Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Blog?

I am discovering that blogging is kind of fun. It has been said that most bloggers are just self-promoting egomaniacs taking advantage of yet another medium in which to indulge their narcissistic impulses. But I don’t see how this could apply to a guy of such extraordinary modesty and humility as myself. There must be another explanation for enjoying blogging. Maybe it has to do with voice.

Voice is an academic word that refers to the ability of someone to be heard. A famous article by Professor Gayatri Spivak called “Can the Subaltern Speak?” was influential in promoting the idea of “voice” as a source of power. I can’t recommend that article as an easy read though, since it isn’t one. It suffers from an all-too-common academic disease, obfuscitis, which is recognizable from such symptoms as dizziness, feverishness and an enlarged vocabulary.

Anyway, voice is the other side of audience, and audience is something that pretty much all of us want to some degree or another. There are people with an inherent capacity to be heard, people like the late Michael Jackson. In fiction people with loud voices include bold, domineering characters like Shakespeare’s King Lear famous for shouting in the face of a raging storm:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!...
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!

But while Lear, brimming with self confidence, bellows out a challenge to nature to smite the world, there are others of us who, when faced with a Katrina-like hurricane, would feel more comfortable staying indoors and sending Mother Nature an email encouraging her to maybe calm down just a little. A blog offers the perfect voice for us.

I got the idea to blog from my former student Xiaolin Lu, Esquire, and from my friend Rachel whose Japan blog I followed with interest. Rachel also showed me how to set up a blog (I am, after all, going on 63), so if you don’t like something I write, you should blame her.

I wonder if this medium might be a good place for trying out jokes before I give my students the opportunity to enjoy them in class. Of course my wife, Darla, assures me that many of my jokes are not at all funny. But I’m not sure she’s the best judge of this. After all, people do sometimes laugh at my jokes. Admittedly these people are mainly students who have been told that laughing at my attempts at humor is a good way to earn extra credit. But I am certainly not so cynical as to believe this is their only motivation. Conan O’Brien hates cynicism and I am convinced of his wisdom on this point.