Today’s Sanity Level: Bananaphone

Our winterguard state championships were scheduled for yesterday. They were, of course, cancelled.

In the spirit of getting together apart, we (the members and staff) decided to create our own winterguard shows. Since the staff do this professionally, we decided to do the most ridiculous ideas we could find.

(I hope. That’s what I did, anyway.)

Performing their 2021 show “Bananaphone,” Winter Guard International is proud to present….

bananaphone

Music

The name kind of gives it away:

“Bananaphone” will be a Regional A show, since it’s both (a) ridiculous and (b) not long enough to be used in any other caption.

Floor

Since no one gave me a budget, I’m getting custom everything for my brand-new guard performing silly work on multiple pieces of equipment. As we all know, high production values totally make WGI judges ignore bad technique!

(Note for non-winterguard readers: The above is sarcasm. Nothing makes WGI judges ignore cringey technique. Especially not in Regional A, the literal training class.)

Anyway, did you know that “banana phone” stock photography exists? It does! Here’s what I’m getting printed on our amazing custom bananaphone floor:

abstract-idea-colorful-banana-phone-600w-1062212057

Minus the watermark, of course. And we’ll need to expand the sides, since we’re getting a 60 by 90 floor to accommodate all 30 of the performers I will definitely have once word about this once in a lifetime show theme gets around.

Also, you can expect a sort of “confetti” effect over the whole thing, once all my brand-new guard members are done marking every single spot in their drill with their very own color of electrical tape.

Does this banana phone look kind of like a tampon to you?

I’m sure it’s fine.

Props/Sets

Props and set pieces are my nemesis. I never know what I want or what I want to do with it once I have it.

But every good budget-breaking show needs ridiculous quantities of unnecessary props, so I Googled “banana props.”

We are SO getting these banana couches:

03f19f34eab1480bff6307b32eb1530a

Also, WHY. WHY DOES THIS EXIST.

I don’t care, we’re getting ten:

inflatable-mobile-phone

What are we going to do with the giant inflatable bananas and phones? No idea! In my world, that’s what we call “the choreographer’s problem.”

Equipment

Props are great and all, but it’s not winterguard unless we’re spinning regulation equipment.

I really wanted banana-colored Arcs, but since I can’t remember whether Arcs count as equipment (I know Airblades don’t), I’ve decided to throw some rifle wraps on and call it good.

Rifles that actually look like bananas seem a little on the nose, so we’re going with these stock wraps from McCormick’s:

3500071-2

That leaves flags. Since nobody keeps a banana-print flag in stock (I know, I looked), I’m ordering custom flags with another stock photo image on them. Here are our ending feature flags:

Banana wallpaper (2)

And because I don’t want to hear any crap from the upstairs judges about why our floor is pink when nothing else is, the opening flags are going to alternate between the yellow and pink Genesis flags from Band Shoppe:

Uniforms

I expected costuming to take the longest of any of these. But then I was procrastinating on Facebook and I found this image from Beavercreek HS’s 2020 show:

91220821_10221784078567884_889178863018442752_o2926825436896288348.jpg

And I said, “THAT’S IT. THOSE ARE OUR UNIFORMS.”

Count Sheet

For the uninitiated: Every winterguard show starts with a count sheet. We listen through the music and conceive it in blocks of counts, which become the basis both of individual choreographic phrases and of the changes in staging, equipment, mood etc. from beginning to end.

Here’s my count sheet for Bananaphone:

Intro (16 cts): Entrance/dance thingy

Verse 1 and 2 (64 cts): Yellow flags (Group A), dance (Group B)

Verse 3 and Bridge (64 cts): Yellow flags (Group A), pink flags (Group B)

Instrumental (64 cts): Rifle & dance

Verse 4 (32 cts): Ending flag feature

Repeat & End: Mostly dance, some flags

Budget

I haven’t even tried to budget this. For a guard of thirty people, we’re probably looking at:

Large Custom Floor:   $2,000
Inflatable Nonsense:   $500
Rifle Wraps:                   $450
Stock Flags:                    $1,050
Custom Flags:                $1,050
Uniforms:                       $3,000

TOTAL:                              $8,050

Once we get done paying staff (because OF COURSE I’m going to pay well for the proper execution of this artistic vision), we’re well into the five figures, which is where I wanted to be. That trophy for “Most Overproduced Winterguard Show About Bananas” shall be mine!

….I’m being informed there is no such trophy.

Boo.


Both WGI and DCI 2020 aren’t happening, so if you wanted to help by buying me a coffee or sharing this post with your nerdy marching arts friends, I’d love that.

 

I Interviewed Three AIs for a Job and I’m Hiring All of Them

I do a lot of predictive-text creative pieces with Botnik, but it’s not the only AI-generated text option available – by a long shot.

For instance, check out Talk to Transformer, which generates text based on the massive GPT-2 dataset. Write With Transformer is also based on GPT-2, but acts more like predictive text: You ask it to autocomplete a phrase or sentence, and it generates suggestions.

I decided to compare Botnik, Talk to Transformer, and Write With Transformer head to head: I forced them all to interview for a made-up job as my personal assistant.

Botnik, of course, is at a disadvantage. No matter which keyboard I load, Botnik is interviewing on a much smaller dataset than the massive GPT-2. To give Botnik a fighting chance, I loaded the “Jeff Bezos quotes” keyboard. GPT-2 is still a larger dataset, but at least Botnik is now a billionaire.

Here’s how they did.

interviewtransformer

Me: Tell me about yourself.

Botnik: Datacenters would work on behalf of customers if we understood technology. Research is still worth emphasizing because it adds glue to our shareholders.

TTT: I have a game where I can make some really great single-player games for Linux with just Unity 3D. And to me, that’s most exciting. And the least exciting is checking other people’s games.

WWT: A: My name is David L. Miller. I’m a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia . I started my law practice on August 2, 1987. My firm has been practicing law for 35 years, so that’s nearly 30 years of practicing law.

Me: Why do you want to be my personal assistant?

Botnik: For fulfillment. Innovation follows reality, and our failures are not hypothetical. Indeed, if you count our current results, we are incredibly amazed.

TTT: Because I can totally handle that! You’re gonna be Super Legal Department!

WWT: Oh, you’re really good at this stuff, aren’t you? I think I can teach you to do better. Can you help me with something? You know how to do that.

Me: Tell me about a time you failed.

Botnik: I would argue toward shorter decisions. Anytime you make something, hundreds of customers download hundreds of millions of questions to your business model. Decisions ultimately limited our approach.

TTT: It’s a tough one. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a character breaker. I wish I had a question.

WWT: You said you were never happy, and then you failed, and now you’re going to get it right. I know how much that means to you. But it’s also what makes you a failure.

Me: What would you do if you caught a co-worker stealing?

Botnik: Shouldn’t you eliminate the source of the problems? We never designed a business model to share.

TTT: Of course they would want to know.  Of course they would want to talk.  Of course, there would be talking.

WWT: You’d probably do the same thing as he did. If he was a thief, you’d ask him why he was stealing things and maybe even file a complaint.

Me: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Botnik: We expect to deliver substantial progress in customer service. We believe that focusing on insurmountable excellence implies impossible success.

TTT: Will they look even better? Will they be even stronger? Those are the questions most people wonder about right now in Washington, D.C.

WWT: I want to be a director for television and I’ve always liked movies. My dad said to me, “Do you think you can make an honest film like this with your money?” and I said, “Well, it’s just so fucking hard.”

Me: What’s one thing you can do better than anyone else in this job?

Botnik: Somewhere, they are growing families with a crisper display. That’s easy. Our job right now is to deliver functionality.

TTT: An alcoholic, who almost lost his freedom on the road.  In prison, spent twenty-three hours on his hands, 19 days in solitary confinement.

WWT: We have to be better in the way we talk to each other. This means talking to each other in a professional way and using the language that’s appropriate.

Me: What’s your biggest weakness?

Botnik: Satisfaction. They never claim that our fulfillment is more efficient. The first major goal for 1999 will be a bold decision to invest in smaller packaging.

TTT: Probably that I’m not a practical planner (which I am not). For some reason, I always make plans for a good day after work, but don’t follow through.

WWT: My biggest weakness is my tendency to think on my feet. As much as I try to avoid it, I have to admit it makes me uncomfortable. I just can’t do it every day.

Me: When can you start?

Botnik: Instantly. I can assure you that I’d even contemplate a significant bump in profit dollars through this channel.

TTT: Well, it’s October 16th, so I guess that’s a question for another blog post. Okay, who am I kidding? I never get a blog post finished on time.

WWT: What can I do to make sure my baby doesn’t feel alone? How can I be a good baby? Why do I get so upset when my baby cries? Most of these questions have a good answer, but the best ones are rarely given.


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How to Find Out What the F*ck (Is Going On)

The title of this post comes from a predictive text Twitter thread I did recently that used blog post title templates. In a moment of hilarity-induced poor judgment, I offered to write any of the posts predictive text generated titles for.

This one won. For good reason! The world is full of “what the fuck?” moments. To navigate it successfully, we need skills in finding out what, indeed, the fuck.

Here is a guide to doing just that.

wtf

First: Is It F*cking Familiar?

When your reaction is “What the fuck is going on?,” start by looking for familiar elements.

Do you know who the fuck is involved? Do you recognize the setting or tools used in this fuckery? Do you have an odd sense that you’ve been in this fucking place before?

When we cannot quickly identify or categorize an event, process, person or object, our brains trip the “What the fuck?” circuit. By looking for familiar elements, you help your brain categorize what it’s perceiving more quickly – shortening the time between “What the fuck?” and “Oh, this fuckery again.”

Second: Can You F*cking Ask Someone?

When encountering fuckery, your first instinct may be to ask someone else, “What the fuck is going on here?”

This is natural! Humans are social creatures; we rely on one another for advice, perspective, and guidance all the time. Relying on others’ perspectives is one way we turn the unfamiliar (“What the fuck?”) into the familiar (“Oh, this fuckery.”)

If someone is present who might know what the fuck is going on, don’t hesitate to ask them.

Do, however, take a deep breath and consider other options for phrasing the question. While “What the fuck is going on?” might be the most emotionally honest statement in the moment, it’s not always the most effective for eliciting answers. Try “What’s going on here?” or “Can you tell me more about this?”

Third: Where to Get More F*cking Information

If it’s fucked up but not urgent, seeking information from an additional source can help you unfuck it.

Here are several common sources of fuckery and a few resources for dealing with them.

Household Repairs

For large household systems (HVAC, plumbing), look for a phone number on the unit for the manufacturer, installer or maintenance team. Household appliances like refrigerators may have a hotline you can call for advice. Some people like to invest in coverage like home warranties, which can help ensure your household stuff gets fixed quickly after a “what the fuck?” moment.

Auto Repairs

Once upon a time, having access to the Chilton manual for your vehicle was the gold standard in addressing vehicular what the fuckery. You can still access many Chilton manuals online today. Also, consider investing in a code reader if you want to find out what the fuck your car’s latest blinky light means without having to take it all the way to the fucking dealership.

Children

What happens if you mix glitter into cake batter? Would the baby look better covered in Sharpie? Can goldfish survive in hot water?

There’s nothing like young children to generate a lifetime of joyful “What the fuck?” moments. Keep a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher handy at all times. Place items you don’t want children to access out of their reach, such as on a high shelf in a hut halfway up Mount Everest. And take lots of pictures. Someday, you’ll miss this fuckery – and you’ll need the photos to remind yourself why the fuck your nostalgia is misplaced.

Politics

I know, right? What the actual fuck.

There’s actually an answer for this one, and I’ve been relying on it since the 2016 election. What the Fuck Just Happened Today? aggregates the biggest political stories daily, draws connections between events, and so on. It also aggregates links to news sources covering those stories, so if you’re convinced that only your favorite news outlet of choice can be trusted, you can find and click the link to its coverage.

The next time you need to find out what the fuck, take a deep breath and keep your head on. You got this fuckery.


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I Took Advice From a Unicorn for a Month and It Was Surprisingly Un-Magical

My eleven-year-old niece is obsessed with unicorns. For Christmas 2019, she gave me this:

photo of box for

(Pictured: A rainbow box with a white unicorn and the words “Advice From A Unicorn: 2020 Daily Deskpad Calendar.” The bottom text reads “You’re dope, don’t forget that.”

I appreciated the thought – especially since I suspect this is one of those “I got you a thing based on how excited I would have been to get it” gifts, and my niece would have been very excited indeed to receive this calendar.

Also, I thought, I’m down for some glitter-pooping life wisdom.

It’s been a month, and while I am still pooping, there is…less glitter than one might think. Here are the unicorn’s greatest hits (and misses) for January.

unicorn

When I first opened the calendar, my plan was to save the pages and give them to my niece. I don’t need the extra note paper, and I knew she’d get a kick out of seeing what the unicorn’s advice actually was.

That plan developed a crack on the very first day:

January 1: “How about you kick-off 2020, by getting over anything that held you back last year, you just don’t need that kind of baggage.”

Me: It’s not terrible advice. But getting over my instarage at the THREE punctuation errors in this sentence might be detrimental to my job. You know, because knowing how to use a comma isn’t exactly “baggage” for a writer.

Did I want to give my niece a calendar that nobody actually edited? I didn’t have enough data yet. I’d have to wait and see.

January 2: “Choose a mantra. Repeat it, daily, duh. My mantra is [fill in the blank].”

Me: Is this cultural appropriation? Wait, is this one of those magical entrapment type things? Is “Is this cultural appropriation?” my mantra now? Wait, should “Is this cultural appropriation?” be my mantra? Or is that too 2017?

I knew I didn’t want to have to explain to my niece what a mantra is. Maybe this plan wasn’t such a good one.

January 3: “Tribe, crew, squad, doesn’t matter what you call them, just make sure you have them.”

Me: “Is this cultural appropriation?” is definitely my mantra for 2020.

Also, yikes on handing this thing wholesale to my niece.

January 7: “Create practical steps to achieving your goals.”

Me: *rubs forehead* Look, if blogging has taught me anything over the past ten years, it’s that literally everyone know this is how you achieve a goal. What people don’t know is how to create those steps. 

New Idea, thanks to a brief run of not completely terrible advice: Make a collage out of the not-completely-terrible advice pages and give that to my niece next Christmas.

January 10: “Tell the devil not today, bruh.”

Me: Does he listen if you call him “bruh”?

Also, am I going to get enough not-terrible advice out of this thing to fill a 16×20 canvas?

January 15: “Real recognizes real.”

Me: This isn’t advice.

I can’t make a collage out of the unicorn advice if the unicorn advice isn’t even advice, unicorn.

January 20: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Martin Luther King Jr.”

Me: This one is actually not terrible. I would have chosen a different quote, though. Like “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

This one goes in the “save for niece” pile, though.

January 23: “You fine AF boo, own it.”

Me: This calendar feels like it was compiled by white Boomers attempting to sound relevant to Millennials because the people they think are Millennials are actually Gen Z, which isn’t even the generation that is Into unicorns right now.

Also, if this calendar keeps calling me “boo,” we’re going to have a problem.

January 27: “Cake may actually be a cure-all. Get you some, boo.”

Me: Did…did the unicorn just Marie Antoinette me?

January 28: “If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it comes out in the rinse.”

Me: WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN. THIS IS JUST ADVICE FOR CHEAP HAIR DYE.

A month ago I was wondering how to explain the concept of a mantra to my niece. Seems like small potatoes compared to explaining…gaaah WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN

January 31: “One month down, how are those resolutions looking?”

Me: I haven’t actually murdered any unicorns for using comma splices yet, so that’s something.

I’ll also be getting my niece a Bundt cake.


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Merry Christmas, BIL

My spouse’s family has a sporadic tradition reserved for high-value gifts: Make them impossible to unwrap.

The gold standard is the Christmas my spouse’s grandfather suspended a gold letter opener in the center of a packing tube, then glued it shut so perfectly there were no visible seams. My spouse’s aunt, who received this gift, had a minor breakdown trying to open the tube. After six hours, her father relented and let her use tools.

See, there are two rules to this game:

1. The gift has to be high-value, and

2. The recipient may not use tools or assistance from others to open it.

I did a lower-stakes version a few years ago, when my sister in law decided that her daughter needed a Kindle. Niece was about 7 at the time, making this her first Very Own Device.

I wrapped the Kindle in four separate boxes, nested within one another. From respect for Niece’s age, attention span and fine motor skills, I did not make the boxes hard to open.

This year, my spouse’s brother is back from several months of serious medical stuff. My brother in law is a grown adult.

And my gloves are off.

This is a jar of truffles, wrapped in bubble wrap and wrapping paper. Isn’t it cute? The perfect stocking stuffer for the foodie on your list!

It needed a little something. Like, say, four layers of strapping tape applied in one continuous motion.

I don’t know if we can trust this dollar store wrapping paper to stay on by itself. Better wrap it in a coating of packing tape just to be safe.

“Hey, I got my brother this new tackle box. Would you mind wrapping it for me?” said my spouse.

Not at all, dear. I’d be happy to.

It fits just great into this box that coincidentally fits great into four other boxes I just coincidentally have happened to have been saving for months in case I needed to get revenge on my brother in law for kicking my butt in Bomberman one too many times.

The wrapping paper was not shiny enough. It needed another coat of packing tape.

Also (not shown) this box was not strong enough, and so I added a coat of strapping tape.

This one was acceptably shiny, but I covered every seam in packing tape just to be safe.

This box got wrapped with normal amounts of normal Scotch tape. Lulling the victim recipient into a false sense of comfort is a very important part of the game.

The boxes have gotten so big by this point, I had to move to the floor to wrap. I finished the seams on this one with packing tape as well.

Our tiny truffle jar, all grown up and nestled into its final box! (Cats shown for scale.)

The final wrap job. Since kraft paper is so fragile, and since my roll of packing tape was beginning to wane, I wrapped the entire box in packing tape until I emptied the roll.

“Well…that’ll make it fun,” my spouse said when I announced that I had used an entire roll of packing tape.

Merry Christmas, BIL.

Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol. 10: Christmas Dinner Belling


(For an explanation of this project and links to the rest of the canon, see the master list.)

My experimentation with Botnik started a few years ago. The first thing I produced, round about Christmas 2017, was this predictive-text carol, made from the same word bank as this year’s Bad Carols:

Lyrics to "Christmas Dinner Belling" in white text on green textured background. The lyrics are reproduced in plaintext in the post.
Lyrics to “Christmas Dinner Belling” (reproduced below).

Since this was The One Bad Carol to Rule Them All, I wanted to give it a truly epic musical setting. To that end, I gave myself two rules:

  1. Score for orchestra plus four-part choir,
  2. Do not crash Noteflight.

….These turned out to be mutually exclusive goals.

The final piece is scored for four-part choir plus string quartet.

Social media share image with blue snowflakes and red text on white background. The text is "Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol. 10: Christmas dinner belling."

Christmas Dinner Belling

It’s Christmas bells, it’s parson gifts
It’s so dreadfully white
And we believe neighbors blink
On Christmas time tonight

It’s tallest grandpa sandwich time
It’s loaded lots with ants
Let steeple ways be Santa, ’cause
It’s Christmas dinner snitched

Let sleigh ride sinners play the bells
And Mary captive toast
We spend termites of red striped socks
And wild candle thump

It’s just a partridge that you hear
It’s so long since we’ve peace
It’s dolls that are, Mr. Chorus ho
And everyone sang his beard

And everyone sang his beard

The score is here [pdf].

The audio file is here [mp3].

May Tallest Grandpa Sandwich Time bless us, every one.


Musicians are overworked and underpaid, especially during the holidays. You can help: Share this post on social media or drop me a tip.

Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol. 9: Merry Christmas Baby (The Krampus Song)

(For an explanation of this project and links to previous volumes, see the Master List.)

Christmas is full of carols for children. Many of these were written explicitly for children – for instance, “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” and “Frosty the Snowman.” Some weren’t, but have become heavily associated with children over time, like “Away in a Manger.”

What most of these carols have in common is their mind-numbing simplicity and lyrics that perhaps made sense 150 years ago but certainly do not today.

Here’s what happened when I asked Botnik to write lyrics for a children’s carol. Mind-numbingly simple tune is by me.

Social media image featuring blue snowflakes on which background and the title of this post.

Merry Christmas Baby (The Krampus Song)

Merry Christmas baby,
Everything is love,
Krampus comes and rolls me
Underneath the doves.
Merry Christmas baby,
Sure did treat me nice,
Christmas time is simply
Candy canes and ice.

The score is here [pdf].

The audio file is here [mp3].


Musicians are overworked and underpaid, especially during the holidays. You can help by sharing this post or leaving me a tip.