Scanning, sorting, tossing, arranging, annotating, collating, ripping, backing up, fixing, writing.
Some of these pieces of paper just annoy me; I can’t throw them away, because they’re old, and somehow that bestows a degree of Importance to History they certainly don’t deserve. We can’t keep everything, can we? No. Example: a brochure advertising the Plugmold system. It was a 1950s glorified power strip embedded in the molding; hence the name. I kept it because A) the name is so wonderfully unattractive; sounds likes a fungus that blocks your dog’s urethra. I’m afraid he has plugmold; we’ll have to augur. B) the slogan on the front of the brochure. There’s a picture of a housewife in a housedress plugging a houseradio into her house, with the words SHE SHALL HAVE OUTLETS WHEREVER SHE GOES. Well, lucky her.
Scan and store. A 1943 Life magazine subscription form, though, that’s the one that’s been annoying me for years. It’s just a card. That’s all. It’s too boring to scan, let alone post. But it’s from 1943! The easiest decision? A collection of matchbooks some kid put together in the late 40s, early 50s. I know it was a kid, because the choices were rather indiscriminate – if it was a matchbook, he saved it. He put them all in a special Matchbook Collection album – didn’t know they had those back then in Olden Times – and they haven’t been removed since he fitted them into the slots. They all came out today, pulled out with ruthless disinterest for his project, subject to another collector’s triage, resorted or discarded. Fourteen passes of the scanner, a device he might have read about in science fiction; fourteen files with 11 matchbooks each, waiting their turn in the queue for the Museum. Halfway though the project I suspected that I’m scanning everything to keep that fate from happening to my own stuff. The collection will be the website. It can’t be broken up and sold.
Just rendered obsolete by changing technology, I suppose.
What I want the most is to be free of the things. Not the images of the things, but the things themselves. Imagine Jacob Marley walking around with a DVD containing high-res images of his chains and moneyboxes, and you have the idea. He’d have a spring in his step. The afterlife would be looking pretty good. Unless that was his only copy, and he had to take care because there wasn’t a backup. The afterlife is a long time, and the coating on those disks goes south in the end.
I’m still unhappy with the aggregate effect, though; it’s still just bits and fragments of the past. I’m trying to recreate a dinosaur from a toe bone. I’d love nothing more than to rebuild, somehow, the experience of an entire day in, say, 1927 New York. But we’ll have to wait for the holodeck for that.
Perhaps in 100 years someone will use these scanned items to stock the holodeck, and write up a little article about the source material, note how the picture were fed into the quantum-imaging system – a device he might have read about in science fiction.
Ah, but what of the smells? I’ve written about that before, how we can only speculate what 1927 smelled like. I thought of that the other day at the Bath & Body Works store; they have a new line of manly-men Men’s Toiletries, named – love it – “BARBER.” Says it all: the snicker-snick scissor sounds, the huff of the pneumatic chairs, the ka-chang of the cash register, Esquire magazine, hair oil, Barbicide, hats hanging on the coat rack. I’ve tried a few: the green one goes straight back to the mid-60s, I think; smells like the stuff my dad had. Never used, but had. It’s the Hai-Karate genre. The blue one appealed in the store, and annoyed when I got it home; the red one seems up my road. I still can’t put it on without feeling as though I’m playacting, though. Hey, I have a scent not inconsistent with an era perceived inaccurately through the medium of black-and-white movies! Poser.
Now it’s the evening; Gnat is watching a movie to wind up the day. It’s been busy. When I picked her up from school she said she’d learned about Pompeii, and wanted to talk about it. So we sat outside and talked about Pompeii. She said there was a famous man who watched it happen and wrote about it but didn’t live.
You live your whole life never realizing that hearing your child say “yeah, Pliny” makes you happy in ways you couldn’t predict. I got out one of my giant books about Pompeii, and we looked at all the pictures. She was fascinated. I showed her a picture I took when I visited Pompeii, which was AMAZING: you were there? But it still didn’t compare to Tuesday’s after-school special; she said they’d learned about the Titanic.
Really? What did you learn?
Mostly the high points of the legend. She said “there was a rich guy who put on his suit and said ‘I am going to die like a gentleman.’” That would be Benjamin Guggenheim. She followed this by noting “most of the poor people died, because they were in the bottom of the ship. I said that a lot of poor people did die, but it was also important to remember people like Mr. Guggenheim and Mr. Astor and Mr. and Mrs. Straus, who were very rich but died as well. (I didn’t mention Major Butt, because she’s seven and that would have dispelled the moment.) She processed this, then said “so they weren’t rich people like <ThurstonHowell voice> do what I say, because I am rich </ThurstonHowell voice>” No. That was Billy Zane.
Well, it’s a long story.
There’s a movie you know.
Indeed; I have it. I have both of them.
You do? She wanted to see them, but I warned her they might give her nightmares. I suggested watching a real-life story.
Is it a documentary? I mean is it a man sitting in an office saying <plummy academic voice> the Titanic was the biggest ship in the world </plummy academic voice> I burst out laughing. She'd even made pretentious hand gestures to accompany the pretentious voice.
I got out Ghosts of the Abyss and we snuggled on the sofa and watched an hour of the Real Thing. I was pleased to note she differentiated between the types of footage – “that’s real.” “That’s computer.” “That’s old.” For a show-closer, I let her look at my Real Titanic Coal. Wow. It’s like learning about the moon landing and then dad pulls out a rock from the Sea of Tranquility.
(Note: you can get the coal on eBay for a double sawbuck, I you’re so inclined.)
Pompeii, Titanic – it’s a stroke of luck she’s become interested in things I’m almost keen on, and it’s amusing that I’m able to provide some items that put me into the story. Oh how I hope she gets interested in Star Trek some day, and I can casually note that I met them. “Who?” “The crew of the Enterprise.” “Which ones?” “Well, all of them.” It’s easy to impress a seven-year-old, of course.
There will be a buzz.mn note in the morning, and perhaps an open thread – much to the dismay of a poster who made an anonymous jibe re Thursday's open thread: what does this have to do with local communities? I can see why no one at the Star Tribune wants to have anything to do with your kitty-litter box. Who in heaven’s name feels compelled to complain that a particular thread posted on the moderator’s vacation day isn’t a “community” thread?
No fresh Diner, but here are two hours from Sept. 18, 1997. See you Monday with a big new Screedblog-enabled site, and have a grand weekend.