The Tortoise and the Hare

Holy cow! Do I have a blog? I totally forgot that!!

In all honesty, it’s been a doozy of a couple of weeks. What’s going on, you ask?

  • The American Studies Program (which, ahem, I happen to run) is beginning a search for a job candidate. Lots of file reading, discussion, drafting of questions, interviews. Fascinating stuff, but time consuming.
  • I visited the good people at LaGuardia Community College, and got the scoop on their nationally-recognized work with ePortfolios. The faculty and staff at LG should be nationally-recognized for their collegiality and willingness to give advice. Shout out!
  • I worked out a preliminary draft of my co-written article on J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, which will be included in a book of essays.
  • I was here this weekend, introducing our keynote speakers, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, authors of Manifesta and Grassroots. Like the folks at LaGuardia, Baumgardner and Richards are paragons of engaged and knowledgeable conversation—such generous intellects.
  • In between, I’ve taught some classes, ushered my students through advisement for fall 2007, attended committee meetings, department meetings, pilot program committees, answered avalanches of email…you get the picture.

So in one way, I feel as if I’ve been running and running and running now for about 2 weeks. My blog, however, is languishing. Doesn’t it look like I’ve been simply poking along?  Can one be the hare and the tortoise, simultaneously?

For some real content in this post, rather than just whining, I’ll share an anecdote that may have some interesting material applicable to media culture. Over the last couple of days, as a reward for doing some work, I’ve been experimenting with iTunes. In the past, I’ve focused mainly on exploring iTunes for single songs that I wanted to download, but since the program has gone through so many updates over the past year, I’ve been trying to see what else it can do. So I’ve downloaded a game or two, and just signed up for a podcast subscription to “This American Life” (since I don’t get Showtime and can’t see Ira Glass on television). [NOTE TO SELF: wouldn’t it be a great idea for a class to use TAL as the primary text? You could run it as an American Studies course, in which students could research the various interdisciplinary components that go into particular essays; it would also be a great writing class, which would result in audio essays.]

So, here I am, thinking: “well, I’m working toward efficiently utilizing iTunes. I have some unmentionable number of pop tunes that I load up and take to the gym with me, and I’m experimenting with the other kinds of downloadable media offered by Apple.” Hours after I pat myself on the back for my long-tail adoption of iTunes technology (and no, I haven’t even dipped my toe in the Limewire field–particularly not if anyone in the FBI is reading this), I have a conversation with my spouse, in which we discuss how we need to acquire particular kinds of music classics. Usually, these conversations revolve around Beatles and Led Zeppelin albums (two of the many bands not stocked by iTunes). This time, however, the classics in question were Wagner’s Ring Cycle pieces. And in my head, I was still picturing the need to physically go down to the music store and acquire CDs (or at least order them up on Amazon). It took me several minutes to realize that iTunes would, of course, stock opera as well as Gwen Stefani’s new single. That echo you may hear is the resounding thwack of my hand hitting my forehead.

The thing I’m puzzling over is why I was blinded to the concept of non-popular music on iTunes. It may well have something to do with the ways in which new media has, for much of its new life, been the site of contemporary culture and discourse. As time goes on, however, new media is also becoming the site of recovery and preservation of old media. If it’s significant that iTunes has an “essentials” list for music beginning with Gregorian Chant, it’s also significant that YouTube features the first films of the Lumiere brothers. I assume that there is an audience out there, then, that does not differentiate these texts with clear cut temporal distinctions; i.e., for some users, the idea that digital video is now a convenient way of accessing some of the very first celluloid films is not particularly ironic. And more interesting: is the YouTube manifestation of the Lumiere films simply preservation of old media via new media, or is the media itself changed by it’s repositioning?

Clearly I’m rusty from lack of blogging.  Let me get in a bit more practice, and perhaps I can begin to answer my own questions.

One thought on “The Tortoise and the Hare

  1. I would die to take an audio-essay class!!!!!

    Also, everyone knows the angst of scrolling down their iTunes list and finding nothing but pop-culture tunes. I think there is something alluring about the novelty of those songs.I’ve found that only intermittently do the “classics” find their way in. After a while, you become nostalgic for them too.

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