Sunday, March 29, 2009


Now, as this last miserable year grinds to a close, I thought I’d snatch some last 2008 tidbits out of the ether, before unplanned obsolescence (the lifeblood of the internet in general and blogs in specific) take hold.

Gabriel repurposed the most ineradicable of internet memes--the cat:

how i feel about poetry

sitting on machine i don't understand
cannot make it speak/fly/produce food/

Nin Andrews managed a bit of brilliant urban camouflage:

I am at the mall, and I have lost all interest or memory of why I am there. (I always do this at malls. It takes twenty minutes, and then I am out of my body. I am floating around, watching the other shoppers shop, the sellers sell, the mothers tug their children and large bags, the fathers wander off aimlessly like fish in the air . . . ) Some man hands me a card and puts out his hand for money. It's one of those cards that reads I am deaf. Give me money. Or something like that. I give the man a dollar.

I am suddenly distracted by a young girl. She's maybe twelve or thirteen, and she is trying on a skimpy skirt (the kind hat my dad would say- shows more than your legs), boots, and a clingy shirt. Her mother is appalled by the outfit. The girl is pouting and twirling around in front of a mirror. Her breasts hang loosely out of the top of the blouse. She is blond and red-lipped and angry.

You look like a slut, the mother says angrily.

I look normal, the girl says. That's the trouble with you. You have no clue what normal is.

The mother looks at me, suddenly, as if I might help her.

Is that normal? she asks me, pointing at her daughter. Tell her THAT is not normal. Tell her.

The girl glares at me.

I can't think of what to say. So I give the mother the man's card. I am deaf...

K. Silem Mohammad attempted... well, I feel I would cheapen it if I slapped a modifier on it:

If a poem about sunlight on a desk is to be relevant, it must have a context for reception among a set of readers who are appreciably qualified to gauge its effectiveness on any number of thematic or structural levels, and to situate that effectiveness in relation to some additional evaluative factor based on the poem's usefulness in sustaining a social aesthetic.

And in response to quibbling, became even more delightful:

From now on I will flag all my satirical intentions as such by writing in this ridiculously inflated 1923 voice. Or maybe I was doing that already. Oh, vexation!

Michael Swanwick gave aid and comfort to the deity-less via a tactical exchange of Godless Atheist Christmas Cards:

Third place went to Friends Who Spent Christmas in Hawaii -- which in and of itself was already one strike against them -- for a card decorated with Adinkra symbols expressing such sentiments as Obik Nka Obie ("bite not one another"), Sankofa ("return and get it") and Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu ("Siamese crocodiles"). A card whose irrelevance extends beyond Christmas to cover Easter, Arbor Day, your cousin's Bat Mitzvah . . . and in fact, any card-worthy event you can think of.

Second place went to multi-year-winners Couple A. Their card arrived the day after Christmas, almost disqualifying them. But its artwork of a faceless soldier holding a machine gun (good artwork, I hasten to stress) was so strong as to demand their inclusion.

But the winners were unquestionably our good friends Anonymous, who sent the above photo with a cheery message of "mathematical modernist winter greetings." It was the, yes, mathematical grid-like machined precision of the chair, coupled with the inherent sadness of a garden in winter that did it. Truly breathtaking.

The horde at Delirious Hem came up with a brilliant advent poetry calendar.

Peter Sagal’s Pinter elegy post provoked a self-fulfilling prophecy:

I love that Pinter-Beckett story. It reminds me of a friend of mine who confessed to Leonard Cohen that he was considering having an affair. “You have to do it,” said Cohen. “You have to risk everything, or you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what might have happened.” My friend started to take the advice seriously, but then he stopped short. “Wait a minute,” he said. “You’re Leonard Cohen. Of COURSE you would say that!”

John Hodgman pimped the daily Moleman:

The death of irony was declared (and argued against):

Not according to the thin black novelist Colson Whitehead, who wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times under the headline, “Finally, a Thin President.”

“Something bad happens, like 9/11, it’s the death of irony,” Mr. Whitehead said in an e-mail message on Thursday. “Something good happens, like Obama’s win, it’s the death of irony. When will someone proclaim the death of iceberg lettuce? I’m sick of it making my salads boring.”

And Neil Gaiman lucidly defended icky speech:

I loved coming to the US in 1992, mostly because I loved the idea that freedom of speech was paramount. I still do. With all its faults, the US has Freedom of Speech. You can't be arrested for saying things the government doesn't like. You can say what you like, write what you like, and know that the remedy to someone saying or writing or showing something that offends you is not to read it, or to speak out against it. I loved that I could read and make my own mind up about something.

(It's worth noting that the UK, for example, has no such law, and that even the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that interference with free speech was "necessary in a democratic society" in order to guarantee the rights of others "to protection from gratuitous insults to their religious feelings.")


Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don't, because prosecutors are humans and bear grudges and fight for re-election, because one person's obscenity is another person's art.

Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.

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