They Might Be Giants Dial-A-Song week 14: End of the Rope

Yesterday, I wrote a handful of short reviews of recent They Might Be Giants songs. Then, when I hit publish, I got an error message and they were all gone. So today, I’m going to try and write them again, as four separate posts, and save regularly. As in, like, every couple of sentences.

Week 14: End of the Rope

I didn't pay much attention to this song when it came out on Dial-A-Song, probably because I didn't find the video very engaging. Then Glean came out (TMBG's new album, which was mostly songs that had already come out on Dial-A-Song) and this quickly became my favorite song on the album.

It's really melodramatically poetic, which makes it feel a lot like mainstream music. But then every once in a while, there's a word or phrase or note or rhythm or instrument that hits wrong, and, to me at least, that makes the song feel much more like the genuine expression of a real person's deep pain, in a way that expertly produced contemporary songs about heartbreak just can't, even if they totally are.

They Might Be Giants Dial-A-Song week 19: ECNALUBMA

Yesterday, I wrote a handful of short reviews of recent They Might Be Giants songs. Then, when I hit publish, I got an error message and they were all gone. So today, I'm going to try and write them again, as four separate posts, and save regularly. As in, like, every couple of sentences.


Some They Might Be Giants songs sound incomprehensibly coded. Like "Stuff Is Way" from Nanobots -- it sounds like there's a narrative that should be comprehensible, and like there's probably a good reason it's veiled, but there's no way to reach into the song and pull out meaning.

ECNALUBMA isn't really like that. The concealed narrative is really transparent. The concealment doesn't serve to hide the message, just to render it strange. It's nauseating, in such a good way -- like a horror movie, like a twisted version of dramatic irony where the narrator knows something that the audience doesn't, but we're invited to stand in the narrator's place, where we know the thing we're not supposed to know and still don't know it. Why did he know it was coming? Why does he talk about it in that worshipful way?

This song is engrossingly twisted and I love it.

They Might Be Giants Dial-A-Song week 22: I Sold My Mind to the Kremlin

Yesterday, I wrote a handful of short reviews of recent They Might Be Giants songs. Then, when I hit publish, I got an error message and they were all gone. So today, I'm going to try and write them again, as four separate posts, and save regularly. As in, like, every couple of sentences.

Week 22: I Sold My Mind to the Kremlin

This song, more than any other of the Dial-A-Song songs that have come out this year, really sounds to me like a They Might Be Giants song. It reminds me of "I Should Be Allowed To Think" and "Everything Right is Wrong Again" and "She Thinks She's Edith Head."[1. By the way -- "She Thinks She's Edith Head" exists in two different versions on two different albums, "Mink Car" and "Long Tall Weekend," and I'm pretty sure they only recorded it once, and they accidentally split up some of the tracks and decided to release it twice. It's a lot of fun to listen to with both tracks playing at once. There's no mysterious reveal or anything, it's just a nicer, more complete sound.] I know that's kind of a ridiculous thing to say, because so many of the other songs fit perfectly in the tradition of TMBG work, and because so much of what TMBG does is all about trying to do new, interesting things, and not sound the way they sounded in the 80's. And maybe it's just the cold war cultural references, but I feel like the structure and the instrumentation evoke that feel, too: so much of what TMBG does sounds like a build on, or parody of, other genres or traditions or narratives. This one just sounds like them.

ViHart did a video on gender and it's p cool

ViHart's new video, literally called "On Gender," describes an experience that's pretty similar to my experience of being a teenager with no strong sense of affinity for gender. It's not quite the same -- I do identify with the labels agender, genderqueer, and nonbinary, although my comfort with them and my sense of what that means sounds similar to her[1. She made it pretty clear in the video she doesn't care what pronouns are used for her -- defaulting to "she" because I feel kind of squicky about imposing proactively nongender word choice on someone who expressed an active apathy towards that kind of personal politics.] description of why she isn't. So, anyway, here's that.

Signal Boost: Cortex (podcast)

CGP Grey is on a new podcast, Cortex, with Myke Hurley, who is a person I had never heard of before listening to this podcast. For audience members who listen to Grey on Hello Internet, this is an additional project, not replacing that one, and it focuses much more than HI does on Grey's organizational strategies and work ethic. They spent most of the first episode talking about their iPhones. It was pretty great.


I'm a huge nerd.

If you are also a huge nerd, you might enjoy Cortex, featuring CGP Grey and Myke Hurley.

99 Percent Invisible on TED: Flag design

Have you seen 99 Percent Invisible host Roman Mars's TED talk? It's great. He basically re-performs an episode of his podcast, and he picked a great one to do visually: the episode on city flags.


Mars recommends checking out your home city's flag and seeing if it could use improvement, which sounded like fun. My home town doesn't have a flag to re-make, but I was in Worcester, Mass. last night when I watched it the second time, and their flag is terrible -- so my  friend and I did some brainstorming. Here's Worcester's current flag:


And here's what we came up with:



By the way, since the talk came out Roman Mars has teamed up with Autodesk to run a campaign to replace San Francisco's awful state flag. It's at

Tofu & Whiskey (not necessarily at the same time)

Got a little over two hours you want to kill? I've been suggesting these two talks to people over and over for the past couple weeks, so I figured I should probably share them here. They're Talks@Google, and they're both about making consumable things. The first one's about the history of tofu in the US and the economics of tofu production now -- and Minh Tsai, the guy giving the talk, makes tofu in the room while he talks.

From Investment Banker to Tofu Master | Minh Tsai, Founder/CEO of Hodo Soy

The second one is about how whiskey is made, especially scotch. As I write this, I'm drinking Macallan, because I was curious about the difference between scotch aged in sherry barrels versus scotch aged in bourbon barrels.

Anthony Caporale, "The Science of Whiskey" | Talks at Google

Cool video about counting

VSauce's new video, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,..."[1. The full title is "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35..."] is really cool -- it's about the intuitive ways that humans naturally count -- which is to say, apparently, we're automatically good at multiplication, but not so much at addition. Check it out:

We didn't win the video contest. :(

Earlier this year my friend Ash and I made a music video for They Might Be Giants's new single Erase, to enter into a contest. The winners were announced today, and we weren't among them. I'm a little sad that we didn't win, but I was aware that it was a possibility. And the winning videos are all really good! I'm not the least bit upset to have lost to them, if I had to lose at all, and I'm still really proud of the video regardless. And also here it is.

Erase by They Might Be Giants (Ash Lane & T.X. Watson) from T.X. Watson on Vimeo.

In at least one previous contest the finalists were also shared in a playlist, but that appears to have not happened this time, so I don't know how far our video made it.

The winners of the contest are below the fold.

They Might Be Giants - Erase - by Jordan Wippell (official TMBG contest winner)

They Might Be Giants - Erase - by Paul Guyet & Christina Bryant (official TMBG contest winner)

They Might Be Giants - Erase - by Victor Fitzsimons (official TMBG contest winner)

They Might Be Giants is SO GOOD LIVE

I want to blog about the They Might Be Giants concert I went to last night, but I honestly can't think of anything to say other than "OMG it was So Cool you guys have no idea" which is not particularly useful communication for people who didn't go to, and aren't going to, a They Might Be Giants show. Seriously, though, they nailed, like, everything. They were funny, they did a great mix of songs from throughout their career, they did a really funny cover, their lighting was amazing -- like, I don't really want to dwell too much on the lighting because obviously it's not the most interesting thing about the show, but usually when I see the use of lights in concerts, it's kind of annoying. Like, they're trying to do something interesting with the lights, but they're only trying hard enough to make the fact that they're trying distracting, making the experience worse instead of better. But TMBG genuinely used the lights in their show to astounding effect, in a way that added a lot to the experience of watching them perform each song.

And they did two sets. They opened for themselves. Which was funny. And they played several of my favorite songs that I really didn't expect -- "Dead," "Fingertips," "Cyclops Rock," "Man, It's So Loud In Here" and "Can't Keep Johnny Down" were a few of the songs that were genuinely surprising and exciting to hear. And the way they arranged them made it surprising and exciting to hear the songs I did expect -- "Erase," "Number Three," "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Birdhouse in your Soul," for example.


Maybe I did have a little more to say "OMG it was So Cool" &etc.

Anyway, here's some They Might Be Giants songs:

Can't Keep Johnny Down:


Birdhouse In Your Soul:

Good To Be Alive:

Man, It's So Loud In Here:

New Google thing: Project Fi

I think Google's working on deconstructing one of the major tragic consequences of the capitalist path that information technology took in growing and spreading. It's called Project Fi, and I've only seen one short video with any details but it looks like it's about making all the cell networks work together, for everyone -- rapidly turning a handful of pretty good networks that service most of the country varyingly well to a single amazing network that services the entire country exceptionally well.

My Google Fan impulse is saying this is incredible news -- and I am still holding out hope that Google will continue to be generally pretty good and genuinely interested in the well-being of humanity rather than just their shareholders. But I'll be waiting for more details before I get enthusiastically supportive.

Hello, Dolly!

I saw the first night of the Pentucket Players' performance of "Hello, Dolly!" tonight. It's running for two more nights this weekend, and it's really incredibly good. I had heard of Hello, Dolly! before, but I was pretty much going in blind -- I had no clue what the show was actually about, except that it took place in New York and that the main character's name was Dolly.

It reminded me a lot of The Importance of Being Earnest, and of Jeeves and Wooster. It's funny, and tightly plotted, and really well performed. If you have time this weekend and can make it to North Andover, I recomend it.

New Feminist Frequency: The Scythian

The new episode of Feminist Frequency, "The Scythian," came out today. It's about the protagonist of a game called Sword & Sorcery, and it contains spoilers but not till the end, and they're very clearly offset so there's plenty of time to pause and avoid them.

If my past experience is any guide, a new Anita Sarkeesian video means there's about to be a new flare-up of weirdly obsessive and intense misogyny everywhere on the internet. (Not that it's not everywhere already -- it's just that I, as a non-woman, non-gamer, am generally not a major target of it, so it's possible for me to not be exposed to it sometimes.)

Patreon Subbable Merge

I wanted to have more to say about this, but I haven't been able to think it through. I've been very busy. Subbable and Patreon are merging. Or, Subbable is merging into Patreon. Or Subbable is closing down, and its accounts are migrating to Patreon. IDK. It's complicated probably.

Right now this is totally irrelevant to me, except that crowdfunding is incredibly cool and I have a huge number of thoughts about Patreon-style funding of larger institutional projects (like NEWSPAPERS) but hopefully eventually something like this will be on the table for how I make my money. (Gotta monetize y'all eventually, or what's the point?) (I'm kidding. I love blogging and will continue to do it as long as it doesn't literally cost me my access to food and shelter.) (But I wouldn't turn my nose up at a future in which I get paid for the chunk of my writing that I like doing.)

Here's the SciShow video on the move -- which is exceptionally pertinent since SciShow is hosted by Hank Green, who founded Subbable.

Community season 6

Okay, first thing: I'm super disappointed that in s6e1 Abed hung a lampshade on the fact that his girlfriend is missing from the plot so far. That was easily my favorite story arc originating in Season 4. Alright. Moving on.

I like the new episodes of Community. If you're a fan of the show, it's worth sitting through Yahoo's obnoxiously long sets of ads and weirdly buggy streaming app.[1. To be totally fair, it's possible that the bugs were my internet connection or my computer. But I would not be surprised to hear that other people are also having problems with the app unexpectedly starting the video at the beginning again or going back to episode 1 from the middle of episode 2.]

Four of the seven original group members remain, for anyone keeping track: Jeff, Britta, Annie and Abed are still there. (And Chang is apparently part of the group now?) Pierce has been gone since the end of Season 4, Troy left 5 episodes into season 5, and Shirley didn't return for season 6. Also, Professor Hickey from season 5 is gone, and there has been literally no mention at all of his absence.[2. Nor of the eccentric computer programmer living in the school's basement from the last episode of season 5.] [3. Or the meteor.] [4. There are a lot of loose threads, I guess we can't expect them to tie them all up.]

As for the new cast: Frankie is great. I love her character and her plot lines so far. I'm looking forward to spending way too much time thinking about the similarities and differences between her role on the show and what Shirley's role was. And Annie's. And Abed's. Elroy seems good, but he wasn't really very much in the new episode -- we got his introduction, but not very much character development. (And Chang is apparently part of the group now?)

I have more thoughts, but my brain is kind of fuzzed over right now and I don't think that's going to go away until after midterms.

New episodes of Community are apparently going to come out every Tuesday on Yahoo Screen, here.

Nightvale Book available for preorder

Welcome To Night Vale has a book coming out! It's released in October, and it's called "Welcome to Night Vale." I have already preordered it. You should also preorder it. And if you don't already listen to Welcome to Night Vale, you should start. It's a podcast about a strange, mysterious desert town that is fantastic in many ways. (Though if you've got any strong common triggers that might be a problem. Personally I just shout "NOPE" over and over again in the car whenever I hear Cecil begin to mention spiders. Sure, I probably miss some stuff, but spiders have never been the whole plot of an episode so it's okay.) Upcoming posts: Tomorrow is thoughts on Community, season 6 having premiered on Yahoo Screen today. Thursday is on the Subbable Patreon merger.

Gentleman's Single-use monacle

After several years of vague apparent-unfeasability, Zach Weiner of SMBC Comics has finally launched the kickstarter for the Gentleman's Single-use Monacle -- which I assume serve well enough for nonbinary eye protection, as well. (I hope so, because I ordered a three-pack.) (Now I just need to find my bow tie in a tin and I can be prepared to be cartoonishly fancy at a moment's notice.)  

Just Between Us -- signal boost

Signal boosting the youtube series Just Between Us, starring Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, because it's very funny and also because I'm tired and can't make thoughts form whole sentences shut up I know this sentence is a disproof of that claim.

Gaby Dunn is an example of what has become my favorite way of finding out about a new person: I see them on something cool (in this case, heard her on Yo, is This Racist?), go to check if they have a Tumblr, and discover that I'm already following them because their content is cool and they were just independently somebody I would have wanted to follow regardless of their interesting professional life.

I didn't think to check if Allison had a Tumblr until I was writing this post. She does, maybe -- there's a tumblr with her name on it that contains nothing but long rants and hasn't been updated in 10 months, and there's a tiny picture in the corner that could possibly be her.

I'm following it now.

Don't judge me.