The Commuter Challenge

2 June 2013

The June 2013 Challenge

by CC @ 12:05

Traditionally, summer is the time for reruns. So for this month’s commuter challenge, pick a challenge that you’ve completed before and re-run it. This can be an opportunity to explore a new aspect of the challenge, or to follow up on an idea that you had but ultimately didn’t use. Or it can be a chance to do yourself one better, or to make use of new skills or experience that you’ve acquired since that time. Or it can just be a chance to spend some more time on a challenge that you really enjoyed.

The Results

Ryan Finholm

Rerun of August 2011 (“record a cover”):

They Might Be Giants: The End of the Tour

Brian Raiter

Rerun of February 2008 (“illuminate a page”):


  1. I originally had the idea for this illuminated page back in February 2008. I realized, as I finished inking my original entry, that it wasn’t really very illuminated. The idea of illuminating the initial page of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hit me immediately as one that offered up better opportunities for proper illustrations. Had the month been twice as long, I might well have done them both, but since February was already over, it had to go on the back burner. At the time I actually thought that I might get a chance to do it in my free time, as a side project, but of course there are too many other things that lay claim to my free time. In a way it seems a little ridiculous that something so small had to wait four years to get done. But I have other ideas that have waiting even longer, and will continue to wait. (Indeed, I could probably revisit this idea of challenge reruns two or three times before running out of things on my internal todo list.)

    I’m most pleased with how the initial letter turned out. My usual inclination is to make letters with lots of decoration (see my entry to the original challenge), but in this situation it has to be sparse so as leave room for the image. The letter itself has the right level of simple grace. I wasn’t sure that the image of the spiral arm would turn out the way I hoped, but thankfully it pretty much did. I’m most disappointed with the final illustration of the digital watch. Real digital watches of the time period had much smaller digits (and more widely spaced), flashing out from the sable-black depths of the watch’s interior. But the red LED segments were so hard to render correctly even at that size — my hands were exhausted by the time I’d finished doing the black area around them — I was afraid they’d be a mess if I tried to go any smaller. I should have started over and made a larger watch face.

    I also have some regrets about the lettering proper. For some reason I couldn’t get my As and Ds to come out naturally, so they came out misshapen in a few places. (A few of the other letters are misshapen, but they’re misshapen naturally, so I consider those to just be part of my style.)

    Everything was done in ink, naturally, since that’s what I know. (Actually, there are a few spots that I used colored pencils to do minor touch-ups in spots, but they’re so small as to be nearly invisible in the posted image.) The lettering and the fine detail was done with nib pens, and a sable brush was used for the larger sections of color.

    by Brian — 1 July 2013 @ 23:10

  2. I got married on June 22, 2013, and was way too busy with the planning and arrangements to put any real effort into a Commuter Challenge. Brian’s choice of a Challenge for June was extremely fortunate for me, because I’d intended to record that arrangement of ‘The End of the Tour’ for the wedding anyway. Even though I’d planned on covering the song for a while, I didn’t get around to actually arranging or recording any of it until June, so it’s fair game.

    The four bar opening was the first thing I recorded. It is not present at the beginning of the original TMBG song, but I thought it would be a nice introduction. It is supposed to be an interpretation of a different section of the song that appears a couple of times later in the song: for those of you familiar with the original, it’s the part that goes, “The engagements are booked through the end of the world so we’ll meet at the end of the tour.” I think it’s the most successful bit in my cover, and I would have preferred to make the rest of the piece more closely resemble that style/approach, but that florid interpretive spark never really spread to the rest of the melody the way I’d hoped, perhaps due to the pressures of the month and the time constraints. Still, I am happy with the result, and it went over well at the wedding.

    I did this with my old Applause steel-string acoustic guitar, through a Snowball USB microphone, recording several different tracks in Garageband. Garageband was infuriating. I was probably doing something wrong, and there may be a way to change the default preferences (if so I couldn’t find it), but Garageband records all live instruments with a certain amount of pitch and tempo auto-correction which I had to manually remove from every bit I recorded. Also, more than once I accidentally deleted some entire tracks, and I have no idea how I’d managed to do that. I had to spend hours re-doing the accidentally-deleted tracks, or cutting and pasting them from versions I’d saved earlier — and then those pasted tracks never lined up properly and I’d have to nudge them back and forth until they sounded right. Or right enough, anyway. I realize that there are still some rough spots to the recording, especially near the end, but I got tired of it and ran out of time, and I knew that only the first half or so would be played at the wedding so I let it slide.

    Still I’m pretty happy with it. If anyone out there is disappointed that I turned a fine TMBG song into elevator music, I apologize.

    by RyanF — 3 July 2013 @ 09:28

  3. For your reference, the original “The End of the Tour” by They Might Be Giants can be heard here:

    by RyanF — 27 August 2013 @ 10:45