Sunday, November 25, 2007

Two completely separate topics:

First, I’ve been going slowly through Geoffrey Gatza’s Thanksgiving poem for me (PDF), enjoying it more and more with each reading. It’s actually easier to see & read in the PDF format than in the two large packages it arrived in via the mail. It’s elegant in a way that would please both Oulipo and the finest French restaurants I’ve encountered & filled at the same time, with remarkably close fitting wit plus some happy surprises (e.g., an email chain in which David Shaddock suddenly turns up!). Today, I’m in awe of the suite of six dishes that go into The Baking Parchment Scroll – which arrived in a long tube the same day as the box – and which just happens to translate a significant portion of The Chinese Notebook Gatza’s choice as his favorite poem of mine – into the discourse of cuisine. But yesterday it was the Cornucopia of World Cheeses, Spiced Cashews and Port in the form of a cartoon in which the Academy of American Poets appear as a school of whales. Or maybe it was “Soup Coup,” The Chocolate Bursting Bomb, which consists of the one millionth Fibonacci number transcribed in base 26, using the alphabet for digits, “brilliantly computed by John Bethencourt.” Indeed. Even in base 26, this appropriated poem takes up 58 of the 99-pages in the manuscript. Each day there seems to be something different, one feast for which I’m having no ambivalence about “leftovers.” Gatza obviously has my number, or at least my numbering system!


Second, I’ve been contemplating what to do with/about the comments stream here. It’s gradually (or maybe not so gradually) descended into such a playground of pathology that I hear quite regularly from people who either cite it as the reason their weblogs don’t have comments streams, or who write me personal notes (always welcome!) because they don’t want their words subjected to the “debased discourse” that has become the norm there. I’m certainly aware of more than a few times of late when I wanted to wash my hands (or more) just from having to go through the moderation process. I’ve thought seriously about turning the comments stream off entirely. And if what I’m about to try doesn’t improve matters much, that probably is what I will do. But I do think there is a place for response here, at least potentially. And it pains me to see the posturing that absorbs and cancels out that possibility for far too many readers.

So I’ve decided to reverse the dynamics, at least for the time being. Henceforth, the presumption is going to be that comments don’t get approved unless they make useful and intelligent contributions to the discourse. My gut feel being the decider. The simply snide, the put down, the sexually and racially inappropriate, the whole repertoire of dysfunction, will have to build its own blogs or find other comment streams to inhabit. That should mean that it will get a lot quieter here right away, but hopefully over time this will lead to a rational and more human discourse that will be of greater value to everyone. This begins now.