Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Blog at Two Hundred

I hate and love self-referential, reflective, meta-writing. I hate it because it usually has an audience of one (the writer). On the other hand, I'm a fan of metacognition and reflection and all of that good self-awareness and learning stuff.

So with that in mind, I want to try to accomplish two things in this Nicht Diese Tone at 200 posts post.  The first is to reflect a little about what the blog is, what it's about, and where it's going.  The second is to call forth from the now nearly two years worth of writing I've done here a small set of my very favorite pieces.

What is Nicht Diese Tone?

As I've said before, "Nicht Diese Tone" is the opening to the lyrical section of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, a work of particular importance in my own life as both a scholar and a man.  As a scholar, the 9th was the focal point of my undergraduate thesis.  As a man, the main melody of the 9th adorns my wife's wedding ring.  Now, none of that says why I love the symphony so much, why it is important to me, but rather that it is.

Why is a more complicated question, in which this blog is tied up.  Of course, the joyful celebration of mankind that makes up the core of the symphony is important, as is Beethoven's unrelenting optimism in spite of his own isolation and frustration.  But beyond that, there's the brilliant construction of the symphony, the self-referential and reflective opening of the final movement, in which each previous movement is considered and rejected in turn.  There's the repetition of the initial five minutes of the piece by the vocal part.  There's Beethoven's own words before the Schiller he borrowed for the bulk of the lyric: "Oh friends, not these tones.  Let us sing yet more joyfully."

This blog, I hope, has lived in that spirit: reflective, creative, joyful.  But also critical, inquisitive, and, above all, willing to take a different perspective.  As I depart from Honolulu and return to the bay area, I hope it will continue to be all of those things, and, while I will study in the Learning Sciences at Stanford, I hope the blog will continue to be about many things.  Perhaps my greatest weakness as a writer, as a blogger, and as a person, is that my interests are so disparate, so numerous.  Being an intellectual omnivore means that there's too much to eat, and sometimes you don't necessarily eat well (and sometimes you eat too much).  But I choose to see that as a strength, even if it makes myself or my blog harder to pin down.

My Favorite Pieces

I can't actually say that these are my favorite pieces of my own writing from the last two years.  It's tough to make that kind of determination, after all.  Certainly these aren't my most popular pieces.  My blog statistics tell me that distinction lies with my Comparing Discussion to Brainstorming post from October of last year.  No, these are a few pieces that I particularly like, that I think are accessible, and that represent the blog.  I could pick more, but I'm sticking with these five.

The Peter Quince Sonata - A reading of Wallace Stevens's Peter Quince at the Clavier
Impressions of Walla Walla - A reflection on my visit to Walla Walla, Washington for my brother's graduation.
Winning and Losing with Rafael Nadal - An attempt at actual sportswriting, responding to a Nadal loss.
Sailing to Byzantium - Published on Pitchers and Poets, but one of my favorites.  Reading the famous poem through the lens of baseball.
My Heart is in the Slaughterhouse - A half-silly, half-serious poem written after visiting potential PhD programs.

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