Monthly Archives: October 2014

Help A Brother Out

So this NextDoor website just started up. I guess it’s a neighborhood site like Front Porch forum, but they’re trying to get as many people to join as possible and they’re offering an Amazon.com gift card for referrals.

Please don’t waste my time with, “Yeah right, how do you know” just click the link and follow the instructions, or don’t. What I can tell you is that they give you an option for how to verify your identity. YOU DO NOT NEED to give them your credit card number if you don’t want to. You can stick with using your e-mail address, they only give you that option among a few others, it’s not mandatory.

Follow the link and do me a huge solid favor. Thank you.

nextdoor.com/amazon/?r=mmvage

If These Shadows Have Offended…

Last October, I took Amy Tee’s comedy class. November of last year was when I did my first real thing on stage, which was essentially a manufactured “graduation night”, so it wasn’t a gig as such but rather an over glorified open mic.

A couple of things stand with me to this day. There two other students in Amy’s class that made it all the way through to the end. I don’t mean that there was an elimination round or anything, but there might as well have been. If Steve Hofstetter’s success with Laughs leads to his other idea, “Comedy Intervention”, I imagine this will be very similar.

The class began with six students. One of them was a seventeen year-old boy who had a stuttering problem. Amy insisted that he use his stuttering in his act, as your weaknesses are your strengths. The kid was not in the class the very next week.

His problem was very similar to an older gentleman who took Amy’s class in the springtime, in that they did not believe there was going to be any real work involved. It’s when Amy explained the difference between being “funny on stage” and “funny at a barbecue”. When you make people laugh and they say, “Oh, you should be a comedian”, people can often take that as a sign that they are automatically a comedian if they grab a mic and get on stage.

The second guy to drop the class was a guy I’ll call Clive. Clive had some success doing impressions on the road. That was his act, allegedly. He took the comedy class because he was, in his words, “trying to break out” of that. Unfortunately, again, he wasn’t really trying to write any new stuff. He kept falling back on his impressions, which would have been great, except he didn’t want to take any kind of criticism of his stuff. Some of his jokes were very derivative (IE: “Salem, Massachusetts, where the men are men and sometimes so are the women”) and his impressions could be outright frightening. One afternoon, after he had skipped two of the classes, he showed up wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt and he tried doing an act he had written. Then out of nowhere he began doing his “Linda Blair” impersonation and it was like watching a schizophrenic off his meds if you didn’t know what he was doing. And once again, he just didn’t want to hear any criticism.

Needless to say, Clive was not with us in the end. It was just two guys remaining named Nick and Peter and I’ll post the videos of their sets as well as mine to show you that I’m not just blowing smoke up anyone’s asses.

The three of us spent six weeks honing our sets, writing the jokes and rehearsing. I even had Peter and Nick over to my house (Something unprecedented in my lifespan) where we sharpened our delivery and performance. The biggest advice they gave me was to slow down and allow for pauses.

Well we backed each other up, we supported one another, and graduation night went spectacularly as of course it would be expected as again, it was pretty much manufactured. There were a lot of relatively well known comedians to act as ballast and we were essentially the new kids on the block. Nick went up first.

In the back, I could see three of the feature comedians actually bust a gut at Nick’s set. The jokes he opened with about his cat were new to all of us, which I admired, because I still essentially stick to a script. A year later, working off book or improvising is something I’m still trying to do and he was doing this effortlessly on his first night.

After all three of us had performed, Scott Lombardi came over to our table. I think Peter was with his family and friends at the time, but Scott came to our table to tell us about his open mic at the Tavern at the End of the World in Charlestown. He but his arm around Nick’s shoulder and barely even acknowledged that I was alive, much less standing in front of him. Scott was very much inviting Nick to the open mic and I was just lucky enough to find out about it as I was, invisible, but still standing there.

You could easily accuse me of over thinking this situation, because you, the reader, were not there. You could also misinterpret my view of the situation because you, the reader, were not there. Please understand that I didn’t resent Scott’s actions nor do I resent Nick. He had great stage presence, he owned his act, and at the open mic the very next week, he really outshone the three of us. So it’s no wonder that an actual professional comedian like Scott saw a lot of potential in a guy like Nick and wanted to see more of him.

Now here’s what I will say about Peter. As you’ll see in the video, Peter is obviously a lot older than Nick or myself so he has a lot of experience in the world. He’s a manager where he works, a father of three and when I met his girlfriend I thought the woman was an absolute saint. We all decided to go to the Tavern at the End of the World the very next week, because in spite of my sore throat, we had a great time at Graduation Night and we wanted to try our luck again.

Peter’s girlfriend bought Nick and I dinner and we got to meet his daughter and a few of his friends. The Tavern was a very different atmosphere than the venue where we had the graduation night. So the first thing I think we did wrong that night was when Peter brought his crew as it were, it seemed to me like were trying to recreate graduation night. The assumption being that if we got that audience to laugh we could do the same with this one.

Amy had warned us that it would be a bad idea to judge any future performances by the standards set on graduation night. (So please understand once again that my referring to graduation night as “manufactured” is only the shortened version of what she had already told us and not my being an ungrateful twat) I had her words of wisdom in the back of my head but I deluded myself almost the same way, thinking that if I was at this open mic event, I was already confident that I could wow the crowd.

Here’s the thing to remember at an open mic. Half of the people in the audience are all people trying to do their own comedy. They may laugh at you or they may not. They may force a laugh. Amy had this thing where she would just say, “That’s funny”, not because she couldn’t laugh, but if she laughed at every single joke one of her student’s told her, she wouldn’t get anything done. Imagine that in an entire room full of people. Only a third of the customers there are actual paying customers, who just happened to find a table in the dining area of the bar, which is where the venue was held.

So this was Peter’s second night as a performer. And again, he has a great set, with some stuff that I’m sure would have been gold in front of the Fran’s Place crowd that I performed for in September. But he went into this with the same delusion that I had, expecting this crowd to roar at his every word. He wrote his name down on the open mic list, “Craven Morehead”. Like the entire pub would just buy him a drink at the mere taste of his wit.

Of course he didn’t get any major laughs. Neither did I. Here’s what I’ll say about my first night playing at the Tavern. I really only got one or two laughs. The best laugh I got was my “frog prince” one-liner, that also got laughs at Fran’s Place and I plan to try again on my birthday. And I didn’t choke. I finished the jokes I was going to tell, but at that moment I lost my footing and I had to step outside for air. The emcee assured me I did fine and that I wasn’t the worst, but in retrospect, I was in walking distance of the train station and I’m sure she didn’t want to be the last person to have seen me alive so she was just stopping me just in case. Maybe.

Nick went up and again, he just did some stuff that I think really shined for him that night at graduation, when Scott approached him the first time. He threw a few new jokes he had written. The one that got the biggest laugh was a joke about his ex-girlfriend dumping him after she saw the size of a horse’s penis and decided to get herself a “new stud”. But what was impressive to me to this day, was he saw the same crowd that me and Peter saw, very much unmoved and hard to impress and he just had what I call a “Fuck it” moment. And he trucked out a story from work about a guy ordering a Journey album and making a racist comment while he was doing it. If there was a laugh count contest between the three of us, Nick definitely won.

So why am I so annoyed?

Because I’ve been doing open mic after open mic. Writing set after set. Sometimes I kill, sometimes I bomb. Sometimes I lose confidence before I even get a chance to stand up and I leave the venue before I humiliate myself, but I keep going at it and inspite what the assholes who comment on this blog will say, I know I have a long way to go. I know that it is very likely that I will fuck up quite a few good opportunities along the way, but I’ll be in good company.

Peter’s ego got bruised and he never pursued comedy again. Nick wrote a few jokes, but I don’t think he ever got on stage again. And we tried to meet up recently. He took me out to lunch, but I think I did that thing I do where I say something without thinking about it and he might have been offended.

I had a dream last night where Peter was still doing comedy. I saw him on stage and heard the jokes he told in the video that I have linked. And it just bugs me that in real life, he chose not to take it any further. Same with Nick. Maybe it’s less that I’m annoyed that they didn’t go any further with it and more that neither of them is near at hand to help me with my stuff. Because if they’re not going to pursue their craft, the least one of them could do is throw me a line of support while I pursue mine.

Ghosts of Halloween Past

Every company has it’s own policy towards holidays. Some stores let you dress up for Halloween, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or you don’t wear anything offensive.

When I was working for Staples, they passed a form around so we could vote on different themes of costume we could all wear as a team. Among the suggestions were “dressing like the 80’s, or 70’s.”

This always seems like a lazy cop out to me, but the younger employees were talking favorably about the idea of dressing like you were born in another decade. To which I pointed out, “Yeah, but there really isn’t a lot of distinction between then and now in terms of clothes. If we go with that theme you might as well just wear your ordinary clothes.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking!” One of my coworkers replied, apparently mistaking my remark for enthusiasm.

So I think that’s what most of us wound up doing that year. My favorite Halloween in the workplace is still that time I worked at Rite Aid and I dressed in a “Death” costume, with the mesh mask that you could see through but no one could see you. It made selling cigarettes more bearable somehow.

There I was, not saying a word, dressed as the Reaper. I would point to a customer and they would order their deathsticks. I would just quietly ring up their purchase and really that was just the coolest Halloween ever.

Two Roads Diverged (Now With Visual Aids!)

People sometimes accuse me of over thinking things. This isn’t as annoying as when someone acts as though I haven’t thought about it at all. The most recent example of this is from two weeks ago, when I was doing my cashier training.

A customer asked where a well known coffee shop was located and it just happened to be in the same block of buildings as TheStore. See the video attached for the full visual experience.

Obviously, my coworker has more experience in the world. This is a politically correct way of saying she signed George Washington’s yearbook. But when she gave directions that were opposite to mine only in the sense that there is no sidewalk along her route and then acted like I was the stupid one, how am I supposed to react in that situation?

I don’t mean I argued with her, of course, I dropped the subject right then and there as experience has well schooled me. But what am I supposed to think of someone’s problem solving ability when they tell you that you can only spell DAD forwards but not backwards?

Negative Won

Our Store has an online survey you can take to tell us how you think we’re doing. Like the surveys in most companies, this one offers you the chance to win a certain amount of money, be it in the form of actual cash or a store gift card. The amount of money is significant and would certainly help make more than a few ends meet, but like with any aspect of human existence, there are the people for whom a child’s lemonade stand clearly has a hidden agenda.

Yesterday I had a woman in my line. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe her kids were weighing her down emotionally, but whatever the case, she clearly felt the need to have a battle of wits with someone who couldn’t fight back (if he wanted to keep his job) and I was the recipient.

I gave her the spiel as I highlighted the pertinent information on the receipt and she responded with the vitriolic, “Yeah, a chance to win. But it probably won’t happen.”

“You never know,” I said, with as much professional cake eating as possible behind my smile. “But it helps everyone in the long run.”

“Have you ever heard of anyone winning this?” She retorted.

“No, but-”

“Thought so!” And she stormed off.

Why do people think they’ve won the argument if they shout “Thought so” and then storm off? If she, or any of the customers who rip into the “chance to win” surveys actually gave enough of a rat’s ass to hear my carefully thought out reply, the following argument is pretty much what I would have said.

Of course I haven’t heard of anyone winning the survey. But I live in a small part of the country that represents one percent of the corporation I work for. I’ve never personally met anyone who got a tax refund bigger than their annual income, but apparently it happens because those H&R Blockers know their stuff. Also, the company was not relevant to me two weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t going on. I don’t watch television but that doesn’t mean the first episode of How To Get Away With Murder doesn’t have people watching it because I haven’t heard of them.

Then there’s a fairly recent adage that is thrown in the faces of people who complain about other people winning the lottery. If you didn’t buy the ticket, you have no grounds to complain. You didn’t take the chance and therefore stop whining because you had the same chances as everyone else.

Here’s the thing, when I complain about something, or I choose not to do something, it’s because of two things.

One: I have already experienced that thing or have enough similar experience to make an educated response, whether anyone else agrees with me or not.

Two: It’s just not going to make a difference to me either way.

I take the survey for our Store’s competitor, not because I hate TheStore, or because I have an overwhelming sense of love for our competitor. But because taking the survey is not going to take any amount of time out of my day and if I did win, that would be great.

The woman who entered into the game of mental chess with me, was paying for her food with EBT. She’s obviously trying keep a family fed and take care of herself as well. The survey may very well be more time out of her day than she afford, but that does not make her correct in the assumption that she has no chance to win the survey. It doesn’t make me wrong for insisting that she at least give it a shot before she assumes that there is no chance.

She could obviously use the money. Even if it’s a gift card, that could help in putting a few meals on the table, or keeping a few sets of teeth brushed, or fighting off a headache or some other debilitating symptom for one more day. Just like the people who look at a thousand dollar prize in bingo and scoff, I tell her, “Well you wouldn’t be worst off with it either.”

Also, let’s look at this from a numbers perspective. Let’s say TheStore has only ten thousand customers in a region, per day. Ten thousand customers were offered the chance to take that survey, but 8,000 of those customers whined and complained about their chances of winning and refused to do the survey. That means you probably have a good statistical chance of winning because a fraction of customers actually bothered to take a minute or two out of their day of playing Angry Birds and watching cat videos.

Speaking also from a numbers perspective, unlike the lottery, bingo, and a tax assessment from H&R Block, taking those store surveys… is Free!

A Fair Warning

Last night someone from SaberSave came to TheStore and started running his mouth. Fortunately, the Bossman wasn’t there, but this kid is just one of the little punks that I ratted out a few times when I caught him texting while I was busting my ass working. He still has a job because he’s young and he’s too stupid to say anything when management gives him the shaft. That’s fine. He can do what he likes.

Just a fair warning though, because there’s a chance someone reads this blog. If I lose my job at TheStore because of any of the shit they pull, I’ll suddenly have a lot of free time on my hands. And the mop thing is only half of what I know that would send the handful of customers you get every week packing right off to your competitors.

The Best Skywars Servers

It’s time for search engine bait. When an adult spends any amount of time talking about the games he has played, it can be a risky venture because you take the chance of being negatively labeled by the majority. Obviously an adult who has enough time on his hands to play a game as addicting as Minecraft can’t have too much else going on. But oh well, I can’t stop people from coming to their own conclusions, so for the sake of argument lets just say that I do play and enjoy Minecraft and though it probably consumes slightly more time than it should in my life, this post and others on this topic, are going to be rare. They exist solely for the purpose of generating the views and hopefully landing a few more readers.

Also, since the title of this post was very specific, the majority of those who clicked on this will very likely know about Minecraft at least. This post refers to Skywars, one of the many mini-games developed for the online multiplayer aspect of Minecraft.

Here’s a Let’s Play video from a popular online gaming team that gives a great visual example of Skywars. I can’t vouch for it’s work safeness in terms of what the producers talk about, so use your judgment. Essentially it’s the Survival Games with a much more level playing field. Every player gets an island and a box containing various weapons, armor, and other items that can be used against the other players. The main goal is to be the last person to survive.

You can do this by building bridges to the other player’s island and killing them directly, firing arrows at them from the safety of your own island, or any number of creative and intense ways. Depending on the server, there may be a main “middle” island with more resources and chests to exploit, but there are no guarantees. For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to focus on the three servers that I have come to enjoy and their pros and cons.

Aem Servers

Server Address: play.aemservers.net

AEM server is always getting new players, but there are quite a few regulars. For the most part the regulars are decent people who strive to keep the server clean and safe for all ages. In fact, it’s the server where I got into this debate. There is a report feature and the admins to their best to keep the lunatics out, but of course there can be entire lengths of time between when the admins are there and when they are not. So use your ignore command whenever necessary and report bad behavior like cheating whenever you can. It’s really the best thing you can do.

The maps are simple and easy to figure out.

Like all servers, AEM accepts donations from players to keep the server running and this offers perks to some players depending on how much and for how long they donate. This can be a bit annoying to players who don’t necessarily have the extra income lying around to donate, as Elite players have access to extra kits like souped up armor and enderpearls that make game play easier for them, but less fun for the rest. This is part of the reason why I no longer play there, but that shouldn’t prevent you from at least trying it out.

When the school season starts, the server can be pretty much dead in the mornings and evenings.

MC Legends

Server Address: play.mc-legends.com

Legends is a great experience over all for new and old players alike. All players are equal, including Elite and Donators, although there are few exclusive kits for these ranks. Each player has a “free” kit to choose from and enderpearls can be found in some of the chests, depending on the island you start with. So everything is very level and fair and you only have your own level of experience and quick thinking to help you win.

One common thread in the servers is the maps have a set number of players. In AEM, you and the other players can vote to start the game early. MC Legends doesn’t force you to wait, so on those days when the server is particularly empty and there’s only you and four other players, you don’t have to wait until the map is full to start the game. The countdown begins automatically when there are two players or more at the beginning.

There are far more admins here so some of the deviant behavior you’ll encounter on the AEM servers is far less tolerated.

Biocraft

Server Address: biocraft.co

Biocraft also has some great maps. But the main thing that separates this from the previous two servers is that you have a chance to mine more resources, if you decide you have the time and focus to do this. So depending on the map you’re in, you could have a whole mine full of diamonds on your starter island that you can convert to weapons and armor.

Everyone gets a kit and if you vote for the server, you get access to all of the kits for ten minutes. So like Legends, Donators and Elite all have the same chances that you do and start off on level playing ground. The admins are very watchful and will investigate any and all claims of poor behavior instantly.

The primary con here is that there is no voting system to start the game early. So if you and six other players are waiting for two more to start the map, you could be there for a while. Editing to add that apparently certain moderators do get special privileges that can make gameplay seem unfair. Either that, or there are certain moderators cheating or using genuine hacks. One of the “Chat Mods” was using some kind of invisibility mod, that is not a part of any of the kits I noticed. Even the potion only hides the player’s skin and not any armor or items they may be wearing/carrying so this feels more like a hack. If anyone wants to chime in on is, feel free.

Players who are new to Skywars couldn’t go wrong by trying either of these servers out. Please share this post, like it, tell a friend, and feel free to post your own server and experiences in the comments section.