Posts Tagged poem

They Might Not Be Giants video

When I commissioned Len Peralta to illustrate my poem They Might Not Be Giants for a poster, I paid a little extra to get a speed-paint video of its creation. This was partly because I love watching how Len draws things, but also because I wanted to make a video that would showcase both the poster and the poem. Well, I finally got around to making that video. Here you can watch Len illustrate the poster (sped up, but probably not by as much as you think, because he’s pretty fast) while listening to me read the poem:

I’ve also collected all the videos I have of this poem (my performances, and Joey’s song) in a playlist, in case you’d like to hear the same words several times, or see how it’s changed over time, or whatever. I just like making playlists, okay?

If you’d like a copy of the poster, check my Things to Buy page for information on how to buy it. Or, if you happen to live in Vienna, catch me at one of the open mic nights some time; I usually have posters and bookmarks with me.

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I made a bookmark!

photoI’ve been meaning to put a revised version of the poem The Bookshop on a bookmark for a while, but put it aside as I didn’t have the tools to do it the way I wanted. Motivated by the recent Christmas shopping edition of the Open Phil open mic, I finally bought the app I needed, finished the design, and had some printed, so now you can buy them on my Etsy shop. They may be a little late for Jólabókaflóðið, but you were going to read all year anyway, right? These are considerably cheaper to post worldwide than my posters (fun falsehood: posters are call that because they’re more post), and while the postage still costs more than the thing itself in most cases, you can save on postage by ordering more than one at once.

If you’ve ever started casually reading something in a bookshop and then looked up and realised the sun has gone down, you’ll understand the generally timey-wimey nature of books and bookshops shown in this poem. Admittedly, when this happened to me shortly before I wrote the poem, I was in Stockholm on the shortest day of the year, but it can happen on longer days too. The background shows a sky slowly darkening and becoming a sunset as you read through the poem. The reverse of the bookmark has the name of the poem and author, on the same sky as seen facing away from the Sun.

It occurs to me that a customised version of this poem bookmark might be useful to promote an actual bookshop, so if you’d be interested in that, let me know.

Much thanks to my friend Grace Bridges for her advice on the design of the bookmarks; I would recommend her books to use the bookmark on, but they’re mostly on Kindle, so I’ll just recommend them whether you still use physical bookmarks or not. She also has some posters and T-shirts available on Teechip. I am now considering putting some things up on Teechip myself, since it would be better value than either Zazzle or Etsy for getting posters and T-shirts to people around the world. I’ll also publish a book some day. I’m also working on a few videos and apps and version two of the rhyming dictionary I’m not officially publicising (don’t tell anyone I just linked to it! It’s our secret) until I’ve finished version two. But one thing at a time.

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I Love Your Body (now a song!)

My friend Joey Marianer used his brain to come up with a tune for I Love Your Body, and then he used the rest of his body to turn it into sounds! Isn’t this great?

I’ve been thinking this could be turned into a longer singalong by having the same thing repeated with ‘I love my body…’ etc., and then maybe ‘We love our bodies’. It would remove one of the few rhymes (‘brains need ATP/and there’s no ESP/that would show you to me’ would become something like ‘there’s no ESP to show myself to you’ or ‘there’s no ESP to show ourselves to each other’) but the cool thing about songs is they can sound good even when they don’t rhyme.

In any case, those lines should perhaps be changed. Mentioning ATP (a chemical that transports energy that cells can use) is a little too scientific for this song, and I’m no biologist so I’m not sure it’s the best chemical to mention anyway. (Edit: The obvious substitution, which I didn’t think of until far too late, is simply ‘energy’.) Most of what I know about ATP comes from songs. If you want a song that explains how ATP is made by mitochondria, try Come On Down (The Electron Transport Chain) by Science Groove:

Or Oxidative Phosphorylation, also by Science Groove:

Back to ‘I Love Your Body’, I’ve found that I’ve ended up with a completely different musical version of it in my head. I can’t transcribe the tune, but the words go something like this:

I love your body
The way it keeps you ali-i-ive
I love your body
The way it has a you inside
I love your body
How it allows communications
I love your body
The way it gives you sweet sensations

That’s all from me. Use your body to make somebody happy today!

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I Love Your Body

I love your body
The way it keeps you alive
The way it lets you touch me
The way it lets us communicate
The way it gives you pleasant sensations

I don’t love its flaws
The way it hurts you
The way it makes you sick
The way it makes you tired
The way it can’t do the things that you want it to

But I love
that you have it
so that I can have you,
because brains need ATP
and there’s no ESP
that would show you to me.

I love your body
I hope it takes care of you
and you of it
for a love-filled lifetime.

I wrote this in a couple of minutes a few nights ago because I was sick of how much of even ‘body positivity’ seems to be focused on embracing how unfashionably-shaped bodies look, thus lending credence to the central tenet of body negativity and body shaming: that a body’s appearance is its most important attribute.

On the other hand, perhaps it is sometimes a good idea to pay attention to appearance (as with race, gender, etc.) in order to actively counteract subconscious or institutionalised biases. I am not sure. It’s probably not my place to say, since it’s been a long time since I had any body image issues of my own or paid attention to other people’s issues with my body’s image.

I wasn’t sure whether to post this already, but some very powerful people have been making unsolicited comments about the appearances of people’s bodies lately, and also a friend who hadn’t read it encouraged me to post it. I’ve dusted it off a little but not as much as I usually would. Perhaps some day I’ll craft it into something fancier, choose some better words, some rhymes, or make it into a parody of some well-known ‘I love your body; it has comfortable places for me to put my genitals’-style pop song (any suggestions? I don’t know very many songs that aren’t already funny), but for now I’ve at least ticked off the recurring ‘write something’ item on my to-do list. Have a great time consensually touching the universe with your meat-suit!

Also, about an hour from the time I post this, there’s a live stream of CERN’s doo-wop band, and the first band on the web, Les Horribles Cernettes (LHC). If you read this in time to watch that, I recommend it! I’ve had the privilege of seeing several of their shows in person, as well as meeting them, and they’re nowhere near as horrible as they claim.

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

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

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

Here are the words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wibbly-wobbly words

GloPoWriMo is over, and I haven’t expanded on everything mentioned in my initial poem, though I covered ‘performed‘ and ‘got some footage uploaded‘, in a sense. I found a draft of this fifty-word poem covering ‘published’ (two stories featured on and threw it into some kind of blibby-blobby shape:

Fifty-word stories, you say?
I wrote two:
one imaginary, one true;
one momentary, one eternal —
thoughts growing from language kernel.
For a second’s worth a thousand words,
a word a thousand seconds.
A fiction hides a thousand truths,
a truth a thousand fictions.
Word and truth aren’t reckoned by restrictions.

If you’re wondering about the title, at some point I had ‘For time is wibbly-wobbly, just like words, and and either can be warped to hold the other’ in there, but that got trimmed for the sake of word count.

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Sings up to which Joey has been (a poem about a song of a poem)

What I wrote were some mere rhyming words.
What I got was this wonderful song
by a friend with whom I get along
that I met on a ship full of nerds.

’Twas the cruise, as you might have inferred,
of that singer of many dings-dong.
We were one thousand five hundred strong
and a blue plastic uke was conferred

upon each of us on the first night
so we all could repeatedly tune
and observe it was never quite right.
The performers had hoped to attune
us to not make such fun of their plight,
but we did, sure as schooners will schoon.

I’m working on/playing with a few other silly poems to update you on that up to which I have been, but meanwhile, have a song version of the last one! How cool is this?! I met Joey on the JoCo cruise and he’s learning to use one of ‘the cheapest possible ukuleles that do not get classified as industrial waste‘ that Cards Against Humanity provided us all with.

This poem is another of these weird Petrarchan-sonnet-like-things in anapaestic trimeter. They said at different times in the cruise that there were either 1700 of us or 1500. I’m going to guess that the first number includes the performers. In any case, 1500 fits the meter better (as does 1600, if you want to take the middle ground.) As I process my cruise footage, which is most of what I will be doing in my spare time for the next few months, I am implementing Jonathan’s suggestion of making a supercut of tuning. If you have footage of tuning at events on this cruise that I wasn’t at, and you’re happy to send me clips of it, let me know so I can add it to the supercut.

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Things up to which I have been (a poem)

(Note: there is no grammatical reason not to end a sentence with a preposition. I just wrote the title this way for comic effect.)

I’ve been busy in so many ways
and my blog’s gone from quiet to worse
so for poetry month, I’ll be terse
with my news in prosodic arrays.

Here’s a list of my works and my plays —
check the links if you want to immerse.
I’ll explain it all further in verse
in new posts in the upcoming days.

I’ve performed and I’ve published and coded,
got a job, got a fan page, and masters
in linguistics and web dev and showed it
with a site to find safer rhymes faster,
took a cruise, got some footage uploaded,
and wrote poems when I could be arsed to.

That was some kind of Petrarchan sonnet in anapaestic trimeter; what in the bard’s name am I doing? I’ve been wanting to update my blog for some time now, but I keep doing more things that I want to blog about and it seemed like any blog post doing them all justice would be too long. I also still want to make improvements on, or upload footage of, many of the things I want to blog about before blogging about them. I have been posting a bit more often on the fan page, though, so like that if you want to stay informed.

The only way to clear this blog backlog (ack, blog backlog!) is to blog, and it’s Global Poetry Writing Month (also known as National Poetry Writing Month, though a nation is rarely specified) so if I blog something, it should be a poem. I’ll be blogging poems, perhaps daily, until I have poem-blogged about all the things from the last 11 months that I wanted to blog about. Consider this poem the table of contents, or the tl;dr version of blog posts to come.

If you’re also participating in GloPoWriMo, and need some inspiration, try my random rhyme generator. Someone suggested that feature when I told him about the accent-aware rhyming dictionary I made, and I promptly spent my free time on that instead of making the other improvements I had been planning, such as clarifying when ‘faster’ rhymes with ‘arsed to’ (hint: it happens in most accents where ‘can’t be arsed‘ or indeed ‘arse’ is used) and when it rhymes with ‘amassed a’. But more on that in a later blog poem.

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A Poetry Video for Star Wars Day

On Star Wars Day in 2012, all I had seen of Star Wars while fully awake was The Phantom Menace and The Star Wars Holiday Special. I finally had what seemed like the perfect opportunity to lose my Star Wars virginity, with a screening of the original three movies by the CERN CinéClub, and yet, I had doubts. Not many people reached my age without having seen Star Wars. Surely I should do something artistic with my unusual lack of knowledge. Which is not to say that art is the realm of unknowledgeable people, but humour can be, as long as one doesn’t mind being the target of the laughter.

I asked Twitter whether I should watch the movies, or instead write a poem about everything I knew about the movies from songs and internet memes. Twitter said to write poetry, so I did.

I have since recited the poem to an audience of nerds on JoCo Cruise 3, and to my surprise, they did not throw me overboard. One of them has even read my poem at an event at a library. I made a mistake on the cruise, though, so I never had a good video of the poem to share… until now. I have actually seen all seven Star Wars movies in the last year, so made a video with not only the poem, but a run-down of how it differs from the actual movies:

I quote Marian Call’s song, ‘I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic (the Nerd Anthem)’ and The Doubleclicks’ song ‘Nothing To Prove‘ at the beginning.

The poem references OSV word orderWil Wheaton’s story, ‘The Trade’, from which I learnt the existence of land speeders, to some extent the sleeping bag from which I learnt about tauntaunsThe Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo, and the ‘Do not want‘ meme from Star War The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West.

I used six seconds of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Screwed’ in the credits. I’m wearing this shirt; there are two versions of the shirt widely available online, but I got the only one which ships to Europe.

Star Wars is not the only thing I learn about mainly from songs and internet memes. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is another, and so, inspired by a song by Paul and Storm about George R. R. Martin’s slow writing, I contributed a picture to a music video for another song by Paul and Storm about the series:

I hope you enjoyed these videos. May the fourth be with you! 🖖😉

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Another Haiku Detector Update, and Some Observations on Mac Speech Synthesis

Screenshot of Haiku Detector

I subjected Haiku Detector to some serious stress-testing with a 29MB text file (that’s 671481 sentences, containing 16810 haiku, of which some are intentional) a few days ago, and kept finding more things that needed fixing or could do with improvement. A few days in a nerdsniped daze later, I have a new version, and some interesting tidbits about the way Mac speech synthesis pronounces things. Here’s some of what I did:

  • Tweaked the user interface a bit, partly to improve responsiveness after 10000 or so haiku have been found.
  • Made the list of haiku stay scrolled to the bottom so you can see the new ones as they’re found.
  • Added a progress bar instead of the spinner that was there before.
  • Fixed a memory issue.
  • Changed a setting so it should work in Mac OS X 10.6, as I said here it would, but I didn’t have a 10.6 system to test it on, and it turns out it does not run on one. I think 10.7 (Lion) is the lowest version it will run on.
  • Added some example text on startup so that it’s easier to know what to do.
  • Made it a Developer ID signed application, because now that I have a bit more time to do Mac development (since I don’t have a day job; would you like to hire me?), it was worth signing up to the paid Mac Developer Program again. Once I get an icon for Haiku Detector, I’ll put it on the app store.
  • Fixed a few bugs and made a few other changes relating to how syllables are counted, which lines certain punctuation goes on, and which things are counted as haiku.

That last item is more difficult than you’d think, because the Mac speech synthesis engine (which I use to count syllables for Haiku Detector) is very clever, and pronounces words differently depending on context and punctuation. Going through words until the right number of syllables for a given line of the haiku are reached can produce different results depending on which punctuation you keep, and a sentence or group of sentences which is pronounced with 17 syllables as a whole might not have words in it which add up to 17 syllables, or it might, but only if you keep a given punctuation mark at the start of one line or the end of the previous. There are therefore many cases where the speech synthesis says the syllable count of each line is wrong but the sum of the words is correct, or vice versa, and I had to make some decisions on which of those to keep. I’ve made better decisions in this version than the last one, but I may well change things in the next version if it gives better results.

Here are some interesting examples of words which are pronounced differently depending on punctuation or context:

ooohh Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
ooohh. Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
ooohh.. Spelled out (Oh oh oh aitch aitch)
ooohh… Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
H H Pronounced aitch aitch
H H H Pronounced aitch aitch aitch
H H H H H H H H Pronounced aitch aitch aitch
Da-da-de-de-da Pronounced with five syllables, roughly as you would expect
Da-da-de-de-da- Pronounced dee-ay-dash-di-dash-di-dash-di-dash-di-dash. The dashes are pronounced for anything with hyphens in it that also ends in a hyphen, despite the fact that when splitting Da-da-de-de-da-de-da-de-da-de-da-de-da-da-de-da-da into a haiku, it’s correct punctuation to leave the hyphen at the end of the line:


Though in a different context, where – is a minus sign, and meant to be pronounced, it might need to go at the start of the next line. Greater-than and less-than signs have the same ambiguity, as they are not pronounced when they surround a single word as in an html tag, but are if they are unmatched or surround multiple words separated by spaces. Incidentally, surrounding da-da in angle brackets causes the dash to be pronounced where it otherwise wouldn’t be.

U.S or u.s Pronounced you dot es (this way, domain names such as are pronounced correctly.)
U.S. or u.s. Pronounced you es
US Pronounced you es, unless in a capitalised sentence such as ‘TAKE US AWAY’, where it’s pronounced ‘us’

I also discovered what I’m pretty sure is a bug, and I’ve reported it to Apple. If two carriage returns (not newlines) are followed by any integer, then a dot, then a space, the number is pronounced ‘zero’ no matter what it is. You can try it with this file; download the file, open it in TextEdit, select the entire text of the file, then go to the Edit menu, Speech submenu, and choose ‘Start Speaking’. Quite a few haiku were missed or spuriously found due to that bug, but I happened to find it when trimming out harmless whitespace.

Apart from that bug, it’s all very clever. Note how even without the correct punctuation, it pronounces the ‘dr’s and ‘st’s in this sentence correctly:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met on the st john’s st turnpike

However, it pronounces the second ‘st’ as ‘saint’ in the following:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met in the st john’s st john

This is not just because it knows there is a saint called John; strangely enough, it also gets this one wrong:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met in the st john’s st park

I could play with this all day, or all night, and indeed I have for the last couple of days, but now it’s your turn. Download the new Haiku Detector and paste your favourite novels, theses, holy texts or discussion threads into it.

If you don’t have a Mac, you’ll have to make do with a few more haiku from the New Scientist special issue on the brain which I mentioned in the last post:

Being a baby
is like paying attention
with most of our brain.

But that doesn’t mean
there isn’t a sex difference
in the brain,” he says.

They may even be
a different kind of cell that
just looks similar.

It is easy to
see how the mind and the brain
became equated.

We like to think of
ourselves as rational and
logical creatures.

It didn’t seem to
matter that the content of
these dreams was obtuse.

I’d like to thank the people of the xkcd Time discussion thread for writing so much in so many strange ways, and especially Sciscitor for exporting the entire thread as text. It was the test data set that kept on giving.

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