Daily Limerick
Creed
and Sloop (Biederman) Central

Contains Mature (and immature) Content; If You’re a Minor, Go Away!

Honorable... Yet downright filthy. Chicken Soup for the Hole.

 

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

INTRODUCTION

Daily Limerick was created to be a simple, limerick-a-day e-mail stunt to drum up buzz for the 10th Annual National Poetry Slam’s special All Limerick event (which I hosted and accidentally won—see History of the Daily Limerick). It was only intended to run for the month leading up to the event but, obviously, mutated into something else altogether.

I decided to continue the mess because, damnit, although I can’t imagine ever being a fearsome competitor to CNN or USA Today, there is a desperate need for alternatives to the Mega Media Conglomerate Mainstream Press and I said to myself, “THIS looks like a job for… Well, me.”

Thus, I decided to work up a Daily Limerick Creed to make this seem like some sort of carefully planned effort at diversifying the media. Funny, but while I was writing it I got a bit carried away, stretching it into a veritable manifesto, and, anyway,  here’s what I came up with.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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SELF-SERVING MOTIVES

As a writer/pundit/journalist/poet, and thus a form of artist, I’m always interested in expanding my audience—and what better way to accomplish that than to land a column with a widely-read publication? So before climbing on my e-high horse, I’ll admit to the self-serving motive of doing Daily Limerick TO HAVE A REGULAR FORUM FOR EXPRESSION as NO “NORMAL” OUTLET HAS GIVEN ME THAT! That’s right, I’m not living the life of some bizarre “Anti-Media Conglomeration Saint”; I want recognition and fans and chicks sending me nudie jpegs.  (And, since starting Daily Limerick, I’m not even sure I’d TAKE a traditional columnist job anymore.)

The free-market theory goes: If somebody is good enough and works hard, they will eventually be given an outlet. There is truth in that maxim, but it’s not the whole story. Like any run-of-the-mill self-published writer, I feel I’m “entitled” to this outlet, but I’ll also point out that I have many qualifications, better related elsewhere on this site but which include: freelance writing (and formerly interning) for MAD Magazine (and other pubs, including the San Francisco Chronicle); landing a regular poetry gig (“news limericks”) in a major publication (the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye)—joining a club smaller than the “People Who’ve Been to Outer Space”; boasting a near-life-long journalism career, beginning with a job as a high school columnist and college columnist/editor-in-chief and encompassing editor of Chicago Artists’ News and staff writer for the LA Daily News; performing stand-up comedy across the U.S. at venues including Chicago’s Zanies and LA’s Laugh Factory… So there.

Then again, I don’t think the motives of any decent artist can be truly “self-serving.” I don’t write to convince the world that I’m cool (at least not directly)—I sound off on things in a way that, theoretically, can change people’s minds—and thus change the world—or at least keep folks thinking. In between checking out the nudie jpegs, anyway.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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FILLING A VOID

I am not alone in believing that today’s Big Media climate robs us of the true diversity of viewpoints a free society should provoke.  This is not the place to present the basis for this argument—it should be easy to catch up on the debate elsewhere, if need be, and if after doing so you don’t agree, you’re simply an idiot. So this “Creed,” and DL overall, assumes it as fact. But I do view some of the major arguments behind the side I’m on to be butt-headed—especially those made by raving partisans.

Daily Limerick fills a number of mini-voids, but chief among them is the Non-Partisan Void. I’ll let the brainwashed argue over whether we have a “liberal” or “conservative” media—the fact that there IS such an argument proves a decent balance among those fuzzy, mostly meaningless “philosophies.” Concerning newspapers, for instance, conservatives cry “Liberal media” over news coverage decisions while liberals cry “Conservative Media” over the editorial board opinions. Flip to the commentary section and you’ll find columnists of both stripes, each following their official party line. Glance at a headline just  long enough to discern its topic—abortion, gay rights, what have you—and, if you follow the regular columnists at all, you know exactly what the column itself will say.

In short, we play into an ancient governmental trick for controlling the masses—divide and conquer. Leave ’em arguing about a hot-button topic like abortion and they won’t notice how they’re getting screwed in a zillion other ways. One’s political philosophy is too important and complex to buy into a pre-decided “package”—if you believe in a woman’s right to choose, why does it follow that you must be anti-school voucher? I rip conservatives and liberals equally—they just cater to different special interests and in many ways are very much alike, when you cut through the sound bytes, on many sinister issues. Even the “moderate” label is just what the establishment ordered. I don’t call myself a “moderate” because I hold many “extreme” views—dubbed “extreme” as yet another method to keep discourse within authority-accepted bounds.

The chief void Daily Limerick thus seeks to fill is one that has existed long before the Conglomerate Age. And don’t you dare call it “bi-partisan.” It’s NON-Partisan or, better still, ANTI-partisan.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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'FIXING' JOURNALISM

Whenever a poll examines the least-trusted professions among the public, journalists rank up with the traditional favorites, used car salesmen and lawyers. On one hand, this is unfair—people have historically blamed “the messenger” for the negatives while, at the same time, gobbling up any stories of scandal or woe. (“Good” news has never sold papers.) Yet there are also legitimate reasons behind The Media’s plummeting favor.

As with most worldly problems, solutions are complex—“fixing” journalism is not as simple as “balancing” news coverage or even media regulation. Like any other profession, journalism needs to “move into modernity” while not shucking sensible, time-tested traditions—but, also like any other profession, journalism often clings to traditions now rendered meaningless ritual while embracing the most insipid modern trends.

Let’s take a self-serving example—the accepted “credentials” for newspaper columnists. The time-honored tradition says: Once a reporter spends years in the trenches, he/she earns the right to comment on news. Other newsroom traditions have long since bit the dust—such as the reporter/columnist who started in the mailroom. (Today, you need a degree first—and for that, a decent public schooling, not to mention money for college.) “Seniority” pulls weight in most workplaces, and it has its merits—but this is one example where it doesn’t make sense. Rewarding good reporting with a column is like giving your fastest fry cook a manager’s position—the two ARE related, but fry mastery doesn’t necessarily bring leadership skill. (So, in journalism’s defense, it’s far from the only industry to operate this way.) Yet although years of writing hard news might bring the insights and contacts needed for an “insider” political column, most op-eds are rants, dependent more on the writer’s reasoning, wit and writing than facts. It makes more sense to seek columnists from creative writing ranks—theater, the stand-up comedy scene, local “alt” rags, etc.

Concerning journalistic objectivity, the public’s perception of it has… seen better days. People don’t question The Media’s bias anymore; they assume it biased. In fact, people assume more of a bias than what realistically exists. I do not see a problem with “bipartisan” objectivity, however; I’m more concerned with the fact that objectivity is often based on public opinion as opposed to science. Take, for instance, the “controversy” of homosexuality. There is no shred of evidence that it’s a choice, or that its increasing acceptance has caused the increase in homosexuality that whack-job conservatives fear. But the sheer numbers of people denying the truth on “faith” somehow renders these facts “controversial.” And thanks to the religion of Political Correctism, opinion-based objectivity goes both partisan ways— “scientific” theories like “secondhand smoke” or “the disease concept of addiction” are also treated as fact despite an absence of evidence. The “Noble Lie” is big these days, especially in various drug wars.

A major villain in this surplus of pseudo-science is the journalistic reliance on “experts.” The Media has a legitimate stake in keeping editorializing out of news stories and some matters certainly require the words of an expert, such as explaining the findings of the latest Mars rover, but when this idea is taken to extremes, we get stories needing an expert quote saying that exercise burns fat. Worse still, by following any high-profile trial, it’s strikingly obvious that an “expert” can be found to make any point one wants to make. And it’s not just “experts.” A man on the street’s words are more valid than the journalist’s, even on no-brainer comments like, “It’s cold today!” For all we know, the bystander’s whacked out on goofballs and just escaped a schizophrenics’ hospital—but is somehow more “objective,” or something.

Even those who would normally be of inarguable expert status are suspect today—science itself is in sad shape and statistics and studies are increasingly useless. While data can obviously be useful, it can also be used to make just about any point one wants to make. If a convention was attended by six people this year, and only five last year, marketers can proclaim that “attendance was up 20 percent.” And studies, especially with dwindling government grants, are always funded by somebody—and that somebody funds them for a reason. (Not that the government can be trusted, of course, but that’s a whole ’nother topic.) Take the medical profession: Studies of (legal) drugs are often funded by the drug’s maker or are subtly “influenced” through gifts and such.

The subjective nature of both studies and statistics (and the imperfect nature of “objectivity”) is, of course, nothing new, and the modern picture is far from the “worst media period in history”—but the current climate doesn’t help matters. In, say, the early-to-mid Twentieth Century, a reporter would have been more likely to crack a dubious study. Today, Merger Madness has prompted so much downsizing and cost-cutting that an unhealthy reliance on the “experts” exists—a crisis not directly of objectivity, but of a lack of resources for proper news coverage. Nonetheless, the results are the same: We’re all getting informationally screwed.

 

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'

As oppressed groups “re-claim” phrases for symbolic victory over past prejudice—blacks using “nigger,” gays using “fag”—those controlling The Media “claim” progressive movements for their own “victories.” Punk rock, the ultimate in “giving The Man the finger,” has now been packaged as corporate- approved rebellion and folded into conglomerate “synergy”; the coffeehouse, once a haven for poor, chain-smoking artists, is now the smoke-free hang-out of choice of the middle class professional, who pays more for a trendy flavored latte to-go than the writer would for a bottomless cup nursed for hours. Thus, the conglomerates make money off “rebellion” while not actually fomenting that pesky “real” rebellion, which questions The System they thrive on—and an increasingly dumbed-down public is more than willing to accept a watered-down, easy-to-find, Wal-Mart-friendly “counter culture” with little effort or thought. (Here we broach another situation that you can “catch up on” elsewhere, if need be—the fact that those in power don’t want folks participating in the political process; best to keep them diverted while lobbying the FCC, Dept. of Labor, etc.)

The ’ol “claiming of rebellion trick” is as old as “The Media” but has, with time, evolved into a science. As target markets catch-on to marketing scams, marketers devise new ones, which are in turn eventually noted… There is an inherent balance to it—kinda like the way each breakthrough in home security spurs a burglar to crack it—and times of “unbalance” are eventually countered by periods of unbalance in the other direction. (For instance, the 1950s were an age of conformity, ushering in the radical times of the ’60s and ’70s, ushering in the apathetic ’80s...) At times, I grow pessimistic—wonder if it’s possible that the Upper Hand can grow and permanently squash the underground—but my logical self realizes it’s a never-ending, cat-and-mouse game.

So, to come back from a major digression… The main “conglomerate tactic in rebellious clothing” today is The Media’s embracing of sex. And this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, but here goes: Society has confusing attitudes about sex. On one hand, the Sexual Revolution was a success—the vast majority of us engage in non-marital sex, pornography went mainstream and it’s really only a small (but ridiculously vocal) minority predicting that more skin on MTV will destroy us all. And yet, we’re screwed up enough to run out and buy the new CD from the latest “rebel” to “accidentally” show her nipple for a second during Super Bowl hoopla.

Sex sells—and sells so much better than other “rebellion.” And it’s the rebellion factor stoking The Media’s dysfunctional attitudes on sex—it’s great to take advantage of relaxed attitudes, loading “Disney” and “Family” cable channels with videos by middle-aged-boner-inducing, scantily clad sex symbols in the guise of “kids’ pop stars,” while at the same time keeping sex just “taboo” enough to sell stuff. In embracing sex, The Media—especially the entertainment industry—is able to boast, “See? We’re all cutting edge” while at the same time waxing more hands-off toward meaningful dissent.

Political commentary in pop culture is largely limited to joking about a politician’s one “comic characteristic,” be it lack of intelligence, sexual dalliance or odd physical attribute. The Media is even working The Great Dumbing Down into a salable form of “rebellion”—countless sitcom heroes take perverse pride in couch potato ism and, in presenting anybody with a clue as nerd-like, ignorance over what’s going on in the world has become hip, “naughty” and even celebrated. Sure, the Blissful Bimbo has always held appeal but it, too, is now scientifically mined—in 2004, Abercrombie & Fitch actually produced “Voting is for Old People” T-shirts.

I’ve tried to play up the angle, especially in approaching a “mainstream” venue, that I am the “Howard Stern of Newspaper Columnists”—an idea that’s time has come yesterday. The popularity of shock jockery has affected all The Media, but publications, especially daily newspapers, have been slow to follow. However, while I’m semi-comfortable being lumped in with other “shock” artists—this pub has “Limerick” in the title, after all—I feel the need to add one hell of a disclaimer.

In “latching on,” I’m using the best possible interpretation of “shock jock”—one who says things that may shock typical members of the puritanical Moron Majority; that many are afraid to utter; that logically should have no “taboo” about them; but which are, foremost, INTELLIGENT. (Well, I try. Most of the time, anyway.) Unfortunately, the majority of “shock jocks” say and do things simply because they are shocking. But all shockery is not created equal. Eating cockroaches is shocking but, unless you’re starving to death, pointless.

That’s the tone I’m shooting for, anyway. Then again, I’m only human. If the overdone idea reaches publications and strippers show up in my, er, studio, I won’t kick ’em out.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?

When I first read that a “blog phenomenon” was emerging, in early 2003, I said to myself, “Hey—I’ve basically been doing one of those for four years!” So I promptly put a standing head in Daily Limerick (then a daily e-pub rounded-up weekly on my site) stating, “A Blog Since Before They Were CALLED ‘Blogs,’” seeking to capitalize on a trend that I played some part in. It wasn’t until later in the year that I actually checked out some of these blogs and… Let’s just say I took the standing head out.

So, have I divorced myself from the “blog community”? Yes… and no. In all honesty, I want to distance myself from the “bad” things about blogs while using DL’s blog-esque qualities to latch onto the trend.

I have the same love-hate attitude toward Internet pubs as I do toward open mikes, small presses, zines, self-published books and the like. On the plus side, ANYBODY can contribute ANYTHING they want, uncensored and unedited, to the world-wide discourse; on the negative side, ANYBODY can contribute ANTHING they want, uncensored and unedited, to the world-wide discourse. Unfortunately, the vast majority of blogs are boring, grammatically nightmarish, incestuously insider, factually flawed, ego-masturbatory, irregularly updated and written by the untalented and/or unqualified. (And that’s my assessment without even touching on the idea of celebrity—and “celebrity”—blogs. As if we need more information out there on celebrities. Or “celebrities.”)

Now, the reader may say, “Blogs aren’t High Journalism—so what?”—and, on a qualified basis, I echo that attitude. A blog can embody every negative adjective on the above list and STILL be a good read. And, of course, if anybody gets something from a blog, that makes it valid—even if it’s just the blog writer. At the same time, though, the vast blog landscape embodies these negatives with such regularity that blogs are easier for the Conglomerates to write off—despite their being scared shitless over Internet trends, especially what’s happened to the recording industry—and thus more likely to be written off by consumers of mainstream media as well.

As in the world of self-publishing, there are two types of bloggers. (Actually, three—but I said I wouldn’t get into the celebrity/“celebrity” ones.) There’s the “qualified,” talented writer who’s either too-rabble rousing for mainstream tastes, unwilling to work a “regular job” and/or left out by Conglomerate Downsizing, and thus driven to alternative venues; and there’s the talentless, un-“qualified” schmo who’d never see publication in a remotely respectable publication for very good reason. And, while I am vehemently opposed to tampering with the Web’s “open mike policy,” there is a desperate need for much more of the former and much, much less of the latter.

Perhaps it’s ridiculous to expect consistent quality alongside an open-mike policy. But I have a simple suggestion to widen blogs’ audience: REGULARITY! Oh, I take liberties in walking an oft ambiguous line between “traditional” and “completely UN-traditional.” But while I respect many publications that appear “when events or the accumulation of material dictates,” and admit that this approach has credence in many cases, human nature puts these pubs at a disadvantage. One may much prefer Joe’s Blog’s take on current events, but I wonder how many just give up on Joe over time because at least the NY Times’ site is updated daily. How about at least TOKEN effort? If daily is too harsh on your schedule, how about once a week? Monthly? Sure, with high-speed Internet access or DSL, it may only take a second for readers to check whether a blog’s been updated—but I refer you, again, to human nature.

I’m no super-stickler—I file entries around midnight, CST. On weekends or holidays, I generally do it much earlier (the day previous). Depending on life’s events, sometimes (rarely) perhaps even later in the morning/day —but at least you know that Daily Limerick will be published on a regular, daily basis, and usually at the same time of day. I have even been known to file a few days’ worth of entries ahead of time when headed out of town, etc., which ceased when I bought a new laptop—but returned once thanks to a camping excursion. I have since enlisted help to ensure this doesn’t happen again—but am following the “never say never” maxim on this one.

And as long as I’m addressing blogs, I’ll finish up this section with a note on Editing v. “In the Moment.” Part of the public’s infatuation with blogs stems from their “improv” nature—bloggers sound off much like regular folks do in conversation. I suppose this has always held some appeal—Jack Kerouac was “anti-editing,” for instance—but it has become especially popular as of late, first through the rise of “improv” comedy and more recently through “reality” TV (two of my least favorite forms of entertainment, by the way). Again, this trend isn’t spankin’ new, but I also have the less-than-popular belief that was really just a lazy writer. I did force myself to read some of his works but…Learn to edit, break up those paragraphs and, please, try a period now and then, Jack. If you’re too lazy to make your work presentable, I’m not wasting valuable free time on your crap.

I often post entries “on the fly,” but that’s just journalism—long before “improv” and “reality” TV, there were deadlines. Nonetheless, I at least give my entries an editing once-over, and usually much more than that.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

A part of me feels I needn’t address this topic, but… I am anyway. (Duh.)

While most agree that a pundit should exhibit consistency in ideals, etc., a segment of society is hard-line about any deviation from “platform.” And I’m not only talking of politically partisan platforms (see “FILLING A VOID”). For instance, if Howard Stern announced that he now found strippers “derogatory” and that he’d no longer be focusing on them, he’d deservingly lose much of his audience.

But there was a real example of Stern changing his mind in 2004—on a topic not as “signature” to him as strippers, but one that likely pulled in “otherwise-mere-maybe” listeners.

Although his show’s content led many to label Stern “liberal,” he in fact long propagated some “conservative” ideas (or, “libertarian” ideas, depending on how one views such labels). Likely stemming from his FCC battles, he grew more anti-Big Government with time. This included an anti-media regulation attitude. Although I disagreed, he could make persuasive arguments –for instance, I’ve heard many learned conservatives argue that regulation caused the anti-competitive situation to begin with.

Then, as part of 2004’s Super Bowl festivities, a stray nipple appeared accidentally on screen (horror of horrors!) and it was the Religious-Right-Butt-Fucking Bush Administration needed to attack “indecency.” As the FCC declared war on Howard, his largest conglomerate syndicate—Clear  Channel—axed him, removing him from a bunch of cities. Overnight, Howard became an Anti-Media Consolidation Warrior.

Which brings me back to those hard-liners. Is it fair to rip an artist for ANY change in platform? What, would he receive a Cosmic Medal if he stuck to anti-media regulation agenda despite his fate?

Daily Limerick, as an, er, “blog-esque” thing, operates similarly to a live radio show; “in the moment.” Many newsworthy events and topics are too complex to be analyzed and decided upon immediately—but that doesn’t stop us from sounding off. A medium like DL often reacts “just like you or I”—a pleasant supplement, for many, to the formality of mainstream news. After September 11, Daily Limerick actually PUSHED for taking out Saddam Hussein (somewhat tongue-in-check, sure)—but eventually became a vocal war opponent. A sizeable portion of the public did the same thing around water coolers and such—supporting the war early on but critiquing it as new information became available and unforeseen events unfolded. But when it comes from an “official” pundit, it’s wrong?

There are other examples of DL’s fine line between “sticking to its guns” and wishy-washiness. When the Supreme Court ruled that computer-generated child porn could not be censored, for instance, the First Amendment purist in me fired off some comments that I actually cringed at when reviewing the next day. I offended myself.

My overall point here is that, despite some stubborn ideals, DL is not about publishing some Code to Live By. These are not Papal Decrees. It’s main purpose, when you peel away the bluster, is humor.

It’s Daily Limerick. Ya’ stump-pumps.

DL CREED CHAPTERS:

INTRO/ SELF-SERVING MOTIVES/ FILLING A VOID/ 'FIXING' JOURNALISM/ SEX, DRUGS AND 'SHOCK JOCKERY'/ IS DAILY LIMERICK A 'BLOG'?/ STICKING TO GUNS VS. WISHY-WASHINESS

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Well, that’s the Daily Limerick Creed. I feel compelled to close with something witty, profound or at least encapsulating of its contents. But…

Again, that’s the Daily Limerick Creed.

Screwtoads.

 

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