This blog entry started out as a simple comment, a reply to other reader comments on Walter Mencken’s second installment of “S.D. on the Q.T.,” which still seems to invite discussion of its literary form, a bit rare in the pages of the Reader—more or less formal satire of a city "gossip" column. The first installment invoked the ire (or at least, the impatience) of a couple of its objects of gentle fun, who felt the need to write in and remind us that this was indeed satire—and by the way, could the writer and/or Reader editor please let readers know this in future about Mencken’s pieces?... Some readers were outraged by being ‘duped’ into reading half of it as a serious piece (C’mon, people, really? A golf tournament for water conservation?! That should penetrate or perk before coffee), before realizing it was all in fun. --Or was it? That remains to be seen, as the column continues.

Satire camouflages itself coyly, in flirtatious obviousness, or embeds in deeper, more layered fashion, like poetry. It is rare these days that satire does not reveal itself in some obvious, yet indirect way, and is now more likely to hide in film than it is in popular textual forms (a topic for another time). Mencken’s very column’s title “…on the Q.T.” announces itself in a loud stage whisper, the only way satire should ever indicate itself—indirectly, in keeping with its production of figurative language and frequently, absurd analogy, as the aforementioned objects of fun should realize. Satire should never be announced. Should Mencken or his editors have marked or titled any of these pieces with “Satire Ahead” or placed it in a corner marked “Satire,” would be equivalent of having an announcer interrupt a standup routine with disclaimers like “The following monologue contains what may be described as humorous anecdotes, which may be interspersed with puns, one-liners, and gags. The establishment is not liable for the content of this monologue, including any misrepresentation of living persons, places, or events.”

Sheez.

Some readers may object on the grounds that the Reader is not a literary journal, and should not mix genres. But weeklies like the Reader already do juxtapose genres; film, music, theatre and restaurant review with neighborhood stories and reportage (stringers have their own controversies, yes), with opinion (Bauder), with memoir (Brizzolara) with a poetry corner, with all manner of genre for cover stories. Perhaps the idea of straight reportage should be rethunk anyway, with the advent of the stringer story—at least, one might cry, we have the principle that fiction is fiction and news is news. Well, we have issues aplenty with that notion today, whether you are aware of postmodern critical thought or no.

Part of the enjoyment of a piece of writing is being allowed to read and interpret for oneself; no one is looking over your shoulder, telling you what to think, except perhaps a narrator or authorial voice or both—and good writers don’t allow these to bully the reader, unless of course, that is part of the function of the story or novel, or whatever. If the stringer story plays fast and loose with the truth, there’s bound to be another source to consult—multiple sources should probably be consulted in any case. With a play or a poem or story, we need to be left alone to read. Perhaps we read a critical essay beforehand, and perhaps we’ll read one after, but for that space of reading the ‘original’ piece, it is about work—the pleasurable work of reading the text. I don’t really relish someone announcing to me what I’m reading anymore than a crossword puzzler enjoys someone smacking down a finished puzzle in front of her. I ignore the categorizations on the back of the book or in the library of congress, unless I am doing research, and need to use them as quick and handy ways of locating the work: Fiction/mystery/women/bayou…Criticism/Genre/Satire/Irate Readers…

And speaking of a faraway time when horn-rimmed glasses glinted over your shoulder, many of us, upon accessing remaining memory stores from high school, will remember an introduction to the concept of satire via Jonathan Swift’s “Tale of a Tub” or “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.” For ages, writers and satirists (yes, blesséd the day when there used to be folk with this job title!) have quietly submitted works of satire to periodicals of all kinds, or, more common in previous centuries, published them alone. Modestly following in this tradition, Mencken, in my opinion, is attempting to wake up the complacent Reader reader, unused to questioning the forms used by its writers, which are, as in traditional news publications, transparent vehicles meant to aid the digestion of its content. I see Mencken’s work as a way for the Reader to provoke more lively debate on—or at least reaction to—its own content, which, even based on misunderstanding of the intent of the writing or the author, has the potential to be productive.

A commenter on Mencken’s first “Q.T.” remarked that it seemed a lame attempt at being “Onionish” (or like the Onion, a socio-political satirical free weekly available in many large cities, alas not ours) as is borne out by the first item’s title and subtitle:

“Policeman Poet Vows to Kick Some Ass: Coronado Police Department’s Internal Affairs Team on Lookout for Clever Constable Following Discovery of Poem.”

And the comments piled up, some reiterating that an announcement or official editorial stamp of some kind is needed to let us know that we are indeed reading a “fake” news column. The chief of the Coronado Police Dept. felt the need to let us know just that:

“As the chief of the Coronado Police Department, I am disappointed in the Reader for publishing this fictitious story under the guise of “humor” without clarifying that it is false. It is important to note that this phony article is listed as “news” on the Reader’s website. While some may know it was a spoof, some of your readers may not have distinguished fact from fiction. The unfortunate consequence results in undermining the public trust and confidence in those sworn to serve and protect them. In the future, we hope the Reader will use better judgment when selecting content for this section of its publication.

Louis J. Scanlon,

Chief,

Coronado Police Department”

Patrick Daugherty’s “Sporting Box” often satirizes its subjects, apparently quietly enough so as not to invoke the same kind of onerous reaction as “Q.T.,” which waltzes in and playfully slaps our faces (without the consequences of an assault charge, happily). Some commentators are irked by the first story for reasons of content found offensive rather than funny, and some still seem confused by the idea of satire.

In the critical breakdown that follows, I’ll be speaking to the latter two issues here, and hope that readers will join in and agree, disagree, and fill in the informational/interpretive gaps, as this piece is itself, as I said, not much more than a weedy, blowsy, overgrown comment.

Satire works strongly on irony and hyperbole, the former in terms of affirmation or evocation of ideas through an overt presentation as 'truth' or reality, their very opposites. Hyperbole, being exaggeration of events or ideas, is often necessary as a device of satire because it allows one to pick up on the ridiculous or absurd qualities of the irony, of the equation of opposites, or valorization of something clearly undeserving or unworthy.

The latter shows up right away with the idea of a poet cop, and an "internal investigation" being conducted into the poem as it reads, is your first clue that this is satire--or at the least, it should clue in the reader that it is suspect.

What is funny is obviously subjective, but I can say I found it chuckle-funny when it came to the Rae Armantrout "quotation." The reader does not necessarily need to understand that UCSD Literature Dept. professor and poet Ray Armantrout is not known exactly for effusiveness, and can respond to the wry funniness of the characterization of the poem as:

“rhythmically strong, not overly slavish to the original, and frankly terrifying.”

“Frankly terrifying,” of course, because the poem is pretty bad; it exists at the center of Mencken’s satire, but because it must encapsulate all that it does conceptually and intellectually, it is understandably clumsy in and of itself as it extends spokes outward in multiple ironic directions. Think of a commercial or a joke, or an episode of the Simpsons which, in setting up a punch line uses really stupid, unlikely, or aesthetically unpleasing imagery that yet seems absolutely necessary.

To continue: There is funny in the deadpan, earnest way the cops then perform a criminal "investigation" of a poem. Not only are they taking deadly seriously an anonymous posting of a poem on an office corkboard, these cops of course grasp the concepts of metaphor and analogy, as they read the situation of the gun and taser to recall an event not mentioned in the poem (Foley’s confrontation and arrest), but present in figurative language.

Funnier: The device of the satire-within-a-satire is used here, because the anonymous cop's poem is a satirical (but likely unintended) spoof on another poem (to be dealt with below). Now I had to look up the details of this event of the gun and taser, which gave me further insight into the author’s use of satire:

"Officers involved in the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated that the “first they came for my gun” line may be a reference to the $5.5 million settlement the City paid to ex-Charger Steve Foley in 2008."

The investigators note (without knowing they are doing so) that the structure of the poem is also put into service of the satire, in which each line begins with a renewal of the same action of someone coming for you: “First they came… then they came…etc” recalls the original series of events with Steve Foley and the officer, Aaron Mansker, which reads like some kind of Keystone cop scenario.

Apparently Foley and his companion stop the car THREE times at Mansker’s command, once at a light, and twice only to drive off twice while he stood there. The fourth time, Mansker has by this time decided to give up the chase, because he has no back up (even after calling for it), but then, apparently while calling, he accidentally drives into Foley’s cul-de-sac, and feels ‘trapped’ there by Foley. Then, of course, after some more ridiculous antics, in which Foley’s companion nearly runs over Mansker by accident, the very unfunny shooting happens.

Some here seem to object to the use of the event of the shooting (Cuddle and possibly maninthemirror) at all in an irreverent, comedic way, but may also be referencing the fact that the Foley shooting is a racialized event. We can discuss this further, but here, I’m limiting this ‘investigation’ to the ironical subtexts by which law enforcement is satirized, and satirizes Mansker’s position as aggressor/vigilante/victim/poet/clown in a way that to me, makes it ‘ok.’

As the "reporter" of this article notes, the original poem "warns against inaction in the face of tyranny." The idea of "tyranny" is here hyperbolized in service of the author's intent, though the anonymous cop would not have intended to do so, being likely as earnest in his "adaptation" of the original poem's ideas as the investigators are as regards the content of the spoof poem (another device: embedded irony).

The original poem is meant to invoke the insidious way a people may become oppressed by a tyrannical government, as personal liberties are taken one by one. Yet here, we have the warning spoken by the one who would be the actual oppressor (the anonymous writer of the poem obviously supposed to be Mansker), who, in effect, harasses Foley. But the poet is trying to present himself as a victim. The actual victim in the situation would really be Foley, a Chargers football player and someone celebrated by society as a hero, who wouldn't seem to need to protest "tyranny." Yet he does seem to have such a case, at least from what I’ve read hastily about it this evening (correct me anyone, if I have any of the facts wrong, or if there is more to it to consider).

And there is more to consider--as refriedgringo points out--here is a late addition to this essay, but important to note:

"The writer's fictional premise is that a Coronado cop wrote a poem based on the work of an anti-Nazi theologian. A Coronado cop fashioning a poem based on the words of Niemöller? The only thing more funny than that would be finding a recording of George Wallace reciting a speech by Martin Luther King"

--refriedgringo http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2010/feb/24/sd-qt-february/

Very well put, as usual, gringo. So now we have another literary device employed here, of ironic reversal (of roles) with “Mansker” the cop--again-- as victim, but with also the ironic subtext of the original being written by none other than an anti-Nazi theologian. Thus “Mansker” has satirized himself through multiple subtextual references by writing the poem, and to add to this effect-- he does not sign it; his complaint remains anonymous. The original poem tries to incite courage in the oppressed to rise up and demand his rights—yet this guy isn’t even courageous enough to sign his own name to his own words.

As an aside, perhaps it is all the more ironic that Chief Scanlon's official--or officious, depending upon what side you take--letter to the Reader asking that future work be 'identified' as fact or fiction is signed by Scanlon yet posted by an "mlawton," whom CuddleFish has identified as "Commander Lawton." Hmmm. More fun with the signature, which has a rich history in plays and works of comedy concerning mistaken identity, but also as a trope working at deeper levels of writing that I cannot go into here (see the work of Jacques Derrida for more on the 'name' and signature in relation to the linguistic 'sign').

Finally, that a keystone cop criminal investigation takes the ironic place of a literary critique (which is often like an investigation, but of a wholly different kind), makes me wonder if this piece could be the author's (Mencken's) response to the brouhaha started here in the online commentary over the last piece, in terms of whether or not a San Diego audience might be capable of recognizing satire, and whether or not his work should be clearly labeled as such.

Perhaps the author will respond, and let us know? :)

Comments

SDaniels March 11, 2010 @ 1:23 a.m.

Oops. Here are the references. Mencken's column (and commentary following), and Scanlon's letter:

“S.D. on the Q.T” for February: “Policeman Poet Vows to Kick Some Ass…” http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2010/feb/24/sd-qt-february/

Chief Scanlon’s letter to the Reader:

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Jay Allen Sanford March 11, 2010 @ 2:06 a.m.

Excellent essay! And I appreciate the clarity of reading it here as a fresh blog topic, as the QT comment threads so-far can be unwieldy ---

I've been a bit confused and conflicted about the new QT column - it's clearly satire, but not consistently GOOD satire. Rather, it's sometimes great 'n' funny, but sometimes it's jes plain baffling. It's no fun to feel like you're missing an inside-joke that you SHOULD be inside on, being a well-read San Diegan who tries to keep up with what's up 'round town ---

RE "Perhaps the author will respond, and let us know? :)"

Be careful about using those question marks! Someone might pop up and accuse that "any person with half a brain would see as bait in an effort to generate more hits..."

Not that there's anything WRONG with that! ("How DARE you make this website stronger, better, and more interesting by using questions to generate replies!")

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CuddleFish March 11, 2010 @ 2:41 a.m.

Stop being a twit, jayallen, sheesh. You're too old to be cute.

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Jay Allen Sanford March 11, 2010 @ 3:24 a.m.

?? Never claimed to be young OR cute - even waaay back when I MIGHT have (briefly) qualified as one or both!

Back to this essay, very good point about "Sporting Box" regularly using satire. Even the Blurt column has done so, at least when that medicinal madman Richard Meltzer was contributing. It's a bit surprising to find that some people don't feel satire belongs in the Reader.

My only contention is that it should be GOOD satire. I'd be hard pressed to define what constitutes "good," especially with the topic at hand so roundly covered above by SDaniels. Other than to fall back on the old "I know it when I see it" rule.

I'll need to see more of it in QT before I can throw my wholehearted support behind the column and its contents ---

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CuddleFish March 11, 2010 @ 3:34 a.m.

Oh, good, then you admit you were just being snarky with this comment:

RE "Perhaps the author will respond, and let us know? :)"

Be careful about using those question marks! Someone might pop up and accuse that "any person with half a brain would see as bait in an effort to generate more hits..."

Not that there's anything WRONG with that! ("How DARE you make this website stronger, better, and more interesting by using questions to generate replies!")

By jayallen 2:06 a.m., Mar 11, 2010

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Jay Allen Sanford March 11, 2010 @ 5 a.m.

Assuming we agree on the def of "snarky," then you're probably right. Meant it with a friendly wink, tho - I hold no ill will toward anyone on this site, and I certainly mean no disrespect. My serene nature and general refusal to be mean spirited, despite whatever provocation, has been pretty consistent 'round these hee-yah cyberparts.

I echo SDaniel's curiosity to hear directly from the author of the QT column. This seems as good a segue as any to mention that, while some writers crave feedback and interaction with their readers, others need much convincing to take part in post-publication chatter, especially when it's documented for all to see on the website.

I used to fit in the latter category - I didn't exactly need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the comment boards, but neither did I feel like my stories needed more sentences from ME, not once I typed that final period (or exclamation point, or - as I'm wont to do in excess - a question mark).

The inclination is to "let the work stand or fall on its own merit (or lack thereof)," and leave all criticism and commentary to others.

So a blog entry such as this is probably a very good way to entreat interaction from Reader contributors who've otherwise been mostly or completely silent.

I've talked to several staffers and perennial freelance contribs about why they do or don't take part on the website - a thoughtful, insightful and well written piece like "Satire Saunters...." makes a good case for jumping into the comment pool.

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SDaniels March 11, 2010 @ 8:06 a.m.

re: #5 Hey Jayallen, I appreciate your (fast!) assessment and comments.

Cuddle, since you had strong opinions, I think, on the Feb 24 Q.T., I await you taking up some of the questions left hanging up there, for you, too.

I see the point about generating hits, but I guess I object on using just ANY method of doing it--ain't bringin' nothin' further up here, as there has been WAY too much strife around here, and I'd like to have a constructive convo for once, about--and here's the novelty--actual content in the Reader! ;)

So Jayallen, yeah, I should have mentioned Blurt, too. There are satirical threads there, too. Sporting Box, though--funny that no one objecting to unannounced satire has taken it up with him, since he does it all the time, and quite well. Oh, I guess the occasional poster fooled by one of his suggestive titles has come in and ranted, but really--could it be that Sporting Box is passing under the radar in more than one sense?

Oops! There's one a them there questions again... ;)

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nan shartel March 11, 2010 @ 3:35 p.m.

they just want enuff water in the water hazards to swim in on a uberhot day

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nan shartel March 11, 2010 @ 3:38 p.m.

er um...that was satire SDaniels...and u r a really fine fine writer

Jay Allen...stay cute...it suits ya homey

Cuddlefish ur handicap is going down with all these funny comments hunnypant

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CuddleFish March 11, 2010 @ 4:18 p.m.

nan, the Fish has always gone her own way. :)

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nan shartel March 11, 2010 @ 5:03 p.m.

u may sleep anytime u want in my blog fishykins :-)

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SDaniels March 11, 2010 @ 8:50 p.m.

Hey nanners, what do you think of this issue of satire unannounced in the "stories" section? Many folk seem to be irked by it, feeling that they have been somehow 'tricked,' or that some dishonest sleight of hand has been performed upon their orderly reading universe. I like the idea, obviously, and am not sure why more people aren't seeing it as the harmless, playful thing I do. Could it be that they are reading sleepily, before coffee? Is Mencken's satire really that hard to spot from the start for the average reader, or is this a matter of laziness? Lots of questions yet to be tackled here..

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David Dodd March 11, 2010 @ 10:24 p.m.

It's a brilliant essay, in many ways. Satire is supposed to be irony incarnate. In other words, not obvious, but TOTALLY OBVIOUS, as you point out. The problem is going to be figuring out what the average reader is. Television may have dumbed down the equation quite a bit. But this is really good, SD, gets my vote for blog of the month.

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antigeekess March 11, 2010 @ 10:36 p.m.

"...will remember an introduction to the concept of satire via Jonathan Swift’s “Tale of a Tub” or “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.”

I sure do. Most of the college students in my lit class didn't get it. They were just as outraged as some of the folks who commented on that QT piece. My classmates "thought" Swift was insane, and looked at me like I was Satan because I was laughing my ass off.

Oh hey, speaking of Satan, it's time for an OT moment: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/100-year-old-chinese-woman-grows-horn-in-her-forehead.html

Kidding, of course. Poor thing.

GOD: "I'm feeling pissy. How could I make getting old suck a little more?"

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David Dodd March 11, 2010 @ 10:59 p.m.

GOD: "I'm feeling pissy. How could I make getting old suck a little more?"

Yeah, this, too. There are evenings where I just slip on the headphones and let the world go straight to hell. This is, in all likelyhood, one of those nights.

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SDaniels March 12, 2010 @ 9:14 p.m.

I had a feeling that we'd see that horn-ed woman again. And again. :)

Yeah, I can't remember the response to Swift in my lit class, but I'm sure it was similar. The thing is, our generation (yours, mine, refried's, though he's just a bit older) were not raised on the kind of hypberbole, and overkill irony kids get today on television commercials and programs. I see a mock-ironic attitude kids are using to sass back with to parents that comes from these programs where kids are always right, and parents lumber in to be the straight man or the butt of the joke. It's the kids who get to be "brilliantly" cynical and ironic--

...so the question is, did they just inherit the attitude, without the substance? What I mean is, since the social personalities fed to kids of this era involve hard, glossy, hand on hip, eye rolling contradiction-cum-ironic stance, are they really understanding irony and satire when they are given such examples as Swift? Or do they need just as much help as we did, and as previous generations did, in identifying how its irony works?

My answer from teaching experiences is that they need the help, and that the postures they are learning, and the one-liners and comebacks on kiddy telly are just shells of irony. I have taught Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" to junior high, high school, and college-age kids, and though they may pick up on the more elementary oppositions that make simple satirical ironies, they are lost in the thick of the text, and invariably begin to accept what characters are saying at face value, rather than delving. They aren't taught to delve, that is for sure... refried, I don't think it qualifies as a neighborhood story, do you? I mean, it's a partial essay on a column in the Reader, not a story, and not on a neighborhood. It would be nice to win for a change, though :)

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David Dodd March 12, 2010 @ 9:40 p.m.

Yep, I'm pretty sure that Greek literature isn't being taught these days at a level where someone not looking for it wouldn't bump into it accidentally. When I was a kid, you sort of couldn't help it. Damned Greeks just showed up at your doorstep back then, tossing satire around like it was some bitchin' Salad at your local Denny's. Satire was entertainment in those days. Now-a-days, it's irrelevant. This is what happens.

My father bought us a black and white television, my brother and me watched it and considered ourselves lucky as hell. Know what we watched? Satire. Pure, sorry, stupid satire. I loved it anyway. The lead guitarist in the band I was in back in the seventies is now a prof at a very reputable university in the Mid-West. He's written extensively on The Simpsons. It gives me hope, SD. Maybe there's a chance that the art of satire isn't as dead as Greek literature seems to be?

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SDaniels March 14, 2010 @ 3:42 a.m.

I remember when Greek and Latin--language study--were dropped from the last community college. Never dreamed they'd practically disappear from four-years as well. And speaking of Greek and Latin, I think we'll agree that it is etymology that prepares us for a lot of ironic wordplay informing most genres. If you can't read for the etymological, you probably can't spell, much less chase out ironic or satirical structure at the linguistic level, which takes much of the joy of close reading out of the equation...

What is the name of your friend who's written on the Simpsons?

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 4:15 a.m.

Ah, that would be John Alberti (not to be confused with some guy from New York who apparently is also a musician). His homepage is here http://www.nku.edu/~alberti/ but not updated, and I haven't exchanged an email with him in a couple of years. He was a really good guitarist, and an excellent songwriter. He couldn't sing worth a damned, although he had a great tone for rock, just no pitch at all. I wound up "re-arranging" a lot of his tunes, but that was only because I didn't want them to go to waste, I sang them because someone had to (my voice was no great shakes either, but at least I could carry a tune). If you ever talk to him, tell him that "Ravin' Dave" says hello, he'll laugh for sure.

Google up "Alberti" and "Simpsons", and you'll find "Leaving Springfield", which he is responsible for, among other stuff. He's apparently a buff when it comes to satire, although I've not discussed that with him since 1981. My best memory of him took place at his house, very German parents and a pretty hot sister. We were watching "Family Feud", and he was hilarious. Every time that Richard Dawson would ask a question to the survey, before anyone could buzz in he would yell, "Prophylactics!" The great thing was, although his sister shooshed him and his mother and father just continued to talk in German and ignore him, questions like "Name something you would find in your wife's purse!" or "Most popular items on the table at Thanksgiving!" would come up, and I don't remember laughing so hard at anything.

Prophylactics could quite possibly be the answer to everything.

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 6:16 a.m.

Oh, and if you have a half-hour, right-click and save this MP3 file and listen at will. It's Alberti being interviewed about the Simpsons. I hadn't heard this until this morning. He has a good radio voice, and apparent access to the writers of the show.

http://www.nku.edu/~alberti/assets/WVXUSimpsons.mp3

He talks about core elements of satire, with humor as its base. Although Greek satire didn't include as much humor (at least, we wouldn't find it funny now-a-days), it's totally relevant to this blog entry. It's funny as hell to think that I did a cover of an old "Archies" song with this guy, he's more cerebral than I remember. I'm proud of that.

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Russ Lewis March 14, 2010 @ 6:25 a.m.

What Archies song? And what the hell are you doing up at this hour? (Don't forget to flag this for removal, SurfPuppy.)

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 6:52 a.m.

Ha! Hey Russ. It was "Sugar, Sugar". We sort of punked it out. I think it's been done since then, actually. And I'm up at this hour because Mexico doesn't do that time change thing just yet, but I'm going to bed. Even Mexico sleeps at some point ;)

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Russ Lewis March 14, 2010 @ 7:25 a.m.

You may possibly be thinking of the Dickies doing "The Tra La La Song" (a.k.a. the Banana Splits theme).

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 4:33 p.m.

I remember that! The Dickies were awesome, their version of the Gigantor theme song is somewhere here in digital form.

As a band, we knew that we weren't going to blow the lid off of anything, we weren't that tight. We did mostly originals, but when we wanted to do a cover, we usually went after obscure stuff. At that time, covering that song would have been considered obscure. Since then, I'm sure I've heard a cover, and I know that the Germs used to do a live version of it in a lot of their shows, so maybe they recorded it at some point.

I remember a session where we sat around for a while and listened to some older Sinatra tunes to see if their was anything we could cover with an edgy feel. The only song I can recall covering with them that was considered current or mainstream in some way was the Talking Heads' Psycho Killer.

Them was fun times.

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SDaniels March 15, 2010 @ 12:14 a.m.

"Tra la la la la la, live for today..." Is that the song, russ?

Excellent story about 'prophylactics!' refried ;) --And yes, they quite possibly ARE the answer to everything, aren't they?

I'll check out Alberti, as I am interested in whatever bits of satire the American public are able to sit up, chew, and swallow without hurting itself. I do love the Simpsons, or rather, I used to. I would like to know what happened there--the writing stiffened and cheapened...

Oh as for Greeks and humor, I seem to recall Herodotus relying quite a bit on humorous anecdote... ;) I'm not so up on my Greek lit, unfort.

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David Dodd March 15, 2010 @ 12:52 a.m.

I remember the Banana Splits thing on television, and the song somewhat, but not the lyrics. The "Sugar, Sugar" thing was redone a lot early on, but I was sort of was refering to it as being done punk-style. Russ, for whatever reason, totally got that, and now that I read back on it and see how nonspecific I was, it's an impressive connection.

But The Dickies, oh holy hell, they did a version of "Nights In White Satin" (Moody Blues, 1967) that defied the laws of physics. Greatest cover band ever, IMHO. And download that interview of Alberti, it's impressive and insightful.

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Russ Lewis March 15, 2010 @ 9:48 a.m.

SD, you're thinking of "Let's Live for Today" by the Grass Roots, also the Lords of the New Church. Gringo, find the Vandals' version of "Summer Nights" (from Grease). It's godlike.

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quillpena March 22, 2010 @ 1:46 a.m.

Great essay, SD. But, Frankly, I found Mencken’s, “Forbes Magazine Names San Diego ‘America’s Ninth Largest City,’” much funnier than, “Policeman Poet Vows to Kick Some Ass.”

But back to the subject at hand: has our society become such a pathetic assembly of trembling, hand wringing, PC crybabies that the Coronado Chief of Police feels impelled to come to our rescue and shelter our frail sensitivities from the wickedness of satire?

Probably.

Oh, and, Coronado? Stop calling yourself an Island—you’re a peninsula.

By the way, I think those freeloading harbor seals should get their fat asses out of the Children’s Pool. This is not satire. Harbor seals suck.

The Vandals rule—Anarchy Burger!

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SDaniels March 22, 2010 @ 3:02 a.m.

Really? I did not find it funnier--I found it to be rather shallow, an example of the kind of flattened satire you see everywhere now, more of the mass 'consumptive' type. The "Policeman Poet" allowed some actual figurative layers to be unpacked.

My question for you would be:

So..what do you have against harbor seals?

To quote you: "But" I would much rather you answered that on the thread for the Children's Pool controversy. Let's not start another one here, shall we? :)

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quillpena March 22, 2010 @ 4:01 a.m.

I’m sure this reflects poorly on my intellect, but my appetite for immediate gratification is insatiable, and the superficial trimmings of humor are the ones I savor the most.

Truth be told, SD, I don’t have anything against harbor seals, or animals in general; the animals we use for food, as all of life, should be treated with respect and dignity. I just think those “particular” harbor seals have loitered in La Jolla long enough, and they should find somewhere else to congregate. The Pool was deeded to the children. I know, marine mammals were included, but I think a safe place for human children to play is more important than a sanctuary for harbor seals, that’s all.

And what are you doing awake so early, anyway? I foolishly drank a jumbo energy drink this evening. What’s your excuse?

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CuddleFish March 22, 2010 @ 8:07 a.m.

Yes, let's all deploy our sense of humour this morning!! :)

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quillpena March 22, 2010 @ 11:16 a.m.

Whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop! A wiseguy, huh?

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Walter Mencken March 22, 2010 @ 12:01 p.m.

"Finally, that a keystone cop criminal investigation takes the ironic place of a literary critique (which is often like an investigation, but of a wholly different kind), makes me wonder if this piece could be the author's (Mencken's) response to the brouhaha started here in the online commentary over the last piece, in terms of whether or not a San Diego audience might be capable of recognizing satire, and whether or not his work should be clearly labeled as such.

Perhaps the author will respond, and let us know? :)"

Dear SDaniels: Thank you for your essay. I am grateful for your careful attention. Because the Simpsons have been referenced in this thread, I will quote Homer in reply to your question: "Lord help me, I'm just not that bright." No, the Policeman Poet piece was not a response to the earlier brouhaha. It's just what the Muse fed me.

As for how my efforts should be labeled, I leave the such decisions to the Powers that Be. I thought the dateline for my very first story - DOWNTOWN JOHNNY BROWN'S, TEN MINUTES BEFORE CLOSING (AP) - gave a pretty clear indication of the character of the work.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful commentary.

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SDaniels March 22, 2010 @ 10:09 p.m.

re: #36: Darn, Mr. Mencken! You shoulda just copped a mysterious pose and pretended you knew it responded to the brouhaha, because it does add that much more complexity to your piece--and a serious right hook to your detractors! Anyway, thanks for responding, and I look forward to more SD on the QT. ;)

re #35: I think the Stooges go well with Keystone cops.

re #34: Meaning, we should remain British this balmy morn?

re #33: Hmm. I would take care to liken myself to "humours."

re #32: Harbor seals, like you and children, are also needy of instant gratification.

;)

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SDaniels March 22, 2010 @ 10:11 p.m.

Oh and PS to #36: The editors chose wisely of title, and the dateline should have clued people in, yes. Emphasis on "should..."

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SDaniels April 13, 2010 @ 1:09 p.m.

I am disappointed to find Mr. Mencken's work has been removed from the Reader's archives, which suggests "SD on the QT" has been discontinued. We sorely need writing that makes us laugh at ourselves--and think. This column had the courage, and the potential, to do this.

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David Dodd April 13, 2010 @ 1:20 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with comment #39. Or as my now-banned friend Pistol Pete might have said, "That sucks donkey-balls."

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