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In the "Cult of Escapism": War

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The strategies are in: cheat, but not effectively. I´m playing war in my house with three kids that often visit me and by now, I know what I´m getting into: a single game that could last up to six days if it weren´t for limited attention spans and some strategic cheating of my own. Here´s a typical game from my eyes.

Irma deals – this takes approximately 20 minutes, which gives me time to sweep the floor. Once we´re dealt, I pick up my cards and lean back to watch as the kids look at each card and arrange them (remember this is War). I´m not sure what a strategic War arrangement entails and given the effectiveness of this strategy, neither do they.

We begin, so to speak. Each player tries to wait for the others to throw first so they can pick the next card. I toss mine on the table and lean back and wonder why they settled on such a shitty trailer for the new Batman movie, which yes, I´m already looking forward to even though it comes out next summer. Eventually, cards appear on the table and they all stare at them. The perceptive listener can actually hear gears grinding. Eventually, I tell them who won and push the cards towards that person. They ask me to put on some music.

By “some music,” I know they mean Michael Jackson – they love Michael Jackson. Unfortunately for me, I only have his Ones album on my iPod, so we always hear the same 15 songs (there are 19 songs on the album, but they skip the slow ones). Occasionally, if I´m not feeling the King of Pop, I put on Jamiroquai and it takes them a few songs to realize it isn´t MJ.

We slowly play according to the “select-a-card” strategy. Occasionally, I throw a card, leave the table, do a household chore for a few minutes and return with still only three of four cards down.

The bottleneck today is Irma, who is suddenly more interested in arranging her cards in a fan shape than in actually playing any of them. Each card, we prompt her and each card, she seems surprised (“Oh, it´s my turn?”)

Papito wearing my life vest and holding a dog
My favorite of these kids is Papito because he always rocks a button down shirt but almost never buttons it. When he does, he never buttons it correctly, which appears to be a conscious choice (Laura once tried to button his shirt properly and he slapped her hand away – gotta love that dedication). When I catch him cheating, he draws a quick breath, then smiles and vigorously rubs his forehead with his palm. Also, his name is Papito.

After most of “Ones,” it´s down to Chameleon (I swear that´s his name) and I. This is why I question the card arranging strategy, which I have not been employing. Papito and Irma pick up some Time magazines and look at the pictures. Chameleon is futilely trying to organize his cards. He is the youngest and never has any idea what´s going on, he just sits there smiling and throwing his cards out face down (every time). I evaluate stack sizes and begin my own strategy: lose faster.

Chameleon has more cards and is therefore closer to winning, so I put my biggest cards on the bottom of my deck and make him throw first. This speeds up the game and allows me to chose when to lose my high cards (e.g. “Oh look at that, your Ace beat my King, what a pity”). And yes, if I have more cards, I’ll cheat to win. I never said I was a role model.

We pause while I try in vain (for like the 14th time) to translate the monologue at the end of “Thriller” and when I return to the game, I find Chameleon, rather than organizing the cards he won, has sat on them. Fantastic.

I sit and watch to see where he´ll go with this. He carefully places one card on the armrest. He arranges six cards face down in a row on the table. He takes the remaining cards in his hand and arranges them according to the previously mentioned “arrangement strategy” that worked so well for the other two. He then throws a card face down on the table.

I´m only concerned because I know he´s sitting on both Jokers and three Aces, most of which I painstakingly lost to him in rigged wars. But before I can ask him to stand up, the album ends and Irma decides she´s seen enough pictures from May of last year (old magazines are better than no magazines). She collects Chameleon and Papito and they leave.

I think it´s about time I taught them Crazy 8s and maybe bought some more MJ music.

Golden Week is a perfect example of holidays created for the sake of having holidays. The U.S. has Labor Day and President’s Day


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