A wee life update before moving on to more entertaining subjects: I found out this week that the job I really wanted (oh, it would have been perfect both professionally and personally) had been given to someone else. Someone else who had accepted the offer. So now I am down in the dumps. It seems that I will certainly be on the soul-destroying academic job market AGAIN next year, even if I get one of the very exciting short-term positions (Visiting Professorships and post-doctoral fellowships) that I have applied for.
And that may be why it made me so absurdly happy, as I was walking through Old Campus, to see a pot-bellied piglet (does the English language contain a more satisfying phrase than that?) wandering free, snuffling amongst the fallen acorns, and running up to people to wrinkle his expressive little snout at them communicatively. (Not to worry, this owner was supervising the piglet’s social life approvingly from nearby.) Perhaps I am just pet-starved (the second, and last surviving, of my two childhood pets died recently), but this was cuteness pigified. (The picture above is of one variety of domesticated pig, a kunekune sow and piglet.) So, of course I had to investigate the nature of pot-bellied pigs, and I discovered a site that assures me they are house-trainable and can be quite affectionate, but that “piglets can be quite aloof or fearful at first.” Let me just say that the piglet I just saw was at the opposite end of the spectrum from “aloof.” He was downright flirtatious and investigative!
In other news, Carrie Frye is right, Garfield minus Garfield is a font of delightful oddity. I wonder what other icons of comics kitsch could be transformed into avant garde koans by removing a character?
My favorite new word (learned from a New Yorker article called “Numbers Guy” by Jim Holt in the March 3 issue) is “numerate,” which I can only assume is a numerical equivalent for “literate,” that is “able to communicate numerical concepts symbolically.” Great word, although I can’t quite see how I am going to work it into my everyday conversation.
Natasha Tripney blogs about the problem of balancing accessibility and innovative uses of space in the theatre. Should experimentations with unconventional theatrical spaces (particularly those that require the audience to move through the space with the action) be confined by considerations of how mobile or comfortable their spectators will be? This seems to me something that individual theatre groups are going to have to balance the ethics of themselves. One of the characteristics of theatre is the impossibility of any individual viewer grasping it in its entirety, since each performance is different and (especially in these sorts of innovative environmental stagings) each vantage point is distinct. Perhaps, then, rather than limiting what can be accomplished with theatrical space to what can be made universally accessible, the solution is to reject the very notion of universal accessibility, and deny all your viewers (even and perhaps especially the most mobile ones) some portion of the show, playing up both its ephemerality and the unique but equally valid experience of each viewer. Just a thought.
While I’m on an ethical tangent: LibraryThing’s discussion boards have played host to many an argument about the ethics of buying and trading used books in a cultural economy that is already somewhat… financially harsh for authors. I have sympathy for this point of view, although I would temper it by saying that 1) as with teaching, there are more than just financial incentives for artistic creation, and the greater accessibility to art that libraries, used bookstores, book-trading sites, museums, etc. provide speaks to the other rewards this creation can reap, and 2) the circulation of used books contributes mightily to economies of prestige and esteem that, in the long term, result in higher book sales for authors. I have only anecdotal evidence for the latter, but I will say that there is many an author I would never have tried (because I don’t have an infinite budget for book-buying) if I hadn’t acquired a used book, but whose work I later bought new either for myself or for friends.
At any rate, Bookmooch has been pondering how it, as a book-trading community, can support authors financially, and it is conducting an “Experiment in Generosity." This experiment involves giving authors the opportunity to list books that are out of print, and print them on demand even as they are mooched. If the moocher likes the book, s/he would then make a donation to the author through PayPal (larger if s/he wanted to keep the book, smaller if s/he wanted to pass it on to other potential donors). Bookmooch is interested in hearing what you think about this new way of thinking about the economics of literary creation (click on the link above to tell them), and I would be too. Do you think authors could break even this way? It would certainly be good for readers if more out-of-print books could be made available this way.