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December 3, 2006

Spinning straw into gold
Posted by Teresa at 01:03 AM * 58 comments

The comment thread for I am not content; I am a human being has broken out in verse. Abi started it:

Oh, what a tangled Internet they weave
Who want to pay for shills to viral-post.
Thus do they practice, seeking to decieve,
Dilution of the thing they value most.
I mean our trust, because if this thing spreads
We’ll read with extra care—and question more—
Their zombie-filled and advert-bloated threads
Until we learn which posters to ignore.
Whoever dreamt this folly clearly knows
The cost of every post, the worth of none.
They pay a listed price for posting prose,
But not for verse, and no one’s paid to pun.
I challenge you: illumine what we see.
Be not content to simply content be.
Fragano Ledgister responded with a sonnet of his own, and then A. J. Luxton chimed in—
A fine solution made in Abi’s verse;
As I perceive, a fifteen-penny tawdry
Won’t hack it, and would surely stay more terse,
Revealing thus, by difference, their oddly-
crafted missives of imaginary worth,
That virtuous kind may take them well to task,
And banish these foul creatures of ill mirth
Arriving undisguis├Ęd for the masque.
Now Candle’s done it too:
When I consider how my time is spent
in commenting on other posters’ words
and what might be the possible rewards
if I could sell them even for a cent,
I wonder, shall I ever be content
to post where words alone are currency
and value is placed on transparency
and truth above all else? But I relent
as reading through the comments I discover
that what makes stuff worth reading is the care
and effort you put in to get it right.
And so I shall permit myself to hover
here in the background, yet myself declare
a proud contributor to making light.
As to why it’s happening, I can only say that threads about spam tend to do that.

(And does this as well.)

Comments on Spinning straw into gold:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:14 AM:

I reckon, as I said once before, is that there is an impulse to make something good out of the bad.

Now how can we get those plums into this discussion? They always turn up about now.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Where did that pesky link vanish to? Drat.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:53 AM:

the little man in the corner spins straw into gold
there's a story behind him but not one we'll hear
the reasons he's working are not the ones told
but he's after something that you hold most dear
we've got all the missives received the e-mails
our bank's got some problems they want us to fix
or people are languishing in african gaols
there's always another thing to put in the mix
the solution is always in your bank account
your money will vanish right into his maw
he smiles as the numbers multiply and amount
to enough to keep him happy in spite of the law
the thing that annoys him though what he can't stand
is when he sees you laughing behind your raised hand

#4 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:56 AM:

abi says, there is an impulse to make something good out of the bad.

Which rather puts me in mind of the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest.

I still owe you beautiful people a real Spenserian stanza. I owe myself some sleep first, though. Like right now.

#5 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:07 PM:

Hey, I've never had my name above the title before! Well, you know what I mean, anyway. And I kind of agree that there is something about spam that seems to require a response like this. When I used to get email spam that was just strings of random words I used to think of it as potential poetry; and there is something about the tired old formulae of comment spam and advertising spam which touches the same nerve. I think perhaps it's the flagrant use of language without attention to the meaning. Whereas poetry, of course, is one way to use language while being hyper-attentive to the meaning(s).

I haven't been keeping up with the threads here very well since I came back to the UK from Oregon (not far from that firefox logo, actually), so I missed abi's poem in Open Thread 75 - but it made me wonder: abi, do you know Wendy Cope's ballade using platitudinous proverbs? It's in Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, and I could probably seek it out and write it up here if you like. And if Wendy Cope's lawyers won't object.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:10 PM:

I've never had my name above the title before!

I think this is also a first for Fragano, but abi has already been there. She's probably very blasee by now. Heheheheh... Congratulations!

#7 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:15 PM:

So the question is now: is this explosion in poetry the result of exposure to British culture, or is it exposure to Portland, Oregon?

(Thanks, by the way, Serge. Of course, what it is actually doing is making me feel guilty for not contributing more recently. Perhaps I shall start finding time again. But I may have a little more time, now that term has ended.)

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:03 PM:

Candle... Guilt, guilt, guilt...

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:29 PM:

candle @5
This is the second time someone has mentioned Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis to me, in the context of good. What is it about, and should I just put it onto my Christmas wish list? My in-laws would love to be able to get me something other than my usual crop of obscure and expensive bookbinding tools.

Serge @6
I'm a giddy fangirl about all of this fame and recognition. It's gone straight to my head, and I am getting moo cards printed with a permalink to the thread as soon as may be. I may even get the URL tattooed on my body somewhere.

No, seriously, I'm mostly confining my pleasure that these sonnets have been appreciated to meatspace. I'd hate to gush here, because someone might twig to the fact that I don't deserve the honour and take it back!

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Candle #7: It has to be British culture. I've never been to Oregon.

Serge #6: I think it is a first, and I feel deeply honoured.

#11 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:45 PM:

abi: it's Wendy Cope's first (slim) collection of poems, some of which are parodies and most of which are light verse; which is not, of course, to say that they are not serious. It would make an excellent present, and a cheap one: the Faber reissue is priced at 3.99, and I got mine for half that.

The poem I mentioned - largely comic in this case, I think - is recommended and reprinted (with permission) by Garrison Keillor here. I'm not sure I always trust his taste, but there is not enough genuine light formal poetry around.

Mind you, the book sold quite a lot - 40,000 copies, I think. There is evidently A Market For This Sort Of Thing.

#12 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:47 PM:

OK, I just couldn't resist the challenge (though this is a riff on John Donne, not a sonnet).

For God's sake hold your spam and let me blog;
Or chide my grammar, or my links,
My tangled threads, or lib'ral-minded kinks;
Go back to school, become a quack,
Hike in the Rockies with a pack,
Or (if you must) learn how to forge or hack
Government websites; train stray dogs,
So you will let me blog.

Alas, alas, who's injured by my blog?
What merchandisers have I dissed?
Who says my words have overcome his List?
When by my wiles a hateful post's removed
Is blameless innocence reproved?
Soldiers still war, and lawyers profit still
From litigation, chefs from cooking frogs,
Though I pursue my blog.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:07 PM:

What? No Beatnik poetry about spam- and shill-infested blogs?

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:15 PM:

Serge, I don't have the skill, but I could see a riff on Allen Ginsberg's "Howl."

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked, ..."

Not to say that spammers exemplify the "best minds."

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:34 PM:

For so much per hour you will post
on websites from coast to coast,
and if any should log
on my pathetic blog
it will please my good internet host.

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Now, Juan found the message here was plain
he had but to sit at the screen and write
about such things as the rainfall in Spain
and other stuff relevant to the site;
he'd have to do this, they made it plain
after the city had closed up for the night
using as means for his on-line stroll
a computing machine upon a sunny atoll.

-- With apologies to Lord Byron

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:37 PM:

The combination of poetry, spinning straw into gold and spam email didn't feel as silly to me as it might have done.

A child at risk leads to a hopeless trade.
And now I need your help. Please PayPal me
To spare the innocent, lest all hope fade.

My dying father had no wealth, and prayed
For any suitor who would marry me.
A child at risk leads to a hopeless trade.

He claimed that straw from gold I made.
I never told him how they threatened me,
To spare the innocent, lest all hope fade

A stranger came to spin if he'd be paid.
I was too young to choose responsibly
A child at risk leads to a hopeless trade.

And now the baby's born, and I'm afraid.
I need the spinner's name. Then I'll be free
To spare the innocent, lest all hope fade.

I'll buy a list of names, if I am paid.
So stranger, can you send some cash to me?
A child at risk leads to a hopeless trade
To spare the innocent, lest all hope fade.

My first villanelle, so be nice...

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:39 PM:

candle @11

I've added the book to my wish list. I like some of the twists in the poem you linked to, and I could use to read more poetry.

Thanks for the recommendation.

I've never been to Oregon either.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Abi #17: Lovely!

#20 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 05:14 PM:

My powerful filter-fu hides most spam from me, but I was curious about what it caught recently, so I went looking at my deleted mails.

The trade date: today,
The company: PLUM!
They are
now at low price

The switch?
Tomorrow you'll see
PR blitz,

Believe me
It will be spiking
so sweet
when you've sold

#21 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:28 PM:

"He claimed that straw from gold I made."

abi, isn't that backwards?

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:37 PM:

(Oops... I had put this in the wrong thread.)

If I tried my hand at poetry, especially in English, it'd probably be as atrocious as those "Roses are red / Violets are blue" things (*), so I'll spare you. Still, Kathryn from Sunnyvale gave me the idea that I should collect the titles of all the spam that makes it to my email and see if they could each be turned into one verse of a poem.

Or maybe not.


(*) "My dog is dead / He smelled my shoes" is my favorite among the variations I ever encountered, and this one was in a cartoon about the movie version of Masters of the Universe.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:43 PM:

Serge #22:

Les roses sont rouges,
les viollettes bleues;
ma chien est mort
et je dis pardieu!

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:02 PM:

So you are fluent with the French language, Fragano. Heck, I should have known you might since you once revealed your knowledge of the Quebec 'delicacy' poutine. Let's not describe what it's made of, to spare people with sensitive stomachs.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:08 PM:

Serge #24: Fluent, no. I know a little French, from one year at university so long ago that it seems the Old Stone Age.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:35 PM:

Diantre, Fragano!

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:39 AM:

Marilee @21
Drat, so it is. I was so busy trying to get the refrains to fit into the rest of the poem, and get them phrased to have the merest chance of referring to each of the three generations of the family, that I completely missed that. (As well as the hope/hopeless thing).

That'll teach me to post the first go at a poetic form in public.

#28 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 03:34 AM:

O wow. The outpouring of creativity here is intense. Fragano Ledgister, I see you've mastered several forms.

As promised:


The dreadfull word of falseness has assailed
That highest Muse which speakes within my screene,
Which Light Makes, thus illumined, thus prevailed,
Aboue the monstrous perill full vncleane.
Whilst gan the Beast pretend, we did full weene,
As discourse false on moderne film it gaue,
What greedy nature vnderneath had beene:
And vnderstood the treason of the knaue,
Whose ioy in gold fell ioylesse downe with none to saue.



#29 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 06:09 AM:

It little profits writing idle posts
To this great blog, among these mighty threads,
Cursed with an income small, I troll and kvetch
Unpolished comments to a gentle group
Who smile, allow, engage, and humour me.
I cannot rest from posting: I shall charge
Moderate fees: all wares I have enjoyed
Greatly, or suffered greatly, matters not
So long as I get paid; ensuring then
Thro' dudding grift the newbie blog can seize
Credibility. I am become a name
From always posting like a literart.
Much have I said I've known: cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments
Myself not least, but lied about them all;
And drunk delight of battle with the trolls,
Far on the plains of windy anonime.

(47 lines cut, out of simple mercy)

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We do not give a toss about this stuff,
They pay us for it. That which we are, we are:
We're all in fishnets on the corner, tarts
Made whores by time and fate, but blogging still
To thrive, to post, to gain, and to be paid.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:26 AM:

Serge #26: C'est que c'est!

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:29 AM:

A.J. Luxton #28: 'Mastered' is not the word I'd use. 'Dabble in' would be more accurate.

Dave Luckett #29: Tennyson lives!

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:48 AM:

What is #26's diantre, Fragano? It's one of those old-fashioned words people usually exclaim with, like palsembleu, in novels such as Les Trois Mousquetaires.

#33 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Higgledy piggledy,
Making Light commenters
Launching crusades to mock
Spam they don't like

And while they show excess
Ain't quite the same without
Old Dr. Mike.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 03:55 PM:

Serge #32: Actually, I was trying to say 'It is what it is' in response to your mild exclamation.

If ever you come across them, I'd suggest you read some of the novels of Raphael Sabatini, full of expressions like 'Zounds!'

#35 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Fragano, #34: In that case, it's "c'est ce que c'est."

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Got it, Fragano. As for Sabatini, I've never read him, but my wife has. It may be a product of my imagination, but there seems to be a correlation between people who become fantasy writers and their teenage reading of Sabatini.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:04 PM:

And here I assail the memory of yet another great poet:

Midway I'd gone in this forsaken life
when in a darkened wood I found myself
blogging about some fellow's children and wife,

and, as it happened in the guise of an elf
named Leg0las did I on the comment page
write much for pay for others than myself.

,i>The owner of the site was no great mage,
so for a fee I and my friends did write
abandoning hope, but working for this stage

for enterprises that did make no light
but spread throughout the darkness a great claque;
which was as well for we were a sad site.

Our job was not to spite nor to attack,
we sought not to produce any flame wars,
but to produce words where there was a lack.

Thus, we presented our artificial scars
to claim some plaudits though we knew it fake,
and seek to make our clients into false stars.

#38 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:15 PM:

The poetical equivalent of a PPP forum comment:

This is just to say

I have written
the posts
that were in
the forum

and which
you were probably
were for real

Forgive me
they were paid for
so cheap
and so mispunctuated

#39 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Suppose we waited
For Mr Ford. Do you think
He'd like the silence?

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:33 PM:

No, abi, Mike most probably would not.

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:52 PM:

TexAnne #35: Milles remerciments.

Serge #36: I wonder if such a correlation exists for teenage reading of H. Rider Haggard. Perhaps Charlie Stross would know....

#42 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Re: number thirty-nine
Abi dear Abi dear
Of course Mike wouldn't. I
meant to imply

This wordplay I try here, these
Poems are toasts to a
Master gone by.

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 02:33 PM:

The irony here is
I didn't post poetry
When Mike was alive.

#44 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 03:03 PM:

This actually *is* just to say that, while I am enjoying all the poetry here (as ever), TexAnne's contribution at #38 actually made me laugh out loud. Evidently it's too long since I've seen a William Carlos Williams parody. Or perhaps spending two days interviewing college applicants has malign effects.

Either way, I still can't seem to keep up.

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 03:34 PM:

candle, atque alia,

It's been good fun, even with the sad notes. I think I've enjoyed every contribution to this thread, either in the writing or the reading.

I wish I had had the nerve to post sonnets while Mike was here. I wish I'd had the sheer brass neck to ask him to do some kind of a Writing Sonnets with Dr Mike thread.

I wish I'd dared.

#46 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Abi #45:

what we wish we know
will not happen still we must
go beyond the words

we desire to shape
dreams but then we discover
we cannot grasp them

all we can do now
is make our lives and actions
a memorial

#47 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:23 PM:

For Linkmeister

I saw the best blogs of my generation destroyed by admen, spamming eponisterical bathrobed,
clicking themselves through LGF at dawn looking for an angry troll,
Halo-playing hipsters burning for the high-speed broadband connection to the Flash-based video in the Macintosh of night,
who slovenly and boxers and glassy-eyed and fat ate Cheetos in the supernatural darkness of Mom and Dad's basement typing across the tops of cities contemplating PayPal . . .

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:31 PM:


Howard... I'm going to have look thru my wife's dictionary for that one before I start throwing around in conversations. Maybe showing my erudition would make me into a chick magnet better than knitting would.

#49 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:43 PM:

Serge, I misspelled eponysterical.

It's a neologism -- I doubt it's in any standard dictionaries. It's a portmanteau of eponymous and hysterical.

I see it used in community weblogs (Metafilter, primarily) to describe a post or comment where the poster's username describes the content of the post. Usually inadvertently, and to humorous effect. Spammers often intentionally choose usernames that shill their product; hence, their posts are eponysterical.

Don't think about it too hard -- I was just trying to come up with a Web 2.0 substitute for "hysterical." (Oh, and while I'm emending my comment, I would like to change the word boxers to tattoos. "Who slovenly and tattoos and glassy-eyed and fat...," because tattoos goes better with "Halo-playing hipsters," and it also is closer to tatters, which is the corresponding word in Ginsberg's original.)

#50 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:00 PM:

#46 Fragano: For that one, I vote you get remission of your next forty venial sins, and may you be in Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead.

#51 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:29 PM:

#47, Howard Peirce: yes.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:13 PM:

Duly noted, Howard. Still, when I googled for the original spelling , I got the following:

"isney, Syphilis, Mental Retardation, Sexuality, Videotape ..."

I don't want to know either.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:18 PM:

That should have said "Disney, Syphilis, Mental Retardation, Sexuality, Videotape ..." And I still don't want to know.

#54 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:13 AM:

#51 A. J.--

Whatever's good there belongs to Allen Ginsberg. My approach to literary pastiche is to take the original and play MadLibs with it until it says something else.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:40 AM:

(My wife found this on the net. Author is unknown.)

Sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (Sherman/Sherman)
Lyrics by M. Spaff Sumsion

I used to be a master of the anti-gay crusade
Until a butch disaster blew my pastor masquerade;
But if it's true I'm pounding more than pulpits, don't blame me -
It's 'cause I caught my hooker-tweaker-stud's infirmity

It's ...
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Worse than plague and bird flu crossed with osteoporosis
We were playing doctor and he gave this diagnosis:
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis

Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart, umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart, umm Tammy Faye

I found the perfect therapist - the kind that gives massage -
I like to drive my Escort and I park in his garage.
I swear he only serves me crank when all his Coke is gone,
And then he helps me straighten out my Peter, James, and John

Blame ...
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis -
That's my greatest guilty pleasure next to Guns N' Roses.
Good thing there's no ban on it in all the books of Moses -
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis

Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart, umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart, umm Tammy Faye

It seems all pious public figures bugger on the sly,
But Jesus loved republicans and sinners; so must I.
Say "Holy moley, Mister Foley! That boy's underage!"
But I believe the congressman has turned another page.

Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis -
Next time, better cut me off at handshakes and Mimosas.
No more meth or men for me - at least in overdoses!
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis!

(Just a spoonful of crystal helps the prostitute go down...)

#56 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Serge, in this case "Lyrics by M. Spaff Sumsion" can be safely taken to mean that M. Spaff Sumsion wrote the lyrics of the filk. The Shermans were all-rounders, and wrote the original lyrics of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" as well as the tune.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Dave Luckett #50: Thank you.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:03 PM:

Paul A... Oops. I had missed that part of the text. So did my wife. It's all her fault. (Heck, blaming the Wife worked for former California gov Pete Wilson when his nanny problem came up a few years ago. Or did it?)

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