Monday, November 19, 2012

Corner the market

When I moved to Alberta, my cousins introduced me to the game Pit! I remember playing it in my grandparents' basement, all crowded around the ping-pong table and yelling our guts out. My grandpa, who was a sugar beet farmer back in the day, and my uncle, who has grown wheat and canola and other things throughout his farming career, played with us. My grandpa didn't play many games by the time I came along—but he still had enough umph left in him to swing a trade with the shrewdest trader in a game of Pit!

My grandma would come downstairs to flutter around him every so often, putting blanket on his lap, wiping the Grandpa Glue off his chin, and telling us all to be quiet.

She preferred quiet, thoughtful games like Boggle and Scrabble—I like those games, too, but my grandpa didn't often play them with us because he was too shaky to manage a pen and paper or tiny alphabet tiles. Pit! is thoughtful in its own right, I suppose, because it's strategic, but that exclamation mark at the end of its name is no mistake—it's also rather frenetic.

When you've won the game by collecting enough of any good to "corner the market" you have to yell above the melee, "CORNER ON WHEAT!" or "CORNER ON FLAX!" or whatever.

It's best to corner on wheat because wheat was worth the most points (100, I believe). That said, it was probably wiser to corner on flax quickly and end the round before anyone else collected enough wheat (or anything else) to beat you (I think flax was worth the least; I don't remember). Andrew would probably say that's like the prisoner's dilemma...kinda...or some sort of game theory. I dunno. I'm editing an important paper for him right now; obviously.


I would find out later (in 2004 in Russia, of all places, in the 5th floor apartment of a building with no elevator) that some versions of the game come with a bell so that you don't have to scream so much. But screaming is what made it fun so I'm glad my family never found that out.

Speaking of speaking out screaming, though, today a friend on Facebook mentioned freedom of speech. I didn't feel like entering a Facebook battle, so I will say what I would have said there here.

My friend posted a link to an article about censorship in the UK—and Mr. Bean talking out against it (not in character, of course, but as himself—Rowan Atkinson)—and said, "It's interesting many nations we consider 'free' can set such limits on speech and expression."

Who is 'we?' And what is 'free?'

Many in the USA seem to feel they've "cornered the market," that they're holding all the "free speech" cards in their hand. "We" are the "example" of "freedom" and "democracy." But are we really? Because unless the "we" my friend was referring to was Finland...I'm not sure I understand their statement.

According to Wikipedia, which, yes, I refer to early and often, Finland is #1 as far as free press goes (and as goes freedom of press, so goes freedom of speech). Canada is #10. The United Kingdom is #28. And coming in at #47—below a motley crew of countries such as Botswana, Uruguay, France, Papa New Guinea, and Ghana—is the United States!

Put on your "gruff voice" and cheer with me: USA! USA! USA!

...where we just aren't quite as free as we think we are.

Perhaps we should remove the beam in our own eye before going after the mote in others. I think I read something like that in a book once...

Of course, I can't say that I actually listened to what Rowan Atkinson had to say. I've always found Mr. Bean to be far more annoying than entertaining or informative. I almost feel guilty about that except that some friends of my denounced Noam Chomsky the other day as being biased—saying that the article was "poisoned" simply because it had Chomsky's name on it.

If people can disparage Noam Chomsky (as a linguist that was a little hard to get over) I can ignore Mr. Bean, can't I? After's a free country!


  1. Re: Pit. My family also loves that game. We played a version where instead of yelling out that you had cornered the market, you very surreptitiously reached out and took a spoon from a pile on the table (=number of players minus one, of course). That led to a mad dash for the spoons once people noticed but people could go on trading for a long time before they noticed that spoons were slowly disappeared.

    Re: Noam Chomsky. If you take a look at his political opinions, he is kind of a wild card. So much so, that there exists a Wikipedia article entitled "Noam Chomsky's Political Views." Yeah.

  2. Everything else aside, yes Mr. Bean is annoying, but have you ever watched Black Adder? It's very good, witty, and funny.
    Just sayin'

    1. I haven't; perhaps I will check it out...after we're finished with The West Wing. :)

    2. I think its on netflicks if you have it. Also season one isn't great but season 2 onward rocks.

  3. We also played a game called...Spoons, which was fun. I think that was more of a friend-thing than a family-thing.

    Re: Noam Chomsky, sure, but in this case all he said was that American media is biased toward Israel/against Palestine. Friends refused to value his comments but like it when Andrew quoted Michael J. Rosenberg, who is nothing if not biased-er. :)

  4. Auntie Sarah was saying something about a freedom list...I was wondering where it was. Apparently I need to read Wikipedia cover to cover, like I did World Book. I am just out of the loop. I loved this post. Voiced some of my frustrations with living in the US perfectly.

  5. By the way, this is my favourite line in that Wikipedia article about Noam's political views:

    "Despite his marginalization in the mainstream US media, Chomsky is one of the most globally famous figures of the left, especially among academics and university students, and frequently travels across the United States, Europe, and the Third World. "

    Perhaps this is why he doesn't seem to fringy to me; because I often don't line up with American ideals myself...