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."

WorkxWork

July 30th, 2014

So, in only a few weeks, the annual WordxWord spoken word festival will hit Pittsfield, and as always, it promises to be a fantastic event. Also free, through the magic of generous grants. So if you will or can be in the Berkshires from Aug. 17-23, you should check out some of the amazing performances going on — and I’m not just saying that because I’m in the poetry slam semi-finals.*

Before that, though,  I have some freelance work to do. I’m currently working for Mtelegence, a company designing entertaining and engaging programs to help students struggling with literacy. So, my job is to come up with creative ways to help make the world a better place. This has set the bar pretty high for my ideal jobs. My other ideal job, of course, is getting paid to write my books, hence the pair of query letters I sent out to agents last night. I managed to change my template salutation from “Dear AgentFace McGee” to the correct name for each of the two I sent so far, but I figure it’s only a matter of time before I forget when sending one.

Excitingly**, I had a short poem published online in Rogue Particles magazine. Seriously, it’s quite short. Go read it, and then feel free to poke around the site for other people’s interesting stuff too.

Otherwise, things continue much the same. While my neighborhood may be in constant celebration mode, I more quietly aged another year recently, which I celebrated by walking to Jack’s and buying myself a hamburger. Gaming continues, and while my most recent review is of a new game called Bedpans&Broomsticks, the game we’ve played most recently is oddly*** the Kingdom Hearts CCG.

There’s a temptation to write my next column about the situation in the Middle East, but I think making it humorous may be difficult. Still, can’t go worse than my stand-up about mass shootings, right?

*I’m saying it because I’m contractually obligated. Kidding! It seriously is a great festival, and you should go.

**Excitingly for me, that is. Your own level of excitement may very depending on your enjoyment of the poem. Consult your doctor for details. Offer not valid in all states.

***Odd because it’s rare I play boardgames based on videogames. Or any non-Magic CCG, really.

Food Foolishness

July 10th, 2014

The following investigation and one-sided conversation all took place in the span of a single second earlier today, in my brain:

“My thumb hurts, I wonder if something’s wrong.”
“It’s got red splotchy bits, is it blood?”
“No, it’s too dark for that. Maybe it’s bruising from an injury.”
“How would I have injured my finger? Maybe cutting onions for dinner?”
“Oh, the red splotchy bits are red onion.”

So that was fun. While making said dinner, I had to transfer some rice from the giant vat into the rice cooker. My girlfriend seems to believe that dipping the rice measuring cup into the rice works better than pouring the vat into the rice measuring cup, but as I was making the rice, I did it my way*. And apparently, my way consists of dumping rice all over the place. “That went pourly,” she said.

I was already unconvinced about dinner because we were using a tabletop convection oven rather than our usual oven, and I was afraid it wouldn’t work. But we ended up with delicious crispy fish, so I guess I should have had the courage of my convections.

In the unlikely event you haven’t already stopped reading this blog entry for terrible puns, I recently wrote a column sharing some True Facts About June.** Not mentioned, some other true facts about June: I had a lovely time at some WordXWord preliminary events, where I qualified for the August finals***. And I read a lot of graphic novels. And played more video games than board games. But another review is coming soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, if the Berkshires can stop losing power every other day, I have a fun new freelance assignment I’m looking forward to: Writing educational raps.

*To be perfectly Frank.

**To be perfectly ZeFrank

***They’re august August finals.****

****I guess I already used that joke in my column tagline, but I presume not everyone who reads my blog clicks through to the columns.

Worth a Shot

May 31st, 2014

Hard for me to believe the improv show mentioned in the previous post was only two weeks ago. It seems like an eternity. Sadly, I haven’t gotten an eternity worth of work done on the boardgame book — although I do have a new review up for Hot Tin Roof — although I have gotten in a few epic boardgames including the World of Warcraft Boardgame and a 4p game of Caverna, the latter of which is probably the best new game of 2013.

But the improv show went well — far better, I’d say, than my stand-up at the other night’s comedy open mic. That, however, is largely my own fault, as I decided to be a little risky and do some jokes about the recent mass shooting*. They say that comedy is just tragedy plus time, but I’ve never been good at following recipes, and maybe I used a little too much tragedy and replaced the thyme with sage ideas, even if I wasn’t salty, the audience didn’t find all of it savory**.

Much more likely to get a positive reaction is my latest column, Praise Be to Cheesus, which includes the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and a Buddha and a number of terrible puns. I’m very pleased with it, and the stromboli that we* made tonight. I have an insatiable appetite for good food and graphic novels. I’ve recently discovered that our local library has graphic novels, and so I have decided to read them. Like, every single one in the library.

*It’s important that blog posts have dates, because in America there’s always a recent mass shooting.

**Variety shows are the life of spice.

***This usage is what I like to call the “Third Person Royal We”, which means technically the part of we that doesn’t include me.

Improv Impending

May 15th, 2014

Tonight* I will be performing on stage with the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe for the first time in… too long. I’m quite looking forward to it, especially since I’ll be able to play the game I invented called “Rap Psychiatrist”, where I play a rapping psychiatrist. I’d really love to have that job in real life, so if any of you have problems and want to hire me to dispense advice to you in rap form, I am admittedly not accredited, but I charge less than half of the standard psychiatry rate, so that has to be worth something. Two humor columns a month aren’t going to pay my bills.

But I suppose I should share them anyway, in case you were interested in reading about Insomnia Vincit Omnia, or False Independence.

Otherwise, while I’ve seen some minor problems back**, life remains good. Tonight, for the second time this week, my girlfriend and I were both sitting on a couch reading a book, which we have decided is how introverts have Date Night. The important part of dinner and a movie isn’t the movie (books are no less social), and she cooked a delicious dinner, so I’m declaring it a success***.

Finished another mini-chapter of the boardgame book. A few down, too many to go. Still planning on a completed draft by the end of the year, come hell or high water.

*chronologically tonight, as it’s past midnight, but actually tomorrow night, since I haven’t slept yet. Friday 16th, is what.

**and visa versa

***”It a success!”****

****Why yes, I was re-watching some Zucker Brothers films this week.

30th Day

April 29th, 2014

Today being the last day of April, I have just written my 30th poem of National Poetry Month 2014. Or technically, 31st poem*, given that in the middle of the month I wrote a Raven parody about how social media means nobody has time to read. It’s what I like to call “meta-true”, since I posted it on Facebook and only 2-3 people seemed to read it there, although many more people have time to read a haiku; here’s one I wrote this month but didn’t put on Facebook:

The difference between
genius and insanity
is retroactive

Earlier in the month I went to perform some food-themed poetry at a meat market, which was interesting, and performed some comedy at an open mic where I mainly told people how depressing life was. Only, y’know, in a fun way. Speaking of fun, this month we returned to some of our old favorite card games we haven’t played in too long, like Race for the Galaxy and Eminent Domain. I also have a new review up for Lords of Vegas. On the videogame front, Hearthstone and SolForge have been joined by Starbound, accurately described by two BGG friends as “SNES to Terraria’s NES” and “Terraria in space”. Terraria, in turn, has been described as “2d Minecraft with more fighting”. And Minecraft has been described as “completely pointless” and “totally awesome”***.

Also this month we grilled some Reubens**** (or as I like to call them “The King of Sandwiches”) and they were pretty dang tasty.

*Or technically, 33rd, given the two poems I wrote for the food slam mentioned in the following paragraph, but who’s counting**?

**Hopefully a purple muppet vampire.

***Actually, a lot of totally awesome things are completely pointless. Sadly, most completely pointless things are not totally awesome. For example, this footnote.

****Whenever we grill Reubens, the deliciousness thereof becomes a moral issue. It is not uncommon for me to invoke Rabbi Hillel in explanation of why a most delicious Reuben is of utmost importance.

April’s Foole

April 1st, 2014

Today is April 1. APRIL FOOL! It’s technically April 2. Unless you’re west of my time zone, in which case DOUBLE APRIL FOOL! It’s still April 1. I’m not sure how the holiday progressed to saying false things as a form of entertainment*, but I think eventually I get to the point where I’m saying things like, “I didn’t eat a lot of delicious soups last month or receive a lovely gift book about psycho-linguistics** - APRIL FOOL!”, and I think the form has overridden the function — just like dropping your taxes on the top row of your keyboard.

April is National Poetry Month, which means that I (as well as a few friends and a vast plethora of strangers) will be participating in the 30/30 poetry challenge to write a poem every day during April. Lots of people’s poems (including mine) will be posted at 3030Poetry.com, brought to you by the fine folks who run WordXWord. If I write one I’m particularly pleased with, maybe I’ll post it here on this blog. I’m participating in a food-themed poetry slam in Great Barrington on April 19th, and last month I was honored to be named “Haikuster of the Year 2014″ after emerging victorious from the Rambling Poets Haiku Head to Head. Many of them were impromptu, and consequently I cannot recall them precisely, but one of them was something along the lines of:

marijuana fans
took over Colorado
with their own “high coup”

All this lovely poetry, but what about gaming? Well, I do mean to get back to working on my boardgame book, and thankfully we’ve finally started playing boardgames more regularly again. The newest review I have up is for Mad City, a quick little city-building game that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Still, my preferences tend more towards the epics***, which is why getting back to playing behemoths like Through the Ages and Caverna has been so much fun.

Oh, and although April is here now, it’s still not too late to read my column about The Ides of March.

*Although to be fair, that describes half of my career. Even if I’m usually more proud of the half that involves saying true things as a form of entertainment.

**Appropriate, since many people have mistaken me for a linguist or a psycho.

***This also holds true for opening packs in Hearthstone.

Gloria Steinem: I meet, also grin.

March 6th, 2014

So, on Tuesday the famed Gloria Steinem came to speak at the local college, and I got to attend the lecture and ask her a few quick questions afterwards. And while I could mention how she made a lot of excellent points, or talked about the importance of intersectionality insofar as anyone fighting for women’s rights needs to be fighting against racism as well, or how I can’t believe she’s been doing this for so long, the main thing I want to say is that a few days before the lecture I wrote a column I am pretty happy with. So I present you with:

Gloria Steinem (Anagrammed)

Now that we’re past the dreaded month of February, things are looking up*. I wrote a poem yesterday to read at the open mic tonight before running it in a poetry slam next month, and I think I finally have 3 small sections of my book past the primary editing stage and ready to get reactions from a few test readers. Then once I’m convinced those chapters are fully ready, I begin the difficult task of hunting for an agent**. So if you are or know anyone representing non-fiction authors, especially authors that do odd cross-genre stuff, please do let me know.


*Also I’m looking up things, to do research for columns and books and so forth.

**Duck Season! Agent Season! Duck Season! Agent Season!

Short

February 28th, 2014

February is a short month. Here’s a short post.

Although no longer weekly, my column now appears in the Berkshire Eagle roughly every other week. Here’s a column about my delightful neighbors. And one about Valentine’s Day.

On the boardgame front, I have a new review up for Bremerhaven. And for the first time in too long, we got a few games of Power Grid in. On the videogame front, I’m playing my way through the Gothic series of games, and just finished Gothic 3. On the crossover front, Hearthstone is pretty damned good.

And at home we’ve been eating all sorts of delicious food, and generally I make up songs about it while I’m in the kitchen.* After a rocky start**, this year is finally back on track. Now I just need to make some progress on my book.

*Including “I like baked spuds and I cannot lie”, “Always the latkes are frying, always the onions and crying”, and “The most beautiful sound I ever heard, Tortilla, Tortilla, Tortilla, Tortilla”

**Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

Yes, We Have No Stalgia

January 15th, 2014

We have no stalgia today.

For the past week, I’ve been reading a book published in 1966, in which the author reflects on the halcyon days of his childhood and laments how things used to be better than they are today. (Today, please keep in mind, refers to 1966.) And while I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, the one piece of nostalgia I find myself really connecting with comes not from the book itself, but the random piece of paper I’ve been using as a bookmark, which it turns out is a decade-old menu from the local Chinese place, advertising an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for under $5. Now those were the good old days.

Speaking of nostalgia, today marks the final week of existence for the North Adams Transcript, and consequently my final column after 10 years of award-winning* weekly humor columns. I spent the column reminiscing over columns past, because that’s what one does at the End of an Era. As I’m not someone given to excessive drinking**, today is a day for excessive online gaming.

*Thanks, New England Press Association!

**Although I am given to excessive eating. But who wouldn’t be, if you grew up in a time of all you can eat lunch buffets for under $5?

Crappy New Year!

January 10th, 2014

Admittedly, the year did not start out particularly great for me. Part of this is because I’ve been sick, courtesy of some New Years Eve Party Favors. And part of this is because the North Adams Transcript, the newspaper in which my award-winning weekly humor column has run for the past 10 years, is ceasing production to be absorbed into the Berkshire Eagle. And part of this is because although I cannot officially disclose anything, if I were in a beta for a game that rhymed with Shmelder Shmolls Shmonline, I would have been downloading many gigs of patches and updates over the past three days and still be far from a full progress bar actually letting me play the damned beta.

So those are some things.

But it’s not all bad news. In the past two weeks my partner has cooked for me delicious dishes from around the globe, ranging from African fish stew, to Carnitas, to an actual Haggis.* And towards the end of last month I put up a review of Caverna: The Cave Farmers, which is easily one of the best new games I played in 2013. (It would be tough for me to choose between that or Terra Mystica as absolute best, but I think they’d be the top two.) And while I don’t make New Years Resolutions per se, even before Jan. 1 I had already resolved that by the end of this year, I will finish a draft of my next book, which will be about games. Here I am making a public statement about it, so you can all hold me to account: By the end of this year, I’ll have a draft of my new book about boardgaming.

Now I just have to get some more gaming in, for inspiration.

* “It wasn’t totally offal,” she said. “I love ewe,” I replied.