SOURCE: Based on “36 million-year-old penguin was five feet tall and had reddish-brown feathers”, io9.com (quoting Science), 30 September 10, as used in the post Red Super-penguin.
ABSTRACT: Do I have to explain what I was thinking here? I probably do. The natural reaction to learning of a five-foot-tall red-and-grey-feathered penguin is to laugh, I think. And there are plenty of novelty songs about prehistoric creatures already (don’t I know it). But the thing that makes them funny creatures is that they’re not around any more. For one reason or not, they faded away to make room for a new version. I’d say “Isn’t that just like life?” except it isn’t like life, it is life – it’s how things work. It’s what makes the ecosystem go. Organic farmers are the harshest Darwinists, you know. All those petrochemical fertilizers and antibiotics are there to allow the weak to survive. So that’s where this went. Relationships like giant, graceful, ridiculous, noble creatures. Behold the Water King, ye mighty, and despair.
I tried to work harder than usual on getting this to sound good. I’ve been using Reaper for… what, three years?… and only now looked up how to turn the ReaFir effect into a noise reducer. And let me tell you, it’s amazing and easy. The rest was just a matter of… well, I thought of the ukulele riff first, then wanted both counterpoint and low end, so that bass part slotted itself in a couple days later. The percussion is heavily treated thumps on a book recorded with the onboard mic on this netbook. (This is “harder than usual to sound good,” OK? For me.) The lyrics were mostly written on my bicycle. I mean, I was riding the bicycle and thinking up words. I wrote them on paper later, once I’d gotten off the bike. I found myself asking “How would John Darnielle finish this verse?” whenever I got stuck, and kinda just made a guess based on that. By the end, I was a little surprised that the giant penguins hadn’t spoken more or at least emerged more often in the song, but they do kind of haunt the thing.