Hey, Kids – Colors!

by John Holbo on July 29, 2015

Do you like colors? Do you like art? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, you might find this site interesting.



Lisa 07.29.15 at 1:09 am

Thank you. This is completely amazing.


ZM 07.29.15 at 1:41 am

Coincidentally – Colors and the Kids by Cat Power is another song about me, and Matador Records won’t act on my complaint that it is not right for Chan Marshall to have written songs on Moon Pix recorded in Australia about me.

The pertinent lyrics are:

“It must be the colors
And the kids
That keep me alive
‘Cause the music is boring me to death”

It is a shame we kids kept her alive, as she couldn’t have made any misleading songs up about me otherwise.

You might say – well what if she means some other kids? And I would tell you I greatly doubt it since she also wrote Cross Bones Style about me and not content with this she stole my concept for the film clip without asking me to do that either! On both cases I would have said – No Chan Marshall I don’t like your songwriting and I don’t want to be in your songs and you definitely can’t use my concept for your film clip!!! You can tell she knew this because the lyrics are “Hater I’ve got your diamonds” meaning how I hate her and how she stole my concept without asking. She also mocks me – even though she writes songs about me and can’t think of her own concepts for film clips :-( This was because without telling me my younger 17 year old friend told them about the Pavement sitcom we made up where they were some of the characters, and because I went to a Smog show in a gingham skirt that was half hand sewn and half stapled and instead of a handbag had an egg basket with boxes of tea and small tea cups and crocheted blankets like the one on Smog’s Forgotten Foundation, and then tried to trick them that I was a very polite uncritical person by making very polite uncritical faces as if I was in Salaam Cinema. Will Oldham mocks my crocheted blanket too on the latest film clip he has found time to act in – when late last year he wrote he had no spare time whatsoever to give me an explanation for all of these songs about me due to his schedule being totally filled with his mother, his dog, music, housework, and exercise.


You see how Chan Marshall rudely likens me to pirates as well – and so does Will Oldham rudely too on the song Madeline Mary. I was never asked to be in these songs and I don’t want to be in these songs, although I must say if I was ranking all the unwanted songs I don’t want to be in that have been made without my permission, to be honest these are better than the songs that were made later on. But they are still full of misleading statements about me and no one asked my permission and I don’t want to be in any songs anyhow. And I can’t afford a lawyer to help me and the record companies ignore my requests to instigate a complaints process. Anyway, all this would probably be more of a minor annoyance by now if I hadn’t had the psychotic episode in 2006 and now have an affective disorder.



ZM 07.29.15 at 1:42 am


ZM 07.29.15 at 2:15 am

And what is worse is that Chan Marshall sings I am cold as cold, when she never met me so only is basing this on what my younger friend who was 17 at the time told her. My younger friend was annoyed at me as she sent me a postcard of a natural bridge from Sydney with a mean message underneath and then she pasted on red paper and wrote a polite message on the top.

Yet Chan Marshall decided it was acceptable for her to immortalise me like this – without my permission which I would never have given under any conditions – based solely on the report of a 17 year old.

In fact, when she was 15 my friend carved Pavement into her arm which would leave a scar and stopped going to school, and I was doing year 12 but as I felt somewhat responsible as she got the idea of liking the band Pavement from me, I would skip classes and visit her and try to cheer her up which also helped with my stress about doing year 12, but did not help with my marks especially in maths.

On Colors and the Kids Chan Marshall also sings about how it’s so hard to live in the city – as my friend probably told her I didn’t like living in the city in 1997 and it had made me sad – but Chan Marshall just makes up tutus is because I wanted to smile at everybody – conflating me with herself (conflation is also advised against in the legal advice for artists) – I didn’t like the city because I find crowds difficult to be in and I missed nature so I would walk to the beach a lot as I lived in Brighton with my grandfather.

And Patrick Amory the President of Matador Records who I first lodged a complaint with in early May just refuses to reply to my complaint and numerous subsequent emails, despite the obvious distress this issue has caused and is causing me. And as I can’t get a lawyer I don’t know what to do other than write emails and website comments.


js. 07.29.15 at 3:41 am

I was really hoping that link would lead me to some Kandinsky/Helen Frankenthaler/Ad Reinhardt type stuff(s). But will try to ignore all the “representation” and look into it more.


Dean C. Rowan 07.29.15 at 3:45 am


joanblondelle 07.29.15 at 5:39 am

Thanks! what a useful tool for artists like yours truly.


pfgpowell 07.29.15 at 8:58 am

I came across this blog and want to subscribe, but the subscribe function/mechanism/gubbins at the top of the page doesn’t seem to be working. All you get when you click on it – all I have been getting – is a page of, to me, incomprehensible code. That’s thought you’d like to know. PP


Alex N 07.29.15 at 11:05 am

Do you like colors? Do you like art? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, then come see my collection. On the Isle of Man.



John Holbo 07.29.15 at 4:20 pm

“what a useful tool for artists like yours truly.”

Glad to provide! I quite agree it’s damn useful for thinking about color schemes.


Eszter 07.29.15 at 6:20 pm

Awesome! I was just thinking recently that we don’t have enough content about art around here. (And yes, my plan is to do something about it.)


joanblondelle 07.29.15 at 10:50 pm

yes! time to art it up on CT!


js. 07.30.15 at 1:39 am

I came across this blog and want to subscribe, but the subscribe function/mechanism/gubbins at the top of the page doesn’t seem to be working.

You’re using Chrome, presumably? The “Subscribe” button is for an RSS feed—and other, more knowledgeable people will probably correct me but—I think it’s that Chrome doesn’t support browser-based RSS feeds. If you click on that button using Firefox, e.g., you get something intelligible (tho perhaps still a bit confusing if you’ve never used an RSS reader). I myself (a) am not a pro at any of this, and (b) use Chrome plus a web-based reader, so that’s the best explanation I can give you.


LFC 07.30.15 at 2:07 am

js @5
I was really hoping that link would lead me to some Kandinsky/Helen Frankenthaler/Ad Reinhardt type stuff(s).

esp. (if I’m remembering correctly) Reinhardt’s black paintings. Cool.


On an unrelated note, a glance at the site suggests that Colourlex could use a proofreader: the box at the bottom says that “scientific investigation of paintings and painting materials reveal [sic; should be reveals]….” (The investigation reveals.) I don’t quite understand why people seem no longer able to match up singular subjects with singular verbs. This is not arcane grammar; it’s pretty basic English.


Harold 07.30.15 at 2:16 am

The subject is “investigation”, but I agree it doesn’t sound right.


js. 07.30.15 at 2:21 am

@LFC: The Black paintings are some of the best, no doubt. Really amazing variations of tone or color or whatever you’d call it. Though I can see how it’s more interesting (at least for most people) to pick out the colors used in Las Meninas, etc.


Harold 07.30.15 at 2:42 am

I used to love to look at my stepfather’s tubes of oil paints and marvel over the names of the colors.


Harold 07.30.15 at 2:45 am

I’m glad kids today will have an opportunity to learn the names, if not to see them splotching on the palette. Some of them contain heavy metals, I understand.


LFC 07.30.15 at 3:06 am

The subject is “investigation”, but I agree it doesn’t sound right

Yes, the subject is “investigation.”
“Investigation of the paintings etc. reveal [sic]” doesn’t sound right. In addition to not sounding right, it also happens to be incorrect. However, I should probably not have mentioned it. Comes of being in a grumpy mood, or something.


Harold 07.30.15 at 3:13 am

Oops, my dyslexic brain reversed it, I guess and I saw what wasn’t there. Don’t be grumpy. Copy editors are invaluable (and expensive).


Collin Street 07.30.15 at 3:36 am

> Some of them contain heavy metals, I understand.

A hefty number. The colour is caused by certain electrons in the compound having energy-level transitions that match photons of certain energies/wavelengths/colours: turns out that the electrons that have the right level transitions to absorb photons in the human visual range are typically:
+ double bonds in complex organic compounds, or
+ inner electrons in transition metals.

Either way pigments tend to be pretty toxic.


JanieM 07.30.15 at 2:39 pm

For LFC:

The entire internet could use some copy editors and some proofreaders. From here just now:

The nature of those failures have been carefully studied, Neffenger told the panel, underscoring an immediate need to “train out those failures.”

We should have a thread sometime on the most aggravating bad habits of writers who don’t have the time or the resources to have editors (which is practically all of them nowadays; print books are getting worse, it’s not just the internet).

One of my favorites is the substitution of may for might:

“If we had known it wasn’t going to rain yesterday, we may have gone to the beach.”

Also, you can never use something, you always have to utilize it. You can’t help, you always assist. “Below” is now an adjective, as in “See the below diagram.”



bianca steele 07.30.15 at 3:56 pm

Janie, “train out” seems to me to be a technical term, not quite the same as bad grammar, but you’re right, technical jargon has no place in an article for a general readership.


JanieM 07.30.15 at 3:59 pm

@bianca — I wasn’t trying to highlight “train out.” I was offering LFC another example of what s/he was complaining about: disagreement between subject and verb (“nature…have been studied”).


oldster 07.30.15 at 4:04 pm

bianca, I believe that JanieM was complaining about “nature…have”, i.e. the same singular/plural concord problem as discussed above.

Yes, I think “may/might” confusion is especially reprehensible, because very useful information gets lost. Esp. in the past tense, it is very valuable to retain “may” for the epistemic modal, and “might” for the counterfactual:
“Truman may not have ordered the bombing of Hiroshima.” That makes a claim that our information is in doubt: we all think he ordered it, but there is reason to doubt it.

“FDR might not have ordered bombing of Hiroshima”. That makes a claim about a counterfactual world in which FDR lived a few more months, and was still president in August 1945.


JanieM 07.30.15 at 4:10 pm

oldster, those are great examples.

As to the subject/verb example, I would point out that the one I cited isn’t from some relatively obscure art website, it’s from nbcnews.com. If even nbcnews.com (and boston.com and every other site I glance at) can’t afford copy editors, what hope is there for the rest of the internet?


Harold 07.30.15 at 6:53 pm

The “may” / “might” thing is agreement of tenses, something many writers, including myself, get tangled up in. “Might” (in “might have gone to to the beach”) in this case would be the correct equivalent of the past subjunctive (?). In other words: an unreal condition in the past (in a dependent clause). Actually, I would have preferred “would have gone to the beach”. I am a bit mixed up about whether the example is is the subjunctive or the conditional, or both, in this example. Other languages make clearer distinctions about this, having been systematized by thousands of years of grammarians.

However that may be, if the independent clause is in the past, the dependent clause should be also, no unreal conditions about it.


JanieM 07.30.15 at 7:20 pm

Harold — I am going to leave the subjunctive/conditional analysis to oldster. But I will nitpick to the extent of saying that “we might have gone to the beach” is an/then independent clause in that sentence, not a dependent one. I.e., it can stand alone as a sentence, while the “if” clause can’t.

Actually, while I’m nitpicking, substituting “would” for “might” would change the meaning: “We would have gone to the beach” doesn’t mean the same thing as “We might have gone to the beach.” “Would” implies yes, definitely, while “might” implies maybe yes, maybe no.

I’ll stop the stream of consciousness now and hope for oldster to come back and be articulate about subjunctive vs conditional.


JanieM 07.30.15 at 7:22 pm



JanieM 07.30.15 at 7:22 pm

Where is my proofreader? ;-)


bianca steele 07.30.15 at 7:30 pm


You’re right, my eye slid right past that. I guess there needs to be some training out of matching singular or plural based on which word is closest to the verb, ha ha, little AI joke, probably not intentional on Niffenger’s part. Never read anything twice, is the moral. At least not for bad jokes.


LFC 07.30.15 at 7:38 pm

Thanks for the example. Not surprised to see it even at a big news site.


js. 07.31.15 at 1:40 am

Oh, fun—a grammar thread! I’ll just second JanieM by noting how much the use of “utilize” drives me up the fucking wall. I am—I’m not joking about this—on a personal mission to never use “utilize” in my life. And in fact it’s so easy, one wonders why the word even exists. (I mean, I know why. Still.)

Though I have to say, it took me a while to learn the “may”/”might” distinction, and I probably still get it wrong sometimes if I’m not paying attention. But oldster’s example(s) @25 are indeed brilliant.


js. 07.31.15 at 1:42 am

…And I split an infinitive, predictably. Which I try to avoid doing, though some people swear it’s perfectly alright.


LFC 07.31.15 at 1:58 am

I’m not terribly bothered by a split infinitive. My view is that if it can be avoided gracefully, it should be, but sometimes split infinitives are hard to avoid and they’re not a big deal. I’m sure others disagree, however.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 2:11 am

js. – I don’t think your split infinitive was objectionable; it took me several scans to even see it. ;-)

What I’m chuckling over is “alright.” Did you do that on purpose? About fifteen years ago I was running an after-school writing group for some middle school kids, and in my nerdy way I corrected an instance of “alright” to “all right.” The spunky twelve-year-old author marched right over to the shelf in the classroom we were using, picked up a student dictionary, and showed me that alright was now considered to be perfectly all right.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 2:15 am

LFC….great minds? (I didn’t see your #35 before I posted #36.)

I’m usually fine with sentences ending in prepositions, too, the other great bugaboo of the high school English teacher. (At least in the old days; I can’t say I see of lot of evidence of this stuff being taught in the last few decades.) (I do a *lot* of editing……)


oldster 07.31.15 at 2:23 am

36–that’s another one where I prefer to keep two forms with distinct roles to play.

“How’d you do on the test?” “Alright.” (i.e., so-so, not too bad).

“How’d you do on the test?” “All right.” (i.e. none wrong, 100%).


JanieM 07.31.15 at 2:46 am

oldster — I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone use alright in your second meaning. I wouldn’t be surprised to run across it, but I wouldn’t think there should be any ambiguity about the fact that “all right” is correct in that meaning. (Kind of like the pairing “anymore” and “any more.”)

But as for “alright,” I was taught, back in the dark ages, that it was never okay to use it. And interestingly given that student dictionary I mentioned, Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009 edition) says,

Alright for all right has never been accepted as standard in AmE. Gertrude Stein used the shorter form, but that is not much of a recommendation….

He goes on to gives some examples of the use of “alright,” says it’s more common in BrE than AmE, and ends with this:

Still, the combined version cannot yet be considered good usage–or even colloquially all right.

One of the things I love about the Garner book is the rating of words and phrases on a five point “language change” scale. He puts “alright” at stage 2 (where 5 is universal acceptance).


oldster 07.31.15 at 2:59 am

I agree that “alright” would never be used to claim “100%”. My point was the converse: if the old guard had succeeded in squelching “alright”, then “all right” would have to mean two things, sc. both “100%” and “so-so, acceptable.” When someone answered the question about the test by saying, “All right,” we would be unable to tell whether they had scored a perfect score, or merely an acceptable one. That’s why I prefer to let the new orthography flourish in its new role.

But at my age, I have long ago realized that the language no longer belongs to me, and that the people who own it now will make their own changes. Some of the new idioms I find fun and catchy, some I find irritating.

E.g., “concerning” used as a predicate–I never heard that in the first fifty years of my life. In the last 15, I hear it from lots of kids. It has always been used as a quasi-preposition in phrases like “I have some questions concerning your proposal.” But not as a predicate adjective like “this development is very concerning.” It hurts even to type that.

Meh. Not my language any more. It’s like seeing the house you grew up in, sold off to strangers. They build a nice addition here, but they cut down your favorite tree.


Harold 07.31.15 at 3:00 am

Janie, I stand corrected.


js. 07.31.15 at 3:10 am

@JanieM — Ha! You made me pull out my Chicago (15th ed., 2003), which indeed says: “Avoid alright” (p. 199). I didn’t know this! I suppose I’m perfectly okay with “alright” as meaning acceptable or such (as, roughly, oldster @38).

The thing is: I’m mostly pretty lax with grammar rules,* the split infinitive being an odd exception. The things that really annoy me are obvious mistakes like lack of subject-verb agreement—as in LFC’s original example, and unnecessarily forced, awkward, wordy style, as in the almost compulsive use of “utilize”. For example, I work at a mega-corporation now, and it’s as if someone once told these people: extra points for extra words! Which is so fucking backwards! It’s as if I have to mentally delete a third of each sentence to figure out what they’re saying.

*Well… this probably needs eight different kinds of qualification.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:11 am

oldster — I agree about “concerning” in that usage.

It’s funny how some new usages are so utterly irritating and some seem dandy. My mother took up editing at the age of ninety (she should have done it decades ago but never had the chance, I guess). Some of her questions trigger email discussions amongst my sisters, my mother, and I — and I chuckle over the way we react differently to different things. One of my sisters was grumbling one night about how people use “invite” for “invitation” in these degenerate times, and in introducing her example she wrote, with perfect seriousness, “the below sentence.” I in turn ground my teeth at that one, yet I will often use “invite” for “invitation” because it doesn’t bother me at all; it’s almost like a joke rather than a serious replacement. But maybe it is actually becoming one, I don’t know.


Harold 07.31.15 at 3:13 am

@ 41 (myself) and Janie @ 21

Just a minute, “We might have gone to the beach” can stand alone? Help, Oldster.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:14 am

For example, I work at a mega-corporation now, and it’s as if someone once told these people: extra points for extra words!

Yes!!!!! A thousand times YES!

A lot of what drives me crazy is in fact business-ese. Some of it also seems to stem from an anxiety about sounding formal enough. And some of it is just lack of good teaching. IMHO.

Another one I thought of: “on a yearly basis.” Why the hell can’t they just say “annually”?


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:18 am

Harold — I see what you’re getting at, I think, because semantically it’s a bit iffy. But grammatically it’s a complete sentence, not a dependent clause, whereas the “if” clause is definitely a dependent clause.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:20 am

Harold: “What would you have done yesterday if it hadn’t rained?”

Janie: “We might have gone to the beach.”

I think that’s a perfectly acceptable sentence.


js. 07.31.15 at 3:28 am

Another one that makes me (silently) scream is: “with that being said.” There are at least two and possibly four unnecessary words in there.

On the other hand, pace oldster and JanieM, I find the use of “concerning” as a predicate completely unexceptionable, even natural—whereas “invite” for “invitation” and “below” as an adjective both need to die, and fast!


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:33 am

me: amongst my sisters, my mother, and I

s/b “and me…..”

This could be the most common grammatical error of them all, most often crossing up who/whom and whoever/whomever.

Then there’s “Can I help who’s next?”



JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:38 am

I would have bet that “invite” for “invitation” wouldn’t even show up in Garner, but not only does he list it, he puts it at Stage 4 for language change. (He does still recommend that “invite” be used only as a verb.)


Harold 07.31.15 at 3:42 am

@46 It’s iffy because there’s an implied conditional, don’t you think? (It’s been years and years since I thought of these things.) Or something.


JanieM 07.31.15 at 3:48 am

It’s iffy because there’s an implied conditional, don’t you think?

Yes, I agree that that’s the iffiness. But still, grammatically it can stand alone. Going back to the original example and taking the other clause instead:

Harold: “What did you do yesterday?”

Janie: “If it hadn’t rained.” — is not a sentence.

Think of something like “I know.” Semantically it seems to beg for something more, but grammatically it can stand alone as a main/independent clause, i.e. a sentence.


Harold 07.31.15 at 3:49 am

Actually, I can see it as an exclamation of emotion: “We might have gone to the beach!!” In which case it would really stand alone. But as part of a conditional sentence: “If .. then… ” neither clause really stands alone because you could also say that there is an implied “then”. But I am not a grammarian or linguist.


Juraj 08.01.15 at 1:48 pm

I am very pleased with the positive mentions of my site AND with the correction. My mother tongue is not English but I do love languages and cherish people who get excited about grammar and style. Please do let me know about other incorrect language usage if you find one.


oldster 08.03.15 at 12:57 am

Juraj, your very small error is made by millions of native English speakers every day. And then a few thousand prissy prigs like myself sit around and tut-tut. (And make comparable errors while correcting yours).

Here too I am resigned to linguistic drift. A few hundred years from now, the rule of accidence may say that the verb takes the number of the closest noun. Over the last few centuries, other rules of English has changed more than that.


js. 08.03.15 at 1:36 am

I’d just like to second oldster. I’ve done a fair bit of copy editing in my life, mostly for philosophy professors who were very much native English speakers—the kind of people you’d expect to get grammar and usage right more than pretty much anyone else. And subject-verb agreement is something I’d always look out for, consciously—any copy editor would—and I would regularly find errors. It’s actually not on the writer at all, it’s basically why we need copy editors.


oldster 08.03.15 at 2:04 am

I don’t know that I would expect philosophers to be *better* than other native speakers at managing the one and the many. That topic seems to have perplexed them for millennia.


Harold 08.03.15 at 7:48 am

It suddenly struck me that my mistake was in using the word “independent” when I meant “subordinate.” Although, confusingly — to me at least, a subordinate clause is also known as a “dependent” clause because it is dependent on a main clause. Subordinate clauses would actually be independent if they were not introduced by a subordinating conjunction or relative pronouns, because they do have a subject and a verb.

Examples of subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns are: after, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, provided, rather than, since, so that, than, though, unless, until, whether, while, how, that, what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, or why. At least that was what I learned in school (and Latin class) back in the stone age.

See for example:
http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/subordinate_clause.htm. As is explained here:

Subordinating Conjunctions and Relative Pronouns


JPL 08.03.15 at 11:04 am

Juraj @54

Nice website, looks good! I’m interested. I hope you eventually include painters like (in addition to the already mentioned Kandinsky) Matisse, Klee and the American Milton Avery. I’m interested these days in colours that are ambiguous and difficult to categorize. Out of what combination of pigments might they have arisen?

Wow! A grammar thread has been going on in here! Yes, what fun! Somebody up there mentioned and linked to an NBC News website. If you want an example in the media of not just minor errors, but the total disregard for the rules of English sentence structure, just listen, if you can stand it, to an NBC newscast, or that of any other network. I don’t want to go to the tv for an example, since for me hearing a network newscast induces projectile vomiting. But as I recall, one deviant habit they have is using a participial phrase (verb-ing) as if it were an independent clause.


Harold 08.03.15 at 3:27 pm

In informal speech, anything goes.


oldster 08.03.15 at 3:37 pm

“Good authors, too, who once knew better words….”


Juraj 08.03.15 at 8:16 pm

I am of two minds here, to be frank. On one side I have the right to be wrong as a non native English speaker, I agree to that. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, I love haggling about correct usage and I appreciate people who know their grammar. It is in most cases not very easy to find somebody who is willing to correct my English and I have enjoyed the whole exchange a lot.


Juraj 08.03.15 at 8:43 pm

An answer to JPL
Regarding painters like Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse and Avery: ColourLex is focused on the scientific examination of paintings and especially on their pigment analyses. This makes the choice of eligible paintings somewhat limited. I could name offhand one painting by Klee (Glass Facade, 1940) where a thorough investigation including a pigment analysis was done at the Klee Museum in Berne, Switzerland. If you were to know of some other investigated paintings, please drop me a line.

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