Saturday, September 25, 2004

Fan mail

Earlier this month I got a call at home from someone I didn't know. She told me she'd read my blog and wanted to e-mail me, but couldn't get the address to work (I list it as matt[at]cuthbert[dot]ws to avoid spambots).

My immediate reaction was, "Where did you get my home number?"

"Information," she told me. "You're listed in the phone book."

Hmm. I should have thought of that. I've never bothered to hide my real name on here, so I've always known that it would be easy for someone to track me down — I just never considered that anyone would actually do it. Oh well. No big deal.

After I explained the intentional variation in my e-mail, my mysterious caller thanked me and bid me good night. However, she hadn't told me what she'd wanted to e-mail me about. I began to fear that I'd pissed off some "Passion of the Christ" fan who was going to write and tell me about how she's praying for my soul.

A little while later I checked my e-mail and received a the message.
Hi Matt,
I just got off the phone with you. Thank you for clarifying your email address.
I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry to read your negative comments about the product I created to help my daughter in her grief over her little dog. Obviously you didn't bother to visit the website and really see what we have to offer. All the customer has to do is place the cremated remains in the zipper pocket that has been created for them. Read the testimonials and see what a wonderful product we have.

I have received the most heartfelt thanks from people who have purchased a Comfort Pet. The following is one such response and there are many many more:
Dear Monica,
Thank you for providing the UPS tracking number. As soon as I saw that the package had been delivered, I rushed home to get it. She's absolutely beautiful! You did a wonderful job. The package with the bow, it was all so special. You made me feel like a special person just to receive such a wonderful gift! And I thank you so much for including a fleece blanket, even though that doesn't come with the package that I ordered. That was very kind and generous of you, dear Monica.

Words cannot express how it will feel to be able to hold my baby in my arms again! I was extremely close to Bailey, being a single mom and having my sons grown and living away from me. It's been just me and my two girls for years and years. Losing her has been traumatic for me, to say the least. What you have done for me, I cannot express my gratitude. I truly hope your web developers fix the search for your website and you become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams! You deserve it!

I've decided to go ahead and order a comfort pet for my Molly girl, so I'll have it all ready for her, when her time comes. Hopefully, that won't be for a long, long time. But when it does happen, I'll be able to hold her in my arms right away.

My deepest and warmest heartfelt thanks to you!


As far as I am concerned, Matt, I am already 'rich' by receiving emails such as that. These people are not 'wackos' as you put it.

After speaking to you on the phone, you sound like a very nice person. I hope you raise your beautiful daughter with as much love and attention and affection that these 'wackos' feel for the beloved companions.
Best of luck to you,
Monica Josephson

Ms. Josephson's letter is the sort of thing I want to make fun of, but I can't. To be fair, she wrote a very polite and sensible response to my remarks about Comfort Pets. I still disagree with her, but I don't think she's crazy, and I certainly respect her. She's just an entrepreneur who created a product that I think is bizarre. And yes, I think the people who use it are a little off, too. I'll admit that the Comfort Pets concept is sweet, but that doesn't make it any less weird in my eyes.

So what's the point, then? If I'm not going to pick apart her letter or change my original stance, why should I even bother to post her message?

As a point of contrast.

Ms. Josephson was displeased with something I wrote and was very nice about it. On the other hand, Steve S., a reader of my Get on with Your Nightlife blog, was not so tactful when he responded to my review of the documentary "Outfoxed."

As a young person I look at your opinions and background (comic books) and I see why you are against Fox and probably anti-Bush as well, you and your type can unfortunately be pigeonholed as Liberals with minds full of mush who are doomed to repeat history and would have been fully behind Neville Chamberlain (look him up, it's called a history book and not made by Marvel) Saying Michael Moore is a Great satirist is like comparing Norman Vincent Peale as a deep philosopher. Son, please, for the sake of your child, do a little studying and see where your generation is causing the crumbling of the underpinning of our nation

Steve S.

In case you were confused, I am not actually Steve S.'s son. My father's name, in fact, is Arthur. The use of the term "son" here, is merely intended to condescend.

Of course, such condescention began in the very first sentence using a tactic that Mr. S.'s nemisis Michael Moore is famous for — half truth. My background does indeed include having owned a comic book store. Therefore, Mr. S.'s assertion is true. However, it's not really the whole story. My background also includes almost 10 years of journalism experience in newspaper, radio, and Internet. It includes writing and editing in both the news and entertainment fields. It includes a degree in communication arts with a focus in rhetoric. An enjoyment of comic books does not negate those things.

Unfortunately, Mr. S. didn't come up with a respectful disagreement to my opinions; he chose to insult me instead. The problem is, he seems to have misread my view in the first place.

For one thing, I didn't call Michael Moore a "great satirist;" I called him a "gifted satirist." There's an important difference between the two, and I was specifically careful with my choice of words there. To say someone is a great satirist could be interpreted as meaning either that he "does a great job" or that he is "one of the greats." To avoid such ambiguity, I used the word "gifted," denoting that Moore is talented when it comes to satire. More importantly, the word "gifted" does not imply admiration as the word "great" does. I do admire Michael Moore, and I do think his talent is great. But that was not the point of my statement. Rather, I was pointing out that Moore uses satire to his advantage, but the filmmakers behind "Outfoxed" do not.

What confuses me more than a simple misquoting, though, is that the whole focus of my review was that "Outfoxed" was a disappointing documentary. Nevertheless, Mr. S. attacked me for my liberal views. I admited that I wanted to like the film, but I was also fairminded enough to concede that it just wasn't very good. A critic with admited prejudice is willing to give the other side a chance — I would think that's the sort of review a person could respect. Instead, I got labeled as having a mind full of mush.

But at least my soul is still intact.

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