Posts Tagged Jonathan Coulton
I felt a bit bad about having to truncate the full-length instrumental that Colleen and Joseph made for JoCo Day is Wunnerful, so, having already taught my robot choir the main melody, I decided to record my own cover of Christmastime is Wunnerful. I was toying with the idea of making it a mashup with Jonathan Coulton’s other Christmas classic, Chiron Beta Prime (since the source tracks for that are available), when I realised that even without modification, Christmastime is Wunnerful is quite amusing to listen to while watching Tom Ellsworth‘s music video for Chiron Beta Prime. So I decided to edit that video (with Tom’s permission) to match my cover. Here is the result:
For comparison, here’s the original Chiron Beta Prime video. I didn’t have to change very much, really:
I had to pretty much abandon the ‘daily’ part of Holidailies because ended up flyng to New Zealand, which in itself takes more than a day without internet. But here’s some more holiday for you.
The voices I used were, in order of appearance:
Adult human male: Alex
Standard robots: Zarvox
Festive holiday figure robots for the purposes of augmenting human morale and productivity: Trinoids
Adult human female: Victoria
Human male emulation for the purposes of undetectable redaction: Ralph
Juvenile human: Junior
I also used the bells and ‘Message redacted’ tracks from Chiron Beta Prime, and the ‘Machines’ track from The Future Soon.
I signed up for Holidailies knowing full well I’d miss the first day. The reason why will probably not amaze you.
A couple of my friends (or was it the same friend twice?) mentioned this Holidailies thing, and although I have too many things to do already, I reasoned that I did get through half of National(?) Poetry Writing Month relatively unscathed, so maybe I should do it. I signed up for it on December 1, knowing full well I probably wouldn’t be able to post anything that day. You see, I was busy working on something that had to be finished by the end of December 1 in Brooklyn, but would be unlikely to be done before midnight in my own time zone. I did finish it in time, so I’m posting it here as either my December 1 or December 2 post, depending on whether I get around to making something else worth posting today.
I did the video editing for this collaborative birthday video for Jonathan Coulton from his fans, the sixth one so far. Tradition dictates that no matter how early somebody starts suggesting we make something, nobody actually does anything until December 1 is almost upon us, and this year it was really down to the wire; the first contributions were sent in on November 29, and although many people had previously expressed an interest in participating, in the last few days we could only gather four people, some robots, and a cat. It’s a good thing I’d already learnt the basics of Final Cut Pro while making the Paul and Storm karaoke video, so I could do a lot of things fairly quickly, even if I probably went overboard on the things Final Cut can do that iMovie couldn’t, and there are many other things that I’d have liked to spend more time getting right.
The song is based on ‘Christmastime is Wunnerful’ from Jonathan Coulton’s and John Roderick’s Christmas album, One Christmas at a Time.
Everyone did a lot; the two most musical of us each sent in many amazing instrumental tracks that it would probably take me months to figure out and years to learn to play. Meanwhile, as a software developer who’s only recently started learning about music, I simply made some robot voices sing in ways that perhaps amaze people who don’t know how that works. That was done using my robot choir, a program I wrote to sing using the built-in Mac speech synthesis, which I intend to rewrite with a decent interface and release on the app store one of these days. Maybe next year some time, if I don’t end up finding a new day job after my current one ends. I’ve released several mediocre songs using the robot choir.
Later this month I’ll be going to Norway for the first time, to celebrate Christmas with some friends, and I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging. But I’ll do my best. Perhaps I’ll write a sonnet on a mundane topic each day; sonnets are structured enough that they’re fairly easy to write when you have nothing to say. Leave topic suggestions in the comments and I’ll try to get to them. If your topics can only be expressed in dactyls, I reserve the right to write a sonnet about how you are a poopy-head.
This is a parody of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Better‘. You probably haven’t heard of that song, because it’s from before Jonathan quit his day job and got all famous. It’s way better than his new stuff, because it’s about someone who liked their partner before said partner turned into a cyborg and sold out to the robot overlords. Opinions expressed in these lyrics do not reflect those of the author.
What have you done?
I think you know what I’m talking about.
No more homespun;
I’d just bought in and then you just sold out.
I remember the Yale Whiffenpoofs,
Spizzwinks(?) and Pop!Tech and Little Gray Books.
Little short lines I read nothing between.
Nobody loved you like me.
But it’s not me, it’s you.
It’s the star you’ve turned to.
The day job you quit
like no artist would do.
You were my great nerd love
that no-one had heard of,
but I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.
You started out small,
some free tunes and some gigs as an opening band.
Now you must have it all;
you moved on to the sea once you’d soft rocked the land.
Now you tour with a real live Scarface,
big boomy drums and a super star bass,
and the act that you opened for opens your act;
you act like you don’t know your place.
Then you made record-deal ‘art’
and produced it with Flans,
denied us your real heart,
ignored your real fans.
You might be a giant,
but I ain’t no client
and I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.
So that’s how it goes.
Your whole cake is a lie, and you’re eating it too.
Why would anyone think I’d be happy for you?
It’s not about you, it’s all about me.
Here is a list of what I want to see.
Don’t please the masses, and don’t plead for cash.
Just be authentic for free.
Now, I’m not against gold mines
’cause I like sluice box muck.
But man, you’re the nugget,
the million bucks.
You used to like monkeys,
but now you’re like Snuggies
and I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.
Just for fun, I’ve included the titles of or otherwise strongly referenced the titles of at least five other songs of his, and one song by his opening band (that he used to open for) Paul and Storm. See if you can find them!
‘Better’ was actually one of the first Jonathan Coulton songs I heard, when I found Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms, and Jonathan was probably about halfway through Thing A Week when I found it. I didn’t find out about the Whiffenpoofs, Spizzwinks(?) or Little Gray Books lectures until some time later. I like his new albums too and I’m glad that he’s successful and therefore has the freedom to do whatever he likes without worrying too much about what will sell. I’m happy that if I mention his name at a geek-adjacent event these days, people are likely to know who I’m talking about. I even sang ‘Better’ at a karaoke event in Vienna recently, and it wasn’t the first JoCo song to be sung there.
My last post here said that JoCo Cruise Crazy would have a ball pit. Due to hygiene regulations, that ball pit became an imaginary ball pit, but there were still at least two real ball pits on the ship. The one I brought was sewn onto my pants for the annual Fancy Pants parade. Anyone who wanted to get into my ball pit would have to at least buy me dinner first.
I did, however, flash my balls at people occasionally:
Ultimately, giving such a ‘special show’ to the Monarch of the Seas, Queen Courtney, won me a trophy, and the title of Best In Terms of Pants. Here’s the video of the parade from my own camera (expertly wielded by Simcha, who also took his own videos of the cruise), showing my humble beginnings and triumphant return:
And here’s a video from an angle that shows the rest of the parade well. You can almost see that when Jonathan Coulton is walking around humming God Save the Queen, I flash my balls at him and make him laugh a little:
I thought I had some fancy pants, and now I know it’s true. I looked at all the fancy pants and held the trophy high:
Everybody cheered, but I swear by Coulton’s beard, that everybody had the best pants. For while it may not seem like it from the fact that I was wearing toys bought from a baby store and making jokes about balls, I am mature enough to understand that the key to happiness cannot be in supplanting someone else’s pants. Chances are you’re best in everybody’s pants. There were shiny pants, blinking pants, gumbo pants (I liked them, and he did put a ring in it), squid pants, wrong pants and right pants; you can see some of them up-close in Atom Moore’s gallery.
Some of the balls were less securely attached than others, causing a wardrobe malfunction whereby a few of my balls fell off during the parade. This was fun, because I could throw them to my adoring fans (of which I have none) in the hot tub at the end of the catwalk. It looks like they were thoroughly examined. I’m told the people in the tub chanted ‘ball pit pants!’ to correct Her Majesty’s proclamation of ‘balloon pants’. Off with their heads!
The fancy pants parade was followed immediately by a movie night, which was followed by a concert. As I made my way to the concert, I heard that somebody had already added ball pit pants to the life-sized Lego statue of Jonathan Coulton that brick artist and JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 performer Nathan Sawaya had unveiled earlier in the week and left in the game room to be embellished. I was honoured!
The guy who took that photo got a bit creative with the later shots.
Some people wondered how I made the pants, and some did assume I’d used balloons, due to the difficulty of attaching and transporting balls. But they are, in fact, balls. I started with some old jeans that were starting to fall apart. After searching for playpen balls in the toy sections of various stores without success, I finally found some at a store called Babywalz, and bought two hundred. They were for babies, and definitely not the crush-proof kind Randall Munroe recommended for adults. As such, they were made of a quite supple plastic that was easy to get a needle through, so I could sew them on. At first I only attached them with one stitch each, and these were probably the balls that fell off during the parade. We each got a single playpen ball in our swag bags when we boarded the ship, but those ones were harder than mine and wouldn’t have been easy to sew. The swag bags also contained the pants/squid/robot/monkey playing cards that the one pictured comes from; while this post is not technically part of Writing Cards and Letters, I couldn’t resist using such a card. The pants cards were designed by Katie Rice.
I used nearly a hundred balls to cover the front, outer sides, and back lower calves of my pants. I left the other parts ball-free so that I would be able to sit down, and wouldn’t have to splay my legs apart to make room for my balls, as I have little experience in that. On the backs of my legs I sewed some coloured foam circles I found in the craft section of a bookstore… not as many as I’d intended to sew, since I only remembered to do that on the night before flying out.
The balls were not crush-proof, but as Randall Munroe warned us, there still wasn’t really a way to compress them for transport. My pants filled that third of my suitcase that I usually struggle to fill without going over the weight limit. As I continued my vacation to Kennedy Space Center, Chicago (including Fermilab) and MarsCon, I accumulated more and more souvenirs, and my victorious balls got more and more crushed. I still showed the pants to a hot-tub full of dementites at MarsCon, though, and once again threw some balls in for playing.
The tutu was a birthday gift made by my mother; if you like it, and you live in New Zealand, you might be able to get your own. The ‘great tits’ T-shirt (entirely necessary to balance the inevitable ball jokes) was from an ornithological society which has since sold its domain name to a more lucrative enterprise.
The other ball pit was created by Christopher Badell (not pictured), one of my thirteen roommates in the Presidential Suite, and also the official sponsor (in the name of his company, Greater Than Games) of the imaginary ball pit. He brought a few hundred balls to float on the surface of our suite’s private hot tub, which were fun to play with on the only occasion I had spare time to sit in a hot tub. There may be video of that later from another of my roomies (or ‘suities’, I guess.) I added a few spare balls from my pants to that hot tub as well, making a total of three hot tubs graced by my balls.
It’s self-referential! It’s self-similar! It would give Jonathan Coulton nightmares! It’s the Cantor Ternary Set Cantor Ternary Set: a representation of six steps in the construction of the Cantor ternary set using sped-up and slowed-down samples of Jonathan Coulton singing ‘Cantor ternary set’ in his song Mandelbrot Set, in which he professes to fear said set. I suppose you could say Jonathan Coulton is the cantor, but would it make him turn a reset?
I added a Wilhelm scream to the end, because that seemed appropriate. Here’s the audio-only version.
The Cantor ternary set is what you get if you take a line (technically a line segment, but we’ll call it a line), cut out the middle third, then cut out the middle third of the lines that remain, then cut out the middle thirds of those, and so on. If you continue doing this forever, you end up with just as many points as you started with (isn’t infinity grand?) but they’re nowhere near each other. I made the ‘lines’ at each stage out of clips of Jonathan singing ‘Cantor ternary set’ at different speeds; first at one 27th normal speed, then at one ninth, then one third, then normal speed, then three, nine, and 27 times normal speed. Then I put all the lines (i.e. audio clips) from the different steps on top of each other, positioned according to where each line came from in the original line, to make the full canticle (cantorcle?) You can see how it works in the video. To make it easier to differentiate the different layers, I put the second and fifth layers (counting from the slowest one at the bottom) toward the left ear and the third and sixth toward the right, leaving the other three (1/27-speed, original-speed, and 27-times speed) in the centre.
This didn’t take very long to make, in the end, but there were a lot of false starts. A long time ago I decided to make some kind of song about mathemusician Vi Hart using snippets of the various source tracks I have of Jonathan Coulton songs — a Hart-shaped box, on the table, and far too late you see the one inside the box is Vi Hart, who’s not a real heart but is a real bad-ass mathematician… that kind of thing. I realised some time ago that it would have to be the six of hearts, because in Roman numerals that’s the vi of Hearts. But that didn’t stop me from putting off starting it till about a week after the last minute. It’s a good thing I set my own deadlines.
A couple of days ago I finally started to actually work on this. I cut some sounds together (‘my heart’ and a ‘v’ sound from When You Go) to make Jonathan sing Vi Hart’s name, and collected relevant phrases from other songs. But I needed some kind of musical background track to tie it all together (like the Mr. Fancy Pants choir I used in my ‘Code Monkey Like…’ thingy.) I had considered using Vi’s piano music that she played on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, but in the moment I didn’t feel like looking for it, and also didn’t feel like I could do it justice; I’ve just recently started listening to a basic and hilariously over-dramatic audio course on music theory, but most of what little I know about music, I learnt from Douglas Hofstadter, Leonhard Euler, Leon Harkleroad, and Vi Hart herself. While I’m okay with the mathematical side of things, I don’t think I remember enough to make a fitting musical tribute. So I asked myself, as I often do, what would Vi Hart do? Probably something symmetrical, mathematical, brilliant. So I hit on the idea of making a Cantor ternary set of Jonathan Coulton singing Vi Hart’s name, and using that as a backing track for the song.
Well, that was interesting, but it sounded terrible. The gap in the middle (the middle middle, not all the other gaps in middles which make the Cantor set what it is) sounded like a lawnmower, most of the rest sounded like a bad choir being massacred by a possessed lawnmower, and the 3x-speed ‘Vi Harts’ were more prominent and understandable than the ones at the original speed. I fiddled with levels for a while, and tried to make the lawnmower sound better by adding more words from other songs, but no dice. The fact was, using a Cantor ternary set of Vi Hart’s name (sung in that particular way) as a backing track was a terrible idea. And now that I think of it, I seem to recall that Hofstadter mentioned experimenting with fractal music and finding it didn’t work very well. That’s fine, though; I’m no musician, so I figured I could make it work to my low standards eventually. But just to take a break, on a whim I decided to try making a Cantor ternary set out of Jonathan singing ‘Cantor ternary set’.
Five minutes later, I discovered that the greater variety in syllables and pitches makes this sound quite interesting even without added lyrics, and you can fairly easily hear the words at several different speeds, so you can tell what’s happening well enough for it to be a demonstration of the Cantor ternary set in itself rather than just a backing track. Plus it’s a Cantor ternary set made up of the words ‘Cantor ternary set’. Why on Earth did I not think of that in the first place? Sorry Vi Hart; you’ll get your tribute song some day, and hopefully from someone better at music than I am.
On the subject of Vi Hart, last weekend I was at my physicist friend Aidan‘s place and noticed he had made some pretty neat things with Geomag, so I asked him to explain it all on video. He did mention Vi at one point. Here’s the video, in which we talk about RF cavities, conservation of angular momentum, triangles, and various kinds of pole, among other things:
Aidan also makes a lot of videos explaining particle physics; you should check them out.
Here is some advice on preparing for JoCo Cruise Crazy, to be sung to the tune of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, because the cruise is one of my favourite things:
Memorise bios and work of performers;
make sure your stateroom and friend group’s enormous;
map out free WiFi at each port of call;
learn not to sleep so you won’t miss it all.
Practise for open mic and karaoke,
and to meet idols without sounding croaky.
Pack things for signing and panties to throw,
then you’ll be three-quarters ready to go.
I repeat: it’s all unneeded;
do what piques your geek,
then bring any meds that you need to survive
and you’ll have an awesome week!
One of the things on my pre-cruise to-do list is ‘write something for the Queen of Clubs’, but I couldn’t think of anything but my pre-cruise to-do list, so this is what I wrote. You can do all sorts of planning and preparation for the cruise, and it’s fun to do it, but even if you do nothing more than get to the port on time with clothes on and the relevant documents, you’ll have a shipload of fun. More advice, especially for first-time JoCo cruisers, can be found on Alice’s blog.
This is a collaboration by many fans on Jonathan Coulton’s forums to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday, and it would have been nothing but an idea without everyone else, but I think I put enough effort into it (lyrics based on Pizza Day, video editing, and even singing) to count it as a card towards this Writing Cards project. It happens to feature the Jack of Spades, but I’ve already done two of those, so how about calling it a grand unification of JoCo fans. It’s the continuation of a tradition that started in 2009; I recommend watching the previous videos if you like this one. He seemed to like it.
This afternoon I might already record a video of what will probably be the four of clubs, a very short piece I wrote in the middle of the night which I feel like reading aloud. Then I’ll have brought my average back up toward one a week.
Here are some more arrow poems. Click the poems for pdf versions you can enlarge and copy the text from.
As promised, I got Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm to pick the cards this week. Jonathan chose Richard Stockton, and Paul chose first the European shorthair cat, and then the Golden Gate National Parks card on behalf of Storm, who had just gone to do something else at the time. I’m fairly sure Paul and Storm are entangled, so I accept this as a valid Storm choice.
I read that there’s a large homeless population in Golden Gate Park, and also that European shorthairs are not popular outside of Scandinavia because they resemble a lot of homeless cats. Richard Stockton died a pauper, maybe not homeless, but close enough. Given that it’s a natural state for a cat to roam, and the idea of owning a human family or two might seem strange and restrictive to one who hasn’t previously tasted cat food, I wondered what would happen if a sad, newly-homeless Stockton had encountered a happily ‘homeless’ cat in the then-nonexistent Golden Gate Park. Probably some hissing, a rift in space time, and either a nourishing kitty stew or a very scratched-up politician. I couldn’t think of a storyline that wouldn’t be trite and generally the worst fable of all time, so I fell back on the arrow poem form I invented previously. It’s easier than it looks.
If you like, you can think of the up arrow as being from the perspective of a cat and the down arrow from that of Richard Stockton. Perhaps Jonathan subconsciously chose this card for the same reason he writes so many sad songs.
And on the subject of Jonathan writing sad songs (some of which are funny because they’re about monkeys and cephalopods and vampires) he’s also the down arrow in the second poem. Opening band Paul and Storm are the up arrow, because they’ve only written one sad song that I know of. That’s not to say that Jonathan is a downer; plenty of his songs are funny without being sad, and I love funny sad songs (and non-funny sad songs) anyway.
In case you were wondering, following the tour was awesome as always. I met a lot of nice people, caught up with several I already knew, discovered a new sciency songwriter when she gave her CDs to Jonathan, and also visited Bath. I’m uploading videos of the Union Chapel show now, and will put up the rest over the next few weeks, and in the mean time you could watch the Susie Asado videos I’ve put up. Next stops: Wax Mannequin at my favourite venue on land, and Marian Call at CERN (which will probably become my new favourite venue on land once I have reason to call it a venue. But then again, it already has Hardronic.) Would you believe I’d never been to a concert of my own volition until December 2008?
Last Ace of Diamonds, I stalled for a week by posting a video of a poem I’d written previously. I’m not sure if I’ll have the real Ace of Diamonds done in time, so I’ll do the same again. The real Ace of Diamonds, which I will publish as soon as it’s ready, is a a sequel/prequel to the last real Ace of Diamonds, and it’s also about stalling and procrastination, which seems appropriate. This is me reading my poem Chemistry (which was the two of diamonds, and already has a video) at the open mic night on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2:
And here’s a more close-up video of it that Jason recorded:
I sure am stalling a lot this round. It’s embarrassing considering I started with something I really like that was done in time. But hey, I still have an hour till the deadline, so maybe I’ll get the real Ace of Diamonds done in time anyway. If you’re wondering why I’m onto diamonds now when I went from Spades to Hearts last time, it was simply the next card in the first deck I looked at.
In other news, here are some things that music lovers in Europe might want to do:
- Back Marian Call’s kickstarter or otherwise support her European Adventure Quest to get Marian and her very talented guitarist Scott Barkan playing in your country or even your living room. If you want to know what she’s like and somehow find video more appealing than downloading music, you could watch my videos of her two concerts and Scott’s concert on JoCo Cruise Crazy.
- Go see The Burning Hell if they come near while attempting to break a record by giving concerts in ten countries in 24 hours. If you want to know what they’re like, you could watch the videos I’m currently uploading of them at Viertel (my favourite concert venue on land) where they will return for the world record tour.
- Keep an eye on Jonathan Coulton’s tour schedule, because he’ll be at Union Chapel (my second favourite concert venue on land) in London on September 20, and will no doubt visit other places in the UK and Europe. If you don’t know what he sounds like yet, you haven’t been paying attention; pick a video from my YouTube channel at random and he’s probably in it.
I know I’ll be doing all three things.
I told you I wouldn’t just be writing this time. Here’s a music video for Jonathan Coulton’s Dissolve, using footage from my unboxing of the level 4 bundle for the album Artificial Heart, which this song is on, and some from JoCo Cruise Crazy and the things I did in Florida before that. I really hope you like it.
Long before I received the package in the mail, I heard that simply opening the box was quite an experience. I carefully avoided reading about what exactly was in the mysterious box, and decided to turn my unboxing into a music video for this song about a mysterious box. As it turned out, a lyric from the song was on the lid of the box. Clearly somebody had to create this video. Maybe somebody else has already done it; I still haven’t watched anyone else’s unboxing videos. If you want to understand what I’m doing, search for level 4 unboxing videos online. Some of them probably include the instructions we’re following.
I eventually received the box just four days before I flew to Florida to visit Universal, Kennedy Space Center, my very first standalone Paul and Storm show, and of course, JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, so I used some footage of those things in the last part of the video. Victory in the warm sun!
If I’d thought about it, I’d have started on the ace of hearts this week instead of the ace of spades. But a spade looks a lot like a heart when upside down, and there were a few other references to hearts on my aces of spades. It’s not a real heart, but it is a real artificial heart.
I filmed this using my new camera, a Canon PowerShot S100, which shoots in full HD and autofocusses while filming. My favourite moment is when I open the box and the camera automatically focusses on the lid of the box, then focusses back on me just as I start smiling. That was quite a lovely fluke. There’s also some nice changes of focus wile the nostalgia device moves around. Everything in this video was shot only once with no rehearsal, while I was opening my level 4 box, or in Florida, or on JoCo Cruise Crazy. This is new for me; usually I spend far too long getting the footage exactly right. There is a small mistake on the calendar part; I did not do the KSC Close-Up tour two days in a row. I also left in another clip which I think I intended to replace by something else, but if I don’t tell you which it is it’s not bad enough that you’ll notice it.
In case you’re wondering, this video contains 11 ‘dissolve’ transitions, but the transitions that occur when Jonathan sings ‘dissolve’ are actually ‘fade to white’ transitions. Also, the yellow country you can see when he sings ‘here’ of ‘If you need me, I’ll be anywhere but here’ is Jamaica. That’s on a big globe at Geneva airport which I filmed as I was on my way to fly to Orlando.