Archive for the ‘Column nods’ Category

Giving Thanks

Sunday, 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

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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!

Saturday, 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.

National Poetry Month

Friday, 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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