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Lateral Thoughts on Life.

The Emperor’s Club.

My wife finally got the movie she’d been talking about all week and was gleefully bragging about it. I was less than excited though because invariably her taste seemed diametrically opposed to mine.

Where I liked mythical and unrealistic, fantasy type shows, ( like Matrix or Star Wars ), she loved realistic people in realistic settings. Where I loved action and perhaps a dry comedy, she would go more for drama and the occasional slapstick.

The only consistent common ground was perhaps movies with Denzel Washington, but while I watched those for the interesting plots and great stories, I couldn’t help thinking, she was watching them because of Denzel’s smile.

We were beginning to at least understand each other’s tastes though and respectfully agreed to disagree while respecting each other’s choices.

“What’s the name of that movie you got again ?” I asked just to make conversation, not with any real interest in the answer.

“It’s called The Emperor’s Club. Have you heard of it ?” she asked, all smiles and bubbly.

Emperor’s Club. I immediately began to be more interested, Emperor’s Club, wasn’t that the name of some high class international prostitution ring that had caused a recent political scandal ? I wondered to myself.

women

“Nope never heard of it what’s it about ?”, I asked while trying to look bored. Maybe this was a test to see if I was interested in Prostitutes, or something, I didn’t want to seem too keen.

“It’s about a teacher at a boys school. I researched it on the net, just like you do. Based on the shows I like, the IMDB website recommended this one.”, she beamed, trying to show me she could beat me at my own game.

You see, I always use sites like Flixster, the same way avid book buyers use Amazon, to tell me movies I’d probably enjoy, based on the movies I already like. It generally works out very, very well and obviously my wife thought it was a great idea too.

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There are hardly any women in this story, a marked departure from the usual Hollywood fare. It’s about a male teacher at an all boys school, there’s not a prostitute in sight. Yet I must confess I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It has something that is rare yet always welcome. It has a thought provoking premise and a well scripted story that is excellently acted even by minor characters.

The basic theme of the story seems to be that to truly be considered great you must not just achieve for your own selfish aims but should contribute something to the greater good.

The movie conveys it’s theme by focusing on a troubled youth who doesn’t seem to care about fitting in although he is also obviously very brilliant. This youth, new to the strict school, causes immediate conflicts with his classmates and also the teacher (excellently portrayed by Kevin Kline)  Mr. Hunterd.

I think one of the strengths of this type of movie is that we can all relate to the school environment and through such stories we get to reflect more on our own learning experiences and favourite teachers and subjects of our past. We easily compare those we know to those of the movie even when they pale in comparison or excel those in the story.

Basically the teacher begins to realize that the troubled youth is similar to himself, in many ways, and Hunterd goes the extra mile trying to make the boy get motivated and improve in his school work.

The teacher even visits the boy’s father who lives many miles away in the city. The father is a powerful man, a politician, who tries to negotiate and bargain with everyone but absolutely resists the thought of anyone else molding his son’s ideas.

The boy eventually, like many of his classmates, achieves much in life. He flies Hunterd in to his mansion by helicopter to remember the past and in fact relive it somewhat. A school reunion including a contest.

It seems the men have not been able to shake off the past and their boyhood foibles remain.

Without dwelling on the dramatic points of the film (don’t want to spoil your viewing experience) I’ll simply say that the events at the close of the film leave an older wiser Hunterd, and the viewer, asking whether the students really learned the most important lesson of all.

As for me I was quick to realise that this film, based on a short story (entitled “The Palace Thief”, by Ethan Canin, was a true classic, worthy of deeper study.

I praised my wife for her excellent choice and she smiled proudly and offered to make me a little sandwhich and a drink.

As I sat watching the closing credits and sipping on the cold drink which  her loving hands had made for me I smiled, feeling like a King, in my Palace.

I was now a member of “The Real Emperor’s Club”. It feels so much better than “The Dead Poets Society”.

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September 13, 2009 Posted by | Beautiful Women, blog, Book Reviews, fiction, humor, marraige, movies, non fiction, philosophy, success, writing | Leave a comment

Caissa, My Valentine’s Day Mistress.

Some people think you should always spend Valentine’s Day with a beautiful mistress, and I guess I must agree, for that’s exactly what I did, this year, and it was great fun.

My mistress is a real Goddess known simply as Caissa.

Let me explain before my wife gets too angry. Caissa is the “patron goddess” of chess players.

She was created in a poem called Caïssa written in 1763 by English poet and philologist Sir William Jones.

In the poem, the god Mars falls in love with the goddess Caissa, portrayed as a Thracian dryad. Caissa rebuffs his advances and suggests he take solace in the company of the god Euphron—the god of sport. After hearing Mars’ laments, Euphron

…fram’d a tablet of celestial mold,
Inlay’d with squares of silver and of gold;
Then of two metals form’d the warlike band,
That here compact in show of battle stand;
He taught the rules that guide the pensive game,
And call’d it Caissa from the dryad’s name:
(Whence Albion’s sons, who most its praise confess,
Approv’d the play, and nam’d it thoughtful Chess.)

Mars then presents the game of chess to Caissa in an attempt to win her affection.

So for die hard chess players, Caissa is often invoked as a source of inspiration or luck, they often say things like “Caissa was with me in that game.”

So, in other words, I spent the whole day,all of Valentine’s, just playing chess.

It gets worse too, I wasn’t even playing chess with anyone else. I was really just fiddling around with this new computer program I got which plays at the level of a real Grand Master.

I learned a whole lot of new stuff about how I can use computers to benefit my strategies on the board. Stuff which is totally boring to those who don’t realize that Chess is the best game ever invented.

Poker does have a lot of strategy too, but Chess is the Ultimate game. Both games are perfect for the internet era.

Anyhow I was totally excited to see how far things have come in the world of computer chess. I’m not a racing car fan, but I do like to think Laterally, so let me try to give an analogy of what’s happening.

Basically chess players now have real live Grandmasters sitting right on our desktops. This has happened because the computer programs are built like Formula 1 cars now.

The outer shell of the car is what the computer program calls the GUI or graphical user interface. Its the nice board and all the features you use to play the game. The eye candy if you will.
Two popular GUIs nowadays for chess are Arena and Fritz 11.

The real power comes from the Engine, so of course they’re called Chess Engines, that’s where the calculations are done and the evaluations of positions that makes the computers of today Grandmasters in rating level. The best engine around now is Rybka, which apparently means ‘little fish” in Czech.

The power of the engine also depends what type of hardware configuration it’s running on and how the resources of the computer are organized. Things like Hash tables, etc, (way beyond the scope of this intro) come into play here but suffice it to say the bigger the computer, (more memory, greater speed), is usually the better the result of the lines it calculates.

Deep Blue, the computer that beat a reigning world champion in a match, was a mainframe, but now an average desktop computer packs more than enough strength to beat a Grandmaster.

What really intrigued me though was that the human component is still way, way from being obsolete. Each of the top programs also uses what are called “Opening Books”. These electronic “books” are really huge trees of variations that the program will play. The strategies it will use in the beginning of the game. The basic approach to victory if you will.

What amazed me is that these books are critical to the success of the whole Program and they are made by Humans, by a laborious process like distilling wine. Men like Kevin Frayer, Dagh Nielsen and Sedat Canbaz are famous for producing high quality books to guide the chess machines like a Formula 1 Driver.

Humans must direct the brute force of the machine, for best effect, even though its admittedly more powerful than us in raw calculation. It’s like riding a horse, I guess. Where the “computer horse” and man work as a team,really closely connected, its a “Centaur”.

There are even tournaments where they have what are known as “Centaur” matches. Centaur is where a human using a computer plays chess. Usually of course using a computer is strictly prohibited for a tournament but now its becoming popular. I guess it’s like when the pocket calculator was first invented and banned from most Maths exams.

Learning all this from my Mistress was really fascinating to me. Just goes to show that I need a life, I’m a nerd or something but I was really totally happy all day long.

Wifey didn’t miss the roses either because she claims that she’s Jehovah’s Witness and they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.

“Chess is a beautiful mistress to whom we keep coming back, no matter how many times she rejects us”. –Bent Larsen.

Happy Valentine’s !!

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Beautiful Women, blog, chess, humor, Lateral Thinking, marraige, non fiction | 2 Comments

Matchmaking, Marraige and Masturbation.

For some bizarre reason, which I still can’t fully fathom, people often ask me for directions to places even though I’m just as lost as they are.

They always ask me and they get upset if I say I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I wear glasses, or something, all I know is, people expect me to know stuff and they always ask for my advice.

When I’m in a store, for instance, people always come up to me and ask me where various items are, as if I work there or something. Quite often I’m trying to find the same items they are and also have no clue.

(Sometimes I’m tempted to act like I work there and then advise them to shop somewhere else, kinda like what Danny Devito did in the movie “Ruthless People” when he answered a wrong number.  “Who do you want ? You want Mary ? (wrong number) . Yeah Mary is here, but I’m shagging her right now, call back later okay ? “, that guy Danny always cracks me up.)

Anyway, let’s get back to whatever convoluted point I was trying to make. I was saying, it seems that while drifting around aimlessly from aisle to aisle, searching for the latest version of sliced Hardo bread, I appear to know what I’m doing. Or perhaps, in their desperation, they really don’t even care anymore where they get advice from. They ask me. Anything they need to know.

Lately though, aside from being asked for directions to the cucumber or hearing that common query, ” Where is the whipped cream ? “, I’ve noticed that lately many people are asking me about the three M’s.

You know ? The three M’s. Matchmaking, Marraige and Masturbation.

Ok, I lied, they only ask me about marraige, but I find that it often reveals that they really have a problem finding a decent match and this frustration seems to be driving more and more to seek Masturbation as a temporary solution. They don’t tell me this last one either, but I can read between the lines, and I know where the Mozarella is too, because I read between the aisles.

Here’s my best advice to you, before you even ask ;

Match Making. If you’re reading blogs, instead of hanging out at sleazy bars and stageshows, then chances are you’ll have better luck at online dating than in trying to break the ice in person. My matchmaking advice is Do it Yourself . Just take a good photo of yourself and post it along with an interesting profile at Tagged and VibesconnectFacebook is also an excellent place to network, or meet people, but it’s not really designed for dating and I would recommend it solely for business contacts and for keeping in touch with old friends.

Marraige. It’s all based on communication. In my case things improved a lot once my wife got a laptop and we could message each other from different rooms of the house.

Since that might not work well for everyone read this blog by a pastor and practice what he preaches. Keep learning and hopefully your spouse does the same.

Masturbation. My masturbation advice is do not Do it Yourself , it can be dangerous.

Be Careful.

Be Careful.

January 31, 2009 Posted by | blog, humor, marraige, Strategy, success, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments