Wednesday, December 27, 2006


In a recent blog I mentioned the new and real Christian game in which people are either converted to Xtianity or killed. True fun for your Christian kiddy. As I’ve also mentioned recently, I’ve taken up inventing board games just to pass the time. I’m working on my fourth one now—another one in which contestants race to a destination. In the current one, like the previous one, cowboys and cowgirls race to some destination. The last one, they raced to uncover a Wells Fargo chest of gold. The current one, they race to a fertile valley in order to stake land claims. In the initial one, players drew cards on which movement numbers are printed as well as various rewards and punishments that reflect a western story line. The current one—I think players will move a number of hexes dependent upon their mode of transportation—afoot, horseback, wagon, canoe, etcetera. They’ll also draw cards to decide various punishments and rewards they will suffer or cause opponents to suffer. I was working on the game yesterday when, out loud, I happened to say, “O, yep, a Sunday card! If you draw a Sunday card and you’re a Christian cowboy, you lose one turn.” My wife, being the good Buddhist and passive as all get out, called my bluff on that one.

I explained, “Well Sunday was a day of rest to them. It’s only right.” Then I said, “To be fair, I’ll have to reward Christians too.” Then I started to imagine religious rewards and punishments, based on religious ideas—like, if one is a Quaker, and Indians attack, you lose the game. You’re dead. Etcetera. Then I started to think about punishment cards where the minister runs away with the church treasurer and “Revival” cards where all work shuts down for five days. Then I got to the ultimate consideration of reward cards. I’d have fake miracle prayer cards where prayer seems to save a wagon train from being turned over in a wind storm or washed away by a flash flood or stops a three day rain which is slowing down one’s progress. “Fake” because the connection between the prayer and the miracle, like all of them, is purely coincidental. The connection is all in the imagination of the player. Then I realized I could make room for the truly ultimate “MIRACLE” card. If a “MIRACLE” card materializes before a player out of thin air on the card table without any help from fellow players, any humans, or himself, then, of course, that player wins the game, hands down. Players would get a real feel for the conditions that a miracle must meet in order to be a miracle or to play that card.

Skeptics will point out that a hypothetical superbeing has more important things to do then tune in on and influence a mere mortal game. He has to oversee the killing of people in Iraq or Somalia, for instance, and make sure that “that” specific little girl dies of leukemia while that other one survives. Someone needs to point that out to all the jocks we see these days, pointing to the sky or in some grandiose way indicating their thankfulness to their superbeing for the block/tackle/score that has just occurred. Of course, one problem will be with the fundamentalists who will sit at the game board waiting an eternity for the MIRACLE card to appear.

Photo: left to right, the playing pieces for "Wells Fargo" represent Annie Oakley, Hopalong Cassidy, bad guy Wilson from the movie "Shane", Red Ryder, Gabby Hayes, the Gunslinger from a scifi movie in which Brynner plays a western robot, the real Calamity Jane, next Belle Starr, and finally Will Kane of "High Noon" fame, played by Gary Cooper.


If you happen across a pond full of croaking green frogs, listen carefully. Some of them may be lying.

A croak is how male green frogs tell other frogs how big they are. The bigger the male, the deeper the croak. The sound of a big male is enough to scare off other males from challenging him for his territory.

While most croaks are honest, some are not. Some small males lower their voices to make themselves sound bigger. Their big-bodied croaks intimidate frogs that would beat them in a fair fight.

Green frogs are only one deceptive species among many. Dishonesty has been documented in creatures ranging from birds to crustaceans to primates, including, of course, Homo sapiens. “When you think of human communication, it’s rife with deception,” said Stephen Nowicki, a biologist at Duke University and the co-author of the 2005 book “The Evolution of Animal Communication.” “You just need to read a Shakespeare play or two to see that. . . .”

Different species may be prone to different levels of deception. Solitary animals may evolve to be more honest than animals that spend long lives in big societies. If that is true, then humans may be exquisitely primed to deceive.

Who would have thought that evolution made Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle et al the liars that they are? Will they believe in the facts of life after all?

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