From the Hood : Bullet Points Will Solve All My Structure Problems

Bullet Points Will Solve All My Structure Problems

by Lyndon Hood

● So now it turns out (who knew?) you can get into trouble for making indirect threats on the Internet.

Not that I want to turn these columns into a series of disclaimers, but I feel I should clarify some of the things I’ve said about Larry Baldock.

Like that bit where I speculated about punching him in the face. Please, dear reader, do not punch Larry Baldock in the face.

As to whether the discussion was appropriate in the first place, I mantain any debate which contains Larry Baldock has already left the bounds of good taste.

○ If more defence is required, I’ll claim I was being ironic.

● I’ve been toying with the idea of an automatic satire generator. It would save me the trouble of writing the stuff myself. To tell the truth I actually enjoy doing that, but it does take time, and inspiration is irregular and fleeting. It would also spare me the burden of having to take responsibility for what I say.

○ I haven’t actually had trouble with that either. Much.

○ I was once directly accused of “an exercise in poor taste” by Heather Roy over my write-your-own child abuse press release piece. Which I think shows I accurately reflected my source material. I’ll just point out that the ‘poor taste’ referred to here seems not to be literary: Roy’s mention was effectively an endorsement, which suggests she has the right idea about this. But the way she then carried on with the very behaviour that earned her a mention in that column, suggests she didn’t feel it correctly applied to her.

The Fabulist and the Animals
by Ambrose Bierce

A Wise and illustrious Writer of Fables was visiting a travelling menagerie with a view to collecting literary materials. As he was passing near the Elephant, that animal said:

“How sad that so justly famous a satirist should mar his work by ridicule of people with long noses—who are the salt of the earth!”

The Kangaroo said:

“I do so enjoy that great man’s censure of the ridiculous—particularly his attacks on the Proboscidæ; but, alas! he has no reverence for the Marsupials, and laughs at our way of carrying our young in a pouch.”

The Camel said:

“If he would only respect the sacred Hump, he would be faultless. As it is, I cannot permit his fables to be read in the presence of my family.”

The Ostrich, seeing his approach, thrust her head in the straw, saying:

“If I do not conceal myself, he may be reminded to write something disagreeable about my lack of a crest or my appetite for scrap-iron; and although he is inexpressibly brilliant when he devotes himself to censure of folly and greed, his dulness is matchless when he transcends the limits of legitimate comment.”

“That,” said the Buzzard to his mate, “is the distinguished author of that glorious fable, ‘The Ostrich and the Keg of Raw Nails.’ I regret to add, that he wrote, also, ‘The Buzzard’s Feast,’ in which a carrion diet is contumeliously disparaged. A carrion diet is the foundation of sound health. If nothing else but corpses were eaten, death would be unknown.”

Seeing an attendant approaching, the wise and illustrious Writer of Fables passed out of the tent and mingled with the crowd. It was afterward discovered that he had crept in under the canvas without paying.

○ I might wish for reactions like that; but frankly I wouldn’t enjoy it.

● NZ blog satire accused of ‘going too far’ twice in seven days:

Kiwiblog: Greens announce new emissions reduction policy – abortion. Response to controversy: For the record.

Later, the three paragraphs of “Smackathon planned” at The Standard were apparently annoying. It was as if the sides of the debate had only just realised they had a moral disagreement.

○ You might guess what I make of that last one, given that since then I have taken basically the same angle – that smacking children might be fairly compare to striking children with the intention of hurting them – and I had done so previously too.

And Andrew McMillian sent in this picture of Larry Baldock celebrating the referendum outcome, which I think is rather good. [Note: Image has been doctored.]

Now, it’s my belief that, when it comes to satire, I should be able to do anything I want. Therefore, this kind of thing must be okay.

○ Re: the Kiwiblog piece, I commented on complaints that if it wasn’t funny it couldn’t be satire. Then edited the comment and wrote it here:

Actually, if you look at the history, satire basically means abuse dressed up as literature. Usually witty, which is not the same as funny. The expectation for lulz is just an expectation, not a requirement.
Trust me, I’m an expert.
I’ve been writing a bit about the sort of things that might cause people not to appreciate (as opposed to not to recognise) one’s satire, and I think making a joke about abortion based on an burlesque exaggeration of the fact – as opposed to, for example, the way – they want to reduce emissions would probably do the trick. Different assumptions.
I’m not presently in a position to accuse anyone of writing satire that isn’t a useful contribution to the debate [I was thinking of: Things The Emissions Target Is Like]. Though I have to say the link between malformed fetuses and abortion [David Farrar (DPF) cited this post by Trevor Mallard on folic acid and abortions as an example of termination in political debate] is rather less tenuous than DPF’s.

● I’m not sure I hold with this ‘Going too far’ business. But you should know you can stand by what you say, and that includes the analogies you draw. The fact something was satire is not, in itself, a defence against the charge of being a wally.

○ So if you really want that justification I avoided earlier, I’ll make things clearer by gross simplification (apparently, that’s part of my job description). If hitting children because you don’t like what they’re do is okay, then it should be good enough when I disagree with Larry ‘Impliments’ Baldock. And now here I am having to explain that I don’t actually want you to punch him in the face.

● Here’s some blog satire everyone can agree on.

● When I made that referendum decision-making flowchart I considered adding one for politicians for deciding what to do with the result. Every path would have ended in “Do Nothing”. So if anyone was actually surprised by what happened, I hope in the future you will respect my ability to claim prescience after the fact.

● The simplest version of my satire machine would work by rewriting the news of the day by placing it in some unexpected context chosen at random. The result won’t necessarily be satirical, but people seem to enjoy getting the references so much that they don’t notice the difference. And, statistically, it’ll probably throw up an actual satirical point often enough.

● If you’re having trouble with the idea satire needn’t be funny, consider one of its purest forms: the editorial cartoon. They’re more about distilled commentary than jokes.

Ellis, New Zealand Free Lance, 1920 - Alexander Turnbull Library ○ This particularly obvious when you’re confronted with a historical sequence of New Zealand cartoons on the subject of the Asian menace (As in Aliens At My Table, Manying Ip & Nigel Murphy, 2005, file under immigration, historical chastisement).

○ The same things that usually work in cartoons – oversimplification, use of received symbols – are also just the thing for perpetuating poisonous ideas.

○ That said, I’ve been reading The Kiwi Laughs (AH & AW Reed, 1961, JC Ried Ed.), an anthology of New Zealand prose humour. It seems the editor was hard pressed, prior to the 1920s, to find anything that wasn’t more droll than LOL.

■ And one can’t help noting the natives seem to be viewed solely as a useful plot device.

■ That first of the postwar LOLs I mentioned: A story from Frank Anthony’s Me and Gus.

■ Though readers might like to assess the timelessness of this, from Punch-style magazine Motley in 1871: “A Few Plain Rules For Persons Desirous Of Becoming Colonial Politicians” (Page 1, Page 2).

■ You may be aware that our 8th Prime Minister’s 1889 novel Anno Domini 2000 – A Woman’s Destiny imagined a New Zealand dominated by women. That’s not in The Kiwi Laughs, but there is an extract from Edward Tregar’s 1895 novel “Hedged with Divinities” where there’s just one chap left in New Zealand and a lot of ladies. This probably goes to show something.

● To complete the list: satire needn’t be funny, jokes often aren’t frivolous and just because something is satirical or a joke does not necessarily mean it’s okay.

● Making a satire machine would be an interesting project, but I decided against it. It would be complicated – perhaps unfeasible – and, as I say, I don’t really feel the need. Besides, why do we need an autonomous object that generates its own satire in a world that already contains both Larry Baldock and Winston Peters?