Buckeye Jones

Is Artsandfaith.com dying?

59 posts in this topic

5 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I disagree. The attempts to make A&F into a repository rather than a discussion board is one I've never been comfortable with. As someone who, like Alan, has deleted substantial portions of my content over the years, I would be even less likely to contribute if/when attempts were made to mandate some sort of permanent record ...

That’s interesting.  I’m actually not aware of the legal details of ownership/copyright when it comes to writing comments in an online forum.  I’d guess there was something in the fine print about this when we first signed up at A&F, but I haven’t been able to look it up to see it now.  Honestly, it’s probably a relatively new question in copyright law that has not yet fulling been fleshed out.

There certainly is a solid argument that posting comments in an online forum should not be valued as writing an essay or a film review for publication should be valued, and even, in fact, that overvaluing the former may lead a diminishing of the latter.  If it ever became an issue, I’d support individual ownership of individual posts.  Everyone who posts here should be doing so with the knowledge that their writing is in a virtual public square in which whatever they write may be quoted, referred to or cited in the future.  Hopefully, this should encourage a certain amount of propriety, sobriety and prudence in what is written.

While I understand your caution that old threads have hurt participation of new members, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  It could be, but it depends upon how one understands the discussion threads.  The bad is, as you say, when a long old thread becomes practically impossible to read through and/or when the effort of reviewing the past conversation is not worth the time.  The good is, as I have experienced continually, seeing a film, having no one to discuss it with, and being able to read A&F’s past conversation (and reviews) about the film.  This has helped me to better understand difficult films.  It has also encouraged me to think more carefully about what I have to say in order to engage with other film lovers who are clearly interested in the substantive ideas behind the film.

It may be that we could use more of a balance.  When I first joined A&F, there was a learning curve, partly through trial and error, where I learned the traditions of what and how to make posts.  By the doing this, I did feel encouraged to contribute to already existing conversations, and there were multiple instances where my new comments to an old thread were engaged with by older members.  That is, in fact, one of the things that convinced me to stick around.

Perhaps a new member welcome page may be in order, explaining how discussions have gone on for over the last decade and some of the procedural traditions that have developed regarding posting new discussion threads.  This could encourage new participation while also acknowledge the years of investment that some participants have put into old conversations.

1 hour ago, kenmorefield said:

EDIT: I've always preferred the metaphor for a message board of like a pub. Some *place* I can go to see whose around and maybe have a conversation about whatever is on my mind.

The virtual pub analogy is a good one.  And, personally, my ideal pub has a history of long and continuing conversations with regulars who become a part of the pub's history.  This is what makes a place unique instead of standardized and transient.

(I say all this with the enjoyable experience of finding old threads where I enjoyed reading your contributing comments and finding links to your reviews.  Like Jason, even though you may think of yourself as an A&F minority/outsider, you have been a voice here that has led me to see and better understand some rewarding films that I otherwise would not have given a second thought.)

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Oh dear. I didn't see a need to post here at first - my participation, like many people's, has been declining, and I find this rather sad but not too upsetting. Online communities don't last forever. But now the thread has taken a truly alarming turn.

In my opinion - FWIW, since my three and a half years as a member isn't that much by A&F standards - the long and rich history of this forum is one of the most important factors that make it stand out among others. I love how I can often come here after watching a movie and find an enlightening conversation that's been going on for years, and when I do it's not the same as finding some forum conversation anywhere else, no matter how smart. I feel like I know many of the writers of the posts I read, even the ones that moved on from the forum before I arrived.

A&F has been publishing interesting lists of films for 12 years, and conducting interesting conversations for longer than that. There are quite a few people still around who have been here for the better part of two decades. That makes this site different, in what I feel is an important and valuable way, from most other forums. It would be tragic to lose this. If we did lose it, and started a system where conversations were expected and intended to quickly disappear, I would certainly lose interest in participating here - but I couldn't just take refuge in another forum, because I have no idea where else I could go.

I know there are some skeletons in the closet, and I admit I wasn't around to see any of the shit that went down. (Since I started reading A&F, as far as I can tell it's rarely failed to be a bastion of civility and kindness.) Feelings can remain raw years after such incidents, and I respect that. But surely, surely that doesn't mean none of A&F's history has any value. Surely that doesn't mean it isn't worth preserving.

I would even argue that posting in old threads rather than starting new ones should be encouraged. For one thing, allowing new threads to proliferate on a given topic, like a single film, is an unkindness to anyone who might want to catch up with the conversation in the future. (And yes, there are people who want to.) For another, the group of active participants isn't (and has probably never been) so large that there's any value in fragmenting it. We aren't too many to sit at the same table to talk. If "scolding" people for not reading hundreds of posts in a thread before saying anything has been a major problem around here, I haven't been aware of it. I've often seen people post first impressions of a film or what have you in a long thread while admitting they haven't read the thread, and no one seems to make an issue of it.

Maybe it's just because I'm a history lover. I want everything to be archived and the archives to be properly organized. Sometimes archivists can allow their work to get in the way of higher priorities. But it seems to me that a lot more sadness and loss is caused by unwise expungement of records than by the opposite.

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I don't think there's any real worry about old threads being deleted (though as the board migrated from one software to the next, that can cause problems), and I support the right of posters to delete their contributions, even if it's something I could never do.  But the real concern for me is that we need to keep the lights on.  

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I don't remember seeing any scolding either.  I've seen mentions if someone has posted a thread about a film when there's already a previous thread.  But they've always been in a playful, friendly sort of way, and doing so is perfectly sensible and fine, IMO.

I really do think that what's happening is people's attentions being placed in other directions.  I mean, I see some Arts and faith' ers who are Facebook friends striking up quick conversations there, when they would have been here.  I'm not saying that I think this is wrong.  It just is.

I myself have been spending too much of my internet time in Facebook groups chatting about things other than film and the arts.  I need to remedy that.

Another factor could simply be the crop of films coming out right now.  I don't just mean superhero movies.  I mean, even besides that there haven't been many recent films that really got the discussion humming, like, say for instance, Melancholia did.  Some people loved it, some hated it (and some of us had a love hate relationship with it), but one thing about it, it got some people here talking in a deep sort of a way.

Edited by Attica

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To be honest.  I can see artsandfaith developing into a community that is even beyond the scope of what has happened in the past.  As many of the people here move on into their film or writing careers and hobbies (or what have you) the could be a place to help nurture those endeavours.  It could be a place where people begin to connect in order to share their support, wisdom and critiques of future projects.  

 

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Like others, changes in my own life (more life commitments, including seminary studies these last four years, and an ever-busier writing schedule) and perhaps changes in the culture have led to my diminished participation here. A&F is still important to me, both for its history and for what it offers now, but even when I have more time to spend here I imagine my participation going forward will be less constant and more episodic. It will take a particular kind of movie for which I want the A&F experience that will bring me back to the board. 

On 5/2/2016 at 10:52 AM, kenmorefield said:

I disagree. The attempts to make A&F into a repository rather than a discussion board is one I've never been comfortable with. As someone who, like Alan, has deleted substantial portions of my content over the years, I would be even less likely to contribute if/when attempts were made to mandate some sort of permanent record. 

For one thing, this brings up the question of ownership--both in a strict and broader sense. Certainly if someone provides a blurb or something to an A&F project, that belongs to the board, but I think individual posts have belonged and should belong to the individual poster.

I confess I don't understand this at all. I for one have found immense value over the years mining old discussions here for insights and memories, both other people's and even my own. ("Whoa, I said that back in 2003?") 

An interesting insight, observation, question, or thought set down in text adds something to the world. All things being equal, I prefer a more interesting world in which such insights, observations, questions and thoughts endure to a world in which they disappear, leaving a vacuum where they once were. 

Preserving past film discussions does something akin to what Bazin said cinema itself does: It rescues the world, or part of the world, from transience, preserves or redeems something inherently ephemeral — thought and discussion, or, in the case of cinema, even time itself — and gives it permanence. 

Certainly not every thought is equally worth preserving, and I'm all for trashing notes, drafts, and other private ephemera. When it comes to discussion, though, I kind of feel that — whatever legal or administrative rights apply or ought to apply — in a significant moral sense thoughts shared with others belong to the community, not just the individual. An individual A&F poster may have the right and the ability to delete his past posts, but purges of past content seem to me to deprive me of my legitimate interest in the record of discussions to which I was a party and which are important to me. I look back at what I wrote in response to a deleted post, and I wonder what I meant. 

It's not entirely unrelated to how I feel about George Lucas and Star Wars. It may be Lucas's right, legally speaking, to release only the Special Editions and sit on the originals, but a film that's been shared with the world belongs in a moral sense to the world. Of course it's not the same, and a discussion board isn't a movie, but there's a not entirely unrelated dynamic at work.  

It's even not entirely unrelated to how I feel about the Islamic State's swath of destruction of sacred and even secular sites and artifacts across the Middle East. Again, it's obviously not the same because they're destroying stuff other people made, but both cases for me tap into an almost ontological preference for being over nonbeing, an impulse to say "Destroy nothing." Which is not an absolute, even for me, but it's a basic orientation that I find at work in both cases. 

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in a significant moral sense thoughts shared with others belong to the community, not just the individual.

And this position, equally, makes no sense to me.

It also seems tautological/circular. Whether A&F is a community or a (virtual) place is one of several questions on which I suspect Steven and I disagree. By Steven's logic, I shouldn't be allowed, morally, to correct a spelling error on my Facebook page because I've shared that thought with other members of the Internet "community." (Or remove content from people who are sharing things on my wall I find inappopriate.)

But I'm clearly in the minority here, as I've already acknowledged, so I think Rushmore's fear that my preferences will hold sway in terms of the archive/ephemera debate are overblown. This debate has been long settled on this board, and those on the other side of it have held sway.  Still, if people are invited to enumerate the reasons their participation has slackened, then not everyone is going to have the same reason.

P.S. It's been awhile since I've been compared to an Islamic terrorist network, so I think I'll let my participation in this thread slacken as well.
 

 

 

 

 

Edited by kenmorefield

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43 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Whether A&F is a community or a (virtual) place is one of several questions on which I suspect Steven and I disagree. By Steven's logic, I shouldn't be allowed, morally, to correct a spelling error on my Facebook page because I've shared that thought with other members of the Internet "community." (Or remove content from people who are sharing things on my wall I find inappopriate.)

Obviously (well, it seems obvious to me, but of course I know what I meant to say, and not just how what I actually wrote read to other people) this reductio ad absurdum amounts to taking what I tried (perhaps unsuccessfully) to hedge and qualify as a relative guiding principle to an absurdly absolutist extreme. 

But, look: If I make substantial, stance-altering edits to a Facebook post on which other people have commented, I consider myself obliged to those who have commented (and read) to acknowledge the edit, not just to silently yank the carpet out from other people and leave their irrelevant comments hanging there.

Equally, when not long ago I made a mistake (of which I make many) and posted an inflammatory political meme that others alerted me was false, I immediately took it down to avoid spreading it — but I also immediately posted again to acknowledge my error and to thank those who corrected me. 

On the other hand, I try to delete offensive or inappropriate content as quickly and silently as possible. My remarks were predicated on the supposition that we were talking about "interesting insights, observations, questions or thoughts" that "add something to the world." In such cases ("all things being equal") I have a general preference for preservation. Offensive or inappropriate comments seem to me more likely to detract rather than add — and obviously on my wall I'll be the arbiter of which is which! 

So, yes, of course changes and deletions can be warranted — and everyone is free to do what seems right in his own eyes, and I am not in favor of any kind of social media police or any efforts to "allow" or "not allow" particular moves in this regard. I'm just sharing what I see as the basis for the guiding principles that inform my own sensibilities on this subject. 

Quote

P.S. It's been awhile since I've been compared to an Islamic terrorist network, so I think I'll let my participation in this thread slacken as well.

Oh dear. I really thought I had hedged my language enough to ward off this misinterpretation.

Maybe it's a Catholic / non-Catholic thing. The analogical principle in Catholic theology and philosophy lends itself to swooping from the smallest and most trivial social or interpersonal exchanges to the courtesies of heaven or the nihilism of hell, from the interaction of protons and electrons to the mysteries of the Trinity. Everything is a case in point, and everything connects to everything else.

Such analogical connections between wildly disparate referents aren't intended to imply any comparison between particular agents. They simply mean that general principles can apply in very different ways with almost infinite flexibility across vastly disparate situations and contexts.

Anyway, Ken, whether or not you feel that attempted explanation makes the slightest sense or makes any relevant difference, and especially if it doesn't and you reject my attempt to cast my comments in a more harmless light, I hope you will accept that in my own mind, at least, I didn't intend to compare to you to the Islamic State, nor did I intend or foresee your obviously reasonable and just offense at such an inflammatory comparison — and, whether or not you accept that, I hope you will accept my regret at having given the offense, and my apology. 

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[Keyser Soze voice] "And like that . . . {poof} . . . it's a classic A&F thread again." [/Keyser Soze voice]

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kenmorefield wrote:
: By Steven's logic, I shouldn't be allowed, morally, to correct a spelling error on my Facebook page because I've shared that thought with other members of the Internet "community."

Well, Facebook does allow people to look at past versions of your Facebook posts, so you technically don't delete anything from your Facebook page whenever you "correct" a post. :)

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Anyway, Ken, [...] I hope you will accept my regret at having given the offense, and my apology. 

Steven and I were talking about this thread on Facebook, which is where, perhaps ironically given this thread, we do the majority of our interactions these days.

I told him I was not seriously chafed--I found the analogy more baiting than insulting--and wasn't looking for an apology, just withdrawing from a conversation that seemed to be escalating unnecessarily. That said, since he offered an apology, I accept -- which means, I think, that I accept his account of what his intentions were and don't intend or wish for him any negative repercussions. He asked if I would say so here. Hopefully that's the end of it. 

 

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Anyway...the suggestion of reviving the "film club" seems to have gained some favor. How does that work? Do we need to figure out who's in charge, etc., or does someone just need to start a thread soliciting suggestions? (Or, alternatively, should it be understood that we work systematically through one of the top 100/top 25 lists?)

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41 minutes ago, Rushmore said:

Anyway...the suggestion of reviving the "film club" seems to have gained some favor. How does that work? Do we need to figure out who's in charge, etc., or does someone just need to start a thread soliciting suggestions? (Or, alternatively, should it be understood that we work systematically through one of the top 100/top 25 lists?)

I second the inquiry.

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IIRC, someone would just start a thread seeking nominations and discussion about a film to feature in the film club.  Then after a while, someone would put together the nominations into a poll, and voila!

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A film club is a good idea. I would gladly participate. I like thinking of A&F as a community as place to organize group events. It serves as an ideal locale for things like the Top 25 lists..


For what it's worth, there are two major reasons as to why I'm not participating as much as I was before:

1) I am watching fewer and fewer films in the course of a year. When I do watch films, I'm not generally watching contemporary releases. Sure, I'll catch the occasional blockbuster, but, mostly I'm checking out Hollywood noirs or Spaghetti Westerns, the likes of which are not especially likely to spark involved discussions over here at A&F. (I've always felt like my cinematic interests have never particularly meshed well with the A&F community, in the sense that Bergman, Bresson, Dreyer, Malick, Tarkovsky, et. al, do not set my heart aflame.)

2) Sites like Facebook and Letterboxd have usurped much of my film conversation. They are better-suited to mobile use. Forums are, in many ways, a superior conversational format to sites like those, but they're less convenient for those of us who largely use mobile devices for internet conversation. If A&F could feasibly link up with, say, the Tapatalk app, like some other online sites I follow, this could change.

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A few things:

1. 75% or more of my online discussion is on Facebook these days. It's where practically all my contacts are in one place (co-workers, friends, folks from here and other message boards, family, etc.) so it's easier to say things once there to everyone. There are some obvious drawbacks to this approach, but the time investment makes sense to me at this point in my life and when I speak about films and some of you occasionally weigh in with some thoughts or I can link to something you've written, I view it as a great example to everyone else in the "audience."

2. I completely missed participating in voting in this year's top 25 list, which saddens me, but is also entirely my fault. I just don't log in here as much as I used to.

3. I love superhero films and have no problem talking about them. I realize many here are less interested. That's fine. But as my life has gotten busier, I do make time to watch and keep up with them, which means I'm also watching less classic/foreign/indie/art-house fair. Which I find lamentable in some ways, but leads me to...

4. I'll 2nd or 3rd or whatever a film club idea. Having something set to watch and knowing I can devout some time to engaging with the minds and voices here specifically about it is certainly something I can fit into my schedule and would be, I think, good for me.

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Darryl, are you a member of the Facebook A&F group? There were relatively regular updates about the Top 25 process there.

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2 hours ago, Ryan H. said:

Darryl, are you a member of the Facebook A&F group? There were relatively regular updates about the Top 25 process there.

I am. I saw. And kept forgetting to log in. As I said, my fault.

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A few days ago, I got back home after spending a week in the UK as an exploratory trip for potential PhD programs focusing on theological aesthetics and the ethical imagination found in the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. I discovered the films of the Dardennes about 8 years ago when I found this "top 100 spiritually significant films" list online, and watched Le Fils on a whim based on the description. That film wrecked me, in the best way possible. I lurked in the forums for a few years before finally becoming a member in 2010, and only have begun posting with some frequency in the past 3-4 years, mostly due to insecurity about my writing abilities or online social propriety (I'm much more prone to being a listener than speaker in group conversations, and any contributions I make are only after lots of pondering and consideration if its going to be fruitful or helpful). Having this online forum has been deeply educational for me, and has helped me personally develop my critical thinking skills, my writing voice, and a deeper appreciation of the arts in general. In this way, the A&F community has, quite literally, transformed my life.

I offer my story because I think ArtsandFaith.com offers something distinct beyond Twitter and Facebook comments as a sort of focused community on a variety of subjects, and one which does offer a unique archival feature. I frequently will look up a film or a book here and see the discussion around it from the past decade, and my search is nearly always beneficial, as the conversations of the past offer helpful perspectives. I'm now Facebook friends or connected on Twitter with many in the A&F community, but wouldn't have ever found those connections without this online forum first. I've even been able to meet some of you in person, particularly when I was living in British Columbia--meeting Peter, Nathan, and Josh at VIFF is still a film-viewing highlight for me, as was a lovely phone conversation I had with Andrew Spitznas. I've watched Pedro Costas because Darren H. said I should, and I've found helpful theological and academic literature through Ken, M. Leary, and others here. If any of you find yourselves in Portland, I'll buy you a drink (coffee, beer, tea, whatever).

So, I hope ArtsandFaith.com isn't dying, as I hope there are other emerging academics, pastors, writers, and art-lovers who find this place and can benefit from the ongoing conversation. I imagine there are other quiet lurkers and listeners like me, people who have rarely or never posted, but check frequently or have benefited from the various lists we've created over the years. I recognize that communities (or online forums) shift and change, and nostalgia for the good ol' days can creep in--I was never part of the earliest years of this forum, but I recognize that key contributors have come and gone. I'm just as busy as anyone with full-time grad school, part-time pastoral ministry, and three kids under age 7. But I still think there's enough value here to keep checking back in daily. It's a discipline of sorts, and I've found it worthwhile.

And if there's a film club, I'm interested.

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Since there is so much interest in a film club, should we go ahead and start a thread over there to discuss selections?

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Done.

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What a poignant thread this has turned into!

I'm what you might call Second Generation A&F, having joined in the fall of '06. Although I've never been a prolific commentator, I feel pretty well plugged in here, and check the site almost daily. I value the overall intelligence and civility of the conversation, the combination of which still seems like a small miracle in the annals of the 'net. Several members have become friends on Facebook, and there is nobody here I take a personal dislike to. Nevertheless, I seem to have lost the drive to participate, for reasons I'll try to explain.

First and foremost, the plenitude of opinionmongering across multiple social platforms has bestowed on me the literary equivalent of chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms include exhaustion, unrefreshing sleep, and bouts of annoyance bordering on rage. Occasionally, I'll be scrolling through my FB feed peacefully, and all of a sudden, I'll feel my face muscles tighten and the words "Shut the hell up…" form in my head. I'm concerned that this will eventually lead to more serious spiritual health issues, hence my reluctance to participate in any political or theological discussions.

Secondly, I don't get out and about as much as I'd like to. Last year, I saw fewer films than I have in probably two decades, and I'm on track to watch even less this year. There is no doubt that the draining realities of adjunct teaching, church volunteering, and child rearing (or "attachment parenting") are responsible for this steep decline. Likewise, I find it difficult to summon the creative energy to post something thoughtful when there are papers to grade, lessons to prep, and an adorable yet needy toddler tugging at my hoodie strings.

Thirdly, I've always been more of a termite viewer (to bastardize a phrase coined by Manny Farber), contentedly burrowing into neglected corners of film history at the expense of the current cinema. I'm finally, slowly starting to turn this interest into actual scholarship, and that, too, takes time away from the boards. (Lately, I've joined with another film historian in a quasi-covert effort to preserve the legacy of filmmaker Curtis Harrington--an endeavor which has proven to be both fun and edifying.) My current strategy of "waiting for the cheap theater" on many new releases has had the unintended effect of sucking the motivation out of film reviewing. Why attempt to say something when everything has already been said, and better, by others? 

Lastly, there have been too many dropouts here over the years. Several of the voices I once valued have vanished into the ether, for reasons unknown. Those that have remained are very much appreciated, but it still feels like less of a party. I will watch any efforts to encourage more jeux d'esprit with great interest.

Edited by Nathaniel

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7 hours ago, Nathaniel said:

First and foremost, the plenitude of opinionmongering across multiple social platforms has bestowed on me the literary equivalent of chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms include exhaustion, unrefreshing sleep, and bouts of annoyance bordering on rage. Occasionally, I'll be scrolling through my FB feed peacefully, and all of a sudden, I'll feel my face muscles tighten and the words "Shut the hell up…" form in my head. I'm concerned that this will eventually lead to more serious spiritual health issues, hence my reluctance to participate in any political or theological discussions.

This is why I bailed on Twitter. My FB feed has been heavily curated, and that's the only reason I've been able to remain active on that platform.

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What a fascinating conversation, and per usual for me over the past few years, I come to it after all the good back-and-forth has already happened. Comes with the territory of a crazy life. Much of what I have to offer here will echo what others have said, especially Nathaniel a couple posts back,  but I think it’s worth saying anyway, even if just to affirm a particular narrative as consistent with others as well. This seems like a somewhat diagnostic thread, at least for those who feel that there has been a shift.

I joined A&F ten years ago last month. It was as I was in my final year as a teen, and grappling with my world in a million different ways, not the least of which was my artistry and faith. A&F was a sounding board for my emerging creative sensibilities, and many people here patiently walked with me as I figured out my path, especially during a few “wandering” years, before I finally landed at Berklee College of Music in 2009. I owe a great deal of gratitude to those people for playing their part in my artistic and spiritual formation during that period, and for sharpening my mind before I entered a larger creative arena. 

During Berklee, however, I necessarily dropped off the map to focus on my education. By the time I finished and came back around to see what was happening here, new people had arrived, a few people had left, and while the conversation had remained more or less the same, I was no longer an “inside” contributor.

One of the great things about A&F has always been the focused conversation between people who grow with each other, but one of the downsides of that is that new people are sort of ignored until they’ve put in some mileage. I know this idea has been rebuffed by some people in the past, but it was true for me when I first started contributing in 2006, and it was true after Berklee. I tried a few times with various conversations to get back into the swing of things, but never felt like I was able to get any traction, and so eventually I gave up. I’ve posted from time to time, and left updates about my artistic pursuits, but haven’t received much response. Nowadays, I check in from time to time to see what’s happening, but by and large only as an observer. 

As it has turned out, my day-to-day life has taken up more and more of my world. I go to a fraction of the films I would have in the past, and listen to far less music, though I make much more of it. I’ve been working in film music for the past four years, and this coming October, I will return to academia for a year-long master’s degree at Cambridge in sacred music. As a consequence, that which began as a means through which to inform my understanding of artistry and faith has actually launched me into a world in which I don’t have as much time for it, because I am now attempting to live out those themes in my own life. 

I don’t know if there’s anything in particular to glean from all of the above, apart from the fact that I’m deeply grateful for what the board provided me throughout formative parts of my young adulthood, and though it has become inaccessible to me in recent years, I will always look back fondly on my “golden era” with A&F.

Edited by Joel C

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