burlesque and the bovine male

All right: the jello has hit the fan in the meta, and my use of a term which I have castigated an atheist for using has become a point of honor among many of the readers, so let's order a party tray from Quizno's and have a little round-table about the art of writing.

Unlike some people -- for example, iMonk -- I am somewhat self-conscious enough about what I write and have written not to try to tell anybody that "Mark Twain did it, too," or "it's just like Shakespeare, only younger". I also have a little bit of anxiety about calling myself any kind of an "artist" because I don't work on that big a scale. But with that qualification in place, let me say that writing is an art form. All writing requires a certain degree of art-skill rather than science-skill to execute, and then on the backside it requires a certain degree of art-appreciation and not science-analysis to grasp.

Now, what do I mean by that? I mean that you can't count all the occurances of the vowel "u" in some piece of writing and draw a conclusion from it. You can't put a text in a centrifuge and hope the weighter matters separate out from the clear, thin plasma. In order to read even this post on a blog you have to have some basic appreciation for the fact that the word "word" doesn't always mean "a written or printed character or combination of characters representing a spoken linguistic form", and the ability to perceive some degree of nuance.

Given that premise, I want to address a couple of things I think are critical in reading my blog. You can call this my apology for me if you like -- because that's exactly what it is.

First on the agenda: while I suffer from the pretention of having few pretentions (think about that for a minute), I have a significant animosity toward those who suffer from the pretention that a kind of vocabulary or a kind of bibliography equals authority. Without using the word which has stirred up all the raised eyebrows and stunned looks, the layman's version of that is that money walks and the excrement of a bovine male -- no matter how deep and wide it may be -- walks.

So when I write, the deeper and wider the trail of intellectual dung, the bigger the shovel I intend to use -- up to and including deisel-powered earth-moving equipment and the Alpheus and the Peneus rivers, if need be.

The second thing ought to be obvious by now, but I'm going to say it anyway: if you're looking for bloodless, passionless, gutless prose from me, you're reading the wrong blog. When it is appropriate and useful and moves the story along, I'll be glad to give you journalistic-like exposition. However, when someone is carrying his spagetti-like argument along on a teaspoon-sized logical plastic fork and wants me to pretend that he's not constantly trying to fold the noodles of his reasoning back onto the pile before they hit the floor, I'm going to call him on it and enjoy doing it. And you should enjoy it, too -- because that's part of the art of writing.

I'm not writing a research paper here -- even if I do take some time to make sure I have the facts straight when I open my blog mouth. I'm not standing on the pulpit of your church or any church -- and when I am tasked to teach in Sunday school or what have you, I use different rhetorical tools. What I am doing here is -- and I know this is a shock -- blogging.

I'm blogging! Can you believe it? There was a time when this kind of writing was called "satirical monologue", or "letter writing". It's a popular art form -- it is also called "editorializing". And in that, there's a third point to be made: my intention is to entertain in order to inform or influence. See: if you can "get" the humor/satire/pokes-in-the-eye, you are more than half-way to understanding my overall point. In fact, I think you cannot understand my overall point until you get the sharp stuff.

Some people look down their nose at such things as "polemical" and "unproductive" -- until they think they have dreamed up a few good zingers and then they try their hand at the plow. Usually, they can only muster up some name-calling, which isn't exactly the same thing.

Which brings us all the way back to the really-loud complaint I'm getting right now that I have used a particular word too much and too easily in the last few days. Now, by my count, I have dropped about 3.5 million words into the blogosphere over the course of this little exercise, give or take a couple hundred thousand. All in all, Blogger says I have made more than 660 posts -- not including TeamPyro posts or comments in the meta (which it is a shame not to count). And in that tally, I have used this word about 7 times, including the meta. You know: not to be scientific or anything.

It's not on the tip of my tongue, but I admit it comes up. But why does it come up?

It comes up when someone in the meta uses it in the place of a reply to reasonable questions -- and I admit that I machine-gunned him with it. On purpose. See: it's one thing to say, "golly, that kind of language is a little rough, buddy," and another to make the point that rough language will not end the conversation or intimidate. Being a prude about a word that someone has introduced into a discussion in order to bully you and show how tough he is plays into his hands. If he can derail the conversation into school-marm finger-wagging, you never get back to the real point. And notice: when faced with the choice of having to defend his word when it was used against him or get back on track, what happened in that discussion?

The other time I used that word this week, I used it in order to make the point to a certain operatic harlequin that the kind of accusation he was making had no basis in fact -- and I admit that it was to verbally shock him (and you). As I think about the ways I have made the point that the 8-letter word made in that post in the rest of the blog, I suppose I could have used the words "daffy" or "ridiculous". I also might have juxtaposed "heretic" with "clown", but the problem there is that there are only two people upon whom I can placed the label "clown" in the blog proper, and one of them was the subject of the post, so my point wouldn't have been quite as interesting.

So that's why I did what I did. Was it right? I'll think about it some more and get back to you. In the meantime, don't pretend I didn't warn you or that my style and approach are somehow a secret. Even in my first series on Tony Campolo, I wasn't using the kid gloves.