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Poem: Why I Perform at Open Mics (as performed at an open mic)


I’ve been performing at a lot of open mics in Vienna and wherever else I happen to be, so I wrote a poem about why I do it. Here’s a video of my performance of it at the open mic on JoCo Cruise 2017, with some special pandering to The Doubleclicks, who hosted the open mic, and some accidental offense to BatSteve, who was right in front of me, probably taking photos.

Check out the rest of my footage of the open mic too.

Here are the words:

If there’s one thing that’s lauded in the internet age,
it’s if I want to be applauded I don’t need to go on stage.
I could write shit in my bedroom, gathering tweets and shares and likes,
but despite it I still head to gatherings known as open mics.

Because fuck it, our creations need a community
and luck is preparation meeting opportunity,
so when The Doubleclicks or Weird Al Yankovic come to town
and every good opening act mysteriously comes down
with a synthetic disease to which I have immunity,
I’ll be ready to please, dropping rhymes with impunity.

‘Cause I’m a Master of Rhyme;
I’ve got a Masters degree
and my thesis was a rhyming dictionary,
so I’ll be rapping my rants
and you’ll be clapping your hands
and flapping your panties
that you happily planned
to throw at fabulous bands
and I’ll be nabbing their fans
while they are crapping their pants

In real life I’m a hacker and I’m super science knowledge-y:
linguistics and mathematics and some microbiology
but I admit that in the latter I have lax methodology,
and for that I say no matter; I present my apology:
if your bladder had a splatter, don’t be mad; I tried urology.

So back to the point — my plan is all about practice.
The knack to seem much better than any surviving opening act is.
And that may sound unfettered and conniving but the fact is
they lack my well-honed stagecraft and immunoglobulin factors.

Because I’m
perfecting my art
and projecting my heart
While collecting the hard-earned
affection that’s marred
by those correctly called “artists”
rejecting my protective injection,
electing collective infection — ejecting a shart.
And maybe I’m a chump who’s not much better than you,
but I’ll be number one while you’re going number two.

I digress; I’m an open mic nerd; I require us
to weary of hearing Free Bird, Miley Cyrus.
When merely a chord or a word can rewire us
and everyone’s here to be heard and inspire us
then I’ll engineer a deferred norovirus.

So now you understand why I’m facing my fears.
I’m bracing to be panned while embracing my peers
so I’ve no stage fright when the big stars are here.
There’ll be no cage fight, the choice will be clear,
because I write each night I can guarantee ya
that my shite’s not trite, or second tier,
and the light’s so bright I can barely see ya,
and I’ll be the only artist without diarrhoea.

Everything in my poem is true, except for the microbiology stuff. I really did make a rhyming dictionary for my Masters thesis. It’s already better than any other rhyming dictionary I’ve used, but I’m working on more improvements to it before promoting it more widely.

Ironically, and unrelated to any norovirus experiments I deny doing, I actually had a short bout of diarrhoea a week ago, and am now nursing an injured foot because I fainted and woke up on the toilet floor. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m no stranger to waking up injured on the toilet floor — I wrote a poem called A Skirmish [With My Least-Favourite Body Part] about the previous time that happened. And now, coincidentally, you can buy a pdf of a poster of that poem! It has the poem looking like it’s written in blood, and a schematic of the offending body part in the background. I originally made the poster a while ago as a goodbye present for a friend who likes that poem, but since it was better value to print more than one, I put one up on the wall of my toilet, and sold/swapped a few to other people, who seemed to really like it.

I decided it would be cool to put it up as a pay-what-you-like download for Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, but after overshooting that deadline researching sites where you can do that sort of thing, I instead ended up opening an Etsy store.  There you can download the poster as two pdfs, one optimised for A4 and one for US Letter format, and print however many copies you like, just as long as you don’t make money from them or remove the credits (it’s BY-NC-SA). It’s not pay-as-you-like, because Etsy doesn’t do that sort of thing, but I think the price is fair — cheaper than many simpler downloadable posters on Etsy. It’s all vector-based so should print nicely in larger sizes as well. I’d love to see this on toilet walls all over the place.

If people are interested I’ll also add an option to buy printouts of it; the printouts themselves would be cheaper than the download but would probably work out more expensive with postage, and you’d only have however many you bought without the option of printing more.

I’ve been meaning to offer a way to buy They Might Be Giants posters directly from me, so I also added those to the store. The postage from Austria is really high for most parts of the world, so if you’re in, say, the USA, you’re probably better off getting a poster from Zazzle, but if you’re in Europe, you’ll get a better quality poster (I don’t recall the exact paper specifications but I think the ones I have are on 300gsm paper. It’s really nice) at a lower price from me through Etsy. I also make more profit that way. Most of the money you give Zazzle goes to Zazzle, while most of the money you pay via Etsy goes to me.

While you’re buying menstruation- and science-related poetry, check out my friend Chella’s Etsy shop, where you can get some zines about menstruation and space, one of which (not the space one) has a lot of cool menstrual poetry in it. Also, even more importantly, sign her petition to keep branding out of menstruation education. Or at least read it and do what you can to improve menstruation education in your part of the world; Chella put a lot of work into the petition and it’s quite interesting.

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Free Love (With Every Purchase) on The Overcast


Shortly before Valentine’s Day, my short story Free Love (With Every Purchase), which is a revised version of Valet de cœur, was featured on The Overcast. I’ve always thought this would be a fun one to read aloud; indeed, I read it myself at the Short Story Conference in Vienna in 2014. It’s exciting to have it read aloud on a podcast. I was travelling when the podcast came out, without much chance to download or listen to things, but I finally had a chance to listen to it recently. I love the way J. S. Arquin reads it. He often reads it differently from how it was in my head, but that makes it more interesting to me; I’d already ‘heard’ the version that’s in my head. You can listen to it here:

or go to the episode page to find out ways you can discuss it with other Overcast listeners, or subscribe to or support The Overcast. Indeed, do support the podcast if you can; they do pay authors, and would like to be able to pay them more. Since circumstances have prevented me from earning much recently, the fee for this story provided the bulk of my meagre income for the month it was accepted. This, of course, means that for that month, at least, I was a freelance writer by profession.

In the author’s note at the end of the podcast I mention that each leap year I write (or otherwise create) something every week, inspired by my collection of souvenir playing cards. That’s true; I’ve done it twice so far. I should have started a new cycle of it three weeks ago, on February 29th, but I was recovering from JoCo cruise and getting ready to fly to Johnson Space Center, so I didn’t quite manage to post anything. For most of the last year and a half I’ve either been away from home or busy catching up on all the things I didn’t do while away from home. I’ve been to new places, bought new playing cards, and built up a stock of half-finished ideas to work on during this cycle, though. The good thing about writing inspired by playing cards is that even if I don’t post them exactly weekly, I’ll always know when I’ve done the full 52 (or 54 if I write jokers.)

Now I’m pretty much caught up with other stuff, so tomorrow will be a rest day consisting of snack food, catching up on xkcd, processing JoCo Cruise videos, taking out my cruise braids, and an online concert by Marian Call. Marian will also be playing in Vienna on the 26th; come along if you’re in the area! At Marian’s last online concert, I tipped enough to get a custom holiday card, so I asked for one celebrating leap day, particularly since I start a new year of Writing Cards and Letters every leapday. I started writing a post including pictures of the card on the leapday itself, but had to sleep, or leave for the airport, or somesuch… if only I’d had one more minute!

Here they are now, a little late; you can designate a different day to be Bonus Day if you like. Any day when your plans are cancelled and you unexpectedly have a free day. Any day when you deliberately don’t make plans because you need a free day. A day like today.

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‘They might not be giants’ Poster


A while ago I wrote a poem called ‘They might not be giants‘, about the famous phrase, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ A while later, that poem was published in Offshoots 12, the 2013 anthology of the Geneva Writers’ Group.

Ever since writing it, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to see a picture of the tower of dwarves described. I’ve also been thinking about which plural of ‘dwarf’ is best, and a couple of grammatical and typographical decisions I made regarding the poem, but mostly I’ve been thinking about the picture. Well, I finally commissioned Len Peralta to draw that picture for me! It is gorgeous.

It is also the real reason I set up a Zazzle store; you can buy it as an 11×17 poster featuring the poem. I’ll have some printed locally as well, so if anyone near Vienna wants one they can buy one directly from me. Maybe you’d like one for yourself, or an aspiring scientist, or an inspiring teacher, or a Len Peralta fan, or an Angela Brett fan (do they exist? Edit: there is one) or even a They Might Be Giants fan who wants their poster collection to cover all possibilities. I think it’s suitable for anyone who has walls. If you know anyone who doesn’t have walls who would like some, see if you can help them find a home.

I’ve always been fascinated by Len’s videos of himself drawing, so I paid a little extra to get this mesmerising speedpaint video, which doubles as a great way to get an idea of what the poster looks like close-up. Note that the final poster has the title of the poem on it, and a few other small changes to the text.

I still can’t watch it without squeeing. It took him 2 hours, 36 minutes, which is about how long it would take me to draw a stick figure version indistinguishable from a Christmas tree.

This is actually not the first time I’ve commissioned Len to draw something for me; he also drew the picture of Jonathan Coulton transforming into an internet superstar at the beginning of a video I made to celebrate Jonathan’s Thing A Week by summarising each song in the form of a ‘roses are red’ poem. He drew most of the rest of the art in the video, too, but that was done already as part of his Visual Thing A Week project, which is the reason I know he exists.

That’s all from me. Go have fun, and tune in tomorrow for the next exciting installment of Forms and Formulae.

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Pronoun Flowchart Update and Poster


It occurred to me that now that I have a Zazzle store, I could print posters of the inadvertently-Zork-themed English pronoun flowchart I made at the start of the year. The image I used for the background has no ‘noncommercial’ condition on the license, after all. So I fixed a typo, fixed the alignment of the text in the boxes, thickened the lines, nudged a few things into better positions, and before I knew it I was moving a whole lot of things around to get it into more of a square shape to make better use of the space and fit onto a standard poster size. I think the result looks much tidier, and what’s more, in the process of doing that I noticed I’d somehow forgotten to add an example sentence for the pronoun ‘he’.

Now it is available as a 24″x24″ poster. You can order it at a smaller size if you like, but I think the text would be quite small (though still readable) in that case. I’ve also made an updated pdf of it, so if you want you could print that as a poster instead, or just read it on your screen; I don’t mind. The background might look slightly different from the Zazzle version due to resolution issues, but it’s only a faint background image so it doesn’t matter that much. I have yet to try either option.

Zork-themed English Pronoun Flowchart
Zork-themed English Pronoun Flowchart by Angelastic
Browse more Grammar Posters at Zazzle

It still doesn’t include relative, possessive or interrogative pronouns. Picking a pronoun is complicated enough without them. It does include we, ourselves, us, they, themselves, them, he, she, himself, him, herself, her, I, itself, it, myself, me, oneself, one, yourself, yourselves, you, and advice on when to look up a more exotic gender-neutral pronoun or dialectal plural ‘you’. Most of these rules will be obvious to native English speakers, but if you like grammar or flowcharts it’s interesting to see them written explicitly, and the example sentences may be entertaining. It could also be useful to people or robots whose native language is not English.

As with the other poster, if I get enough money that Zazzle actually pays me, I will lend it on Kiva, since I currently have enough money from my day job to live on.

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Creative Output Posters and Postcards


Almost five years ago, I took a photo of the audio input and output ports of my then-new MacBook Pro, and edited it to have various things I’ve written and drawn streaming out of the output port, as a pun on the idea of ‘creative output’. I then renamed the blog to go with it, since the old title no longer encompassed everything I was doing. I said I might make posters of it some day, but all I did was use it on my contact cards. However, I recently decided to set up a Zazzle store so I can sell another thing I have in the works, so I’ve just made that picture available as a poster and postcards. The postcards are eligible for a 20% discount for a Father’s Day promotion Zazzle has going on, which I think ends some time today. [Edit: It turns out they pretty much always have some kind of discount that applies to certain things.]

Before putting it up for sale, I updated it. I added the Wordles from everything I’ve written since then, as well as various images from the Cantor Ternary Set Cantor Ternary Set, the arrow poems, and the Post-It decorations in my temporary apartment. I’ve added things to almost the entire output stream, but you might need help from Myopic Person to make some of them out amongst the general mess of output. Apart from that, I made a few cosmetic improvements using new features in a much more recent version of Acorn (which I’ve just noticed still isn’t the latest), which no longer crashes when dealing with a file that size. I also made use of the graphics tablet and fonts I’ve acquired in the mean time. I added the words ‘Creative Output’ and the URL of the blog, since the whole picture was based on that pun and may not have any artistic merit without it.

This is what the poster looks like:

Poster preview

The postcards show a bit more of the Mac at the top, due to the different aspect ratio.

For the poster I chose the ‘standard’ size with the closest aspect ratio to the original picture, since a standard size will make it cheaper for anyone who wants to order a framed version. The poster is 19″x13″, and at that size it should be about 210ppi; I can’t do much better than that since it was based on a 12 megapixel photo. This is higher than Zazzle recommends for a good-quality print, and it should be fine for a poster, but if you’re a real print aficionado who prefers higher ppi, you can choose the ‘extra small’ option in the Size menu.

I don’t need extra money at the moment, since I still have a day job (though I will be looking for a new one next year; does anybody need a programmer who knows some things about accelerating particles and also occasionally writes, studies linguistics, and doodles on photos?) and since the payments from Zazzle will go into my PayPal account anyway, I will lend them on Kiva until such time as I need them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Synaesthete’s Blues, Immersive Edition


On Thursday I was thinking about interesting things I could do if I made a book of some of my writing and typeset it myself, and one of the things I thought of was running Synaesthete’s Blues (a poem about discovering my ‘S’ fridge magnet was blue, when according to my grapheme → colour synaesthesia it should be orange) through Synaesthetist (an app I wrote to display text in a given synaesthetist’s colours) so that it would be displayed in my colours. This would annoy other grapheme → colour synaesthetes in exactly the manner described in the poem (since their colours are almost certainly different from mine) and would probably be jarring for non-synaesthetes too.

If I did make such a book, it would probably be very expensive and time-consuming to produce, so for now, I will just put a coloured version of Synaesthete’s Blues here. The letters are coloured with the colours I associate with them, and outlined with the colour of the first letter of the word they’re in, because the first letter of a word tends to dominate, and the outline makes it clearer what’s going on and easier to read than simply mixing the colours would — see the post about Synaesthetist for more about that. It’s in bold text, which means the outline is thinner than usual relative to the letters, and makes its effect less true to how I see the words, but it makes the text easier to read, and should make it easier for you to see the colours of the individual letters without them being so dominated by the first letters. The title, URL and my name at the bottom are all done by blending the first letter’s colour in with the others in a fraction that looks just right to me.

Synaesthete's Blues

Coincidentally, Friday’s xkcd comic was about grapheme → colour synaesthesia. Neat as a tree. In case you’re wondering, I couldn’t see either big number (though they are there.) I have to look at a few graphemes at a time to get colours from them; I can’t see a colour picture just by glancing at it.

A couple of dictionaries tell me that ‘immersive’ applies to electronics which engage several senses apart from sound and vision, whereas ‘immersion’ does have the meaning I’m after but isn’t an adjective. I’m going to stick with calling this immersive until I think of a better idea. You’re immersed (but not embedded) in synaesthesia and the frustration of seeing graphemes in the wrong colours.

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Valentine Day Massacre chapbook


Just in time to arrive late for Valentine’s Day, Červená Barva Press have released a chapbook of poems mentioning the word ‘heart’, which were posted on Fictionaut in response to a Valentine’s Day challenge. I’m going to assume they removed the customary apostrophe and ensuing S in order to avoid any unintentional SQL injection. Anyhow, this book includes my scientific love poem, Chemistry, which you can see me reading while wearing two fake moustaches here:

The words and explanations of the science behind it can be found on a few previous blog posts, so I’ll just link to one of them.

Feel free to buy a copy of the chapbook for yourself or your valentine. I don’t get any money from it, and neither does anyone else except for the publisher, because apparently we did it for love, but if you buy it, you’ll get to read quite a varied set of poems, which will make you happy. Alternatively, you could read the poems on Fictionaut by searching the site for ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’.

On the subject of fake moustaches, I recently went on a cruise with Jonathan Coulton and many of his famous friends and fans. The cruise featured a moustache formal, so if you would like to see how my moustache has changed over time, here’s a picture of me at the formal. I’ll probably post more about the cruise later, if I can come up with a sufficiently creative way of describing it. In the mean time, you could enjoy the many videos I took of the cruise.

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When a poem rights a person


A while ago I asked you which Things I should submit to Offshoots, the biennial anthology of the Geneva Writers’ Group. Then, rather than deciding what to submit based on the results, I submitted the two poems which my printer had managed to print before succumbing to persistent paper jams. I guess it’s official enough now that I can announce that ɘloЯ was accepted. However, the editors thought the last line could be more interesting, and wanted a title which was unlikely to cause typographic problems. So I renamed it to ‘Role Reversal’ and changed the last stanza. This is the new version of the poem:

One ev’’ning I went to the pub for a beer
and later went home to my bed.
As I went off to sleep I was feeling quite queer,
and the world turned around in my head.

The pieces of bread dipped us humans in cheese,
the cheese made by cows from our milk.
Early worms got the birds, while they made their pongees
from our swaddling, and christened it silk.

As letters sent men they would each seal a kiss,
which itself stole a beau, what a turnoff.
And Soviet Russia was in all of this,
poking fun at our man Yakov Smirnoff.

The horses on knightback were chased by the steeple,
convinced they should set the truth free.
And wars fought in soldiers then started the people,
till their shoes walked a mile in me.

Then science was checked by remains prehistoric:
the reptiles who warmed up the air
and caused the extinction of things meteoric
while the common were sought by the rare.

At some point, I think I awoke my alarm,
but I don’t know quite when in the tale,
for certain events have a true-to-life charm,
for a man who is drunk by his ale.

I’m not sure when this volume of Offshoots will be published, but I hope you’ll all rush out to buy them when they do, and then come home disappointed because unless you live in Geneva, you’re unlikely to find any. I’ll probably send some copies to friends. I’ve read previous volumes and they’re full of interesting writing. I probably shouldn’t compliment it too much, though, since my poem is apparently just as good, and one kind of poetic conceit is enough for me.

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything published; indeed, it had been a while since I’d written anything. I plan to submit a few more of my favourite Things to various appropriate publications. I’m also working on a few other spinoffs from this project, so there should be more updates soon. This has certainly worked; I keep coming up with ideas for things to write, and then not writing them because I have no deadline.

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