In my headphones this week

With their first album in 38 years, the Specials, or at least, a version of the Specials, are back with Encore, a blend of originals and covers that largely leaves their frenetic ska sound of the 80s behind.

It mostly works but I have a feeling I’ll be skipping some songs more than others. “We Sell Hope” is probably my favourite. Also the live tracks are pretty good.

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On Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve recently started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and, in so many ways, it’s right up my alley: Well scripted, funny, amazing sets and costumes, and it’s set during a golden era for comedy nerds. Comics like Lenny Bruce (who appears on the show as a character), Redd Foxx, and Joan Rivers (who partially serves as the inspiration for the title character) were pushing boundaries exploring subjects and using language rarely heard on stage in those days. I’ve long been a fan of stand-up because I think it’s the scariest of the performing arts. It’s you and microphone and an audience that can turn if your set is just not good.

It’s interesting to watch the tension between those audience members who appreciate the newly frank material and those who are still shocked by it, This is illustrated neatly in the second season when Midge Maisel launches into an impromtu R-rated routine at her friend’s very traditional, very Catholic wedding. What flew at the Glaslight did not fly at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. The show is very good at showing a society on the verge of a cultural shift.

Comedy often forces the audience to either look at something in a new way, or serves as a release when someone addresses a topic that is taboo in polite society.

Today, there is very little that is forbidden to discuss on stage. The president of the United States has admitted to paying off mistresses with zero consequences so noboamdy is going stop you from saying anything. We are somewhat unshockable these days.

But society changes and those who challenged the norms of their time often feel threatened when they find they’re the old guard and the audience just isn’t into it. You find this attitude among comics who came up in the 80s and 90s when suddenly the material that gave them their living doesn’t land the way it used to. They’re confused and somewhat resentful, complaining of “political correctness” ruining comedy.

It’s not, of course, ruining comedy. It’s ruining their comedy because they have no back-up material. Last year at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival, Darren Knight, who has gotten a small following with his “Southern Momma” character, bombed during a gala, in which he insulted the comics and then insulted the audience, saying that comedy shouldn’t be about sexism or racism. Saturday Night Live’s Chris Redd confronted him, saying essentially that his performance was his own fault, not the audience’s.

And he was right. If the material doesn’t hit with the audience, that is not the fault of the audience. You need to find a way to make the material work so that the audience responds to it. You need to read the room. Are you performing at your friend’s Catholic wedding, a downtown comedy club, or Just for Laugh’s infamous Nasty Show?

Are comedians really afraid of being offensive these days? Is the Nasty Show still one of Just for Laugh’s most popular events? There’s your answer.

Skyrim

So I’m not a regular gamer but when we picked up the kid’s PS4 I threw in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The last video game I ever got into, outside of Angry Birds, was Civilization IV.

So now I’m equal parts obsessed and terrified this game is going to suck all my spare time because it may not have an end. Or I’m just a very slow player.

So here I am, 8 years late to the party. I think Spider-Man may be next.

Resolution

I understand a lot of people don’t like to do New Year’s Resolutions. In many cases, they don’t see the point of attempting something that is doomed to fail before February.

I still like the idea of them. They’re a good chance for a reset. I always have the usual goals about eating better, exercising more but I’m in the gym 3 days a week. That’s not too bad. My main bad habit is still junk food of various types so that’s something that can be fixed, as difficult as I may find it.

But I do have one resolution that should be simple to accomplish:

Stop getting take-out coffee.

This has been an issue for me since I started working downtown almost two years ago. In my office building, I have to walk past several coffee chains before I get to elevators. Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Second Cup, McDonald’s, Faro. They’re all right there and I see people lining up every morning and I think, “Well if they want a coffee, I must want one too.” And I get one. Because I have the app. And I get points.

But I do this every day and I’ve calculated I’m spending close to $80 per month. Plus there is all the waste. What’s worse is my office has free coffee. There’s no reason to do this other than I like walking in with Starbucks in my hand.

This should be an easy habit to break. All I have to do is keep walking, right?

Still Lifting

Nobody is going to put me on a poster for CrossFit but I’ve been doing power lifting for about 3 years now. It’s not a workout that will make you skinny but it’s the only exercise I enjoy. It doesn’t require that I run or skate or even compete. It’s perfect for me.

So this morning I hit 365 lbs on the back squat which is 50 higher than my previous PR. 400 is in sight.

So today was a good day.

That time of year

It was a quiet Christmas this year with no traveling to visit family nor family coming to visit us. It was just the three of us which is just as well as this cold I’ve been nursing for the past week or so bloomed into a full blown nasal mess. I wouldn’t have been a very good guest or host.

So I spent most of today blowing my nose and playing Skyrim. I haven’t seriously played a video game since Civilization IV. I’ve never been great at gaming but I always thought I’d like to be. I just used my ever limited down time for other stuff.

But come the new year, we’re going to try to cut the cord on the cable TV so maybe I’ll find something new to with my free time. My kid’s generation seems to have already moved past cable TV as their primary source of entertainment. It’s all streaming and YouTube (which has its own issues).

Tomorrow I work for two days then I’m off for a week. Hopefully, I’ll be less sick then. Maybe next year we’ll do Christmas in NB.

Oh, and today I got as far as finding the Golden Claw, if that means anything to any Skyrim fans out there.