Catching up on Steven Universe

I saw the first episode of Steven Universe a while ago, and it was kind of unimpressive. It turns out the show gets a lot better pretty much right after that, though. You know what was really weird and disturbing? The episode of Steven Universe when Steven gets existentially worried about aging and it nearly kills him because his gem powers cause him to transform into a person near the edge of death by old age.

(Sorry for the terrible quality of this post, and also yesterday's post. I'm a tad burnt out right now for idea-generating energy.)

Interior design from a high school art class perspective

My bedroom at home is painted an awful, grotesque orange color that makes everything in the room look weird. Okay, that's not fair. I used to love this color. That's because this room used to be a side office slash den, and it was a really nice color for a room you want to be awake in. It's just, like, extremely not a good bedroom color.

But I've got to live with it for the rest of the summer, because repainting would be an investment of time, money and emotional energy that is multiple orders of magnitude greater than I have to spare, or than I would lose in emotional energy by having to put up with it for three months.

Instead, I'm going to attempt to mitigate the issue using interior design -- because I need new sheets and pillowcases, and it couldn't hurt to replace the curtains with something more my style (not that I don't like gray abstract floral swirls, but in incandescent light and reflecting the orange walls it looks gray-brown with pale orange dots.)

So today, I used the app Color Grab to get a bunch of snaps of shades of orange from my walls, and inverted them in photoshop -- because I don't know what good interior design would look like in here, but interior design that mitigates these walls means finding the right shades of blue.

A four-column set of color swatches.

So, in a goth-like rebellion against the status quo, I am establishing control over my personal space via manipulation of color disregarding contemporary design principles.

Other goals include switching to white LED bulbs and maybe flowers or something -- having an alive thing would be nice, I think.

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

Observer succession

I spent some time working on the Observer succession document today, which is now starting to turn into an Observer Staff Handbook, which I'm really excited about. (I got to brag about it a bit yesterday to some friends, which was a fun conversation. "Yeah, I did all the layout and stuff for this. To be fair, I didn't design the page elements for it, I'm just using the headline libraries from the paper. *beat* But I designed those a couple years ago when we switched to InDesign, and have been responsible for all the updates to them since.") Here's what the cover's going to look like! Pretty much. If we can get it printed in color. And from a printer that can do full bleed correctly. And the table of contents is going to more accurately reflect the content -- right now it's a rough idea of what the content was going to be when I thought the (now 24 page) document was going to be 12 pages long. Also I might move the ToC inside anyway, because if it's going to look this nice, it may as well look like a textbook. Then we can charge $300 for it! Just kidding. It'll be free. For staff. Otherwise, what's the point?



I'll probably be talking about this a bunch over the summer, because I'm really proud of how it's turning out.

I visited Hampshire College today

I spent a lot of time today trying to figure out what the word was for what it felt like to be at Hampshire. And the only one I can think of is: Dreamlike. In every possible way. I really mean it: the place felt like the landscape of a dream I'd have. The library had a basement full of filming studios and computer equipment, and was connected -- by way of a cafe -- to a basketball court and a pool. There was a place where it felt like there ought to be a lake, but instead there were greenhouses and fields of farmland. The transfer student reception was in a barn. And everything was so close together -- like, they felt like they should be farther apart. Moving from place to place on campus felt like the way it feels to move around in a dream world. You start moving toward a place that's very far away, and you can already see it, and you're already there. But you're still walking around and through a vast, expansive wild.

I really don't know how to process my feelings about that place. Except that I still definitely want to live there.

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:

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.

Thoreau inspired art

My Philosophy of Happiness class went on a field trip today.[1. Honors courses at my school are required to have a field trip. The professor took a very long time to figure out what kind of place we could visit to get across the idea of happiness -- and I have to say, I'm not even a little bit a Thoreau fan so I expected that to be a bad call, but I had a delightful day. So, I guess, well done.] We visited deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, Mass., where there is currently an exhibit of art inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau. The art inside, which made up the exhibit, was mostly pretty boring. For the stuff that wasn't boring, what I liked about it were the ways that it implied direct contradictions to Thoreau's points.

But outside was great. The weather today was wonderful, and -- I don't know if you know this, but -- Sculpture Parks are SO COOL. There was a giant head and an upside-down lamp post and an otter with a human face and a tree that looked like Groot.

I recommend deCordova.  I have no clue what it costs, since I went with a school group, but if it's cheap and you live nearby it's totally worth checking out.

Listening to Going Postal

I kind of wish I had actually counted how many times I've read Going Postal. It's got to be somewhere between seven and 12. Have I mentioned before that Going Postal is my favorite book? I think I have. It's really amazing. Such a good book.

Right now I'm listening to the audio version, hopefully quickly enough to cancel the account before I get charged 15 bucks to never listen to an audio book again ever because that's what podcasts are for.

(Oh, and if I ever have a podcast and am using for advertising -- that was a joke! I'm only kidding! Sign up for and use the promo code [I'll edit this in later if it's necessary] to get a free monthly trial -- listen to Going Postal, read by [I'll look it up if I ever have to]. It's a great book, and it helps our podcast out immensely. Thanks!)

The music video is finished!

I spent about eight hours with Ash working on the final cut of the video, and then probably a total of another hour today showing it off to people -- but I'm not posting it here, until after the contest has been judged, so I promise this will be the last post about it until winners are announced. Today was a production night for the school paper, so that's what I spent all day doing. (Plus class, and about three hours for therapy -- one for the session, 40 minutes each for driving there and back, and another 40 minutes ish for waiting and arranging to get my pills refilled.)

I really want to try and get started on something Solarpunk now.

Filming pirate fights on the beach

That friend I mentioned that one time and I have been working on that music video for They Might Be Giants's song, Erase. Today, we spent a few hours at the beach, filming shots of the two of us having a sword fight. First of all: the weather today was amazing. If I were inclined to believe in metaphysical powers controlling the weather, I would believe we were definitely going to win this contest, because some higher power made our pirate filming day beautiful. It was a wonderful day to go to the beach, and filming was a blast.

Second: filming for a sword fight in a music video is really different than actually having a sword fight. We basically only have like four shots of us actually swinging the swords at each other. Which is fine, it's all we need, but it was funny to be doing the same couple sword moves over and over again trying to get the best possible take.

Third: running around on the beach is exhausting. I am tired. Good night.

Got Google Inbox today

You know what my favorite thing in the world is, right at this second? A picture of a blue sky, with a cartoon yellow sun in the middle.

You want to know why?

Because that's what shows up in Google Inbox when all -- all -- of your emails are cleared from it.

I haven't explored Inbox very much yet, but I've had it for a half an hour and I can look at a clean inbox when I open my phone. The main reason is the snooze feature -- which is something I've been dying to have on my email for ages now. It allows me to kick a message out of my inbox, and have it pop up again later when I actually need to deal with it. So, instead of leaving the thread establishing a meeting with one of my former teachers on Friday of next week to sit there for 9 days taking up space and making me anxious, I can set it to go away, then come back next Thursday, with a helpful notification -- now, not only is it out of the way the whole time leading up to the event, but the reminder actually serves its purpose, because I won't have gotten used to glancing past it to avoid stressing myself out.

car accident

Got in a car accident this weekend. It was my fault. My car is damaged for a few hundred dollars' worth of repair and discovered when the cop showed up to write the report that my driver's license was expired. (Apparently they expire on your birthday, not just in the same month.) You know when you're in a car with someone, and they say "Go left," and you hear the word left, and you look at the road ahead of you, and see the direction called "Right," and your brain's like "Yeah, that's what left is?"

My brain did that on Saturday with a red light.

Nobody was injured, and the damage looked minimal.I also wasn't ticketed for the light or the license.

In other news, I passed the College Mathematics CLEP test -- with a 57 (50 is passing; max is 80) -- so I never have to take math again, in my life, ever. It's over. After all of high school, and after putting it off for five years in college, in one day I completed the remainder of my lifetime obligation to learn math.

Damn, I wish that had been the biggest event of the week.

Fucking cars.

New favorite photoshop brush

  I drew a treehouse.hand-tree-finalI'm curious whether readers think this treehouse comes off as creepy, because that's what I was going for in the beginning. Ultimately I ended up with something that I don't think evokes a lot of the starting creepiness, but I could be wrong.

My new favorite photoshop brush is the square charcoal brush. It's really effective for the kind of sketching that I used to do in high school with actual bits of black and white square charcoal on newsprint paper. I've been using it for model sketches and I'd share those, but I'm not sure about the permissions on the reference photos.

This picture was a fun one to make ,because I just layered on new chunks of detail every time I got bored -- whole sequence below read-more.








Remember how I said today was going to be busy?

Okay I just checked and it turns out I didn't actually say that. I spent most of today in Salem, Mass. filming. The first half of filming was for TV Field Production class. The second half was for that music video that I actually did mention.

Filming is hard. I mean, I was barely involved in the class part -- I'll be on camera in the second assignment and holding it in the third. I was doing both of those things in the music video part.

More updates will come later in the project probably.

Getting your education from Tumblr

I saw a kind of post tonight on Tumblr that annoys me, and I responded -- and my response was pretty long and I can't think of something else to blog about today, so I'm reposting it here. Here's a link for full context. The post was about not taking information on Tumblr too seriously, and discouraging people from treating Tumblr like it's a legitimate source the way school is.

I responded:

ok but that’s not what the “learning more from tumblr than school” thing really means? It’s not about any given individual point of information. It’s that the collective experience of spending time on Tumblr leads to a more sophisticated and more accurate education than school for a lot of people. Like, lots of high school teachers did have to get higher degrees to do their jobs — and they still show up and teach absolute bullshit like it’s the final word on a topic. Lots of teachers who know better are required to teach bullshit because it’s on the curriculum.

And comments like this one are part of that benefit — which is why it’s so frustrating when they’re posted in this ‘um actually’ tone — the experience of realizing that a source was wrong is an educational experience people don’t get very often in school. Pointers on how to double-check or verify information is a valuable part of a Tumblr education, and it’s a huge benefit, not a drawback, that the environment of Tumblr can help you to hone your bullshit sense and figure out when you should be googling to make sure something’s true before you reblog it. That’s not really a thing in school, but it’s one of the most important things about being informed. You learn that on social media, exactly because it’s not a platform with any institutional authority.

You shouldn’t treat Tumblr the way you treat Wikipedia, because it’s not a highly regulated, systematic project. You should treat Tumblr the way you treat the internet — by understanding that anyone can post here, and paying attention to who’s doing the talking. Because, even though it’s not required, some people are definitely bringing their Ph.D.’s to the conversation, and their posts may well be worth treating like a primary source. Or not Ph.Ds but feet on the ground at actual events that are really happening. Or valuable perspective and experience. That stuff gets posted straight to Tumblr all the time, and it’s not less legitimate because nobody got paid to put it here.

Tumblr doesn’t have to be flawless to be doing a better job than, or serving as an extremely valuable supplement to, institutional education.

Quotes for my desktop

So, I've got a new laptop, and it's got an extremely high resolution monitor -- like, some programs haven't been correctly patched yet and their menus are like size 4 font because they scale for a screen with not nearly this many pixels. And I've also got photoshop, because one of the first things I did when I got a computer that could run it was sign up for Adobe Creative Suite. (I missed photoshop so much, you have no idea.) And I've been making desktop backgrounds. There's a really consistent format to them: I find a quote I find inspiring from someone I admire, and render it in a pretty and thematically appropriate way using free artwork and fonts. (Mostly. The photo of Westminster in the George Orwell one wasn't labeled fair use, but I'm guessing copyright surrounding photographs of British government buildings is probably too weird for me to bother with anyway, and besides, who's going to sue over somebody using a grayscale copy of the top of their photo of a really famous building as a backdrop for two paragraphs from George Orwell's "Why I Write?")

Anyway, after my first few -- one from Terry Pratchett, one from Mike Rugnetta, one from a They Might Be Giants song, and one from Ursula K Le Guin's speech at the national book awards, I realized that everyone I was quoting was white, and almost all of them were men.

So, I've started to dig around for more quotes I find inspiring from women and people of color. And it's really not as easy as I thought it would be. I've added five more since the first batch: two white men, George Orwell and Walter Benjamin, and three men of color, Junot Diaz, Jay Smooth and Orlando Jones. No more women so far, although I've got a Donna Haraway quote sitting in a photoshop file pending actually finishing a complete read-through of "A Cyborg Manifesto."

I figured it'd be easier than this, but the biggest thing I've noticed very quickly is that many of the quotes I find most inspiring or enlightening from women and people of color are about the experience of being women and people of color -- which has been a valuable part of my experience of achieving a more complex and complete perspective on my own privilege, but which aren't really inspiring or uplifting in a personal way -- like, they wouldn't and shouldn't inform my own decisionmaking directly.

My goal is to get my desktop to represent more people of color than white people and more women than men, and this effort has in the past few days compelled me to pay a lot more close attention to who among my role models I've devoted the most time and energy, and who deserves a lot more of my attention.

(Which is to say: Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman, you're probably not getting on my desktop any time soon. Sorry but not really.)