Posts Tagged Leonard Cohen
In November 2018 I created NanoRhymo (inspired by NaNoWriMo), in which I wrote and tweeted a very short rhyming poem every day. I did the same thing in April 2019 for Global Poetry Writing Month. I started pretty late with NanoRhymo in 2019, and didn’t end up with a poem for each day of November, but I’ve started it again on January 1 and made up for the missing poems. In November, I mostly stuck to writing something based on a random rhyme from the rhyming dictionary I made, rhyme.science — either a new one I’d found each day, or one generated earlier for the @RhymeScience twitter feed. In January, I’ve often been inspired by other things.
I’ll continue writing a NanoRhymo a day for as long as I can. Here’s what I’ve written so far:
Day 1, inspired by the rhymes later, translator, and (in non-rhotic accents) convey to:
When you’ve got a thought to convey to
many mortals, sooner or later,
then you ought to get a translator.
Sailors lying in their bunks
would shout “Ahoy there, mate… watch under!”
and then let loose digested chunks
on hapless seamen sleeping under.
That’s why even now, down under,
[I am lying; truth debunks!]
some refer to puke as chunder.
[This is half-digested junk
Please accept my weak apology
and not this doubtful etymology.]
Day 3, inspired by a friend’s experience learning flying trapeze:
My friend Robert Burke tried the flying trapeze.
It meant lots of work mulling hypotheses,
and then much amusement and catching catchees,
to end up all bruised on the backs of the knees.
Looking at small things up close and myopically,
one might prevent overgrowth with a germicide.
But looking at large things afar, macroscopically,
one must prevent unchecked growth with a spermicide.
As soon as the bug is explainable,
we can hope that it might be containable,
and our neural nets will be retrainable,
and our code is so very maintainable
that this progress is surely sustainable!
Mouth agape, stunned, unspeaking
Eyes wide open, silent freaking,
What could this strange vision be?
a music video, on MTV?!
Over much terrain they trekked;
specimens they did collect,
to show just how diverse life was
before we killed it off, just ‘cause.
If rhyming couplets leave you peeved,
here, I tried ABAB.
Now the rhymes are interleaved!
This rhyme and rhythm’s reason-free.
If rhyming couplets leave you peeved,
Then try to make them interleaved
Or don’t, and then just let the hate flow through ya
Just AAB, then CCB
This rhyme and rhythm’s reason-free.
At least it can be sung to Hallelujah.
The most Hallelujest Joey Marianer sang that version:
I’m just fine with the end-of-year platitudes —
“Happy Holidays”, nice and generic,
but please, be inclusive of latitudes:
“Happy Winter” is too hemispheric!
Day 11, another Hallelujah, inspired by Joey’s singing of the previous Hallelujah:
A kitchen scale, a petrol gauge,
a cylinder, a final page
will tell you up to what things have amounted.
An abacus, a quipu string,
some tally sticks, to always sing,
are all things on which Joey can be counted.
Day 12, inspired by the rhyme deprecations and lamentations, some deprecated code I was removing from the software I develop at work, and also complaints about macOS Catalina dropping support for 32-bit applications. I imagine it sung to the tune of Camp Bachelor Alma Mater:
Hear the coders’ lamentations
over apps that will not run,
due to years-old deprecations,
updates that they’ve never done.
Have some more whoops on me,
hearing the Sloop John B
as JoCo Cruise comes to an end.
You still have all night.
Hang loose, or sleep tight.
Well, we feel so broke up
but you’ll stay my friend.
Something is broken;
look at that warning!
Raise the exceptions.
Erase all the warnings.
Raze preconceptions wrongly inferred.
The rooms are all full for as far out as they can see;
such a big guest house to fill, but oh well.
What’s this? Nonetheless, there’s a sign saying vacancy!
There’s always more room at the Hilbert hotel.
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. 👏
Please applaud if you think you’re a chamber with no ceiling. 👏
Clap along If you feel like happiness is the truth. 👏
Please applaud if you think there’s veracity in good feelings. 👏
For day 17, I let Pico, emacs, ed, vi count as the NanoRhymo, even though it does not mention the text editor nano.
November ended with no more rhymes, but I started it up again on January 1, simply because I was inspired to, and I continued to get ideas every day since. I’m not promising to keep this up daily all year (indeed, I promise not to keep it up during MarsCon and JoCo Cruise 2020) but I’ll post NanoRhymi whenever I feel inspired to.
Don’t worry that you might incur the
sentence, “That person’s unworthy.”
Just try what you wish, and try plenty,
and have a great year twenty-twenty.
If you’d punch down, or kick to the curb
for verbing a noun, or nouning a verb,
researching the past will amount your disturb.
So many of the words we used today, including some in that poem, were once strictly parts of speech other than the ones they’re used as without a second thought today, and people objected to their shifts in usage just as they object to all manner of language change today.
Day 20, inspired by the rhymes occur to, Berta, and (in non-rhotic accents) subverter:
If it were to occur to Berta the subverter to hurt Alberta,
she’d prefer to assert a slur to refer to her to stir internal murder.
(Stones break bones but names make shame — heals more slowly, hurts the same.)
While you’re growing in the field,
all your goodness is concealed,
till some lovely creature picks you,
doesn’t think they have to fix you,
lets you chill, let down your shield;
then, when you are fully peeled,
your sweetest inner self revealed,
that cunning rascal bites and licks you.
Day 22, inspired by the rhymes for fish, dwarfish, and (maybe in some non-rhotic accents with the cot-caught merger) standoffish, the ‘teach a man to fish‘ metaphor, and of course, my own poem, They Might Not Be Giants:
If a person’s always asking for fish,
don’t give them one, and go away, standoffish.
Teach techniques that they’ll expand on.
Be the shoulders they will stand on.
Not a giant — generous and dwarfish.
And then the same thing as a limerick:
There once was a man asking for fish,
who got one from someone standoffish.
Then shoulders to stand on
and tricks to expand on,
were given by someone quite dwarfish.
Day 23, inspired by… certain kinds of transphobic people, I guess:
Some folk seem to be offended
by the thought the queerly gendered
might themselves become offended
when they’re purposely misgendered,
so they’ve boorishly defended
all the hurt that they intended
towards the “easily offended”
who are “wimps” to try to end it.
Day 24, a double dactyl inspired by a conversation with someone who’s considering hormone therapy with one aim being a reduction of schlength, during which we noticed that ‘endocrinologist’ is a double dactyl, and also inspired by Paul and Storm’s habit of calling Jonathan Coulton ‘Dr. Smallpenis‘ (with the ‘e’ unstressed) which began on JoCo Cruise 2013:
Dr. Jon Smallpənis,
helps you to shrink all the
parts that aren’t you.
Piss off, dysphoria!
soon make you tinkle the
whole darn day through.
Spironolactone is a medication that blocks the effect of testosterone, which as a side effect can increase urinary frequency.
Dear Father, a prayer I remember, amen.
Another, sincere from a vendor, again.
As if by reciting just ten or eleven words
I’ll lift myself quite transcendentally heavenwards.
Day 26, inspired by what I was actually told at my first comprehensive annual checkup:
Sit up straight!
Lose some weight!
Take these pills!
Cure your ills!
Your heart is beating!
You’re good at breathing!
With those two habits kept up,
We’ll see you at the next year’s checkup.
They really did seem impressed by how well I could breathe. I wasn’t too good at it when I started, but I have been practising my whole life, and if I’m good then I may as well continue the habit.
Here’s a technique that is quite underhand
to beam gadgets speaking they might understand,
and give an unsound and light-fingered command.
This one works best in accents without the trap-bath split, so that ‘command’ rhymes with ‘understand’ and ‘underhand’.
Day 28, inspired by a container of those little dowel things to hold up shelves, which was labelled ‘Safety trans.’, and the song The Safety Dance, by Men Without Hats. This parody is presumedly to be sung by Women and Nonbinary People Without Hats:
You can trans[ition] iff you want to.
You can leave your assigned gender behind.
‘Cause your assigned gender ain’t trans and if you don’t trans[ition],
Well your assigned gender stays assigned.
Acquired savants suffer pain,
to wake up with a better brain.
Get a bump, or have a seizure,
then end up with synaesthesia —
not the grapheme-colour kind,
rather, an amazing mind!
Day 30 is a version of day 29’s poem which can be sung to the tune of Hallelujah, with a second verse reminding people that synaesthesia is actually pretty common, affecting about 4.4% of people, (I have the grapheme-colour kind) and doesn’t necessarily confer superpowers:
Acquired savants suffer pain,
to wake up with a better brain
by healing from an injury or seizure.
They sometimes get amazing minds
associating different kinds
of input in a thing called synaesthesia.
Synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia.
But synaesthetes are everywhere,
not magical, or even rare.
It doesn’t make them smart or make things easier.
It just makes Thursday forest green,
or K maroon and 7 mean.
Your ‘the’-tastes-like-vanilla synaesthesia
Synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia…
This refers to time-unit-color synaesthesia, grapheme-colour synaesthesia, ordinal linguistic personification (also known as sequence-personality synaesthesia), and lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, but there are many other kinds.
Did you hear he goes commando?
I remember long ago another starry night like this.
In the firelight, commando,
he was wearing his new kilt and playing bagpipes by the fire.
I could hear his sudden screams
and sounds of mountain oysters sizzling in the fryer.
Day 32, inspired by two tweets I saw, each quoting the same tweet where someone had contrasted pictures of Prince Harry in the army with pictures of him with his wife, and claimed that getting out of the army and getting married was somehow emasculation caused by ‘toxic’ Hollywood feminism:
The two tweets happened to rhyme with each other and follow the same structure, from the ‘fellas, is it gay’ meme, so I put them together, and added a few lines:
Fellas, is is gay to have a wife?
Fellas, is it gay to be a human being with a life?
Fellas, is it gay to wear a suit?
Fellas, is it gay to dress to socialise instead of shoot?
(Fellas, is it toxic to be gay?
Fellas, why frame questions with a word she didn’t say?)
Day 33, another Hallelujah parody, inspired by Joey’s observation that NanoRhymo scans:
You want to practise writing verse.
The secret’s to be very terse.
You don’t have to try hard, just have to try mo’.
You write some dogg’rel every day
and some you’ll toss, but some will stay.
An atom at a time; it’s NanoRhymo.
NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo.
I love when it complies,
regards me with deference,
and bravely compiles
my unguarded dereference.
Day 35, inspired by… tea. I feel so rich when I make a pot of tea and top it up all day, having unlimited tea without feeling like maybe it’s wasteful to be using my eighth teabag of the day:
If hot tea’s an oddity,
the tea bag’s your commodity,
but if you drink a lot of tea,
you should make a pot of tea.
(To add some boiling water t’
whenever you want hotter tea.)
Day 36, inspired by my efforts to write an AppleScript to copy all my NanoRhymi and GloPoWriMo poems from Notes into a spreadsheet in Numbers, which initially failed because I had accidentally addressed the script to Pages instead, and Pages don’t know sheet:
👩🏻💻Hello there! Your finest Greek corpus, to go!
👩🍳The what now? Not understand corpus, no no!
👩🏻💻The active Greek corpus, the frontmost, the first, display all the corpora you have; am I cursed?
👩🍳I’m sorry? Your question is Greek to me… how?
👩🏻💻Okay then, just show me your bookcases, now!
👩🍳Bookcases? I have none; you’ve made a mistake.
👩🏻💻Ah, frack! You’re no linguist! You’re actually the baker!
The spreadsheet, by the way, shows I’ve written about a hundred of these small poems in total so far, in the course of my NanoRhymo and GloPoWriMo stints. I haven’t gone through it checking for notes that didn’t contain completed poems, so I don’t know the exact number yet. In the next roundup of these things, I’ll probably start numbering them based on that total, rather than the ‘days’ of any particular run of them.
Day 37 (today, as I write this), a parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off‘ inspired by another tweet by Rob Rix, in which he notices that a calculation done in Spotlight Search which should give the result zero does not, and remarks, ‘computers gonna compute’:
’Cause the bugs are are gonna ship, ship, ship, ship, ship
And an on bit is a blip, blip, blip, blip, blip
I’m just gonna flip, flip, flip, flip, flip
I flip it off ⌽, I flip it off 🖕🏻
That’s all of the NanoRhymi I have so far; I’ll post more here occasionally, but follow me on Twitter if you want to see them as they happen.
In other news, please consider buying one or all of the MarsCon Dementia Track Fundraiser albums, which are albums of live comedy music performances from previous MarsCon Dementia Tracks, sold to raise funds for the performers’ hotel costs for the next one. The 2020 fundraiser album (with the concerts from MarsCon 2019) is nearly four hours of live comedy music for $20, and includes my performances of Chicken Monkey Duck and Why I Perform at Open Mics.
For yet more music, Joey and I will be participating in round #16 of SpinTunes, a songwriting competition following in the footsteps of Masters of Song Fu. I’ve been following it since the beginning, but never had the accompaniment to actually enter.
Happy new year! There are so many things from last year that I’ve forgotten to blog about. For instance, my poem They Might Not Be Giants (which is, by the way, available spoken and sung on videos and on a poster) was published in Chalkdust 10. Chalkdust is a magazine for the mathematically curious, which we were frequently encouraged to submit work to during the 2017 MathsJam Annual Gathering. I gave a talk at that gathering where I recited They Might Not Be Giants and also presented a few of the haiku I found in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics, so that was an obvious thing to submit.
Through a combination of luck and procrastination, I submitted it just in time for it to be in the latest issue available at the 2019 UK MathsJam Annual Gathering, which I also attended, along with Joey Marianer. We wore ‘matching’ clothes; a ‘forall’ (∀) neckline dress and a ‘there exists’ (∃) hoodie, so that if we aligned our nametags well (which I didn’t) we could make an unproven statement quantifying our coexistence.
Now, Joey and I have a habit of noticing words which scan to ‘hallelujah’ (that is, double trochees*) and writing short parodies of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ about them. Having some experience singing the original song, Joey sometimes sings those parodies, as you can see in this playlist:
MathsJam has a Competition Competition, so naturally, I wrote a Hallelujah about that:
Well, sometimes competition’s tough.
At MathsJam, that is not enough —
they have a competition competition.
But what if all the MathsJams fought,
and all such fights together wrought
Competition competition competition competition.
And then we decided to enter a competition into the competition competition, where our competition would be to write a Hallelujah parody about competitions. I wrote these instructions for our Competition Competition competition:
You know that oft-sung Cohen song?
We challenge you to write it wrong —
instead of “hallelujah”, “competition”.
And if your lyrics really slam
we’ll sing them in the MathsJamJam.
We call this Hallelujah competition:
Competition-competition competition “Competition”
There was quite some competition in our competition Hallelujah competition; Hallelujah! Some entries used a word other than ‘competition’, and we ended up giving a prize to the best non-competition entry into our Competition Competition competition, as well as the expected prize for the best ‘competition’ Competition Competition competition entry. As promised in the competition rules, Joey sang some of the competition entries (and the two Hallelujahs above) at the MathsJamJam, with the accompaniment of whoever else felt like joining in:
Lyrics and credits for the other entries are in the video description. Joey came to Vienna after MathsJam and performed with me at Open Phil, including singing They Might Not Be Giants both on-stage and in Phil’s studio, but that’s for another post.
* I noticed that ‘double trochee’ was a double trochee, and stopped writing the blog post at that point to write a Hallelujah:
You heard there was a secret song
that if you play, they will sing along.
You want to make a splash at karaoke.
It goes like this, the halfs, the thirds…
you can’t remember Cohen’s words,
so sing about a random double trochee.
Double trochee, double trochee, double trochee, double trochee.
“The Texas vote leaves loopholes for teaching creationism, so consider this your duty. It is so important to get into the Word of God,” said the speaker. “Some say that the New Testament is a sad tale of a kitteh who could not find a loving home, but the forgiving Ceiling Cat that C.S. Lewis called Aslan is on the move. For even when they just nail these pieces of him to a cross, He says, ‘thanks for following me.‘”
The crowd clapped enthusiastically. “But however you feel about Jesus, Leonard Cohen is still the coolest human being on the planet. When he doesn’t deliver, you know it’s not that profundity pressure produces protean prattle, no, today’s song will be posted late due to disheartening technical problems. Why is my internet being so slow? Internet spies from China, probably. But we can put our faith in Leonard Cohen.”
A chorus of “Hallelujah” broke out.
“Honey, I’m home!”
“Hi, Dave!” said Bea. “I’m repeatedly telling myself I don’t need the 50th Anniversary hardcover edition of Elements of Style, but it’s so tempting. I need you to convince me to save a few trees.”
“But Daddy, I don’t understand how paper is made out of wood!” interrupted James, their eldest son.
“It just is,” said Dave. “You can’t make books without killing trees. It’s just one of those things that suck. Having to order in pizza because you look too terrible to leave the house, but have no groceries, is another. Thanks for ‘cooking’, Bea.”
Bea poked her tongue out at him. She knew he was only teasing; they were comfortable enough with her facial deformity to joke about it. “I didn’t get pizza, I got cheesy stir-fry. Besides, You don’t have to be photogenic to be a good wife. Remember what my mum used to say: in a photo gallery, mostly dead people are displayed.”
“Yeah, and in an art gallery…” Dave began, leaving Bea to finish her aphorism.
“Only the adults need art. Psychiatrist holds up doll and asks kid, ‘show me where Santa was naughty and where he was nice’ and the kid just takes the doll and plays. It doesn’t matter whether Santa made the doll disfigured, it’s a gift.”
“As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.’ Hey, and about gifts…” Dave pulled a box of chocolates from his bag and gave it to Bea. “I saw John Pridmore speak at a men’s conference today. He reminded me to read more Cohen. I found this quote, ‘I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever.’ And I know it’s not what he meant, but it made me think of James. He learnt to dress himself and I wasn’t even here to see it. I don’t want it to be that way with Bart. It really got me thinking that men should take more of a role in child-rearing. I’m sorry for not serving you, my queen Bea; I didn’t know I was a drone.”
“Bwahaha! Your turn now,” said the mummy to the daddy as she pointed at the little monster’s full and smelly pants. “9 months from today, hundreds of babies will be born to those who get turned on by fleeting conscience.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” he said, though he did not understand the full significance of her remarks. “I am full of angst and gouda. Full of stir-fry. But also, my pants are nowhere near empty, as I am happy to see you.”
As the months went by, his pants got less and less empty, but not for the same reasons as before. He was getting fat. One day, as he was checking the weather and making plans… skiing, shopping? a button flew off his trusty pants. He tried to sew it back on, but the pants were hurt; the pants were broken, and could never trust again. So he went shopping, bought some bigger pants and ski pants, and then went skiing.
He was out-of practice, and his increased girth made it difficult to balance. He fell, and as he sat in the snow, he felt a huge pressure in his abdomen, as if he needed to do the biggest poo of his life. He pulled his pants down and pushed, trying not to touch the cold snow with his bare buttocks. For he was just a sheep following a sacred cow named God, and in their mysterious wisdom, the cows on the moon shaved the sheep’s buttocks.
He gasped when he saw what was coming out. An egg! His wife had been telling the truth; it was his turn, his turn to bring a child into the world. Laying there in the snow he wondered whether it was really worth the effort.
The birth of his new baby caused a great upheaval in his life, not least because he was the first of hundreds of men to give birth. And yet, somewhere, he was sure, that life continued normally for a great many people.
Another upset came when he asked for paternity leave.
“Given your recent performance, I’d be better off firing you,” said his boss.
“You completely forgot to file our tax returns. Remember, If you have a corporation, the tax return due date is 3/16/09!”
“Oh, man… must have been the hormones. They’ve thrown my migraines out of control again. But I’m doing better now. We’re looking for some community feed back for the next round of developments. I got excellent feedback from my readers about this recommendation.”
“Mr. Jones, do you know how much your mistake cost us?”
“Please? I really need the time and money to raise my kids.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. I am only leaving severence now. You understand, it’s a recession. We’re all in the same boat, and we can’t have somebody sailing close to the wind.”
“Boat ride in the dark, coming right up,” Dave mumbled to himself as he left the office for the last time.
With that, he became the house-husband. He searched for jobs on the internet, but was too depressed to really try. Bea got a job as a journalist.
One Sunday, as Dave was tweeting on PSP while burping baby, Bea asked him, “If you could tweet with anyone from history, who would it be?”
“Steve Wozniak, for sure. We could talk about the good old days when Macs were still around. Does anybody know why gnome-screensaver is using 2.1% of my 2GB of RAM when the system is active? I’m moving from CoreGraphics to OpenGL for this?! If I could just get a Mac again, it’d be like going from a 16 tonne bus to a tiny smart car. If all you care about is freedom and sharing, then sure, a bloated gas-guzzler with lots of seats will do the job. Me, I’m happy with something smart and efficient that goes where I want.”
“Well if you weren’t wasting so much time on facebook instead of promoting your favourite OS, maybe we wouldn’t have that problem. Thanks to all of your forgetting, the ‘Woz’ word outlook is pretty grim.”
“What do you mean, wasting time on facebook? Do you need a reminder? The Official Vote For Woz Facebook group is found here!”
“And you really think Woz would make a good president? He’s smart, but not a politician.”
“Exactly! And that’s just what we need. Perhaps we should force the political leaders to play chess, and declare their victories, without shedding blood. Then there’d be no more unnecessary pain. As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed.'”
“Crustaceans feel pain, but are still boiled alive. We’ll never have a world without pain. I think you’re just on facebook because you can’t keep away from it. You know, anyone these days could create a stunning new design for your website in five minutes, no skill needed, but you, you spent an hour to get it all done. And I’m really feeling the effects of the lost hour this morning.”
“Okay. Maybe you’re right. I think I may have finally developed a full-on internet addiction. But life is so much better there. The world is so much sparklier when it’s reflected on the side of my toaster, even… when reflected on the internet, it’s a woot off!”
“You got that right… heck, even from the command line it’s great. I love using tar in verbose mode, it makes me feel cool. Gimme that,” she wrestled the keyboard from him.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea… let’s get the internet to write a story. All those ugly geeks stuck at home ordering pizza for their kittehs could really do something to please the Ceiling Cat!”