This article ran in December of 2000, just before the site temporarily vanished a few months later. Hence the dolourous tone.
I have never prided myself on brevity, and I shall have even less occasion to do so here than I ever have. This is to be the last word on and in this famed publication, this self-described cultural institution, for quite some time; so, in the truest of Minnesotan tradition, the goodbye, which would drag on as long as possible under even normal circumstances, will be strung out to its last conceivable terminus.
I am, by my own standards, a young man of extreme wealth and position, with much to be grateful for. I live in a large home, with a large family. I have money in the bank and plenty of socks and underwear. I eat three square meals a day and a bowl of Corn Flakes every night before bed. I have had a most satisfactory education in all the essentials of character, mathematics, writing, menial chores, theology and wittiness. I come from a stable, midwestern, Christian family and a long line of hard-working engineers, musicians and innovators. I have sacked groceries for $5.10/hr, mowed lawns for varying amounts of remuneration, and sat in a cubicle for more than I care to admit. I sing in a small choir and attend a small church, and I actually look forward to family reunions.
Thanksgiving Day has been a reminder to me how little there really is to add, and how much could be subtracted, from my lot in life. In this respect, I suppose, it is similar to the Y2K bug. But that is only tangential. Now, it is planned, as part of a strategy conceived some years since, that I will give up my comfortable post for an eighteen-month absence. And so the recent holidays are shaded by the continual awareness that my familiar days at home are imminently waning. Whether the long-planned development will prove to be permanent or transient is not seen, but entrance into a trial-by-fire organization and the prospect of bankruptcy and utter dependency at the end of it all is amusingly unsettling, whatever happens.
One of the lamentable features of this departure, and the one which principally concerns us here, of course, is the lengthy hiatus of this venerable publication. Necessity is the matriarch of invention, and sappy modern prose was the causative itch that led to much of this site’s content, as a kind of civil disobedience. The western world is overstuffed with self-styled writers who bring no new perspectives in either style or substance. I will not craft a detailed indictment here, but when I say that I reflexively twitch whenever I read yet another instance of people “laughing together, and crying together,” or such like vaporous cliches, you will no doubt get the idea of my perspective.
When I first began looking for characteristics of a good writing style by which I could take my pattern, the first and chief thing I noted was this: good writing is not predictable. That is not to say it is definitely unpredictable, but that it does not scan in a way that you could shut your eyes and reliably guess what words or ideas come next. As I see it, the writer’s chief duty in communicating his subject is to continually throw the reader off his log in the water, or to make him run a little faster to stay dry. Sometimes this means using uncommon or portentous words. Often it means creative, intriguing metaphors. Whatever the means, writers must find some way to get off the beaten path. Now-a-days, that path is so regularly hard-trodden that it might as well be paved. This is my uneducated opinion.
Since the twilight of the software-centric era of this site, it has been mostly an experiment in these ideas of writing. In this I think I have been successful in proving my point, and in creating some little accumulation of interesting works, as ideas occurred to me. What little criticism I draw from its extremely modest readership often entails complaints of my alleged density of style. I say, I never desired, and desire less now than I did when I embarked, the attention of anyone too stupid to follow a complex idea all the way to the end of the sentence, or of anyone too apathetic to enrich his mind by reading and looking up words he may never have seen before. Another frequent annoyance is from Canadians who feel threatened by my half-serious position paper favouring the takeover of their sovereign state. But by and large, my readers have responded with candour and a kind of tolerance to this oasis of originality. To them I extend my sincere thanks, for even though they were wholly unnecessary for my purposes, their presence was encouraging.
Fortunately for us all, life is about more than extended experiments in manpleasing and frivolities. In pursuing it through to its perfect end, I take my leave of you for now. Perhaps we will meet again someday. But until then, I shall derive great pleasure from knowing that, in this encounter, I have had The Last Word, and am
Yours Sincerely and In Absentia,
— Joel Alexander Dueck (JD)
“I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent.”
— Ashleigh Brilliant