by Benjamin J. Kirby
My dear young friend, whose shining wit
Sets the whole room ablaze,
Don't think yourself a "happy dog,"
For all your merry ways;
But learn to wear a sober phiz,
Be stupid if you can:
It's such a very serious thing
To be a funny man!
The world was easier when I was younger. Or it seemed easier. Maybe I was just naive.
There was never any in between with me. I could dislike something -- or someone -- absolutely, with a purity I took for granted. I could love something or someone in the same way. It's been a long, hard lesson, but here's the punchline: the world doesn't work that way. The things we despise aren't always exclusively wicked, and the people we love can do things we don't like.
I am starting to understand, finally, what it means to get older. It means nothing is black and white. There are no absolutes, and there are such things as mixed emotions. Children teach this valuable lesson as well. I may be furious with Emeline for something, yell at her to go to time-out, but every time I see her, my heart overflows with love.
And so it is with genuinely mixed emotions that I write the blog post that has needed writing for some time.
I am sending The Spencerian on an extended hiatus. I am not sure when it will be back, if at all.
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Before I get into why, I want to thank you -- you, and a few other people, specifically.
Without your readership this would have not been any fun at all. Over the last eight years I heard from a number of readers, and so many of you had so many nice things to say. Getting a compliment, well, it was better than money, and it truly meant everything to me.
Those emails, or re-tweets, or Facebook shares -- or whatever -- were always my second-favorite part of blogging (I'll get to my favorite part in a minute).
I managed to get more official recognition over these last eight years as well. A sincere thank you to Progress Florida, an organization doing great things, who has seen fit to bestow many, many weekly Best of the Blogs designations on my efforts.
I was listed on the Washington Post's The Fix blog as one of the nine best in Florida. Being recognized not just by this major national news organization, but by what amounted to my adopted home-town paper was one of the best moments of this blog, and I'll never forget it. By the way, they just updated their list of best state blogs, and The Spencerian didn't make the cut. I'm not particularly pleased with their Florida list, but I don't want you to think this is about being bitter. I said when nominations opened that I wouldn't be nominating myself, and I didn't. I nominated other, better blogs, and I'm sorry to see they didn't make it. They should have.
It was a big deal when Newstex syndicated this blog as well. Make no mistake: in the year-and-a-half-plus it has been syndicated, I've made something like fifteen bucks off of it. There was a bit of activity around election time last year, and that was it. Being able to say I was syndicated was a lot more valuable than the syndication itself.
I've had a couple of guest posts over the years. Anyone who cared to write words for this blog is pretty incredible, in my book. I am grateful to those folks -- like Kevin King, who wrote a post here on Mitt Romney and foreign policy, cross-posted in many other places, that went viral.
I was lucky enough to have Matt Spence contribute, and participate in our election year experiment, Into the Echo Chamber. Matt is as talented a writer, policy thinker and political mind as you're likely to find, and having him contribute was something special. I thank him for his time and his efforts, and more important, his friendship and loyalty.
Laura Jane Cohen is a close friend, and she and her family are so dear to me and my family. But Laura Jane is more than just a fantastic writer, a wonderful mother, a treasure of genuine wit and wisdom, and a great cheerleader to me and my efforts here. She has a top-shelf political mind. She is sharp, and she knows how things work, and she gets politics.
More important -- more important by a lot -- is the fact that she is my friend. I am so glad that she could write for this blog.
There are all of those wonderful people, and there are more.
But what has endured through the years is your readership. Thank you.
# # # #
Yes, I am doing this to spend more time with my family.
Now, please excuse me while I exile myself to a Tibetan monastery, never to show my face in the Western world ever again.
I hate that phrase, I truly do, but... mixed emotions, right? I hate the phrase, but that doesn't mean that it cannot, in some capacity, be true.
My problem with that particular wording is that it seems to put the burden, the onus on my family, as though they have some sort of fault to bear. They do not.
I do. I'm not quiting this to spend more time with my family. I'm setting this blog aside to try and be a better father and husband. I'm not quitting because my family needs tending -- I'm quitting beause I want us all to tend together the business of being a family.
I would be remiss not to thank my mother, too. I sort of co-opted the name The Spencerian from something she gave me some time ago. I talked about it in the very first post I did back in January of 2005.
The truth is, I took the name because I liked it, I thought it was different, and I liked the personal connection. I never asked my mother if that was cool, I just did it, which probably wasn't cool -- so thanks, Mom.
My mother did more than lend her history to the name of this thing, which I am confident has been a family embarrassment on more than one occasion. She was the closest thing I ever had to an editor... that is to say, a much needed editor.
It pains me more than you know to go back into the archives and find an old story with some sort of glaring error. For all the bush-league errors caught and fixed -- in other words, for helping me look just a little less like an ass than I already did, thank you, Mom. For that, and more.
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I was listening to NPR the other morning, driving up 66th Street. The subject was something like transitional power in Afghanistan, followed by the impact of sequester, followed by more political news.
After about a mile and a half, I slammed my palm onto the steering wheel and screamed as loud as I could, "Fuck!" Because for as important as all of those stories really are, I could not bring myself to care. Even a little bit.
And that's awful, because there's been fighting and death in Afghanistan for a few generations now. What made it more frustrating was the fact that my email in-boxes were clogged with political solicitations from national organizations, none of which I would read or respond to. None of which I cared about, either.
What made my reaction inexcusable is the fact that I now have a son -- and a daughter -- and even the hint of the idea that they may someday be called upon to go to some far-off place like Afghanistan...
I can't do it. I cannot think of it. I will not.
And that deliberate shutting down, the shunning, really, of a whole entire piece of global and national security policy just won't do. My thought process doesn't do well with locked rooms, if you will.
There are pieces applicable locally, too. I won't bore you with the details, but increasingly it is difficult to write about local politics.
What's left? John Boehner and Barack Obama can't agree while Harry Reid dithers? I liked it better the first time when it was Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and Tom Daschle. Sort of.
My favorite part, by the way, is the politics.
Or at least it used to be.
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I've alluded to this before, and many of you already know: writing about politics is not all that I do, or have done. I've got a blog of fiction and anecdotes that I haven't updated for some time, which is a shame, because I increasingly find that writing fiction is the stuff I really enjoy writing.
That writing takes a back seat when I have to do a blog post here. I am a believer in equal time, and I am a believer that trying different things is what keeps you going. I'd like to dedicate what little free time I do have to that kind of writing.
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That being said, I'd like to quote Jack Colton, circa 1984: "Now I ain't cheap, but I can be had."
You got a blog? Maybe it's political?
You like what you see here?
Make me an offer. Who knows, maybe we can work something out.
I cannot guarantee my mother's availability for editing services.
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And I like to think I'll be back in blog form at some point. It'll probably be different -- probably won't be focused on politics, or at least not solely focused on politics.
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I don't know why Forrest chose that particular quote from Holmes to use with his class picture. The whole poem -- linked at the top -- is really pretty, well, funny. The poem is about being misunderstood, funny, but not always in the way people think, and a recognition that humor is incredibly hard.
I haven't been funny enough on this blog. I wish I could have done so many posts with a lighter heart.
I do think in a lot of ways, it was misunderstood, too -- but that's not your fault. It's mine. I took a lot of different roads and paths with this blog, lots of dead-ends. And this blog really came of age in a time when lists of LOL cats, GIFs, and 140-character tweets now dominate the conversation. Lord, who wants to read too many words?
For whatever the drawbacks, I bear sole responsibility, and I am sorry. Even when I wasn't funny enough or cutting edge enough, I hope I was right enough of the time. And even more important, I hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing.
Thank you for your kind attention.