The Periodic Table of Seder Masochism

Idea 12/17/15. Writeup on 8/22/16, queued since then.

I shared this version of Chad Gadya to Linkazoo a while ago. It’s a really cool piece because she embroidered a ton of cloths in order to turn it into a smooth animation.

The creator, Nina Paley is also super cool. I first found out about her by her Promised Land “This Land is Mine” animation and have been every now and then checking in on how her Seder Masochism project has been going. I find her style really interesting and really like her independence and creativity with adaptation. Her other large project, Sita Sings the Blues, makes me want to read the Ramayaman so I can get a better appreciation of what’s going on.

Now the even cooler thing about this Chad Gadya video is that Nina Paley collaborated with Theodore Gray to make this!!!. You probably don’t know him, but he’s one of the heroes of my childhood for his Periodic Table Table. I read his site obsessively as a kid, loving the story behind his overly literal interpretation of the Periodic Table, how he went on a quest to get a sample of every element in an unusual form, and how he eventually met his hero, Oliver Sacks.

I watched him become famous as his really pretty periodic table became the gold standard for chemistry posters (even showing up in episodes of NOVA), while I was inspired to memorize the elements in order from his cool stories. He’s apparently gotten into / more public about his hobby of stitching. Good for him! It’s honestly just the coolest thing that everyone is collaborating together :3

The final interesting connection is that Theodore Gray was one of the co-founders of Mathematica, along with the famous Stephen Wolfram. Stephen Wolfram was just another guy who I was like “Wow! What a famous dude who I’ll never meet in real life.” and then I met him and his daughter :V

It really goes to show that it truly is a small world. I would have never expected two of my favorite creators to team up in a totally unexpected way. Also, you really don’t know who you’re going to affect. I really don’t think some 50 year old dude was expecting to inspire a 12 year old girl in Atlanta who then became friends with the daughter of his co-founder 5 years later. The other story might be that “nerds of a feather flock together”

For something tangentially related, here’s the periodic table of science fiction. I read this site as part of my periodic table obsession, and some of the stories are quite good. I should read these again – it’s been a while. I remember the unununium, hydrogen and lithium stories most clearly.

As another tangent, in order to memorize all of the elements in order, I made up a little song for them. I still remember most of it – it ends around the tin / antimony area. I’ve liked making up songs for a while, including making up a song when I was 6 to memorize the square numbers. I remember doing the multiplication in chalk on the sidewalk of the after school program and then singing the song to myself with higher and higher numbers. I don’t remember the song, but I do remember another kid stopping me and going “…why are you singing about numbers?”. That caused me to stop singing pretty fast :/ I was then pretty shy about singing in public until 2013, when I was a camp counselor at Epsilon Camp. There, I met Jesse Orlowski (MIT, Simmons, ’16), another camp counselor. He would just unabashedly sing to himself, even when it was just him and a couple other people, and I thought “wow, if he’s this carefree, why should I be so self-limiting?” Now I sing in public all the time 😀

Stay literary, my friends,


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