Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Stermy Awards for November 2007

The other day, SI left a comment here that has impressed me more and more the longer I've thought about it. Talking about atheist blogging, he said: I think on the whole, we do it quite well. Even if you don't agree with us, generally, we do say it with style, panache and savoir-faire.

He's so right. There’s some excellent, even exemplary, writing in the Atheosphere. I’d put it up against some of the very best magazine articles and newspaper columns.

Let’s get this straight: I’m not saying that we produce copyedited, ready-for-publication pieces. As a pedantic prig and a grammar nazi – and a sometime professional editor – I’ll tell you that much of our output is far from perfect in terms of mechanics. We make grammatical slips, spelling errors, even punctuation faux pas. I embarrass myself sometimes when I notice that I've written a particularly ungainly sentence, or used an ill-chosen word. But that kind of stuff is all fixable with a blue pencil or its electronic equivalent. It’s not hard to sneak into a post to correct misspellings or sloppy syntax; I do it all the time.

I’m not talking about content, either. Yes, I think content is very important, but to tell you the absolute truth: I’ve been an atheist all my life. There are very few arguments for or against freethinking that I haven’t already heard hundreds of times. And when one of us posts about a breaking news story, it multiplies like an amoeba, spreading all over the Atheosphere in nanoseconds. Hot YouTube Videos, cartoons, jokes – they all appear in dozens of places simultaneously. So content alone doesn’t make writing great for me.

What I'm referring to is a quality that’s hard to pin down, an urgent shoulder-grab by someone who just has to say something important or hilarious or informative or so interesting it demands to be shared, a feat of linguistic magic that breathes into mere strings of words a life of their own, a mind-meld you're powerless to resist.

And so, I’m going to inaugurate the Stermy Awards for Exemplary Writing in the Atheosphere (with a hat tip to Evo for coming up with the name – although in a different context). I’d like to say that the Stermy Awards Ceremony will occur near the end of every month, without fail, but who am I kidding? We’re talking about blogging here; sometimes real life – or a bad mood – intrudes.

For this first presentation, I’ve decided not to honor any of the writers I singled out recently as being among the ten bloggers I'd most like to break open an expensive bottle of wine with. Not that their writing isn’t great, and not that I don’t expect them to "win" plenty of Stermies in the future. But just for this inaugural post, I decided, pretty much arbitrarily, that I’d already given them a blanket award which they can wrap themselves in at least until next month.

Below, in alphabetical order by author, are the posts that impressed me most this month. I've included a very small snippet of writing from each one, just to give a quick taste.

So, drum roll, please:

EnoNomi at EnoNomi
for Serving Size: One Entry
I love the word Atheist. I love the way it feels in my mouth and rolls off the tongue. I admit to loving the in-your-face-ness of the word, because most of the time I’m not really interested in having a dialogue.

The Lifeguard at The Meme Pool
for Draining the Meme Pool
As I came to realize how faith permeated so much of my own life and the life of those around me, I became entirely too aware of how shocked my loved ones would feel when they heard I had become an atheist. Would they accept it? Would they know I am the same person? That I am still a happy human being? Will they still relate to me? Will I relate to them? How will this all work out? All of this left me very frightened and confused, and I spent a lot of time thinking over my newfound atheism and wondering if I might even find a way out of it. I felt that ashamed and anxious about it.

Lynet at Elliptica
for Penelope
While her husband's in the water
the coxcombs crowd like butterflies.

ordinary girl at tales of an ordinary girl
for More Emails
It seems to me that for you it comes down to likability. What would it take for an atheist to be likable to a theist? Could an atheist feel free to talk at all about atheism and still be considered likable? Or does that make the theist uncomfortable and thus make the atheist unlikable.

Ute at An Atheist Homeschooler
for Homeschoolers are Weird
The thing is... homeschoolers can never do it quite right for society around us. We face expectations that can't be met. Our kids need to be smart, really smart, but when they are, then something is wrong... "You're probably doing nothing but school work all day." (Right) If their intelligence doesn't meet Mr. Smith's expectations then he feels confirmed in his belief that homeschooling is good for nothing.
Although I don't think it's necessary, I will emphasize that these awards are totally subjective and reflect only my own taste. The decision of the judge is final. No animals have been harmed in the presentation of these posts. My name is The Exterminator, and I approve this message.

I can't read everything out there in the Atheosphere. If anyone would like to nominate a December post for the next Stermies, please send me an email with a link to your specific selection. You may even try to lobby for one of your own, but – as I hope you've seen – it better be damn good.


PhillyChief said...

I like the idea for the simple reason that I can't possibly get to every blog so getting clued in this way to things each month I might have missed. That's my selfish reason. The non-selfish reason is it's always nice to give a public nod to good work.

Unknown said...

Oh, my. I so didn't expect this. I had prepared a speech, but I think I lost it. I'd like to thank my parents for raising me Catholic. (Sobbing) If it hadn't been for the guilt you buried so deep in my unconscious, I wouldn't have needed all the therapy that got me to this point. Oh, and my freshman year English Com teacher... (music starts)

Honestly, thanks for the recognition, but thanks even more for stearing towards some great posts. I agree with Philly that this is a good idea. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed about where to turn for some great new material in the atheosphere, and this is a huge help.

Anonymous said...

Great choices. I visit all of those blogs, plus yours and several others, every day.

tina FCD said...

There are some great writers out there and I consider you one of them.
On my blog, I really don't do very long posts anyway, so I don't worry too much about how I word them. :) Like I said before, I'm mostly here to read other people's blogs and comment.

Babs Gladhand said...

Excellent idea, and excellent choices.

You have done well, grasshoppa. But, are you going to give yourself an award, because I think you deserve it.

John Evo said...

Stermie said: I’m going to inaugurate the Stermy Awards for Exemplary Writing in the Atheosphere (with a hat tip to Evo for coming up with the name – although in a different context

I'm drawing a blank. Help me out. where on earth did I ever mention that name before?

Anonymous said...

Great idea. Two of these are sites I hadn't even heard of before. It's a good way to bring good writers to everyone's attention.

The Exterminator said...

Thanks all. I'd hoped that these awards would lead people to find new blogs with great writing, and I'm glad to see it happening.

I'd like to be in on that kind of happy discovery, too. So please do let me know by email if you happen to see any posts that I should consider for the next installment.

Lifeguard: Sorry to cut your "thank you" speech so short. But when that music starts, you're history.

I will not be giving myself an award because I'm ineligible for a Stermy. Apparently, there's some rule about being related to the judge.

Here's the first appearance of the name "Stermie," just a few weeks ago. Unless someone's been stealing your pseudonym, that's your comment we're looking at. And I want to point out, if you still have any doubt: I've changed the spelling of "Stermy" to end with that bold, phallic -y instead of that wishy-washy -ie that can't even decide what vowel it wants to be. Yet, because -- even though you don't remember -- you've got "Stermie" in your mind, that's how you spelled the name in the comment here. QED!

On the other hand, didn't you once write something about "Wallie and the Beevar"?

Unknown said...

Thank you, Ex. I'm honored.

And thanks for coming up with these awards too. I read some excellent posts as a results. I've been adding people to my reader so quickly lately that it's mind-boggling to keep up with, but they're all so good and so much fun to read. If I end up trimming my reader, it won't be any of the great people in the Atheosphere. I really feel a sense of community with all of you.

John Evo said...

even though you don't remember

My subtle humor sucks...

John Evo said...

See... I'm SAYING "Stermie" at the beginning of the post and then asking...

ehhhh forget it

The Exterminator said...

Maybe in the future you should supply a diagram with your jokes.

I actually took you at your word about drawing a blank. I figured at your advanced age and all ...

(Don't feel bad, buddy. Brain farts are a not uncommon occurrence around my house, either. In fact, a while back, I was thinking of doing a post about them ... but then the idea slipped my mind.)

John Evo said...

Brain farts

Here at the Culver City Ancient Gardens Retirement Home we have all kinds of farts and...

What were we talking about?

EnoNomi said...

Oh my! I've never won a writing award before! Can I quit my day job now?

Now I can't think of anything witty to say for my acceptance speech.

EnoNomi said...

Damn, I should have said Thank You. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Thank you!

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Well, I was serious when I said that, and I'm glad you used that to start the awards.

I've been mulling around in my brain (I can do that because there's a lot of room in there for extra mulling) the idea of setting up a dedicated page, or a widget in the right column, of a "Hall of Fame" of Atheoposts, or something to that effect. I've been shilling for Ironwolf on that one elegantly simple post of his, and thought about picking other really exemplary posts to highlight on a permanent basis. Greta's post on being angry would also fit the bill.

I'm still mulling, though.

PhillyChief said...

I have a folder full of bookmarks. I wouldn't know where to begin ranking them or deciding who gets in and who doesn't, then if something new comes along do you bump an old one, etc. Too much for me. Good luck with that, SI. I'll just stick with my overstuffed bookmarks folder of atheist goodness. Occasionally, when I feel they're needed, I drop them here and there online in postings like a Johny Atheo-seed.

John Evo said...

SI said: I've been shilling for Ironwolf on that one elegantly simple post of his

You're slipping, Bud. You forgot to LINK IT this time!

Philly: I better have at least one bookmark. If not, could you go read my entire blog again and bookmark one of them?

I'm feeling rather inadequate today...

Unknown said...

Good idea. I have no aspirations in this regard but hey who knows.

As far as "keeping up" on the blogs...well just go to my new blog: Atheist Blogroll Toolkit

Spanish Inquisitor said...


Yes, that's why I'm still mulling and not acting. There are so many posts I like, I'd find myself adding too much in the beginning, then slacking off for space reasons as I went along. Not to mention, that the choice would be so subjective. It would have to be "My Favorite Posts" rather than a Hall of Fame.

I'll continue mulling.


I linked to it enough. I figured everyone already read it. But if you insist, it's here.


What is that blog all about? I couldn't figure it out. I know, it's late and my brain is frazzled.


I just read your sonnet. Beautiful!, and I usually don't "get" poetry.

John Evo said...

OG said: I really feel a sense of community with all of you.

Isn't it a pleasure to have a connection with a group of people who are, to a person, intelligent, thoughtful and articulate - without having any expectations of you, other than that you be you?

I didn't know what I was missing for 35 years - just living quietly as the odd man out. Some of you have been very fortunate in having spouses and friends that were atheists. I've known a handful of them in all these years and suddenly I'm able to converse with many such people on a daily basis. Thank you all.

Except Exterminator, for denying me my trophy. Hey... where ARE the trophies?

Unknown said...

SI: The poetry was Lynet's, though still lovely. :)

I sat staring at your comment for a long time wondering when I sent you any of my poetry. Then I realized, aha!

The Exterminator said...

Sorry. You ran out of time. I'm going to have to delete your second comment.

I'm right there with Philly about a "Hall of Fame." You could drive yourself nuts.

You can see an example of Larro's Atheist Blogroll Toolkit if you click on the link at left under "Seek & Ye Shall Find."

The trophy is pictured at the top of this post.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

SI: The poetry was Lynet's, though still lovely. :)

Oops! {blushes} My bad. It was a long day. At least I got the gender right. I think.

And your email response was wonderful good, as the Amish in my neck of the woods say.

John Evo said...

SI, you in Lancaster? I have a buddy there. He's a theist, but not Amish.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Close. About 20-30 miles. It's the next county over.

Lynet said...

I'm late commenting, but thanks! And the trophy is perfect. It looks just like my uncle Oscar (well, if I had an uncle Oscar...).

I haven't read any of those other posts -- looks like I'm in for a treat. And thanks for the compliment, SI, even if you misdirected it at first :-)

Anonymous said...

John-Evo & SI: I'm very familiar with the Lancaster area. My mother and stepfather live just outside of town. I spent two wretched years in Harrisburg as a teenager - what a dumpy city. A pathetic place for a state capital.

WTF is up suddenly with you blogpsot people and the google identity shit? My name doesn't lead to my blog anymore. WTF?

PhillyChief said...

Looks like you have to click the "share my profile" button.

Daniel Garrity said...

I wanted to pick up on your idea of being a 'pedantic prig and a grammar nazi'. If you ever want to get a quick check on something you've written, I recommend Virtual Editor, It's an online, automated grammar and style checker.

My company created Virtual Editor to help improve people's writing - to make it clearer and more effective. Plus, Virtual Editor is very easy to use and it's fast.

I encourage those of you interested in clear, effective writing to give Virtual Editor a try -

Anonymous said...

You're right. The only problem is, my blog is not on blogger. Obviously, this is just a way for blogger to coerce people into using their platform. Great. Blogger has turned into the Microsoft of the Internet. Bastards.

PhillyChief said...

it's not about your blog, it's about your profile. I have a profile on wordpress, but I don't have my blog on wordpress. I did that so that I can post without having to repeatedly enter a name and pass and so that my snazzy avatar shows up. :)
You have to adjust your profile setting on blogger. It's got nothing to do with Google's plans to conquer the world. Those plans are far more devious and powerful than mere blog bullying.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've edited my profile. I'll give this another whirl.

Re: Google's plans to conquer the world - they've already got a Google Church, complete with doctrinal statements!

Unknown said...

chaplain: Nice icon! But, I think I like Lifeguard's icon better.

Anonymous said...

You'll get no argument from me re: which icon is sexier. Lifeguards are supposed to be sexy, chaplains are not.

Ute said...

So I come here for my daily dose of "Extermination" and find myself an award winner. Thank you. I am very honored.

John Evo said...

You'll get no argument from me re: which icon is sexier. Lifeguards are supposed to be sexy, chaplains are not.

I guess I'm going to have to find the skull of a Homo erectus lifeguard. I always thought that the mysteriously dark, deep-set eye sockets would do the trick, but apparently not.

Anonymous said...

The eye sockets don't bother me, they're sorta cute, actually, but, damn, that grin is wicked scary.

Unknown said...

Well, I don't know. Nuns aren't supposed to be sexy either, but if you do a search on 'sexy nun' there are plenty of results returned.

PhillyChief said...

Not as much as catholic school girl I bet. ;)

John, I only have a homo sapien skeleton. What makes homo erectus' skeleton different? Maybe I can cook something up.

The Exterminator said...

Why don't you just draw him a homo sapiens with an erection and call it homo erectus?

And for what literary project were you searching "sexy nun"? (I know. You were on a Faulkner kick, right?)

It's not the eye-sockets that are unappealing. It's that long-johns bathing-suit from the 1890s that puts them off.

Ute: Well, reading this comment thread, I'm not so certain you should feel honored.

The question is: Does the trophy look like Bette Davis's ex-husband Stermy's backside? (Man, that's an esoteric joke. If anybody gets it, please let me know what I meant.)

You didn't say anything that I can
make a crack about, but I didn't want you to feel left out.

Daniel Garrity:
Nice ad there, pal. I was hoping someone would shill for a robot editor here. It sounds just like the one Dickens used to use.

This isn't relevant to anything that's going on here, but I thought you ought to know that someone's over at Babs's place, using your name, and cursing like a sailor!

Unknown said...

Ex: Well, I wasn't doing anything literary. I was just searching for "sexy chaplain" to prove chaplain wrong, but all the nuns came up instead.

That's my story anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that someone using your name provoked the chaplain into cussin' up a shit-, I mean, fuck-storm.