Flavin's Corner
12-24-99

POE

     Every Christmas season is a special and magical time of the year, even for
those who aren't devout Christians (like myself), as well as for those who don't
believe in magic (again, like myself).  The power of Christmas is the widespread
and consensual wish for peace--peace for the individual, peace for friends and
family, peace for those with whom we disagree, in fact, for Peace On Earth!

     And "peace" more me?  Ah, a wonderful wish, but I can't believe in the
materialization of such a thing anytime soon!  I'm still at war...

     My personal life is a series of disasters ("No wife, no horse, no mustache..."),
my professional life is in critical condition (two publications in 1999, only one
with cash attached--though it was sort of cool for me to receive a letter from a
professor, who'd apparently been looking for me for a year, written on Institute
For Advanced Studies, School of Historical Studies stationary, saying that he
enjoyed my efforts), but even more important, I still wage the rage of the heart,
and almost didn't pass a recent physical.  I've let certain things get to me, I've
always held that "feeling" is far better than "unfeeling," yet I must admit ...I'm
not convinced life isn't proceeding as it should.  Our control is often illusory and
simply wishing for something is not enough.

     On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, of this past week, the website which
contains my column, stories, and certain articles of mine, was taken off-line by
the host.  They received a complaint saying that I spam newsgroups and they
should "kill" my account.  The complainant shows a Deja-News listing of over a
1000 postings to a newsgroup which concerns spam (among other things related
to newsgroups), news.admin.net-abuse.usenet, and the host promptly, without
warning, pulled my plug.  Late Monday night the host sent me a copy of the
complaint and two things were immediately apparent: 1) last week's column
contained material on the origin of 1000 Island dressing and it's usage on Big
Boy hamburgers and McDonald's Big Macs, the complaint exampled my posting
to alt.food.fast-food, and it's ludicrous to attempt to discourage the discussion of
condiments in a fast-food newsgroup, and 2) the fellow who wrote to my host
and suggested my account be killed was not unknown to me.  I'd had an
exchange with him earlier in the year...

     Last February I noticed a display at my local library which concerned Mary
Baker Eddy and her Christian Science movement.  The display was large, had
stacks and stacks of Eddy's books, and resembled a window of a Christian
Science "Reading Room" more than the usual New England author/famous
person display one usually finds at public libraries.  I contacted the library,
someone I spoke with agreed the display was improper and encouraged me to
write the director of the library, which I immediately did.  I also telephoned the
Boston chapter of the ACLU and described the display on a message-board
sponsored by a local newspaper.  Several hours later a fellow on the
message-board accused me of wanting to censor religion and freedom of speech.
Messages were traded back and forth, the fellow's language turned abusive, and
he could never understand my essential problem with the library display and how
it appeared to be more of an ad for Christian Science than a literary or historical
tribute.  A call to local telephone information got me nowhere, as the fellow has
an unlisted number.  In a couple of days the director of the library wrote and
said the display was put up by Christian Scientists and not library staff, it was
indeed too much, and the display was changed.  End of story, ...or so I thought.
[Note: for last February's column, "Culture Cult," click here.]

     Having my website shut down was a sobering experience...  I quit The
Greenwich Village Gazette shortly after a Halloween 1998 debacle, and put up
my first self-published column, "The Doom That Came To Newt," on Friday,
Nov. 13, 1998.  I choose Icestorm to host my website, as they provided lots of
free webspace and didn't use "watermarks," pop-up ads, or other annoying
gimmicks.  Achieving readership was a slow process, but not quite as difficult as
getting my site registered with the major search-engines.  Last July, when
Icestorm switched their domain-name to Stormloader and I had to resubmit my
site to all the search-engines, I promised myself I'd save some money, buy a
domain-name ("www.flavinscorner.com" or something), and then pay some host
$19.95 a month to guarantee service.  I should've...  I better soon...  Putting all
this time and effort into a weekly column just so some crank can get my plug
pulled, is too much of a gamble and I need to favorably increase the odds.  My
website was shut down once and could be shut down again at anytime.

     I've come to enjoy these weekly columns and the opportunity I'm afforded to
entertain and sometimes educate.  The use of hyperlinks to point the reader to
more background information has enjoyed a mainly positive reception.  Dealing
with difficult or controversial topics is challenging and occasionally produces
surprising results (i.e., my recent column on Mormon sacred underwear
attracting a gay Mormon group to post to my message-board).  Laughter can
sometimes be the greatest reward...

     My original plan for this column was to mention that I'd recently seen a still
of John Travolta from the upcoming movie, Battlefield Earth, based upon the
silly sci-fi book by L. Ron Hubbard (which would have given me a chance to
once more bash the Scientology cult), then segue into news that Michael
Jackson is planning on starring in a $50 million bio-flic about the life of Edgar
Allen Poe.  Poe?  Oh, well, Peace On Earth, good will to creeps, cranks, and
kooks!  I guess I can hold off 'til next year...

best wishes,
Rick

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