Archive for the ‘satire’ Tag

The Watergate Scandal game (1973)

Following up the recent post on Irish Free State Monopoly here’s another game with historic resonance preserved for posterity. The Watergate Scandal dates from 1973 and cost a less than scandalous $2.99 at the time. It is a card game with political points made in a mild satirical fashion. 

The cast of characters
The penalties
Strictly Confidential Instructions: Enhanced by playing in an echoey carpark
Made in 1970s paranoid USA

This (Washington) post is dedicated to Alfie Dennen, creator of Evil Corps game, which features thinly veiled portraits of the likes of the current owner of the Washington Post. A post on the excellent Evil Corps will follow shortly. 

As with the vintage Irish Monopoly set, this card game also features in Google Arts & Culture thanks to The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. 

For the youngsters among us, a brief reminder of what the Watergate Scandal was all about. It was the mother of modern political scandals, unravelling in Washington DC from 1971 to 1974. So it was ongoing when this game came out. It took down the grim administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon and led to his resignation.

The scandal was rooted in the administration’s hopelessly inept attempts to cover up its involvement in a break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in D.C. on 17th June 1972. The five burglars were arrested and then the press (noticeably Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post) and the Justice Department connected the cash found on the perpetrators to the Nixon re-election campaign committee. Witnesses at the subsequent Senate Watergate hearings testified that Nixon had approved plans to cover up administration involvement in the break-in and that there was a voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office hence all the tapping/bugging references in the game.

Later in 1973 the House commenced an impeachment process against Nixon. The Supreme Court ruled that the President had to release the Oval Office tapes to government investigators. The tapes cooked Nixon’s goose. The House Judiciary Committee charged him with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Nixon resigned on 9th August 1974 before the house could impeach him and the Senate remove him from office. Tricky Dicky remains the only U.S. president to have resigned.

The name Watergate came to stand for a variety of clandestine and illegal activities by the Nixon administration, from bugging the offices of political opponents through ordering investigations of activist groups to using the FBI, CIA and IRS as political tools. Between Nam and Watergate the good ol’ US of A lost its trust and became the cynical and conspiracy-crazy place we know & love today.

Inspired by fork-tongued Nixon, The Watergate Scandal is basically a game of lying and bluffing (like many card games – and political activities). To see how to play it, this recent episode of Game Board Archaeology featuring Hunter and Rob Mattison captures it pretty well.

The game was produced in Illinois in Elk Grove Village, 20 miles northwest of Chicago, next to O’Hare International Airport. Its current population is some 35,000. Its original population were Potawatomi, speakers of an Algonquin language. They were booted off their land in the 1830s and relocated to Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Stepping into the void created by men right up there with Tricky Dicky on the evil stakes came pioneer farmers from New England. Their civilisation reached its zenith when Elk Grove became the largest industrial park in the United States. The Watergate Scandal card game was the jewel in the crown of that mighty industrial estate.

Three years after the game we got the real silver lining of Watergate, William Goldman (scr.) and Alan Pakula’s (dir.) All The President’s Men, a film practically guaranteed to turn young viewers into journalists. 

All the President’s Men (1976) Dustin Hoffman & Robert Redford and a typewriter (youngfolk, it’s like a PC & printer, just no screen and often no electricity and if you get it wrong you just have to start all over again)

Coincidence No. 541 – J’accuse

Raquel Welch & Ringo Starr in ‘The Magic Christian’ (1969)

When I look at Facebook this morning the first thing I see is a post from the past (2015) on its anniversary. It was a reminder that today’s the day (13th January in 1898) that Émile Zola accused the French government/establishment of anti-semitism in the letter J’Accuse. Yesterday was the day (in 2015) the French government sent armed troops in to guard Jewish schools. I also published a second post on the subject that same day 5 years ago (the Charlie Hebdo shooting had been the previous week on 7th January 2015): Today’s the day (in 1898) Émile Zola published the letter J’Accuse in a French newspaper. He was convicted of libel. Then took refuge in London. #jesuischarlie

I am watching the 1969 British film The Magic Christian this evening. It contains a Who’s Who of the 60s of swinging London including Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski and Raquel Welch. Raquel plays a bikinied Amazon (echoes of her fur bikini in One Million Years BC, 1966) in a scene parodying the slave galley scene in Spartacus). Among the first words out of her mouth are “J’accuse!”.

Priestess of the Whip (Raquel Welch):

In, out.
[Groaning]

In, out!
[Groaning continues]

In, out. In…

During my reign as Priestess of the Whip, I’ve never seen such unmitigated sloth.

Passenger: My god! What’s going on here?

Priestess of the Whip:

J’accuse!

How dare this intrusion? Who are these people?

Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr): Oh, these are me mates.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out!

[Groans]

Passenger: Oh, I say! Do that again.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out! Out of my galley!

I was watching the film because tomorrow night Entertainment Attorney and Executive Producer Vinca Jarrett, who I met last year in Duluth, Minnesota when I was doing a speech on diversity in TV entitled Not The Usual Suspects, is putting on an online film discussion group which I’m really looking forward to. These kinds of online communal activity, like Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties, at their best are one of the silver linings of Covid Lockdown, generating a genuine sense of shared experience and contact. 

While I was at it I made an edit to the Magic Christian entry on Wikipedia, noting the fleeting appearance of John & Yoko in the movie. My first ever article published on Wikipedia was the one on User-Generated Content. And here we are some two decades later with WordPress and its over-refined self-publishing service with these difficult to manipulate Blocks and generally over-boiled interface. In two days’ time it is the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia – launched 15th January 2001. The scale, accuracy and relative lack of conflict around this pooling of the world’s knowledge online is a testimony to what people can do together for no money. In contrast to the theme explored by The Magic Christian, which is that everyone has their price.

Front page of the newspaper ‘L’Aurore’ Jeudi 13 Janvier 1898

4 reasons to read The Sellout

thesellout-mar20151

So we had our 15th Anniversary Book Group gathering last night and the book in the spotlight, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, was highly praised by all but one of our number, getting 9s and even 10s in our scores (for Literary Merit and Enjoyment), one of the most popular choices in the whole decade and a half.

My review on GoodreadsA dense and intense tour de force with shades of Catch 22 (absurdity), David Foster Wallace (intensity) and Candide (humanity), filled with insight about how black people are seen and see themselves in the USA (and beyond).

sellout

Here are 4 good reasons to read this standout satirical novel:

(i) On lawyers:

The Chief Justice meekly raises his hand.

“Excuse me, Mr Fiske [the defending lawyer], I have a question…”

“Not right now, motherfucker, I’m on a roll!”

 

(ii) On education:

Two hundred kids quieted instantly and turned their attention deficit disorders toward me.

 

(iii) On weed:

“What the fuck is this, dog?” Puppet coughed.

“I call it Carpal Tunnel. Go ahead, try to make a fist.”

Puppet tried to ball his hand but failed.

 

(iv) On intellectuals:

The meetings consisted mostly of the members who showed up every other week arguing with the ones who came every other month about what exactly “bimonthly” means.”

Classic satire in the heritage of Waugh and Swift that’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Findus Keepers 3: A head by a nose

Findus Keepers 3

Findus Keepers 2

Findus Keepers 2

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