I’m in a long distance relationship with a swell guy and he penned me a poem for my birthday. It was very sweet but also quite bad. Can poetry help me tell him I appreciate the thought but not the actual poem? — Shannon

 

I hope so. But because chat or email can propagate misunderstanding, let me also underscore the importance of using emoticons, smileys or hearts in your case. I’m not sure why that works, especially when you give him a poem — far more nuanced and thoughtful than a colon-hyphen-closed parenthesis mark — but I read somewhere that you should do that in online communications with personal relationships. Anyway, it seemed fitting to look through Ted Kooser’s book, Valentines, where I found a poem that could help you tell him this (though it won’t, unfortunately, do… More…

A common complaint about the Internet, whether it’s being leveled by a journalist who just lost his newspaper job or someone who found herself the target of online rage, is that it’s such a shallow, spiteful place. While it’s a ludicrous statement — the Internet is merely a medium, not anything homogeneous — the complaint is valid in large, and vocal, parts of the online world. It’s odd that in this age of loosened borders and individualism, online you can be drowned out with boos and hisses just by stating an off-center position. Sure, the idyllic promise of the Internet is that it can bring you news from around the world and expose you to people and things you never would have seen otherwise, but in reality many of us use it simply as an echo chamber.

What Is Good and Why: The Ethics… More…