Re: Sentiment and the Transient Life

1

Becks! Do not become my husband! Or worse yet, do to your future grandchildren what my grandparents have done to me!

(Pick *a* box of small-to-medium size. Pick a *few* representative sentimental items to consign to that box. Or *parts* of items--the tag to that shirt! Or photos of items! Or maybe make some smaller crafty item, like a scrapbook of title pages or jacket covers!)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:11 PM
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Have you considered taking several of your best liked possessions everywhere you live and burying them in a small hole, then just hanging on to a map to the hole?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:12 PM
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B clearly has no sense of history, or humanity.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:13 PM
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It may hurt in the moment to throw them away, but does it still hurt three days later?

I'm always convinced that [Thing] is so awesome that I'll miss it so bad, but instead I usually just forget about it.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:24 PM
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I like taking pictures of T-shirts; I have dozens that I will probably never wear again, but I like what they're about, so I take moderately careful pictures of them, under nice light and clean background.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:31 PM
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each time I throw one into the trash, it hurts

Just do it. Like taking off a band-aid. That pain which does not kill you only makes you stronger. They're only things.

So, so many clichés. However, I have moved to new addresses something like 12 times since leaving my parents' home (and we'd moved as a family something like 5 times as a family). So I've had lots of chances to repeat them, like a mantra of petty loss, over and over and over again.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:37 PM
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Did I mention some 5 of those moves were undertaken as a family? OK.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:37 PM
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Five family moves? Jesus. We've done, let's see, two since PK was born, and I'm not looking forward to a third.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:44 PM
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1. Gather all such items of purely sentimental value.
2. Give away anything that might be of value to others.
3. Burn the rest (if you need drugs to make this step more of a spiritual experience, have at them).
4. Enjoy your liberation from the materially unnecessary.
5. Convince my wife to undertake steps 1-4.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:47 PM
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4: you forget, exactly! Whatever that awesomeness was is lost to the mists of history. What a crime.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 6:48 PM
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The all-time best version of this was a story told by a friend, possibly based on an NPR segment, in which an elderly relative died and left a house full of belongings to be gone through, including a box marked "Pieces of string too small to be of use."

OK, not directly related to the topic at hand. I will say that it is darned hard to let go of things that have tremendous sentimental value. It can help to winnow things down: clip a piece from clothing and toss it in a "memory quilt" box (not that you'll necessarily have time to make it, but you'll have the talisman).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:02 PM
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10 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:03 PM
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Well, this is a tough one. You want to store it all in trunk in an attic, but you don't have room for the trunk, and anyway, you don't have an attic.

I have all kinds of stuff from childhood that I can't bear to part with (my christening gown, wrapped [by my mother] in blue tissue; my kindergarten report card; shoeboxes full of cards and letters and photos and random miscellaneous mementos). But when it comes to stuff from my adult life, I'm fairly ruthless. Every once in a while, I go through all our crap and fill up too many big green garbage bags to be donated to the Goodwill.

For things like the first scarf you knitted and etc, one solution is to take a photograph or else scan the item to create an image file. Now you have some sort of copy, and can rid yourself of the bulky original.

Five family moves would utterly defeat me.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:03 PM
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Are you moving, Becks? Truly the Flophouse is no more.

I am a sentimental packrat, and I don't even move very often. Periodically, though, I do screw my courage to the sticking place (IYKWIM) long enough to purge some things.

On the other hand, I still have a bent fork, and countless doodles, from my first year of college, and a paper clip bent with a penny on one side and bottle cap on the other that I put into the shape it's in now during a conversation near the end of my last romantic relationship, some three years ago (godDAMNit).


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:05 PM
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10 and 12 are right, but never forget that the truly active power of forgetting may be a necessary ingredient of a happy life.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:06 PM
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but never forget that the truly active power of forgetting may be a necessary ingredient of a happy life.

Well, of course. But who said anything about anyone being happy?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:08 PM
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This fork and paper clip.

I'm pretty sure I did eventually get rid of this table leg and the pieces of table radiating from the glove. As you can see, in addition to being a sentimental packrat I am also a sentimental documentarian, despite my once-avowed, and Jackmormon-approved (I assume), allegiance to this apothegm of Joe Frank's.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:10 PM
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Are you moving, Becks? Truly the Flophouse is no more.

On the contrary. I'm moving to the Flophouse full time. It's the other abode that I'm packing up tonight.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:19 PM
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Also, it's been very interesting packing because I can identify at least three distinct phases from my time here based on the types of articles I'm uncovering: the initial excitement and exploration and seeing the city, a period when I was more introspective and very into knitting and reading and crafting, and the "modern age" where I was more interested in hanging out with my friends for the sake of hanging out (compared to as a vector for city exploration).


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:22 PM
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It's healthy to do some winnowing. Rah and I are both packrats but a few weeks ago I had a freak-out and declared that we had to finally turn the guest room into a guest room and finish the last of the unpacking (we moved into this place four years ago) and so on and so forth. Yesterday I went on a tear and put up a bunch of art in my office that I'd been sitting on for years and shelved some books that needed it and took a lot of stuff to the dump and to be recycled. Lots and lots of stuff that I didn't remember having so it couldn't have been important.

Make a deal of throwing it out if you need to, write down/photograph/blog/whatever the stuff if it helps, think of it as making sure those memories stay yours by greedily guaranteeing no one else can ever have them, give them away to make sure they're kept somewhere, whatever it takes, but throw them out. It's spring, clear some space for a new year of experiences.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:32 PM
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When my mother died I found a scrapbook she put together in HS (ca. 1936). I've only glanced through it but I couldn't bear to throw it away. But when the house leaves the family, that's what will probably happen.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:33 PM
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The all-time best version of this was a story told by a friend, possibly based on an NPR segment, in which an elderly relative died and left a house full of belongings to be gone through, including a box marked "Pieces of string too small to be of use."

Donald Hall, String Too Short to Be Saved.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:33 PM
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I believe my mom still has at least some of my and my sister's baby teeth.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:34 PM
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Ben, this isn't the place to reveal that you were abused as a child.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:36 PM
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What is the place to do so?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:38 PM
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You have my e-mail, no? Or there's talk radio.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:39 PM
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Overprotectiveness is a kind of abuse, I guess, but the truth is that Ben's mom made Ben keep the baby teeth in his mouth until just last year; she only acquired them recently.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:39 PM
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You should make a shadowbox assemblage containing pieces of these things, and then throw the balance away.

I just took a backseat full of stuff to the Salvation Army (in my trashed old Honda, homies), and have maybe another backseatful to go. Where does it come from?

None of it was of sentimental value--it was a (minor) joy to get rid of it.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:41 PM
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27: Oh, I just assumed that she had knocked him around a bit. But your explanation makes more sense. And is funnier.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:43 PM
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Thanks for making that explicit, Ari.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:44 PM
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I'm sorry, Ben; you're with friends. This is a safe space.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:48 PM
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I have essentially no reminders of the first thirty years of my life. No yearbooks, class rings, family albums, tos, knicknacks, whatever. I am a thousand miles away from "home" and never look back. I never talk to those people (big extended family, people I saw every day) or go to reunions or wonder who has grandchildren or became mayor or who has died. I don't remember many names. I remember faces & places. Can't escape the software.

During my 20s, I would pack a backpack and split every other year. Get a good job, maybe a roommate of either gender and start accumulating. After a while, I would be surrounded by myself or others or reflections & associations and need a new start.

I confess to being a pretty dirty person. Something about seeing something cleaned or arranged by myself reminds me of my existence. Don't like haircuts or shaving. Get my clothes from the blood donor center. All reflections, ya know? I like randomness, a lack of control. I like sentence fragments and run on sentences.

Just heard a great line from Tom Waits about "The face forgives the mirror." It was soundtrack for the movie The Secret Life of Words that I just watched. Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins. About the burden of memory. Recommended.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:49 PM
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13: For things like the first scarf you knitted and etc, one solution is to take a photograph or else scan the item to create an image file. Now you have some sort of copy, and can rid yourself of the bulky original.

Surely this misses the point of the original. The tactile sense. The thing, for god's sake. You people are weird.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:49 PM
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tos

Like a necklace of ears?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:50 PM
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Toes are not like a necklace of ears, Ari. They're more like pendants for your feet.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:56 PM
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For things like the first scarf you knitted and etc, one solution is to take a photograph or else scan the item to create an image file. Now you have some sort of copy, and can rid yourself of the bulky original.

You can even outsource the entire process.

As the piles of preschool and kindergarten artwork in our house grow more and more unmanageable, I'm starting to think the unthinkable...


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:58 PM
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I'm starting to think the unthinkable...

Knecht is contemplating Russell's theory of types!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 7:59 PM
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You really do need to get rid of the stuff before you die. I mean, throwing away my own stuff can be hard enough, but whateves, it's my stuff; I can do what I like with it. The boxes of crap from my grandmother's house? Including things that belonged to the great-greats? God. *I* can't throw that stuff out, even though I don't know what the hell half of it is.

Just don't saddle the next generation, is all I ask. Which I guess means that I do have to throw the inherited crap out at some point. Probably not until PK leaves for college, though, b/c he's kind of at the packrat age....


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:01 PM
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As the piles of preschool and kindergarten artwork in our house grow more and more unmanageable, I'm starting to think the unthinkable

Indeed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:03 PM
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Seriously, though, Knecht, don't kill your kids.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:04 PM
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Pick *a* box of small-to-medium size. Pick a *few* representative sentimental items to consign to that box. Or *parts* of items--the tag to that shirt! Or photos of items! Or maybe make some smaller crafty item, like a scrapbook of title pages or jacket covers!

Or take a small blank piece of paper and write "Sentimental items" on it, and keep that in an envelope marked "Do not throw away."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:05 PM
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Once one's kids begin school, there's a strong argument to be made for burning down the family manse every third year. If one doesn't embrace controlled burns, wildfires become inevitable.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:05 PM
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Surely this misses the point of the original. The tactile sense. The thing, for god's sake.

It does indeed miss the point. I'm just trying to propose a possible compromise between, on the one hand, a sentimental packrat-hood that would save just about anything and everything and that demands a certain amount of space that many people nowadays lack, and, on the other hand, an utterly nihilistic celebration of a lack of ties to any past whatsoever, that may seem short-term clever and attractive but that many would, longer-term, come to regret. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and so on and so forth.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:06 PM
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If it comes to it, ditch the object. Keep the memory.

Don't keep a simulacrum or an image. No point.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:08 PM
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43: I have never once regretted my nihilism. What would be the point?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:08 PM
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Seriously, though, Knecht, don't kill your kids.

Who said anything about killing them? I was merely planning to amputate their little hands so that they can't produce any more pasta neckaces or egg carton dinosaurs.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:11 PM
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47

Then they could make stump art.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:16 PM
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23: My son still has his umbilical cord.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:20 PM
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Attached.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:21 PM
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My mother kept all of our baby teeth until when I was about ten and did a science fair project comparing the effects of different liquids on baby teeth. Surprise! A baby tooth soaked in Pepsi for two weeks will first turn brown and then dissolve.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:22 PM
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Just don't saddle the next generation, is all I ask

True. Not that I have a next generation, but there will be people around who have to deal with my stuff, and it's kind of a mess.

However, I was tasked with sorting out my grandmother's attic-type stuff after she died. I spent a month at the house by myself one January, listening to the BBC and such on the oldtime shortwave radio daily while I opened trunks and hauled things about. And contemplated the lake (that is not in January). My grandma was a craftswoman and an amateur lutist who left many sketchbooks, and notes, and materials galore. I sorted her threads. It was a wonderful experience, in constant consultation with my mom another state away. Nevermind that I developed hives at some point (dust mites?) requiring a steroid shot. Small bother.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:23 PM
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The thing itself *isn't* the point. The point is the memory the thing serves as a catalyst for. Which is why photographing the thing is the right way to go.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:24 PM
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40, etc.: Seriously, some stuff might belong in a library. I've only glanced at my grandma's WWII letters to my dad, but there's lots of interesting stuff. (For example, my dad's HS graduation speaker in Iowa was a Gandhian from India, and one of the nearby towns had a Japanese-American schoolteacher all during the war.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:25 PM
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50: I donated the one PK baby tooth I could find to his school for such an experiment this year. I did it without telling PK, though (and I warned the teacher not to let on, either).

I *would* have kept his teeth, maybe, except that *he* decided he wanted to keep his own teeth and refuses to give them to the tooth fairy, preferring instead to lose them somewhere in his room.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:26 PM
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43: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and so on and so forth.

I've never mentioned that I've never quite understood what this meant. Now I do.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:26 PM
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44: Don't keep a simulacrum or an image. No point.

Don't let Jewish fanaticism tempt you, Mary Catherine. Continue to worship your idols!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:27 PM
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53: Yeah, I have some paperwork that someone might want to archive. If I only knew who.....


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:27 PM
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Some of the people who have contributed to this thread seem to be living in something like Calvin's Geneva (no idols! and no physical relics or remnants, either). Oddly enough, I'm pretty sure some of these Calvinists aren't even Christian.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:28 PM
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58: Anti-Semite.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:29 PM
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58: And also, please try to remember that I'm Canadian; you should be nicer to me.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:30 PM
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Seriously, some stuff might belong in a library.

My grandad's ironclad conviction that all of his belongings were Important Artefacts led him to keep everything from genuinely one-of-a-kind historical photographs to completely worthless old glass bottles. And rock samples. And Athabaskan art. And novelty mugs. Apparently, cleaning out his house after his death was a pure nightmare for my parents.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:31 PM
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Actually, the umbilical cord is in "The Jar of Nasty Things" which includes teeth from several people, a mummified toad, a mouse skeleton, and quite a few other weird mementos including the tiny little cup the soccer team gave the 8-year-olds to protect their tiny little undescended testicles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:32 PM
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Canadian, Jew, or hoser? An enigma wrapped in a mystery wearing a hockey jersey and drinking.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:33 PM
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61: I really sympathize with that kind of archival impulse, I have to admit. It's very sad to think of all the history that gets lost.

On the other hand, I am not a one-woman library, and I really don't want to pay an extra $200k for the space to store all this crap.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:34 PM
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My grandmother inscribes everything with long, flowery descriptions of how much she loves us. The best is the encyclopedia set where she inscribed every volume at some length, pertaining to the letter of the volume. This is part of a larger Thing that Grandma exhibits, around not being forgotten by posterity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:34 PM
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If you're going to do anything for the future generation, at least get rid of your naked pictures before you die and they have to go through their stuff.

I speak from experience.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:34 PM
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Our family has a book of photographs from ca. 1850 Holland in which we cannot identify a single person, though they're presumably all relatives of one sort or another.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:35 PM
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62 is very hilarious and made me laugh. What a beautiful sentence, John.

Also, if you ever decide to get rid of the mouse skeleton, I think I know someone who would like it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:35 PM
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65 is both charming and yeah, kind of not so much.

66, I gotta disagree with. Naked pictures of my grandparents would be awesome.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:37 PM
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60: Where is it you are from? You can just whisper it softly, if you don't wish to attract the attention of B, who hates Soviet Canuckistan with a deep and abiding passion. So: who was your Grandda? and where was he from?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:37 PM
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Is 68 supposed to be subtle? I think you're more likely to get the mouse skeleton if you insult him, B.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:37 PM
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I threw out 20 volumes of my father's billing records from his medical practice. I kept Vol. I from 1948, when a doctor's visit was $3.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:37 PM
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I just got some photographs my grandfather took, when my father and uncle and aunt were babies, and there was a loving family. Subsequent decades were grim, to say the least, leaving my grandparents divorced, grandmother suspicious and hateful, grandfather unbroken but battered by his stint as a political prisoner. These photos full of hope and young love, what should happen to them?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:39 PM
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Don't keep a simulacrum or an image. No point.

Spoken like a young man who can still rely on his memory. Though I'm not sure the picture wouldn't make me more sad about the loss of the thing itself.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:40 PM
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67: Emerson's just being coy, of course, and is obviously a direct descendant of William and Mary.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:40 PM
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A tooth soaked in vodka lasts forever, whereas soft drinks are of the devil.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:40 PM
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73: they could become part of Emerson's Scared Straight video?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:40 PM
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I still have some of my grandfather's old medical books. I'm not sure what I should do with them. Does anyone want old medical books?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:41 PM
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A tooth soaked in vodka lasts forever,

I think this is my new favorite aphorism.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:42 PM
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Though I'm not sure the picture wouldn't make me more sad about the loss of the thing itself.

Well, of course. Nostalgic regret is the sauce of memory.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:42 PM
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These were unquestionably Orangepersons, Mary C., as evidenced by the fact that they founded Orange City, Iowa.

If you want another reason to dislike libertarians, John Hospers grew up in Orange City.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:42 PM
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I think that science fair project may have scared me off sodas permanently.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:43 PM
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68: $15 fetches you a fine deer mouse skeleton on eBay. You can even use buy it now. See, I told you there's no reason to be nice to John.

70: My grandmother now lives in Ottawa, having left Quebec, finally, just a few years ago. The rest of my family is in Toronto. As for me, I was born in Montreal but grew up in the States. And I moved to Vancouver for a couple of years after college (sorry, university).

In other words, I'm an ersatz Canuck. You may return to your regularly scheduled anti-Semitism.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:44 PM
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My mother, aunts, grandmothers, and great-aunts were almost all very attractive. But not, however, nude in the pictures.

All kinds of taboos to be violated there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:45 PM
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73: I'm using the photos of my own childhood to perpetuate a lie upon PK, thereby extending as long as possible his belief that his grandparents are fun people and--with any luck--succeeding, as my parents did before me (to their great credit) in replacing old grudges and fuckups with warm cross-generation memories and affections.

Since the photos in question are of your own grandparents, and you already know the history, this is of course impossible. Assuming that your grandparents are now dead, and that there's no hope of them forming loving relationships with any future progeny of yours, you might as well just throw the pictures out.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:46 PM
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Ari: file with Saul Bellow.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:46 PM
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I think that science fair project may have scared me off sodas permanently.

PK has given up dark soda, on the word of his teacher that dark sodas are worse for you than clear ones.

I have no idea if this is true, but since 7-up doesn't have caffeine and coke does, I'm willing to believe it is.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:47 PM
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86: I've alsways regretted not liking Bellow more. I do, though, enjoy Mordecai Richler's work. Does that count?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:49 PM
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Oh hey, there's a picture of the very house (pdf).


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:49 PM
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$15 fetches you a fine deer mouse skeleton on eBay.

Yeah, but I bet John would ship his to PK for free just to get it out of the house.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:50 PM
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Actually, I would say that Ari is a renegade rather than an ersatz Canadian. Born there of indigenous parents, but without loyalty or human feeling.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:50 PM
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I actually like Richler better.

As a grumpy old man.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:51 PM
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Born there of indigenous parents

Racist. Also, neither of my parents were born in Canada. It's a story that's only slightly more boring than it is confusing.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:53 PM
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OK, cosmopolitan individual of no known nation.

There's suggestive evidence that one of my ancestors was born in Canada (at Sutton or Emerson Junction, Quebec) because his father had deserted from the Revolutionary Army.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:55 PM
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Spoken like a young man who can still rely on his memory

The spontaneous random recollections are one of the few compensations of age. Think Wild Strawberries. Repression and the wisdom of the body filters out the bad stuff.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:57 PM
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cosmopolitan individual of no known nation.

Anti-semite.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:57 PM
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96: Aren't we all, in the end?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:58 PM
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Spoken like a young man who can still rely on his memory. Though I'm not sure the picture wouldn't make me more sad about the loss of the thing itself.

Actually—except as regards some things—my memory isn't very good.

But suppose you forget: then you've forgotten. Sic semper gloriae mundi and all that.

A lot of the stuff we read in the second half of the class I just finished TAing would be relevant to this conversation, actually. Krapp's Last Tape, Ignorance, a few articles.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:59 PM
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96: Aren't we all, in the end?

We're all Jews in the butt? Anti-semite.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 8:59 PM
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And, of course, number 137 from the Tzurezuregusa of Yoshida Kenko.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:00 PM
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If you're going to do anything for the future generation, at least get rid of your naked pictures before you die and they have to go through their stuff.

Check. Really? I have to throw those out? What about ... oh my god, now I'm seeing people looking at various pictures and asking themselves all sorts of questions: Who the hell is that? What's UnfoggedCon? That's somebody's kitchen or front yard? We should all probably keep at least someone informed.

About the things themselves, it goes without saying that they are irreplaceable, and you pare down as you must.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:01 PM
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The human body is the image of God, Heebie, including the butt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:01 PM
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Bob's all about the involuntary memory.

Also, neither of my parents were born in Canada

Neither was.

Having read that Richler book with the cigar on the cover probably has something to do with my having subscribed briefly to the New Criterion in high school.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:02 PM
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83: My dad (not French, nor not Jewish) loves Montreal so much. I remember how he took me some kind of brasserie in old Montreal when I was a kid, where we ate corned beef on rye. He could totally order from the menu and joke around with the waiter in flawless, but not-perfect and not-formal, French, because he grew up in Mechanicsville (working-class French and Irish neighbourhood in Ottawa). I know every bit bit of Ottawa, and much of Toronto too, but great parts of Montreal are just on a map for me.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:03 PM
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99: What do you have against butts, Heebie? You, of all people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:03 PM
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But suppose you forget: then you've forgotten. Sic semper gloriae mundi and all that.

But you never completely forget (or most people don't). You remember that relative, since dead, with whom you spent that wonderful day at the market, or whatever, and wish that you had, or could find, the little knick-knack you bought, because you both touched it and it's comforting. (I am, of course, making this example up, but it's poignant damn it, poignant.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:04 PM
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Interesting comment and subsequent discussion about the title and translations thereof of Wild Strawberries.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:05 PM
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106: in that case, no need for the photograph.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:05 PM
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(and, I think, if you had the photograph, you wouldn't find it satisfying; what would be the point? you want, as I said, the thing itself.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:06 PM
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Maybe your relatives bought you knick-knacks, ogged.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:06 PM
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in that case, no need for the photograph

Jesus Christ, man. Then I'd tell you a different story, about trying to remember what that knick knack was that we bought together, oh yeah, here's the picture, it was such and such. Like I say, I'm not sure it wouldn't make me more sad.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:08 PM
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w-lfs-n, you'll never win this argument with sentimentalists. We're incorrigible.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:08 PM
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Maybe your relatives bought you knick-knacks, ogged.

But your relatives passed on to you their miserly ways, and that's worth a lot of money.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:09 PM
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The people on the side of Right in this conversation, such as ogged and parsimon, should read Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl collections, if they haven't already.

SK: as I said way up at the top, I am extremely sentimental about these things, and that is why I think the photographing thing is silly. Wouldn't the photograph just be lifeless and flat? Yes, it lets you know once more what the thing was, but at, I think, a cost (which I can't really articulate right now, unfortunately). It might make you more sad, you know, looking at the thing again, but, eh.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:11 PM
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True!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:11 PM
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Yes, you want the thing itself. Keep it. See it and realize that it's here for a reason. This is not true of all things, of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:12 PM
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111: That particular "more sadness" is *nice* though. Because it's not like oh, I remember that day at the market, oh here's the picture of the damn knick-knack; it's the opposite. Oh, look at this picture of the knick-knack; I remember the day at the market when my dear auntie bought me that thing. Of *course* it's sad. That's a *good* kind of sadness.

I can't get my kid to understand this, either.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:12 PM
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117: I don't think anyone disputes that.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:13 PM
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I believe that many of us have w-lfs-n's mailing address for CD exchanges. Let's all bundle up all of our less-sentimental, B-list mementos, the ones we decide we don't really need to keep, and send them to him.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:13 PM
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"Oh! That was one mummified motherfucking toad!"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:14 PM
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118: The point is that a photo can jog that memory as well as an object, and it takes a lot less room to store.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:15 PM
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It's not that I don't see the value of objective correlates or anything. But taking a picture of one, when you have to ditch the thing itself, well, it strikes me as suspicious.

The photograph of the knickknack is three removes from the experience. It seems so calculating, too. A photo taken at the event itself is more (I say it and call down the wrath of Tim) honest-seeming.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:16 PM
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121: bah. Ersatz attachment.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:16 PM
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Well, yeah, a photo of the event would be somewhat better. But if you lack such a thing, or you want to retain the bittersweet memory of the object you tossed, then you can take a picture of it. Also, "ersatz attachment" is the silliest objection ever.

(Plus, I *know* you have photos of your own wonky, now discarded objects--you linked to them upthread for god's sake. Hypocrite.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:18 PM
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If you took a photograph of the photograph, that would be four removes from the experience. But with a pair of facing mirrors of sufficient quality set at a slight angle to one another, you could easily get an image that was at 20 or 30 removes from the experience.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:19 PM
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I suspect Ben just wants to make sure that the rest of us lose our memories, so he can hog all the sentiment for himself.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:19 PM
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John, there may be people who can identify the photographs. Your Dutch cousins, for example.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:21 PM
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104: Corned beef? Or smoked meat?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:21 PM
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1. Only one of those is discarded, the table leg things.
2. Those photos were taken long before I discarded them, and primarily so that I could show other people what they looked like.

But perhaps you're right; there may have been an element of Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit to the photographing. What does that establish, other than my own fallenness?

Krapp's Last Tape. It's short! It's funny at points! It's relevant to the current conversation!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:23 PM
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It's relevant to the current conversation!

This is a selling point?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:25 PM
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Hey, Ben, I didn't realize there were sides here, and in fact it sounded roughly as though we were in agreement: photos are a poor substitute for the thing, and may well be a negative. I don't see a need for a principled stand on the matter; a matter of taste, no? I certainly don't take photos of memorabilia -- it strikes me as just bizarre. But tastes will differ.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:25 PM
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Some people thought the photos were a good thing, it seemed to me. Anyway, all I really wanted to do was recommend the Katchor.

Also, 37 was bait for you. But you didn't take it. :(


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:26 PM
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One's own objects get saved as unpleasant insurance, I think. Imagine the grim and possibly anonymous rooms where you will live in the fog of old age, the past just as real as the horrible salisbury steak that you will eat for lunch again today. Physical mementos of the past (even better if it can be the same rooms where some of the past happened) are anchors against terror and dislocation. The box of string won't help. Stuff newly acquired from QVC won't help either. I wouldn't bank on photos.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:27 PM
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I don't take photos of memorabilia particularly either. I'm just saying it's a *possible* solution to the "I can't bear to throw this away, but it's stupid to keep it" problem.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:27 PM
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Let me rephrase: You can't dictate someone else's sentimentality. So if a photograph or a swatch of yarn fulfills someone's need for connection to the past, why argue about it?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:27 PM
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Or my 85 year old aunt, maybe. If I ever go to Holland....

My son actually went to Scandinavia with his classic country band, and on the next visit will visit Bornholm, Denmark, which is an island of hillbilly Danes where one or more of his ancestors came from. JM, these were Mormon converts and my son is descended from a second wife.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:28 PM
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I believe the canonical answer to that question is that I'm a little bitch.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:28 PM
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Indeed you are.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:29 PM
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You don't take a picture of the thing because a picture is an adequate substitute for the discarded thing, you take a picture of the thing because it facilitates a mental trick to let you, the pack-rat, make rational decisions about knickknack deaccession.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:30 PM
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Photos of beloved t-shirts seem like a fine idea. Of baby teeth or my kid's collages not so much. But I'll be the first person in my family to begin saving things -- if I do so. The Second World War took care of all of the earlier generations' nekkid pictures and whatnots. And my parents are weird-ass socialists who don't believe in preserving memories through objects.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:31 PM
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But that mental trick is thinking that the picture does operate, in some relevant respects, as a substitute.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:32 PM
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Wasn't there some designer or other who, if one shipped her one's old t-shirts, would turn them into women's underthings?

Yes there was!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:34 PM
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Yglesias just posted that the AP has reported the 4,000th American death in Iraq. Speaking of memories.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:34 PM
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It's a trick because you accept the adequacy of the substitute as a polite fiction. Or you suspend disbelief in its inadequacy.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:35 PM
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Also, 37 was bait for you. But you didn't take it. :(

Are you talking to me? I saw that, 37, that is. I smiled. As for Krapp's Last Tape, like we're going to re-read Beckett at this time of night?

What's up with the Katchor? Don't answer that -- I'll look into it later. Julius Knipl sounds so familiar.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:36 PM
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It couldn't be a polite fiction, SB, since you're maintaining it with yourself. Polite fictions are properly maintained among multiple people.

You could be self-deceived, of course. Or ... you could be a fictionalist about adequacy. You know—the good will to illusion. But I am a skeptic about fictionalism about that sort of thing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:37 PM
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Anyway, if you could pull those cognitive tricks, shouldn't the photograph be optional?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:38 PM
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like we're going to re-read Beckett at this time of night?

Why not? It's not depressing. It's, you know, poignant.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:38 PM
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I think I meant, "suspend disbelief in its adequacy".


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:39 PM
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Anyway, if you could pull those cognitive tricks, shouldn't the photograph be optional?

The talking of the photograph is part of a therapeutic process. With luck, you will one day cast it aside.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:43 PM
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Oh, and from way up above: You really do need to get rid of the stuff before you die

Your son will never be charmed by your marginalia if you toss all your books, you know.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:44 PM
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I get rid of all my sentimental photographs using "Secure Empty Trash."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:45 PM
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146, 147: See, Benjamin, we humans often rely on these little things--"tricks," if you like--to help us make decisions that we find difficult but know are correct.

I realize that's not logical of us, but, well, it's all part of this whole "vulnerable flesh and blood" thing we've got going on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:46 PM
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My mom has a penchant for sending me greeting cards on every damn holiday possible. Most recently: St. Patrick's Day.

eekbeat was appalled when I threw out the birthday card my mom sent me. Meh. Gotta draw the line somewhere.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:51 PM
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I am human and I need to take pix
Just like everybody else … um.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:51 PM
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I keep cards for a year, then throw them out.

Ben considers this a weakness.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:53 PM
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I keep the vast majority of cards for something like an hour.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:54 PM
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151: Your mother is not dead, is she? And yet, you are charmed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:54 PM
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154: My grandmother used to send me cards for every holiday. I don't have the cards, but the memories are nice.

(That said, I do actually keep cards and letters. Which is pretty easy, b/c so few people send them these days....)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:55 PM
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I think the photos are fine provided they all prominently display "Ceci n'est pas un souvenir."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:56 PM
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Yo, stop beating up on Ben. He is not the enemy of sentimentality.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:57 PM
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160: Maybe one can photoshop the now-discarded-of objects into scenes of carnage to more properly represent one's sense of loss!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 9:58 PM
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Yo, stop beating up on Ben. He is not the enemy of sentimentality.

I remember back when Ben was the enemy of sentimentality. Good times.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:03 PM
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163 was me. I remember when Safari would remember my personal info for Unfogged comments. Good times.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:04 PM
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I remember when I asked if anyone recalled the time Matt McIrvin was talking about how he remembered the day when he read something about someone reminiscing about Frank Zappa talking about when nostalgia was better than it had become.

Those were the days, man.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:05 PM
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162: Yes, and then display prominently in your home. The latest thing for the "my mementos are more fraught than yours" crowd. Wilted prom corsage in a box, alas.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:06 PM
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164: You should have taken a screenshot.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:07 PM
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I believe that, at home in socal, I still have my now quite dried boutonnière from prom.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:07 PM
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165: I remember when a guy was talking about that on Unfogged.


Posted by: Ronald Reagan | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:08 PM
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168: I actually put a few selected flowers from my wedding corsage into a shadow box, but I didn't preserve them properly and they're all quite yellowed by now.

Looks kinda cool, though.

I had the wedding dress cleaned and hermetically stored in a box, but a couple of moves later I was like "I'm sick of moving this damn thing" and threw it in a dumpster.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-23-08 10:21 PM
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re: 67

Photos from 1850 would be really something. There's not a huge amount of those about. Fox-Talbot only perfected the paper-negative process about 8-9 years before that and the invention of the glass plate negative -- the real beginning of widespread high-quality photography -- isn't until the 1850s. If they really are from that decade, there'd probably be some minor historical interest in 'em.

The oldest photos we have in my dad's side of the family, I think, go back to the early 1920s. They are pretty good, though. Albums full of my grandfather's photos from India, Tibet, and so on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:44 AM
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Not necessarily 1850, but before 1870 because they're from Holland and everyone was in the US by 1970.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 5:52 AM
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Apparently, cleaning out his house after his death was a pure nightmare for my parents.

My grandmother had undiagnosed-but-obvious obsessive-compulsive disorder, and never threw anything away. And by "anything", I mean that she had 30 years of accumulated newspapers and empty tin cans in her house when she died. Most of the house was stacked floor to ceiling with junk. There were only a few narrow corridors where you could walk. It took my family (I wasn't involved directly) over a week and several maxi-sized dumpsters to empty the house.

My mother, who suffers from a bit of pack-rat OCD herself (though not in the same league as her mother) mournfully told us that she would never put us through that trauma. Unfortunately, as I observe the accumulating clutter in my parents' house, I suspect it's going in that direction.

I think it's a nice idea for surviving children to have a little bit of archival randomness to sort through after the parents' death, but considering that most of us will not be able to take a month off like Parsimon and will have to be pretty indiscriminate about throwing stuff away, it's probably best to leave only a manageable amount, like an old steamer trunk full.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 5:58 AM
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136.---Hey, my great-grandfather was a Danish convert. I have a little rug that belonged to him. It's got some sentimental value, sure, but it's also a hand-knotted Persian antique, so...


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 6:08 AM
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174: Well, if he was a Bornholm hillbilly, you're my son's cousin. Bornholm is an island far from the rest of Denmark, so they'd know.

173: My brother's mother-in-law collected movie VCRs. She had hundreds of them all stacked together. Her daughter borrowed one one night to watch, without telling her, and a couple of hours later get an anxious phone call: "Have you seen my [name of movie] VCR?"

I hope that the missing movie was on the top of the pile, but it's possible that she scanned her entire collection every day and could tell that something was wrong if one was missing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 6:26 AM
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ttaM, I have a couple of what seem to be glass prints thru my grandfather. Any idea how exactly that dates them?

I also have a huge and very bad portrait of a Victorian clergyman (g-g-grandfather), a gift from his parishioners, which my sister will neither let me get rid of or take off my hands. If anybody is prepared to fake a burglary, I could make it worth their while.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 6:50 AM
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So if photographs and pressed flowers are so handy, why not take your treasured keepsakes and flatten them, e.g. with a steamroller?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 7:10 AM
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i erased almost all my pictures, the last ones taken in Japan, i did not print them out
pc got virus and crushed


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 7:22 AM
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re: 176

I have no idea how that would date them, tbh. Glass plates were quite widely used well into the 20th century. All the classic Hollywood black and white photos from the 'golden age' [30s, 40s and 50s] were shot on plates and they continued to be used in archival photography quite a bit later than that. We still occasionally scan old plates in my 'day job'.

You can still buy them, believe it or not. Although it's now a niche market, to say the least.

http://www.slavich.ru/english/products/fotoplastin/

People also coat their own as you can buy bottled emulsion that you just paint onto glass [or any other material you like].

Sally Mann [well-known and, for some, controversial photographer] now mostly works with glass plates.

A photo historian could probably tell you exactly when the mass market shifted over to nitrate negatives -- late 19th century with the Kodak's entry into the mass market, probably -- but pro photographers kept using them for ages because glass plates produce very high quality images and are easily retouched by painting or drawing directly on the plate.So, dating your photos would depend on whether they were 'snaps' or studio portraiture.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 7:47 AM
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Woefully late, but back on thread - I find that paying a significant sum every month to store this sort of stuff really does help in the paring down process. One year later I visited my storage unit and discovered boxes of things I do not need, never did need and frankly couldn't remember why I stored in the first place. A huge percentage of it got tossed or donated to Goodwill.

Of course, you're talking about very sentimental things. I'd probably pay monthly rent to store them (we're talking smallish things, yes? And not say a grandfather's Roto-tiller, cherished and beloved?). If, after a year my reaction to seeing them again was mystification and not, say, delight, I would chuck them.

We're moving again - we never loved our place in LA so we're moving to a place we will hopefully love a little more (WD in unit!), and since it's also bigger, a visit to a storage unit is in my future.


Posted by: moira | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 8:05 AM
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thea


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 8:16 AM
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Woo Moira! My goal in life is to avoid paying for a storage unit....

Re. o/c relatives, *do* try to go through as much stuff as you can, though. My dad was going to just chuck all the shit in his parents' house (they weren't huge hoarders but, y'know, stuff accumulates and dad's impatient), but Mr. B. insisted on going through everything. They found, in a drawer in a dresser in the garage that my dad would have just donated to goodwill without opening, a bunch of photos. One was a picture of my father's mother (who committed suicide) holding him as a baby. He hadn't known there were *any* photos of her still in existence.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 8:42 AM
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Also, you don't know now that you're making the right decision for later. When I was about 8, my father decided to get rid of all the original 78s he'd bought in his late teens (Bix, Tram, Miff Mole, etc.). They took up a lot of space in a small house. It never crossed his mind that his kids would be interested in them.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 8:49 AM
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Oh, I'm not saying that paying for a storage unit is ideal, but it does focus the priorities beautifully.

And ditto going through the O/C parents' stuff carefully. In fact, that's on my to-do list as my folks are becoming more and more prone to letting things accumulate. An entire room in their house has now been given over to furniture, boxes, magazines, etc., that they will probably never use. It's not a small room.

I have no hopes of avoiding a protracted sorting-through after they pass away; I'm only trying to reset the room somewhere near zero before they fill it up again.


Posted by: moira | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 9:04 AM
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Throw away nothing - eventually, your grandchildren will sell it all on eBay.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 11:56 AM
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I think I've been manageable about keeping mementoes; I have a sturdy, stuffed bag in the storage cubby that really should be in a box or something more permanent, as well as a few things I've accumulated since moving to my current apartment that haven't gone in the bag yet but probably will. The real space-taking-up stuff of mine are the collections of books, mostly but not entirely fiction, and of comic books. The books, I could probably winnow down to a few erudite tomes and a few personal favorites and take the rest to a used bookstore. The comic books, though, I probably won't get rid of until I'm destitute and/or they've appreciated enough that they're worth something. (Hey, it could happen.)

Suddenly, this is a bit of a scary topic, because I'll have to deal with it. To the extent that I've thought about it at all, I've assumed I could leave whatever I couldn't conveniently keep but didn't want to throw away at my parent's house. They live nearby, have plenty of storage space and wouldn't mind sharing it. However, they're talking about moving to New Mexico. They've been talking about moving for years as a hobby or fantasy, but never so far away, and they actually seem serious about it. Uh oh.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 12:53 PM
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I guess I am just heartless and unsentimental, because I read this thread and my reaction was mostly, What is wrong with these people? Though I guess moving cross country from your family for grad school and then moving transatlantically four times helps.

I did have a storage unit the last time I lived in Berlin for long period of time, and I was able to figure out what I'm most attached to by what I wasn't willing to leave in it. (For fear of fire, water damage, etc.) It came down to a 1920s watch and an envelope of pictures.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:01 PM
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187: Is Blume commenting from Sifu's laptop, or do their biographies overlap that much?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:06 PM
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It came down to a 1920s watch and an envelope of pictures.

Don't forget the pimp sword!

I keep pictures, and I like stuff that's been used by multiple generations, like a couple .22's that have been passed down. (a 1953 Colt auto, and a 1916 Winchester pump action rifle)


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:12 PM
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Oops. The former possibility suggested in 188.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:25 PM
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If I don't get to live forever, my stuff doesn't get to either. I have a few sentimental objects around, but I keep getting a little more ruthless about getting rid of stuff and I'm usually happy with the results. And one of the more sentimental things in the house is a meaningless bit of kitsch with a meaningless story (gift from a relative of my wife's whom we're not close to) that happens to remind me of my grandmother.

I'm using the photos of my own childhood to perpetuate a lie upon PK, thereby extending as long as possible his belief that his grandparents are fun people and--with any luck--succeeding, as my parents did before me (to their great credit) in replacing old grudges and fuckups with warm cross-generation memories and affections.

Families and kids differ a lot, but we've filtered almost nothing with our kid and I'm happy with the results so far. Mostly we've done it because we didn't have a choice--when my wife has something to say, it's coming out regardless of whether the kid is in the room--but I think it's been good for him to learn early that people and relationships are complicated.

(Not arguing that anybody else should be doing it our way, just noting the alternative.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:37 PM
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NPH, this is really admirable. And your wife is as well, if I may say so.

Not to cast a downer note, but as Cyrus remarks in 186.2, this is a bit of a scary topic -- thinking last night about throwing meaningful things out, what, before one dies, upon realizing that death is near, is sobering. But a bit like the "leave no trace" doctrine, no?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:46 PM
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190: You share *laptops*? Kinky.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 2:49 PM
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193: gross! I caught grad student!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 3:45 PM
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i have a national dress my mom sewed me, it's green silk with light blue, pink and golden flowers
when she died we did not know what to do with her clothes, it all still smelled like her
i have her ruby rings, i never wear them though
when Princess Diana died, that summer she were selling her dresses on the auctions, i thought, strange, we believe that it's a bad luck if one gives away one's clothes
if you are going to throw away your clothes, at least you have to take off the collar and belt portions and burn it, says our customs, to avoid bad luck, naturally


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 4:57 PM
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-s coz plural, yeah


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-08 5:02 PM
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I think it's a nice idea for surviving children to have a little bit of archival randomness to sort through after the parents' death, but considering that most of us will not be able to take a month off like Parsimon and will have to be pretty indiscriminate about throwing stuff away, it's probably best to leave only a manageable amount, like an old steamer trunk full.

...or to have a huge extended family that can pick over the carcass of their lives so that one needn't bother, guaranteeing a new generation of grudges to keep everyone on their toes. My mother still talks about a ring she didn't get because Cousin So-and-so beat her to it when my great-grandfather died over thirty years ago. She's seen so many deaths turn into treasure-hunting bouts that she made my sisters and me go through and identify what we wanted for ourselves ten years ago. One of my sisters died in the intervening years and neither the one left nor I are terribly concerned with the stuff we get. My private preference is for each of us to take a few things for ourselves - and I am only too happy to defer to her should we both want the same thing - then throw open the doors to our relatives for a couple of days and once they're done post the rest on Ebay.

I get the idea of keeping a thing as a prop for memory or as a physical link to someone we've lost and I have a couple of small things that I keep purely because my oldest, now-deceased sister gave them to me and I have a couple of things from her desk at work that my brother-in-law gave me after the fact but ultimately I have my experience of her, locked away in my head. I spend a lot more time making sure I remember the sound of her voice than I do flipping through old Bloom County collections she bought me when I was in jr. high.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 03-25-08 4:32 PM
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