Little Gray Books Podcast

We have promised to provide content Every Once In A While, and again we have kept that promise. A new Little Gray Books Podcast has been posted, and there will be another one tomorrow. They are both meant to lead up to a new Little Gray Books show which is happening Thursday June 16 at 7:30 PM at Galapagos in Williamsburg Brooklyn. The subject is “How to Commit the Perfect Crime.” I am currently working on a partners-in-crime duet with my friend Adam Stein of The Petersons, which I hope will be funny. Maybe I will see some of you there…


Many of you have asked me for a way to quickly and easily move money out of your wallets and into the hands of companies who make T-shirts. I hear and obey: you may now purchase Jonathan Coulton themed merchandise from my online store at At the moment, we have mostly T-shirts, but there is one sticker if you like that sort of thing. Don’t put it on your Mom’s furniture, kids, because it will stick there.

Most of the shirts have a choice lyric from one of your favorite JC songs on the front and a small tri-color smoking monkey graphic on the back (from the Smoking Monkey CD artwork). Some of them also have tiny pictures of giant squids, or Mandelbrot Sets. If there is a lyric you’ve always wanted to have on a shirt (or a mug, a tote bag or a pair of thong underwear), please let me know and I will make such an item available to you. Otherwise, go on and buy that stuff!

Bully Punches You in the Mouth

Here’s a site that offers some techniques for communicating effectively during tense conversations – Quick Verbal Tactics. My favorite example of the technique in action is Scenario #7 The Bully.

Bully: Shoves you and mumbles, “Jerk.”

You: “Why did you say that?” (respect question)

Bully: Shoving you again, he says “Because you’re a jerk.”

You: “I can’t allow you to keep doing that.” (outcome statement)

Bully: “Oh yeah?? What are you going to do about it?”

You: “Whatever you force me to do.” (outcome statement)

Bully: “Wanna fight?!”

You: “I’m not interested in fighting you.” (outcome statement)

Bully: “We’ve got a chicken here!”

You: “Why are you angry with me?” (respect question)

No kidding, this is where it ends. As if it’s RESOLVED. As if the bully is now so wowed by your respect for his feelings, and your stern declarations of outcome that he’s all “Oh forget about it you crazy kid, I love you!” Or this one from Scenario #9 The “Come Here” Jerk:

Them: “Come here.”

You: “Why?” (respect question)

Aha! Gotcha! Didn’t think I was going to ask why you want me to come over there, did you? Well I’m asking, sucker, I’m asking. It’s so great to finally have a good response for “Come Here” jerks like that. Here is Scenario #5 The Manipulative Gossip (I have added the third line myself, for completeness and accuracy):

Gossip: “I’m not saying I do, but some people here think that you’re a suck-up.”

You: “What do you gain by telling me that?” (respect question)

Gossip: “Fuck you, suck-up.”

Lessig and Tweedy

A couple of months ago Lawrence Lessig (author of Free Culture) and Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco) had a discussion about P2P, file sharing and copyright at the New York Public Library. The audio and video has been posted, and if you’re at all interested in this topic it’s really worth checking out. Lessig gives his famous powerpoint presentation (which is the best I’ve ever seen about any topic – I love that man) and Tweedy talks about his feelings on the whole file sharing thing from an artist’s perspective.

My favorite piece of this discussion is Tweedy’s description of how they used the internet for the whole Yankee Hotel Foxtrot situation. Reprise dropped Wilco because they didn’t like the new record. Tweedy figured that they’ve only ever made money by touring, and without a new record, there’s no tour. Since they didn’t have a record company telling them what to do, they released it FOR FREE on the internet and toured. Tens of thousands of downloads later, they were picked up by Nonesuch records who released YHT as an actual CD. It then became their biggest selling album ever, despite the fact that there had already been plenty of people who downloaded it for nothing. An interesting counter-example for the argument that file sharing can only hurt artists.

This is an important topic whether you are an artist or a pirate. Listen, watch, read the book (which is available free under a Creative Commons license).