Apprentice
Hollywood Walk Of Shame

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Lesson Three: Finite & Infinite Games

I went to high school in West Texas, so my brain goes to football, because that show Friday Night Lights is basically vérité -- in addition to being totally awesome in every single way -- in terms of the relative reality. I don't understand the rules or the point of the game, but the world around it is very real to me. (Ali: "Is it true they have a radio show about high school football?" Me: "Try entire radio stations." Ali: "Is it hard explaining that football world to people?" Me: "Do you believe that there are entire radio stations about high school football?" Ali: "No." Me: "Then yes.") But imagine if you will a football player with the whole world ahead of him, who is greeted with some form of hardship and decides to quit the team and do something else with his time, like learn to read. This is a gross mismanagement of personal priorities, from the team side, and a serious betrayal, and a lack of honor, and whatever else -- but only from the team side, and the coach side, and the football culture and economy of parents and schoolmates and local merchants. Somebody like me, who managed to coexist with the football mania pretty well but never accepted its objective reality, is going to say you made the right call. So who's right?

How about this: you're having an argument with a loved one, about something stupid. Say, the proper pronunciation of the name of the hotel Chateau Marmont. And so underneath the facts of the stupid argument is a roiling mess of resentments and stuff that the thing has very little to do with, and underneath that, you love the person and they love you. The second most infuriating thing the loved one can do is say, "You're right, I give in." But the most infuriating thing they could do is say that, and mean it. This is because they've taken the dialectic out from under you, and are now playing on a field that recognizes the actual unimportance of the pronunciation of the name of the hotel Chateau Marmont. In essence, they've made you look stupid and petty, because you're behind. This is why post-modernists are so quick to anger -- the constant reassignment of the ground on which you stand is really bad for your complexion. Football, temporary fights about pronunciation, chess, The Apprentice: these are finite games, per Carse. They have rules and a beginning and an end, but their meaning is entirely created by the observer. Nothing's so infuriating as the guy who tips the table over the second he starts losing at Cranium, but there's nothing you can do to get him back into line: he's decided it's just a stupid game. He's a prick, as well, but it's infuriating on a completely other level than simple asshole behavior, because you've committed yourself to believing, even just for an hour, that the rules of the game actually matter. That winning the game says something about you: you've put enough of yourself and your ego into the process that harm to the game means harm to you, literally.

Michelle's saying that work is good, and stick-to-it-ive-ness is good, and all these things are good: pitching in, and doing your best, and trying even when it's hard, and accepting that some people are natively stupid and nasty and that you have to, in the real world, work with them. She's not in any confusion about what things are like in the world of the game, or even in Trumpworld. But what she's saying, the reason this is so awesome, is that she's also capable of playing on another field entirely, the field that says this is a shark-jumping travesty of a game show that has taken to introducing really extreme situations and drama for its own sake, because that is what television is about. And lest you think Trump's going to follow her to the new game board, what we call reality, let's review the facts of Trump. The "ambience of the Rich and Famous" that are his bread and also his butter. This is a man who, given enough signifiers -- blonde wig, fake tits, low-cut dress, Russian accent, the sense of being easily impressed by money and perceived power -- could be tricked into marrying Ed McMahon. Everything for him: marriage, sex, power, money, this show, is a finite game whose meaning is dependent on the observer. Harm to the game, such as she's committing, is harm to him. Watch him freak.

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Apprentice

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