Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Scrap Book

Jules Guerin, The Sphinx, 1908
(illustration from Robert Hitchens, Egypt and its Monuments)

In the main, I try to restrict the images on this blog to my own photographs. Copyright and "intellectual property" theft is a serious issue, and too many people on the Web take the view that stealing and republishing other people's images or words is not really wrong. Oh, yes it is.

Proper acknowledgment softens the blow, but using someone else's work without their permission is theft, pure and simple. Every harmless blogger who believes "content wants to be free" simply emboldens those giant corporations (naming no names) which would love to take our "content" for nothing, and then exploit it for massive financial gain. Content may want to be free, but content providers want to eat.

Having said that (ahem) I do keep a digital scrapbook of images that take my fancy, in the same way that people have always done a literal "cut and paste" job with bits of magazines and ephemera. It's one of the best ways of refining your own eye, and also of remembering things, which is more important to the eye-refining process than people think. Just as a diary can remind you of who you were and what you used to think, a scrapbook reminds you of what has pleased or intrigued your eyes. Memory is intrinsic to learning.

Ernest Ashton, Evening at the Pyramids
photogravure, 1897

Of course, kids these days rarely have to learn anything, in the true sense of committing complex and difficult things to memory. Us over 50s had to learn "by heart" whole poems and dramatic speeches, conjugations and declensions, multiplication tables, mathematical proofs, geographical names, etc., etc. Getting these into your head, where they would form the rich raw material of intelligence, was once a large part of the schooling process.

Indeed, before the advent of cheap printed books, the ability to memorize improbably vast chunks of information was the chief skill of the scholar. No longer. We've let ourselves off the hook of rote learning -- no more tears, no more boredom! -- but the analgesic gain will never balance the mnemonic loss. Wikipedia is not there when you sleep. You know how your phone battery fails if it's not repeatedly emptied and fully recharged? That's your brain, that is. Harumph.

Anyway. For a change, all these images are from my digital scrap book. If I have infringed anyone's copyright, do let me know.

A Kodak No. 1 circular image, Sphinx and Pyramids

The Nebra Sky Disk

A Christmas Ghost


Julia said...

"Wikipedia is not there when you sleep" !!

I had never thought the memory issue this way. Is something like the diminished of our unconsciousness ... I'll begin a scrapbook right NOW and I'll learn more poems by heart

My first time here. I'll come back :-)

Mike C. said...

Hi, Julia, you're very welcome -- and I'm glad someone spotted that Wikipedia sentence, I was quite pleased with the thought...

The bad news is that you start to forget things in a radical but untidy way after 50 -- I can't even remember how many declensions there are in Latin, now!

The poet Ted Hughes was convinced of the value of learning by heart -- see his anthology "By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember" (Faber, 1997).


Bronislaus Janulis said...

Interesting thoughts, Mike. Enough so, that I've linked to this post from my blog.

The Wiki line is very good.


Frank Harkin said...


I bought Ted Hughes anthology because I was convinced he was right. But that age 50 thing is getting to me too. But I still have it - better go find it.

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Bron -- must be my day for links, I've just discovered a major blip in traffic caused by a link from the "Language Hat" blog (no relation).

Well, if it's really kicked in, Frank, it'll be quicker to buy a new one -- you'll never remember where you put it ... Come to think of it, did you *really* buy one, or just think about it?


Dave Leeke said...

Hmmn, a lot of food for thought here, Mike. I must admit to being a bit lazy recently and using "found images" in recent blogs (eg the Red Hart pub sign as I was writing about that very establishment). In the past I've usually used my own photos (well, snaps really!) to illustrate my blogs. I guess I'll have to think more carefully and start using the camera more.

Damn, I thought getting older meant things would be easier . . .

Frank Harkin said...


I did buy it and what's more I have found it. Though being a Derry man I was disappointed that there was only one Seamus Heaney - The Shunk. Maybe it's not everything you forget - just those things that have less meaning for you.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Well, as has been mentioned elsewhere, I'm sure I boosted your "hits" by the mid ones.