Thursday, November 3, 2011


In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his friends visit the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic.  Part of this office is taken up by a vast storeroom in which prophesies are kept in glass spheres, like the proverbial crystal ball.  Like memories that get replayed in a Pensieve, the prophesies appear, in the movie at least, as wisps of smoke.

What would be immensely valuable to humankind would be the ability to keep ideas archived and available for immediate consumption. After all, in the long run, the only thing of value our species has produced is ideas, and perhaps the occasional realization of some of them. Some ideas are captured in objects that represent them ... buildings, machines, works of art.  But many are stored only in the limited transcriptions into books, musical scores, recordings, etc. These require time and some amount of cognitive effort to transmit their contents. You have to read a book or watch a movie or listen to music. Who's got time for that?

Mort Gerberg defined a cartoon as "instant communication of a funny idea."1  Of course, technically it's not instantaneous if you have to read the dialog or the caption, but it's probably as close as we've been able to come. So I think we should place greater value on cartoons as the ideal medium for preserving our culture and intellectual heritage.

And, needless to say, we should honor cartoonists above all others.

1Gerberg, Mort, Cartooning: The Art and the Business.

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