Against the Open Mic

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Today I’ve given up at­tempt­ing to read at po­et­ry open mics. I at­tend­ed the quar­ter­ly open mic held at the Cleveland Public Library and thought it was go­ing to be great, no fa­mil­iar faces, lots of first timers — hes­i­tant, un­pol­ished, earnest. Thus, I tweet­ed.

Why good? Because the Cleveland po­et­ry scene is filled with old men writ­ing shit po­et­ry. Old men writ­ing shit po­et­ry and telling each oth­er it reads like ros­es. The on­ly thing more an­noy­ing than an ego­tis­ti­cal po­et is an ego­tis­ti­cal po­et who writes crap. In Cleveland, this has been go­ing on for so many years — with po­et heads are so far up their po­et navels — that the­se guys feel en­ti­tled to a mea­sure of adu­la­tion and a pass on their poor be­hav­ior. It’s nigh in­ces­tu­ous, but, more char­i­ta­bly, prob­a­bly just di­rec­tion­al se­lec­tion. It’s off-putting to ground­ed writ­ers, and dis­taste­ful to neo­phytes.

What hap­pened to­day is that one of the­se guys waltzed in to the open mic af­ter miss­ing all of the oth­er read­ers and then spent 5 min­utes rum­mag­ing through a ream of un­or­ga­nized po­ems for the 3 sheets of his own po­em. Then the friend who ac­com­pa­nied him read a cou­ple of nice po­ems. Afterward, no one else seemed keen to read ex­cept for me, but the open mic was brought to a awk­ward­ly abrupt end by an au­di­ence mem­ber in­stead of the li­brar­i­an who has been run­ning it. Omphalo-Cranially-Inverted Poet then pro­ceed­ed to tell the rest of the read­ers that the CPL has a whole shelf de­vot­ed to his po­et­ry, and that he has over 50 vol­umes. He end­ed with “If you like my po­et­ry, check them out! If you don’t…” and shrugged.

I de­cid­ed to write a few ba­sic guide­li­nes for po­ets who choose to read at open mics. They are de­signed for pri­madon­nas, but pri­madon­nas won’t read them.

  1. Come pre­pared. Do not bring your en­tire body of work un­less it is or­ga­nized and each po­em is eas­i­ly ac­ces­si­ble. Rummaging through fold­ers and binders and half-rot­ted box tops for un­la­beled sheets of po­et­ry wastes everyone’s time.
  2. Come on time. Do not roll in to the venue late, as if you own the place, there­by miss­ing all of the po­ets who have gone be­fore you.
  3. Listen to the oth­er po­ets. Do not spend your non-read­ing mo­ments choos­ing a po­em or prepar­ing to read your po­em.
  4. Do not mo­nop­o­lize. This is not your po­et­ry read­ing. It be­longs to every­one. Two po­ems of reg­u­lar length are ac­cept­able. Three if short­er. Do not read your epic, no one has time for that shit.
  5. Do not brag. It’s an open mic. If you’re hot, peo­ple will al­ready know you’re hot, so you don’t need to bring it up. If your po­ems are good they will speak for them­selves.
  6. Do not pro­mote. Unless you’re a fea­tured read­er, an open mic is not the place for you to shill your­self. Saying “If you want some of my po­ems, see me af­ter the read­ing.” is ac­cept­able. Trying to sell your po­ems like they are a time-share is not.
  7. Appreciate the oth­er po­ets. Clap for every read­er. If some­one says it is their first time read­ing in pub­lic, clap for them be­fore they even read.

Hm. Seven is a good num­ber. I’ll stop.

Holy, Faith, Mercenary, Church, Unusual Magic-Eye Prayer Rug

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Several of my friends and ac­quain­tances have re­ceived the fol­low­ing in their re­spec­tive mail­box­es. I on­ly wish I could get one sent to my ad­dress as well. Beware, past the jump is an ex­am­ple of what can hap­pen to re­li­gion when it be­comes in­fect­ed by The Stupid™. Actually, it is a scam, which should be ob­vi­ous to any­one who looks at the damn thing. Except for peo­ple in­fect­ed with The Stupid™.

Business Reply Mail Envelope Front

A pret­ty stan­dard BRE, apart from the GIANT let­ters that on­ly make sense when I’m drunk on Stoli.

Business Reply Mail Envelope Back

A trite mes­sage of hope on the en­velope flap.

Page 1 of the scam

Now we get to the fun­ny parts. This let­ter reads like those “African Republic” spams, but it al­so re­plete with il­log­i­cal and seem­ing­ly ran­dom bold­ing, ram­pant un­der­lin­ing, non­sen­si­cal sen­tence struc­ture, mis­quot­ed scrip­ture and su­per­mun­dane in­for­ma­tion pre­sent­ed as fas­ci­nat­ing ma­te­ri­al. The fun­ni­est parts to me are when­ev­er the prayer rug is men­tioned. It is al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by nev­er re­peat­ing strings of mod­i­fiers and ad­jec­tives.

Page 2 of the scam

Now the scam shows its teeth. Simply check­ing a box and send­ing some cash to St. Matthew’s Churches will solve all your fi­nan­cial prob­lems! Yeah, that makes TONS of sense.

Front of the Flyer

They are pre­pared for skep­tics like me though. They have tes­ti­mo­ni­als given by racial­ly am­bigu­ous peo­ple from the ear­ly 1980s!

Back of the Flyer


I’m im­pressed by the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of the­se peo­ple, who know their debt down to the last pen­ny. I’m sure they’d nev­er fall for a snail mail scam like this one.

Magic Eye Holy Prayer Yo Mama Rug

Worst Magic Eye Ever. If you look close­ly at his right eye, you can pret­ty much see the open one im­me­di­ate­ly. And I can nev­er do Magic Eye Puzzles. Besides, Christ has the fur-cov­ered, chin­less, megacra­nial head of a hy­dro­cephal­ic.

Back of Rug

Yup. Whatever you say.

Wrecking Crews

Thursday, 26 May 2005

If I were in the fol­low­ing sit­u­a­tions I would want the fol­low­ing en­ti­ties as a part of my wreck­ing crew to get the job done.

1. Destroying a large me­te­or that is hurtling to­ward earth.

• John Henry the Steeldriving Man
• Buzz Aldrin
• Psyduck

Buzz flies us to the me­te­or, John Henry pro­ceeds to bust it up with his bi­gass ham­mer, and if all else fails, I’ll beat the shit out of Psyduck un­til he wigs out and dis­in­te­grates the me­te­or.

2. Obtaining the Moon on a neck­lace for my girl.

• The Man in the Moon
• The St. Pauli Girl
• Pierre Cartier

The St. Pauli Girl gets The Man in the Moon ham­mered un­til he pass­es out, then Pierre Cartier comes in and fash­ions a neck­lace around the drunk­en sot.

3. Figuring out how to keep my cab­i­net latch from un­latch­ing it­self.

• MacGyver
• Jay Arena [in­ven­tor of the child proof safe­ty cap]
HAL 9000

HAL 9000 stares at us while MacGyver us­es duct tape and a Swiss Army knife to fix the thing. Jay Arena en­sures it will be un­able to be opened by any­thing hu­man.

4. Defeating an army of heav­i­ly-armed cy­borg space pi­rates.

• The Master Chief
• Solid Snake
• one nin­ja

The Master Chief kills all the grunts while Solid Snake sneaks in the back door and kills the pi­rate king. Meanwhile the nin­ja and I fly around wail­ing on our gui­tars and pork­ing hot chicks.

5. Moving 10,000 chick­ens from one build­ing to an­oth­er in 10 min­utes.

• Gonzo
• Napoleon Dynamite
• The Colonel

’nuff said.

6. Walking down the street look­ing tough and cool.

• Captain Caveman
• Yngwie Malmsteen
• Uma Thurman

With Uma on my arm, Yngwie play­ing the high frets and Captain Caveman bean­ing any­one in our vicin­i­ty, I don’t think any­one will ar­gue about my tough­ness or cool­ness.

7. Winning a na­tion­al high school cheer­lead­ing con­test again­st a ri­val school who are cheaters and not as pret­ty as us any­way.

• Erwin Rommel
• George Patton
• Hannibal Lector

Rommel and Patton, in two tanks, du­el each oth­er, and as a re­sult kill/​crush/​blow-​up all the cheer­lead­ers in the com­pe­ti­tion. Meanwhile, Hannibal Lector kills and eats me to end my night­mare.

8. Finding the lit­tle tin of mem­o­ries I buried in the yard on Franklin street many years ago.

• A bea­gle
• Sigmund Freud
• Mole

Mole [from Wind in the Willows] does sap­per re­con while the bea­gle works above­ground. Freud psy­cho­an­a­lyzes my ass to de­ter­mine whether I dreamed that I left a lit­tle tin of stuff buried in the yard or whether it re­al­ly hap­pened.

9. Determining the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

• one bloke down the pub
• one bloke down the pub
• one bloke down the pub who has lots of as­pir­in

Hopefully the pub has Guinness draught.

10. Outsmarting a mad­man evil ge­nius.

• Batman
• Kasparov
• a five year old

Batman, Kasparov and I all come up with pos­si­bil­i­ties for stop­ping the ge­nius, they all fail. Right be­fore hope is lost the five year old says some­thing ob­vi­ous that pro­vides us with the an­swer.

How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part III: How to Really Play Double Bid Euchre

Friday, 2 April 2004

This is the con­clud­ing third part of my award-win­ning se­ries on How to Play Double Bid Euchre. The pre­vi­ous parts may be found here: Part I, Part II.

Here are the re­al rules.

  • Mock your op­po­nents in­ces­sant­ly. Taunt them. Even if they are your 80 year old grand­moth­er. Grunt pa­tron­iz­ing­ly or bark a short laugh each time they play a card. Smirk when you trump them. Yawn dis­in­ter­est­ed­ly when they re­turn the fa­vor.
  • Talk across the ta­ble. Say things that will give your part­ner a hint about what you have in your hand. Say ‘PAY ATTENTION’ as you are lay­ing a card that is your strong suit.
  • After the deal, melo­dra­mat­i­cal­ly com­plain about your hand. Say ‘Who dealt this mess?’ Even if YOU dealt it.
  • Ask what trump is at least 5 times per hand.
  • After each hand, heat­ed­ly dis­cuss every trick with your part­ner. Yelling is en­cour­aged, hit­ting is not. Tell them how they should have played it and de­ter­mine how many more tricks you could have tak­en from your op­po­nents.
  • If some­one asks the score tell them it is ‘about even.’
  • If you reneg, com­plain about poor light­ing or sticky cards or too many vod­ka ton­ics and try to weasel your way out of au­to­mat­i­cal­ly los­ing the hand.
  • Never cheat.

How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part II: Strategery

Thursday, 1 April 2004

This is Part II of my How to Play Double Bid Euchre se­ries which be­gan with How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part I: Basic Gameplay, yes­ter­day and will con­clude with How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part III: How to Really Play Double Bid Euchre, to­mor­row. Woo.

Strategy:

Bidding: If you are the first per­son bid­ding, al­ways give your part­ner some sort of bid. Even a bid of one is bet­ter than pass­ing. You must trust your part­ner to un­der­stand that your bid is a bid of no con­fi­dence. A bid of 5 tricks is a good start but re­al­ly any­thing is ac­cept­able. Having the first lead is quite im­por­tant, be­cause you can con­trol the game if you play your cards right. Thus, the high­er the bid the greater the chance that you will have first lead. Beware, how­ev­er, of over­bid­ding. If you go set, you’ve most like­ly screwed your­self. You can slight­ly over­bid your hand and de­pend on your part­ner for the trick. I tend to un­der­bid my hand just so I can bust out a sur­prise if need be. The way you bid al­so de­pends on your partner’s per­son­al­i­ty. When I play with my un­cle, I know he likes to take risks and might over­bid by two or three tricks just to get the bid. So by un­der­bid­ding I en­sure that we’ll have a re­serve when the time comes.

No-trump bids can swing two ways. If you have a shload of Aces then it is pret­ty ob­vi­ous that you bid based on how many you have. You can al­so bid high suit [al­though you don’t name the suit]. Here is how. If you’ve got both Aces and both Kings in Diamonds and you’ve got oth­er Diamonds as well, but no good Bower spread you can bid high and if you win the bid lead with your Aces, then lead with your Kings. With a no-trump bid, no one will be able to get in on your Diamond ac­tion un­til you run out of them. It works the same way with a no-trump low bid.

Taking Tricks:
If you are short suit­ed, get out of suit as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Don’t reneg. If you have the lead, start out strong [with the Right Bower] and pay at­ten­tion to the trump that have been played and who played them. If you can’t lead with a bow­er toss out an off-suit Ace and hope for the best. If you don’t have any bow­ers and run out of Aces, throw some­thing low and off-suit, prefer­ably some­thing that will get short-suit you. Watch your part­ner care­ful­ly, the first time they don’t fol­low suit or don’t trump make sure you note what suit they played. This is most like­ly a hint that they are strong in that suit. So when you run out of good cards, try to get over to them by play­ing some trash from that suit. If you can, al­ways trump your opponent’s Ace. If you want to take a trick and the on­ly trump you have is a Right Bower, go ahead and use it. A trick is a trick.

Sitting:
Say your op­po­nent bids high in Clubs and you have quite a few Clubs in your hand. Enough clubs, say, that you were go­ing to bid them your­self. Don’t Bid! Pass! And then when your op­po­nents start the game you can make them go set by tak­ing tricks from un­der their noses us­ing your Club hand. This is called ‘sit­ting on’ the op­po­nent. It is oh so fun, and the best way to an­ni­hi­late a team that doesn’t bid very in­tel­li­gent­ly.

There is more to write [strat­e­gy be­ing an in­finite and dy­nam­ic thing] but I’m tired of blog­ging for to­day.

How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part I: Basic Gameplay

Wednesday, 31 March 2004

Players:
Four peo­ple in teams of two. Your part­ner should sit across from you.

Materials:
A pinochle deck or the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten and Nine in all four suits from two reg­u­lar decks of cards. This means each card will have a du­pli­cate of it­self. If you are al­ready con­fused per­haps you should play Memory with them in­stead. You al­so need a pen and pa­per for score­keep­ing pur­pos­es.

Helpful Terms:
Bid: Amount of tricks that must be tak­en. A bid is a num­ber in a par­tic­u­lar suit or no-trump [high or low].

Trick: Four cards, one from each player’s hand.

Trump: The most pow­er­ful suit for a par­tic­u­lar hand. Trump is de­ter­mined by bid­ding be­fore each hand is played.

No-trump: A bid of High or Low means that the high­est card that fol­lows suit in a trick takes the trick.

Bowers [right, left]: In a Trump bid, bow­ers are the jacks of col­or. the Right Bower is the Jack of the suit bid, the Left Bower is the jack of the oth­er suit in the same col­or. Ex: If Spades are Trump, the Jack of Spades is the Right Bower and the Jack of Clubs is the Left Bower. There are two Right Bowers and Two Left Bowers in Double Bid Euchre.

Reneg: Failure to fol­low suit.

Euchre: When the team with­out the bid pre­vents the team with the bid from get­ting the num­ber of tricks they bid up­on. This is al­so called ‘go­ing set.’

Object:
To score 52 tricks.

Rules:

  • A play­er must al­ways fol­low suit. Failure to do so re­sults in a reneg and loss of the hand.
  • A team wins if and on­ly if they score 52 tricks or more by win­ning their bid or by eu­chre­ing the op­po­nent.
  • The per­son who wins the bid has the lead.
  • The per­son who takes the trick has the lead.
  • The last trick may be looked at by any play­er; pro­vid­ed that no cards have been played since it was tak­en.
  • The first in­stance of any card takes prece­dence over the oth­er in­stance. Ex: If both Right Bowers are played in the same trick, the first one played takes prece­dence.
  • Play pro­ceeds clock­wise be­gin­ning with the per­son who has the lead.

Gameplay:
The deal­er of­fers a cut to the per­son on their right and then deals card three at a time clock­wise around the ta­ble. When each play­er has twelve cards, the play­er to the left of the deal­er of­fers an ini­tial bid. Bidding al­so pro­ceeds clock­wise un­til it comes to the deal­er who has the last bid. The high­est bid is then marked down and the per­son who made the bid leads.

Trump rank is de­ter­mined in this way: If Trump is Spades the Jack of Spades [Right Bower] is the high­est card, the Jack of Clubs [Left Bower] is the sec­ond high­est and in de­scend­ing or­der of im­por­tance Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine. Trump beats any card in a non-trump suit. Thus a nine of Spades beats any off-suit Ace. If no trump cards are played in the trick, the high­est card in the led suit takes the trick.

Scoring:
The num­ber of tricks each team has tak­en at the end of the hand is added to pre­vi­ous hands. If a team is eu­chred they lose points in the amount that they bid. The score can be neg­a­tive.

Tomorrow: How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part II: Strategy

How to Play Double Bid Euchre Part III: How to Really Play Double Bid Euchre

Apartment Building

Thursday, 12 February 2004

I live in an apart­ment build­ing in Soviet Russia. The build­ing is drafty and re­minds me of my time in a gu­lag I have nev­er been to. Instead of the smell of steaks in pas­sage­ways, I tend to be as­sault­ed by the smell of boil­ing cab­bage and raw onions. Languages I hear on a dai­ly ba­sis in­clude, but are not per­haps lim­it­ed to, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, and Romanian. Of course the Lithuanian and Romanian might just be Russian with a dif­fer­ent di­alect. I would feel like Dostoevsky if I were ac­tu­al­ly writ­ing some­thing in­ter­est­ing. If I had the strange ten­sion be­tween pride and de­sire — if I asked for an ad­vance on my salary in or­der to buy a poor­ly made fur-trimmed cloak in or­der to im­press a cer­tain man and there­by raise my sta­tus- if I be­lieved that an­oth­er kopeck or two is all that stands be­tween me and a life of love and leisure- if I thought that by killing some­one as an ex­pres­sion of free­dom I could change the world- if I knew that the guilt of any such ac­tion would be so crush­ing that it would de­stroy me- well then I might get some­where. No where hap­py though.

As it is this apartment/​compartment build­ing does very lit­tle to keep things apart. The walls are thin and smells of cheap cig­a­rettes and sounds of plumb­ing and words in dif­fer­ent lan­guages crawl un­der my door and curl up around my pal­let and sing me to sleep. The line on the flag­pole out­side sounds like a cave­man beat­ing two bones to­geth­er. It makes me feel un­com­fort­able, prim­i­tive and su­per­sti­tious. I feel like I am in some sort of ex­per­i­ment in dif­fu­sion and os­mo­sis. That one day, I too, will boil cab­bage and have raw onions. One day I might beat two bones to­geth­er mere­ly be­cause I can. Without thought or goal. Stuck in the gu­lag.