The Friday Morning Listen: Charles Bukowski – Hostage (1994)

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This weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire, teams of gaming enthusiasts will lock themselves in for 36 hours for a “board game hackathon,” also known as the NH Game Jam. The idea here is that the teams are presented with a theme at the start of the competition (and not earlier, so as to avoid advance work) and then they bear down and design a complete game (board game or computer) in the allotted time.

What we have here is something quite incredible: an activity that I would gladly avoid in favor of listening to music by The National.

What? It’s very simple. I just don’t like games. Board games; card games; role-playing games; video games; games of skill; games of chance — they’re all the same to me: useless.

Now, before you get yourself all of a snit, there are some good reasons for this, all having to do with various sub-elements of my temperament. First, I don’t like competition. Yes, further proof that I am anti-American. It’s difficult to accurately describe my issue with competition, so for now I’ll leave it with this: it makes me uncomfortable. And speaking of discomfort, there’s my introversion. In social settings (which I mostly avoid) the idea of playing a game just sets off my social phobia triggers. When some brainiac at a party (and I realize that “me” and “party” is an odd and unlikely juxtaposition) busts out the Pictionary box, I break out in a sweat and fumble for my car keys. A final complicating matter here is dyslexia. While I have not been diagnosed, I get so many things turned upside down and sideways that the task of quickly learning the rules of a game — especially among a group of strangers — can be nearly impossible. It’s best to avoid the situation entirely.

For a fun mental exercise (because I was stuck in traffic on the homebound commute), I tried to come up with some game themes slanted toward my own cultural preferences. The winner, which took the prize over “Genevieve Gorder: Design & Pillow Talk” (sure to be nixed by TheWife™), was the Charles Bukowski-themed “Henry Chinaski’s Philosophy of Life” board game. Roll the dice and choose the wine for Buke’s nightly writing session: extra points if you pick the correct color (red!), points taken away if you spend more than $7.99. Chuck’s on a binge, will he throw up before making it to the poetry reading? Did Did Bukowski ever out-crass himself by stooping even lower than criticising his girlfriend’s (lack of) blowjob skills? Maybe. Use the 9-sided die to find out. And then there are the adventures at the race track: one more beer or one last bet? Oh, the possibilities are endless.

I know what you’re thinking: if I’m not going to the Game Jam, shouldn’t I be listening to The National? Hey, I may have some issues, but I’m not stupid.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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