Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let me introduce myself

My name is Robin Wallace. I am a 55-year-old college professor, and I have spent far too much time on Facebook over the last few years avoiding other tasks. As of this writing, I have 504 "friends" there, which is 3 fewer than I had a week ago. They include people I know from every previous stage of my life, as far back as kindergarten. They also include a large number of former students, and a few present ones who have specifically invited me, since I make it a policy not to send a friend invitation to anyone who is or might become a student. They also include people I have never met, but have encountered on blogs dealing with topics of mutual interest In fact, I conduct private Facebook message discussions daily with a growing number of people whom I have come to consider my spiritual friends: the people I "know with." They have become invaluable to me.

What we have in common is that we are oddballs in today's political and cultural environment; we are liberal Christians. That is so much of an oddity, in fact, that I currently describe my religion on my Facebook status page as "not that kind of Christian." Most people probably understand what I mean. I take my religious faith very seriously, since it probably saved my life (more on that another time). However, not having been brought up in a religious culture (I am half lapsed Catholic, half Ethical Culture Jew), I don't experience religion as a cultural thing. Since the dominant religious culture in America right now is conservative, I find myself on the opposite side of most political issues from the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family. That's why it's good to have a group of like-minded people to remind me that I'm not alone.

What's happened over the past year is that these "stealth" discussions have occasionally erupted visibly onto my Facebook wall. I have written passionate comments there on health care, on the bullying epidemic (a particular concern of mine), on climate change and, most recently, on my extreme ideological differences with the current Republican majority in Congress. Most of these notes have been greeted with favorable comments by my friends who agree with me and ignored by those who don't.

Unfortunately, though, there have been a few times when one of my "friends" has decided to take violent exception to something I've said. This happened three times in the past week: hence the attrition in my friends list that I described above. This has made me realize that social media may not be the best place to share unpopular opinions publicly. So I have set up this blog instead, where I can post all my ideas that aren't ready for Facebook. I plan to link my posts, so those who want to read them will know they're here and available. However, I will ask everybody to please comment here (yes, I know I just split an infinitive) instead of there. That doesn't mean that I'm granting permission to violate my Facebook "rules," which still require that all posters be civil and respectful. You may express any opinion you want here, but don't diss me or my friends or you're toast. Is that clear?

OK, watch this space for occasional future updates. My schedule, my rules.

25 comments:

  1. OMG! I'm the first to post on this virgin blog!

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  2. Have you read The Tin Drum? There's a scene at the beginning where somebody has to buy some stationery from a young female clerk. He insists on referring to it as "virgin" notepaper, and elicits very satisfying blushes.

    I actually read that in German, where the word is "jungfraeulich." It literally means "young womanly," so it's not a term you would normally use for paper.

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  3. I have a copy of Die Blechtrommel, but its sheer mass and the knowledge that I left most of my German in college have prevented me from taking a shot at it.

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  4. I hope you'll deal with music and musicology occasionally here, too, Robin--there's a lacuna of that sort of blog.

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  5. Welcome to the blogging world, Dr. Wallace. I look forward to reading your posts (as I have on facebook).

    I want to thank you again for your posts. They are always thought-provoking. While they are very passionate, they have always been polite, in my opinion.

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  6. @Robin,

    Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan.

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  7. I'll do that, Jonathan. In fact, let's start now. Name two symphonies by major composers that conclude with a choral setting of the line quoted by Joel above. People who do not hold PhD's in musicology please answer first.

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  8. The second one is Mahler's Eighth.

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  9. That's one point for Don and one point for Aaron. Here's the tie-breaker: Who is speaking?

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  10. I would have guessed Faust, but I gather it is sung by a chorus. Who speaks in a multitude of voices?

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  11. It's called the mystic chorus, or chorus mysticus. There are a number of different choruses in that final scene, which makes the whole thing a bit surreal. In Boito's opera Mefistofele, the mystic chorus actually does speak some of the lines that Goethe gave to God.

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  12. You vetoed 'God' in this case. I'm not surprise. God wouldn't have expressed such a sentiment. Das Ewig-Weibliche wouldn't have zeiht Him hinan, methinks.

    The line I quoted would have tripped most readily off the tongue of Mephistopheles, IMO. But I would have scored the lines for a solo basso profundo in that case.

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  13. I'm not *surprised.*

    I am surprised that never can seem to spot spelling errors until they are posted (or printed).

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  14. . . . that *I* never . . .

    Oy.

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  15. Me too. I think our computers have a mind of their own. I spell things perfectly correctly, hit "post," and find greevus speling airors guhlor that just weren't their when I tiped my post .t

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  16. I couldn't find my copy of Faust Part II. It has been a very long time since I read it...

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  17. the birds are a nice touch, rw.

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  18. OK, Robin. Another post. Another theme. This is the internet. Short attention span medium. Get with the program.

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  19. Over the weekend, I promise. No time to do anything but teach tomorrow.

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  20. You're allowed to break the split infinitive rule because it's not a rule anymore. I hope you enjoy your liberation!

    Meg the editor

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  21. Thanks for confirming that, Meg. It's still a point of contention with some. I've had to struggle with it myself, since my superego still doesn't like it when I split an infinitive. I recently received a review of some chapters of the textbook I'm writing that claimed they were full of split infinitives. I proofread them carefully, and not a single split infinitive could I find. Apparently others continue to hallucinate them even when they're not there.

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