Turning the tawdry into poetry

I think we’re going to have to name Cuttlefish the Pharyngula Poet Laureate. Since so many people liked the sweet little poem about Gary Aldridge left in the comments, here it is for more to admire. (If you have no idea who Gary Aldridge is, here’s a reminder).

We gather here to eulogize
The Pastor and the Man
Old Gary Aldridge, often wise,
Though not his latest plan.

A member of the Christian nation,
Friend of Jerry Falwell,
His last attempt at masturbation
Didn’t go at all well.

For fifteen years, he’d preached the word
A Southern Baptist minister
His death–now, is it just absurd
Or something rather sinister?

How does a person come to wear
Not one wetsuit, but two?
(Although, I know, I should not care
I’m curious–aren’t you?)

I tend to think that, years ago,
He spied a rubber glove,
And wondered “Should I–well, you know–
When God and I make love?”

He tried it on, and found a tube,
Half hidden on his shelf,
Of KY–smiled, and murmered “Lube
Thy neighbor as thy self.”

And minutes later, hard at work,
He felt a little odd
Was this a sin, or just a quirk?
He talked it out with God.

“Is what I’m doing here a sin?
Or is my pleasure Thine?
Is this as bad as skin on skin?
Lord, please, give me a sign!”

So God produced a pamphlet: “Your
Vacation in Aruba!”
And pointed out–right there, page four–
The wetsuits used for SCUBA

See, God’s not really how you think
A deity might be
He’s got a wicked bondage kink
(Just ask His son, J. C.)

So Gary died, not steeped in sin
But following God’s plan;
So straight to Heaven–come on in!
And bring the wetsuits, man!

A story, sure, but it may yet
Explain what happened then.
The moral is, please don’t forget:
Your safeword is “Amen”.


  1. Michael X says

    “Your safeword is Amen”

    I’ll be using this in a joke at work tonight, I guarantee it.

  2. says

    Well worthy of being hoisted up from comments to the dignity of its own post! No idea who Cuttlefish is, but s/he could have held h/h head high among the great 18th c. English poets of personal mockery — and I suspect s/he is quite familiar with their work.

  3. says

    So do I have a stick up my backside for thinking that it’s rather tasteless to joke about some poor guy whose sexual play went horribly wrong? Regardless of who and what he was, that’s not a fate I’d wish upon ANYONE.

    I mean, yeah, good poem and all. Just… not cool, man.

  4. plankeye says


    Are you not the least bit concerned about being a conduit for offering this kind of garbage on your blog? It takes a gutter to carry the filth.

  5. Mena says

    Felicia Gilljam (#5):
    Are you being serious or was that sarcasm about the special item that he was found with? Sorry but sometimes I just can’t get subtleness. :^(

  6. Lana says

    I think we should support good poetry wherever we find it. And I don’t think it’s tasteless to make fun of someone who died in such a kinky manner when he made a living yelling at kinky people. Besides, it’s unlikely his family will see this and I’m sure we all agree he won’t.

  7. Rey Fox says

    Let’s see, PZ made an entire post to highlight this poem. So I’d say he’s not too concerned with being a gutter (whatever that means, exactly).

  8. notthedroids says

    “So do I have a stick up my backside for thinking that it’s rather tasteless to joke about some poor guy whose sexual play went horribly wrong?”

    Aldridge wasn’t just “some poor guy”.

    And yes, you do.

  9. ImperialCreed says

    This is more addressed to Ms Gilljam than plankeye, but here goes…

    You could argue it’s deplorable to make such fun of something so serious as the death of another human being, but I think it’s the manner in which he died, especially when put in the context of how he lived and spoke in public, that makes his demise so bitterly, darkly funny. Nobody likes being exposed as a hypocrite, but to be nailed like Aldridge was is surely priceless. You couldn’t make it up.

    The eternal riddle of his death will always be though – why two wetsuits???

  10. says

    Of COURSE it’s tasteless. That’s* what makes it funny. That’s what humor is: violation of the norm, to one degree or another.

    *and the contrast with what he certainly would have said if someone else were found like that.

  11. says

    Felicia (#5), you may or may not have something up your backside, but so long as it’s consentual, who cares. The problem was that Aldridge cared nastily about what other people did with things in their backsides (and probably other orifices), and so we will be mocking him.

    If any well-known openly gay man had suffered a similar misadventure, you can bet folks such as Aldridge would be talking up the deaths as publicly and horribly as possible.

  12. says

    To those who’ve responded, especially ImpCreed: what you say makes sense. And had he simply been walked in on during the act I would have laughed heartily (even as I felt sorry for him, like I pitied Ted Haggard – there’s something seriously wrong with these people and they need help!). But dying due to presumably sloppy BDSM routines is just thoroughly unfunny in my book.

    I guess it just comes down to what sort of jokes you like. I don’t understand stuff like Jackass either, fwiw.

    To Mena (#7): To have a stick up one’s ass means to be unnecessarily stern or strict. I used the phrase as a vaguely humorous reference to the manner in which he died, hoping to take the edge off my words. I’m not sure it worked but there you have it.

  13. J Myers says

    Nicely done. Cuttlefish even managed to get the meter right on every line–something I don’t consider particularly difficult to do, but apparently the rest of the world does (just read few of the cephalopod poems–it’s not that hard, people!).

  14. says

    Another thing to consider is that the people who listens to the likes of Aldridge will probably take his death as proof of divine retribution for being such a horrible sinner. Everyone’s a loser.

  15. Dan says

    There’s a Carlin routine about rape, which everyone who thinks this is too tasteless should hear.

    Basically, the more offensive it is, the funnier spoofing it can be. Hilarity is offensiveness cubed. That’s why nigger jokes are, presented properly (mostly by black people, let’s admit), hilarious. They’re not funny when they seem too serious, (for instance, Kramer making nigger jokes- not hilarious in and of themselves) which is probably why this is going to bother a bunch of people who think PZ is being malicious. They might also be the people who automatically take terrible bondage accidents seriously, much like there’s a contingent of people who will never find nigger jokes funny no matter how hilarious they get. I’m, ah, not one of them on either count.

    I don’t think PZ is serious, primarily because the poem is too awesome and brilliant for words (this is objectively true), and I sincerely doubt PZ could take a poem about dying of autoerotic asphyxia seriously. I mean … he’s already said he thinks it’s sad, and then there’s this hilarious poem there. Since he’s made his statement, he (ignorantly) assumes this won’t be mistaken for it.

    Bad move, PZ!

    (Also, your blog’s movie rating has hopped to PG-13 all of a sudden.)

  16. Dan says

    Also, it should go without saying but the George Carlin link is horribly offensive and you should maybe not click on it if you think you’re really likely to be offended by the infamous F-word spoken about ten times a minute.

  17. Ray C. says

    The predicament that this guy found himself in seems difficult to manage alone. Aldridge likely has a playmate out there somewhere.

  18. says

    This is about the third time I’ve got out my pervert card when talking about this event; I hope I don’t wear it out.

    Yes, this man’s death is very sad, and I don’t think anyone should celebrate it, though no-one I think has gone that far. But the fact is that if he had been able to stand up and celebrate what he did, he would probably be alive today.

    It’s also at least somewhat amusing!

    If I thought this poem was dancing on his grave, I wouldn’t like it; and if I thought it was suggesting that liking kinky sex made you a figure of fun all by itself I’d hate it. But I don’t think it is; I think it’s very gentle making fun of a man who very sadly died thanks to the very thing he stood for.

  19. Kseniya says

    Oh, you never know, Ray. When I was a kid, there was a woman in my town who, for a time, lived in fear of a stalker. One day she was found, tied up and dead by asphixiation, in the shed behind her house. Investigations ultimately revealed that she’d done it all herself and that even the stalker was purely the product of her own tortured imagination.

  20. Dan says

    Oh man, we already did this in the other thread, but I’ll repeat in paraphrase. If you want the originals, though, check here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/isnt_this_beginning_to_get_a_l.php#comments

    I’m not gonna find the link to the pictures, but it’s abundantly possible to hogtie yourself (you tie your ankles, then arch your back to reach your hands down to them and tie those), and it’s not too hard to see how he could get a loop around his neck while doing it.

    As for potential foul play, it’s impossible to get a body into a wet suit after death without leaving evidence of it and sedatives would prolly have gone noticed. (This actually was asked). The remaining option is that he was doing all of this with someone, and they either accidentally or intentionally killed him and then ran off. Having not read the police reports in depth and all, I can’t say it’s impossible, but they’re generally pretty thorough about that kind of thing.

    And, more importantly, fatal autoerotic asphyxia is actually pretty common. Really. Does anyone know the stats on people dying of it per year? I remember it’s at least in the hundreds.

  21. anna says

    It’s brilliant. Just fantastic. If you haven’t checked out Cuttlefish poet’s other work on the ‘Cephalapod Day’ threads – do so. They’re PG rated and if you found yourself wincing at the topic in this but admiring the craftwork, you should enjoy them.

    And yes, should be a regular poet laureate, you’ve hit it on the head, PZ! :D Decent non-doggerel sounding verse is difficult to find, especially one with an appreciation for science!

  22. says

    As someone who’s kinky enough to make Aldridge look like a virgin schoolgirl in the sex department, I have this to say to all the people saying not to make fun of him: STOP BEING OFFENDED FOR ME.

  23. rhian says

    people–even the vanilla ones–might actually be offended for themselves. i for one don’t particularly care how offended or not you are. and i don’t think that being the kinkiest in the land means you get to set the standards of offense.

  24. yoyo says

    Great poem.

    It’s the hypocracy that makes this event funny. thickslab I presume is not telling other people what they should do in bed/life/marriage etc.

    There was a guy I think here in Australia that died in an autom erotic encounter dressed in a homemade latex fish costume. he over heated basically. that was just sad. but this, like ted hagggard is funny as well as sad.

  25. Offended. says

    Yes, very offended. Highly offended. Disgusted from Cambridgeshire, here.
    Quite, quite inappropriate for a biology blog by a godless liberal. ‘What Would Jacques Cousteau Do’ indeed!!

    *tries VERY hard not to laugh and wipes the coffee off the keyboard after reading the poem*

  26. Ichthyic says

    dressed in a homemade latex fish costume

    hmm, you don’t say?

    would that be a “scaly” instead of a “furry”?

  27. says

    I’d say he’s not too concerned with being a gutter

    The art lies in the targetting. Just be sure the right targets get gutted. It’s comfort the afflicted; afflict the comfortable, not the other way ’round.

    That’s why restroom footie is funny when the fundies and repressors get caught at it rather more than in the average public “morals” sweep.

  28. Anthony says

    You know, I had always wondered how those SCUBA shops you see in strip malls in the middle of nowhere (and nowhere near a body of water) stayed in business. I’m pretty sure they don’t hold buy one get one free sales very often.

  29. Der Bruno Stroszek says

    Heh, I wondered when someone was going to bring up the Australian Fishman! I first read about that in Fortean Times back in ’96 or so and it’s stayed with me ever since.

    Excellent poem, BTW. Laughed particularly hard at “lube thy neighbour as thyself.”

  30. says

    Thickslab; Firstly, I’m not particularly offended, I just stated my opinion that this kind of humour doesn’t appeal to me. Secondly, what makes you think this has anything to do with you? Maybe I’m into wetsuits myself? You have no way of knowing. Regardless of whether I’m vanilla or not, that doesn’t matter, because I wasn’t trying to speak for the BDSM community, I was speaking out on behalf of me, myself and I. So stop being offended by imaginary people being offended for you! :P

  31. says

    I really don’t see the point of getting offended by making fun of the circumstances behind anyone’s death. Sure, we should have a care for those who will be affected (and some of them are glad not to have Rev. Aldridge being such a vocal priss, mind), but – seriously – who gives a shit? It’s not as if dead people care about their reputations anymore, and we now have a window into the reasons Rev. Aldridge was so interested in kink in the first place.

    If we can’t step back and laugh at death, then how can we laugh at anything else? Life is pretty much what we make of it, and it only has to be as serious as you want it to be in any given moment. I laughed my ass off at the poem, and I’d even tell it to people I know. *Because it’s really funny.*

    If I died an ignominious death in bizarre circumstances, I’d hope people would laugh at the situation I got myself into and learn not to be as stupid as I was. People, get over the issue already!

  32. Arnosium Upinarum says

    It’s a brilliant flash. I read it three times through and saved it from its original occurrence. Well done cuttlefish!

    Felicia? Its just a simple poem. Simple verse. You know, a way of EXPRESSING something (like say, the reaction or opinion of the poet) in a formal way. Does it contain humor? You betcha. Why not? ALL the best humor is associated in some way with an incongruity grown upon a tragic scale. Relax. Its okay. The real humor much precedes the report.