Archive for the ‘Other publications’ Category

Food, Finances, and Fun

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Let’s start with food*. Labor Day weekend was delightful for me because I got to eat tasty food with a variety of old friends. But the biggest food news this month is a new hip-hop album. Torrentz, the rap supergroup I sometimes work with, has released a food-themed album called The Big Kahuna. I’ve got verses on a couple songs. Every track on this album is food-related hip-hop, and the whole album is free to download. Which means if you don’t hate hip-hop and food, you should give it a listen to see if you like it.

Finances are tricky. Mine, naturally, remain sub-optimal**. But I wrote an epic limerick about the crumbling finances of America, which was recently published in the Providence Journal under the title of Debt Be Not Proud.

Still, I’m mostly trying to focus on having fun***. September is our annual Alphabetic Boardgaming Challenge, which we’re currently right in the middle of. By far my most anticipated gaming event of any year, and one of my favorite events of the year overall. For those of you wonder if having to write about games as a job has diminished my enjoyment of board gaming: Nope.

Speaking of fun, I’m still enjoying the other comedic stuff I’m doing. My most recent humor column was a Back to School Glossary for the young and old. And between working with my improv troupe and doing stand-up comedy, I have a number of performances coming up — including a fundraiser for some folks in Williamstown who were displaced from their homes due to Hurricane Irene and the associated flooding.

Sometimes it’s hard to write a good conclusion****.

* If I had a nickel for every time I said this, I’d be a wealthy man.

** If I had a nickel for every time I said this, I’d be able to stop saying it.

*** If I had a nickel for every time I said this, I’d probably spend it all on more board games.

**** If I had a nickel for every time I said this,….

Woe There, August.

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

No, that’s not a typo. I don’t make tyops.* I’m talking about Woe. As in, Woe is Me. Or to explain more accurately, Mug of Woe, the hilarious new book of true embarrassing** stories, includes a story by yours truly. Also, their website has a spotlighted contributor each week, and this week it is me. So go take a look at the site for Mug of Woe, and if you’re looking for a “Chicken Poop for the Soul” sort of book, consider getting yourself a copy. (After you buy all of my books, if you don’t already own them. Priorities.)

Anyway, we’re now in August. I’ve always liked August, but I have to admit, August is a weird month. One of those months in the middle you sort of skip over in planning, because it’s neither summer nor fall. Well, I didn’t skip over it entirely. I played lots of board games. Yet more Scepter of Zavandor (a favorite), some Gates of Loyang, and some Nightfall. Speaking of boardgames, I am still writing both boardgame strategy and boardgame reviews.

But I’ll admit, I’m excited that we’re only one month away from the Fourth Annual Alphabetic Boardgaming Challenge. Related to gaming, but unrelated to boards, I just have to say the announced always-online requirement for Diablo III significantly reduces the chances I’ll end up buying the game at full price. When I play D2 and BNet keeps dropping me, I can still play single-player instead. Worthwhile purchase. Without that option… not so much. (RMAH, on the other hand, I do not care about.)

Also I like cheese. The other night my partner made dinner and told me, “Yo dawg, I heard you liked cheese, so I put some cheese on your cheese…” I am a lucky man.

*I like that this is one letter away from “tyoops”, which makes me think someone is in the middle of typing a quick thank-you to someone when they accidentally knock a pile of papers off their desk.

**One embarrassing thing is that I’ve been mentioning this book a few places, and I keep missing the second “r” in “embarrassing” until my auto-spell-checker*** underlines it for me. I’m normally a fairly decent speller, but there are occasional words for which my instincts are bad. Perhaps after this week I will remember how to spell it correctly, with a clever mnemonic device like “You’d be embarrassed to forget the second r”, or “It’s got two r’s, stupid.”

***I would prefer an Otto-spell-checker, wherein a German man with a big bushy moustache looks over my shoulder and points to each mistake and says, “Das ist wronk!” (I am presuming that “wronk” is German for “wrong”, based on my knowledge of German that comes from bad action films.)

July: The Hunt For June

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

June seems to have escaped me. Which makes me feel lame because it should not be that difficult for me to make one post a month. And yet, here we are. I suppose I could have done some backdating* and pretended I was on time, but June just flew by and I have to admit it.

To be fair, part of the reason is that I spent the last week of June in California at my brother’s wedding. You could read about my anticipation of the trip or even some of my trip highlights. But basically, the weather was consistently nice, there was copious tasty Mexican food, and my brother got married.

Now it’s back home, and trying to catch up on everything I’ve fallen behind on. Thankfully I managed to write the latter column while on vacation, and had finished my June submissions to the About.com boardgame site before I left, but I still feel like I wasn’t done with June yet. June could get 40 days, and that would be okay**.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if I’m starting July yet. Coming off the tail of a flight, I now have friends from afar in visiting for the 4th of July festivities.*** So it’ll probably be mid-July before I settle down and re-engage with the world around me. But in the meantime, there are copious amounts of food, friends, and fireworks, and two out of three ain’t bad.

*Not to be confused with Back Dating.

**You could take another ten days from February, a month that nobody likes anyway. Except for one friend of mine who seems to believe her being born in February somehow redeems the month. She is charming but still wrong.

***Or more accurately, concurrent to the 4th of July festivities. Lovely though North Adams is, nobody from more than a town away is going to come here for fireworks. And if someone did want to come here for fireworks, there would be no particular reason to come on July 4th regardless, since my neighborhood seems to delight in setting off fireworks all summer long. My delight with this state of affairs, in comparison, is significantly smaller.

In the very merry month of May

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

It’s a shame I was out of town for Spring. See, I’d gone to visit some friends on Friday, and it was suddenly a beautiful Spring day, after many months of winter and then a week of rain. And then when we returned two days later, it was 86 degrees outside and blazing hot summer sun. Basically, the Berkshires only gets a few days of Spring each year, and I’m sorry to have missed them. But no matter; enjoying the month anyway.

So tonight we’re sitting on the couch watching an action-packed movie with various things exploding and heavy gunfire in the middle of what is supposed to be a tense action sequence, and I realize that my partner and I are having a conversation about Spanish etymology.* This is indicative of something, which I had initially suspected might be the lack of acting talent** in the film we were watching, but which I eventually decided was simply the fact that my life is awesome.

Case in point: I’m now officially a Board Game Reviewer for About.com. For those of you keeping track, that means I now am a professional reviewer of board games, books, and restaurants. All I have to do is wait for someone to pay me to review my friends, and I will officially be a professional reviewer of everything I love.

Sure, it may not pay very well, but there’s something to be said for job satisfaction. I enjoy having a humor column where I can write about Tolstoy and truth if I feel like it. Or, if I’m feeling sillier, I can write about my propensity to consume questionable food. I’m pretty much living the dream***.

When I was young, I told myself one day I’d be fabulously wealthy and live in a house with a big room filled with food, and a big room filled with games. Well, here I am in a tiny victorian house, but it does have a pantry filled with food, and I do have a room filled with many, many boardgames. And heck, if one considers my friends rather than my finances, I would even account myself wealthy.

Of course, that kind of wealth doesn’t pay the bills, so don’t forget to buy my books.

****

*”Fuego” meaning fire, not only as in the sense of burning flame, but also in the sense of “to fire a gun”. This seemed like an odd coincidence to us. But the word “droit” in French means not only “right” as in the opposite of left, but also human rights. So maybe these bizarre connections are the same between languages sometimes. Then again, “watch” in French is “montre”, which means “show”, which is the opposite. So who knows. I suppose it’s possible the movie just used a crappy not-in-context translation. Or maybe fuego is like droit. I don’t know.

**Sylvester Stallone is probably not someone who springs to mind as a good actor. But then again, he did a quite decent job in comparison to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I guess when you’re making a film where the budget all went towards explosions and car chases, acting talent and non-sucky endings fall in the category of the Expendables.

***And not that one where you’re late for your final exam and also you forgot your pants.

****This footnote isn’t related to the entry, just closes it, but I wonder if all blogs have to either end up self-absorbed or talking about politics. Maybe next month I’ll write about politics. I suppose I could share rejected jokes with you, like my friend who talks about anime all the time who I call “The Last Earbender”.

National Poetry Month

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Normally I would deal with the arrival of National Poetry Month by writing some sort of poetic blogpost, but frankly, I’m already writing enough poems at the moment. See, if you live in the Berkshires, you may be familiar with the annual WordXWord Festival in August. Well, the organizers of that festival have put together a blog and for National Poetry Month, they’ve asked a few different poets to write a poem a day all through April. And yes, I’m mentioning it here because I’m one of those poets, and I’m mentioning it now because I’m pleased with my most recent poem. But you should look through all the days, and all the poets, which include names you might have heard of like Taylor Mali, and names you might not have heard of but whose poetry you might quite enjoy nonetheless.

External accountability is a good thing for me. I’ve noticed that without it, my default is perhaps not to be very productive.* Left to my own devices**, I play a lot of games and don’t write as much as I perhaps ought. That’s why I’m delighted to have appeared in some publications this year. One of my poems appears in the first issue of Moral Relativism Magazine, which is a great joy to me since it lets me pretend that my philosophy degree is finally coming in handy. The poem itself is not readable online, but since 30 of my poems will be on the WordXWord site linked in the previous paragraph, I don’t feel too guilty.

And, while I very rarely write fiction, one of my short stories appears in the new Damn Faeries collection of short fantasy. So all of that is sort of nice for me, since it allows me to point to things I’m writing out in the world. Sure, I still have my local humor column, but I fear I may have alienated some of my readers with my April Fools column, a joke that ended up going slightly further than I thought it would.

Oh! And I almost forgot the exciting news — I’m now a contributing board game writer for About.com! The past few weeks here have been crazy, but going forward you can expect to see new articles from me on a weekly basis, on topics ranging from Settlers of Catan Strategy to Battleship Rules. At home, of course, we’re still playing all sorts of new board games, from Mines of Zavandor to The Golden City. So now in addition to thinking about games in all my spare time, I’ll be writing about them occasionally as well.

And I can’t help but end with a quatrain
Since it’s poetry month, after all,
And for four-lined rhyme schemes I have got brain,
Even if my metrical sensibilities were largely influenced by the work of the great Ogden Nash, whose metaphorical and versical presence over my work simultaneously casts a great light and an occasional pall.

* Last week I was very productive, but largely what I was producing was phlegm.

** Or even a single device, if that device is the Internet. “De Internet is device,” say the voices in my head.

Expect the Unexpected

Friday, September 17th, 2010

So, remember last month when I said that my book would be out by now if there weren’t unforeseen circumstances? Well, sure enough, I did not foresee the number of delays in the printing process. I will say, in my defense, some of the delays were not my fault. For example, an error in the production process at the printing facility. On the other hand, some of the delays were my fault. Such as the fact that I decided to add a table of contents. And a running head*.

But I am really hoping to have the book actually released by the end of the month. (Then again, I was also hoping to have the book released much earlier than this, and that didn’t happen.) On the other hand, the past month or so has been absolutely wonderful for me. The previously mentioned WordXWord Festival in Pittsfield took place, and not only did I get to see a lot of wonderful poetry, but I also won their poetry slam. We’ve been cooking up all sorts of delicious and interesting food, ranging from Thai curry to baba ghannouj, and I have sure enjoyed eating it.

And best of all, September was the month of my annual Alphabetic Boardgaming Challenge, an event of absolutely no interest to those of you who are not at least partially obsessed with boardgaming. For my fellow gamers, though, feel free to read through my summaries of the 26 games we played last weekend. For my non-gaming readers, let me hasten to assure you that you will find that link incredibly boring.**

Other than that, things continue apace.***  I’m still writing my column, contributing the occasional book review to the USA Today, have an improv show this weekend, and am eagerly waiting to be able to post my book release announcement. Hopefully next post, although I don’t want to be too expectant*****.

* I am, of course, more of a punning head. To quote the great Samuel Johnson, “I should be punished, for every pun I shed, do not spare a punny shed, of my punnish head.”

** I briefly considered linking you to the Shopping Penguin song instead, but I’d have to go to the page to find the link, and then I’d be singing it all day tomorrow.

*** Which is sort of a weird word, when you think about it. Things could continue at the same pace. But “a” pace? What if they suddenly continue at a really fast pace? Or a really slow pace? I’m practically pacing just going through the paces**** in my head.

**** “Oh, the Paces You’ll Go!”: One of Dr. Seuss’s many rejected titles, along with “Green Eggs and Jam”, “The Cat in the Hut”, and “One Fist, Two Fist, Red Fist, Blue Fist”.

***** One of my favorite ideas for a far-too-convoluted pun involves angry workers on strike outside of a factory, spitting at the factory while lamenting their lack of  hourly pay, yelling, “We expect a rate!”

May 42

Friday, June 11th, 2010

May 42 be the answer to life, the universe, and everything? It sure might. May 42 is also today’s date, as I once again slide past my goal to post one blog update per month. In my defense, I’ve been slightly busy. I tried to solve this by reading productivity tips, but my most recent humor column will show you how well that went.

I attended a nearly week-long family reunion, where I was reminded that parts of my crazy are very clearly inherited, even if other parts of my crazy are obviously my own creation. I had another book review in the USA Today, about a book called Merchants of Doubt. It’s about those scientists who say that things like smoking, acid rain, and global warming aren’t health hazards. A dense read, but interesting, if depressing. I’ve also recently done a number of restaurant reviews for the Berkshire Eagle. Now I just need someone to hire me to review board games and comedy, and my life will be complete.*

Meanwhile, my board game playing certainly has not slowed down in any way. I got to try two Vlaada Chvatil games, Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert, both of which were wacky fun. Space Alert was also wacky stressful trying to coordinate with 5 people in real-time, making it both a perfect teambuilding game, and something I enjoyed less than I could. I really want to try his new game, Dungeon Lords. Meanwhile, I’ve recently acquired La Citta and Notre Dame, the latter being a game we played at a friend’s wedding last year and has been on my want list for a while.

In other news, I’m in hot water. Or rather, my hot water was in hot water, as both my water heater and washing machine ceased to function. I wonder, if I could only replace one, would it be better to wash clothes in the machine with cold water only, or with hot water in the sink? Since I can’t shower in the sink**, I decided to replace the water heater first.

*Although hopefully not in the same sense that I complete the books and games I review. That’s the trouble with certain words, you could look at a dead person*** and say, “Well, his life is complete.”

**At least, according to the management at Applebee’s.

***Technically this is easier at some jobs than others.

Land Shark

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Last week I was a featured reader at a small poetry reading in Pittsfield called “Outspoken!”. They had asked me to come perform to help celebrate National Poetry Month, so I freestyled a few poems and read some of my own work. Some of my poems really work much better spoken than written, but in honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to share one of my short poems here:

************************

“Land Shark”
by Seth Brown

There is a knock at the door
I look through the keyhole and see your
gleaming white teeth
so shiny and so numerous
“who is it” I ask
and you tell me that you are
an encyclopedia salesman
but
I do not believe you
because encyclopedia salesmen do not have
so many teeth, so pointy and sharp
and where are your encyclopedias
have you already sold them all
or are they held by the arm that I can see in your mouth
opening this door may be a bad idea
but you have offered me a discount encyclopedia
and I cannot resist

***************************************

In other news, my improv troupe has performances on April 24th and May 14th at Main Street Stage in North Adams, so please come see us if you’re in the area and looking for something fun. (Conversely, if you are not in the area and looking for something boring, I recommend this list of the rotation direction of airport luggage carousels around the world.)

The March of Inconvenient Punctuation

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Writing a humor column is an interesting thing. It’s tricky to hit the sweet spot. For me, I am most proud of a column when I feel that it provides people with interesting information and educates them, while at the same time making them laugh. And so if you were to ask me what was my favorite column I’d written recently, I’d have to say that it was the one about the Ides of March.* Another decent one which at least touched on the theory of relativity was Einstein Time.

More often though, I find myself oscillating between the overly silly (Candy!) and the overly serious (Roman Conservative Party). And usually these types of columns follow in close succession. If I write something that I deem “not funny enough”, then I often go extra zany in the next week or two. And if I write something that’s pure silliness, I tend to obsess about making one of my next columns really informative or otherwise grounded.

Outside the column front, I’ve been trying to do a bit more musically. The other night I got together with the inimitable Lex Friedman for an online songwriting session, so maybe if he STOPS HAVING BABIES, we’ll co-write some new funny songs this year. I have three other humorous collaborations all on hold because my musicians are too busy to meet with me, one funny collaboration on hold because I was hesitant to start another large project until I’d finished one of the many I have running, and one serious music collaboration on hold because it turns out I have trouble writing serious music.

With silly music, I just have trouble recording it, but I really enjoy coming up with ideas. This is why I may have done a little terrible voice work for this week’s RNZB Songfight.*** And I always like making up instant music as part of my improv troupe, which is especially fun since it seems like our musical games are often the most popular. In fact, we’ve got a show tonight (3/20/10), but the chance of you reading this in time to show up are pretty slim. If you wanted to know about future shows ahead of time, you should probably follow RBIT’s Facebook page.

*I’d wanted to title this post as a pun on “The Ides of March”, and have a list of bullet points to the effect of, “I’d like you to read this column”, and “I’d love to have my improv troupe perform more often”, but how do you pluralize “I’d” in a title with punctuation? I tried to make it, “The “I’d”’s of March”, which looks completely terrible, and then “The I’ds of March”, which is bad in a different direction, and “The I’d’s of March” splits the difference and is still awful. And thus, I decided to scrap that whole idea and call it, “The Inconvenient Punctuation of March”.** But then I figured, why not flip it around?

**Also, why the hell would punctuation go inside the quotes when it’s not part of what you are quoting? The American system is part of the march of inconvenient punctuation. I consciously choose not to put punctuation inside the quotation when it’s not part of “the thing being quoted”. I’m not bad at writing in AP style, I’m just an Anglophile using superior British punctuation rules.

***I have to admit, it’s still cool to me that I am now entering songs in Songfight, many years after interviewing them for “Think You’re The Only One?“.

Another Exciting Tuesday

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Well, okay, maybe today isn’t very exciting. But we’ve had some exciting Tuesdays recently. Last Tuesday was Groundhog Day, and the Tuesday before that was the State of the Union. I talk about them both in my Groundhog Day Column, although if you really want to read about my political views, they’re all laid out in my column about same-sex marriage.

As long as I’m throwing you links to my writing, I should probably mention that my latest book review is up over at USA Today. This was another book someone has written about the modern workplace, called The Future of Work, and like many other books on the subject, confirms (or, okay, at least agrees with) my suspicions that the corporate taskmaster overlord structure is increasingly ill-suited for the modern world. Whether workers are increasingly becoming better at working away from rigid cubicle structures, or whether we’re just increasingly becoming better at noticing how awful the current standard setup is, it seems more freedom and flexibility in the workplace should become more standard.

I think my favorite quote on the subject comes from a book I recently read by Malcolm Gladwell, who said something to the effect of, “If so many people feel compelled to think outside the box (and tell others to do the same), perhaps it’s time that we build a better box.” This is a mangled paraphrase, but I don’t feel like re-reading the whole book to find the quote right now.