A Christmas Carol / Reboot / Post Truth / Alternative Ending

li-620-scrooge-cp-7608083It had been the most extraordinary day. Never had a leopard changed its spots so quickly. Never had someone turned over a new leaf so completely. Ebenezer Scrooge had reconciled himself with anyone and everyone he could remember losing the favour of, and whilst Scrooge had indubitably reveled in the fellowship of mankind on this day that celebrates the birth of our saviour, something irked him as he sallied his way along the streets. Scrooge had enjoyed a splendid Christmas lunch with his nephew and his family, and afterwards how heartily he had volunteered to play all the parlor games and though he was now close to exhaustion he still gamely ambled his way home through the bitterly cold, dark London night. Indeed this complete reversal of Scrooge’s character had led many of those that had met him this Christmas day to think that he must have been delirious, suffering a fever of the mind, or the curious side effects of a stroke, but there had been no stroke, only the hauntings of four spirits could be held accountable for Scrooge’s apparent epiphany of the soul.


Still there was a thought tucked far away at the very back of his mind that unsettled him, a mere phantom of a thought, but as Scrooge could bear testimony, the shadows of phantoms are enough to bring about great change. Despite still being nearly full to the brim of Christmas cheer Scrooge couldn’t help but ponder on what it was that was bothering him, and he knew that if he were to go straight home he would only sit and stare into his fireplace for hours ruminating over this small, but undeniable vexation. It was then that Scrooge had a splendid idea, the old man knew exactly what he must do next, he would go and visit Skanky Jack.

The last time Scrooge had seen Skanky Jack he had given him short shrift and demanded that he repay all his debts by the new year. With a sense of guilt Scrooge reflected on how he had shouted and beaten Skanky Jack mercilessly with his gnarled walking stick. Scrooge felt his shame deeply and resolved that his benevolence could be still stretched a little further so as to come to some sort of agreement with Skanky Jack.

Scrooge had a pretty good idea where he would be able to find Skanky Jack at this time of night. He would be at Limehouse, about four miles east of Charing Cross on the north bank of the river, no doubt indulging in the Chinese molasses. A distance too far to walk so late into the night, Scrooge decided he would make his way to the river to find one of the silent highway men to take him the distance downstream.

As Scrooge made his way through the bitter, misanthropic chill a frosty rime settled on his eyebrows and wiry chin. The thickness of the fog was too much for even the most enthusiastic gas lamp to leave any meaningful impression, but still within Scrooge the spirit of the day burned with the greatest intensity.  By the time Scrooge arrived on the north bank of the Thames many of the watermen were far too inebriated or had gone home to spend the last of what remained of the Christmas evening with their families. With very little ambient light the riverbank was a foreboding and sinister place, a place where criminal undertakings provided the main source of revenue. Scrooge however was not about to let this most miserable and foul setting put him out of favour with the season. He strode purposefully up to a group of three men huddling around a brazier warming their hands and announced, “Which one of you fine watermen would be good enough to take me down to Limehouse? I have business there that must be concluded before the day is out, and as it is Christmas I am willing to reward handsomely whichever one of you takes me there.”  


As he finished his pronouncement he noticed a woman, who had for some reason been on her knees get to her feet. The three men turned slowly to look at Scrooge, the glow of their fire only accentuated the hideous contours of their three equally deformed countenances. In fact Scrooge was for a moment struck dumb by the sheer repulsiveness of these men who displayed as fine a collection of skin diseases as could be seen in any illustrated medical encyclopedia. One of the men replied,“‘andsomely rewarded you say? Will need to be this late into the night.” In the darkness it was difficult for Scrooge to tell which of the three had just spoken so he replied to all of them, “Yes, for today is Christmas, my first in many years, aside from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, it is a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time any of us know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.” Scrooge was interrupted in the midst of his flowery oration by the giggling of the men and the woman who added, “I’ve got something I would open up for you, but it won’t be freely. What says you and me go for a quick ball o’ chalk and find ourselves somewhere quiet?” Taken aback by the proposition, for Scrooge had received no such thing in the best part of half a century, he could feel his cheeks start to glow against the harshness of the night. “Well thank you young lady but that will not be necessary, as I mentioned before I have business to settle before the day is over.”

“Suit yourself” she answered and disappeared from sight as she resumed her kneeling position.

The shortest of the men stepped through the shadows towards Scrooge, “So how much were you thinking of paying then mister?”

Scrooge had that morning left his chambers with plenty of money, and although he had given much of it away throughout the day he was still in possession of plenty. Remembering the deal he had agreed earlier in the day with the boy about getting the prize turkey, Scrooge proposed similar terms, “I’ll give you a shilling, but if you can get me there before the chiming of the next hour I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

This gained the attention of all those within earshot, the woman’s face reappearing from behind the waist of one of the men and stared up at Scrooge. The man to whom Scrooge had made the offer started to grin, at least it appeared to be a grin to Scrooge, what with the poor lighting, lack of teeth, and the plethora of skin diseases, Scrooge could only assume that it was the man’s  mouth that was making the facial expression.

“Alright then guvnor, if you’d care to make your way to the skiff o’er there I can start to earn meself that ‘alf crown.”

Making their way eastwards down the river felt perilous to Scrooge, the flaring of the lamp was not strong enough to penetrate more than four or five feet ahead of the skiff and no one could have known they were out there. Shut off from the city around them by the depth of the fog and darkness of the night, this was not the first time today that Scrooge had felt as if he had been removed from this world only to be placed somewhere between the living and the dead. How the waterman knew where he was with no landmarks visible only unsettled Scrooge further.

Before the hour struck the waterman placed the skiff by the bank of the river and informed Scrooge they had arrived. Truth be told Scrooge could not see enough to be sure of this, but in good spirits he had no reason to question or doubt his pilot. As Scrooge carefully alighted off the gently rocking skiff onto the bank he turned to pay the waterman both the money and the kindness of the season when he received a sharp blow to his temple. As he lay dazed on the ground the boatman delivered three swift kicks to Scrooge’ midriff breaking several of his ribs, then rifled through Scrooge’s pockets relieving him of all his money and a gold fob watch. As Scrooge lay on the cold ground he saw the boatman make his way back out onto the river. Somewhat philosophically Scrooge realised that the pain he was in at this very moment was nothing when compared to the agony he had brought on many a London family. So Scrooge shakily got himself to his feet and despite his injuries tried to wish the boatman a merry Christmas.

While struggling to catch his breath, doubled over in pain, Scrooge dragged himself along Thames Path to Narrow Street where he knew he would be most likely to find Skanky Jack. As he continued painfully on his way he heard the sound of voices coming towards him, this filled Scrooge’s heart full with joy as it presented him with another opportunity for more seasonal philanthropy. But, there was something odd about these voices, although they were definitely voices their tongues spoke a language that was completely alien to Scrooge. With the fog being so thick the two voices came upon him out of nowhere as suddenly there stood before him two short men with black hair and a complexion that was not of this scepter’d isle. Scrooge quickly realised that they were two China men sailors, a smile spread across Scrooge’s countenance as he offered the two men the felicitations of the season.


“Merry Christmas.” Scrooge wheezed as enthusiastically as his several broken ribs would allow. The two China men looked at one another and then back at Scrooge.

“Melly Chlitmas?” The two China men said to one another slowly and in a confused tone. “Melly Chlitmas?” Suddenly one of the China men sprang up like a jack in a box and twisted in mid air. Scrooge could just about see the extremity of a foot extended out tracing a perfect arc through the foggy night air. Before Scrooge had any chance of reacting one of the China men had executed a perfect flying roundhouse kick that came crashing down to the side of Scrooge’s  face. Not for the first time that night Scrooge found himself on the cold and wet, filth strewn cobblestones, precariously balanced on the threshold of unconsciousness. “You think just because we sailors we rookin’ for sex. Well I just fucked you wheely good you fuckin’ old pervert.” And with that the two China men went on their way.

Even after having received two nearly fatal beatings during the last hour, the resolve of Scrooge’s Christmas spirit seemed only to strengthen itself. With broken ribs and a bloody swollen face Scrooge rationalised that this latest assault was nothing more than a cultural misunderstanding. Scrooge determined that he would not let this latest set back darken his mood, for he had already spent too many years edging his way along the crowded paths of life, and with this he again picked himself up and painfully made his way down the street.

Despite an iron will to see the day through with the enthusiasm with which he had started it, Scrooge was badly beaten, and much like Mary and Joseph had before him, he needed shelter if his goodwill was to extend into another day. If Scrooge had not had the good fortune of collapsing into the arms of Skanky Jack, then I am sure he would have died no more than a dozen paces from that spot. On this most holy of days it could have been said that divine providence itself was in Scrooge’s favour. Yet he still needed one more stroke of luck as the last time he and Skanky Jack had conversed they had departed on the most bitter of terms. Again fortune smiled on Scrooge as Skanky Jack was beyond remembering such a locking of horns having ever occurred, indeed from observing Skanky Jack’s attire with the most casual of glances it would appear obvious that Skanky Jack had great difficulty in even remembering to wear the clothes that most us would consider necessary for such inclement conditions, only the darkness and the fog covered what his clothes failed to.  But little did Skanky Jack care for he had been in the opium den since the night of Christmas Eve, and if a physician had happened upon the pair of them then he would have been hard pressed deciding which required treatment first.

“Ay ya wellyawalkin will yafella? Wassyuptoaneewaay? Youzneeedz togetyaself taMidserChan’semporimum. Ya gottenymoney?” Now Skanky Jack had never been known around London as having a propensity for eloquence, but after having chased the dragon for over twenty-four hours even the dragon itself can start to tire. Scrooge had little understanding of what Skanky Jack had just said, but Scrooge had little choice but to go wherever it was that Skanky Jack was taking him.

They entered a house that from its extremity could have easily been regarded as abandoned. They then entered a poorly lit room, a thick smoke hung in the air much like the fog had doneoutside, through the darkness Scrooge could see movement and hear the groans of what he assumed were fellow human beings. As Scrooge lay himself down in a fashion so as to cause the least pain, Skanky Jack spoke with a diminutive China man who sorted out the required paraphernalia. Before long a pipe was placed at his lips and with what little energy Scrooge had left within him he inhaled. Less than a minute later and Scrooge could feel the agonies of his beatings dissolving throughout his entire body, and he smiled, a vacant but nonetheless contented smile. Languidly Scrooge exhaled, just letting the smoke decide its own rate of egress from his lungs. Again Scrooge inhaled, this time a little more deeply with the pain of his ribs now soothed. He held the smoke in his lungs a little longer this time and then, for all Scrooge cared, he could have exhaled his last.


In the darkness of the room the forms of shadows moved, mumbling infrequently and incoherently. Although there was very little light Scrooge felt a warmth and comfort as if he were swaddled within black velvet. His recent assaults were no longer even a memory, instead the joyfulness of the good deeds of the day radiated not just through his mind, but also stoked the fires of his heart and soul. If anyone had the opportunity to have looked into Scrooge’s eyes they would have attributed his delirium solely to his smoking of opium, but his level of contentment was so much deeper and fulfilling than that. The smoke in the room played and danced with what little light it could find as if challenging it to a game of blind-man’s buff.

Scrooge stared of into the darkness, through and beyond the darkness, until he arrived at such a time and such a place where the smoke and the shadows, the darkness and the Cimmerian shade coalesced. Within its depths Scrooge could see the darkness start to breathe and take form, anything but solid, but form nonetheless. China men, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, old Fezziwig, and Robinson Crusoe all morphed into forms of consciousness through the fleeting glimpse of a facial feature, an eye and a mouth or a nose and an ear. All of these partial countenances only added to the euphoria of Scrooge’s spirit.

Now anyone that has ever been in a condition similar to that which Scrooge presently found himself will tell you, that as with man’s attempts thus far to fly, “what goes up will inevitably come crashing down”.

Where there was once warmth there was now an uncomfortable heat. Where there was once a sense of security there was now an abyss of suspicion, a tumult of fear, and a piercing cacophony of doubt. Where only moments earlier Scrooge’s mind resided in a blissful state transcending the human condition, there now writhed and wrestled a chimerical beast of such malevolent contempt that it engulfed Scrooge without warning, hesitation or effort. The darkness and the smoke rose up and towered over him. Scrooge cowered before its presence.

“Look at me!” The voice reverberated through each atom of darkness, and through each sinew of Scrooge.

“Look at me!”

With what mental faculties he still had at his disposal Scrooge slowly raised his chin and brought himself to look upon what was the source of the ominous command. There standing before him Scrooge recognised the second of the three spirits, the ghost of Christmas Present. Like before it was clothed in its simple robe, bordered with white fur, but instead of the green of earlier it was now red. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, but appeared now to be decorated with tattoos. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the lurid red garment, were now wearing comical black boots; and on its head it wore a red hat also trimmed with fur. Where once Its dark brown curls were long and free, his hair had turned grey and white; its genial face now looked haggard, its sparkling eye, its open hand, and its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, now lost as if belonging to another time. Where once he proudly carried his burning torch all that was left looked like a damp lump of charcoal.

“Is.. is that you spirit, the spirit of Christmas Present?” Asked Scrooge timidly. The spirit looked down upon Scrooge with a weariness and desperation that made Scrooge’s kidneys freeze. “Are you alright spirit? I find you not as I left you”

“I’m going to be honest with you Scrooge, you were right, it’s all bullshit. I’ve seen it coming for some time but it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket. If you think it’s bad now you should see it in a hundred years time. Let me tell you I thought Christmas was commercial now with its great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts. The ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars. The pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; bunches of grapes, made to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; the piles of filberts and Norfolk Biffins. The oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. I don’t even know what some of this shit is Scrooge! I mean what the fuck is a Norfolk Biffen anyway and what’s it got to do with Christmas?

“But it gets worse Scrooge, oh it gets much worse. A hundred years from now children expect gifts that are so expensive it will take their parents until the next Christmas to pay for them. And let me tell you the irony of this shit, all the stuff the children want is made in China. They don’t even have Christmas in fucking China Scrooge! You’re probably thinking “why don’t the people just spend what they can afford?” Well Scrooge if the people were to do this their government would say that the economy was stagnating, which in turn would lead to a recession and the “sensible people” losing their jobs. How well a person “keeps” Christmas has nothing to do with charity, love or tolerance, instead it is measured by the amount of debt one is willing to amass. I’m telling you Scrooge, it’s utterly fucked. And for the crowning turd atop of the Christmas pudding they dress me like this, like some sort of festive whore with no dress sense. And do you know why I’m now wearing red? It’s because of some fucking syrupy and gassy drink that their all consuming, that I wouldn’t even force my most arse-hole of a reindeer to drink.”

“But what about your message, your lesson to me, why did you do it?” Questioned Scrooge, puzzled by the spirits new message whilst still being confused by the effects of the opium.

“That was Jacob Marley’s idea I’m afraid. We were all sat around on Christmas Eve and had nothing better to do, so we just went along with it.”

“And what will you do now?” asked Scrooge.

“I don’t know, I’m very bitter about all this if I’m to be honest with you. Maybe I’ll hang around here for a few months smoke opium and think of ways I can fuck up Easter, sabotage Hannukkha, or maybe I’ll go to the orient and take a big shit all over Buddhist Lent. I still have some options.”

“Well spirit, I can’t say that I’m not disappointed, I believed what you told me earlier, I still do. What about love and forgiveness, what about goodwill to all our fellow passengers to the grave?”

“All total bullshit Scrooge. The secret to life is to take what you can and fuck anyone who tries to get in your way.”

It was at this very moment that it occurred to Scrooge what it was that had been bothering him since he had taken leave of his nephew’s house. It was like a lamp being lit in his very mind casting the light of revelation over the past twenty-four hours. Scrooge saw Christmas for what it truly was, the complete and utter humbuggery of it all became apparent to him.

So Scrooge took the spirits advice and applied every one of his teachings to his life, and infinitely more; and Tiny Tim did NOT die, instead Scrooge was able to keep his life hanging in the balance as an incentive to make Bob Cratchitt work harder. And as the spirit said he crushed the resolve of anyone that stood in his way. Of all the arse holes in the that good old city Scrooge was considered the largest; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people could not be exploited for his own personal ends. So Scrooge went on living for many years to come because you see, he could afford the best health care. He out lived Bob Cratchitt, Tiny Tim his nephew, all of them without batting an eye. For Scrooge was a good capitalist and lived by its rules making both money and misery in equal measure for generations to come.


Jay Gatsby, Robin Williams and Holden Caulfield in the Search of a Lost People

My latest fancy is to go and indulge in the ridiculously expensive buffet breakfast in the town’s most exclusive hotel. An environment where privileged tourists just continue their privileged lives in a foreign country, whilst under the illusion they are travelling.

An eclectic mix  of early morning, international Jay Gatsbys experiencing Thailand through a pair of Benjamin Franklin tinted Ray Bans.

A man who bares a haunting resemblance to Robin Williams, just younger and less dead, merrily makes his way towards a mound of bacon, affectionately tapping people from all corners of the earth, on their shoulders and elbows; like some modern day messiah trying to heal a collection of cosmopolitan ass holes. Encouraging them to remove their blinkers of cash that restrict their world view to an endless cycle of infinity pools, manicures, pearl necklaces, opera, fine wines and fancy hats, leading to their inevitable discontent, disillusionment and ultimately their grateful death.

It’s Holden Caulfield’s idea of hell, as Japanese, Korean, European Caucasian phonies in sandals, flip flops and clogs look amongst a pile of sausages for the real Thailand.

Dressed in fishing pants, cut off jeans and Lacoste polo shirts they try to project the image of a backpacker whilst lathered in La Prairie skin cream. As they make their way back to their tables in their minds they’re roughing it in the verdant jungle, or steaming mangrove swamps. Their plates piled high with more calories than are consumed by an average sized hill tribe. But this isn’t the time to compare and contrast the calorific intakes of the rich and poor, because to be honest I couldn’t give a fuck. For too long now I have been frustrated by the division of wealth, the inequality of opportunity and the exploitation of poverty in thailandthe vulnerable, but I’m too old and too tired to care anymore. Instead I have chosen to become the grandest phoney of them all; eating my breakfast in a place I can ill afford, aspiring to become one of the rich , privileged, elitist assholes I pretend to hate. At least I’ve achieved the asshole part.

I’ve just finished my fifth cup of coffee and it’s not even 8.30, it’s time to ride the crest of this caffeine wave to the shores of my next hypocritical discontent.


The “Game of Life” – Greed, Nazis, Mathematicians, Homophobia, Ryan Leaf and Christmas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was young I loved to play board games, as the youngest child, they presented me with an almost level playing field upon which I could best my parents or older brother. Monopoly and Cluedo were the staple family favourites although my father lacked the patience required for Monopoly.

I remember once while on holiday in Devon, the whole family had been locked inside a caravan not much bigger than a coffin, as for two weeks rain had blown horizontally across the moors and drummed its random, frantic, staccato rhythms against the caravan’s plastic windows. I loved that holiday, no other holiday had ever presented the family with such an opportunity to spend time together playing games. But, upon reflection I feel a great amount of sympathy for my father. A working man doesn’t get much holiday, and to be given no choice but to spend it in such claustrophobic conditions at the hands of Britain’s most inclement weather conditions started to shred his nerves. Subsequently we never holidayed in Britain again.

Of course back in those days presidents couldn’t rely on powerpoint and instead would have to stay up late coloring in graphs by hand.

For what must have been two or three days we played nothing but 20 questions with such rapidity, frequency, intensity and ferocity, that what was once nothing more than an innocent parlor game had become more like an interrogation at Auschwitz. Playing 20 questions came to an end once we had all become so telepathically sensitive to one another’s ways of thinking that people were often making correct guesses after only two or three questions had been asked. To prevent the further development of the hive mind under the pressure of cabin fever conditions, we moved on to Monopoly.

It’s hard to recall, but we were somewhere into our third or fourth day of an epic Monopoly marathon, when suddenly my father created an economic chaos, with what appeared to me to be the touch impulsive decision to sell Bond street, Regent Street and Oxford Street all for 1 pound each. Now admittedly as a nine year old boy I had never visited any of these locations and therefore suspected that my father’s worldly knowledge formed the foundation of his decision. Maybe he had insider knowledge that a freeway was to be built through this area of London or perhaps it was being considered for a landfill site. Whatever his reasons were, I quickly learned that Monopoly is not really a game that rewards philanthropy as my father was quickly eliminated, leaving him free to stretch his legs and pace the entire length (6 feet) of the caravan, and to have some quiet time alone watching the raindrops zigzag their way down the plastic windows. I can’t remember who it was that ultimately benefited by picking up such prime London real estate for 3 pounds, but I am pretty sure that they went on to win the game, but that’s not what mattered. I blame this incident for sowing the seeds of my doubt towards  capitalism and consumerism. After all This was in the midst of the opulent 80’s, a time that saw the zenith of the capitalist dream, Dallas and Dynasty were being viewed by millions, and Gordon Geko’s mantra “greed was good,”greed-521 succinctly encapsulated the meaning of a decade. As a child growing up in the in this society I had until that point regarded the accumulation of wealth as a fun and worthwhile, even noble cause. I was little more than a naive,brainwashed lovechild from the loins of Reaganomics, the belief that there would be such an abundance of wealth being generated by the rich the they would literally run out of places to put it, and therefore it would overflow and “trickle down” to the plebs like me. But through my father’s adoption of the Kerouacian approach to economics, which considers money as “ruining the sanctity of the moment”, had opened my eyes and I started to appreciate that maybe there was more to life than going around in circles, accumulating wealth in some contrived sense of competition where really there is no one to compete against. Instead you can opt out, go on the road, or in my fathers case up the other end of the caravan. Selling up, opting out and going to sit by himself, was my father’s symbolic act of resistance against the the capitalist dogma of the 80’s materialist economic machine. If he was going to be forced to into incarceration on a wet windswept moor, he would be damned if he was going to spend his time playing games that simulated his working life.

Due to my father’s lack of patience and his ability to create an economic crisis any Wall Street trader would have been proud of, one Christmas we bought the Game of Life. Now the Game of Life is a lot like Monopoly insofar as it judges the success of a person’s life purely through the accumulation of wealth, but it is targeted for an audience with a shorter attention span. Perhaps its most significant difference to Monopoly is that the Game of Life has a definite end point to it, you reach the end of the board and enter a retirement home. It must have been decided that this presented my brother and I the opportunity to learn fiscal responsibilities whilst giving my father the reassurance and hope that the banality would last no more than a couple of hours, after which he would be free to go and lie under a car and get oil all over himself.

It all sounded to good to be true, a simulated journey through life. A classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the character of capitalism. It represented a salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in western society. But as is really the case the Game of Life is the product of a demented imagination. The Game of Life is what every family would have been made to play on a Saturday night if the Nazi’s had won the war. It represents the sixth Reich and what they would have perceived as entertainment.

Let us take a look at the board. At first glance the board takes on the appearance of having been Stock Photo of Life Game (3)designed by some insecure colour blind, fascist, amidst the throes of a hideously, depraved acid trip. It is easily possible for even the most slow witted person to determine , that the “Game of Life” really bears little resemblance to life but is more of a spiritual representation of post-apocalyptic world in which the inhabitants had long ago lost their wills to live. But, enough of these nebulous generalities and find some cold hard facts, look the beast squarely in the eye and gain an understanding as to how this absurd game was conceived.

The game was devised by John Horton Conway, who to the best of my knowledge is neither a Satanist nor a Nazi, and has never indulged in LSD. But, what John has done though is to build himself quite an impressive ivory tower, having gained his undergraduate and PhD from Cambridge, he is presently Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University.

John Horton Conway, mathematical genius; probably. Creator of twisted disturbing games; most definitely.
This is an example of a cellular automaton as used in Conway’s Game of Life. What it is exactly is hard to tell, but then again so is the “game of Life”. particularly ironic is that I find watching this more entertaining than playing the game. If this is your thing you might like this http://www.emergentuniverse.org/#/life








In technical Game Theory jargon (maybe the only area of advanced mathematics of any interest(see John Nash, “A Beautiful Mind”) the game is an example of “cellular automaton”, which apparently is represented by the curios little animation above. It all sounds rather impressive but leaves me wondering, why all my memories of playing the game are so crap? To answer this question I needed to revisit my childhood and with little effort I was soon playing online.


As the protagonist of several significant traffic accidents, it would be hypocritical of me to start lecturing about the importance of road safety, but even to me this appears a little reckless.

The first piece of imagery that caused me some level of cognitive dissonance, more so than  reducing myself to a pale blue plastic peg , indeed the peg  probably has greater social skills, was that then I had to choose the colour of my car upon which I would sit. Throughout the experience this was a feature I never got beyond, I just couldn’t understand its meaning or purpose. In all probability the game of life would be a short one if we were to observe such a reckless approach to vehicular safety.

Dog turd or volcano, it’s a way of representing the passage of time that Hawking has failed to mention. Anyhow the philosophy of ‘free will’ is replaced by a fate dispensing spinner.

The method by which you progress through life, the instrument used for simulating the passing of tim, is a psychedelic spinner placed either in a volcano, or an exceptionally large dog turd. Either way adds to the games anarchic, semiotic nature, that the player has at least subconsciously been aware of from the moment of taking the lid off the box.

The 1998 NFL draft, Indianapolis have the first pick and are in need of a quarterback. It just so happens that the top 2 players in the draft that year are quarterbacks, Ryan Leaf and some guy called Peyton Manning. As they say the rest is history……..

I proceeded the game against one computer character “Bernard”. Within no time Bernard had become a sports personality earning $60,000, at what frequency is not specified. It would be hard to imagine any sports personality earning as little as $60,000 per year, perhaps with the exception maybe of erstwhile San Diego quarterback Ryan Leaf who probably spent nearly as much time in prison as he did in the NFL and achieved a higher quarterback rating there as well.

With in no time and requiring no discernible effort to be put into studying, I became a lawyer earning $100,000 per???? Although saddled with student debt I felt confident I would beat the jock.  Bernard proceeded down raod the when all of a sudden, without even leaving the car, he got married, no dating, no engagement, he just got married, to the best of my knowledge Bernard had never even met the girl. This rash approach to the sanctity of marriage seemed a touch flippant. I was uncomfortable that at the same point along the path everyone gets married, was there a divorce cul-de-sac further down the road? I was starting to feel my anxiety taking a hold of me, as such important lifestyle decisions were being arbitrarily decided by a spinner and the boards commands. In essence I had sacrificed my right to free will, my life was out of my hands. And perhaps most offensively to the homosexual community it was automatically assumed that Bernard was heterosexual.

Within no time Bernard, the sports personality, had amassed a  in excess $250,000 without having set foot outside of his car. I could only assume he was some kind of professional sports car  driver, even though having your wife sat on top of the car with you at the time was certainly something I had never heard of in the history of motorsports. Compounding this conundrum was the fact that on his next turn Bernard’s wife had twins, whom they quickly sat on top of the car and carried on their way. How these children were conceived is puzzling given the very asexual nature of the pegs, leading me to assume Bernard had abducted them. Meanwhile I had to show for myself was a wife and a log cabin.

For some reason I decided to take the opportunity to go back to college and retrained as an accountant, I was now earning 40% less than I was before as a Lawyer, surely casting into doubt any genuine accountancy skills. The next lifestyle choice came with the options “Take the Family Path” or “Continue with the Game of Life”. I thought this was pretty harsh, inferring in someway that the Game of Life ends once having a family. I decided to take the family route but sadly had no children, for no reason. It appears that infertility hides insidiously within the construct of cellular automaton games.

Bernard and his army of children, to rub salt into the wound had also adopted a pet, and were driving off into the sunset. My wife and I however, appeared bitter and twisted by our inability to have children, we drove on in silence, communication dropped to the level of dumb beasts, seething in resentment for one another.

The next fork in the road offered the stark choices to take “The Risky Path of Life” or “The Safe Path of Life”. When playing a game like this what kind of anally retentive person picks the safe path? I had no idea what the risks were involved but I hoped they would fill the void of my childless marriage. I had visions of having to cram heroin up my ass and cross international borders, or robbing banks. What actually transpired was I could gamble but it even limited the amount. So I gambled as much and as hard as I could, seeing the gap of relative wealth get ever wider with Bernard, who I must say with 4 children and a pet didn’t seem to be living the kind of lifestyle I would usually associate with a sports star.

My wife and I rolled into the retirement home while Bernard was still out on the highways and byways of life, making more money, having more fun. By the time  he arrived at the retirement home, (to which he had brought all his children, something I thught to be a little odd) my wife had electrocuted herself while drying her hair in the shower. Although soundly beaten by Bernard, I did finish the game with just short of a million dollars, which would appear to me an over inflated amount to be considered as a failure.

It truely is a rubbish game for the reason that no matter how reckless you are, you cannot be Ryan Leaf. No matter how much you try, you can’t break the law, develop a drug habit, run a ponzi scheme, or even sleep with your opponent’s wife. There are no crippling illnesses or injuries, even though you spend your whole life riding on top of a car. In that respect the Game of Life is similar to education, in that no matter how recklessly one pursues it, no one ever really fails, some people just succeed more.  And that flies in the face of everything Darwin stood for, survival of the fittest has now become a celebration of the mediocre.deathspiral42 This all fits into my views on the dumbing down of our societies, which I’ll leave for another day.

From my own personal perspective I found it liberating as the board didn’t contain
the “death spiral” upon which I spend much of my time. A realistic version of the Game of Life would have this, along with the “divorce cul-de-sac” and god forbid, the ultimate bummer, “The Ryan Leaf” card.


Gonzo symbol
too strange to live, too rare to die.