Overview of 2006: The Gloves Come Off

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the last few posts here have been about taste, a move which began with my recognition (way back in December) that the year was coming rapidly to a close, sleigh bells and champagne sales were on the rise, and it could only be a matter of time before the situation exploded into a series of resounding Best-Of-Year lists from all over the Internet and the print media.

Well, it’s now January, and (as you might have guessed from the last post) the fire kicked up over at The Valve continues to smolder in ways both interesting (Bill Benzon and I continue our debate) and ludicrous — a irascible chap by the name of Steven Augustine has published a list of the ten reasons why he hates what I write, which concludes on a magnificent note with him accusing “Kugelmass” of being a pseudonym.

I’ll continue to speak up over there, but here at The Kugelmass Episodes we’re transitioning into a series of posts that look back on 2006 and ask the question: Why? WHY? It was a bad year for music. It was a bad year for movies. It was a bad year for politics until November, and we’re still in a heap of trouble (obviously). I am writing this post having just stripped the duvet off my bed, replacing it with a thin woolen throw that will not suffocate me at night. This is a yearly ritual, performed when Irvine starts to heat up for spring, and then reversed towards the end of autumn. I have performed it today and we are not halfway through January. The situation is going from worrisome to blatant, so don’t be surprised if I start reading the Left Behind series and doing a “Best of 2007” sometime around July.

Blogging was a mixed bag. I became a serious blogger this year, and so did a lot of friends. Some people, like Irrelevant Narcissism, started new blogs, while others (including Truly Outrageous and Uncomplicatedly) took highly successful LiveJournals and moved them to the more fully-featured WordPress site. Credit is due again to Acephalous and Tomemos for helping to foster a blogging community at Irvine. I am very impressed that Scott Kaufman, of Acephalous, helped spread the word about academic blogging via his successful presentation at the MLA.

On the other hand, as a new blogger, I have to admit that I looked around several communities and found idiosyncrasy and disrepair. While I’m sure somebody out there understands what has become of Long Sunday and The Weblog, both sites contain a surprising number of asides and in-jokes that end up being substitutes for content. It was discouraging to note the way that a certain team of scholars interested in religion tried to enforce a position of scholarly “reasonableness” towards religion in the academic blogosphere. This meant basically admitting that their God was pretty real, and definitely valuable. My own investigations into religion aside, I have been delighted that Jane Awake has emerged as a new blogger with a defiantly atheistic bent. My guess is that a new wave of academic blogging will begin, partly thanks to Scott’s work, and that this will lead to a blossoming of content.

There are some veterans out there who continue to do wonderful work, including Spurious, Rough Theory, and Larval Subjects. (I’ve also recently added the wonderful blog This Space to my academic bloggers list. Check it out.) Likewise, I was very impressed by belledame222‘s ability to be everywhere at once, all over the blogosphere, with her characteristic flair and intelligence. But the feminist blogosphere continued to be as troubled as ever: the relationship between everyone and Twisty (of I Blame The Patriarchy fame) reached an insane pitch of furor when Twisty allowed a lot of hateful comments about transgendered individuals to stand. The community continued to struggle with questions of sexuality — not just transgendered people, but S&M, “femme” women, porn, sex work, and so on. Posts that said the same thing over again would fill with comments like a bucket in the rain, but nothing was accomplished. Individual writers — notably Truly Outrageous — continued to drop good hints about where to find the stuff that mattered, so I increasingly turned to those filter sites as my RSS feedlist shrunk.

That’s a good enough overview. Let’s get down to it: the records, the movies, the sites, the posts, the trends. I will try to be faithful to my own aesthetic theory by writing unfairly, subjectively, and honestly about what I liked, what I didn’t, and why over the course of this past year. It seems to me that the only way I can go forward is honestly, in the belief that agreement and disagreement about culture (bloggging is certainly that) can be exciting, provocative, and informative.