Transcript of Court Proceedings
The State vs Indigo Roth
Sunday 20 September 2009
All rise, His Honour George Jeffreys presiding.
Please be seated. Bring in the defendant.
(Indigo Roth is brought in)
Ah, Mr. Roth, we’ve been expecting you.
(Roth acknowledges a quiet ripple of applause from the gallery)
Good morning, judge.
Yes, yes, that’s quite enough of that. Who is prosecuting?
Arnold Phalanx, Your Honour, of Attorneys Tortoiseshell, Phalanx and Jefferquat.
Well, get on with it, Mr. Phalanx. What are the charges?
(The Prosecutor turns to Roth)
Mr. Roth, you are charged with wilfully misleading readers of your blog about its ongoing humorous content, and of posting unexpectedly serious entries with strong literary tendencies.
Literary? Really? Cool.
(The Judge eyeballs Roth)
Mr. Roth, these are serious charges. How do you plead?
Guilty or Not Guilty, Mr. Roth!
Oh, Not Guilty, obviously. I have to hear the case for the prosecution.
I am not here to boost your ego, Mr. Roth.
This is a blog entry Mr. Phalanx. Some might disagree.
(The judge shifts in his seat irritably)
Who is representing you, Mr. Roth?
Oh, I’ll represent myself, Your Honour.
(The Presecutor cuts in, smugly)
You are aware, are you not, that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client?
Yes, but my client keeps me on retainer.
(Judge Jeffreys raises his eyebrows)
Really? Does he pay well?
He’s very generous, Your Honour, despite his limited means.
Your Honour, I object! We are not calling any character witnesses!
Yes, sustained! Mr. Phalanx, please continue.
Thank you, Your Honour. Today, I intend to demonstrate the defendant’s comedic inclinations in his early days of blogging, and then document his slow and deliberate slide into more traditional prose.
(Turns to Roth)
Mr. Roth, how did your blog start?
Well, I was spending a lot of time on Twitter writing funny stuff with friends. A lot of it was good, and I wanted to keep it. So, seeing there was no decent way to archive from Twitter, I copied our conversations daily into a blog entry.
You simply copied it over?
Oh, it was a lot of painful cutting and pasting, and I had to add a lot of commentary to it to give it some context and polish up the jokes a bit, but yes.
And it was from this early work that humorous entries such as Rubbing Shoulders With Giants, Catching Bees With Tweezers and Local Lion Unlocks Wardrobe emerged?
(Roth leans over)
Ooh, are those hyper-linked blog entry titles? Can I click one?
I’m asking the questions, Mr. Roth. Were you or were you not the author of these amusing and light-hearted little dialogues and vignettes?
Yes, I wrote those entries.
And did you then venture into piecemeal spy stories under your masterspy alter-ego?
Yes, Mr. Roth, your licenced-to-kill alter-ego, Roth. Indigo Roth.
The name is the same. How is it an alter-ego?
Are you saying that these spy stories are true, Mr. Roth?
I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say, Your Honour.
(the Prosecution looks at Roth levelly)
Why did you write these tales Mr. Roth?
(Roth relaxes back into his chair)
They were an interesting challenge, as was Twitter generally. Constructing a coherent statement in 140 characters requires some thought. Writing something funny is trickier. And crafting something that is coherent, funny and part of a larger story is downright difficult. I even published entire tales as mission logs in Spy Another Day and Dr. Wang to prove the point. It also helped folk to enjoy the story if they weren’t able to follow the whole thing on Twitter.
Objection! The witness is hyper-linking.
Sustained. Mr. Roth, watch your step.
(The Prosecution continues, smiling)
Were these mission logs popular entries, Mr. Roth?
Not as popular as I’d hoped. But it’s always hard to guess what will go down well. My favourites rarely cause a ripple.
Quite so, Mr, Roth, and I put it to you that, disheartened by this, you threw all your creative energies into your least funny entry yet, Walkabout In Sight Of Home. I call our first witness, Ms. Jenna Hearthome.
(a pleasant thirty-something American woman takes the stand)
Ms. Hearthome, can you describe Walkabout In Sight Of Home to us in your own words?
It was a huge surprise. I quite liked Mr. Roth’s early, funny entries, and so I opened this one with interest. Well, it starts like it's just an amusing dream, but it quickly turns into an emotional tour-de-force where Mr. Roth’s soul is bared under the scrutiny of three allegorical characters, exposing his deepest fears. And then it surprises again by closing with an upbeat message of hope. I haven’t cried so much in ages. Thank you Indigo, please write another, I love your name!
(Prosecution is visibly annoyed)
Thank you, Ms. Hearthome, no further questions.
(Embarrassed, he turns to Roth)
So, Mr. Roth, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, does it?
It wasn’t. But sometimes I have to write an entry to get it out of my system. The response from readers was quite positive, too, though I was back to my regular archiving the following day. Nobody seemed to mind the diversion.
That remains to be seen, Mr, Roth. And now I want to call to the stand a large, black-and-white member of the weasel family.
Mr. Phalanx, you are well aware that you are not allowed to badger the witness.
(Roth laughs at his favourite joke of the day)
Very well. So, Mr. Roth, you began an unrivalled run of humorous entries, including Talking Dirty In Korean, I Can't See The Speakers and the award-winning In Nomine Pingu.
(Roth laughs again, and there’s chuckling from the gallery)
Yep, I quite enjoyed that last one. Though it wasn’t award winning.
I never said it was, Mr, Roth.
No? Oh, then I probably edited that into the transcript. And by the way, I did sprinkle in some semi-serious stuff like Maybe Sometime Soon and Hanging From The Lanyard. Though nobody understood the latter. It was an experiment that I loved, nonetheless.
(Irritated, Phalanx shuffles his papers)
Yes, well. Which brings us to the key event in this sad tale, your blog entry Alea Jacta Est, in which you announce your absence, a holiday, and declare a number of changes that will be in place on your return. That is, less frequent blogging, and no more Twitter archive.
Yes, I had no choice. I was exhausted from eighty consecutive days of blogging. Something had to give.
All in good time, Mr. Roth. I call my final witness, Chester T. Truant.
(a pleasant, portly, slightly bewildered-looking man takes the stand)
Mr Truant, can you describe your feelings for Mr. Roth’s blog?
Yessir. Well, like the previous lady, I rather enjoyed Mr. Roth’s early, funny material, but when the more serious stuff appeared, I really didn’t know what to make of it. I felt like he’d let us down and was writing to his own agenda rather than to ours.
And when Alea Jacta Est appeared?
Well sir, I didn’t even understand the name.
Quite so, Mr. Truant. Who would?
Oh, objection! It’s a common enough Latin phrase. Well, for any kid who ever read an Asterix book, anyway.
Overruled. Please continue, Mr. Truant.
Well, when I read the entry I felt like Mr. Roth was abandoning his blog, and all of the people that he’d encouraged to read it. And when the final entry before his holiday appeared, I was even more confused.
You’re referring to Season Two Finale?
Yessir. It was quite exciting, 'cos I like airplanes. But it wasn't very funny. And I was confused why Mr. Roth was writing about skydiving before his holiday.
(Roth bangs his head on the table repeatedly)
Thank you, no further questions.
(He turns to Roth, who has regained his composure)
Mr Roth, you admit that your final entry before holiday contained not a single joke?
Not one. And many mistook the metaphor for memoir.
Another brave experiment?
Yes, but generally it went down well. I was quite encouraged by it.
(Phalanx ignores this)
And did you not pull the same no-joke trick with your most recent entry, For Today I Am The Dog?
Yes, though that one was a genuine memoir. And a lot of people liked that one too.
(The Prosecutor examines his notes)
Yes, men and women. That must have been a shock, getting feedback from men? Your core audience is female, is it not? Why would you write about your jock experiences unless you were trying to elicit a new audience?
(He turns dramatically to the bench)
Your Honour, what more proof do we need against this villain?
Mr. Roth, do you have anything to say?
What about my recent entry about my bad back? That had a lot of humour in it.
Ah yes, A Simple Flight Of Stairs. I’m glad we’ve got to that.
You are? Why? It's simply a lighthearted attempt to add a voice to a body part, to liven up what was essentially a dry story about a bad back.
Yes indeed Mr. Roth, yet there is nothing simple about it. You employed literary devices to do it, through your own admission. Personification. Evocative descriptions of the voice itself. Your description of your ongoing suffering elicits Pathos. There is sarcasm, metaphor and self-satire. You even use bookend paragraphs at the start and end to give the piece a rounded completeness.
Yep, and it was a funnier story than when I started!
That is entirely besides the point, Mr. Roth!
(a hush falls over the courtroom)
This is all damning stuff, Mr. Roth.
Yes, but only if I were a public figure writing for mass appeal.
Are you saying you don’t write for the masses?
No, I write for myself. And for like-minded folk out there. I have no delusions about my ability to write for a mass market, though I admit I’d love a bigger audience. I started out recording conversations I thought were funny for posterity. This then expanded to include my perspectives on those conversations, which in turn expanded into a Director’s Cut view of everything, while remaining apropos of nothing. I then stepped outside those bounds to include significant life events, which while I hoped would appeal to my readers, I realised that they would not be for everybody. I lost some readers, but I gained some readers. Your charges against me are just a realisation of my growth as a writer, and the evolution of a trickle of a blog into a stream, and then into a modest river, albeit one teeming with tiny, beautiful, iridescent fish.
(there is a squeal of delight from the balcony)
Hi Cara. Glad you could make it.
Mr. Roth, if I see you catching passes in traffic again, I will clear the gallery.
Furthermore, Your Honour, I refuse to be bound by a pigeonhole of humour, and by other people’s definition of what humour is. I like what I do, and I think for the most part I express myself with humour, even when I am being serious.
(Phalanx goes for the kill)
Mr. Roth, I put it to you that you are an writer. A humorous, aspiring one perhaps, but a writer nonetheless. You immorally enticed literally hundreds of people to your blog over the course of two months using your humorous Twitter archive, and then suddenly forced them to go cold turkey when you shifted to more sober, introspective, less funny material.
I plead the Fifth!
In fact, Mr. Roth, I put it to you that this entire pantomime is little more than a clip-show blog entry, an attempt to justify your position to yourself, salve your conscience and promote your own work.
(Roth whips his communicator out)
Scotty, beam me up. I’ve been busted.
Court Bailiffs, stop that man!
(They restrain Roth)
Indigo Roth, I find you guilty as charged. Anything to say before I pass sentence?
Yes, I’d like to wish the Philadelphia Eagles good luck in their game against The New Orleans Saints later today.
Objection! The Saints are going to kick ass!
Sustained! Mr. Roth, I sentence you to five years Hard Labour!
WHAT? You’re going to make me blog using WordPress?
Take him away!
(Roth is led from the court in chains)
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009
I owe an obvious hat tip to Woody Allen.
Inspired by M. R. James’ courtroom ghost story, Martin’s Close