Comment Spam

After eight years of writing this blog, I have finally come to the conclusion that I need to require people to sign in before they can make comments. While I generally prefer to allow people to comment freely and anonymously, the tidal wave of comment spam has finally overwhelmed all other preventative measures. My apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced or discouraged from commenting.

One Way or Another

I started playing with websites from the moment my (now defunct) dial up provider offered me 5 megabytes of web space, and I dived into blogging at about the time that Dave Winer first decided Frontier 5 could be more than an alternative script for Apple Computers and positioned it as a blog publishing tool. (I moved to Movable Type in 2003 and have never looked back). I have consistently, if intermittently, written a blog (or two) ever since, but the thing that nearly killed off my blogging habit was Facebook.

Facebook has a number of inherent advantages over a blog. First of all, it is designed primarily as a means to keep in touch with people one already knows and likes, so it have an important function apart from the kind of exchange of information for which a blog exists. Secondly, people actually read and comment upon and sometimes care about what you write on Facebook, and because they are already your friends, they are generally supportive. The blogosphere, by contrast, unless one is on the so-called "A-list" or even on the "D-list", can be kind of a cold and lonely place, one in which one is essentially shouting in the vacuum with no one to hear. This is not all a bad thing, and can actually be quite therapeutic, but it is a different experience from Facebook.

Another thing that Facebook does well is it pulls people together, at least superficially, into groups of common interest. One of the most encouraging Facebook groups I have joined is entitled "On est Juifs et on est Musulmans et on s'aime. (OJMA)." In one sense, such a group may reflect no more than a naive one-worldism that overlooks the serious rifts that exist among adherents of the three Abrahamic religions. I prefer, however, to think of the group as an expression of hope that hatred can be overcome, particular in a region -- the so-called Holy Land -- that is rife with hatred even as it purports to be a center of peace and love. This group, to which I was referred by Tunisian blogger Massir Destin, appears to be comprised largely of francophone North Africans, who have a remarkable tradition of religious tolerance stretching back even before the establishment of the legendary kingdoms of El Andalus in what is now southern Spain. This not to say that the region is without bigotry, but it has a remarkable historical record of largely not eviscerating people over religious differences. So-called Christian Europe, with its shameful record of persecution, pogroms, and ultimately the Holocaust, should take note. Suffice it to say that with number of close Muslim friends and a Jewish family, this cause comes close to home.

Finally, however, I come full circle. Because for all the virtues that have led to its explosive growth, there are a number of areas where Facebook falls short of the blogosphere. First, Facebook may be liberal, but it is not free. In the benevolent dictatorship of Facebook, the company can always shut you down. Breastfeeding mothers found that out in a hurry. True, the various companies that host blogs are also able to impose some restrictions, but one can always move, and, even, in a pinch host one's blog onself, so long as one has a computer and a high speed connection. Facebook, in contrast, has far more control over both content and its distribution than anyone has over a blog. Second, Facebook is geared toward people one knows already, functioning more sometimes as an echo chamber than a true exchange of information. Third, Facebook takes only limited advantage of the possibilities for linking information offered by the full web and the blogosphere. Finally, Facebook has an audience limited to one's "friends"; the audience in the blogosphere is potentially limited only by the number of users on the web and the efficiency of Google.

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Back from the Dead?

As I look to rejoin the Blogoma, I have taken a few minor steps to streamline the old site. First, the old (and out of date) blogroll is gone. Instead, I am experimenting with developing a [MAP] of the Moroccan web to show connections among blogs and other web sites related to Morocco. I have only just started to chart my little map, so that I hope that the may people I have omitted will kindly call this to my attention with no rancor at the oversight, and I will happily include them. Long distance love affairs are fraught with difficulties at best, but I am hoping to rekindle this one.

Go figure . . .

Since I found out that a great many of the people who find my the a la menthe site are looking for the song of the same name, I have included links to the song and the lyrics in the upper right corner of the site. So how come nobody is clicking on them?

Site issue

I am having some difficulty with the rss feeds on this site again. Please let me know if you have had problems.

Apology In Response to Eatbees

eatbees blog � Foreign Aristocrat

"What am I doing writing about Morocco anyway?"

Eatbees asked himself this pointed question in 2004 and continues t ask it today. It is a question I ask myself regularly.

What am I doing writing about Morocco anyway? A country where I lived once, but to which I have not returned for many years. The sheer presumptuousness is breathtaking.

"None but a blockhead would write except for money," said Samuel Johnson. Yet here I write, day after day, for no compensation except my own amusement. (Or vanity? as Eatbees asks.)

A superficial response is the typical blogger's retort: "It's my blog, and I can write what I d**n well please. If you do not like it, read something else." Ultimately, not a very satisfying answer.

More to the point, I think, is that a blog is a way to discipline myself to learn more about something that I am interested in, and hopefully to share a little bit of what I learn. I really do not pretend to be an authority, but I also think that I have learned something more with each entry I post, and with each response I get. I am thankful for the people I have met or spoken with through my blog who are more knowledgeable than I. (You know who you are!)

Eatbees asks in what coin we pay for our ringside seat at the Moroccan spectacle. I think the most genuine coin is interest, love, and respect. I hope that my blog, however inadequately, reflects those values. However privileged my position as an American has been vis a vis Morocco, I have been too often humbled to take it for granted.

Coffee! Cafe! Qahwa!

I don't drink much alcohol anymore. Coffee, though, is another matter. I start the weekday morning with a sizable cup (20 oz.) of drip coffee, sometimes with a little half and half, from the City Place Cafe (which is Moroccan owned and operated). At lunch, I usually go to Border's and sit down with a 12 oz. cup of black coffee and a book until my lunch hour is over. In the afternoon, I go over to the Caribou and pick up a small skim latte.

On the weekend, I usually just brew up a big pot of drip coffee, but if I am feeling a little energetic, I will make French press, a latte, a cappuccino, an espresso, or even Turkish coffee (yum!). That said, I do not really pretend to be a coffee connoisseur. However, for those who aspire to connoisseurship, the Washington Post today has a guide to "cupping" beans for taste, aroma, and freshness and a guide to the best brands in the Washington area.

Even though the United States has developed quite a coffee culture in the past twenty years, thanks in significant part to the sometimes reviled Starbucks, we still do not have the rich tradition of much of the rest of the world. For a hint of how cafe culture has matured in Morocco, see Laila Lalami's Café, Anyone?

Five Things You Did Not Know About Me

I am flattered to have been tagged by Foulla, who is one of the more insightful, albeit occasional, bloggers on Morocco. It is the first time I have been tagged, and I am supposed to come up with five things you do not know about me.

  1. I have always empathized with the legendarily short-sighted James Thurber, who crafted a number of memorable short stories based on the fact that without his glasses, he was blind as a bat. That has been my lot since about sixth grade. It is the reason that my memories of Disney World are mostly a haze, since my cousin accidentally knocked my glasses off in the haunted house, so that the amusement park was largely an aural experience thereafter. It was also a limitation in a number of athletic endeavors, not that my performance was not already rather limited. For example, ever take a header in soccer while wearing a pair of glasses? Fortunately, I was able to join the wrestling team in high school, where I did not need to see more than two feet in front of me.
  2. The thing I would most like try again that I have not done in years is riding a horse. I am inhibited by two things: (1) over the years I have developed terrible allergies to dust, mold, hay, and pollen, and (2) I really am not too sure that I would be much good at it anymore.
  3. I like classical music and jazz. In the car, however, I often like to listen to country. My toddlers like it, too.
  4. I agree with my late literature professor Frank Kinahan that the greatest poet, the greatest novelist, and the greatest playwright of the 20th century in English were all Irish. Walter Scott and Robert Burns aside, the Scots do not seem to have as much to show for themselves as far as contributions to English literature, despite their many other contributions to the world. (In some ways, I am prouder of being 1/16 Scot than 15/16 English.)
  5. My Jewish wife and in-laws, my Christian family, and my Muslim friends do not let me take anything about religion and politics for granted.

Happy New Year/Mabrouk El Eid

To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson (or was it Garry Trudeau?), it's been a real kidney stone of a year. Here's looking forward to 2007!

Mabrouk El Eid to all my Moroccan friends!

Eatbees has an excellent post on the Eid.

Hitting the Road

I'm on my way to Connecticut for Thanksgiving, so there will not be much action here for the next few days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Saida!

More on comments

If you try to comment and find that the comments are STILL not working, please send me an email at blogger [at] williamsonday [dot] com. Thanks!

Comments Are Back (I Think)!

I finally clued in to the fact that a rogue plugin was effectively disabling my comments. I believe that I have fixed the problem, and I hope to hear from you.

New D.C. Restaurant

I had a very pleasant conversation this evening with Ashraf Bennani, the owner of new Moroccan-style kabob joint ("Bennani's") at the Farragut North Metro food court in Washington, D.C. It was a little late to sample the food, but I will be certain to go back.

Where our thoughts are needed . . .

Randa Jarrar of MoorishGirl is fighting the government's efforts to deport her brother. She is asking that our thoughts be with her and her brother this Tuesday, March 22, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time as the court decides his fate.

Second Wind

Keeping up even one weblog is a lot of work, and I have not had much success keeping up a second. This is particularly true when the second weblog is about a far away country about which I have a general, not a specialized, knowledge. Nevertheless, since I regard the a la menthe as something of an extended love letter to the country where I lived once and from whom I have been too long away, I am willing to give it another go.

One reason for the neglect of this blog was that I found that I wanted to include my occasional observations about Morocco in my main blog, A Web Undone 2. Now with advances in blogging technology (the MultiBlog plugin) I can include content in both blogs at once! Bismillah!