Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Earl the Squirrel's Rule #174
     In past centuries wealth dominated the literary landscape.  In human terms this translated to "white male", a lack of racial and gender diversity which continues in the print and performance worlds today.

     By contrast, we geeks tend to be purists.  To allow anything other than quality to interfere with aesthetic decisions is heresy laced with condescension, cowardice and craven self-interest.  The reason we have moved so quickly to the online world is simple:  the thought that brilliance is being overlooked because of a lack of access is unbearable.  Ask yourself this:  "How many of the great poets or finest poems of the 21st Century would we know without the Internet?"

     We squirrels find that, with "authorities" judging work based on content, a preference is shown for writers with similar life experiences--usually those of the same locale and subspecies.  Rural chipmunks like the bucolic focus and energy of other country chipmunks.  Urban tree squirrels prefer the arboreal but cosmopolitan view of other red city squirrels.  We small town ground squirrels lean toward the down-to-earth stories and philosophies of others with neutral fur tones and box office addresses.  This is natural and, probably, inevitable.

     At first blush, this is easily solved through specialization.  One 'zine might serve the male moles of Montana while another entertains the gay groundhogs of Galway.  WTP? 

     For starters, this fragmentation of an already tiny market ensures that none of these outlets will be financial viable.  Worse yet, because of the inconvenience and expense of so many sources, many of us would not have been exposed to such modern classics as "The Life and Times of Prairie Larry" by Gordie the Gopher or "Edges and Ledges" by the Lemming sisters.  The fear is that, in centralizing the process to reach a broader audience, voices might be lost.

     The solution, it seems, would be for editors to observe formal or informal quotas to reflect the population at large.  Whether or not this involves DNA and hormone testing would, I assume, be left to the discretion of the individual rodent publishers.
     Is there another, less arbitrary and convoluted approach?  

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #155
     What happens when critics and editors make informed assessments based not on Content Regency and politics but on intrinsic technical and artistic merit? 

     Everything changes.

     When we make double blind/objective evaluations, as we find in contests and would hope to see in editors, egalitarianism and diversity appear as if by magic.  In the long run it is as reliable as arithmetic.

     For example, take a look at the geeks' choices of the top ten poets of this century:  Margaret Ann Griffiths, D.P. Kristalo, A.E. Stallings, Derek Walcott, Rhina Polonia Espaillat, Rose Kelleher, Julie Carter, Catherine Rogers, Marc Smith, and Jennifer Reeser.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #170
     Needless to say, biographical data played no role in the experts' discussion or decision.

     So, how did they fare demographically?  The list includes someone of African descent, at least one person of Hispanic heritage and one who is part native American.  Given the small sample size, that is remarkably close to the composition of the English speaking world.  This result required nothing more than equal access along with knowledgeable judges and editors.¹

     Who could have guessed that the antidote to centuries of discrimination and neglect would be something as simple² as education?

Coming Soon"Love is a Weakness", Chapter 1


¹ - Lest it be lost, note the distinction between "knowledgeable judges and editors" making "informed assessments based...on intrinsic technical and artistic merit" versus so-called "'authorities' judging work based on content."

     Care to divine what percentage of poetry editors know even the rudiments of verse?

     Hint:  Divide your first guess by ten.

² - The only questions that remain are:

a) Why are 80% of the best 10 poets female?  Wouldn't we expect 5-to-5?

     Well, sample size is a problem.  As it happens, all of the next five poets are male:  Andrew Kei Miller, George Elliott Clarke, Jee Leong Koh, Michael "Juster" James Astrue, and Dennis Hammes  (1945-04-08 - 2008-12-23).  No surprises there.

b) Why is there such a gender imbalance in the stage world (e.g. slams, open mikes, etc.)?

      This question deserves its own post.  Stay tuned.

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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