Jonathan writes that we both feel “powdered” (I’m assuming in the Colorado-centric sense of crashing into a big pile of snow). Never has a truer thing been blogged. Sorry to resort to the Teachout Method once again, but this post will consist largely of bitching about not having time to post.
I think it’s the usual end-of-year frenzy, though, because it’s not just Dial M that’s been phoning it in. Phil at 2’23” asks “is it just me, or has the world of musicology blogs lately been a bit…well, humdrum? I certainly haven’t been helping matters myself, but what’s going on? Are we all bored with blogging all of a sudden? Is all of the energy of technically-adept musicologists going into maintaining the job wiki?”
No, it’s not just you. After making certain biggity claims for the blogosphere as a new model of scholarly enterprise, I’ve been more and more aware of the limitations of academic blogging. It really does suck that the best stuff you write gets ignored and the stupid novelty isn’t-this-weird stuff is all anyone seems to care about. I’ve been cynically keeping Dial M on life support by posting tons of Youtube things, and it’s worked. Our numbers are basically as good as they ever are. So does this mean that I never have to take any trouble with anything I write — just trawl through the internet looking for weird and funny stuff and we’ll get hits? Probably. This doesn’t say anything good about academic blogging, though. I’ve written that I hold a weak technological-determinist view of blogging — you can resolve to write anything you want, but the exigencies of the medium tend to knock the edges off your resolve. And this is a case in point. Youtube, lolcats, and whatnot are easy fixes — the spackle of blogging. If you don’t have time to write something real, you can find something cool or funny in no time and fill a hole in your writing schedule.
And, further, I just haven’t been feeling it. I was just at the Experience Music Project pop conference this weekend, and saw some amazing things. Joshua Clover’s paper “Terrorflu, or Where in the World is M.I.A.?” was perhaps the best presentation at an academic conference I’ve ever seen. The panel on the Iraq war was a revelation. Finally, after a number of false starts, I think we’re seeing the emergence of a strong music-scholarly discourse on the post-9/11 cultural scene. (That is, a discourse minus the bullshit affectation and condescension usual to academic work on current political issues, or at least relatively free of it.) Although all the papers on that panel were good, I’d have to single out J. Martin Daughtry’s paper as something that’s finally synched into the undercurrent of dread that’s been missing from scholarly discourse on the Bush years. For a conference about pop and politics, there was surprisingly little grandstanding — just a lot of dread, a lot of ambivalence, and a lot of doubt. But that’s all I’m really going to say about it, because, as I said, I’m not feeling it. I don’t want to write about it; it was enough to be there.
It’s the time of year. I’m ready for the semester to be over, and so is everyone else. One of the melancholy jobs I have to perform every now and then is to weed out the “music academics” blogroll. Peter at Loose Poodle has stopped posting, which makes me sad, though I understand why he’s stopping. Blogs, if you do them right (and Peter’s was one of the best) take a lot of headspace, which might be better devoted to writing other things — things like a dissertation, for example. Posting on People Listen To It has slowed to a crawl; The Black Torrent Guard is apparently inactive; Byronotes hasn’t updated since October; etc. I’m not criticizing anyone here, because blogging can be a brain-sucking monster and it’s not as if we don’t all have other things we need to do. The thing is, I’ve been able to do this blog because it’s helped loosen me up. I figure that, even with the time it takes me to write this stuff, I still come out ahead with the other writing I have to do, because blog writing keeps the pot on the boil. It’s like playing scales or something — it keeps you in shape even when you don’t have a lot of time to practice. But when you have so many things going on it’s a strain and a pain.
The blogosphere is littered with “goodbye cruel world” posts — people who have kept a blog going for years and then just up and quit. Often they write about how they’re sick of wasting their time, how they now realize that blogging doesn’t do anything useful, etc., but I don’t feel that way. I still think blogging’s great. But I can see how you can suddenly find yourself waking up and saying, y’know, I don’t feel like doing this anymore. But I haven’t hit that point. Yet. I think.