On Why I Bother

March 22, 2007

The thing about writing a blog five days a week is that one feels less inclined to keep a journal. That's certainly been the case for me over the past three months since I started sharing my thoughts about the cultural landscape online.

The journal used to be a place where I'd mix up cultural observations with ramblings of a more personal nature. What's happened since I started writing my blog, is that I've separated out the two strands. These days, there seems little reason to open the little, black Moleskine notebook I keep by my bed because I'd mostly only be duplicating what I write here.

For years, I resisted the idea of blogging. I didn't see the point of putting a journal online. If it's in a journal, I thought, why share it with other people? Who on earth is anyone interested in hearing about my road trip through the Ozarks, the dream I had about your grade school principal, and the number of calories I ingested at a birthday tea? At some point early in 2006, I realized that my journals had different kinds of content in them. On occasion, I even found myself wishing I had a more public forum for certain ideas -- those of a cultural nature in particular.

Sometimes it's hard to find a regular publishing outlet for these cultural thoughts, which is one thing that makes blogging so great. The other terrific reason for keeping a blog is having a forum for generating discussion, which, after all, is what writing about culture is for.

The incident that first got me thinking that I'd like to start a cultural blog occurred last summer as I sat watching Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-themed show "Love" in Las Vegas. It was press night and I was reviewing the production for the Financial Times. One of the most interesting observations I had about the event was to do with the visual design. The production premiered at a time when The Beatles' estate was rowing with Apple Inc about the use of the apple trademark. It seemed to me that the set design's huge plasma screens with gyrating human forms on them were an underhand form of criticism against Apple. The Beatles' estate accused Steve Jobs of stealing the band's trademark; now, here was the band covertly stealing Apple's famous advertising campaign.

I tried to include this notion in my review, but the idea got cut and the published piece didn't include any mention of it. I wrote about it in my journal but wished I had some place to share the thought with others. Had I been writing a blog back then, it would have been the perfect forum for the idea.

The other thing that inspired me to take up cultural blogging was a seminar in New York led by the grand poobah of arts blogging, Terry Teachout. Terry was invited to talk about blogging at the NEA/Columbia Journalism School Classical Music and Opera Institute of which I was a part last October. The discussion was extremely illuminating. It was Terry who convinced me that I finally needed to start writing a blog. The main idea I took away from the workshop was this: Arts coverage is disappearing from "old" media and moving increasingly online. To take part in the cultural debate, you need to have a strong online presence.

Terry was right. The most interesting cultural journalism is happening online these days, on blogs and in the pages of web 'zines. Three months in, I'm glad to have entered this world. The future's wide open.



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