Saturday, March 22, 2008

Let's forget, or not.

It used to bother me that books went out of print, and that libraries cull their books for the new. I used to think that it was a shame, that so many different things were lost, that it was such a waste of human energy to be throwing it away.

Just think of all the literature that we have lost over the years, because of disaster or negligence or whatever. For so long books and art, were so hard to reproduce and created in such small quantities that it's impossible to know how much knowledge is lost to us forever. Surely there were masterpieces out there other than Shakespeare and Rembrandt and all the other names we know? But today we have the technology, if not the resources and desire to save it all, and yet we still pulp books and throw stuff out.

It bothered me a lot until I realized that at any given time, a substantial amount of society's creative output is really not all that good. It's entirely subjective, of course, but have a look at the art in second hand stores and try not to agree with me. There may be nice things there, but a lot of it is just... not.

The same goes for books and films. There are good ones and there are bad ones, and the good ones have a habit of enduring in the public memory better than those which are crappy.

Which isn't saying that everything we save is good. It also isn't saying that everything we lose is crap either, because I'm sure a lot of good stuff flies under the radar.

I'm also not saying that the not-so-good stuff shouldn't be created either, because I think strong public sphere, arts and literary communities are pretty important, even if not everyone can be expected to create masterpieces. It's the same philosophy behind athlete development. You need farm teams to be able to produce professionals.

But in the end, this leaves a lot of the not-so-good. Not to be negative or anything but there are tonnes of things that should just be forgotten.

And yet, instead of forgetting this stuff we stick it all up on the internet these days, which makes me wonder what we'll all look like in ten or fifteen years.

Still, it's fun to laugh at, so in the spirit of laughing at stuff that really should be forgotten, go forth and judge a book by its cover and cringe at photoshop disasters.