There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words. –Dorothy Parker
One of the oddest things about my writing history is that it’s full of silly newsletters. One of my strange skills as a writer is taking work events and turning them into occasionally witty silliness. I’ve done this at least three times, four if you count this blog. Well, maybe five.
The first newsletter I remember working on was during the summer I spent working in the Chelsea District of Kansas City, Kansas as part of a Kansas State University development project. I was part of team that consisted of five brilliant women and me (technically the mascot). Oddly, we all got along well, worked together well, and, well, didn’t like our boss. (Long story.)
Unfortunately, although we were often busy, occasionally we weren’t. During those times, I took it upon myself to “report back to headquarters”, which we were encouraged to do, via a strange newsletter I think I called the Gremlin. Its catchphrase was “Because We Know You’ll Pay”. In it I reported the odd news events involving us. Usually I reported our successes, but I also remember reporting on the issues two of our number had with cockroaches. It was silly, but well received, but full of the kinds of stuff you “had to be there” to find funny. (For example, the story of the girl, the cockroach and the towel that had been used for days.)
The next summer, I did the same thing when I was assigned to work in Jetmore. I don’t remember the name of the newsletter or its catchphrase, although I do remember reusing “Because We Know You’ll Pay” and then changing it.
My next newsletter appeared when I was in Albania. This one I also called the Gremlin and it also had a catchy catchphrase that has slipped my mind. The Peace Corps Gremlin was more angry than the others and was written and printed during my frequent trips to the Peace Corps office. (I may still have a copy one of these tucked away somewhere but the odds are slim.)
The next newsletter came about as my friends were leaving the JET Programme. As I’ve mentioned before, I kept friends up to date on sumo news and Japanese pop culture news. I dubbed it the “Crazy Japan Times” after the slightly more prestigious Japan Times newspaper.
When I put it online, my only real gimmick was a series of ever-changing “Pithy Epigraphs” under the masthead of the page. They were random, often famous, often insane and, to my mind were often funnier than the newsletter:
A Tale Told By An Idiot
Prohibited Where Voided By Law
Crusty But Benign
Life With the Boring Parts
The Only Sane Man In The Room
Never Better Late
Eas In Crucem (Note: To hell with You.)
Bobby Thumbed a Diesel Down Just to Watch Him Die
These newsletters have been a lot of fun, but they are ultimately empty and, if I were to go back an look at them, dated. (In my defense, in the last news letter I wrote back in 2006, Shinzo Abe was Prime Minister so maybe it’s not THAT dated.) They also didn’t have any momentum.
As for this blog, well, it’s my latest newsletter.