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The Tentacle


July 16, 2002

Cyber Salvos On The Mark

Lee Marshall

The Washington Compost didn't disappoint last Sunday when Frederick Scribe David Snyder made us proud, telling the political junkies in the D.C. Metropolitan area about the impact of The Tentacle (www.thetentacle.com) in Frederick. If you missed it, it's on page C-4 of the Sunday edition.

The headline writer described our efforts each day as "Cyber-Salvos," which we should like. Ahem!

Surely, this writer is a conservative, as Mr. Snyder pointed out, but we like "unpredictable" and sometimes "almost correct" as we assess our humble efforts. Sometimes in writing we take the opposite tack just because we see an outrageously liberal piece or comment by our city/county leaders. Our coterie calls it pushing each other's buttons.

At times it may sound as if Lyndon LaRouche corresponds with me from his jail cell. At other times, you may find my blathering a bit centrist, even self-serving. Like Popeye, "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." I'm not blind, though, to stupid things done by political conservatives. Commissioners President David Gray used to be one of those (a conservative tree hugger) and I cannot imagine him as a senator. That would be the ultimate joke on Frederick County.

Regarding the use of a pseudonym, it gives the writer an opportunity to speak his mind. Certainly you've read books, magazine articles, and commentaries written by authors using pen names. The list is endless from Alice in Wonderful to Harry Potter and many others.

Pen names are intended to protect the privacy of the author, but should not be construed as a means and opportunity of inflicting harm. Samuel Clements found that he wrote freer and easier under the pseudonym, Mark Twain. That made it easier some years ago when I wrote a couple detective novels for which the publisher wanted more sex. Lee could fulfill that wish as Lee.

Mr. Snyder did a good job as reporter, speaking with such subjects of The Tentacle as County Commissioner Jan Gardner and Frederick City Alderman Donna Kuzemchak Ramsburg. Ms. Gardner's comments were well said, considering she has been on the dartboard of several columnists. She was a good sport.

On the other hand, Oh, Donna, railed about the ethics of this writer's use of a pseudonym on his commentary. Perhaps she doesn't like the moniker Oh, Donna, which we borrowed from lyrics by the late Richie Valens. She just seemed to fit the mold of a high school sophomore dallying after school.

Oh, Donna, by the way, inflicts her own harm and we are flattered that she reads our stuff and takes some umbrage. If it helps to make her a better alderman, we have succeeded. Sometimes, the truth is harsh.

Mr. Snyder, apparently a regular reader of The Tentacle (as we, too, read his stuff), was particularly taken by the diversity of our writers and the liberties we take in ascribing our leadership with names from Broadway shows and even of late, Walt Disney and nursery rhyme characters.

We concur in pointing out the contributions by David "Kip" Koontz. It may surprise you that despite philosophical differences we like Kip. He's a good, informed writer, but with liberal opinions sometimes off the wall.

We might even get carried away sometimes, but that's the risk we take when we are motivated to take pen in hand and write. Kip's piece on "Evita," the Ever Lovin' Mare, is great reading both Part One and Part Deux.

Mr. Snyder shouldn't be offended that we've been calling his paper the "Compost" for years. He may even have been guilty of that. It is the same tongue-in-cheek attitude we give to Adelphia Cable Channel 10's weekly talk show, dubbed "Depressing Issues."

Octopus John Ashbury, a "nom de bloom" he picked up in our "Boat Race" commentary, is a regular on "Depressing Issues," just as he is a regular on The Tentacle. John deserves all the credit for editing and posting The Tentacle each day, plus doing the research and adding the wonderful daily historical notations (buy his book, too).

Octopus John has to stay on all of us to remember deadlines and that each day he plans to post two commentaries. He has a sense of humor that the more enlightened politicos understand and sometimes appreciate. John, by the way, isn't Lee.

We should not be offended that Mr. Snyder calls writers of The Tentacle "a motley assortment of amateur columnists." We suppose he meant that we are a diverse group and by amateur, the fact that we get no money for our literary efforts. We also liked the parallel as a "local Drudge Report." That's a free-swinging collection of commentary.

Any website receiving from 12-16 thousand hits a week, as does The Tentacle, has the potential to make us less motley (in the vernacular) and less amateur. The latter may not improve agreement of subject and verb, nor reveal suddenly that this is a journalistic endeavor, not essays for the professor at Frederick Community College.

We do have a challenge at The Tentacle. Several of our colleagues are either running for office, officers in one of the parties or actively engaged in political campaigns. That makes Octopus John's job even more demanding. It does provide grist for the mill and adds responsibility on the writers to maintain at least a semblance of fairness.

We did want to save space to say "shame on you" to Mr. Snyder for describing Octopus John's basement as cluttered. Not saying it should be a professional courtesy among journalists. If you've ever been in a city room, no amount of modern design can prevent clutter, and if you add on the fact the John is a bonafide historian and his wife refuses to be his secretary, then you would believe without saying that John's basement is cluttered.

My thanks to Mr. Snyder (motley in his own right), Octopus John, Jan Gardner, Oh, Donna (please don't be mad), Jennifer our Ever Lovin' Mare (you either), the aldermen, county commissioners and the rest of Frederick City and County for allowing me to have so much fun. Keep reading The Tentacle and write often.

Sincerely, Lee Marshall



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