Saturday, August 27, 2011

The power of images

Fantastic photos and videos of endangered species all over the planet—such as this clouded leopard—can be found at the multimedia database ARKive. You can browse by species group or ecoregion and look at education resources by age group. They also have an impressive daily blog (check out the 'top ten cats'), articles on new species being discovered, and so much more. David Attenborough narrates the introductory video. Along these lines, you will find much to enjoy in our title The Bedside Book of Beasts, an exotic animal lover's dream!

Turning from jungle to barnyard, I came across an E. B. White essay from the January 1948 issue of The Atlantic called Death of a Pig that seems to directly prefigure his 1952 children's classic Charlotte's Web. Here are the first few paragraphs:
I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig and I feel driven to account for this stretch of time, more particularly since the pig died at last, and I lived, and things might easily have gone the other way round and none left to do the accounting. Even now, so close to the event, I cannot recall the hours sharply and am not ready to say whether death came on the third night or the fourth night. This uncertainty afflicts me with a sense of personal deterioration; if I were in decent health I would know how many nights I had sat up with a pig.

The scheme of buying a spring pig in blossom time, feeding it through summer and fall, and butchering it when the solid cold weather arrives, is a familiar scheme to me and follows an antique pattern. It is a tragedy enacted on most farms with perfect fidelity to the original script. The murder, being premeditated, is in the first degree but is quick and skillful, and the smoked bacon and ham provide a ceremonial ending whose fitness is seldom questioned. 
Once in a while something slips - one of the actors goes up in his lines and the whole performance stumbles and halts. My pig simply failed to show up for a meal. The alarm spread rapidly. The classic outline of the tragedy was lost. I found myself cast suddenly in the role of pig's friend and physician - a farcical character with an enema bag for a prop. I had a presentiment, the very first afternoon, that the play would never regain its balance and that my sympathies were now wholly with the pig. This was slapstick - the sort of dramatic treatment which instantly appealed to my old dachshund, Fred, who joined the vigil, held the bag, and, when all was over, presided at the interment. When we slid the body into the grave, we both wore shaken to the core. The loss we felt was not the loss of ham but the loss of pig. He had evidently become precious to me, not that he represented a distant nourishment in a hungry time, but that he had suffered in a suffering world.
Daily G Tip
If certain inconsiderate dog owners are menacing your neighborhood, pick up Dog Signs. Besides depictions of dog signage worldwide, it comes with a handy CD so you can make your own notices to shame the scofflaws!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the E.B. White essay, now I feel the need to reread Charlotte's Web for the 100th time.

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