Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bill Shatner Gets Pwned

Years back I read an article on game theory in Scientific American. It described an experiment where researchers devised a game played by computers against computers. And then they put programmers to work devising game-playing algorithms. I was surprised to learn the winning program was called "T4T" standing for tit for tat.

The algorithm didn't think at all, it just remembered whether the opponent hit him last turn and then it hit back. All sorts of fancy mathematical analysis couldn't beat this fairly simple principle of tit for tat.

We saw this a few months ago when John Kerry made some lame joke about Sarah Palin's dis-appearance. The newsies rushed to get her reaction. A little while later, she obliged by telling a joke about the senator's appearance with the punchline "John Kerry, why the long face?"

Some say the high point of the presidential campaign for Sarah Palin came when she gave her speeches at Dayton and at the GOP convention. Maybe. But I suggest it was the time that I did something I hadn't done for 20 years: watch Saturday Night Live. It was hilarious to see Sarah Palin walk up to Tina Fey goofing on her and then goof right back. Didn't she do a Tina Fey impression sometime during the show?

Mindful of this I shouldn't have been surprised last night. William Shatner has a semi-regular spot on the Conan O'Brian show doing hammed up oral interpretations of books. Last night he did, "Going Rogue." I found his excerpted sentences cringe-worthy. After he finished to everyone's surprise Sarah Palin came out carrying William Shatner's autobiography. And she read from Shatner's book.

The look on Shatner's face was priceless: surprise and apprehension. And deeper concern when he sees that she's carrying HIS book. It's easier to throw punches when you don't think you'll get hit back.

A year ago, everyone thought Sarah Palin was done as a political candidate because she'd been Quayled. Unlike the Vice President from Indiana, Mrs. Palin has devised an effective counter-strategy. Go along in a good-humored way, and then hit back in an equivalent fashion. Winston Churchill once said, "I like a man who grins when he fights."

Winston Churchill would have liked Sarah Palin.

Do you remember when David Letterman said those nasty things about Mrs. Palin's daughters last summer? I don't think its surprising that she went on Conan O'Brian's show. There's just hitting back and there's how one hits back.

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