My first year of drivel...
Writing for The Tech is definitely an adventure.
I have been involved with this glorious publication since the end of IAP '90. In the year since then, I have written many innocent little Opinion articles, averaging one about every two weeks.
Now that I've been doing this for a year, I'd like to look back at the response I've generated. (Read: This is a really easy column topic.) The best part of writing for The Tech, and lo, there are many good parts, is the response the columns generates. Whether it is verbal or written, it is always fun. This is also a chance to respond to some of the responses.
Believe it or not, the very first response I got for writing in The Tech was positive. It was for a column about Beau, a dog who used to attend classes at MIT with his owner. Ed Moriarty, the dog's owner, had walked into The Tech office wanting to place an obituary or announcement about Beau's death. Instead, I offered to write the column. He seemed to like it, and that was nice.
People liked the column in general, as a matter of fact. Aaron S. Wallack '90 postered the Infinite Corridor with his campaign posters featuring a picture of the bespectacled dog and the slogan "Beau would vote for Aaron Wallack for '90 Treasurer." Congratulations, Aaron. You got the Dead Dog vote.
However, with the very next column, I created enough controversy to make everyone forget about the warm fuzzies the Beau column gave them. I wrote about GAMIT, a dangerous proposition in the first place. I said that GAMIT was reactionary, and wrong for attacking as homophobic a man who disagreed with homosexuality (not homosexuals) due to his own religious beliefs.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the original column, the response letters were brilliant, labeling me as everything from anti-Semitic to homophobic -- which basically proved the original point of the column. And yes, it felt good to hear comments such as "Thanks for having the guts to say what no one else will," from people all over the campus. One lady even wrote a complimentary letter and offered me a free issue of the National Review. Maybe I'm no Noam Chomsky, but I'm not Bill Buckley, either.
A few columns later, I suggested that the new student center sculpture should be invisible and made of air. This suggestion garnered some favorable reaction at a meeting on the sculpture topic last spring.
Next I wrote the hockey column. It was too long (my fault) and the headline was awful (not my fault) but it garnered a favorable reaction and a nice note from a lady whose sons play a lot of hockey.
Moving into the fall of '90, I wrote the one line people seem to remember more than any. All I said was, "Anyone who drinks Diet Coke just for the taste of it must pour sulfuric acid on their genitals just for the feel of it." From the things people said in response to that, you'd think there was a High Church of Diet Coke out there somewhere.
Then there was the story of Eric Hughes, the bizarre performance artist who bombarded The Tech with phone calls until I agreed to write a column about him. I did, but he didn't like it. He continued calling the office after it came out, asking if anyone had written in defending him. A few days later, an old Tech staffer and friend of Hughes wrote a letter defending him. Wow.
I've also received e-mail with comments ranging from "you've got a lot of balls" to "nice column." Considering, however, that I log into Athena once every third blue moon, my e-mail reading is somewhat sporadic.
But nothing will ever top the Oct. 19, 1990 rantings of a Chemistry grad student who signs his letter "A. Tim Royappa."
"In five years of reading The Tech," begins A., "I have never come across such unregenerate drivel as what flows from the pen of columnist Bill Jackson." I scurry for my Webster's; unregenerate is defined as "not regenerated," "unrepentant," or "unreconstructed." You know, A., I'm not sure if I understand you. Would you please write back and tell me which definition applies?
"Please," A.'s letter closes, "someone spray a can of Raid on him and flush the carcass down the toilet." Well, A., you sound like a wonderfully compassionate human being. I'm sure every chem student dreams of having you for a TA.
Albert W. Morton '92 wrote The Tech in October with an intelligent article about racism on the MIT campus, a follow-up letter to one published earlier. However, his letter was accompanied by a short paragraph admonishing The Tech editors for cutting some points out of the previous letter. "I think that if you can find space to print columns like Bill Jackson's `My name is Bill, and I am politically ignorant,' then certainly you should be able to find space to address important issues like racism on our campus." Damn straight, Morton. I don't rank 'em, I just write 'em. I'd like to personally invite you to come up to The Tech anytime and write for the Opinion section. Based on the letters you wrote, we'd love to have you.
On Oct. 17, 1990, Douglas A. Galbi G wrote a really cool letter about the abortion insurance rebate issue and The Tech's editing of letters regarding the issue. He had a legitimate point, because The Tech had changed references of "pro-life" to "anti-abortion" within the text of the previous letter. Before getting to that point, however, he took some potshots.
"To the editor:" he begins regally enough, "In addressing the abortion rebate controversy, Tech Associate Opinion Editor Bill Jackson . . . [presented] . . . silly (that's different from funny, Bill) arguments in a mean-spirited (that's also different from funny, Bill) way." Wait, Doug, if you were ostensibly writing to the editor, how come you kept addressing the greatly amusing side comments to me? Who were you talking to, me or the editor? Make up your mind, Doug. Nobody as indecisive as yourself should be anti-abortion.
Well, those are the highlights of column responses for 1990. Let's hope '91 brings more flaming and less fighting. Peace.
Bill Jackson '93 has been writing mindless drivel for The Tech for about a year now. It only seems like longer.