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.