving and friend enlisted in for parenting advice.

Williams and Travolta try to show off for the kids in an entertainingly violent Ultimate Frisbee game reminiscent of Travolta’s days in Pulp Fiction. Otherwise, the only enjoyment I could have received from this film was if I brought my 8 year old sister to take pleasure in her giggles at the poop and fart jokes. As it stands, I would rather convince her to go to New Moon, I’m sure she’s desensitized about vampires by now.

Published: The Cavalier Blog, Nov 25 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

November: It's Raining

The Cavalier went to Whistler last weekend and embracing the wry sarcasm they value me for, my contributions to our meeting included:

1) Making student election candidates write profiles for their competitors instead of being covered by Cavalier writers. Glamorizing Little Miss. Commerce-Undergraduate-Society and her optimism for the Sauder School of Business may have killed me. Plus this gives them an opportunity to display how desperately tactful they are.

2) After the creative genius of decorating our sustainability issue with “leaves” and “trees” I mentioned that if we were really sustainable, we wouldn’t print that issue. Unfortunately this terrible idea was accompanied with a $500 printing savings and my readership will suffer. Look for The Cavalier Sustainability Issue in your inbox.

Leaves are being shoveled away by tractors and the streets are flooding

Beyond Pink? Beyond Reach!

[Response to expensive UBC conferences Beyond Pink and Enterprize]

I have never helped organize a conference nor do I know anything about conference budgets. However I do know that when I choke on the triple digit ticket price for Beyond Pink or Enterprize I am quickly informed of how subsidized the events are.

I understand things cost money, however I don’t understand why a regular ticket requires purchasing 2 nights at a hotel located 10 minutes from my house. It’s also disheartening that Enterprize gives away $100,000 in prizes when many students can’t afford to attend. The meals, swag and evening galas don’t interest me. Beyond Pink’s marketing had me regrettably excited to hear motivating stories of likeminded female entrepreneurs, until I saw the $270 price tag.

I like to think I am not the only student incapable of dropping a few hundred dollars to attend a conference. After pulling together my tuition, money shouldn’t pose as a barrier to how far I can educate myself at my university. This is not an unrealistic plea for equality, but I am disappointed to see opportunities at UBC that are skewed towards students without student loans.

My disappointment is not meant to inhibit the learning opportunity in organizing an extravagant conference, or to undermine the effort of its organizers. I will emphasize my lack of experience in organizing conferences, but the subsidized $270 ticket price seems convoluted with fancy hotels and meals.

The foremost purposes of these conferences are to motivate and educate. Tickets should be available for students to attend the speaker sessions without forcing us to pay for 5-star hotel accommodations and meals. It is fun to attend a glamorous weekend conference but don’t cater to the few who can afford it at the expense of denying other students the opportunity to motivate and educate themselves. In the future I hope there will be the choices to opt out of the extravagance and have my subsidized bus pass take me to see some brilliant speakers.

Published: The Ubyssey 2009.11.16