Rants

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Blind Lemming's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

Remember, there's no such thing as a stupid question . . .

1. Could you say that again? Could you say that again? Could you say that again?
2. If you plant square roots, do you get square trees?
3. Um, like, huh?
4. If a hen and a half lays an egg and a half in a day and a half, that would really be messy, wouldn't it? And did you hear the one about the mushroom that walks into a bar?

 
So, Blind Lemming Chiffon, what should I call you?

1. Anything BUT Blind Lemming Chiffon, please!
2. Noffihc Gnimmel Dnilb.
3. It doesn't matter what you call me - what matters is that you're actually TALKING to me. Nyah hah hah!
4. Well, some call me Blind. Some call me Lemming. Some call me Chiffon. Some call me Lem. Some call me Lemmo. Some call me The Lemster. My friends call me Senor Lemmingo. Why don't you just call me Lem Baby?

 
But what is your REAL name?

1. What's YOUR surreal name?
2. My friends in Limon call me Limon Lem.
3. Skujelifeddy McGranahan.
4. Define reality in 25 words or less, then tell me your favorite palindrome.

 
Where do you get your ideas?
1. What? You're not getting YOUR ideas? What did you do, change your brain's address and not leave a forwarding order?
2. I steal most of them from you when you're not looking.
3. I pick them up when B. Dalton has them on sale.
4. I talk to God on a regular basis. By the way, we've discussed you, and He knows all about the leopard skin underwear and the roller skates.

 
And finally, What are your weak points?

1. Exactly identical to yours.
2. The little chromium switch behind my left kneecap requires frequent replacement.
3. At this very moment, I'm lying to you.
4. Questions like that cause me to commit gruesome psychotic acts of violence against those who ask them. So, did I get the job?

 
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Why I Am a Secular Dolphinist (and You're Not!)
by Blind Lemming Chiffon

A five-year-old child is climbing on the kitchen countertop, trying to get at the cookies. Suddenly, his foot slips. A jar of jelly is knocked to the floor and makes a sticky, gooey mess full of broken glass.

"Who broke this jelly jar?"
"Roscoe did it."
Roscoe is the childıs imaginary friend.

In a similar manner, we have a solar system made up largely of clumps of ice, mud and rocks, and thus assume the mess must have been made by someone.

Not knowing the answer, some theologian (with the intellect of a five-year-old) thousands of years ago invented an imaginary friend to explain the mess, and called him/her/it God.

In terms of epistemology, however, there are major differences between the two situations. The former situation involves allegations which may be investigated in order to determine to a reliable degree the truth or falsity thereof. To have fallen from the counter, the jelly jar must have experienced either human intervention or seismic activity. If no earthquakes have occurred within the appropriate time frame of the event, it is reasonable to assume that human intervention is the explanation. If the five-year-old was alone in the kitchen when the crash was heard, it is very nearly certain that the child is responsible, and the childıs explanation is a work of fantasy.

The difference in the latter situation is that no humans were present when the event(s) occurred, and all speculations as to cause are untestable and unaffirmable. Indeed, since we are fairly certain that our solar system arrived here before we did, it is fair to say that we didnıt do it, and weıre not guilty. But we have to blame someone, donıt we?

Not necessarily. Since we donıt know, it is entirely possible that our solar system came into being through the forces of nature, and no intelligent intervention occurred. Furthermore, if we assume it requires intelligent intervention by a deity to create human beings because we are so complicated and stuff, didn't it require an infinitely greater deity to design that deity, and so on and so on? It is far more plausible to assume we just happened than to posit the infinite chain of ever-more-powerful deities required to make the pyramid scheme of the design argument work. God, therefore, is not only a childish fantasy, he is entirely unnecessary, as the widely held idea that the universe demands an explanation is both absurd and erroneous.

Consider three great doubting Thomases:

Like these three great atheists of the past, I prefer not to be called an atheist. The word ³atheist² conjures up images and misunderstandings that have little to do with most actual people who are labeled with that word. Webster defines atheism as:

None of these definitions apply to any atheists I know about. Most of the atheists I know are way more godly and moral/ethical than any of the deities identified in the works of the top 3 western religions:

Misology, incidentally, is the hatred of reason. Religion is, by its very nature, misological.

Atheism is not properly defined as a belief or a disbelief, separate from rationality. The word ³belief² in the context of religion means twisting oneıs mind around in order to accept transparent lies and nonsense as truth. Disbelief, in the same irrational context, means turning against oneıs Creator. Since the atheist has no rational evidence to indicate that human beings were created by intervention of any wacky old spook outside the forces of nature, they are not turning against God, because there is nothing for them to turn against. The ³God² of Thomas Aquinas, which is the one most people seem to follow these days, has no material existence, as it cannot be experienced by the standard five senses. Thus, by Websterıs second definition, religious individuals who do not conceive of God as a material being are atheists. This would cover about 70-90% of all religious people, most of whom would be a tad upset to find out Webster is calling them atheists.

Atheism as I know it does not operate in the manner of a religion. It has no doctrines. A doctrine implies that one is allowing others to do oneıs thinking. Nothing in atheism is set in stone, for followers to believe or perish (or be threatened with same). To define it in terms of doctrine is to label it as just one more irrational nonsensical religion, when it is exactly the opposite of that. Atheism is, very simply, not a belief. It is the absence of belief. All babies, for example, are atheists.

Furthermore, I do not disbelieve in any particular deity. To the contrary, most of them do have a certain sort of existence as fragmentary and irrational ideas in the tortured brain cells of brainwashed complacent fools who must have everything explained to them, since any explanation, no matter how insane or contrived, is preferable to uncertainty, for these people.

So, I am secular. That is, independent of religion.

As to why I am a dolphinist, and not a humanist, the rationale is as follows:

These, then, are the tenets of Secular Dolphinism. In order to become a Secular Dolphinist, you must wear a button at all times that says, "Spiritually Unaware, and Proud Of It, Man." To get your button, send $2.00, along with a signed renunciation of your humanity and a pledge to quit eating tuna, to:

And watch (and videotape) all the Flipper reruns you can!

Further Reading:
Book of the Subgenius
Hobbes, Thomas: Leviathan
OıHair, Madalyn: Why I Am an Atheist
Paine, Thomas: The Age of Reason (especially Part III)
Principia Discordia
Russell, Bertrand: Why I Am Not a Christian
Smith, George: The Case Against God
Wilson, Robert Anton: "Religion For the Hell of It" (audio tape)

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Finding Spiritual Tupperwareness
by Blind Lemming Chiffon

    "Everybody has to believe in something.
    I believe I'll have another beer."
        -- ancient mystical bumper sticker

People have said to me, "How DARE you attack another person's religion!"

This is hypocrisy, pure and simple. You see, they are attacking my religion. I am a proud member (and founder) of the International Order of Heretics for Secular Dolphinism.

The purpose of heresy is not to attack anyone's religion. It is to question and test the ideas that others present, especially if they happen to be without foundation. Since religious ideas are, by their very nature, without foundation, religion just happens to get caught in the crossfire. It could be said that religion itself is, by its very nature, a vicious attack against intelligence, reason, sense and knowledge. Religion is based on faith, and faith is the enemy of knowledge and the friend of ignorance. Heretics are much like teachers, except that while heretics make people question things they think they know, it is a teacher's job to fill an empty vacuum with alleged knowledge. Heresy, unlike religion, is not an attack on knowledge - it is, if anything, a supplement that encourages and demands thought and questioning, thereby making knowledge more useful and reliable.

It is difficult for some of my wonderful, enlightened readers to imagine this, but there remain among us many whose mental function has not yet evolved beyond blind ignorant superstition. Any of us may be one of them, and not know it. To be honest, sometimes I am one of them. I often catch myself avoiding cracks on the sidewalk, or picking up pennies (actually, in the United States, they are not pennies. They are cents, but we keep calling them pennies anyhow. Which just goes to show you that we have no cents.)

Anyway, I recently stayed up all night playing poker with clones of the Ancient One from Rılyeh. ("Oh, Cthulhus?" you say. To which I reply, "No, I won eleven unpublished chapters of the Necronomicon.") At some point during this poker game, it was revealed to me that true-believing religious fools are still taught to reject Atheism, on the alleged grounds that Atheists are without morals. Judging by our history of the past several thousand years, it is those who attempt to impose their morals on others - the self-proclaimed "righteous" - who have committed the most serious, evil, genocidal immoral acts. Are the "righteous" any different, or any better, today, than they were during the dark ages or during the holocaust? Hundreds of conflicts, skirmishes, wars, terrorist activities, starving populations, two-bit dictators and bible schools scattered all over the globe echo in a resounding "NO!"

Back when folks were living in caves, fighting off predators, and didn't even have Tupperware parties, just a little while before fire was invented, one of our distant ancestors was visited by a time traveler who had just been listening to a recording of Peggy Lee singing Leiber and Stoller's classic song, "Is That All There Is?" After she learned to speak the language, an early version of Ook Ook Slobber Drool that sounded strangely like New Testament Greek, she translated this song and taught it to them. Our first philosopher, Ann Onym Ous, found the pervasive melancholy of this song captivating, and thought, "Hmmm. Life is pretty boring. All we do is kill animals, fight animals, fight other tribes, eat, make baby cave people, and meet time travelers who have strange taste in music. Aha! There must be something more!"

This notion, that there must be something more to life than what we already know (just because we are able to imagine that it might be so) has led to many good things (the wheel, pizza, and antacid tablets) and many bad things (the atom bomb, religion and smurfs.)

It has also led to the notion that there somehow must be a life that goes on after this one ends. Contemporary French philosopher Jacques Ellul, in a similar vein, argues that what is possible is necessary, at least when it applies to technological development. This argument, that anything that can happen must happen, at least limits itself to the realm of the possible. The ideas of religion are best proved by the argument that what is imaginable is necessary, which is a whole different ballgame. The Irish philosopher, Murphy, had them all beat with the simple dictum that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Unfortunately, in all of these cases, when we turn the law around to try to apply it to itself (my favorite test for laws) it leads to nothing but confusion.

If, for example, we follow the argument that anything we can imagine must be possible, what if we imagine a world where all things are impossible, or a world where we can't imagine anything?

We all know that if we are counting on Murphy's law to work properly, in order for the law to be consistent with itself it must be incorrect at the moment we are expecting it to work. Obviously, Murphy and Ellul are both incurable optimists.

Imagine, for a moment, that the possibility of nuclear weapons led to their inevitable development, in line with Ellul's way of thinking. Now, imagine that their development will lead to the total destruction of all life on Earth, which is distinctly possible, and, therefore, necessary. (It could be argued that if it is possible to develop a technology or a system that will prevent the same destruction, that, too, is necessary. Which leads to the question: if two technological possibilities are mutually contradictory, are both necessary?) What if an infinity of possible technological developments are put to a sudden halt by massive nuclear holocaust? One necessity might counteract another. This is only one rather extreme example. What if some great technological development is possible, but no one ever thinks of it? Is that situation possible, and is it, therefore, necessary?

Ellul's philosophy reminds me very much of Pangloss, the character in Voltaire's Candide who proclaimed that this is the best of all possible worlds. This philosophy, a popular one in Voltaire's time, is useful only in the respect that it provides an excellent object for ridicule.

Ellul's argument that what is possible is necessary works much like the argument that a room full of monkeys and typewriters, given infinite time, will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. (In addition, of course, to infinite variants, such as the edition that says "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to find golf balls dying in my refrigerator," and so on, and so on. In addition to producing the works of Shakespeare, they would also produce the works of every other author, including their unwritten works, and infinite variations of each, as well as infinite quantities of unintelligible gibberish. And they would produce each work, and each minor variant on each work, an infinite number of times. Which leads to the "bell the cat" question: who would have the time to read even the smallest fraction of it - considering that even 1% of infinity, in this case, would be equal to all of it? Remember, infinity minus one still equals infinity. Sing: "Infinity bottles of beer on the wallŠ") It is easy to see that, contrary to Ellul, the possible destroys the necessary, mediocrity overwhelms and smothers excellence, and the greatest developments in technology will continue to be put to the most mundane possible uses.

On the other hand, if the imaginable is necessary, imagine that we do destroy our own planet at some point in the future. If there is, as some imagine, an afterlife, what if we, in our afterlives, decide to recreate the planet we have destroyed and go back to our lives there, only to destroy and recreate again and again in an infinite, pointless cycle? Of course, in Eastern philosophy, the cycle itself is the point. That is, if there is a point. There doesn't necessarily have to be a point, even if it is possible.

There are twelve tones in Western music, twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, three primary subatomic particles, and two positions for a switch. These numbers appear to be small, manageable, understandable and simple. Yet all lead to infinite complexity - all the works of the great Western composers, and even the not-so-great Western composers, are made up of those twelve tones. All our literature is made up of those twenty-six letters, plus a few punctuation marks to add nuance. All the information in our computers is made of ones and zeroes, or ons and offs. Shakespeare, in The Tempest, said, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on." What, exactly, are dreams made of? What are ideas made of?

So far as science has been able to determine, dreams and ideas exist, physically, as electronic impulses in our brains. Thus, like human beings, trees, rocks, orange hounds tooth sports jackets and the air we breathe, dreams and ideas are made up, pretty much, of protons, electrons and neutrons. All life, all things, and all ideas seem to pretty much be made up of these three things. The early atomist philosophers would have said everything is made of one thing, because they didn't know about subatomic structure. A particle physicist might go on talking about gluons and schmoo-ons and such, if one were fool enough to bring up the subject. Acknowledged, there might be disagreement about the exact quantity and nature of the particles - but whether these things are made up of three particles, or fifty, or if we just want to say they're all made up of the hundred or so known elements, the point is, everything we know about is made up of a small number of particles, or elements, interacting in a variety of patterns.

We like to think we are causing these patterns to converge in an ever-increasing state of order. Entropy, as well as my lifelong unsuccessful efforts to clean my room, says otherwise. Similarly, some like to say that the complex arrangement of these particles is clearly not random and thus implies a creator. Some argue that since so many people imagine this must be the case, it must be. Others argue that it can't be imagined that this is not the case.

By the same token, I could argue that since I can imagine that all of this has come about on its own with no creator, this must be the case. Many others imagine this as well. John Lennon even wrote a song about it. On the other hand, I could argue that it is not possible to imagine a creator, or to imagine anything else other than a vacuum, that is not made up of the same particles we are. Since everything made up of these particles is part of nature, it is then impossible to imagine anything, other than a vacuum, that exists outside of nature. God, then, as the supernatural being we know, is clearly made up of a gigantic vacuum, a vast expanse of nonexistent, unintelligent nothingness. Indeed, atoms, themselves, are largely made up of vacuum residing between the component particles - perhaps this vacuum that is contained within all things is exactly what this God is made of - the vast nothingness that is contained within everything.

From the earliest days of supernatural religion, the idea of an afterlife has been used to help warriors fight more bravely, in the hope that they might be rewarded with an afterlife superior to the life they already know. One of the poor fellows who was executed at Nuremberg after World War II excused the murder of millions with the argument, "Well, hey, they were just gonna die anyway." That was a very Judeo-Christian thing to say. The texts of Judeo-Christianity portray a savage deity who freely murders humans by the thousands, who murders entire villages and towns, who, indeed, is responsible for the death of every living creature that has ever died. This is a God who makes Hitler, Ted Bundy and the tobacco industry all look like boy scouts. God, as he (or it) is imagined by Christians, Jews, Moslems and others, is clearly a sadistic, evil mass-murderer who demands our condemnation, ridicule and disbelief, not our worship.

Adolf Hitler was a devout Roman Catholic to the last moment of his life. His actions were quite consistent with actions taken by the Church to rid the world of heretics back during the Crusades. Millions of innocents were murdered in these Crusades, yet such religious leaders in our age as Billy Graham honor these senseless murders by calling their own religious activities "Crusades," perhaps because no one would watch a "Billy Graham Holocaust" on TV.

Since the 1930s, the Catholic Church has supported any world leader, no matter how murderous and evil, who opposes Marxism. Pope Pius XII was crowned on the same day all the Jews were driven out of Italy. No Pope spoke out against the Holocaust until decades after the fact. In more recent times, the Vatican continues to support such dictators as General Pinochet of Chile, who as a magician made thousands of people "disappear."

What better example of the evil that religion can do could be cited than the recent mass murder at Columbine High School. Here is a situation where two young people, throughout their lives, were bombarded (as are all young Americans) by religion at every turn. It's in our schools, our newspapers, our media, and it is carried like a virus by countless thousands of mindless, ignorant brainwashed proselytizers. This constant bombardment of ignorance can cause deep anger and frustration among those of us who choose to think for ourselves. When combined with the loving Christian technique of socially ostracizing those who are, in any way, different, by treating them as defective outcasts, it is easy to see how two otherwise intelligent young people could be driven to a state of madness.

Then, to add insult to injury, every religious organization and every two-bit preacher in Colorado has jumped on the bandwagon to capitalize on and benefit from this tragedy, with interviews in the media, advertisements, calls to bring that medieval atrocity of superstition known as "prayer" back to our public schools, and so on. These evil vultures manipulating the media in a cheap and feeble attempt to increase their flocks (and, thereby, increase their paychecks) make a mockery of themselves and dishonor their status as human beings.

The true believer condemns the murderer not for hastening the travels of the innocent to their afterlives, but for doing the work of God without His permission. Hitler, and so many others like him, were guilty not of disbelief, but of belief so zealous and blinding that it made them incapable of comprehending that murder, no matter whether performed by God or humans, is not a good thing.

In a time when it is possible to destroy the entire planet we live on with a single decision, we continue to place irrational zealous religious individuals in positions of ultimate power. Wouldn't it have been tempting for someone like, for example, Ronald Reagan, with his endless chatter about Armageddon, to send all the good people on Earth to Heaven at the touch of a button? The religious zealot sees holy war as a means to a positive end. How is this any more moral than, say, gang warfare?

So, in order to stand up for reason and heresy and against the immorality and stupidity of religion, I announce the formation of the International Order of Heretics for Secular Dolphinism. We will be having our first spiritual tupperwareness party at my humble abode, the Precious Blood of Flipper Chapel, at some time in the next few months, if I can locate any converts. Contact me through your source for the publication in which this article was printed for the gory details. Plan to bring well-cooked offerings (no tuna, please!) encased in glorious tupperware.


Some Thoughts on Spiritual Tupperwareness
(the religion that keeps your soul fresher, longer)

I believe in three things: peanut butter, Flipper, and heresy. The Unitarians and Baha'is have it partly right about "all great truths are one." If you spell "truth" l-i-e-s it all starts to make sense.

The five biggest lies ever:

    1. The people we don't like are vermin who must be exterminated.
    2. There is a better life after this one, so this one isn't important.
    3. Don't worry - you can't get pregnant if we just do it one time.
    4. Smoking is good for you.
    5. It tastes just like chicken.

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Why My Songs Don't Scan
copyright ©2000 by Blind Lemming Chiffon

It would be a mistake to imagine or seek a 1:1 correspondence between the accentual-syllabic prosody of verse poetry and the rhythmic divisions of measures employed in modern songwriting. Something like this was tried, according to the Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music (Apel & Daniel) in the 13th century, and most likely abandoned shortly thereafter.

Verse poetry is composed of units called feet, and music is composed of units called measures. They are divided internally in ways that may or may not correspond between forms. Two or more syllables of lyric may bridge a single note, while one syllable (such as "yet" and "home" in America's national anthem) may bridge two or more notes of music.

For those who haven't refreshed their study of syllabics recently, poetry, when in verse form, commonly employs one of four foot patterns, iambic, trochaic, anapestic or dactylic. The iambic and trochaic each contain two syllables. The iambic is unstressed/stressed, and the trochaic is stressed/unstressed. Just remember that an iamb always gets unstressed first. (If only I could find a nice iamb to date!)

The anapest is two unstressed and a stressed, and the dactyl is one stressed followed by two unstressed. Some poetry teachers also like to mention the spondee just for fun, which is a foot of two stressed syllables. Most poets have better sense than to mess with spondees. Too much stress.

In "iambic pentameter," the most common verse form, "pentameter" refers to the number of feet per line of poetry, which in this case is five. Sonnets are most often written in iambic pentameter. A stanza is a normally a series of lines with a particular rhyming pattern.

Scansion is the metrical analysis of lines and stanzas.

Of course, if poetry is read aloud emphasizing these rhythms (ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM ta DUM) it will get boring very quickly. Skilled poets use these rhythms as a form, but by interweaving the many other poetic techniques available to them, they are usually able to avoid the singsonginess of a first grader trying to read poetry.

I should mention the isochronic principle, which takes into account pauses, accidental syllables, and so on. This principle states that intervals between major stresses tend to remain equal.

It can all get a great deal more complicated, but these are the basics - it is not my purpose here to write a poetry textbook, so I will refrain. Please don't ask me to define the difference between a stanza and a refrain - yes, I do know what it is, but I don't want to be confusing here. However, speaking of confusing things, here is a poem I wrote a long time ago, which follows the rhyming pattern of an English sonnet, yet contains lines of one syllable each:

    Dear
    Bee:
    Fear
    Me,
    For
    I
    Soar
    High.
    I
    Drink
    (Why,
    Think!)
    Bee
    Tea.

The feet alternate between iambic and trochaic, with the last foot being a spondee. My poetry textbook doesn't cover a situation where lines are only half a foot each. I classify the meter of this poem as iambotrocheospondeic demiometer. The label and the poem each have fourteen syllables. I cannot say whether this was intentional.

The important principle to remember is this: writers work simultaneously with and against the ideal of the form being used. If rules are not occasionally broken, they are not rules. Ideals are fine as abstractions, but abstractions do not reflect or represent the world as we know it most of the time, and as a human being, I, for one, find abstractions hard to relate to. Most of the time they don't even exist, except in our minds. That's why they're abstractions.

To state it another way, try seeing the meter and form as a skeletal structure. To make more out of the skeletal structure than a bunch of dead bones, such things as rhyme, off-rhyme, consonance, assonance, diction, metaphor, imagery, even content, are necessary. Deciding (whether consciously or not) how much of each of these to use, in what combination, is what makes it an art.

Music is a somewhat different story in terms of structure - a measure may contain poetic feet, but the number of feet per measure often varies, and a song's lyrics tend to depart from the abstract poetic ideal more frequently than a non-musical poem due to the nature of the medium. In music, given the various common types of measures (4/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc.) and the various numbers of beats per note within each measure, it becomes almost impossible not to depart from consistency in form. In a 4/4 measure, there may be one whole note that is four beats long, two half notes, four quarter notes, eight eighth notes, sixteen sixteenth notes, or any combination of these that totals four beats. As stated before, the lyrics may follow the notes syllable for syllable, or certain effects may be achieved by stretching a note over more than one syllable or vice-versa.

Here's an example: the word "dog" could be stretched out over a full note (four beats), or in those same four beats with four quarter notes, you could sing "my dog has fleas," or if you used two quarter notes, two eighth notes and another quarter note, it would work for "bad bad Leroy Brown" all in the same four beat measure. The next line of that particular song, "baddest man in the whole damn town" appears to be made up of two eighth notes (baddest), two sixteenth notes (man in), three more eighth notes (the whole damn) and a quarter note (town), still adding up to the same four-beat measure. If this were poetry, and we had to analyze the scansion, it would be very difficult, and we would probably throw our hands up in the air and say, &"this just doesn't scan." Trying to analyze the meter of most song lyrics is about as futile as counting Ogden Nash's syllables. Yet the songwriter almost always instinctively places a stressed syllable on a downbeat. The techniques of cramming and stretching syllables to fit the beat, when used effectively, becomes, in songwriting, a valid poetic technique.

Music and verse do have one thing in common: they are forms, working within certain preordained ideals, and by using a variety of techniques to work simultaneously with and against these ideals, perception is challenged and the work is made interesting. If all poetry and music simply followed forms and meters, without nuance or variation, there would be no point to them. The variation from the form is what makes them human, and not mechanical.

But what I really wanted to talk about was how all this applies to writing song parodies. In this particular isolated situation, the song being parodied becomes the form. In verse there are many common meter structures, called forms, such as sonnets, limericks, ballades, haiku, and the occasional rondeau, roundel, rondel, triolet, villanelle, and dozens of others. Anyone who says offhand they can tell you the difference between a rondeau, a roundel and a rondel is probably lying. The technique involved in writing one of these is to wrap words around an underlying structure, using poetic techniques, in order to arrive at something that is a unique _expression of a poetic voice.

With song parody, it's a little more complicated. One way to do it is to follow the original, syllable by syllable and stress by stress, the end result being an exact rhythmic copy of the original. For me, personally, as someone who has dabbled in parody writing for about 30 years now, this method almost invariably results in a copy that is "too close" to the original.

Sometimes the original is even too close to itself. Try this experiment: Listen to a good jazz singer (Ella Fitzgerald springs to mind) with the original lyrics in front of you, and notice whether the lyrics are the same when performed as they are when written. They are not. There are almost always differences between how a song is written and how a vocalist hears it. These little differences are called "interpretation." By the same token, actors very rarely follow a script word by word and line by line. The singing of a song is a dramatic interpretation of the lyric, and dramatic license allows the singer to make small changes so that the song combined with their interpretation becomes something unique.

I see parody not as a form of copying but as a form of interpretation. I generally try to follow the rhythm of the original as much as possible, because I want the departure points to be recognizable to those who are familiar with the original. However, I consider it foolish to be "locked in" by every syllable of the original.

A song parody serves two purposes: to either pay tribute to or ridicule the original song, and to stand on its own as a new song. There is a danger to putting too much emphasis on the first purpose: many listeners will be unfamiliar with the original material, and will find themselves lost. As a child, I heard Allan Sherman's song "You're Getting to Be a Rabbit With Me," and thought it was very funny, because the idea of two people turning into rabbits and eating lettuce together is just funny. It wasn't until years later that I heard the song "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me." It added a dimension to my enjoyment of the song, but the point is, Sherman's song stood on its own absent familiarity with the original. This is the genius of an Allan Sherman, or a Weird Al Yankovic.

In order to stand on its own as a new creation, a parody must actually be a new creation. This means, to me, that I must be true to my own vision as an artist, and say things my own way. What is important to me is to express some new idea within the loose framework of the original song. Sometimes this involves trying to fit a square peg of words into a round hole. It is difficult for others to "hear" what I'm doing when I depart slightly here and there in my writing from exactly copying each syllable of the original. I may occasionally change a quarter note to two eighths or four sixteenths or some combination thereof without even thinking about it.

Unfortunately, I''m in the habit of circulating my parodies by means of the printed page. Thus, although my song may, in my interpretation, fit the rhythm of the original precisely and exactly, some readers have expressed to me occasional difficulties in trying to sing them. Some of these readers have even castigated my verses for not scanning.

To these readers I give the following license: you have my permission to loosen up a little, add a syllable here and a pause there, and otherwise make small changes to make my songs work for you. However, watch out: if you make too many changes, you'll be writing a parody.

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Last Update: February 15, 2012