Posts Tagged NaPoWriMo

A Skirmish [With My Least-Favourite Body Part]


The following is based on a true story. I wrote down a few lines and ideas when it happened, but wrote most of it today so that I could read it at Open Phil, to go with the post-Easter theme of leftover eggs. In the spirit of NaPoWriMo, I’ll post it now in its somewhat unpolished state.

My body keeps my brain alive,
like worker bees in sentient hive.
Each organ helps the whole to run.
Every part, except for one.

One part seems to want me dead
and murmurs in a monthly threat
to hurt, disgrace, abase, efface me,
kill me off, but first, replace me.

Replace me from its own interior,
for I, the brain, am deemed inferior,
and if I should refuse to mother,
this vengeful organ cues a smother.

Smother me in wracking pain.
Smother lifeblood from my brain.
Smother till I stand no more
and wake up gasping on the floor.

The floor of where, I can’t recall.
I try to move; I hit a wall.
Blurred from lack of air, I force it in
till eyes perceive the restroom porcelain.

Porcelain face with skin torn open.
Stumble towards the ibuprofen,
The mirror where with sore red gut
I tend to where my forehead’s cut.

Forehead cut, lump, one black eye,
but you should see the other guy!
Been bleeding now for seven days!
For one more month, it’s scared away.

People laughed more than I expected them to at this, which is good because I like making people laugh. I followed it up with a full-costume performance of Chemistry (though without keeping the moustache on throughout, since the one I got on JoCo Cruise 2015 was not self-adhesive), because at least for the duration of that poem I get to pretend I don’t have a uterus.

I’m trying to give up fainting on toilets, since the last time I found a lady passed out in a restroom (for unrelated reasons, as she turned out to be 80) she didn’t survive, but sometimes the ibuprofen doesn’t kick in fast enough, and the inexplicable call of the loo is too strong. A few years ago I might have been embarrassed to post something like this, but now I know Chella Quint so I feel obliged not to be. Check out her TED talk if you haven’t seen it:

There’s nothing to be ashamed of here, folks. (Except maybe rhyming ‘force it in’ with ‘porcelain’.) Chella wrote a #periodpositive article in the Guardian just recently, and I recommend it. If you like Chella but need to put a full stop to the periods, there’s always her #CometLanding song parody that I published on my blog when she didn’t have her own.

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My MacBook (My Monkey parody)


It’s Poetry Writing Month again! I’m not sure if I’ll write a poem every day for the rest of the month, since I’ve recently landed back in Vienna and should be concentrating on looking for a job, but I have one I prepared earlier. Also, I recited the poem I opened last NaPoWriMo with at Open Mic 2.0 on the first of April. The audience seemed confused, so I followed it with a cover of the more self-explanatory Chicken Monkey Duck.

This is a parody of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘My Monkey‘, but since I don’t have a monkey butler named Brian Dennehy, I project feelings onto my MacBook Pro instead. I wrote it a few weeks ago after being away from my Time Capsule for quite a while.

My MacBook gets homesick sometimes.
My MacBook has a lot of things that need to be backed up.
My MacBook lacks power sometimes.
My MacBook’s not the only one that’s starting to act up.

‘Cause every MacBook needs time to thrive
when not all processes are queued live
to wake recharged with a renewed drive.
It doesn’t mean my MacBook doesn’t love you.

[My MacBook Sneuf is new and shiny still, but she’s worn out and she is sorry]
[My MacBook, she loves you. My MacBook loves you very much]
[My MacBook says My MacBook says]
[My MacBook says she’s sorry she’s a MacBook, but she’s got to be a MacBook ’cause she’s so insanely great]

My MacBook gets frazzled sometimes.
My MacBook’s used to Europe and needs sockets to adapt.
My MacBook gets bitter, sometimes.
My MacBook feels cut off when high-speed data use is capped.

And while there’s no pain in her diodes,
and she’s not going to send you STOP codes,
it’s hard to hold back all these uploads.
It doesn’t mean my MacBook doesn’t love you.

[My MacBook Sneuf is new and shiny still, but she’s worn out and she is sorry]
[My MacBook, she loves you. My MacBook loves you very much]
[My MacBook says My MacBook says]
[My MacBook says she’s sorry she’s a MacBook, but she’s got to be a MacBook ’cause she’s so insanely great]

My MacBook feels lacking sometimes.
My MacBook cut herself up so she wouldn’t weigh you down.
My MacBook feels lucky, sometimes.
My MacBook hopes that you will always carry her around.

She says she’ll stay with you for always.
It doesn’t matter what Tim Cook says,
’cause every MacBook model decays
It doesn’t mean my MacBook doesn’t love you.

[My MacBook Sneuf is new and shiny still, but she’s worn out and she is sorry]
[My MacBook, she loves you. My MacBook loves you very much]
[My MacBook says My MacBook says]
[My MacBook says she’s sorry she’s a MacBook, but she’s got to be a MacBook ’cause she’s so insanely great]

It doesn’t mean my MacBook doesn’t love you.

In other news, I have uploaded videos of the first Jonathan Coulton concert on JoCo Cruise 2015, which has pretty bad audio but interesting video during Re: Your Brains, at least. I’ve also uploaded the Adam Sak and Hello, The Future! show, the first jam session, the Patrick Rothfuss and Paul and Storm concert, the Magic: The Gathering match between Jonathan Coulton and Storm DiCostanzo, and the first part of the concert with The Oatmeal in it. More forthcoming.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Shakespeare and Stuff


I’m still behind on New Scientist, so I’m now reading the issue which has a special feature on Shakespeare. It seemed like a good issue to look for poetry in. Here are the haiku that Haiku Detector detected in the articles about Shakespeare. The first is a strategically-syllabicised book promo:

His book The Science
of Shakespeare is published this
month (St Martin’s Press)

The next has a supporting quote from the Bard himself:

Supporting quote: “If
sack and sugar be a fault,
God help the wicked.”

but this one is my favourite:

Most of all he swings
between moods superbly high
and desperately low.

That doesn’t seem like enough stuff for a blog post. Luckily, the issue just after the special issue that I already found haiku in has a feature on ‘stuff’, so here’s the only haiku from that:

His leather backpack
is today’s bag to haul our
essentials around.

In case it’s still Star Wars Day when you read this, you might want to check out my post from last Star Wars Day featuring a video in which I read my poem about not having seen Star Wars.

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Better (Entitled Hipster Version)


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.
Everyone knows.
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.

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Dear Internet


Dear Internet,
My prescriptions have been filled,
and I really do not want my blood pressure killed
if it means my blood’s not flowing ’cause my beating heart was stilled.

Dear Internet,
I’m a person like me;
I am not a Doctor Who, or a colour or a tree,
and regurgitated multi-choice is not psychology.

Dear Internet,
Radium was discovered by a mum,
but it isn’t the parenthood that proves it’s not dumb,
It’s this one weird trick called a Nobel Prize, and repeatable experiments on what to do with some.

Dear Internet,
As long as finite life’s a haz-
ard, doing fifty things that you say everyone has
(or must before they die) is nuts, to justify the thing that I identify as.

Dear Internet,
Your trick will not burn fat,
and the reason the doctors will hate you for that
is it’s useless at best, deadly at worst, but the dough that you make would cheer up grumpy cat.

Dear Internet,
I like Tim Berners-Lee too,
but that ‘vague, but exciting’ wasn’t ‘OMG you
MUST see this, and simply will not BELIEVE
the AMAZING pile of who-knows-what this headline links to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!’

Dear Internet,
my penis is fine;
to be honest, I don’t even think that it’s mine.
In any case, I won’t call you if ever my vaginal mesh can’t keep it in line.

Dear User,
I swear it isn’t me;
I follow your instructions and I do it perfectly.
I serve your spam and lists and ads and awful poetry.
So think before you link to things you did not want to see.

I still haven’t written so much as a full draft of the short story I need to write, so I may as well get back on the NaPoWriMo horse momentarily. This probably won’t age well, as it’s based on ads and spam and web pages I see a lot of now, which will hopefully not last. The ‘vague, but exciting’ refers to the response to Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal that led to the worldwide web.

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Why didn’t GlaDOS tell lies?


Where did your life go so wrong?
Why was that test not surveilled?
Why not preserve your cube long?

Who wants a slice of this cake?
Why should enriching tests end?
Why must you go the wrong way?

What is that useless eyed head?
Why kill a harmless AI?
Why don’t you have any friends?

How are they all still alive?

I haven’t been feeling inspired enough to sculpt many poems from scratch, but with enough constraints, all I have to do is inject word goo into the mould and make sure it gets into all the corners. So the other day I looked up the last three optional prompts on the NaPoWriMo blog, and followed them all: ten lines of lies, all questions, in terza rima. The mould was a little too narrow to get goo through in places, so I relaxed the last constraint to some pretty loose terza assonanza.

Of course, the first thing I thought of when I saw the lying prompt was GlaDOS (and the promised cake) from the game Portal. Most of these questions are based on things GlaDOS said during the original Portal game, approximately in order. If you haven’t played Portal, or at least heard the song ‘Still Alive‘ which Jonathan Coulton wrote for the end credits (which, by the way, my old Mac once covered), it might not make a lot of sense. Show it to a friend who has played and see how they react to it.

An alternate ending, which doesn’t end with the phrase ‘still alive’, is:

What is that useless eyed head?
Why would you kill harmless me?
Why don’t you have any friends?

What will you do now you’re free?

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Self, Sleep, and Death


Following on from the posts on reality, existence, and God and consciousness, life, and time, here are the unintentional haiku that Haiku Detector found in the last three sections of New Scientist’s special issue with the ‘big questions’: the self, sleep, and death. The ‘self’ section has a haiku in an image caption:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(Image: Darren Hopes)

I suppose it could make sense if somebody named Darren hopes that the self is an image:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(image, Darren hopes)

The others are from the main text:

But we surely still
have the same self today that
we had yesterday.

For most people, most
of the time, the sense of self
is seamless and whole.

These ones are about sleep, perchance about dreaming:

Our emotional
undercurrents seem to be
the guiding force here.

This one requires ‘2008’ to be pronouned ‘two thousand eight’, not ‘two thousand and eight’:

In 2008,
hints emerged that these might be
the deeper stages.

The fountain of youth
may have been as close as our
bedrooms all along.

So it’s puzzling that
we still don’t really know why
it is that we sleep.

And finally, one on the final sleep, death:

When the risk is slight,
mild concern may be all that
is appropriate.

That’s all from that special issue of New Scientist, though the latest issue is dedicated to Shakespeare, so I hope to find some poetry in it. If there’s anything else you’d like me to mine for haiku, let me know!

While I was writing a poem a day, there would be times when I’d just feel like writing prose, for a break. I was hoping that this prose pressure would build up and I’d write something amazing when NaPoWriMo ended. Now that I’m trying to prioritise writing a short story for a competition, poems are trying to force their way out. So I still could manage 30 poems in 30 days, but I’m not going to pressure myself to post them by each midnight, and I won’t feel bad about posting found haiku when I don’t have a poem ready.

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Wonder/Fool


When my friend Hugo read Love/Sick, he said it was wonderful.

I’m not very good at taking compliments, so I responded that I’d write a parody of it called Wonder/Fool. He seemed enthusiastic about the idea:

so here it is.

When you first read my blog,
you thought it sounded really smart.
You said you had good taste, and it was yummy.
It gave a beating to your brain
and matched the beating of your heart.
Is it good?
Or are you just a dummy?

My poems were a gateway
to a state of simple bliss.
You said you read and re-read every line.
You couldn’t think of any work
that measured up to this.
Is it good?
Or is it cognitive decline?

When you read my forceful prose,
you cracked right up and had a fit,
abruptly laughed and cried yourself to pieces.
It had you rolling on the floor;
you may have peed yourself a bit.
Is it good?
Or do you get gelastic seizures?

When you first read this stanza,
you were quite beside yourself.
You found this weird recursion really hoopy,
said it put Hofstadter to shame,
and took his books all of your shelf.
Is it good?
Or are you strangely loopy?

To celebrate my work,
you drove a circus through my home.
You said my zeepding fluvacque was meticulous.
You gave me crowns and laurels
made of chopsticks and pink foam.
Is it good?
Or are you just ridiculous?

My œuvre gave you visions;
you heard a choir of angels sing.
You laughed so hard your aura’s glow became unclear.
Your quantum-astral psychics
said I’d be the next big thing.
Is it good?
Of course! The author’s the only sane one here.

I usually look up the nonsense phrases I invent to make sure they don’t mean anything I don’t want them to. I’m not surprised that people are already peddling quantum-astral things, though I kept that particular combination of quackery buzzwords because both look like words that would go before ‘physics’ rather than ‘psychics’.

What surprised me is that zeepding apparently means something in Dutch, which is commonly associated with snot. My Dutch dictionaries only have zeep (soap) and ding (thing) separately, but I’m going to guess that zeepding is a way of saying ‘bubble’ when referring to snot bubbles. I think I’ll keep that word in there.

In case you’re wondering, strange loops are something Douglas Hofstadter talks about in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which I recommend, along with his later books Le Ton beau de Marot and I Am a Strange Loop.

I’m quite happy to have worked the word ‘gelastic‘ into a poem, since it’s where part of the name ‘Angelastic’ came from.

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Love by the River


« Je rêve de toi », said the banner
held up proudly by a bridge.
I’d understand a man, or
woman, lapdog at a smidge,
but how could I be dreamed of by a bridge?

I went to look, heart a-patter,
unaccustomed to such dates.
‘Twas fun to stand upon it,
sole to sol, perhaps soul mates,
but where can bridges even go on dates?

We met again, in our manner
and I too began to dream:
sleep under, and perhaps we’d
someday bridge our own wee stream.
But were there troubled waters in this dream?

« Je rêve de toi », said the banner,
until one day it was gone.
I understand I crossed it,
and I’d best be moving on.
But can I burn my bridges when I’m gone?

Last time I was in Geneva, I saw a bridge with a banner on it saying « Je rêve de toi » (“I dream of you”) I started thinking about what would happen if somebody simply accepted that the bridge indeed dreamed of them, and I jotted down the first few lines. I found them this evening when I realised I hadn’t started writing a poem for NaPoWriMo yet. The poem doesn’t exactly make sense, but I think it’s sort of pretty and sweet anyway, if I’m allowed to say that about something that I forced out of my own head. Sol in French means ground or floor; I tried to find an English word of similar meaning derived from it, but the best I could do was ‘soleplate’, which does have the advantage of rhyming with ‘soul mate’, but is further from being accurate.

I’m looking for a more punny title in French or English involving bridges or rivers and love, but I haven’t found one I like yet.

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See Their Fuss, Memorising: A Mnemonic for German Articles, With Gender and Case


In German the nouns have three categories,
referred to as ‘genders’ but that’s just linguistics.
While often sex tells a word’s gender with ease,
to learn all the rest, I present some heuristics.

Each gender has articles (like ‘a’ or ‘the’.)
Each ‘a’ starts with ein and each ‘the’ starts with d.
Each stanza gives one, but they’ll sometimes entwine;
you’ll note that the ‘the’ word will rhyme with each line.
First let’s consider the nominative,
when the noun does an action: ‘that is’, and ‘I live’.

For neutral nouns, ‘a’ is just ein, and ‘the”s das.
The line through the middle, not minus or plus.
So anything ending in -mittel is thus,
and anything ending in -lein, too, you suss?
And metals, and other -um words ride this bus,
Colours and -at words are in this noun class,
and one more wee suffix we’ll shortly discuss.

For ‘feminine’ nouns you use eine or die.
Most female people are -in this group, see?
Though young girls are neutral, that won’t confuse us;
It’s Mädchen, and all of the -chen nouns are das.
But -ions aren’t neutral; that’s plain chemistry,
and neither are flowers or fruit or a tree
(though apples and peaches and -Ents don’t fit there;
for those we will need the more ‘masculine’ der.)
‘Feminine’ endings are -schaft, -ung and -ie;
Their meanings are sort of like ‘-ness’, ‘-ing’ and ‘-y’.
Remember that ‘-ness’ and get -heit and -keit free!

For masculine nouns, once more ein, and ‘the”s der.
All male folk are this, you were surely aware,
and that’s a trait French-like -eur suffixes share.
And -ist is there too; let’s hope sex-ists are rare,
for -ant man will get them, and that could quite scare
the wussiest -us words whose gender they share.
Remember all this? Have some brain-boosting fare,
or drinks made with alcohol, if you don’t care.
Points on the compass should indicate where,
and weekdays and seasons say when to be there.

One more thing, by the way: any plural is die.
Forgot something’s gender? Just talk about three.

All right, now were done with the nominative,
but what about when it’s a thing that you give?
When we use direct objects, what happens then?
Well, most stay the same, except der becomes den.
But what if you want to give something to it,
or use aus, außer, bei, nach, zeit, von, zu, or mit?
Oh, hear them, see their fuss, memorising…
Go “derdem, dieder, dasdem”, surprising!
But that isn’t all: just like ‘man’ goes to ‘men’,
the die for the plural (not feminine)’s den.

Okay, now there’s just one more case to go through.
It’s mostly when ‘of the’ in English would do:
in spite of, inside of, because of, possession.
You’ll figure them out in the course of the session.
Außerhalb, innerhalb, trotz, wegen, während,
diesseits, jenseits, statt… ask a parent.
For these ones, again, see their fuss, guess their stress,
and simply repeat, “dieder, dasdes, derdes”.
The die for the plural is one of a pair;
it’s just like the feminine: die becomes der.

But now you might wonder what happens to ‘ein‘s
in the cases described in the previous lines.
It’s really quite simple; if the d-word’s amended
you take the new letter with which that is ended,
mix in an ein, and an ‘e’, and combine ‘em
for einer and eines, einen and einem.

Since I live in Austria now, of course I’m learning German, so I needed something to keep this all straight in my own head. I recall coming up with this idea while riding on a train through Switzerland a on a visit to Geneva few months ago; I’d brought along one of my German books in the hope of studying on the train, and it had a list of rules for figuring out the likely gender of a word. I wanted a more interesting way to memorise them. I didn’t write much of it at the time, but I came up with the main principles of it.

I didn’t expect to remember the entire poem by heart, so I wanted to make sure that even if I only remember one line, most of the time it will still contain some useful information. It’s no good remembering that flowers and fruit and trees are all the same gender if I don’t know which one it is. So I made each line that had a gender hint rhyme with the appropriate word for ‘the’; if I remember ‘neither or flowers or fruit or a tree’ then I know the definite article for flowers, fruit, and trees is ‘die’ because it rhymes with ‘tree’. This kind of thing gets complicated when I get to the stanzas about accusative, dative and genitive case; I glossed over those topics a bit, and didn’t even mention what the cases are called. But now all I have to remember is ‘hear them, see their fuss, mem…’ and through rhymes I can remember der dem, die der, das dem. I’d have liked to have that same line allude to which case it is, so I’d remember exactly when der should change to dem. I could also do with some kind of nice outro, and an introductory stanza that doesn’t have an alternating rhyme scheme completely unlike the rest of the poem. When I have more time, I’ll work on that. I’m already one poem down for the weekend, despite having taken a found-haiku break Friday.

After much deliberation, I decided to put German words and word parts (even the one that does double duty as the English ‘in’) in italics without any sort of quotes unless they need to be clearly separated from some English morpheme (e.g. ‘ein‘s is not the German word eins), mentioned English words (and that one language-neutral single letter) in inverted commas without italics (which makes things weird when I also need an apostrophe) and emphasised words in bold. I am not at all sure I made the right decisions.

For those who were confused, this poem references Ents and ions.

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