There’s a question I’ve been pondering all week, so allow me to pose it to you—and to myself: What personal functions does blogging perform for you? In other words: Why do you blog?
To answer this for myself, I need to reach back briefly into my autobiography. Not long after I graduated from engineering school, I entered a PhD program. I was in my early 20s, but to be completely honest, I hadn’t yet been ‘turned on’ by my education. I was going through the motions, not disliking school but not loving it either. And the first couple of years of grad school didn’t ‘light my fire’.
The event that changed my life was my first teaching assignment, a senior-level course on information systems. Suddenly I discovered a fortuitous intersection of my desire and my aptitude. Also, it gave me a way to tie two important things together—scholarship and pedagogy—thus firing up, for the first time, my scholarly interests. I had found the center around which I could see my life’s work revolving: teaching and learning.
I relate this story because I find blogging deeply satisfying for the same reason. More than anything else, the film-blogosphere, to me, is a learning community, a giant, dynamically changing group of film-lovers teaching and learning from each other, 24/7.
Another reason why I value the blogosphere is the way it affects the relationship between specialism and generalism. The capitalistic economy puts in place strong incentives for all individuals to develop and sustain specializations. Division of labor is built into the cost-minimization objectives of our economic model. In the pre-blog past, we had a relatively small number of specialist writers and a large number of readers. The blogosphere overturns this, permitting large numbers of passionate generalists to enter the cinema discourse in a serious and engaged fashion. Film-thought need not be left solely to specialists. Cultural works like films ‘belong’ to the community at large and blogs allow that community, via a cost-unconstrained mechanism, to generate and disseminate discussion about cinema. There aren’t that many pockets in our economy where the possibilities for pluralistic expression and communication are relatively unaffected by monetary considerations, but the blogosphere is one of them. I find great promise in this flowering of generalism and its empowerment of non-professionals. My hope is that more professionals will find time (and reasons) to blog, thus further enriching this growing mutual-pedagogical project.
Your thoughts on this large subject of blogging? I'd love to hear them.
Some of the juiciest chord progressions in pop music were written by Stevie Wonder in the 1970s. Here’s one, on “I Can’t Help It,” [mp3] that he composed for Michael Jackson’s wonderful record, Off The Wall (1979).
Stevie has a way of highlighting the complexity of his chords and their changes by writing little synth bass figures featuring some of the interesting, unusual notes in the chord, thus pulling the strangeness of the chord into the foreground. You can hear that right off the bat in the opening seconds of this song. The rhythm track arrangement is by Stevie and Greg Phillinganes, who plays all the electric piano and synth parts. (He’s also memorable on Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, among dozens of other session dates.)
There are hundreds of ‘perfect’ pop songs, and this, to me, is one of them. Every bar of it is branded on my memory, but there’s one fleeting moment that’s my favorite: when Michael Jackson abandons his high tenor for a second and plunges into the low register (very unusual for him) as he growls “Yeah…,” twice, at 2:00 and 3:07. Goosebumps…
pic: From the nine-minute dream sequence in Raj Kapoor's Awara (1951), one of the most admired scenes in all of Indian popular cinema.