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."

If Your Election Lasts Longer Than 4 Hours, Seek Medical Attention

October 25th, 2016

I think most of us have presidential campaign fatigue by this point. Only a few weeks until the election. A while back, just after the first debate, my friend Samuel Hammersley and I made this rap video exhaustively summarizing all the major points from the debate:

2016 First Presidential Debate Rap-Up

Meanwhile my old house is still for sale (beautiful Victorian, under $65k, because I want to sell it NOW), and I am still quite interested in people paying me money for creativity and/or writing acumen. Need some web content, or a freelance editor, or a house? Ask me. Reasonable rates, 15 years of experience.*

Being funny is more difficult of late because it’s A Tough Time For Clowns. But while my comedy open mics of late may not be as well attended as I’d like, I’m still spending plenty of time gaming. Been playing more Innovation, which remains one of my favorite games ever, and have some new reviews up for games like Agricola: Family Edition and Edo. Video-game-wise, I’ve gotten back into Warframe, a free to play robot ninja game I used to play 2 years ago before quitting due to rampant connection issues. But the connection seems to be better, and the game makes you feel like a badass, which is a pleasant quality**.

Winter seems to be arriving with a vengeance. We’ve already had snow, and it’s not even November. I should probably stock up on instant miso soup.

*At the writing/editing, not at the house. Although I guess technically I moved into the house in 2003 and out in 2016, so I have 13 years of experience with that house.

**Unless you’re attempting to be a good mule or something.

It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Humanity

August 16th, 2016

With the inimitable Tom in town, lately I’ve been going for more long walks to have interesting conversations*, and one conclusion I had come to recently is that most problems are caused by other people. I’d recommend avoiding people in order to reduce the number of unpleasant experiences you have, but it turns out many of life’s pleasant experiences also involve interaction with people, making the whole thing much more complicated.

One nice interaction with people I had recently was WordXWord, which was as always a delightful week of spoken word, even though I wasn’t competing this year. It was also nice to have a few people tell me that they read and enjoy my column, because I get very little feedback about it generally speaking.**  Specifically speaking of which, here’s my most recent column: Oh, The Humidity

While I haven’t yet played No Man’s Sky because I can’t really justify buying games on release, I have been dipping back into both Terraria and Starbound, which scratch the same sorts of itches, and which have the advantage of optional multiplayer. Even if multi-player Terraria oft ends up being other more-skilled VGG friends handing me their cast-off equipment, the bad jokes are what make it all worthwhile.

I’m hoping to write some slightly better jokes for this week’s Third Thursday Comedy Mic, which I should probably do instead of extending this blogpost. Oh, but first I’ll mention in case you missed it previously, last post links to my old house, now for sale at a very good price, please share the link with anyone you know who might be interested in buying it. My life would definitely be improved by a swift sale of that house. And I’ll fry you a burrito.

*One of my favored activities in general, although aside from Tom my list of regular coambulators had recently been reduced by one, which is inconvenient since it had already dwindled to one. But walking and talking is surprisingly engaging, for something that isn’t the Internet.

**Notwithstanding troll comments on the Berkshire Eagle site, because the commenters there are only slightly better than YouTube commenters. “All the rude invective, now with 50% less offensive language!”

Settling In

August 2nd, 2016

As regular readers* of this blog know, a few months ago I moved. I still live in North Adams, but I am now further from town. My old house is much more conveniently located to town — just a few blocks from Main St., grocery store, bank, everything you could want. I lived there a dozen years with no car (although there is a garage - and a shed!). It’s a charming old Victorian house with a prime location, and I have put it on the market for less than it’s worth because I would really like to sell it soon. Perhaps you or someone you know might want an entire awesome house for $69k or so? Check out and/or share this listing:

Charming old Victorian house just blocks from town

That’s the most important news, because seriously, I really need to sell this thing ASAP. Turns out that new houses are expensive, and having two houses at once is way too expensive.

In other news, how is it already August? This year has really flown by, and I am not ready for anything. Among the things I am not ready for is WordXWord, happening next week. This year happened so fast that I didn’t even make it to any of the preliminary events this year, and so consequently I am not competing in the slams this time around. But I’ll still be reading some poetry in one or two of the auxiliary** events, and it’s an honor just to be nominatedparticipate.

Boardgaming continues apace, and I think my favorite new-to-me game this summer is Orleans, which isn’t terribly innovative, but is a lot of fun. Other new-to-me games include Oh My Goods (a very cheap smallbox game with some meat) and Costa Rica (the most vicious Push your Luck game I’ve played in a while.)

I realize by this point my post already has more links than a Jimmy Dean Sausage*** festival, but I still want to point to some recent columns, one about Harry Potter in the Berkshires (yes, that’s our Mt. Greylock the new school is at!), and one about Pokemarriage Go.

And that’s it for my July update! The August update should be up by September.

*I know I don’t have many regular readers, but sadly I don’t even seem to have a single regular updater. Uh, sorry about that, dear reader.

**”one or two, of the auxiliary” might refer to “can I remember how many l’s and r’s are in this word?”

***Sadly, this post not sponsored by Jimmy Dean Sausage. Or anyone else. Hey companies, send me free food and I’ll mention you. Hell, doesn’t have to be a company. Dear reader, bake me some cookies, I’ll mention you. I take the will write for food thing to a whole new level. Like, a lower one.

Simpleton: Success!

June 18th, 2016

So, the musical mentioned in the previous post was a smash success. It took numerous awards as the best-selling show of the entire Orlando Fringe Festival, was chosen as Patron’s Pick, and received the Critic’s Choice Best Musical award. The cast was incredibly talented, and I was delighted that they could bring our lyrics to the audience in the best possible light. A ton of fun, and I’ll be looking for more opportunities to be hired as a lyricist in the future because it was very satisfying.

Comedy continues apace, playing locally to non-large but supportive crowds. It’s hard to get really big crowds here; it’s possible that the people don’t like fun.* Even the recently about-to-open vape shop ended up run out of town by pitchfork-wielding locals, albeit not before I wrote about it in my most recent column, “Planet of the Vapes”

Game-wise, now that we’ve finally mostly settled into the new house**, I’ve started attending regular game nights again. Games that impressed me recently included Steam Time and Space Cadets, although I haven’t played either enough to write a review. Maybe in the coming months my brain will return with the move finally behind me, and I can get back to writing more. I hope so. Meanwhile, more video games, including the new client of SolForge, which I don’t really prefer to the old client, but there’s not really a choice, so.

Cookie butter is the kind of disgusting purely american thing that I’d really love to make fun of people for eating, but it turns out it’s delicious and so I’m eating some now instead. I guess I’ll save time and just make fun of me.

*To be fair, I’m not a fun person, but I presume most people are not like me.

**Probably still at least 3 dozen boxes to unpack, and plenty of work left to do, but, still, mostly settled.

Simpleton: The Legend of President Trump

May 16th, 2016

As some of you may know, and the rest of you are about to find out, I have co-written (with my old friend Samuel Hammersley, and my new friend Thom Mesrobian) a musical called “Simpleton: The Legend of President Trump”. This is a parody of Hamilton, about what would happen if Trump won the presidency. And it opens this weekend (May 19th) at the Orlando Fringe Festival.

Early previews have been filled with lots of positive buzz, and apparently the media and festival staff gave the show a standing ovation at the big tech rehearsal. Our first actual review was fairly positive, saying:

The lyrics by Mesrobian, Samuel Hammersley and Seth Brown hit more often than miss and have a healthy number of zingers. The cast, too, has energy to burn and spits out the rhymes with gleeful enthusiasm.

So I am pretty dang excited about this show. Writing it was an absolute delight, especially as Sam and I were very often on the same wavelength, and together we created something I’m really proud of. It’s a very limited run for only the 10-day duration of the Fringe Festival, so if you know anyone who will be in Florida from May 19th-29th, please do encourage them to get tickets while they can, and go see our show.

I don’t have much in the way of other updates, because also I just moved houses, so everything has been a whirlwind of chaos. Although I guess letting you know I just moved is an update. See, my brain still isn’t working.

National Poetry Month

April 8th, 2016

Thanks to Tom Lehrer, I cannot say “National Poetry Month” without singing “National Brotherhood Week” in my head, since it scans the same. Nonetheless, it is indeed National Poetry Month, and as per usual I am writing 30 poems in 30 days. Here’s the one I wrote yesterday:

“Poem By A Star-Bellied Sneetch”

I am a Star-Bellied Sneetch.
I have an elegantly long neck,
Beautiful white tufts,
And a pleasantly round yellow belly,
On which, yes, there is a small green star.

I didn’t ask for the star, I was born with it.
I didn’t ask to be treated better than anyone in the pre-McBean era.
I didn’t ask to be treated worse than anyone in McBean era One.
Or better in McBean era Two
Or worse in McBean era Three
You get the idea.
I didn’t ever give McBean any money to remove my star,
Because that green star is part of who I am.

But it’s not who I am.
I’m a Sneetch who likes reading under a truffular tree.
I’m a Sneetch who enjoys cooking
No, not green eggs or ham, that’s racist.
My specialty is actually potatoes au gratin.
They are delicious.

I’m a Sneetch who goes out to the theatre sometimes.
I’m a Sneetch who probably watches too much TV,
But hey, I’m only Sneetch.
I never claimed to be perfect.

I’m a Sneetch who fell in love once,
And it was wonderful,
And then it was terrible,
And then it was over.

I’m a Sneetch who fell in love a second time,
And so far it’s going well,
But I’ve learned not to count your elephant-birds before they hatch.

I’m a Sneetch who has lived his entire life
With this green star on my belly
This small green star
Such a silly little thing
Over which so many Sneetches have made such a big deal
And then some want to pretend like it’s not there?
I am a Star-Bellied Sneetch.
That green star is part of who I am.

But it’s not who I am.

******

Meanwhile April kicked off with the Night of Fools just off Main St. that went so well that my monthly comedy mic has moved to that venue (next show: April 21st!). As usual, I’m still writing my column, most recently about Classic April Fools Pranks. And I have continued my humorous advice podcastwith Lex, we’re up to more than half a dozen episodes of Problem Solvers …ish, most recently an episode where we discuss What do to when kids ask about Santa. We still could really use some more listener problems, so if you have any issues you’d like to briefly summarize so we can help you find a solution and/or entertainment, please do go to our site and click on the link to leave an anonymous voicemail.

Videogame-wise, I’ve still been playing through Divinity: Original Sin with a friend, and it’s a pretty fun co-op RPG. Also picked up the South Park game for myself, which is amusing IFF you like South Park. And boardgame-wise I realize I’m late to the party, but Codenames is amazingly good fun and Vlaada Chvatil is a mad genius. Best party game in a long time.

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Problem Solvers …Ish

March 1st, 2016

While Leap Day may now be over, I’m taking my own leap forward with a brand new podcast:

Problem Solvers …ish

Each week, Lex Friedman and I will apply our not not inconsiderable problem-solving prowess to a listener-submitted issue. Since we’ve just launched, we’re short on said listeners and submissions, so it would be quite helpful if you wanted to give a listen and/or click the button to leave us a voice message (anonymously) with your problem you want solved.

Boardgame-wise, newest games I’ve played include Mystery! Motive for Murder (which features Edward Gorey art) and Booty, although Zavandor and Grand Austria Hotel are the two I’ve continued to enjoy the most. Videogame-wise, in addition to the ever-present SolForge addiction, I’ve fallen back into Marvel Heroes. Yes, as an aRPG, it’s not nearly as in-depth as the (also free, delightful) Path of Exile, but where PoE is very hardcore, MH provides a pleasant casual experience branded with my favorite Marvel characters, so I can run around as Luke Cage while Deadpool follows me and tells pirate jokes.

I’ll be telling a few jokes of my own in less than two weeks at the High Mud Comedy Festival, as will Ophira Eisenberg, Dave Hill, Sean Patton, Tom Lewis, Mark Jagiello, and the amazing Tig Notaro. If you are (or can be) in the Berkshires, and like comedy, you should buy tickets and come enjoy some live stand-up.

If you will not be in the Berkshires, but still want to laugh, go back to the top of this post and listen to my new podcast. Or you can read some of my recent columns about Leap Year and Spring Cleaning. Or you could inhale some nitrous oxide, but listening to and reading my comedy is probably better for your health.

January 35th!

February 4th, 2016

You’d think monthly updates would not be so difficult, but it’s so easy to lose track of things.

Hopefully by next post I’ll have big updates on my collaborative comedy, both musical and podcast. What I can say now is that I am proud, excited, and honored to be doing a few minutes of stand-up to open for Tig Notaro in March, which is clearly a new high point for my stand-up comedy career.* I also wrote columns about how I needed new shoes and dealt with jury duty.

A number of new boardgame reviews up in the past two months, although my two favorite games were probably King Chocolate and Grand Austria Hotel. Interestingly, the two games are almost opposite; Grand Austria hotel is a number of interesting mechanics and random cards all interwoven into a very satisfying colorful game with a lot going on, while King Chocolate is a no-frills elegant little game with simple rules and pieces but tons of emergent gameplay.

In the video game world, finally beat Risen, which like most of the Gothic-series games, had a slow difficult start but certainly got more and more compelling as the game continued. Started playing Divinity: Original Sin with a friend in Canada**, and still mucking about with SolForge and enjoying the deckbuilding even if I’m not terribly good at it.

Speaking of things I’m not terribly good at, so far so bad with my usual new years resolution of getting together with local friends more often. But the year is young yet, even if I feel older*** every day.

*Sorry, 2-hour-long gig to unsuspecting patrons at Applebee’s, you’ve been demoted.

**”We are living in the future, and it is glorious.” This continues to be my reaction to real-time gaming with friends in other countries.

***Mostly due to aches and pains. Although since I technically am older every day, I’m not wrong.

Unfounded Optimism

December 9th, 2015

I’m the first to admit that I do not have a reputation for optimism. I tend to take a more realistic view of most things, that other people might call cynical. But in terms of big-picture things, like “is a pervailing racist sentiment gathering steam or the last throes of a fading mindset”, I am perhaps more optimistic than the current polls warrant. In a few decades it will be better, not worse, I tell myself.

I am also optimistic about my comedic writing, since next year should see me collaborating with old and new friends to make some funny; further details once there is something to show you. But in the meantime, you can read about my plea to our town’s mayor to stop the War on Thanksgiving, or you can take my fast, fun, and frustrating multiple choice quiz of Name That Fascist!

In gaming news, I’ve got a review up for a newish little filler game called Trambahn, and most recently have been playing the Echoes expansion for Innovation, which remains one of my favored boardgames. Videogame-wise, having finally finished Arx Fatalis (an old game, but an interesting one to explore), I have started up Risen.

Also, in spite of being sick recently, I am in love and so life is good. Optimism.

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.