Posts Tagged teaching
At the Presidential Variety Show, and later the Open Mic Night, on JoCo Cruise Crazy 5, I recited my poem ‘They might not be giants.‘ Here’s a video from the Open Mic; pretend I said that ‘I was waiting for the shaking to stop’ was the name of my Taylor Swift cover band.
I brought along some locally-printed copies of this Len-Peralta-drawn poster of the poem, since I figured people would like them, and if they bought the ones on Zazzle they’d have to give a lot of extra money to Zazzle and the postal service.
The posters I printed are 11×17 inches (approximately A3) on 300gsm silk-coated stock, which is really quite fancy and sturdy. Quite a few people wanted them, which meant (since we’re not supposed to sell things while onboard, and I was mostly able to resist the urge to give them away) I had more fruity drinks and other items than I otherwise would have, plus some cash from sea monkeys I saw on land. But some people who wanted posters didn’t manage to catch me at the right time to get one. I have some posters left, which you can order from my Etsy store. (Note: when I wrote this post originally, I was temporarily in New Zealand, and it was economical for me to send posters to the US for a lowish price. That is no longer the case, so I have updated the post with a link to my Etsy store which has the correct postage from Austria.) If you’re in Europe, the combined price is slightly lower than from Zazzle while still giving me a bigger cut and getting you a better-quality poster. It is of course better value for both of us if you order more than one at a time, since the postage costs the same amount for multiple posters unless you’re ordering a ridiculous number of them. I’m not a warehouse full of elves, nor am I on my home turf at the moment (update: okay, now I am), so I can’t make any promises about how soon I will post posters after you order, but I’ll do my best. Feel free to order from Zazzle if you prefer elven reliability.
If you want me to sign it or write some kind of message or doodle in the small area or empty space, say so in the message to the vendor when you check out (update: I am not sure if there is a way to do that on Etsy, but contact me here, on twitter, on Etsy or something). Please note that I have not settled on an official famous-person-style autograph yet, so results may vary. Also, my doodles are the doodles of a poet, not those of Len Peralta, so don’t expect them to match the quality of the rest of the poster.
If I gave you a poster on the ship and you didn’t have anything to give in return, you can donate something:
Or you could lend some money on Kiva and join the Sea Monkey team I created yesterday. I don’t have a day job at the moment, so I am no longer promising to lend poster proceeds on Kiva before using them, but I probably will anyway as long as I have enough savings to live on.
Many other things also happened on JoCo Cruise Crazy, which I might summarise when I have time. I have a lot of video to upload when I eventually get home. For now, here’s The Future Soon a cappella and Jim Boggia’s cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Junk’.
A while ago I wrote a poem called ‘They might not be giants‘, about the famous phrase, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ A while later, that poem was published in Offshoots 12, the 2013 anthology of the Geneva Writers’ Group.
Ever since writing it, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to see a picture of the tower of dwarves described. I’ve also been thinking about which plural of ‘dwarf’ is best, and a couple of grammatical and typographical decisions I made regarding the poem, but mostly I’ve been thinking about the picture. Well, I finally commissioned Len Peralta to draw that picture for me! It is gorgeous.
It is also the real reason I set up a Zazzle store; you can buy it as an 11×17 poster featuring the poem. I’ll have some printed locally as well, so if anyone near Vienna wants one they can buy one directly from me. Maybe you’d like one for yourself, or an aspiring scientist, or an inspiring teacher, or a Len Peralta fan, or an Angela Brett fan (
do they exist? Edit: there is one) or even a They Might Be Giants fan who wants their poster collection to cover all possibilities. I think it’s suitable for anyone who has walls. If you know anyone who doesn’t have walls who would like some, see if you can help them find a home.
I’ve always been fascinated by Len’s videos of himself drawing, so I paid a little extra to get this mesmerising speedpaint video, which doubles as a great way to get an idea of what the poster looks like close-up. Note that the final poster has the title of the poem on it, and a few other small changes to the text.
I still can’t watch it without squeeing. It took him 2 hours, 36 minutes, which is about how long it would take me to draw a stick figure version indistinguishable from a Christmas tree.
This is actually not the first time I’ve commissioned Len to draw something for me; he also drew the picture of Jonathan Coulton transforming into an internet superstar at the beginning of a video I made to celebrate Jonathan’s Thing A Week by summarising each song in the form of a ‘roses are red’ poem. He drew most of the rest of the art in the video, too, but that was done already as part of his Visual Thing A Week project, which is the reason I know he exists.
That’s all from me. Go have fun, and tune in tomorrow for the next exciting installment of Forms and Formulae.
Note: this poem is now available on a poster!
“If I have seen farther,” the scientist said,
“it’s not because I am a giant.
“Great minds of the past have helped me get ahead;
it’s their shoulders on which I’m reliant.”
“Now listen to me!” said the great on whose shoulder
the first one was glad to have stood.
“I’m quite short of stature, it’s just that I’m older
and those before me were so good.”
And sure enough, this one was perched on the neck
of a giantist of great renown
who balanced in turn on another; by heck!
It’s little guys all the way down.
And some were thought giants, and some were thought midgets
and some were thought nothing at all,
but each would insist, “Those below were no idjits.
It’s them that have made me so tall.”
And scrambling around them their fans would aspire,
to see something not seen before
by climbing the tower of dwarves, ever higher
for glimpses, or footholds, or more.
Most could not scale to the summit in time,
before their peak fitness would end.
Some found it tough and abandoned the climb
while some would, with vigor, descend:
Aware that such heights were so taxing to reach,
they helped to lift people and hopes,
inventing new ladders and platforms to teach,
securing and showing the ropes.
“They might not be giants, but they must go far
and that journey isn’t for me.
I’ll boost them through science, raise them and the bar
and profit from what they will see.”
So said the teacher while lifting a child
on shoulders so humble and stressed.
The youth saw a vista that had them beguiled
and bounded straight up to the crest.
Quotes similar to “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” have been attributed to many scientists and scholars. It’s been bugging me for a while, because even if the people whose shoulders they’re standing on are metaphorically taller than average, they’re nowhere near as big as how giants are imagined today, and they’re surely standing on someone else’s shoulders. There are no giants; it’s a tower of dwarves, and if it ever looks like it’s made of ivory, it’s just because the dwarves don’t spend enough time in the sun. You don’t need to be a giant to get up onto the topmost shoulders, but you need to do an awful lot of climbing; there’s a lot to learn before you can discover something new these days. Enjoy the view on the way up.
Luckily, we have people who invent new climbing techniques and equipment, and telescopes to see more when we get up there. This poem focusses more on teachers, but they could be science writers, YouTubers, educational charities, scientific songwriters (yes, even the ones that might be giants), inventors of more efficient lab equipment (the real or metaphorical telescope), maybe even code monkeys like me. Now that I’ve listed those things, it reminds me of the song ‘Somebody Will‘ by Sassafrass.
I would love to see illustrations of the tower of dwarves.