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Your noting of...

"...the difference between being caught up in the game and realizing that it is a game"...

..."sounds" very similar to...

You're either at the table or you're on the table.

The latter seems to have a more poignantly gruesome connotation.

David Laskaris

If I play long enough will I be comped a free lobster dinner?


@colinc: at least you replied. That's something.

But Dave isn't talking about the Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' stuff. Both wolf and the sheep are "in the game". Dave's talking about the person who sees the game for what it is. It's the person who sees the table, and those sitting at it, and those on it, and is mortified by the spectacle of it all.

It's a very, very lonely place to be. Anyone who has some experience with this understands this loneliness.

@all: please do say something, even if it's to change the subject. Dave needs some kind of interaction for the effort he puts into this blog. He needs some interaction just as a human being. He's not an automaton.

A lot is going on in just the next 48 hours. There's a lot to discuss.

Phil Stevens

Well said, Jim. Huge props to Dave for making the effort to write it all down and share it.

I wish I believed that the past year has been one of the most absurd and disgusting episodes in human history, but I doubt it. We Americans have allowed ourselves to be persuaded for too long that we're different from and better than the rest of humanity (and the rest of the living world). It does seem that the events of this year have done more than anything in my 56 years to break down that illusion in the minds of many people; there are now more of us, it seems, who see the game for what it is. Not that that will make any difference in the outcome.


Dont let the political spectical get you down Dave. Infact, if anything, for those of us aware of the game, we should all just have a beer and enjoy it for what it is.

For example, here in the land of Oz, our 28th Prime Moron of Australia, Anthony John "Tony" Abbott was kinda our Trump moment (minus the thumbs up & truckers cap - Ton's prefers budgie sumgglers (look that one up) & a funny little swimming cap) and we survived!

Infact I looked forward to the news during his 2yr reign (before being dethroned by his own party) just to hear of his latest insane words/acts of buffonery. He was a GOLDEN age for political cartoonists here!

Irrespective of who "wins" your election, I'm certain DOTE will be entering it's own golden age of Flatland coverage and analysis. :-)

Dave Cohen

Ya know, Jim

I was sitting at my local bar with a friend of mine, a very insightful young man in his late 20s who is going to Carnegie Mellon.

We were exchanging horror stories and sometime during my second glass of wine I leaned over to him and said "on every human's tombstone, it should say 'Thanks for playing!'"

He burst out laughing, and then I started laughing with him, and we must have laughed a full minute before either of us could catch our breath again. And then, for the rest of the evening, one or the other of us would say it out loud again at some particularly apropos moment, and we would burst out laughing again.

For us, that was both the beginning and the end of wisdom.

Thanks for your comment.


-- Dave


As the late great Bill Hicks said:
"It's all just a ride"


FWIW - the view from over here in the UK is that the USA is still suffering from post 9-11 PTSD.

The armed madhouse known as the USofA has simply gone collectively batshit crazy.


Thanks for this oddly touching post. For me it was particularly timely because my intelligent, well-meaning friends, to a person, have been in full-bore Flatland mode about this election.

They are dear to me but it is hard not to feel a little lonely even when in their presence owing to our wildly divergent world views. It seems that leaving things unsaid is the better part of valour when it comes to preserving friendships but all the self-censoring is wearying at times.

As has been remarked before by others, it is refuges like DOTE that reassure me that I have not lost it altogether so thank you, Dave Cohen, for playing!


People rushing
Votes to cast
Wells are gushing
It won't last

Elon's off to Mars
It seems
Cubs Win! Cubs Win!
Just a dream?

Solar powered cars
For all to drive
Why? No one here
Gets out alive

david higham

You or anyone reading might find this interesting,Dave.http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/24/greenland-is-melting

Dave Cohen

@david higham

Of course Greenland is melting!

And that's going to continue.

Do you have any fucking clue about what this post was about?

I'm tired of all this Flatland shit now. I'm worn out.

Why? No one here
Gets out alive

And by the way, David, Thanks for playing!

-- Dave

david higham

Of course Greenland is melting. Everyone here understands that. If you read the article,there is some information that is not widely known,that I think you or your readers would find interesting. Plus the final paragraph will probably give you a laugh because of it's absurdity. Since you ask ,yes I do understand what the post was about,and thank you for it. I didn't have anything worthwhile to add.
As this wasn't an open thread,I guess I shouldn't have posted an off-topic article.

david higham

And before you move your condescension into overdrive,I made a mistake
It should be'its'.

david higham

I just checked the article.The absurd 'viewing platform'was mentioned in the penultimate paragraph.

Mike Cooper

The Game, the Spectacle, the Hyperreal. It's all the same and we all have very little choice as to whether we're in it or not. IMO the best we can do is enjoy the things we like and minimise contact with all the other shit. For me, it's food, travel, and music.

I think the worst thing about becoming conscious of the Game is the fact that it leads to the inevitable conclusion that the rules are totally fucked up, yet, they were invented by human beings. Or perhaps 'invented' is the wrong word. 'Arose from the instinctual programming' maybe.

Dave Cohen

@DOTE readers

Regarding Greenland, I read Kolbert's article on Greenland a couple of weeks ago and chose not to write about it. Kolbert is the master of the long and meaningless analysis of environmental catastrophes. Well, I hope she gets paid by the word.

Aside from half a dozen people -- I know who they are and so do they -- the quality of comments on this website, what few there have been, has been shit. I'm tired of no responses or bullshit responses or irrelevant responses.

I'm particularly depressed by what that means.

-- Dave

Ken Barrows

I cannot speak for the other bullshit commenters, but I may be a person in Flatland who's trying to figure out life beyond that confined sphere.

Dave Cohen

What I call "Flatland" is on conspicuous display right now in the United States. At this very moment.

For example, if bat-shit crazy Donald Trump loses tomorrow and doesn't accept the result, we may not even have a coherent country by Friday.

If you can't see Flatland right now, you likely never will.

As Jim said above, "A lot is going on in just the next 48 hours. There's a lot to discuss."

There is a lot to discuss, but apparently not on this blog. Hmmm...

-- Dave


Thanks for playing Dave! It's appreciated, you may not want to expect too much from a gaggle of misanthropes that's you target audience though. What's there to say that has been said innumerable ways? This is what a collapsing empire/civilization/planet looks like from this ape shape I guess. If I was a coywolf it may look pretty good, dunno.

I met an American in a bar the other day who was escaping the madness in the USA to go camping, in Nov., in Canada. I hoped he brought rain gear.


@Dave: all will be revealed soon enough, but I wouldn't put too much stock in the stuff about Trump not accepting the results. As with practically everything regarding coverage of Trump the past half year, there's what the press reports in its headlines and what Trump actually says.

The bottom of this article spells it out a bit:

The press didn't mention that widely. It was all about how Trump is crazy and won't accept the results. He will - with the exceptions of a very close race and reports of voter fraud, and that has already happened to us in 2000.

Trump has a pattern of not ceding ground until there's no option. He played that card for a while during the Republican nomination where he waited until the very last minute to say he'd support the winner of that race. The guy's a narcissistic, misogynistic con man and a political wing nut - but he's not actually crazy.

There was another example a few weeks ago that really irked me. Trump gave a speech in Gettysburg. The press, virtually all of it, only headlined one line from that speech, which was an off-hand remark before the main speech about how he was planning to sue his sexual abuse accusers after the election. Almost no said anything about the substance of that speech.

Here's the Washington Post:

You have to go to obscure and ad-heavy places like this to find what was actually said (as far as I know, no major press source published the transcript):

Here's the video:

And this was Trump saying what he'd do his first 100 days in office. It's vital as a policy speech to inform the public what Trump plans, but that job was too tough for the press. The one line about him suing people was the only headline-worthy bit.

A lot of the substance of the speech is absolutely wrong as far as what we should do, especially from a leftist position, but a lot of that speech was remarkable for what it did say.

There's what is actually said and done, and what we get told that's said and done, and most of what we believe is what we're told. The press has absolutely failed us during this election, and of course no one in the press is willing to examine that failure.

Dave Cohen


Re: Trump, it depends on what "crazy" means.

Trump will do anything to stay in the limelight IMHO. That could certainly lead to a disputed election after the fact, which of course a large subset of his voters would take very seriously. Multiple times a day he says the election is "rigged" to set up this aftermath scenario if he loses.

There is no bottom, Jim. We may get lucky, but I wouldn't count on it.

-- Dave

Dave Cohen

And Jim, in case you were unaware of it, Greenland is melting.

-- Dave


@Dave: as far as luck, both Trump winning and Clinton winning lead to bad places. We're in the early stages here.

But, if Clinton wins, Trump will have to decide between his businesses and remaining in politics. He'll stay in the limelight, it is who he is, but I'd guess he'll choose his pocketbook first.

If it's close, the fraud charges will be examined, as they should be. If it's very close, we'll have a repeat of 2000 and have to wait for months, but I'm doubtful that will happen. I'm putting roughly equal money on a Clinton landslide or a surprising Trump win, with maybe 10% on a razor thin victory for Clinton. But who the heck knows at this point (besides Julian Assange, who says it's all completely rigged)? The polls are all over the place, changing practically every day, and I lean towards the possibility of a Brexit effect on the polls themselves.

As for the public, one reason American-style democracy has lasted this long is because the Presidential election serves as a pressure-release valve for dissatisfied segments of the country. A Clinton win leaves that valve firmly in place, and the pressure only builds. I lean against some blow-up in the month after the election, as most Americans just want this election to be over, but with every month that passes, that pressure will build more and more.

I'm pretty sure a Trump loss will always feel like another example of a rigged and corrupt Washington to half of the country. But, they'll go about their lives. Things aren't bad enough yet for revolution.

But, time will tell. From a dispassionate perspective, we can't say it isn't interesting.


@Dave: yeah, I read the Kolbert article a while back, too. Holy mackerel, it's a long one. I think it'll be a chapter for another book in the future.

But seriously, Kolbert is about as good as it gets out there.


Dave, your use of this epitaph reminds me of a wonderful little book philosopher James Carse published 30 years ago, titled "Finite and Infinite Games". I keep a copy in my desk, as it is always a source of wisdom and understanding. If I may share a pertinent passage: " Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere.
Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game." Cares p41-42
It's been 2 years since I read Flatland; time for a review, and I'd like to see if what you describe is a "finite game", to use Carse's terminology. And, how an Infinite Game (creative life) might be a fitting trap door out of Flatland.


It would be futile to even attempt to eliminate 'evil' (whatever that is) anyway. Easier to stay clear of it, if possible, once you understand the rules of the game.
Usually, knowledge of the rules of any game only helps the player to beat his opponent, or at least be better at the game.
However, knowledge of the rules of this particular game only has the opposite effect. That's if you can stomach even playing the game once you understand it.

Mike Roberts

Thanks for helping us understand the rules of the game, Dave. And my thoughts go out to all you Americans on this momentous day (following the last one 4 years ago and preceding the next one 4 years hence). May you get the change you crave!


Xenophon, Anabasis, book III:

"'Why am I lying here? The night advances; with the day, it is like enough, the enemy will be upon us. If we are to fall into the hands of the king, what is left us but to face the most horrible of sights, and to suffer the most fearful pains, and then to die, insulted, an ignominious death? To defend ourselves—to ward off that fate—not a hand stirs: no one is preparing, none cares; but here we lie, as though it were time to rest and take our ease. I too! What am I waiting for? A general to undertake the work? And from what city? Am I waiting till I am older myself and of riper age? Older I shall never be, if today I betray myself to my enemies."

Thanks for playing.


Wow!! Even at this "late date" there's not been a single mention here, or anywhere else, about ALL 435 seats in the House of Representatives [sic] nor the 34 seats in the Senate (1/3+) and the potential effect THOSE will have on the next several years. Correct me _IF_ I'm wrong but, the fucking President is NOT a fucking monarch AND CANNOT dictate a mother-fucking thing!! While there were "moments" that it seemed "W" held such sway, ALL the rest over the past 50+ years have had to "deal with" Congress, and those cretins are/will-be as maligned as they've ever been. So, whether it's Drumpf, Hilldog, or one of the other miscreants vying for the figure-head "office," there is scant little any of them will "accomplish" without significant changes in the House and the Senate. You may now return to your regular, abjectly ignorant and inane programming.

Dave Cohen


But seriously, Kolbert is about as good as it gets out there

And isn't that the most depressing thing we might think about?


-- Dave


Maybe, just maybe, the outcome of this election is that 4 years from now (assuming we make it 4 years)
1) the republicans realize the message (parts of) was good but the messenger was unacceptable, and find an adult to run and 2) the democrats realize how bad their hypocrisy stinks and find someone willing to call bullshit by its name.
In other words, maybe the parties will realize they can't put forward such abysmal dreck for candidates and expect to compete. I won't hold my breath but perhaps this is the bottom. And yes, I know what a Flatlander sentiment that is.
Thanks for keeping the blog going Dave, it's always a good read.

Jacob Horner

And I may ask myself...
"What kind of fuckery is this?"

I've given up looking for my skin which peeled itself off and crawled away somewhere while I was sleeping. Perhaps I should look in Canada?
This election has added new dimensions to the term no-brainer.
It 's my sincere hope that Maximus got it right...


"What kind of fuckery are we?"

Vonnegut has been a longplayer in my mind. I once watched as the young student in The Matrix said "There is no spoon" and my first thought was...
and no cat...and no cradle.
We are all playing in pool-pah. That's for damn sure.

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”

He once wrote his own epitaph:



"What kind of fuckery are you?"

Dave, in my opinion this post and "There Is No Bottom" are exceptional.

"Who's playing Saturday?"

Thinking about playing got me thinking about playing fields, like the ball field in the park across the street, and fields of dreams and the cornfields around them, and that led me to lines from an old song I liked very much...

"Over and over,
The crow cries uncover the cornfield.
Over and over,
The thresher and hover the wheat field."


Lyrics by Van Dyke Parks who sure knew about playing.

Odd thing...syncopated and nearly hidden in the second chorus are these lines:

"Truck-driving man, do what you can.
High-tail your load off the road, out of night-life.
It's a gas, man. I don’t believe I gotta grieve.
In and out of luck with a buck and a booth.
Catching on to the truth, in the vast past, the last gasp.
In the land, in the dust, trust that you must
Catch as catch can."

It's there...I swear.

And then you may ask yourself,
Who'll be next to run the Iron Horse?


Did anyone read the latest article about how CO2 levels are STILL rising?

I say this because it's a useful way for me to signal my intelligence and knowledge to others, and gain standing with my peers as a "concerned" and "aware" person. That's the game, isn't it?

The rules may vary from time to time, place to place. In a Capitalist system, you win the game by having the bigger number after the $. Or you might be in a niche where winning is being 'saved' by Jesus, or pious. Or perhaps its winning favour of an aristocracy or some hierarchy. In every case though, 'winning' just happens to correlate with social expectations for membership.

Even where people may not try to play the game, where people might see Flatland, it too can turn into the game of who can see it the most clearly.

But the thing is, humans exist because there is a game in the first place. We are a product of evolution. It's odd to think that the only reason a sentient intelligence exists, is as a by-product of this game. Sentient beings (as far as we can observe anyway), only exist to fulfil the dumb laws of mechanics that result in the evolutionary process. We tune that 'intelligence' to better fulfil that purpose.

Maybe thats part of the disgust. I know for me, it's part of it. We could, conceivably, at least as individuals, choose to see the game, and realise the only winning move is not to play. At the very least, be aware its just a game, a ride. This is what the Late Great Bill Hicks was alluding to. The rules aren't real. The game isn't real. It just seems real.

Mike Cooper

@assemblylinehuman And that, sir, is hyperreality. Almost. IMO the last sentence would be better as 'It is just accepted as being real'.

Speaking from across the pond, it seems to me that it won't really matter much who wins, in the slightly longer run. Trump will accelerate change, make some noise, upset some people, a bit, until the system pushes back via its automatic correction abilities (the media, rich people, your Senate and House). Clinton will continue on the same path Obama is on, with a couple of initial small nods to Bernie-style policies, until 'circumstances dictate that we can't have free higher educatin and extend Obamacare because we can't afford it right now' - but she will be able to afford more middle East war.

I guess the main thing to look out for is whether the Trump supporters and Bernie supporters sit back after a while, or, become more agitated.

Meanwhile in Europe, the right wing continue to surge forward in the game to the detriment of everyone except themselves.

S'funny, if it wasn't for Flatland, we couldn't have propaganda, and if we didn't have propaganda that worked, then we might actually have a much nicer society. It would be interesting to find the reason why a vast majority of humans are taken in by bullshit completely and continuously while a very small percentage can be educated to see it for what it is. What's happening differently in Dave's brain, my brain, the brains of many others who comment here, compared to the average bloke on the street?

Does anyone else here find marketing / advertising extremely repellent, for instance? Do you hate shopping malls and the people who inhabit them? Do you find it extremely boring and stupid when someone you know tells you about the amazing fuck-off size telly they've just bought?


@mike cooper

I literally cannot be in the same room as a TV spewing ads. And yes, I'm using literally in the correct way here, not in the millennial "just for exaggerated effect" way. I've had enough marketing bullshit for a lifetime, and yet I'm probably only about half way through.

"to the detriment of everyone except themselves.". This might be characteristic of the far right, but I struggle to see how it doesn't apply across the entire political spectrum just as equally.

One mustn't forget, that essentially, the core driver of human behaviour, and to a degree, the very way we see the world, is about maximising our social and reproductive chances. Evolution did NOT create us in order to create civilisation, or enhance quality of life, or expand our consciousness, or become Ubermensch. People do what they do to gain material, social and reproductive advantage. Hence why people espouse the political ideologies they do.

Civilisation is just a byproduct. For most of human history, most people have lived without anything resembling a decent civilisation. It's an exception, an aberration. It's something which incidentally resulted from people playing the game. Libertarian Free Marketeers explicitly say so (but they don't realise the significance of this observation). We haven't quite learned or adapted to it yet, which is why we struggle to keep civilisation.

So when I see propaganda, marketing bullshit, social rubbish, or the other crap which comprises about 90% of all human productive output, I just see people doing incidental pointless things which don't contribute to what makes life worth living. We are where we are because there is a tiny % of output which does, and even that had to struggle, and stands precariously in the wind. It's a product of playing the game of life, which is mostly about believing those ancient impulses and desires are really our own will and our own reason.

Dave Cohen

Only in Flatland

First, one could deny that truth was a suitable standard for measuring political judgment. This sounds extreme, but it’s a fairly common move in political philosophy. After all, in debates over contentious issues, such as when human life begins or whether human activity is warming the planet, appeals to the truth tend to be incendiary.

Truth “peremptorily claims to be acknowledged and precludes debate,” Hannah Arendt pointed out in this magazine, in 1967, “and debate constitutes the very essence of political life.” Estlund wasn’t a relativist, however; he agreed that politicians should refrain from appealing to absolute truth, but he didn’t think a political theorist could avoid doing so.


-- Dave


Politicians hate truth. But we are all political social animals. Do we all, to some extent, hate truth.


You want fuckery?

Check out this dystopian nightmare.
The Hyperloop!!


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