Sep 15 2009

Behind The Scenes

I got a few interesting comments after I posted the following comment on Pharyngula:

They put me on committee, which I thought was really nice,
But they never seem to listen to my wonderful advice!
When I tell them that the Word Of God should underlie our laws,
They just smile and nod a second, maybe just an awkward pause,
Then it’s back to what the government can do for us today,
Though it’s infinitely cheaper just to bow our heads and pray.

They look at lots of options, while I know there’s only one;
When will they learn, that only prayer can ever get things done?
Why, what could be supported through the governmental coffers
That could possibly compete with what the Holy Bible offers?
As they fiddle with incentives, and with programs to promote,
I’ll be getting God’s attention, as I sacrifice a goat!

The topic was Obama’s “Faith Council”, and one member’s complaints that this particular government body was spending too much time looking at government-type solutions and not enough time looking at holy texts for inspiration.

Anyway, I read PZ’s post, typed up my comment, and posted. I was as surprised as anyone else to find that it was comment #4. One commenter even suggested that I must have had advance notice of the topic, to write this in under 23 minutes. So I thought I’d just say a couple of things about how I tend to write.

In this particular instance (which was fairly typical), I read the post and opened up the comment box before I had any notion of what I was going to say. I can’t remember whether anyone else had commented yet or not. Given that I get most of my traffic from PZ’s blog, and given that a substantial number of people quit reading the comments after a couple score are posted, I make it my goal to be in the first 50 comments if I can. I usually can’t. More often than not, I open up the comment box, and… wait… and… think… and… realize I have nothing to say. Or if I have something to say that is not in rhyme, I sign a different name. (I use the same email; any blog owners know it is me. I am not trying to hide; I always use the same name, and I have used it for years.) But occasionally, something will come to me in verse. This post was one of those occasions. I made a total of one slight edit (the last couplet was written before the second to last, and I switched them), but other than that, it just came out, pretty much as quickly as prose does–some of it perhaps faster, because rhyme constrains choices so that you have to think of two lines at once instead of just one.

I do sometimes (I never really counted, but maybe half, more or less) take the time to write something out separately from the comment box. More rarely, I work on something for a day or more–usually, those are written longhand, in my terrible handwriting, even if I am at my computer at the time. I find it much more difficult to work on the day-or-more verses; it is almost as if those ones don’t want to be written. Something like the above, though, writes itself.

Oh, and for the poetry purists… I don’t consider what I write to be poetry. It is commentary… that happens to be in verse.


Hell if I know.

Some day, they’ll do a PET scan, and they’ll peek inside my brain,
And discover things that even Ramachandran can’t explain,
Like connections from my liver to my left prefrontal cortex
Or cascades of hippocampal volleys, spinning in a vortex,
My gyri and my sulci spelling out, as plain as day
(Just as aliens leave circle-shapes in fields of un-mown hay),
In a hieroglyphic pattern that you’ve never seen before:
“Don’t look at us, you moron; we don’t work here any more!”
Yes, my brain is on vacation when I write the things I write;
I pity all the people who can only dream at night.



  1. 1

    See, I know that you're just brilliant. :) Thanks for this, I was wanting a reason to talk about 'process' on my blog. But then, we've talked about process in the past, as I recall. We should get into that again one day. Um, online writing, not via voice. :)

  2. 2

    Well, I simply can't do what you do, so I'm so very glad that you can and that you share.

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