Back and better-rested. Maybe a little housekeeping, to get the blood moving:
In comments from time to time, most lately earlier this week, someone asks why I don’t block the rambling of michaelj/caliban (we all figured that out, right? No, I don’t know why he changed his posting name, either.). The answer is pretty clear to me, but if it isn’t to you, here’s why:
At its best, which is pretty damn often in this blog, the commenting here reminds me of something, a place I once held dear — the bar after work at the Anytown Post. It starts with three reporters bitching about work, and they are joined by two more, which necessitates pushing some tables together. Then a couple editors come over, including one that the original gang of three was bitching about, which changes the subject and increases the tension. Then a couple more, then a state legislator who happens to be unwinding after work, and maybe one of the reporter’s friends from the courthouse. Soon lots of tables are pushed together, the waitress is serving them almost exclusively, and everybody is talking. Maybe there’s one big theme to the main thread, but two people are discussing recipes for barbecue rubs, or the best places to eat cheap in Chicago or New York. Two more are handicapping a local election, and two more are talking about the funny things a bookie said while everyone waited for the jury trying him on gambling charges to deliberate.
(In my experience, he said this: “Dave Thomas may have a few million bucks, but I told him, ‘Dave, you’re still a hillbilly in a thousand-dollar suit.'” This was when a thousand dollars bought a nice suit. The bookie was convicted, after which he told far fewer jokes. Columbus, c. early ’80s.)
Anyway, what’s my role in this? Sometimes I’m in the original group. Sometimes I’m the waitress. If the bar were very long, I’d be the bartender. Sometimes I’m the single sitting nearby who is eavesdropping. I just want the conversation to continue, and to amuse me.
And who is Caliban? He’s the drunk at the bar who walks past the table en route to the bathroom, stops and makes a speech. Sometimes he makes no sense. Sometimes he seems inordinately angry. Sometimes he’s mellow and expansive. Sometimes his fingers go off the home row z c nkx ;lxgd dnc .k,d gkx/
As long as he refrains from insulting the regulars beyond the point of medium teasing, as long as he throws no punches, as long as he keeps stopping in, his money’s good in my bar.
I ban only two people (so far). Even those are still on a case-by-case basis, which is to say, their IPs aren’t blocked — they just go to moderation, where I delete them. One is a very, very angry man who works somewhere at North American Van Lines in Fort Wayne (according to his IP lookup) and is frequently racist. The other is Rich Reynolds, Fort Wayne’s self-appointed media critic, who abused me on a regular schedule (i.e., constantly) for a decade, and still does. (I expect another big outburst after he reads this.) I can always take the abuse, but he regularly swings into wild inaccuracy and targeted lying, and besides, he still has his stupid little website, faxes and approximately 12,000 blogs to post on. The last comment to NN.C submitted from his IP/screen name said, “You are a piece of shit.” That’s as much of a platform I’ll give him, while I await news of his death.
It’s my bar. I’m a magnanimous bartender. But I have my limits, and that’s what they are.
If you’ll allow me a moment of gratitude: I read a lot of blogs, and a lot of comment sections. Of course I am biased, but I think this is one of the best. Really. I’m consistently amazed by how smart and funny everyone is, how often you add real value and good information to whatever we’re discussing. I’m glad I have some people here who don’t agree with me politically, but still chime in — Danny, Jeff the mild-mannered, basset, et al. I’m pleased we’re not an echo chamber of ass-kissing and back-slapping. I’m glad we can disagree in a respectful but not boring manner. I’m glad we can disagree, go home angry and still return, hopeful, the next day. But most of all, I’m astonished by the range our bar pulls in — unchurched ministers in Ohio, urban planners in Nashville, engineers in San Diego, journalists everywhere. For a blog that is, most days, about nothing in particular, I’m honored that you all come to drink here.
Finally, it’s sort of thrilling that every day we reinvent the writer/reader model, twist and reshape the feedback loop and become, in a cliché phrase I used earlier in the week in another context, something greater than the sum of our parts.
That’s why I don’t ban Caliban. You can always skip his posts. Besides, he’s part of our strange community, and I still like him.
That seems a good enough note to start the weekend on. Current temperature: 86. Wind: 17 miles per hour. Humidity: Brutal. Think I’ll go ride the bike. See you Monday.