March 3rd, 2007


"Who sawed Courtney's boat?" indeed

“I, said the Sparrow….”

Hello, all!

Reprinted below (with a tiny bit of filling and sanding to make it smoother and, I hope, lovelier) is my response to an email I read last evening from friend lydy about an entry in her LJ entitled Who Sawed Courtney’s boat. If you haven’t read her entry, you may want to do so before you read my post below, as mine may make a wee bit more sense if you’ve read hers (or it might not—you can never tell). Also, there are some good comments there, although I did not know that when I originally wrote this. (lydy has also made a follow-up post basically wondering why the original post hadn’t generated any disagreement.)

As to why I’m posting this here, in my LJ instead of as a reply to her post … well … I guess it’s mostly because this got a little long and I felt more comfortable with it here. I will be going to her entry and replying with a link to this. (I also intend to make a couple of shortish replies to some of the comments there.) It’s all so circular, don’tchaknow.

Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 5:57 pm
To: lydy
From: Fredcritter
Subject: Re: Who sawed courtneys boat

At 1:25 AM -0600 03/02/07, lydy wrote:

> I dunno if you read my LJ. There’s an entry called, in fact,
> Who Sawed Courtney’s boat.

Actually, yes, I did read it. With no small interest. Believe it or not.

> Frankly, I don’t have a fucking clue.

Do any of us? Do we know for a fact that Courtney’s boat was sawed? Did Courtney even have a boat? Whatever rocks it, I guess...

> I did the best I could, but if you wouldn’t mind stopping by
> and correct me -- after all, it’d only be polite -- I’d really
> appreciate it.

I hope this will not disappoint you, but I am not at all convinced that you are in fact in need of … um … “correction.” If one wanted to engage directly, one could certainly address your entry’s focus and/or perspective … but not matters of fact—I do believe you accurately described the part of the elephant you were feeling at that moment. Hm. Is the elephant more often the one we’re describing or the one in the living room?

Which leads us exactly to the point: all communication is by reference … to one degree or another. How can one identify which references are “in” and which are “just”? Who makes that determination? With what criteria?

 * * * * *

You see, your entry illumed and engendered so many pathways to interesting thought and discussion I hardly knew how or where to begin; not to mention how I would find the energy to follow even some of the pathways to any appreciable extent, or to see it all through.

 * * * * *

As I read, I also thought, with disgust, “Oh, the wanny-woos have again started yammering about the possibility that somebody might feel excluded, eh? I’ll bet the lurkers even support them in email.”

 * * * * *

Note that while an unrecognized reference may be thought to be exclusionary, a recognized reference is most certainly inclusionary.

 * * * * *

Me, I think references are kind of like a sorting hat. I’d rather hang out with people who find references to be charming, fascinating, and/or enticing (think: Rocky & Bullwinkle; Animaniacs; Mr. Brust’s story of the Brokedown Palace; &c.) than those who find them annoying and off-putting (cf.: fuggheads).

Of course, context matters, delivery matters: I tend to prefer references when they’re slid in quietly—take ’em or leave ’em (all subtle-like)—and I freely admit that I, myself, will usually by annoyed by a reference when it’s delivered on a huge neon sign accompanied by a nudge like as to knock me off my feet and a Post-it proclaiming me to be an idiot if I don’t immediately recognize whence it came. Hard to imagine, I know, but apparently there are folks whose mileage may vary.

 * * * * *

Is it a reference or merely a bit of stolen wit? A clever turn of phrase passed on for your enjoyment? New coin that appears antique? If the last, is the appearance of antiquity intentional or inadvertent; implied or merely inferred?

 * * * * *

Maybe I’ll just post this email entire as my reply. Then I won’t be a lurker, regardless of any support which may be discerned herein.

| Da Fredcritter
|  “Of course, all autobiography is mythic, just as all myths
|    are stories that never happened but are always true.”
|      —Jaime Meyer, Minneapolis StarTribune
|       (in a review of Theater Mu’s “Dancing Crane”)

Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 6:05 pm
To: lydy
From: Fredcritter
Subject: P.S. (Re: Who sawed courtneys boat)

At the time I read your entry there had been no comments to it. I go now to see if there were some. That may be relevant to interpreting correctly my previous email. Or it might not. I don’t know, since I haven’t yet read … erm … you know … like that….

| Da Fredcritter
|  “...the United States lured me not merely as a land of milk
|    and honey, but also, perhaps chiefly, as one of mystery, of
|    fantastic experiences, of marvelous transformations.”
|      —Abraham Cahan