Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Those who can't, get invited to guest-lecture

Last evening, I spent half an hour with a roomful of dazed-looking college kids talking about blogs.

In case you're wondering why yours truly would be in such a position, please rest assured that yours truly is wondering right along with you. The Friday before we left for our recent junket, a gentleman I did not know telephoned me. He introduced himself as Michael Dougan, a professor at the College of Marin, and invited me to be the guest speaker for his Tuesday evening Mass Communications class. He was teaching a unit on the Internet and wanted to address the blogging phenomenon. He'd stumbled across my blog somehow — you loyal readers know that's as apt a description as any — liked what he read, and thought that with my communications background I'd make a competent, even interesting, expert on blogging.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't want to belong to any body of expertise that would have me as a member. The fact that I own a blog no more qualifies me as an expert on blogging than the fact that I own a dog qualifies me as an expert on veterinary medicine. But the prof seemed pleasant enough, so I consented and went.

Knowing neither what to expect nor what exactly was expected of me, I felt a mite like Eddie Murphy's character, Billy Ray Valentine, in Trading Places. On Valentine's first day of employment as a commodities broker at Duke and Duke, the former street hustler asks his faithful butler, Coleman (Denholm Elliott), "What if I can't do it?" To which the sagacious Coleman replies, "Just be yourself, sir. Whatever happens, they can't take that away from you."

So that's what I did. I didn't try to present myself as "the Blog Guru" (mostly because I can't get into a lotus position). More than anything, I wanted to supply enough of the nuts and bolts that someone who had no clue what a blog was would learn something, and those who already knew or didn't care would be subjected to a minimal level of bloviation. I endeavored to communicate my enthusiasm for this odd little exhibitionist hobby without gushing. I tried to be friendly and engaging without pandering. I think I succeeded.

I remembered to ask whether any of the students in the class were bloggers. Three (in a class of about 25) were. One young man uses his blog to promote his band and as a personal journal; a young woman does likewise. The professor invited the three to share their blogs with the class (doubtless the students had wearied of staring at my plain-vanilla barren landscape — although they got to see a couple of nice portraits of Wonder Woman, which should have been worth the price of admission). These two grudgingly complied; a third student was so nervous she "couldn't remember" her password. (I suspect that she had items posted on her blog she preferred that her fellow students did not associate with her.)

The young woman whose passion for music is the focus of her blog deserves a special mention for two reasons: (1) her name was simple and alliterative, so I remembered it without having to write it down; and (2) when I told her I was a barbershop singer, she opined that I was a "real musician." She was mistaken, naturally, but for her kindness, I'll send all of you to peek at her blog and marvel. And if her eponymous band, Sabrina Stewart, is playing at a coffeehouse or club near you, go give her music a listen, then come tell me all about it.

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