November 24, 2010

Ode On a Grumpy Urn

  When old age shall this generation waste,
     Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
   Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

John Keats, "Ode On a Grecian Urn"

During my recent trip to Vegas, I had the pleasure of playing a session of poker with the Poker Grump.  Now, the Grump has already chronicled the events at the Venetian, so there's no reason for me to rehash matters further.  Well, other than to point out, yet again, that I managed to stack the Black Widow of Poker with Yaks on back to back hands. Hilarity ensued!

No, the point I wanted to make is that, although the Grump pretends to be misanthropic, in reality he is a merely a very reserved individual, one who likes to take in the scene more than be a starring actor in the play. But when he decides to open up, he is wicked smart, witty, and a big-ol' teddy bear.  Well, a teddy bear who will still steal your pic-a-nic basket of chips, but it's hard to blame him for that.

Although I may have played poker with the Grump a dozen or so times over the past three years, the session a few weeks back was among the most enjoyable.  Once he got a table change and secured the seat on my left (muttering something about "position", whatever that is), and got himself logged into the comp system (dragging out a set of what looked to be maybe three dozen players club cards), we started chatting like old friends.  Or maybe father-son; one dealer once stated we looked like father-son (I'm not entirely certain which of us should feel more insulted).

We chit-chatted about the upcoming election, poker news from Washington and South Carolina, and a dozen other random, tangential topics.  When I got a text message from the folks puppy-sitting the Berkster, along with a picture of the disaster he and his buddy Fritz had wreaked after escaping their kennels during the work day, the Grump proceeded to throw out a series of horrific puns and witticisms to sum up their exploits.  Afrer enduring a couple dozen "hound" and "dog" based suggestions, I finally accepted the Grump's suggested label of "The Houndinis".  Yes, yes, he'll be at the Venetian all week.  Please tip your server.

Later, our chat turned to the card-capper I was using—a 20 drachma Greek coin given to me by George of Mr. Filet fame.  The Grump inquired who was on the coin, and I told him I couldn't remember, but knew it was a famous figure in Greek history (once again, my brilliance shows).  I suggested it was perhaps Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.  The Grump wasn't so sure, but suggested, "Wouldn't it be great if there were some electronic database of information one could access, maybe by phone, to look up information?"  I agreed that would be a great invention.

A 20 drachma coin like mine.  (Image source).

Of course, after my trip, the Grump emailed me to inform me that, somehow, he had been able to identify the figure on the coin as Pericles.  Of course, with my background as a philosophy and religion major (and a fraternity member), I suppose I could have attempted to translate the Greek lettering, "ΠΕΡΙΚΛΗΣ" ("Perikles" in English), but I was on vacation, and was in a no thinking zone.  I have to admit, though, that I lost seconds of sleep worrying about the identity of the dead Greek dude on my card-capper.  Thank gawd for the Grump!

Another topic that came up were the ads I had observed on Las Vegas buses for "half-price lawyers".  Coming from Iowa, one of the most restrictive states for lawyer advertising, the blatant consumerist approach of the ads was rather shocking.  But, as the Grump and I discussed, the ads were also curious since there are a number of situations where one doesn't necessarily want the half-price professional—lawyers, doctors, food inspectors, pilots, exotic dancers ...  In any event, the Grump later sent me a link to the Half-Price Lawyers website, complete with catchy jingle.  So, if any of y'all find yourselves in a Vegas jail (not that I would expect that of my high-class readers), now you know where to find a lawyer.  You're welcome.

As for the poker itself, I rarely found myself in a hand with the Grump, not because I was avoiding him, but because his style usually meant he had a hand when he did play.  In a way, I think the Grump thrives off players like me.  I make my money in Vegas by being the loose, loud, splashy, dare I say flamboyant player, who gets paid off when usually tight, cautious folks finally decide to make a stand against one of my monster hands.  The Grump, however, uses players like me to pry money loose from the tight-fisted players, and maybe to tilt them in the process.  The Grump then exacts a tax on my style of play by forcing me off my more marginal hands.  It's not a bad poker ecosystem, so long as there are plenty of drunk tourists to provide the chip-plankton to feed us both.

In any event, the Grump's recent write-up of our Venetian poker session included a thought from his dear friend, Cardgrrl:  "If you showed most people what you show me ~ your humor, your kindness, your generosity, your interest, your curiosity about the world, your playfulness and creativity, and your perceptiveness ~ they would absolutely like you."  Well, I can second that the Grump has all of those qualities in spades (or in crubs, if you prefer). Except for the generosity part.  If I ever win a monsterpotten off the Grump, then we can reexamine his generous spirit.

Maybe I'll get the chance in a couple of weeks.  If not, then our team, "The Knights Who Say 'Nit'" damn well better win the WPBT last longer challenge!  Either way, I'm definitely looking forward to my next fix of the Grump.


  1. Damn, I can't wait to meet the Grump...and you too - son of the grump?

  2. Back off, y'all, that Grump is mine.


  3. Thank you, my friend. You're too kind. (There's three words a lawyer won't hear every day.)

  4. He supported Sharon Angle. That speaks very poorly of him indeed. What's her stand on gay rights I wonder? And his?

  5. @ hlyen:

    I know the Grump supported Angle (he tweeted it and may have blogged about it). Although I disagree with his support for Angle, I understand his reasons. Also, if I ditched friends merely because they disagree with my politics, that would speak poorly of me.

    As for the Grump and gay rights, we've never spoken about it that I recall (though we well may have). I know he is comfortable around gay folks, and has never said or written anything disparaging about gays to my knowledge. Since the Grump is a libertarian at heart, I suspect (but don't want to put words in his mouth) that he is pro-gay equality, on the basis of keeping the government out of personal relationships.

    As an aside, I know several of my friends support Republicans who actively campaigned against gay rights issues. But, my friends personally are fine with gays and treat them with respect. There are many political issues, and no one candidate ever fully encapsulates every position one might want. So, my friends may hold their noses about the anti-gay rhetoric, knowing the politician meets them on more of the issues they find key at the time.

    Friendships are complicated!

  6. Couldn't refute it so you deleted it?

  7. @ chs:

    Whatever are you talking about?? I have deleted no comments in this thread. To date, I have only needed to delete a handful of comments in my blog as a whole, always because they were spam. I have also been away from home and any computer for over 24 hours, so I have had no opportunity to do any blog work, including comment review or editing. I enjoy a good debate, and would never delete a comment merely because it expressed a differing opinion. I find it offensive that you would make such an accusation in the tone you did without any factual basis for your statement.

    That all being said, I did receive an email notifying me of a follow up comment by "hylen" with a rather lengthy discussion of the Grump's past blog posts about libertarianism. I was looking forward to responding to it. However, that comment is no longer posted (and I can't verify if it ever actually posted; all I know is I received an email notification with the comment content). It is possible that "hylen" deleted his/her comment. It's also entirely possible that some Blogger glitch kept the comment from posting properly, or deleted it. If "hylen" did not delete the comment and wishes to repost the comment, I would be happy to cut and paste the comment content from my email notification into a new comment on his/her behalf. Otherwise, if "hylen" decided that his/her comment was better off deleted, and given that no one has responded to it yet, I will respect his/her decision to delete it.

  8. I re-posted (a slightly enhanced version) and again it seems to have disappeared (although this time more quickly). Perhaps I haven't given it time to appear? Check your spam folder I guess.

    Oh, and it's "he".

  9. Readers: Hylen did repost, and it has somehow been deleted or did not post properly. I have no explanation for this glitch. I have read items about Blogger having occasional comment posting glitches. I don't know why it would affect two comments by the same author in the same blog post, yet leave other comments by the same author. Perhaps there was some kind of coding inadvertently added to the post that led to the issue. It will likely remain a techno-mystery.

    In any event, without further ado, here's the post by Hylen (formatting errors are mine):

    "I find it offensive that you would make such an accusation in the tone you did without any factual basis for your statement." I don't blame you, however there IS a factual basis. My comment WAS posted and then disappeared, through no action of my own. It was as follows:

    I'll grant you your last sentence [i.e. "Friendships are complicated"].

    He did blog about his support for Angle.

    Unconvincing to say the least. She and her ilk are dangerous and so are their supporters.

    "Since the Grump is a libertarian at heart, I suspect (but don't want to put words in his mouth) that he is pro-gay equality, on the basis of keeping the government out of personal relationships."

    That's an optimistic interpretation. Mine would be rather different. For example, he HAS said this:

    There should be no laws prohibiting discrimination by private entities, such as individuals or corporations, even if they are in the business of public accommodation. That is, yes, a bar or hotel or store should be able to exclude anybody on any basis--even the most vile, such as race.

    Extrapolate from that to the question of gay rights and what do you have? That he's pro-gay DISCRIMINATION (and every other kind of discrimination as well) on the (foolish) basis of keeping government out of everything.

    Don't you find that most so-called "libertarians" are just right-wingers with an ideology that benefits them and harms those unlike them? I do. There are many who find it comforting to have an ideological basis (if you can call it that) for race prejudice and other offensive views. Perhaps he's a rare exception. That doesn't excuse it.

  10. The only formatting issues of any substance are two: His "There should be no laws . . . such as race." quote was bolded. And the two blog post links were clickable. My guess is that's why the posts were automatically deleted. Clickable links = spam to some software apparently. Seems a bit over the top. Just a theory in any case.

  11. @ hylen: Yeah, I left the links unformatted in case that was the issue. It seems like overkill, and I know I've seen clickable links in other Blogger comments, but ... well, who the heck knows??

  12. Readers: I received email notification of comments posted by Cardgrrl & Poker Grump. Unfortunately, they appear to have run afoul of the same Blogger glitch that has prevented some comments from posting correctly in this thread. I am baffled by the problem, but will republish their comments on their behalf. I do apologize for the inconvenience.


    Comment by NT (a/k/a Cardgrrl);

    FWIW, I am strongly pro-civil-rights, and vehemently anti-discrimination. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is, in fact, a pet peeve of mine and tends to get me quite riled up. (I can't see how it's anybody's business other than the parties involved, assuming they are consenting adults. And given how central sexuality and emotional attachment are to our lives and our identities as human beings, treating people badly based on who they are attracted to seems really, really shabby.)

    The Grump and I differ widely in our politics, which is sometimes stressful. I can say, however, that I'm quite sure that he is not in the least bigoted, anxious, hateful, or in any way negative on the subject of homosexuality. He has never said anything or behaved in any way the evinces the slightest inclination to judge or disparage gay folk.

    And that's more than I can say for most of the men I've spent time with at the poker table.

    Not sure why I'm commenting, since Rakewell is perfectly capable of speaking up on his own behalf, should he wish to do so. Suffice it to say that I'd like to be clear that it would be difficult for me to enjoy his company as much as I do if we were at odds on this matter.

  13. Readers: As noted above, I am reposting comments deleted due to some Blogger glitch with this particular post. My apologies for the inconvenience.


    Original comment by Rakewell (a/k/a The Poker Grump):


    This is hardly the ideal forum for a full-fledged debate on public policy approaches to nondiscrimination. However, allow me to point out that governments do not have a good record of protecting civil rights. Even if you just want to look at the United States government, it isn't pretty. This is the government that enshrined slavery in its constitution, the one that committed genocide on Indians, the one that wanted lots of low-paid Chinese laborers to come build the railroad without giving them citizenship on a basis equal to that of European immigrants, the one that sent citizens of Japanese descent to camps for the duration of WWII, the one that long fought racial integration of the military, the one that committed atrocities such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, the one that still won't federally recognize gay marriages or allow gays to serve openly in the military, the one that still gerrymanders federal election districts heavily based on race. This is the entity you trust to be the arbitor and enforcer of equal rights for all?

    Many Jim Crow laws were enacted because there were companies that were open to doing business with blacks, and those that were not did not like the economic competition, so they enlisted state and local governments to enforce segregation. To the extent that we now have non-discrimination by governments established as public policy (and surely you are aware that our goverments are officially not neutral in their treatment of persons by sex and race; they have merely switched which subpopulations to favor or disfavor), it is not because those governments were more enlightened than the people they serve and required the populace to change; rather, they were dragged kicking and screaming to progress by people of good will.

    In short, our federal and state governments have such a demonstrably horrible track record of being the perpetrators of official discrimination, prosecution, persecution, and outright murder, that I find it ludicrous that anybody would choose to rely on them to set the standards for nondiscrimination when it comes to private transactions.

    I am about as equal-opportunity as they come. If somebody wants to open a no-gays-allowed bar or club or hotel or apartment complex or grocery store, I do not think the government should prevent it. But it is equally true that if somebody wants to open a gays-only bar or club or hotel or apartment complex or grocery store, that, too, should be perfectly legal. I infer from your little rant that you think that a gays-only establishment should be prevented by the government, by law and by force. I suppose that I could therefore conclude that you are anti-gay, because you don't want such establishments to be lawful. That conclusion would be precisely as logical an inference as your conclusion that I must be covertly anti-gay because I oppose forced governmental inclusiveness.

    As a general rule, any oppressed minority would be hard-pressed to find better champions for their civil rights than libertarians.

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