Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Round Up of Recent Blog Posts and News Articles of Note

Over the past week of so, I’ve encountered a number of blog essays and online news articles that I’ve found interesting. I thought I’d share them with anyone who might be interested.

Reginald Shepherd’s Blog

Reginald Shepherd’s Blog is important to me for several reasons. Reginald is my partner, so I’m inclined to like it, but any personal bias aside, it’s an impressive blog dealing with poetry, poetics, and art and society. One thing making Reginald Shepherd’s Blog different from many is that he writes long, substantive essays. (I’m not knocking the short and often diaristic blog posts on many blogs – just saying this one’s different.) His blog is different from most in that he frequently posts revisions of earlier posts, treating posts as serious pieces of writing and revising to reflect his own developing thought on a topic.

Over the past week, he has posted three such substantive revisions that are well worth taking a look at:

“On Difficulty in Poetry” explores the issue of what makes some poetry (or other art) seem “difficult.” What’s useful about Shepherd’s approach is that he recognizes that there are different sources of difficulty and explores them as distinct phenomena. This essay, in its earlier form was an inspiration for my own writing. My blog essay, “Difficulty in Ethnographic Writing,” was written largely as an application of Shepherd’s ideas to ethnography.

“What is Progressive Art? A Revision” discusses the progress or development of art, utilizing in part the work of Neo-Hegelian philosopher of art Arthur C. Danto. As above, this essay in its earlier form was inspirational for me, with my blog essays “Free Jazz and the end of the history of jazz” and “The end of the history of music” written partly in response to this essay.

Finally, “Revised Thoughts on the Long Poem” offers a thoughtful reflection on the issue of form and importance, specifically here the relation between the long poem as a form and “major poetry.”

Nicolette Bethel’s Blog

I’m also quite fond of Nicolette Bethel’s Blog. Like Reginald Shepherd’s Blog, this blog consistently offers substantive and interesting commentary.

In the past week, two essays, “On Images of Savages, Part One” and “On Images of Savages, Part Two,” continue an ongoing exploration on this blog of the importance of race in the Bahamas specifically and in general. These two posts explore the important contradiction in Enlightenment thinking associated with the invention of “The Savage,” that just as Europeans and Euro-Americans began to think seriously about equality and freedom, they invented the notion of the inherently inferior savage to rationalize the continued brutal exploitation of some, most egregiously in the form of slavery in the Americas.

Culture Matters

Another blog I like is “Culture Matters,” a group blog by faculty and students at the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. One thing I like about this blog is the frequent support faculty show for their students’ ideas and work. A recent post briefly describes and links to an online article by a student there, Khatab Sabir, “A United Iraq: An Impossible Dream.” An important part of Sabir’s argument is that Iraq cannot work as an united nation because it does not work as an “imagined community.” It is not that there are not “imagined communities” at play, but rather that they (plural) are specifically constructed as disunited, standing strongly in the way of any united Iraq.

Someone to Believe In

I’d like to draw people’s attention to a new blog: “Solipsistic Effluvia.” This blog is written by a promising, young scholar whom I had the pleasure of working with while he was a student at the University of West Florida. (For now, he’s posting the blog anonymously, so I won’t name him.) The first entry, “Return to Faith,” laments the fact that in contrast to the 1960s, when there were politicians and other important public figures who not only were important but whom people could have faith in as “good people,” there seem now to be no such public figures.

David Shumway’s article “Where have all the rock stars gone?,” published online by The Chronicle of Higher Education, asks a similar question of music celebrities. Shumway points out that in the 1960s and 70s, musicians like James Brown or Bob Dylan were important public figures who were respected and taken seriously as people who mattered, even by people who weren’t necessarily fans of the particular musician. I don’t personally see that this sort of public figure has disappeared to the extent Shumway implies. Bono immediately comes to mind. Shumway does address Bono: “Bono, whose political advocacy in the courts of real-world power has expanded his reach, may have been the last rock star to capture the imagination of a broad spectrum of the public. But even this case reveals a change. Bono's advocacy does not seem to be of a piece with his role in U2, the way, say, John Lennon's antiwar activism seemed to be a natural continuation of his role in the Beatles.” I don’t really see where Bono’s different here – U2 is a band that’s been a politically engaged band since its early work, e.g. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Pride (In the Name of Love).” But it’s an interesting article nonetheless, especially for the commentary on the importance of niche marketing in today’s music industry, in sharp contrast to music marketing of previous decades.

Biting Commentary – Literally

An interesting piece of trivia – men are 12 times more likely to be bitten by another person than women, at least in Ireland where the study reported on in “Men bitten more than women and alcohol is the culprit” at News-Medical.Net was conducted. I’m not sure why I find the article fascinating, but I do.


Nicolette Bethel said...

Many thanks for the endorsement, Robert!

Robert Philen said...

No problem. I enjoy reading your blog. Robert

Jovan said...

And thanks about your kind words on Culture Matters. We do try to encourage student participations so it's nice that that's being recognised.