Archive for March, 2013

Two of Hearts: Spazzing Out

Two of hearts showing a selection of vegetablesI shiver with excitement at the coolness of the snow,
while flailing in delight at how the flakes float to and fro.
They say I shake for heating but my body seems to know
the fervor brought by white-on-white of sky and fractal tree,
and tenses itself tight on sight of all that’s cool to me.

My muscles are excited all the time, and so am I,
for music and for science and for humor and for pi[e].
They say my motor cortex might be part the reason why,
that these days they can thwart excitement through rhizotomy,
but when’s the spazzing fangirl vim and when’s it not o’ me?

In summary, my muscles have a tendency to spasm;
it seems to me those muscles can’t contain enthusiasm.
While technically I’m spastic I can say without sarcasm:
it feels like life’s fantastic and my body’s full of squee
so let your hair down (don’t relax) and come spaz out with me!

I am a raging fangirl (of improbably many people and things) with cerebral palsy spastic diplegia, and this is what it feels like. My other superhero secret identity is Hyper Spaz.

I came up with the idea for this several months ago, upon realising that my body was just as full of squee as my mind, though it was going to be a song, with an entirely different structure. I came up with the line ‘My muscles are excited all the time, and so am I’ about three weeks ago and decided to actually write it, with that as the first line, but I’ve just been too busy doing other things (including uploading videos of Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, Mike Phirman, John Roderick, Zoë Keating, John Hodgman and some quitters from JoCo Cruise Crazy 3) and I didn’t spend very much time on it. So here it is, finally. It has an interesting rhyme scheme which I feel like drawing a diagram and investigating the topology of, but I think I’ll save that for later. During those three weeks I happened to find out about selective dorsal rhizotomy, which seems like a pretty neat procedure, though I wonder whether it would have an effect on the young patients’ eventual personalities.

This is the easy part of Thing-A-Week-or-so where the writer’s unblocked and the ideas flow faster than the cards that are supposed to inspire them and the time I have to implement them. I still haven’t put away all the aces of hearts and kings of clubs I got out before the cruise yet, let alone looked through all the twos of hearts, so I just used the first two of hearts I found with a tenuous connection to the topic. I’m glad I’m not a vegetable; I’ve heard their screams.

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It turns out I can read fake plqaD.

21 hours and already two posts ago, I linked to my post about the program I wrote for exploring grapheme colour synaesthesia. So I happened to look at that post again, and realised that despite the fact I learnt the words to Chicken Monkey Duck without any reference to the personally-coloured lyrics (Mac users: download the file and open it in TextEdit to see the text with coloured outlines matching the initial letters, which the preview doesn’t show. Windows users: sorry, I’ve noticed Windows rtf viewers don’t show outlines) I made, I could still start to answer some of the questions. I asked, among other things:

  • Could grapheme-colour synaesthetes learn to look at a sequence of colours that correspond to letters in their synaesthesia, and read a word?
  • Could colours be used to help grapheme-colour synaesthetes learn to read a new alphabet, either one constructed for the purposes of secret communication, or a real script they will be able to use for something?

And I included this picture of some text in a supposedly-Klingon font (though it does not seem to be quite the same as plqaD; I am not sure why I didn’t find this font at the time) with the letters coloured according to my own grapheme-colour synaesthesia for the corresponding letters in the latin alphabet:


Looking at it today, I realised I couldn’t remember what the text was; I wrote that post ten months ago. It definitely wasn’t ‘How razorback-jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts!’ So I decided to see if I could figure it out based on the colours.

The first and second words I figured out in seconds: Swimming is. S, W and I are pretty distinctive colours, and the Ms even look like Ms. Then… teemncgc? No, that’s not a g. I can imagine a capital G in that sort of colour, but I’m using small-g colour for the ‘g’s, and anyway the letter is a different shape. It’s an H! And that’s not an n but a u; they’re fairly similar. Actually I’d say u is closer to a c-yellow than to n-yellow, so maybe I put that one in wrong. So Swimming is tee? much like (‘like’ is easy to read once I figure out it’s an l rather than a c; I love the colour of the letter K) mathing? No, bathing! M and B are pretty similar colours. So that’s not tee… it’s slightly grayer… logically it must be too. I guess I don’t think too much about the colour of the letter O, but that’s about right. Swimming is too much like… bathing. Okay, I’m googling that; I assume I took a Klingon quote from the internet. Yep, it’s Worf.

So yes, at least one grapheme-colour synaesthete can look at a sequence of colours that correspond to letters in their synaesthesia, and read a word. As for the second question, I haven’t really learnt much of the Klingon ‘alphabet’ from this, because I’ve been reading the colours and only paying attention to the shapes of the letters when two letters are of similar colour. The colours mean I can cheat and not even look at the shapes, so they might actually make it harder for me to learn the shapes in the short term. On the other hand, I can read more, more quickly, since I’ll never have to refer to a chart to look up which letters the shapes correspond to. I suspect that practice reading the colours (perhaps gradually fading to black) would help me learn the shapes in the long run.

I haven’t touched the Synaesthetist app since I wrote it; maybe I should go back and implement some of the features I was thinking about.

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Ace of Hearts: She Went to Pick Flowers (Mara Levi music video)

For the Ace of Spades I posted a music video incorporating some footage shot on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, so for the Ace of Hearts, here is a music video I made with the help of a lot of sea monkeys for Mara Levi‘s song ‘She Went to Pick Flowers‘ during JoCo Cruise Crazy 3.

Aces of hearts with flowers on them

It was filmed on Coco Cay, St. Maarten, and the conference center (game room, for us) on board the Freedom of the Seas. While it’s a little ironic to film a video for this song during a luxury cruise, we had all the appropriate scenery available and I really wanted to share the song and hopefully get Mara some more fans. If you like the song and think Mara should have a few flowers, please buy it or other Mara Levi music, and maybe also support Mara’s band The Pushovers in making their first album together. And if you really like her, I certainly wouldn’t complain if you requested her for JoCo Cruise Crazy 4.

I got a lot of help from other Sea Monkeys (JoCo Cruise Crazy attendees) to make this, some of whom showed up and rescued the project right when I thought I’d never find the time or people or locations to pull it off. I didn’t even get everyone’s full names, so if you’re in it and would like a proper credit, let me know. I hope my amateur video editing does you justice.

My star Cass (‘she’) for example, showed up out of nowhere right when I thought there’d be no time to do it, with a rental car to get us to the beach, and agreed to be in the video with no prior knowledge of the song or of me. And when I was held up on Coco Cay because (having been Half Moon Cay where everything is paid using the ship’s room card) I didn’t realise I’d need cash to get my hair braided, another Mara Levi fan let me into the cabana area to film there instead of on the beach where I’d have made ‘old houses’ out of sand. The drawing and origami are by cartoonist Lar DeSouza, and I bought the flowers from flauxers, which is run by another sea monkey who also happened to end up in the video as a tenant. I had been confident from the beginning that some sea monkey would have a top hat they could lend me (there’s a whole ‘monocled monkeys’ group) but it would have actually been difficult to locate one had Robert not been wearing one from the beginning. A few more names are listed in the video description. I’m also grateful to the people who wanted to help but didn’t manage to meet me at the right places or times because I’m not very good at organising things and I didn’t get to the beach for long on Coco Cay.

Mara Levi says she loves it, in capital letters with three exclamation marks, so I’m calling it a success.

Flowers for everyone!

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King of Clubs: Some People I Met on the Cruise

A king of clubs with a ship on itHere is yet another parody of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, this time about some of the interesting people I met on JoCo Cruise Crazy 3 — not even including the official entertainers. I could fill several more verses and link to more examples of some of the descriptors; Sea Monkeys really are diverse, yet we have so much in common. I’ll add more links to explanations of the various people as video goes online. Some of these links relate to previous cruises, but the same kinds of people were on the third.

Whovians, früvians, knitters and quitters
Charming teen boys who don’t need babysitters
Folk most surprising and folk just like me
These are the people on JCCC.

Beardos and weirdos, who cares what the norm is?
Queer folk, craft beer folk and chiptunes performers [substitute ‘standup’ or ‘improv’ or ‘nerd rock’ here if you like; they were all there]
Coders and yodas and soda geeks too
All folks I’ll miss now that crazy week’s through

Linseed boilers
Fans of Euler’s
Scary horse head dudes
With 80s cartoon fans and two singing snorks,
There’s no-one this con excludes!

Dancers and -mancers and cancer survivors
Makers and bakers and pantses-McGuyvers
Writers, fist-fighters, devisers of clues
These are some people I met on the cruise

Those who keep horses, cats, dogs, dare I say ‘bees?
Artists, Kickstartists, mustachioed babies
Snake breeders, cake eaters, ‘fake’ geek girls too
Now that they’re gone I don’t know what to do

Famous vloggers
Weekly bloggers
Details I’ll forget
Please tweet, post in forums, put faces in books
I’ll see you all on the net!

Now if I may blow my own horn (which is probably out of tune) a bit more, here are a few other things I did on the cruise which I’m quite proud of. After using Mike Phirman‘s song Chicken Monkey Duck as mere word fodder to illustrate grapheme-colour synaesthesia and binary trees, as the cruise approached, while I was procrastinating from practising the poem I planned to recite for the open mic night, I finally got around to actually memorising it. Then on the cruise, I had the honour of singing it with Mike Phirman himself, and made one mistake (a monkey instead of a chicken; I am not counting singing the album version instead of the video version he does live, which has an extra pause in it, as a mistake), which I’m going to say was for the purpose of wabi-sabi.

Mike said nobody other than him had memorised that much of it before. I’m sure I’ve seen people doing it on YouTube, but perhaps they were reading the lyrics.

Later in the cruise, I recited my poem about Star Wars during the open mic, feeling justified in using Chicken Monkey Duck as an excuse for the inevitable mistakes (this is how it should have gone.) Still, it’s better than choosing a poem on the night and then reading it, as I did last year.

Mike Phirman (who, in case you were wondering, had said earlier that when you go on stage your body shuts down its vital functions and ‘you can really, really, really have to pee before you go on, and then you walk on stage and your body goes into like war mode, where it’s like, ‘There’s no time for that! We are at war!”) said it was awesome and Paul Sabourin commended my nerd pandering, so I’ll consider that a success! Sure, they’re pretty much paid to say that, but they’re paid to say it partly out of my pocket, so I’ll take it.

There’s one other creative thing I did on the ship, but that’s worthy of being the Ace. I will post it very soon.

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