Archive for January, 2010

New Songs For You

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

It’s been a pretty good month for my songwriting.

Last weekend I was invited to WordCamp Boston to rap at the conference (along with my friend 3rr0r). While pre-written songs were going to be fine for the lunch hour, the conference organizers wanted something special with which to end the opening remarks. And so, I wrote a custom rap about WordPress specifically for the conference. Said rap was performed the morning of the conference, but sadly due to some technical difficulties, the simulcast was not very clear. For that reason, I have now posted my WordPress Rap.

Speaking of new rap songs, this month also marked the release of Rhyme Torrents 9, the latest installment of new nerdcore music from the Rhyme Torrents community. The good news is that like all Rhyme Torrents releases, these albums are completely free and available for download in mp3 form. The bad news is that like all Rhyme Torrents releases, the songs vary wildly in quality. The good news is that because it’s all a free download, you’ll find it very easy to grab the full album, toss what you don’t like, and end up with some new, free, catchy mp3s for your audio collection. I hope that one of the ones you keep will be my contribution to this volume, “The Big Cheese”, which is where I profess my love for cheese in rap form. It’s on disc 2.

And just in case you thought that the only songs I write are raps, I’m still working on parody songs as well. Our recent senate special election in Massachusetts seemed to attract a national audience. And while I went out and voted against Scott Brown (for the reason I explain in this column), that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to celebrate his victory. Naturally, I figured the best way to do this would be by submitting a song in his honor to the Providence Journal, so regardless of whether you like or dislike Scott Brown, I think you will enjoy singing along with “Voted for a Centerfold”.

The Game’s Afoot

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Why can’t you use an 11″ box for that game?

Anyway, I’m a lifelong gamer. I grew up playing many of the same traditional games everyone plays, such as Monopoly, Checkers, Cribbage, and so forth. Then I got a Nintendo and suddenly I realized I was a video gamer too. My enjoyment of console role-playing games has continued to this day, over many different systems. In college I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering, and in the past few years I’ve found and nurtured a board gaming addiction (mostly Euro-style games, but a smattering of other types as well). But I guess my point is, I think of myself as a gamer, to the point where I identify much more with gamers as a community than I do with… well, many other nebulous ideas that people form self-identities around.

And so I can’t help but be pleased when gamers do good. And I don’t mean well (although that’s nice too), I mean good. With all the destruction in Haiti, it makes me feel good to see various online gaming communities coming together to try to help. BoardGameGeek, where I spend far too much time reading about new board games that I have no space or money for and totally want, is offering incentives to all site members who donate. A link there pointed me to DriveThruRPG, where well over $1,000 worth of downloadable RPG content from various vendors of goodwill has all been made available in one giant package for the price of a $20 donation to Haiti.

I think that some people look down on the gaming community, because as with most matters of taste, people who enjoy different things than you must be ignorant benighted heathens. I don’t really feel like spending pages here detailing the many benefits of gaming (from social interaction, to improving analysis skills, to staving off Alzheimer’s, to every little kid’s favorite example in the 80s of hand-eye coordination), but the larger fact is that people who have different recreational preferences sometimes seem to acquire a holier-than-thou attitude.*

And thus although gaming and gaming communities need no other justification, I can’t help but feel good when I see things like this. It makes me want to say, “See this? My people, the gaming people, these are good people.” Am I overly defensive? Maybe. It’s not as if there aren’t countless other examples of gamers doing good, from various BGG board game drives for charity, to Child’s Play which has given millions of dollars to children’s hospitals.

Of course, another important thing to remember is that lots of gamers do good without some sort of large announced structure, as do lots of knitters, truckers, sports fans, writers, farmers, waiters, and so forth. We just don’t hear about things as much when individuals do them without P.R.. The result is that a few affiliations who often institutionalize the goode workes (such as churches) get much more positive press, which somehow leads some people to believe that certain affiliations are inherently much more generous.

Which is not to belittle the donations made with good PR. Sure, Maimonides may have pegged fully anonymous giving as the highest form of charity, but if PR is what inspires people to give, you won’t find me gainsaying it. The example that always comes to mind for me is Alan Shawn Feinstein, a Rhode Island philanthropist who is a veritable charitable typhoon**, and whose name is consequently on a lot of things. So is Carnegie’s. I think if you donate millions of dollars to good causes, you should get to enjoy some fame from it. And churches should be lauded for encouraging charity, because I’m all for encouraging goodwill in the public eye. So there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the publicized donations, so long as we also remember the many good people who donate quietly and anonymously, interested only in doing good and not even in getting any credit (individual, group, or otherwise) for it.

Anyway, if I had a point in all of this***, it was that I like seeing gamers taking collective charitable action, because it might make some people stop and say, “Hey, gamers are awesome,” and it’s a truth I’m always happy to have more people see.

*Perhaps unsurprisingly, some organized religious groups oft seem to have said holier-than-thou attitude, which is why I was also glad to see Non-Believers Giving Aid help raise lots of money for Haiti. Charitable giving is not restricted to any race, religion, or recreational preference.

**Yes, I just wanted an excuse to write veritable charitable.

***Which I may have when I started, but that sure seems a long way off now. And highly unlikely. Actually, if I don’t have a point, I may as well share my column written the night before the election of Scott Brown.