Wednesday, February 04, 2009

For Duck

Robert Duquette, aka Duck of The Daily Duck, died on Saturday.

There is no prescribed protocol for such situations in this strange world of pseudonyms and comment threads. But I knew Robert through blog posts, so I will remember him in a blog post.

In truth, Robert Duquette and Andrew Nixon knew each other only obliquely. Duck and Brit, however, knew each other very well, in their world. They bonded over interminable arguments about religion, evolution, morality and, occasionally, more light-hearted matters such as what constitutes a proper sport, and the degree to which each other’s musical tastes were ‘maudlin’.

The Daily Duck was the cornerstone of the ‘post-Judd Alliance’ and, for a few years in particular, when there were four of us posting regularly, it was an absolute riot – providing the ideal, uncensored outlet for a motley bunch of amateur intellectuals to engage in ferocious debate, ribbing, one-upmanship and all the other things that prolix but intellectually-frustrated men love to get up to in their spare time. The infamous limerick war was particularly memorable.

Inevitably, things eventually ran out of steam somewhat, some of my views began to diverge from his and I left the Daily Duck over the kind of trivial point of principle that seems important at the time.

I am sure that most of us have oscillated between two utterly opposed views of blogging. On a good day, it seems to be one of the best parts of life. At other times it seems absurd – to spend so many hours and to invest so much brainpower in argument with a pseudonym and an arrangement of pixels.

But humans are humans, and even in an anonymous argument about evolution, our humanity can’t help but finally peek through. That’s when pixel rivals begin turning into something resembling real friends. As well as combative, Duck was generous, warm and funny. We all argued a great deal about morality, but nobody could doubt that Robert was a profoundly moral person, who thought deeply and seriously about what it meant to be good.

When emailing, Robert and I used our real names to correspond. I don’t know why this is, the rules are obscure. He frequently talked about coming to England to visit; I promised to take him to a cricket match and explain the even more obscure rules of that game. In the end I never met Robert in the flesh, and now I never will.

But the archives are still there. Robert’s sister has told me that she finds comfort in being able to read his posts and comments now that he’s gone. There must be thousands and thousands of his words floating around in this little corner of the blogosphere. In a certain, small way, Duck is immortal.

Robert designed my little Brit picture. He still owes me a case of beer for a poem he asked me to write about the frustrations of DIY.

RIP Robert. We won’t forget you. In a way, some of us will always be ‘Duckians’.


monix said...

I 'met' Duck on The Daily Duck and TofE then went on to encounter Robert through many long email discussions. He was everything you say in your tribute - generous, warm and so very funny. I'm feeling too sad to say more. RIP Robert.

Hey Skipper said...

One of the true measures of a man is how he acts when no one is watching.

This is all too obvious on blogs, where ranting and vicious insults are so often the rule.

Duck was the exception. Always calm and thoughtful, he clearly gave a great deal of thought to everything he said.

This new world of the intertubes provides an entirely new conduit to assessing people and forming relationships.

As it turns out, enough discussions over a wide enough range of topics, even though conducted via keyboard with someone you have never seen and whose real name you probably don't know, are sufficient to give an accurate impression of that person.

How do I know?

Experience. Due to the rather unique attributes of my job, I have been able to meet a pretty fair number of people who had been post-it friends.

In person, he was everything you would expect from what he wrote. As monix said: generous, warm and funny.

Rather than accept pat answers, he worked hard, and, in my opinion, successfully at discerning what was really going on underneath superficial explanations of human nature.

For that reason alone, he was a member of a very small group of people: he had brains enough to learn, and concern enough to make the effort.

RIP, Duck.

(Full disclosure: it took a long time to type this. My eyes kept getting blurry.)

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry to hear that, Brit. i remember getting into a kind-of argument with him but he was always courteous, which is a rare and valuable trait.

Anonymous said...

It was an 'Oh no!' moment to come across this post and made me feel somewhat diminished. All mankind is of one author, and is one volume.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends, I wish to give my heart felt gratitude for all your kind words for my brother Robbie. Most of us were not aware of his blog and I am sad I did not know earlier. I look forward to reading the archives and maybe gain a better understanding of his thoughts. Through this tragedy our family is committed to making something positive come out of this. Ironically we have come to the conclusion that communication is the key. We will always love him and carry him with us and I ask that you do the same. Again, thanks you so much for your words and feelings and being a part of my brothers life.

With Gratitude,
David Duquette

Brit said...

Thank you, David.

My condolences to you and your family.


Hey Skipper said...


I am putting together a couple ways to track down things Robert wrote at places other than The Daily Duck.

Hey Skipper said...

... Most of us were not aware of his blog ...

Odd, that. I never talk about blogging to any of my friends, and my family only know about it because they sometimes read over my shoulder.

You'd think I was looking at porn.

I like the way Brit put it: [our blogging provided] the ideal, uncensored outlet for a motley bunch of amateur intellectuals to engage in ferocious debate, ribbing, one-upmanship and all the other things that prolix but intellectually-frustrated men love to get up to in their spare time.

And, apparently, are loathe to discuss.