Weekly Whack: International Relations
International Relations
May 18, 1997

Well I'm finally down to my last weekend of my first year of college. In just about a week from now I'll be back cutting cold cuts, collecting endless pages of Whack material about picky supermarket customers. But before that I just have one more final to take, and that's for my International Relations class. In retrospect, I would have to say that International Relations was definitely an eye-opening class for me. I only really took the course because I needed a political science class to fill a breadth requirement, but I never regret taking it. I mean how much to people actually know about the world? People usually tend to live rather insular lives. I know I could probably count the times I've been outside a five hour drive from my house using only one hand. So how could someone like me relate to some war going on clear across the globe? Luckily this course really did a lot towards educating me about life outside my little world. So I guess in this Whack I share a little of this education; after I first get done mocking Gary Kasparov of course.

How the hell did Gary Kasparov lose to that computer? What a crushing blow to the human mind that is. A machine that is doing no more than following a set of instructions outmatches a thinking man. I mean I figured it would be no contest. I beat my computer all the time at hearts, why can't Kasparov beat his computer at chess? And I don't even consider myself a grand-master hearts player. Personally, I think the whole thing was fixed. I suspected it right from the beginning when I opened the sports section of my newspaper the day before the series was supposed to start and saw in the list of betting lines that the odds-makers in Las Vegas were putting odds on it. They actually put odds on a chess match between a human and a computer. Obviously Kasparov was the clear-cut favorite right from the beginning. But as it occasionally happens, the underdog miraculously won, and some people in Vegas made some big bucks on Deep Blue. So yeah, I think the Russian took a dive. However, this should certainly make the next match interesting. Deep Blue will most likely be favored, so someone is going to have to try and figure out how to program it to throw the match. I guess if worse comes to worse, they could just format its hard-drive and replace it with the AI from Battlechess at beginner level.

Ok, I realize that this Whack was not originally going to be mostly about the Kasparov-Deep Blue match, but I'm entitled to change my intended plans, and I still have some more stuff I want to talk about regarding it. For example, I bet it must have been cool to be that guy who got to move the pieces for Deep Blue. I'm sure he was supposed to be impartial, but you know deep down the guy was rooting for the computer to win. I would have loved to be that guy. However I would have been a little more vocal. It would have been cool, I would be there talking trash to Kasparov the whole match. I'd be like, "Shit Gary, how are you going to answer that move man? It looks like this pile of machine parts has you on the ropes. You look tired man. Want to know something? Deep Blue never gets tired. It could go all night without losing a beat." And then of course when Kasparov eventually lost, I would quickly unplug the computer and say that I was making all the moves on my own the whole match, and that I should become the new grand-master chess champion. That would be cool. True I would have to quickly retire from chess before they could schedule a real match between me and Kasparov, but it still would be neat.

Well on to something both Kasparov-related and dealing with international relations. I bet I know what most Americans were thinking when they head that Kasparov lost to Deep Blue. We were all like, "Shit, I guarantee Bobby Fischer would have never lost to no computer when he was champion. No American chess champion would ever lose to a computer." Well computers during Bobby Fischer's reign as chess champion were still having difficulty trying to master the concepts of Pong, let alone something as complex as chess. And the idea that no American chess champion would ever lose to a computer is just an example of blind nationalism. It's a common thing. I was watching Jeopardy's international tournament the other week, and the finals had a guy from Canada, a guy from Finland, and a guy from Israel. Of course I was rooting for the Canadian. You want to know why? It's because we both live on the same freaking land mass. I have never step foot in Canada, but for some strange reason I feel a bond with this guy because we are both North Americans. I guess we just have a natural inclination towards things that we are a part of, and ultimately for ourselves. If a human is playing a computer in chess, I root for the human. If a North American is playing a European in Jeopardy, I root for the North American. If an American is running against an Canadian in the Olympics, I root for the American. If someone from New Jersey is boxing a guy from New York, I root for the guy from New Jersey. Likewise I would root for someone from my town over someone from another town, my block over another block, my family over another family, and ultimately me over every other person in the world. It is just a natural progression.

One final thing related to international relations that I wanted to bring up involves something that happened about a week or so ago. Apparently there was a pretty big earthquake in Iran where an entire village was nearly destroyed, and over a thousand people were killed. If this is the first you are hearing about it, I would not be too surprised. The only reason I knew about it is that I just happened to be flipping on the news when they were talking about it. They didn't exactly give it extensive coverage. But it kind of made me think. Imagine if this earthquake was in America? CNN would probably still be covering it. It would be the biggest news story of decade. I could see all the headlines now: "Thousand Dead in the Disaster of the Century!!" It would be horrific. But since it occurred half way across the globe in a country that most Americans don't really sympathize with, it was just another news story for the day. Kind of makes you think.

Well I think it is time to put this Whack into checkmate, so to conclude for this week, it's me against the world; I can't believe the American didn't even make the finals in International Jeopardy; and Gary Kasparov is still a disgrace to the human race.

Now for this week's very special feature, Feff's top ten favorite foreign countries:

10. Cuba
9. Djibouti
8. Luxembourg
7. Cyprus
6. Hawaii
5. Turkmenistan
4. Lesotho
3. Sri Lanka
2. Uruguay
1. The Falkland Islands

(* Don't forget Portugal!!!) - Joe