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."

People tend to kill my frown (talkin’ ’bout collaboration…)

March 12th, 2018

I’m having a great day. And although I am fortunate enough to have a life I enjoy most days, usually I’d say my days are good but not great. But if there’s one thing that really makes me happy, it’s doing creative work for a purpose beyond my own enjoyment. One way this happens is if the purpose is to make me money — as a freelancer, by far my favorite jobs are the ones where I can make use of my very particular set of skills.* I am seeking new clients so if you need anything written or edited please do let me know, but I am always happiest when I am being paid to write funny.

But the other thing that really amps up the value of creative writing for me is doing it with another artistically talented friend. This month has now brought me two collaborations in the works, the second of which involved someone I hadn’t spoken to in six years contacting me this week to suggest a collaboration, and today I sketched out a possibility for a first verse and chorus. And it has put me in an excellent mood.
And hopefully sometime in the next few months I will have a rap song to share with you.

I needed the mood boost because the Sammus concert I had been looking forward to attending got postponed by snowstorm.** Hopefully it will be rescheduled for next month. Meanwhilst, this coming weekend will certainly boost my mood, because the High Mud Comedy Festival is back in town, this year starring Mike Birbiglia, who I had the pleasure of seeing perform at the DC Improv back in 2001.***

On the gaming front I just finished Mass Effect 3, and have recently returned to Path of Exile after a 3-4 year hiatus. Boardgamewise Codenames continues to be our evening-starter of choice, and I continue to enjoy games like St. Petersburg and Great Western Trail. And I saw Black Panther in theatres, and it was good, and I wrote about it the day before I saw it because I knew you’d want to read about Black Panther (without spoilers)

* “Skills I have acquired over a very long career…”

** At this point we’ve had so many that in my mind it’s basically just one continuous snowstorm dropping 4 feet of snow, which takes a day off every few days so you have time to shovel out the driveway a bit for the next one.

*** Also, I made him a minor character in my novel.

Every 2 days, Every 4 days

February 15th, 2018

The average frequency, in 2018, of mass shootings and specifically school shootings, respectively.

This is a depressing fact about which I have been sitting and thinking today. Some years ago I wrote and performed a poem about the frequency of mass shootings called Gunmerica, and I am always disappointed that it remains so relevant.

It’s hard sometimes for me not to be a hypocrite, since I’ve often complained to others that comparing two issues is not helpful, and each issue should be evaluated on its own merits. And yet, faced with such disparate responses from our government on the issues of guns (cause many deaths on a daily basis, yet still sacrosanct and can’t be regulated) and immigrants (who cause very few deaths and are the basis of our country, yet so many resources are devoted to keeping them out or removing them), it is hard not to draw comparisons. Likewise the spending priorities for trillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy (deficit funded, no problem!) and survival-level benefits for those in need (Medicare cuts, SNAP cuts, etc.).

But I know you don’t read this for politics.* So on the game front, I will say that we started Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, and it is quite difficult indeed. It may be more difficult on every axis — character powers are weaker, not all cities take four draws to outbreak, cities have multiple copies of their card in the infection deck, etc., etc. Plus with so many different rules from Pandemic, the lack of familiarity is a difficulty as well.  Videogame-wise I’ve been playing Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, which has some entertaining deaths, but is annoyingly on rails**.

Yesterday was my least-favorite holiday, but at least it gave me occasion to write some entertaining Valentine’s Day poems.

*you read it for the footnotes.***

**just like a train crash.

***not that one, obviously, but the potential for other footnotes, which you have not yet read, but you hope may one day appear like a beam of light from heaven, only in a less potentially-apocalyptic fashion, and make you feel that reading the footnotes has finally been worth it, as if they were carefully crafted with awe and purpose, and not just typed up as a bucket of blather because the author once read Infinite Jest over a summer and ever since has made the mistake of associating preposterously long footnotes with some sort of intelligence and/or humor, two qualities the author wishes to appear to possess, although if he was so smart, he wouldn’t talk about himself in the third person.

Happy Old Year!

January 24th, 2018

I guess three weeks in is a little late to be happy new yearing. But hey, it’s January, and we’re still alive, so that deserves some sort of celebration. Apparently the local Big Y now carries octopus (!!!), so that’s a way I’ll be celebrating tomorrow night.

On the game front, my group finally finished Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, for which you can read my spoiler-free review to see why I enjoyed it more than I expected. The Legacy game thing intrigues me, for sure, and I’m curious to try more… we’ll see if Gloomhaven crosses my path. In Videogame-world I’ve started playing Mass Effect 2, long overdue since I loved original Mass Effect, but my old computer wouldn’t run the sequel. I’ve also started in on Headlander, a delightful retro-futurist metroidvania from Double Fine.

New England weather continues being its wacky self. Earlier this month we had temperatures down to -17, then it was up to 40, then down towards freezing again. I’m just glad that when the 10 inches of snowstorm fell, I was able to pay the local plow guy. Here’s hoping for a warmer weekend.

Looking Forward

December 27th, 2017

I think it’s been a rough year for many people. But I’m trying to take refuge in the many good things (and good people) in my life, and continue to enjoy things as much as possible. Gaming continues apace, and although I haven’t put a review up for it yet, Pandemic: Legacy S1 continues as well. Lately I’ve been playing more videogames, especially thanks to being gifted Trails in the Sky, a classic-console-style jRPG that has served as comfort food during this cold time.

Food has also served as comfort food, as my health has improved enough that I’m eating with slightly more variety again, and certainly enjoying our local sushi joint’s weekly half-price special. And of course my annual gathers with friends keep me comforted, from the just-completed Heathen Hullabaloo at the Oriental Buffet, to the rapidly-impending New Years festivities.

I am still trying to stay healthy, as you can see from my vaguely accurate “Diary for Holiday Heath”*  And while I am aware that there is now some dispute about whether any instructions were given against using 7 certain words, I did not possess that information at the time I wrote my most recent column, “7 Christmas Carols for the CDC”, which I hope you will enjoy in the holiday spirit, and I bid you all the best for the coming year — let’s make it a better one.

*“Don’t you mean ‘health’?”  “Nope, it’s the holidays, so there’s noel.”

Giving Thanks

November 19th, 2017

November is the time of year when we are reminded to be thankful; the rest of the year is when we ought to be but aren’t reminded. Nonetheless, this month I find myself with more to be thankful to*. First off, someone finally bought my old house, and while I could complain about price or process, the fact is that not owning an abandoned house for another winter is a tremendous amount of mental strain I can now avoid, so I’m quite glad that’s done. My only big issue remaining is a health one, which I thank my loved ones for supporting me through, and hope to be healthy again in the not too distant future. After I get that resolved, I’ll just have the same problems as everyone else in this crazy country.

It’s also been a good month for appreciation of my work. One of the things about being a writer is that you never know if anyone’s reading or enjoying you, but whether it’s someone letting me know they enjoy my raps in the comments, or someone mentioning at a poetry reading that they enjoy my columns, I thank the people who give me feedback on my work.

Boardgame-wise, I have a review up for Concordia, and I’ve just started a campaign of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 with a few of the folks from my weekly game night, so I’ll probably review that once we’re done. And I thank them for providing a nice welcoming place for me to game on a regular basis.

*I’ve always preferred “thankful to” rather than “thankful for”, because thanking is an active verb that takes a direct object. Don’t be thankful FOR your relationship, be thankful TO your partner since they’re directly responsible for your great** relationship.

**If your relationship is very far from great, remember that it is not mandatory.

Everything Happens For A Reason

September 9th, 2017

Well, the world is filled with terrible things lately, which certainly are more terrible than my own personal terrible things, which in turn have nonetheless been sufficient to keep me from posting for a while. I do have a newish boardgame review up for the highly streamlined Caverna Cave vs. Cave, and here’s a recent column you might enjoy in honor of the late Andy Rooney.

I’ve been doing a few freestyle rap performances at the monthly Downstreet Art festival in town, with my final one coming at the end of this month. Meanwhilst, here is a poem I performed at an open mic tonight, which seems relevant given the numerous hurricanes, fires, and other natural disasters currently underway:

“Everything Happens For A Reason”

That’s what they say
when tragedy strikes
When faced with horrors the likes
of which you’ve never seen
They will try to stay serene
and utter this atrocious treason:
“Everything happens for a reason.”

Pray tell then,
What reason requires the suffering of old men?
What reason requires dead bodies piled in stacks
from natural disasters and terrorist attacks?
What reason requires that a five-year old girl get cancer?
I’m pretty sure your answer
Involves something like “God has a plan”,

But, man,
In that case one of two things must be true:

1) You’ve got an omnipotent deity who
Only helps his flock, while other people feel his wrath.
Which, although biblically supported, makes him sound like a sociopath.

or 2) God had some sort of higher plan we cannot intuit
And giving cancer to a five-year-old girl was the easiest way to do it,
But an omnipotent god really ought to be able to do better.

Either way, please unsubscribe me from your newsletter,
Or at least, next time a tragedy chances to occur,
Please keep in mind that some of us prefer
To accept that some things happen with no reason provided,
Rather than be told, “This girl died because a malevolent deity decided.”

Punslingers Success and Ancient Rome

June 29th, 2017

I am pleased to report that Punslingers - the new musical I co-wrote with Sam Hammersley for this year’s Orlando Fringe Festival - received numerous awards including Patron’s Pick and Best Original Lyrics/Book. It was a pretty spectacular show, and I hope it might yet go further one day.

While Sam raps fairly frequently around Orlando, I rarely have rap engagements around here, which is why I am excited that I have been booked for this year’s Downstreet Art Festival in North Adams. If you’re around on the last Thursday of a summer month, pop over to Main Street and catch me doing a half-hour of freestyle rap.

Meanwhile, in what I can only call a completely unintentional theme, both of my columns this month ended up being about Ancient Rome. The first was my response to a thousand articles blaming Millenials for the demise of everything, and was titled “The Problem With Centurions“. More recently, you may have heard about the production of Julius Caesar that featured a Trump-like figure, and the surrounding controversy. My own response was a Shakespearean monologue which starts with the classic three words: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen“.

Also, sushi remains delicious, and half-price sushi doubly so.

The funniest joke of all time

May 16th, 2017

Quick bulletpoint list of things:

-My new musical (co-written with Sam) opens this week! If you’re near Orlando, FL in the next week or so, you should buy tickets for the Fringe premiere of Punslingers: A Western Wordplay Musical!

-My column continues apace, most recently with my perennial advice column Ask Dr. Manners, and a Les Miserables parody about the AHCA which I called Speaker of the House*

-Gaming-wise, recently I played the underwhelming Power Grid Card Game in the cardboard world, and have been sucked into Mobius Final Fantasy in the videogame world.

-My old house, which has recently had all beautiful hardwood floors newly refinished, is still for sale. If you are or know anyone who might want a lovely old Victorian in the burgeoning town of North Adams, MA, just blocks from town and Mass MoCA, for under $70,000, you should look at this listing.

But what I really had on my mind lately was something else. And the something else made me think of an old Emo Phillips joke that in one UK survey, was voted as the funniest joke of all time. Obviously that’s setting your expectations far too high, but anyway, here’s Emo Phillips at his finest. And what made me think of that joke was the fact that I was about to get into an argument with someone I mostly agreed with, on Facebook. And sometimes when I do that, I feel bad for arguing with people I mostly agree with, when people spouting horrible ideas that I vehemently disagree with seem to be in abundance lately, and yet I do not tend to end up arguing with them. I think this is because I do not suspect that they would be open to dialogue, and that there is little to be gained by shouting at people who think I’m an idiot and should be ignored. But when friends of mine say something I have a minor disagreement with, I see an opportunity for discussion grounded in mutual respect.**

Still, the end result is that the bulk of my argument time is spent disputing people with whom I align to a fairly large degree on major issues, while vast swaths of humanity are spouting horrible garbage which I simply avoid rather than engaging. This is weird and/or a failing on my part and/or indicative of something.

*Much better than the first title I thought of, which was “Master of the Health”

**Although as it turns out, my success rate on Facebook is probably 50/50 at best. And may not be best.

I Will Survive

March 24th, 2017

So, that election happened. And I went into hibernation* for the winter, in which I think I’m hardly alone. But, in spite of the snow, Spring is here, and it is a time for renewal** — at the very least, renewal of me posting on this blog occasionally. And while I could provide you with a litany of links to every game I’ve played and every article I’ve written this year, I’m going to stick with favorites. So.

My favorite column I’ve written so far this year was about food, which is totally my favorite thing to eat. As I would tell a chef named after the thing he prepares, “Hey Food, Don’t Make It Bad“. My favorite new boardgame of the year is the mightily epic The Colonists, which is like a worker placement game taken to the next level. And the videogame I’ve been playing most recently is the not-terribly-new Victor Vran, which is a Diablo-esque aRPG, but with nicely smooth combat.

In other news,  you may recall that early last year, I had co-written a musical with my old friend Sam Hammersley (and my new friend Thom Mesrobian). The musical was a Hamilton parody about Trump becoming president, it was the smash hit of the Orlando Fringe Festival last May, and if you’re wondering what such a thing would sound like, I can direct you to this YouTube clip of my favorite song.

Well, Sam and I have now recently finished writing a brand new musical which will be playing this May in Orlando’s Fringe Festival. This one is wholly original, rather than being a parody. But it makes up for it by having more puns than you have ever heard in a musical before. It is called “Punslingers”, I am very proud of it, and I will probably post about it again next month, so if you know anyone who might be near Orlando come May, you should tell them to plan to see our musical.

Meanwhilst, next weekend is the High Mud Comedy Festival here in North Adams, and even if I’m only performing at the aftershow rather than the main stage this year, it still should be a good time.

*Hibernation: For when it’s too much to Bear.

**Because I had nearly a dozen books out from the library, and couldn’t finish them all in 3 weeks.

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.