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They Might Not Be Giants video

When I commissioned Len Peralta to illustrate my poem They Might Not Be Giants for a poster, I paid a little extra to get a speed-paint video of its creation. This was partly because I love watching how Len draws things, but also because I wanted to make a video that would showcase both the poster and the poem. Well, I finally got around to making that video. Here you can watch Len illustrate the poster (sped up, but probably not by as much as you think, because he’s pretty fast) while listening to me read the poem:

I’ve also collected all the videos I have of this poem (my performances, and Joey’s song) in a playlist, in case you’d like to hear the same words several times, or see how it’s changed over time, or whatever. I just like making playlists, okay?

If you’d like a copy of the poster, check my Things to Buy page for information on how to buy it. Or, if you happen to live in Vienna, catch me at one of the open mic nights some time; I usually have posters and bookmarks with me.

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I made a bookmark!

photoI’ve been meaning to put a revised version of the poem The Bookshop on a bookmark for a while, but put it aside as I didn’t have the tools to do it the way I wanted. Motivated by the recent Christmas shopping edition of the Open Phil open mic, I finally bought the app I needed, finished the design, and had some printed, so now you can buy them on my Etsy shop. They may be a little late for Jólabókaflóðið, but you were going to read all year anyway, right? These are considerably cheaper to post worldwide than my posters (fun falsehood: posters are call that because they’re more post), and while the postage still costs more than the thing itself in most cases, you can save on postage by ordering more than one at once.

If you’ve ever started casually reading something in a bookshop and then looked up and realised the sun has gone down, you’ll understand the generally timey-wimey nature of books and bookshops shown in this poem. Admittedly, when this happened to me shortly before I wrote the poem, I was in Stockholm on the shortest day of the year, but it can happen on longer days too. The background shows a sky slowly darkening and becoming a sunset as you read through the poem. The reverse of the bookmark has the name of the poem and author, on the same sky as seen facing away from the Sun.

It occurs to me that a customised version of this poem bookmark might be useful to promote an actual bookshop, so if you’d be interested in that, let me know.

Much thanks to my friend Grace Bridges for her advice on the design of the bookmarks; I would recommend her books to use the bookmark on, but they’re mostly on Kindle, so I’ll just recommend them whether you still use physical bookmarks or not. She also has some posters and T-shirts available on Teechip. I am now considering putting some things up on Teechip myself, since it would be better value than either Zazzle or Etsy for getting posters and T-shirts to people around the world. I’ll also publish a book some day. I’m also working on a few videos and apps and version two of the rhyming dictionary I’m not officially publicising (don’t tell anyone I just linked to it! It’s our secret) until I’ve finished version two. But one thing at a time.

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They Might Not Be Giants: now a song!

The other day I discovered that the ukuletrically charged Joey Marianer has once again set something I wrote to music! Truly, a Joey is an exciting kind of friend to have. (No, not a joey. Not everybody‘s got a baby kangaroo.) This time it’s They Might Not Be Giants.

On the subject of people who could conceivably be called Joey, and who make music, my friend Joseph will be singing a parody of a song I wrote on his patreon some time soon. I’m looking forward to it! If you support him on patreon you’ll see it as soon as it comes out — check out some of his recently-unlocked older posts to get an idea of what you’re in for. The patreon is his only source of income at the moment, so your contribution would mean a lot to him, as well as being good value for you.

On the subject of They Might Not Be Giants, I recited it at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last weekend. It was my first time at a MathsJam and it was great fun. At MathsJam, anyone can give a five-minute talk about anything mathematical, and newcomers were especially encouraged to, so I decided to present The Duel, a more mathematical poem than I would usually do at open mics. I even made some slides depicting what was going on. Eventually, though, I started to think The Duel wasn’t very good and I should do They Might Not Be Giants instead. After reciting both to a focus group of order two a few hours before my talk, I made the switch. With my remaining talk time, I showed some of the haiku I found in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. It seemed to go down well. I had brought along a few of my posters in case people would be interested in them, and came back with none.

The rest of MathsJam was amazing, and I’m sure I’ll be back. There were all sorts of talks, including another mathematical poet, as well as magic, coin-floating, robotic cube-solving, juggling, puzzles, balloon animals, fancy yarn spinning, mathematical song parodies (I also sang Tom Lehrer’s Derivative Song for the people at the MathsJam Jam, since they hadn’t heard it), mathematical cakes, and a competition competition!

I won an origami double-stellated tetrahedron in a competition competition competition. It might not technically be a double-stellated tetrahedron, but the competition was to name it, and, inspired directly by the talk by the shape’s creator (Kathryn Taylor), that’s what I named it.

I was a bit worried that it was going to be a pain to get that home without damaging or losing it, since it would get crushed in my bag and I’m not used to carrying something in my hands constantly. At first it had a string or rubber band around it which had been used to tie it to the competition box, so I tied it to a belt hook. At some point it fell off and partly came apart, but I was having dinner with other MathsJam attendees at the time, and one of them knew enough modular origami to fix it (Kathryn had run a table devoted to modular origami on the Saturday night.) After that I held it by hand, until I realised that it could be suspended quite securely in the Acme Möbius scarf I was wearing.

I heard, repeatedly, that there’s a magazine called chalkdust which I should really be submitting some of my mathematical writing to, so I’ll do that. First, though, I will read the copies I picked up at MathsJam.

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In which Joey sings the last two parodies I wrote

Holy ukuleles, Batman! Joey Marianer has once again sung a thing I wrote. Two things, in fact! He’s like a word-singing machine! Only, I made a word-singing machine, and I think he’s better than it, or at least easier to input songs into. I shall endeavour to continue treating him like a human, though. Thanks, human Joey! You are a good human. Have a treat. Two treats. No, you’ll have to fetch them yourself; I’m too far away. Good boy.

Wait, I’m following a dog-care manual by mistake. I’ll have to do more research on how to treat humans. Meanwhile, listen to this. Joey is unfortunately only one human, so he did not sing the backing vocals in Runtime:

And now, Glasses. If your own eyesight is sharp, you’ll note that Joey got a new ukulele.


On the subject of humans who sing words sometimes, have I mentioned my friend Joseph, who sometimes sings and writes words that I ask him to on his Patreon? If you support him on there, you, too, could obtain some genuine human-created words and/or singing thereof. He also has some shiny art prints on sale.

Addendum: I’ve just realised I forgot to post that Joey also sang my Towel Day quotation creation! Here that is:

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YouTube (Flickr parody)

This is a parody of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Flickr‘ about the videos on my YouTube channel. Some day perhaps I’ll record it, make a video of it, and use that as the introduction video to my channel.

There’s a grown man wearing panties on his face, and on his nose
There’s a sheriff counting zombies in the square
More dangerous than dynamite
That violates his copyright
The girl who picks the flowers wants to share
Breaking records, breaking dawn: The Burning Hell
and Pat Rothfuss in a tree with Lin-Manuel

A flying scooter
A time-lapse concert shot with sound
A cool computer
Some starstruck monkeys spinning round
A ukulele
Wil Wheaton woken by a horse
Amanda’s baby
If you can’t use the warp drive, use the force

A Schuyler in a shark suit
A virgin state of mind
A rainbow nyancat runs around a wall
A herd of deer, a pancake cake
That HR Giger’s probably fake
Sometimes even rockets have to crawl
One LHC turns on, one says goodbye
A robot makes some crêpes, and Paul says hi.

Vaginas flying
Paper cutouts fall in love
How great is Ryan?
Arranging music fits like a glove
Lovestruck utensil
I said Orlando, but trolling’s fun.
A sharpened pencil
Two hearts at karaoke can sing as one

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t filmed them.

It’s difficult to choose from more than 2000 videos, but probably not as difficult as choosing from all the photos on Flickr. I tried to choose a variety of different kinds of videos, while also including my favourite ones, the most popular ones, some of my original work rather than only recordings of other people doing cool things, and some that just happened to fit into the rhyme or rhythm of the song. Where relevant I’ve linked to each video within a playlist (e.g. of a concert), so if you like a video you can see more like it. Sometimes there’s more than one link per line.

I have many alternate lyrics for various lines. If I make a video of it, I suspect I’ll choose whichever make it more visually appealing or varied. For instance, I could also have ‘A god was in my bed last night‘ as the third or fourth line. Instead of ‘A rainbow nyancat runs around a wall’ I could have ‘A Christmas show projected on a wall‘ or ‘there isn’t time and space to do it all‘. For ‘and Pat Rothfuss in a tree with Lin-Manuel’ there’s ‘and an astronaut makes space at NBL‘. Instead of crêpes and Paul saying hi, it could be ‘A space man and a singer have got to fly‘ or ‘A pavlova is a cake that’s not a lie‘. Which do you prefer? Any other suggestions?

Now I’ll get back to uploading JoCo Cruise 2017 videos so there’s even more to choose from. Here’s the original Flickr song:

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I did a poetry show, and you can watch it!

IMG_2370April 28 is Great Poetry Reading Day, so I’m going to share some videos of myself reciting my poetry for an audience. It isn’t reading, but it is poetry! Back in February, Johanna Van Tan asked me if I’d like to recite some poetry at her Sing, Talk, Feel event, along with Matylda Q and Stephanie Ora. The performance was two days before I flew off to JoCo Cruise, so I had a lot of other things to do, but, as you’ll hear in the second poem, this sort of opportunity is exactly what I’ve been preparing for. So I said yes, wrote a script to randomly generate a coherent setlist, ran the script enough times to get a setlist I wanted, and in whatever time was left after that, practised.

I recorded it, because it’s my first show and that’s quite a milestone. Besides, I record everything. I hope that some day I will be good enough that I’ll look back on this and cringe, but for now I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it went and how easily I can watch it without being self-conscious. Johanna improvised piano music behind my poems, which added a lot.

I think I did really well on my segues during this performance, and I love that Johanna played music through them, but that made it hard to find good points to split the recording without leaving comments that pertain to the wrong poem. I would recommend watching the whole playlist to get the full effect. There are links in the individual video descriptions with more information about each poem. Thanks to Thomas for pressing the button on my camera at the right time.

I wore an astronaut flight suit (bought from Kennedy Space Center, with patches from ESOC and a cosmonaut exhibition at London Science Museum added), because they say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In future I plan to have all my props in various pockets of the suit, so I don’t have to bend down and get things out of bags and so on.

A week or so later, I performed a couple of poems as part of the ‘A Bunch of Monkeys Read Some Stuff’ event on JoCo Cruise. Here’s a playlist of the whole event, and here’s my part:

I also performed at the open mic on the cruise, but I haven’t uploaded my video of that yet; I record all of the shows I am allowed to on the cruise, and for the most part, upload them in order. I’m currently up to the afternoon of the fifth day. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to keep up with my latest JoCo Cruise, poetry, or other videos. Once I’m done with the cruise videos and have checked with the other performers, I’ll also upload the video I have of the rest of the Sing, Talk, Feel event.

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Things up to which I have been (a poem)

(Note: there is no grammatical reason not to end a sentence with a preposition. I just wrote the title this way for comic effect.)

I’ve been busy in so many ways
and my blog’s gone from quiet to worse
so for poetry month, I’ll be terse
with my news in prosodic arrays.

Here’s a list of my works and my plays —
check the links if you want to immerse.
I’ll explain it all further in verse
in new posts in the upcoming days.

I’ve performed and I’ve published and coded,
got a job, got a fan page, and masters
in linguistics and web dev and showed it
with a site to find safer rhymes faster,
took a cruise, got some footage uploaded,
and wrote poems when I could be arsed to.

That was some kind of Petrarchan sonnet in anapaestic trimeter; what in the bard’s name am I doing? I’ve been wanting to update my blog for some time now, but I keep doing more things that I want to blog about and it seemed like any blog post doing them all justice would be too long. I also still want to make improvements on, or upload footage of, many of the things I want to blog about before blogging about them. I have been posting a bit more often on the fan page, though, so like that if you want to stay informed.

The only way to clear this blog backlog (ack, blog backlog!) is to blog, and it’s Global Poetry Writing Month (also known as National Poetry Writing Month, though a nation is rarely specified) so if I blog something, it should be a poem. I’ll be blogging poems, perhaps daily, until I have poem-blogged about all the things from the last 11 months that I wanted to blog about. Consider this poem the table of contents, or the tl;dr version of blog posts to come.

If you’re also participating in GloPoWriMo, and need some inspiration, try my random rhyme generator. Someone suggested that feature when I told him about the accent-aware rhyming dictionary I made, and I promptly spent my free time on that instead of making the other improvements I had been planning, such as clarifying when ‘faster’ rhymes with ‘arsed to’ (hint: it happens in most accents where ‘can’t be arsed‘ or indeed ‘arse’ is used) and when it rhymes with ‘amassed a’. But more on that in a later blog poem.

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A Poetry Video for Star Wars Day

On Star Wars Day in 2012, all I had seen of Star Wars while fully awake was The Phantom Menace and The Star Wars Holiday Special. I finally had what seemed like the perfect opportunity to lose my Star Wars virginity, with a screening of the original three movies by the CERN CinéClub, and yet, I had doubts. Not many people reached my age without having seen Star Wars. Surely I should do something artistic with my unusual lack of knowledge. Which is not to say that art is the realm of unknowledgeable people, but humour can be, as long as one doesn’t mind being the target of the laughter.

I asked Twitter whether I should watch the movies, or instead write a poem about everything I knew about the movies from songs and internet memes. Twitter said to write poetry, so I did.

I have since recited the poem to an audience of nerds on JoCo Cruise 3, and to my surprise, they did not throw me overboard. One of them has even read my poem at an event at a library. I made a mistake on the cruise, though, so I never had a good video of the poem to share… until now. I have actually seen all seven Star Wars movies in the last year, so made a video with not only the poem, but a run-down of how it differs from the actual movies:

I quote Marian Call’s song, ‘I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic (the Nerd Anthem)’ and The Doubleclicks’ song ‘Nothing To Prove‘ at the beginning.

The poem references OSV word orderWil Wheaton’s story, ‘The Trade’, from which I learnt the existence of land speeders, to some extent the sleeping bag from which I learnt about tauntaunsThe Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo, and the ‘Do not want‘ meme from Star War The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West.

I used six seconds of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Screwed’ in the credits. I’m wearing this shirt; there are two versions of the shirt widely available online, but I got the only one which ships to Europe.

Star Wars is not the only thing I learn about mainly from songs and internet memes. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is another, and so, inspired by a song by Paul and Storm about George R. R. Martin’s slow writing, I contributed a picture to a music video for another song by Paul and Storm about the series:

I hope you enjoyed these videos. May the fourth be with you! 🖖😉

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Logan Awards Finalists (with links)

Recently I had the honour of being a fan juror for the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music (Logan Awards for short.) It was great to finally have an important reason to listen to comedy music for several full days, and a response to the eye-rolling of my friends when I mentioned yet another funny song, although deciding which songs to vote for was pretty tough. As a juror I had to listen to or watch all the songs and music videos nominated by the general public, and choose my favourite five nominees in each category. I can’t tell you which ones I voted for, but the finalists (chosen based on the votes of all the jurors, with ties broken by Dr. Demento) have been announced. Since the page on the Logan Awards site doesn’t link to the songs in question, I thought I’d link to them here. In alphabetical order:

Outstanding Parody Song

Out­stand­ing Orig­i­nal Com­edy Song

Out­stand­ing Com­edy Music Video

Here’s a YouTube playlist of the music video finalists:

The winners will be announced at FuMPFest on 5—7 June in Wheeling, Illinois. If you like funny music and are anywhere near there, I recommend going; it sounds like great fun. Many comedy musicians will be there, including guests of honour The Arrogant Worms. I saw some of the same performers and fans at the MarsCon 2014 dementia track, and it was a blast.

I’d like to give the other nominees a bit of publicity, but it’s difficult to do that without people making inferences about my votes, so here is a YouTube playlist of all the videos nominated in open nominations for the ‘Outstanding Comedy Music Video’ category, sorted in ascending order of views because the ones with the fewest views need the publicity more.

If you’re a Paul and Storm fan, you might be wondering why no songs from their 2014 album Ball Pit are in the finals. Some of their songs were nominated in the open nominations, but they became ineligible for the award when Paul Sabourin joined the jury. In honour of Paul’s noble sacrifice, I present to you a nominated video of this song of theirs which would have made the judging harder for me, if only because of all the freeze-framing to see the details:

If you’d like to hear more comedy music, consider subscribing to The FuMP podcasts, where you can get several comedy songs a week for free. You can find even more funny music on the Mad Music Archive, the Dr. Demento Show, or Songs About Science & Math. Also, check out the Logan Whitehurst website to find out about the awards’ namesake and buy his music.

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They Might Not Be Giants Posters, now touched by my own hands

Note: I am back in Europe now, and have the posters available on my Etsy store, which are good value for anyone ordering from Europe. From the US it may work out better to get them from Zazzle.

At the Presidential Variety Show, and later the Open Mic Night, on JoCo Cruise Crazy 5, I recited my poem ‘They might not be giants.‘ Here’s a video from the Open Mic; pretend I said that ‘I was waiting for the shaking to stop’ was the name of my Taylor Swift cover band.

I brought along some locally-printed copies of this Len-Peralta-drawn poster of the poem, since I figured people would like them, and if they bought the ones on Zazzle they’d have to give a lot of extra money to Zazzle and the postal service.

The posters I printed are 11×17 inches (approximately A3) on 300gsm silk-coated stock, which is really quite fancy and sturdy. Quite a few people wanted them, which meant (since we’re not supposed to sell things while onboard, and I was mostly able to resist the urge to give them away) I had more fruity drinks and other items than I otherwise would have, plus some cash from sea monkeys I saw on land. But some people who wanted posters didn’t manage to catch me at the right time to get one. I have some posters left, which you can order from my Etsy store. (Note: when I wrote this post originally, I was temporarily in New Zealand, and it was economical for me to send posters to the US for a lowish price. That is no longer the case, so I have updated the post with a link to my Etsy store which has the correct postage from Austria.) If you’re in Europe, the combined price is slightly lower than from Zazzle while still giving me a bigger cut and getting you a better-quality poster. It is of course better value for both of us if you order more than one at a time, since the postage costs the same amount for multiple posters unless you’re ordering a ridiculous number of them. I’m not a warehouse full of elves, nor am I on my home turf at the moment (update: okay, now I am), so I can’t make any promises about how soon I will post posters after you order, but I’ll do my best. Feel free to order from Zazzle if you prefer elven reliability.

If you want me to sign it or write some kind of message or doodle in the small area or empty space, say so in the message to the vendor when you check out (update: I am not sure if there is a way to do that on Etsy, but contact me here, on twitter, on Etsy or something). Please note that I have not settled on an official famous-person-style autograph yet, so results may vary. Also, my doodles are the doodles of a poet, not those of Len Peralta, so don’t expect them to match the quality of the rest of the poster.

If I gave you a poster on the ship and you didn’t have anything to give in return, you can donate something:

Contribute to the They Might Not Be Giants Appreciation FundOr you could lend some money on Kiva and join the Sea Monkey team I created yesterday. I don’t have a day job at the moment, so I am no longer promising to lend poster proceeds on Kiva before using them, but I probably will anyway as long as I have enough savings to live on.

Many other things also happened on JoCo Cruise Crazy, which I might summarise when I have time. I have a lot of video to upload when I eventually get home. For now, here’s The Future Soon a cappella and Jim Boggia’s cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Junk’.

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