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Everybody hates Alex

Closing out the year by reopening some old wounds

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / December 29, 2009

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The sad demise of my hate-mail podcast has a silver lining: I can collect 2009’s anti-Beam letters into a year-end bonfire of animus and self-pity. Don’t worry, I received some nice letters, too. They just don’t make for very interesting reading.

A few months ago I wrote a column about Dick Cheney, whom I do not revile. I did call him a political trickster, and that was too much for reader Marcel Joseph. “I do not usually get upset at the articles in any newspaper,’’ Mr. Joseph wrote, “however I feel that I need to let you know that I think you are a misinformed Liberal [harsh noun deleted], as demonstrated by the hatchet job you did on Dick Cheney in this morning’s rag. You should be praising the job done by the previous administration. God help us, you wanted change and we got it.’’

The letter included this unfortunate coda: “I will cancel my subscription to the Globe.’’ Sorry to hear it, Mr. Joseph. Might it change your mind to know that I am a member of the “Draft Cheney in 2012’’ Facebook group? Of course, when I say “draft Cheney,’’ I think of forcing him to finally perform military service, which he so adroitly side-stepped as a younger man.

In retrospect, why did I blunder into the thicket of Shakespeare identity politics? I do find the quest for the Stratfordian’s “true’’ identity to be much ado about nothing, like speculating whether Babe Ruth could have hit 73 home runs in a longer, juiced-up season. (Of course he could have!) When I made light of the claims that the Earl of Oxford, or Christopher Marlowe, might have penned the canonical plays and sonnets, the Shakespeare “truthers’’ rallied to proclaim: What a fool this mortal be!

“You really are terribly ignorant about this ‘controversy,’ ’’ Brookline’s Michael Marcus wrote. “Far from there being two candidates, they have recently proliferated to include Sir Henry Neville and Mary Sidney.’’ It is “most unfortunate . . . that you dismiss the importance of the [authorship] question,’’ John Shahan, chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, e-mailed me. “If it’s important enough that every high school student reads some Shakespeare, it’s important enough to get it right, i.e. to tell them there’s some doubt about who he really was, rather than just indoctrinating them in Stratfordian mythology.’’

Every so often I rail against the “body mass index,’’ or BMI, a formula promoted by the Centers for Disease Control, among others, that aims to make normally proportioned men and women, like me, feel fat. Newton’s Dr. Valori Trelaor took me to task: “I suspect that your elevated BMI is not caused by powerful musculature but is due to excessive adiposity - fat - most likely largely intra-abdominal where it generates inflammatory cytokines and causes insulin resistance. The increased systemic inflammation and elevated insulin increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, Alzheimer’s. . . . The attached paper from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health suggests that your conceit contributes to our health care cost crisis as well.’’

In late fall, the Globe editors asked me to spend a few weeks covering the US Senate primaries and other political folderol. They hoped I would make new enemies, and I did. Delicate-skinned former nude model state Senator Scott Brown refused to shake my hand after one column. And the humorless fembots serried behind Senate candidate Martha Coakley excoriated me for pointing out, as so many others have, that she’s a fine-looking woman.

“Did He Really Just Call Her a Babe?’’ chuffed the anonymous blogger on womenforcoakley.com. Well, not exactly, but that wasn’t going to derail this bloggerette: “I find this article to be absolutely infuriating both as a woman and as a professional. . . . On December 8th let’s stand up to these men. It’s time to put substance over hemlines and show men like Beam that a woman truly is the best person to do a man’s job.’’

You go, grrrlzzz!

Dot O’Connell of Camden, Maine, took my comments with a grain of salt. “Although I fly my feminist flag high, I’m all for ‘if ya got it, flaunt it,’ ’’ she wrote, “as long as there is intelligence as well. Let she who has never smiled her way out of a traffic ticket cast the first stone!’’

To friend and foe: Nothing but best wishes for the New Year!

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.