October 12, 2006


Aaron Swartz is on a blogging roll of late, perhaps triggered by his inspiring (though unsuccessful) campaign for a seat on the wikimedia board. Today, he has a long quote from Mamet on auditioning -- specifically on how dangerous it is for actors to put everything into pleasing the people who can hire them.

Teachers of 'audition technique' counsel actors to consider the audition itself the performance, and to gear all one's hopes and aspirations not to toward the actual practice of one's craft (which takes place in from of an audience or a camera), but toward the possibility of appealing to some functionary. What could be more awful?

He also has a fine discussion of lecture technique, keyed by an account of a recent lecture by Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics), whose new book on Making Comics has just been released and is currently on my nightstand.

After his talk, someone commented that McCloud's presentation was the best he'd ever seen. McCloud explained that there are two kinds of presentations: 'monkey bars' where a presenter swings from slide to slide, explaining each one in turn, and 'magic carpet rides', where the presenter simply keeps talking, confident the slides will appear underneath him to illustrate a point.

The danger of magic carpet rides, unfortunately, is that flying carpets sway from side to side, and sometimes people fall off. You can easily lose people at the edges of the room and at the edges of the field: the most and least-expert people, the people who know your work best (and who may have heard it all before) and the people who have no idea what you're talking about (and who might tumble off the carpet at the first air pocket).

Still, give me a carpet any day.

Meanwhile, Anders Fagerjord and Jill Walker each complain that they need a new voice for their blogging. Each started blogging as a graduate student, and now that they are established and influential professors they feel that the old voice and the old, familiar dangers no longer seem satisfactory. Jill writes that

I’ve mostly thought of the discomfort of blogging in the last year or so as being about time, authority, too many different audiences and having to try to be tactical and smart non-stop.

Seriously, though, Jill is smart non-stop, and she's always been tactical. Being smart and tactical on her weblog shouldn't be much that strain!

I think the first time I met Jill, she was wrapping up a convincing argument on literary theory on a sunny picnic lawn in Pittsburgh because she had carefully slotted into her conference schedule a quick shopping expedition, in which she would buy Sesame Street tapes for her daughter in order that her daughter (when old enough to watch them) would grow up in Norway hearing American accents to balance Norwegian-accented English, and this would ultimately make it easier for her daughter to acquire a proper Australian accent later in life. All this fit neatly into the context of multivalent hypertext and contemporary lit crit, and she had exactly enough time, too.

And happy birthday to Lilia Efimova.

But life, like autumn
Silence, is in the details — Pasternak