04 June 2012

Last of the Springtime Link Sausage Platters

... which is not to say that the 'net will be rid of me — only that I'll be helping maintain a healthier (?) menu for the next monthish or so. Jaws and I are departing the Silicon Prairie for the Silicon Valley (and LaLaLand) rather permanently in a little over a week, so for the next month or so things will be even more chaotic here (and less sausage-like) than usual. That said:

  • I've been objecting for years that the prevailing memes in cover design for printed books (and magazines) were not founded on any actual evidence, but instead on tradition (at best). The problem is even more acute for e-books, where the cover might never be seen at all by the actual purchaser. This is especially true for purchasers interfacing on a phone-sized gadget and/or through a text-based search. Conversely, interior design of textual works has, umm, stagnated over the past century-plus, and is often remarkably insensitive to its content. Why, for example, should the interior of a William Faulkner novel be indistinguishable that of a quote-unquote cheap dime-store thriller, as it virtually always is? Does the tradition of headers and outside-edge page numbers continue to make sense at all, even in printed form? Does even the concept of a "cover" continue to make sense? Maybe, after detailed consideration, it will be determined that all of these still point to current mythology. The problem is that nobody is doing detailed, replicable, evidence-based consideration.
  • Which leads, in a roundabout way, to an article that is on the surface about what it means to be an artist, but also implicates what society wants from art... and expects from the implied social class of its artists. The Precarious Workers Brigade argues that the arts "schools" just train proles unable to rise above their origins, except perhaps by accident. One could make the same argument about MFA programs in "creative writing" everywhere: I have yet to find one that provides, let alone requires, as much as a single credit-hour equivalent on an author's relationship to the economics of publishing out of the thirty-or-more credit-hour equivalents required for an MFA. That is, the MFA programs can't be bothered with as much as three percent on the environment in which their graduates will exist. In turn, this reflects an implicit assumption that — unlike virtually every other program area available in or through the modern Western university system — working in the arts (written or otherwise) is not an economic activity with a relationship to economic status for its workers. That is, if one enters starving/lower class, only outliers will leave better off. And that's not a good thing for anyone — and perhaps especially not for those who are/will be influenced by the artists' production.
  • Or, of course, you could die. After all, everyone does; life is a terminal event. What comes after is rather frightening. No, I don't mean purgatory or being eaten by worms; I mean probate and its consequences for artists of all kinds.

    If this blawg convinces you of nothing else, it will have done some good if some artists who would not otherwise have don so think through and implement an intelligent estate plan. Please do so. Otherwise, you could end up like too many of my clients, or like James Joyce (and simultaneously remember that that article is accurate only for Europe — in the US, much of Joyce's work remains in copyright).

  • Or, of course, your closed-ecology oligopoly could be broken by economic, legal, social, and/or technological developments. Not soon enough...