Secret to happiness: "If you often find yourself eating food you like in the company of people you like, you have probably done something right with your life."

Rented Lance

October 23rd, 2015

This lance ain’t free. Although I am freelancing for Fodor’s Guides once again, so have been traveling all over the Berkshires. Meanwhile, in addition to my often-followed but rarely-read Leaf-Peeping Guide for Tourists, I wrote a column I’m quite proud of, which I like to call Anagram Augury: Bernie Sanders. In the boardgame world, I have a review up for the new co-op game Star Trek: Five Year Mission.

Today I had the thought that tribalism is one of the most destructive forces in modern society, and yet is harnessed to do good for members of the ingroup almost as often as it is used to make things worse for outgroups. So many groups will raise money and work hard to help those in need of their tribe, whether it’s religious charities helping fellow members of said religion, or a big fundraiser I saw recently on BoardGameGeek for gamers in need.

I think sharing a tribe is often a shortcut to empathy, and I think the great problem of modern times is getting people to have empathy for all of humanity even those who seem differently, thus the challenge is to convince people that all of humanity is their tribe. I saw a news story the other week about a hummus restaurant in Israel that gives discounts to Arabs and Jews who eat together. A good start.

Post-Performance Palaver

September 21st, 2015

The past month and a half were fairly exciting for me. I got to participate in the annual WordXWord Festival, as a finalist in both the Poetry Slam and Story Slam. And then I got to open for comedian Solomon Georgio, with a set that was very well received by a pretty good crowd. All of that was a very exciting two weeks of performances.

On the boardgame front, earlier this month was my annual Alphabetic Boardgame Challenge, where I play 26 boardgames with Debbie over the course of a few days. I have new reviews up for Le Havre: Inland Port (A 2p mini-Le Havre) and Isle of Skye (which is probably the best new tile-placement game since at least Vikings, if not ever.)

On a walk this evening, I passed a couple swearing at each other, as happens all too often. My emotions went from irritation to sadness to pity. So I decided to make a BLT when I got home, and that improved my day. If you’re wondering who deserves the credit for that, I refer you to my column about the Earl of Sandwich.

Hobo Sewer Bacon

August 1st, 2015

This post’s title is my favorite clue that I gave in my most recent game of Train of Thought, the party board game I oft describe as “Taboo for smart people”. It remains one of my favorite games to bring to gatherings. As for newer board games, my most recent review is of a game about putting together a newspaper called Extra Extra. The print newspaper industry may be dying, but at least it’s an interesting theme for a boardgame.

I could tell you about recent columns on topics like marriage equality and vegetables, but I’d rather share with you this random verse I wrote. A friend had linked to an article about Marvel’s hip-hop covers, suggesting that heroes battle rap instead. I was amused by the idea, and found myself inspired to write a quick 16 from Iron Man dissing Captain America:

Awwww snap, it’s a rap where Cap gets capped.
I put on my Hulkbuster suit to give daps,
That is a testament to my genius,

Both for invest-a-ment and science, I mean this.
Seen this billionaire,
Fillin’ the air, killin’ it there,
Willing to share my wealth and power;
Built the Avengers their whole fuckin’ Tower.

You? I already told ya,
Unfrozen Caveman Soldier,
Hold yourself as morally superior?
Guess I’ll have to kick your posterior.
You’re inferior to my tech.
Without your serum, you’d get no respect,
So protect ya neck, and you best believe,
I’m a Stark; Winter is coming, Steve.


June 9th, 2015

I’ve been getting a lot of spam comments lately, for reasons unbeknownst* to me.

My Comedy Open Mics have been moved to Third Thursdays**, which means the next one is a lot sooner than I’d expected — June 18th! Anyone who enjoys seeing free live comedy, or attempting live comedy, or cafes that sell tasty food and drink, should come join us at 7pm at the Parlor Cafe on that date.

Life has been very good lately. I say this not to boast, but to encourage/remind people that if you spend a lot of time laughing in good company, that can end up matter more than whatever little negatives may occur. So if you can’t attend my comedy nights, I encourage you to find free comedy near you — or more importantly, funny people whose company you enjoy!

Meanwhile, my most recent column has even more puns than usual.

*Does anyone ever use the word “knownst”? I think I’ve only ever seen it in Spaceballs.

**Or as we call them in the portmanteau business, “Thirdsdays”

Rappin’ Reviews

June 2nd, 2015

So, roughly four years ago, as an experiment, I posted a freestyle rapped boardgame review* of the game Belfort. For whatever reason, I never did a second one until a few weeks ago, but I have now added reviews of the boardgames Twilight Struggle and Flea Market. I am definitely still in the learning process of how to freestyle reviews, and thanks to a 4-year hiatus I learned nothing from my first review because I forgot everything. From my second review, I learned that the background music needs to be much softer compared to my vocals, so everything I say is easy to hear. From my third review, I learned that these videos may be too long, and consequently my next (fourth) review will probably skip the rules summary entirely and just be a review. And hopefully I can start to make these into something that people (like you!) will want to watch.

My poetry and comedy performances continue, as I’ve been hitting the monthly WordXWord poetry events in the lead-up to the August festival, as well as continuing to host my 4th Thursday Comedy Open Mic at the Parlor Cafe. I’ve been thrilled at the wonderful comedians who have been coming, including in some cases the hosts of the comedy open mics in Albany and Northhampton. It makes me feel like my tiny town of North Adams matters, and not just because we were in the news recently for drunken bear-chasing antics.

I could mention that we continue eating all sorts of delectable homemade food ranging from shrimp egg rolls to lomo saltado, but that seems like it’s not good manners. I don’t really have a clever way to end this post, but hopefully I’ll think of one later.

*  I have been told that my projects seem to pick bizarre target demographics which are the center of a Venn Diagram most people have never considered. But I think rhyming and gaming absolutely should go together — that’s why I’d designed that rapping card game a few years back. It’s also why last time I played an auction game, I offered free poetry along with the spices to whoever won the auction. Debbie responded that she would pay more if the winning lot did not include my poetry.

National Poetry Month

April 10th, 2015

Yep, it’s National Poetry Month. I am once again taking the 30/30 Challenge to write a poem a day all month long. If that’s not enough poetry for you, you can read my newsman’s ode to the esteemed Dr. Seuss in a column I call Headline Seuss. And later this month I’ll be giving a presentation on From God To Verse through a local Jewish group. National poetry month is the perfect time to buy my rhyming translation of the Torah/Pentateuch.

The other day Debbie made lamb and potatoes, which was delicious. I love potatoes cooked in lamb fat, which I have affectionately termed “lambtaters”, which* in turn led me to wonder what a good example of a lambtater would be. Muttonleany?

My 4th Thursday Comedy Open Mic nights continue at the Parlor Cafe; anyone who finds themselves local during the appropriate time should stop by for free laughs and reasonably priced food and drink. Non-locals can content themselves with my ranting in written form. Last month the Williams Alumni Fund sent me half a dozen emails of solicitation within a 2-week period, prompting me to write this column about The Alumni Fund. If that sounds too bitter, maybe I just need some Hobbies**.

And I have finally started using Twitter. Don’t worry though, I’m not really joining the 21st century, I still don’t have a cell phone or ipad or car or anything like that. I recently joined a local boardgaming meetup group, so I’ll just be hanging out doing some old-fashioned analog Luddite gaming***

*When shall we three meet again?

**Like measuring temperature from absolute zero. Everyone loves Kelvin & Hobbies.

***Amish pair o’ dice.

Theme Song To Every Anime Ever

February 25th, 2015

My latest column: Salad Days
My latest boardgame review is about a game that is fast becoming a favorite: Mage Knight.

I enjoy anime, and now and again I’ll binge-watch a bunch on Netflix. I’ve noticed that a lot of anime seems to share some similar themes, which is why I wrote this generic anime theme song:

“You have a special magic power,
And other people have one too…
They try to kill you but you manage to defeat them,
Because they’re not as cool as youuuuuuu…
You have a special magic power,
You have a special magic power,
Love is hiding in the shadows.”

So yeah, that’s like, 50% of anime. And then another 30% is just light relationship silliness. But the remaining 20% has some fascinating and lovely stuff. I recently finished watching Attack On Titan, which although it certainly lacks for closure, is a compelling story with an abnormal theme and kept me on my toes. I think my favorite anime of late has been Death Note — I actually first read a volume of the manga, and found it so intriguing that I immediately went and watched the whole run of the anime on Netflix.

Starting a new monthly comedy open mic tomorrow night at our local coffee house; hopefully it goes well.

I Hate My Neighbor’s Decorations

February 2nd, 2015

I spent a few hours late thisafternoon shoveling out our driveway from the blizzard. As this is a shared driveway with our neighbors, it gave me time to reflect how much I hate their decorations.

The most obvious example is Christmas decorations. Those of you who know me are aware that my appreciation of Christmas decorations to begin with is roughly halfway between Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Grinch. Our neighbors had giant inflatable nonsense (which couldn’t just be inflated and left there, but needed to have the frequently-running extra-loud inflator running half the time), as well as extra-blinky epilepsy-inducing lights which kept making me think the cops were outside our house (which, in our neighborhood, is not uncommon). Those decorations were up for the entire month of December.

But the decorations I hated most today were the three shovels standing in their front yard, which remained purely decorative as I shoveled the entirety of the driveway for the second time this week.

Better Living through Dropping Food on the Ground

January 24th, 2015

In my latest column, I break the law!

Newest boardgame review: Patchwork - a short game by Uwe Rosenberg

Twice this month, I have been carrying too many things, and dropped some food on the ground. In each case, I felt the food beginning to fall, and had plenty of time to make a grab for it and prevent it from hitting the floor. And unlike the many times this has happened in the past, this month I’ve been doing something brilliant:


See, in the past, I’ve lunged for the falling food and managed to save it, at the expense of spilling water everywhere or dropping the other messier food I was holding. This month, I’ve held onto my water and let the cheese hit the floor. And watched the tortillas fall while standing calmly with eggs in my hands. Progress.

I figured out the Problem with this Blog

January 9th, 2015

I’d love to say that my conclusion was reached through introspection and analysis, but in fact it was after seeing two friends post much the same thing — one about LiveJournal and one about Facebook — that I realized it applied to my blogging here as well. And that thing is this: When you don’t post for a while, you feel like rather than just making a normal post, you have to account for all the time between now and your last post. And this is ridiculous, because it ends up making every post like a Christmas Letter, and not the good kind from your grandparents or uncle where you shake it and money falls out*, but the crappy kind where someone you don’t talk to very often feels the need to give you an uninteresting laundry list of events rather than going into interesting detail on any one specific event.

So sure, I should very briefly mention my latest boardgame review (Murano!) or my latest column (New Ears Resolutions!), but taking my last post as a leaping off point, henceforth my posts will focus on whatever is currently on my mind, rather than trying to summarize the past X weeks**.

Man, I should have had something on my mind before typing that last sentence, huh? Well, tonight I was frying up some Gringo Migas, and it occurred to me that waiting for things to fry has a lot of downtime with which I could be more efficient. So I decided to multi-task, and managed to wash the dishes *and* burn my food at the same time. Hooray, efficiency!

*Believe me, I have been shaking this blog for a decade and no money has fallen out.

**For those of you living in Rome, that’s ten weeks.