NaBloDoneMo

For the first year since sometime in the 2000-aughts, I posted on a blog every day in November, a month chosen some years back as the month when people were to do this very thing. 

It was nice to have a routine again. There is comfort and also some discipline in just doing something because you're scheduled to do it, and maybe in this case setting some mental expectation of oneself to stick to something for a certain span of time, and then doing that thing. Nothing I wrote was that interesting or earth-shattering or even, honestly, necessary, but it got done. 

Today I made a hazy plan to listen to (and probably share) a song by an artist I've never heard before, every day in 2018.  I was driving around listening to Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams—a duo who are opening for Emmylou Harris here next week, in a show for which there are only obstructed view seats left, so to be honest I was deciding whether or not to get off the dime and buy a ticket. I was really enjoying their album "Surrender to Love" on Spotify (which is my most essential social media channel that people really underuse as a social media channel, FYI) and it occurred to me that maybe I could force myself out of my musical ruts by taking the revolutionary step of finding and listening to new stuff. I could then share it if I liked it, and people could decide to listen to it too, and maybe like it. And that's how you build community, online or off, really. Shared experience. "Hey, check out this cool thing." Maybe even, "I'm going to this show. Would you like to?"

Although let's not get crazy here. 

This access to resources and the potential to share them and maybe even build some connection along the way are still the best things about the internet to me. When I started blogging in 2005, I set up a website and picked a name for it and was completely blown away by the fact that I could type into the void, hit publish, and other people could read it no matter where they were. We could all share and also be influenced by thoughts and facts and opinions from around the world. For a person like me, obsessed with media and words and ideas and communities since I was a tiny child, this seemed like a miracle, plus something I'd been waiting for all of my life and had no idea.  A few years later, enrolled in a graduate multimedia journalism program that was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life that has kept me face first in digital ever since, I wrote a research paper on 60s media theorist Marshall McLuhan, a trippy dude who basically envisioned the internet. (It's potentially the geekiest thing I've ever produced, which is likely unnecessary to point out.) His notion that "the medium is the message" still informs much of what I do online and how I respond to the web, although I can and did poke holes in it from various directions. At baseline, though, I still believe that the internet shapes the messages it sends and facilitates, by its very nature. It's not like talking (although you can talk through the internet, such, which is indeed like talking). It forms friendships that are as real as any, but are shot through with its lingo and tempo and content. 

The internet has shaped me fundamentally, or maybe reshaped me, considering how old I was when I got here and how much of my personal die was cast by then. The past two years of political nightmare and fake news and bad news (so much really bad news) and threats of further corporatization of internet access and, as always, comments sections, have sucked almost all of the air out of the room, and it's easy to focus on that to the exclusion of much else. It's been a weird, stressful time. But there is a force for good here, too. Communities can form and activists can find each other and victims of oppression can gather virtually and get support from people they may not ever have met if the internet hadn't flattened the planet. I often reference the possibility and the frequent reality of people "using the internet's powers for good" and I believe in that capacity still. 

And I can't ignore the fact that much of what I have going on in my life—the work I do, many of the terrific friends I have, the way I receive and transmit information, much of what I research and learn about—exists because of the night I sent yet one more tiny blog out onto the web. It's been fun to be back here for awhile. 

What Song Changed Your Life?

Today I had had enough of the news, so I asked my Facebook people what song changed their lives.

The answers were fantastic. As much of a garbage can as social media comments can be, when they come from a group of pretty cool people like the Facebook friend community I have and have tried to cultivate, it can feel like the same gathering of smart, funny, alert people that you'd have if you got a bunch of your friends together in real life. 

Also people really like to talk about music. It hits every single nerve, both good and bad, and the memories are always so interesting. 

This is my list, specifically the high school and college edition: 

  • Bette Midler, The Rose, which I sang to try out for a high school musical. Our school was incredibly small, so I was cast. It was the first thing I did that I was terrified to do and really my first confident act as a teenager that had nothing to do with my grades. I encourage arts over AP for many kids for a reason.
  • Duran Duran, New Religion. Learn how to pick out a great bass line and I’ll show you your life.
  • Poison, Nothin But a Good Time. Hair metal taught me how to have fun and how to do my eyeliner.
  • Metallica, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Taught me to grow my hair and use it as a prop...is probably why I have chronic back and neck pain now. Worth it.
  • Tracy Chapman, all of Tracy Chapman. Freshman year of college. A record that’ll show you a combo of knowing and claiming yourself but also caring about the world beyond you. She was the first activist who showed me what that means.
  • Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit and TOTD Hunger Strike. Breaks my heart now, blew it up then. Changed everything and everyone around me, it felt like...I just rolled with it.

I don't just appreciate these songs musically. They shifted my perceptions in some fundamental ways. They made me feel okay about parts of myself that I didn't before. They made me feel a part of a community. They helped me have fun.

I've had more life-changing songs beyond these formative years. Rocket Man by Elton John. Just One by Blind Pilot. A few Indigo Girls songs. And I really hope it never stops.