Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide

This guide includes games for young and old, for every sex, generation, temperament, and culture.

Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, there is no better way to spend a Christmas, Hanukkah, or what have you than together with friends, family, and neighbors with a warm cup of (fair trade) cocoa and a stack of casual board and/or card games.

Remember that the most valuable gift you can give is time. Don't just give your loved ones a game; play it with them. Find or start a local game group and join or form a community.

I hope you enjoy the guide. Remember: the holidays are not only for sharing the warmth with family and friends, but also for sharing with those who have no one else to share with them. Give to your local shelters, hospitals, and so on, because that's the gift that keeps on giving.
Apple iPad 2

I'm starting with this unusual choice for a board game list, because the iPad (and other tablets) is a perfect platform for playing thousands of face to face games for two to four players. Because you don't need to buy the physical components, you can stack all your games in a teeny space, the games (if not the tablet) cost very little, and you don't have to cut down old trees to make them or use fossil fuels to ship them. Tablets have their own environmental impact in their making, so that's a trade off; but if you're getting one anyway, most of the games on this list are available electronically.
7 Wonders: Ages 9+, 4 to 7 players

This game took the gaming world by storm in 2010. This is a game of drafting cards. You get a hand of cards; pick one and pass the rest. Everyone reveals the card they picked and puts it into their tableaux. Repeat. Done. Score points based on the combinations of cards you have at the end of all the passing.

The graphics are fantastic, the theme not so visible. It's easy to learn, provides great choices, with depth enough to spare.
Apples to Apples: Ages 9+, 4 to 10 players

Apples to Apples is a party game that is simple to set up, learn, and play. There is no writing involved, and no board. And unlike many party games, reading all the cards doesn't ruin the game.

Each player has a hand of red apples (nouns) with which they have to match the green apple (adjective) flipped up. Each player has a chance to judge the best match. The cards you have in your hand never exactly match what gets flipped up; you have to do your best!

Other games that have copied A2A's mechanics with other themes, such as Dixit which is a picture matching game.
Antike: Ages 8+, 2 to 6 players

Risk is a long game of laying low, with player elimination and just too much in the luck department; this game is the perfect evolution to, and replacement for, Risk.

It plays quicker, there's dice-less conflict, no one gets to lay low watching while others fight, and - excepting truly poor play - everyone has a chance for most of the game. There's also a lot more to the game than just conflict, but the rules are short and elegant.

Other alternatives for the Risk player are Antike Duellum (for two players) and Risk Legacy (an odd game that moves in one game affect the next).
Backgammon: Ages 6+, 2 players

Backgammon is a classic game that can be enjoyed by children and parents alike. While there is a large amount of luck in the game, there are also many meaningful decisions, which makes this a good stepping stone to future games with more challenge, such as Checkers or Chess.
Blokus, Blokus Trigon, Blokus Duo: Ages 8+, 4 players (Blokus), 2-4 players (Blokus Trigon), or 2 players (Blokus Duo)

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus Duo are abstract games with very simple rules. Each round you take a piece and place it on the board such that it touches any previous pieces you have played, but only corner to corner. It can touch other players' pieces along corners or sides.

The rules are easy, the components are beautiful, and it's fun.
Boggle: Ages 8+, 2 to 10 players

Boggle is a word game, whose simple rules - find all the words you can within three minutes - make it a game that is both fun and quick. Adults can play with kids by restricting the adults to have to find words of four or five letters.

The pictured version is a little quieter and less bulky than the old boxy version, and comes with a builtin electronic timer.
Candle Quest: Ages 6+, 2 to 4 players

A little plug for my own game. This is a simple set-collection auction game with a Hanukkah theme. It fits in well with the other games on the list: easy to learn, quick to play, lots of replayability. The theme makes it appropriate for all ages, and there's nothing overtly Jewish about it, other than that it's a menorah, so anyone should feel comfortable playing it.

Of course, I may be biased, since I designed it. This game was published by Victory Point Games.
Carcassonne, variants, and expansions: Ages 10+, 2 to 5 players

Carcassonne is a bit more complex than some of the other games here, but the beautiful pieces and the fun game play are worth the time to learn. Pick a piece from the pile, rotate and place it so that it fits on the board (like dominoes), and then optionally place one of your pieces on that tile. There are several ways to score, some of which occur during the game and some of which only at the end of the game.

There are some more rules than that, but not too many more. The game play is engaging enough to make you want to play it more than once in a single sitting.

There are dozens of versions to the game, and some of the versions have several expansions.
Chess / Xiangqi / Shogi: Ages 6+, 2 players

These three games, Chess, XiangQi (Chinese Chess), and Shogi (Japanese Chess), are all top-tier 2-player games that can occupy a curious mind for an entire lifetime. They also have wide followings, so learning the game is learning a language that will admit you to a culture of fellow players around the world.

Board and piece prices range from inexpensive to very expensive, and Chess pieces come in many different themes.
Chinese Checkers: Ages 6+, 2 to 6 players

Another great abstract, and a pretty one if you find one with nice marbles. The rules are simple: move or jump your pieces from one side to the other. Finding chains of jumps is a thrill for all ages.
Carrom / Crokinole / Nok-Hockey / Air Hockey / Billiards / Foosball, etc.: Ages 6+, 2 players

Carrom is the most played tabletop game in India. Like Billiards, the object is to knock pieces off the table area, which you do by flicking wooden disks with your fingers. Crokinole is another classic finger flicking game, as is a racing game called Pitchcar. All kinetic tabletop games, from snooker to billiards to foosball, are loved by players of all ages.
Playing Cards: Ages 3+, 1 to any number of players

Decks of cards, whether they are the well known Western type with 52 cards in 4 suits, or special European or Asian decks, are a great starting point for any number of wonderful games, including Bridge, Hearts, Skat, Cribbage, Pinochle, Oh Hell, Bullsh*t, Durak, President, Spades, Solitaire, and many others.

Check out for the rules to these games and to thousands of others.
Dominion: Ages 10+, 2-4 players

Dominion is a game based around deck building: as you play, you acquire cards which get shuffled into your deck. You need victory points to score, but too many early victory points will clog up your deck, making it harder to acquire more points.

A brilliant adaptation of a mechanic, it plays quickly and every game plays differently. The game has several expansions, all of which are good.
Froggy Boogie: Ages 3-9, 2 to 4 players

Froggy Boogie is a brilliant game to frustrate grownups and please younger children. All you have to do is remember where the picture of the fly is, under the left eye or the right eye? The dice have only colors - no counting necessary. It's a perfect first game.
Go / Pente: Ages 6+, 2 players

Beyond Chess, Checkers, or XiangQi is the absolute perfect game of Go (aka Weiqi); it's so popular, there are twenty-four hour television stations dedicated to it, an anime series based on it, and it's considered one of the four arts of the Chinese scholar.

It really is that good, and the rules are easy, too. Best of all, a built-in handicap system allows two people of any skill levels to enjoy a challenging game against each other.

You should play with the nicest board you can afford.

Pente, a game of getting five stones in a row, can be played on the same board. The rules are just as easy as Go, and while the game has much less depth, it is also a little less intimidating to new players.
Jungle Speed: Ages 8+, 3 to 8 players

There are several games of speed reaction / pattern recognition on the market; I chose this one because of the components. Players flip cards in turn and grab for the totem in the middle as soon as two matching cards are revealed. Don't play with friends who have sharp nails or finger jewelery.
Magic the Gathering: Ages 8+, 2 players

After two decades, Magic is still The Bomb when it comes to collectible card games, although Yu-Gi-Oh sells more cards. These are not easy games to learn, but quick start guides can get you off the ground fairly quickly, and then you have months and years of challenging game play ahead of you.

Don't get sucked into having to buy endless amounts of boosters; to play the game outside of a tournament, you only need a few hundred common cards which can be picked up for a penny each on various sites.
Mancala: Ages 5+, 2 players

This is widely known around the world under various names (e.g. Oware), and the national game of many African countries.

The rules are easy: pick up all the seeds in one of your bowls and place one in each bowl around the table. If you land on an empty space on your side, you win the seed and any seeds opposite.

There are a few more rules, but that's about it. It takes a few games to get up to speed; early victories tend to be lopsided. Once you get the hang of it, you can play several, quick, challenging games in succession.
Memory: Ages 3 to 12, 2 to 5 players

This is a first game for kids and adults, and a great game for it, because kids get the hang of it very quickly and adults find it a real challenge without having to pretend. All you need are one or two decks of cards, but an infinite number of these games are sold with various different pictures and themes.

You can play with more than 5 players, but I wouldn't recommend it.
No Thanks: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

This is an easy to learn and addictive little card game. A card is flipped up, and you either take the card and any tokens on it or place one of your tokens on it and pass it to the next player. Cards are bad, and tokens are good. But runs of cards only penalize you for the lowest valued card.

A simple and fun game.
Parade: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

Another easy to learn and addictive little card game. Add cards to the end of the "parade", taking cards from the parade into your pile based on a few simple rules. Points are bad ... usually.
Pit: Ages 7+, 4 to 10 players

I don't know if you can play up to 10 players with the original game, but you should. This is a loud trading game. The cards are dealt out, someone says go, and everyone shouts for what they need. The first player to collect a full set wins.

Raucous and fun. The deluxe version comes with it's own bell to signal the start of trading.
Poker: Ages 6+, 2 to any number of players

Playing for money is not a good habit, but a nice set of poker chips and some decks of cards is a great way to spend an evening. There are countless poker games, too.
Puerto Rico: Ages 10+, 3 to 5 players

Go is my favorite two-player game; this is my favorite multi-player game. It's a tad complex for the beginning player, but I've seen new players pick it up and love it.

It's not easy to learn, but it's not that hard, either; it's just hard to master. A brilliant, brilliant game engine.
Scrabble: Ages 8+, 2 (or 2 to 4) players.

Scrabble purists will tell you that you should only play with 2 players and a Chess clock, but for casual purposes it can be played with up to four. It is The word game, and for a good reason.

My favorite way to play is to ditch the board and just play Anagrams: turn over tiles, and first to call a word gets it. A similar, recommended game is Bananagrams, where players race to create their own crossword boards.
Set: Ages 6+, 2 to 10 players

Those who don't have it won't enjoy it. For those who do, it hits just the right spot in the brain. All you have to do is call out matches when you see them, but the matches have to match or not match in all four characteristics.
The Settlers of Catan: Ages 8+, 3 to 4 players

This, and Ticket to Ride, are the perfect adult games for beginning gamers.

All you need to do is collect ten points through building settlements and cities, connecting roads, adding developments and trading with your fellow players. A unique board that changes each time you play, constant interaction even when it's not your turn, and a great balance of luck versus strategy makes this The Game to acquire if you still think that board games are only for kids.
Shadows Over Camelot: Ages 12+, 3 to 7 players

A cooperative game, this is no feel-good game of cooperation. The hordes of Saxons, Mordred, siege engines, and sinister knights are out to destroy Camelot, and you have to work together to save it. But lurking among the players is a traitor who wins if you all lose. Or is there?

Pretty components, albeit more complex than most of the games on this list. But it's easy for people to join and leave midgame.

Other recommended co-operative games that have made a splash in the last few years are Pandemic and Forbidden Island
Stratego: Ages 6 to 15, 2 players

By the time I was in my teens, I had outgrown this, but it remains a seminal game for early players, a great introductory war game with all the basic elements: strategy, tactics, and bluffing. Avoid the electronic ones; they break and they're noisy.
Through the Desert: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

This is an elegant route building game with a bunch of different scoring opportunities on each play. Simply place two camels on each turn to expand your camel trains. At the end, you score for oases collected, longest trains, and encircled areas.
Ticket To Ride: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Many of my fellow bloggers think that this, rather than Settler of Catan, is The Game. I disagree, but who am I to argue? New players will find this a great intro game, with lots of choices and great game play.

There are several editions of the game, and the 1910 expansion is recommended.
Tichu: Ages 8+, 4 players

A partnership "ladder" game, similar to the game President (sometimes known by its crude name). It's similar, but the addition of a few special cards, a partnership, and passing elevate this to a perfect game for two couples. This is THE card game in gamer circles, and it's not at all complicated.
Time's Up: Ages 8+, 4 to 10 players

This consistently ranks as the number one party game on all of my fellow bloggers' lists. It's the number one ranked party game on Board Game Geek. Which says something.

It plays a lot like the parlor game Celebrities.
Uno: Ages 6 to 12, 2 to 8 players

This could be a child's second game, after Memory, and before moving on to real games. There's not much in the way of thinking involved, but its simple rules, portability, and quick play make it an ideal game for younger kids in almost any situation.

Just be sure to move up to better games when the kids are ready.
Wits and Wagers / Balderdash: Ages 8+, 4+ players

These are party trivia games where knowledge of trivia is not so important. The question is asked, and each player writes down an answer. These are revealed and players then bid on the answers they think are best. The winning answer, and the winning bids, all score points.

Wits and Wagers does this in the form of a poker game setting, while Balderdash requires you to make up funny possible answers. Both have won awards and acclaim as a generation better than you-know-which famous trivia game.
Zooloretto: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Winner of dozens of recent awards, Zooloretto is a cute game for kids and decent game for adults. Simply take the animals as they are revealed from the deck and try to fit them into your zoo without overcrowding.

A few extra rules and some clever mechanisms makes the game enjoyable for all ages.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Necessary Invention: Anti-Labels

Every time I add a label to an item in Google Mail, Windows Music Player, or what have you, the system should automatically add an "anti-label" to all other items indicating that they are NOT in the label group.

Unless I have literally only created exactly one label (so I can view all item without the label) or two labels (where all of my items are either labeled A or B, but never both) how can I find all mail items that are NOT relevant to my work? When playing music, how can I play all items whose genre is NOT podcast or comedy? I shouldn't have to select all items in every other genre, as well as all the music I haven't yet labeled.

As far as technical issues, adding a label X to an item should automatically remove the anti-label "not X". An anti-label should disappear the moment the last item with that label removes it, so, for example, if I accidentally create a label for a music item called "grudge", and then quickly delete the label and add a new label "grunge", the anti-label "not grudge" should go bye bye and the new label "not grunge" should be created. If "not grudge" has already been used for some kind of filter mechanism, it can be silently deleted from that mechanism. It would have been better form for me to simply rename the label "grudge" to "grunge", which will automatically rename the anti-label "not grudge" to "not grunge".

Thank you and good night.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Rihanna in Tel Aviv

Rihanna played to an audience of some 50,000 to 55,000 people in Ganei Yehoshua/Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv last night. Summary: She was late (as expected) but performed well. Everyone was happy and she promised to return.

This was her second performance in Israel; the last was in 2010. Like other international performers, Riri faced a vocal and loud series of absurd appeals from movements who wanted her to boycott Israel. And, like most (but not all) international performers, she didn't even acknowledge the boycott. [1]

This is the first ultra-massively large outdoor entertainment event I have been to and it will probably be the last. [2] I'm a little old for the volume (I stuck paper in my ears), the entertainment value is really lessened when you are so far from the stage that the performer looks like a small pink blur and you spend more time watching the video screen, and it's really expensive. For the same money, I can have several evenings of entertainment. It was worth it to say I was part of it: once.

We arrived at 5:00 or so for a concert that was originally supposed to start at 7:30. This allowed us to camp out closer to the stage, though it really didn't make much difference. Rihanna was supposed to come on at 8:30, or maybe 9:00. She started at 10:00 on the dot.

First up at around 7:45 was an hour set from some DJs called We Are GTA. I don't get electronic club mix: I liked some of the songs they were playing - dubstep, pop, grunge, rock - but they only sampled a minute or less of each song and they sped them up and added electronics over them, making them worse. Every two minutes they crescendo'd, paused for effect, and started a new beat. Every once in a while the beat was right and they had the audience; the rest of the time the audience was indifferent.

Every two minutes they tried to get the audience to do something, but always one of two things: a) wave your right arm above your head from left to right and back, or b) raise your hands over your head and clap. I get the clapping; I don't get the waving. It's pretty tiring keeping your hands above your head for an hour. In a symbolic moment, the banner advertising the band slipped off of the front of their control station about midway through the act.

We waited an hour and a quarter after that for Riri, and that's a long time. The moments drag on and on and kids begin to get tired. I don't know why there were kids there to begin with.

Rihanna's performance was spot-on, enthusiastic, and laudable. She really is a good performer. She did a lot of grinding, bending over, and shaking, and some occasional simple dance moves with backup dancers - she doesn't dance particularly much or well, but she was energetic and hit her cues. She sang over a recorded track, but she sang much of it live and she sang well. She's very beautiful. She wore a black bikini top and shorts/underwear and a black sheer half-skirt with heels. She smiled a lot and shimmied. She performed for an hour and a quarter with barely a letup (she changed her shoes once, that's all). Her songs have great beats and melodies. It was very entertaining.

She gave shout outs to Tel Aviv a dozen or so times, apologized for being late (apparently she had to take a dip in the Dead Sea and pose provocatively on the beach), apologized for being away for so long, complimented her Tel Aviv fans, and promised to return.

I thought it was as good a concert as Alanis', though I like Alanis' more. Why? Alanis didn't dance; she didn't even, apparently, know how to walk; she seemed to have trouble with certain notes; she's not particularly beautiful. But Alanis has depth. Rihanna sings well, and flirts with being soulful, but her songs and her singing are just "feel good" or "feel sad". Alanis' lyrics and singing are pure complicated, messy art. Rihanna is pure simple, clean (or dirty) entertainment. Both are very good at what they try to do.

The weather was perfect; just cool enough that the mass of bodies around you made you the right temperature. The night and the stage were pretty, and it was too loud, but not too too loud. Thanks, Riri.

[1] Several papers made mention of the fact that, while she called out Tel Aviv by name several times, that she never mentioned the country name Israel. And that she substituted in one of her lyrics "All I see is Palestine" instead of the actual lyrics "All I see is dollar signs". A) I didn't notice it. B) I don't think too much of it.

[2] I've also been to large indoor concerts of Alanis Morissette and Pink Floyd; somehow being indoors made it a little less massive.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Candle Quest: the Best Board Game for Hanukkah

Candle Quest is a new board game for Hanukkah, and really the ONLY good game for Hanukkah by anyone, anywhere. Sad to say, but true.

Game in Progress
Candle Quest is a re-theme of my game It's Alive, a light family strategy Eurogame, basically a set-collection auction game. It plays for two to five players, takes about 30 to 45 minutes to play, and is appropriate for ages 5 and up.

Unlike most "children's games", this game is a solid light Euro strategy game, and extremely enjoyable for adults, with high replayability. The game is nevertheless easy to learn, friendly, simple to teach, has kid-friendly graphics, and has a quick learning curve for younger players. My seven year old was regularly able to play competitively with me.

Draw a card, and then buy, sell, or auction the card. You can also buy a card from someone's discard pile. The game is over when someone collects all eight colored candles (each candle color also has a distinctive candle shape, so the game is playable by the color-blind), and the winner is either the first to complete their menorah (basic game) or the player with the highest value collection (advanced game). This new version slightly simplifies the "buy from the discard pile" option and also adds a simplified variant for younger players.

The fun comes from choosing which option to take on your turn, and how much to set the auction price. You can try for a quick win by buying all the low priced cards, you can sell cards on your turn and hope to pick up cards on other players' turns, or you can try acquire the highest priced cards with the most cash remaining.

I don't rate my own games on BGG, but if I did I would give this game a 7.5 or 8. I've played it hundreds of times myself and I still enjoy it. I even discover new strategies sometimes.

Available from Victory Point Games, Amazon (supposedly, but it appears to be out of stock and we're hoping it will be available with their free shipping option RSN), and NWS, The game comes in box and polybag versions.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

5 Health Benefits of Board Games

The following is a guest post by Kathy Flute:

Board games date as far back as 2500 B.C.E., and they continue to fill closets in households throughout the world today. Whether playing a classic game like Monopoly or newer names on the market like Settlers of Catan, board games entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play. However, board games provide much more than just entertainment. In fact, these games beneficially impact both health and development at any age. If this is news to you, here’s what you should know.

One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive decline, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer's. Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially benefit from playing board games. These areas of the brain are responsible for complex thought and memory formation, and their decline is one of the first stages of dementia and Alzheimer's. While those who are elderly show the most benefit from activities like board games, never forget that (like any healthful activity) the earlier you start, the greater the benefits received.

Blood Pressure

Board games also provide health benefits through an often overlooked side effect of many games, laughing. If you need to lower your blood pressure, try choosing a board game that’s more about entertainment than competition. Laughing has been shown to increase endorphins, which are chemicals that create a feeling of happiness. This release of endorphins help muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which in turn can lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with greater risk of artery damage, heart disease and stroke.

Along with reducing blood pressure, board games may also boost your immune system. Research has shown that negativity and stress can reduce your ability to fight disease. Positive feelings, like the laughter and enjoyment that often comes with board games, counteracts these effects by releasing neuropeptides that fight stress and boost the immune system.

Coordination and Dexterity
Many board games require the use of fine motor skills to pick up or move pieces, actions that take both coordination and dexterity. Regular practice and activity improve these basic skills, which is important for children, people with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly and those recovering from accidents. Board games make a helpful addition to occupational therapy treatments, as well as work well in areas like special needs classrooms to help improve muscle and nerve function over time.

Child Development
Board games play an integral role in child health and brain development. Board games help children develop logic and reasoning skills, improve critical thinking and boost spatial reasoning. Encouraging children to play different types of board games can also increase verbal and communication skills, while helping develop attention spans and the ability to focus for longer periods of time (not to mention the importance of teamwork). Games like Monopoly (Jr) are great for math skills as well!

With so many benefits, it's easy to see why board games have continued to find a place in homes throughout the world for so long. Next time you pick up a board game to play with your friends or family, remember that you're not only having fun, you're also improving your health (and theirs)! 

Kathy Flute is a mother of three earning her master's in special education who enjoys writing articles about family, teamwork, and the Top 10 Special Education Masters Degree Programs (On Campus).

Shabbat Gaming

Some games I've played over the last several shabbats:

Nefarious: Enjoyed with five players, three of whom were first-time players. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I'm glad I found a copy of this hard-to-find game.

Amun-Re: Taught this game to two other people. One of them really liked it, and the other one hated it; that's the first time I've run into someone who really didn't like the game. This is a game that everyone (until now) I know likes but no one loves. He said it was too dry. He ended up asking us to stop after the first age.

King of the Elves: My friends Shirley and Bill are back in the country for a multi-year stay; I broke out this game that none of us had yet played. It's a light card game with some odd rules about building villages and playing thieves and so on, and then visiting the villages with your assorted transportation cards. It was pretty chaotic and had a lot of luck, but the rules were intriguing and we have barely explored the tactics space. We played four players, but only completed 3 rounds before two of the players had to leave. It's unclear if there is much strategy to the game or if it is all tactics. Shirley in particular liked the game.

Nadine is in the process of developing a fairly abstract board game and we are her guinea pigs. As we play she changes the rules around us if she thinks the new ones will be more fun.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Concert: Prokofiev, Beethoven, and Mahler with the IPO

Lisa invited me and a friend of hers to see and hear the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra last night. The evening was sublime. Lovely women companions, dark chocolate to snack on, an energetic and emotional conductor (only 24 years old) who practically danced while he conducted, an orchestra of talented and tight musicians including a phenomenal pianist, and some lovely musical compositions.

Here is the program info.

Prokofiev/Overture on Hebrew themes: This piece reminded me of the incidental music from Star Wars: lots of tentative clarinet notes. It was fun and engaging. (amazon, youtube)

Beethoven/Piano Concerto no. 5: The Allegro was exciting, and the Adagio un poco mosso was emotional. I thought the Rondo: The Allegro ma non troppo was a little long (and really just more of the same without adding much to the first two parts). (amazon, youtube)

Mahler/Symphony no. 1: This was a lovely pastoral piece (with the exception of a single low violin note that played over the first several minutes and sounded a bit like ringing in my ears) moving through an awakening in spring but eventually moving to someplace a little dark. I was just beginning to get droopy eyes by the end, which was nearly two and a half hours after the concert began. (amazon, youtube)

It was a privilege to hear such music, to see such talented performers, to be able to take a night out of one's life to experience an auditory decadence in the company of three thousand other well-behaved audience members. Every night can't be like that, but I will be seeing Rihanna in concert later this month, so I'm feeling incredibly lucky right now.