Saturday, August 06, 2005

Big Brother's Latest Twist *Yawn*

The other day I had to go down to see my financial advisor to go over my mutual funds and make a couple of changes. Dean's a nice guy, a former junior hockey player (just below the pro leagues), and maybe his only flaw is that he seems to think that my kid brother knows more about mutual funds than he does. We decided to reduce my holdings in an International Fund we had both liked earlier because it basically turned out to be a dog, and cut my exposure to a Balanced Fund because of the amount of holdings in bonds that the fund had - bond value goes down as interest rates on new bonds go up. The bulk of my funds are now in a Canadian Equity Fund since neither one of us is too enthusiastic about the US economy - Dean thinks that the US needs to balance the budget and I'm worried that the war isn't helping due to the increase in oil prices (although it does boost the Canadian Equities Fund which has a lot of resource stocks).

Anyway, once the financial matters were worked out, and since I had a half hour appointment, we started chatting about a number of other matters, one of which was Poker. I mentioned that I was playing a lot of poker online and gave him a fairly basic explanation of how it works. He in turn commented on the large amount of poker that is now on TV and wondered whether the return of hockey was going to mean that there would be less poker on the tube. I think he was a bit surprised when I told him that in terms of ratings poker drew better on ESPN than the NHL does (remember he played hockey on a pretty high level). Of course I do expect hockey to return to immense popularity in Canada when it comes back in September or October. Still I don't think that it's going to drive poker off the sports networks in Canada and certainly there's going to be a lot of product coming from the United States.

One thing that Dean mentioned stuck with me. One of the things that he has noticed about poker on TV is that it is easy for the viewers to identify with the players. We learn about their personalities but also about their thought processes. Then he added that he wondered if this helped to explain the popularity of reality shows. Reality shows like Survivor, he feels, allow us to see the personalities of the players, allow us to identify with them, and as a result allow us to choose sides.

Which brings me to the latest "secret" in Big Brother's "summer of secrets". Once the allies of fireman Eric (aka "Cappy") had managed the eviction of Kaysar in revenge for Kaysar getting Eric evicted, everyone in the house learned that one of the evicted houseguests - well three evicted houseguests since Ashlea who was the first out escaped the sequester area and was exposed to the outside world - would be coming back. As people with long lasting memories might recall they used this gimmick in Big Brother 3. That time the people in the house had the final decision after the number of choices had been reduced to two. This time the public gets to choose. You can vote using text messaging, or you can vote online. Apparently with the Internet voting (at the CBS America's Choice website) allows you to vote as many times as you want - I've voted three times in the past two hours. So who are the choices?

Michael: L.A. based artist and Kaysar's partner. Sorry, doesn't stand a chance. He somehow managed to so anger Eric that they nearly came to blows. I'm still not sure how that one happened. Fact is though that he didn't have much personality. He really wasn't much of a player and may have been the only one not to figure out that everyone had a partner within about ten minutes.

Eric: Boston born, Las Vegas Firefighter and Maggie the catty's partner. Frankly he comes across as a petty dictator. His initial fight with Michael - before someone told Eric that Michael had insulted his family - was that Michael's flirting with the women verged on sexual harassment. If Michael was being sexually harassing, then what on earth is Howie doing? His reaction once James won the power of veto ("Take off that Union Hat!" then pulling it off James's head) show a very hot temper. Hot tempers don't make for good players. Maybe that's why Ivette sounds as though she's lost more than Maggie with Eric's departure (and would have lost more with him going than she would if her partner Beau had left) - they have similar temperaments

Kaysar: Graphic designer from Irvine California, but born in Iraq. He's not the most strategic player ever seen - I think it might have been better to get one of Eric's sheep on the block opposite Maggie once James was "saved" and left Eric for later - but he's the most best strategic thinker of the three possibilities. Say whatever else you want about Big Brother in its American incarnation, it is first and foremost about strategic thinking.

I'm not convinced that Dean is right when he says that we see the personalities of the players in a Reality Show. I think that what we see, even in the "confessional" sessions, is what the players their fellow competitors to see. As viewers we don't see the competitors in their real lives. It's sort of like the difference between watching a lion in a zoo as opposed to watching a lion in the wild. We aren't seeing the "houseguests" in their natural habitats anymore than the lion in the zoo is in his natural habitat. The difference is that we can only judge the Big Brother houseguests from their behavior in their "cage". Which may be why I voted for Kaysar three times in the past three hours. I liked the version of him who has been seen on TV better than I like the personas that Michael and Eric have exhibited. Who knows what any of them are like in their "natural habitats"?

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