Posts Tagged open mic
In the last post I mentioned that Joey Marianer and I sang ‘I Love Your Body‘ on the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. During that interview we promised to perform it at the Open Phil open mic that was coming up, so we did:
You can skip to 6:48 if you don’t want to hear me explaining who Joey is, pretending I’m not thrilled that he sets my words to music, and talking about my YouTube channel and Jonathan Coulton’s transition from code monkey to internet superstar, followed by Joey challenging Lill to a laugh-off and finding good positions for the microphones with help from Grey Sweater Guy.
I set the stage before this with another slightly disturbing love poem, Don’t Slip on the Ice, but it’s not the first time I’ve performed that one on stage, or even the best performance of it on video, so you’ll have to click on the link if you want to see it.
After we finished this song, I cajoled Joey into singing The Elements by Tom Lehrer, which he had previously planned to sing but didn’t feel up to doing in the moment. He got me back for that by getting me to sing it with him when it turned out he was indeed not quite up to it in the moment:
This is one of those songs, like Chicken Monkey Duck (which, technically, I have also sung on stage, but it feels more like a rap), where you can amaze people just by knowing the lyrics, so confidence in singing ability (of which I have very little) is not essential, though it is quite difficult to sing fast enough.
I’ve been having a pretty relaxed month, but my life is ridiculous, therefore so far in September I have appeared in a music video, a radio broadcast, and a podcast.
The music video is Molly Lewis’s ‘Pantsuit Sasquatch‘, for which I recorded my feet walking up to a tortoise sculpture on a playground:
The radio broadcast (which you can also listen to online) was episode #9 of the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. The broadcast mostly features regulars at the Open Phil open mic in Vienna. Each episode features an interview with and performance by two acts; I shared this one with Adrian Lüssing, also known as The Cliff.
It was an honour to be invited to participate in the broadcast, and it was made extra awesome by the fact that it happened while Joey Marianer, who has been setting a lot of my poetry to music, was visiting Vienna, so he participated too. I recited They Might Not Be Giants, then he sang his version of it, then we sang I Love Your Body, with Joey singing the first part and me singing the second part. Yes, me singing. This is about the first time I’ve sung for an audience, and the third time Joey and I had sung that song together, and it went on the radio. I think it went pretty well, though! We performed it again a few days later on the Open Phil stage, and I’ll post video of that once I’ve uploaded it.
The podcast was episode #60 of Wrong, but Useful, a recreational mathematics podcast by @icecolbeveridge (Colin in real life) and @reflectivemaths (Dave in real life). I was invited to be a special guest cohost. I’m not sure I contributed very much, but I once again recited They Might Not Be Giants, because the hosts had heard me perform that at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last year. I have to admit, I had not actually listened to the podcast until I was invited to be on it — podcast listening is something I usually do while commuting, and lately I’ve been noncommutative. However, before episode #60 was recorded, Joey and I listened to episode #59 together, and I’m happy to report that the answer we came up with for the coin-flipping puzzle was correct.
In hindsight, I wish I’d mentioned my linguistics degree while we were chatting about English and poetry and such. I also wish I’d said something about the fact that nobody on episode #59 noticed that the diameter of the Fields medal in millimetres happened to round up to the number of the podcast (that is, 64, not 59. You don’t expect mathematicians to give each podcast episode only a single number do you?)
This reminds me, I need to register for the MathsJam Annual Gathering soon. You should too, if you can get to it. It’s a lot of fun! And who knows? Maybe if you go, you’ll end up co-hosting a podcast.
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.
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.
I recited a revised version of Ten Minutes a Day at the JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 open mic, because it’s about how to start doing the things you’re passionate about when you’re not in a position to literally quit your job like all these JoCo cruisers did. I introduced it with some quotes from John Hodgman from this video, which can be seen with more context in the JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 Q&A.
Here are the words I intended to say:
Ten minutes a day:
that’s all you need
to realise your dreams —
not as hard as it seems!
Ten minutes can always be freed.
Ten minutes a day,
a sixth of a clock,
to keep up your writing,
the forced march providing
the force to march through writers’ block.
Ten minutes a day
can’t be denied,
to read through your bookshelf
and castle your rook self,
with culture of kings by your side.
Ten minutes a day,
one day at a time.
To inch past the worst of it,
combat inertia that
nothing excuses, must try if it uses just
ten minutes a day.
Don’t you forget
to learn a new language:
word spread, grammar sandwich.
Ten minutes to keep your tongue wet.
Ten minutes a day,
not big amounts,
to work on your fitness;
don’t tire yourself witless,
but even a small workout counts.
Ten minutes a day,
on or offline
to maintain your friendships;
accept rain, and send drips,
as long as it’s something, it’s fine.
Ten minutes a day —
find it somehow!
Deny social network fun;
finally get work done.
You’ve got all these things to make, it’s really not hard to take
ten minutes a day.
That’s all you do.
To try meditation —
You have to take some time for you!
Ten minutes a day;
it doesn’t take long
to tidy a tight space,
put junk in the right place,
and live with things where they belong.
Ten minutes a day;
put down those chores
to teach well your baby;
remember that maybe
its life will be bigger than yours.
Ten minutes a day?
I can do that!
Grab life while I’m alive!
Did all the things, and I’ve
got what I’m leaping for now,
and I’m sleeping for
ten minutes a day.
That’s all I need. [yawn]
Night dreams are boring,
my real dreams are [sound of snoring]
The main change since the last version of this poem is that I replaced ‘if you’ve spread spores’ with ‘put down those chores’ and moved that stanza nearer the conflicting advice to tidy up, because in the end it’s all about conflicting advice. The ‘spores’ line always seemed like grhyme scraped off the bottom of a barrel anyway. Also, people might take offense at my likening parents to fungi (not that there’s anything wrong with fungi), and if they’re going to take offense at my views on reproduction, I’d rather they react to The Family Tradition.
I’d recited an earlier version of this at an open mic in Geneva, which went well: my stated goal for that performance was to make the audience yawn, and I succeeded. But I was nervous that people would think it was over when it wasn’t, so I started the last few lines while people were still laughing too loudly about the previous ones to hear me. It’s a good problem to have, I guess. So my goal on the cruise, aside from getting all the words right (I got six words wrong, but they weren’t the most important ones, and I don’t remember whether ‘sleep dreams’ instead of ‘night dreams’ was a mistake or a premeditated improvement) not hesitating or rushing too much, and not dropping entire lines or displaying as much high rising terminal as I did at the last JCCC open mic, was to wait until the laughter died down before continuing with the last few lines. I succeeded! Achievement unlocked: elementary stagecraft.
My dictionary says that ‘stagecraft’ doesn’t mean what I thought it meant, but I’m sticking with it because ‘stagecraft’ is only two letters away from ‘spacecraft’. It’s a pretty cool thing to have. On the subject of spacecraft, I highly recommend seeing Atlantis on display at Kennedy Space Center; the way they show it to you is great. I’ll put up my video of it later.
While practising the poem, I got pretty self-conscious about the corny/overwrought rhymes, and wondered whether it was worth wading through them to get to the laugh line. Oh well: stagecraft! Jack Conte from Pomplamoose was hosting the open mic, and I think he is made of stagecraft. Hank Green was also hosting, but he made it pretty clear that he is made mostly of quarks. Hank Green, we’re not so different, you and I.
A few people who heard this poem at open mic have told me they were inspired by it, and are making progress on various projects because of it, and that’s great. But when I wrote this it was out of frustration with the idea. It always takes more than ten minutes, and there are always other things to do in the day, and if I try to do more than a few of these ‘ten minute’ things there isn’t enough time for sleep. Maybe I need to be stricter about stopping when the time’s up no matter whether I feel like doing more or am still waiting for my nearly-five-year-old Mac Ayu to let me start. I put in the ‘teach well your baby’ stanza almost as a joke, because I’m amazed that people with children have time and energy to do anything else at all, and yet they are told to spend just that wafer-thin amount of extra time doing each of several conflicting things to raise their children better, as well as all the other things. If you really only have ten minutes a day for a child, consider spending them on contraception.
The spontaneous Mr. Creosote reference in the last paragraph made me think of this extra stanza:
Ten minutes a day:
it’s just wafer-thin!
To add to your total,
Conserve it, but don’t hold it in.
Which is kind of gross and kind of negative, but if you have something you want to create, and you just spew out whatever you can in ten minutes, it’s better than forgetting about it or using up mental energy fretting about forgetting it. If time is your nemesis, fight it with emesis.