PAPERBOY: Special ‘Gamble & Bluff’ Edition

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!

ON THE COVER

CP: For this week’s cover on slot machines, Isaiah Thompson takes in the splendor of Central PA, storming the state capitol to shed some light on what gaming could unleash upon Philly. To bring us the facts, he crunches the numbers and talks with grammatically-challenged government dweebs.

Every game that reaches a casino floor in Pennsylvania must first go through this lab — and director of gaming cp_2009-01-08.jpglaboratory operations Michael Cruz. With his staff, Cruz uses spreadsheets to verify a game’s “payout” — the percentage, on average, the machine returns per bet. It’s not quantum physics, but the math requires expertise.

“That’s why they established the lab,” Cruz said confidently. “So that you, who does not have a math degree, can be sure you have a fair game.”

To keep things on the up and up, every first Tuesday, the casinos are required to send Cruz what he calls “the slot master list,” detailing the odds of every game operating on the floor of every casino in the state.

We also get testimony from experts in mathematics, sociology and the culture of casinos. All in all, it adds up to bad news about the presence of slots: “It doesn’t just attract addicts… it creates them.” Who will save our commonwealth from Gamblor and snatch her from his neon claws? Don’t look at the Guv, or even at city politicians: they’re all actively or passively paving the way for slots. If these people are all saying, “Forget it, Isaiah, it’s Chinatown,” that’s some worrisome shit.

PW: Another subculture in need of skewering, another Steven Wells joint. This week, it’s geek culture. As he hints at the nerdy nerve center that drive innovation in Philly, Wells does some pretty sharp scene-setting.

On TV the pop geek and the tech geek are still shown as two distinct types: the unwashed, unshaven, totally pwgeek.jpgout-of-date D&D/SF-obsessed pop-geek bears on The Sarah Silverman Show vs. the awesomely socially unskilled and possibly Asperger’s-stricken computer genius Chloe O’Brian from 24.

In reality, says geekadelphia.com’s Eric Smith, the tech geek and the pop geek are often one and the same. He reckons there’s a 65 percent crossover. Other Philly geeks put the percentage way higher.

The word “geek”—originally meaning a circus freak that bit the head off chickens—is now a badge of cool, so much so that there are dark mutterings about dilution, about faux-geeks who hover on the fringes of the scene, leaching credibility.

Only one problem: this wrap-up comes more than halfway through the piece, when it ought to be the near the top, before the guys in cat suits, before “punk physics,” even before the mention of mockswordfights in Clark Park. I’m happy to see Wells (or maybe a judicious editor) squashing the smugness in his writing — the guys in cat suits don’t even merit a snicker — and I like theDIY ethic he highlights, but there’s just too much that’s left unexplained. What do people do at “culture geek conventions”? What’sDorkbot ? I’ll cop to being an analog geek — rare books and music scores over screens filled with computer code, thanks — but even low-tech squares deserve some information.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: Maryland-born and raised, Philly-based: Sadly, I have two dogs in this fightDept. of …Damn: “A full-on war is raging a half hour’s drive away.” Hang in there, Neal. If only Ruben had said “Fuck Simon Cowell” instead of A.D., then we’d have a story. Say what you will about Andy Reid, his ‘stache beats any playoff beard.

PW: Pizza: singed, restaurant: totally burned. New year, same hard truths: “Ultimately, statistics can’t properly tell the story of what’s lost to violence.” Analogy of the week: “Kanye : the press :: George Bush : black people.” From that same article, sad to see Doug Wallen go. I hope they can keep Umm…Drop poppin’.

WINNER: CP takes it because PW dropped the ball on running something on the Iggles. If they have more post-season success, I’m looking for a Sav Rocca cover story. It’s gold: unsung, white-boy hero who’s a long way from home. How ’bout it?

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