Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Medieval Man, hence always a century or more in advance of things

I have been dealing with Chesterton's writing in exquisite detail (down to the smallest part of a letter as it says in Holy Writ) and he never ceases to stun me with his amazing insights, fruitful analogies, and wise guidance, even in the most technical of matters - like about how the binomial theorem proclaims the glory of God, the importance of three-sidedness to triangles, or the role of Charles Babbage in Western culture - but even in the popular sense of technology. He was the first to have his own Blogg, as I have been proclaiming for some years (since this blogg was founded, in fact), and he gave all bloggdom that very penetrating justification for existence:
This paper exists to insist on the rights of man; on possessions that are of much more political importance than the principle of one man one vote. I am in favour of one man one house, one man one field; nay I have even advanced the paradox of one man one wife. But I am almost tempted to add the more ideal fancy of one man one magazine ... to say that every citizen ought to have a weekly paper of this sort to splash about in ... this kind of scrap book to keep him quiet.
[from G.K.'s Weekly April 4, 1925 quoted in Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 497]
There is also this, which ought to be inscribed on every cell phone of the cosmos:
I have often thanked God for the telephone.
[GKC What's Wrong With the World CW4:112]
But today... ah, today! I was hunting for a quote for a dear friend, and found this utterly remarkable commentary on - ah - I believe the term is "Photoshopping" - that is, altering photograph(s) for the sake of commentary, humor, or malevolence. But read it for yourself.
...I am not ignorant of the advantages of our legal forms, and that I do not entertain a vulgar prejudice that lawyers are leeches, I think that most sensible men must have been coming of late to feel that the routine and method of our Law Courts needs a great deal of revision. There has been much discussion in the papers about the case of Miss Gertie Millar, who brought an action upon the ground that no one had a right to sell a realistic and apparently homogeneous photograph in which the head belonged to one person and the body to another. And the Court decided, it appears, that people have got a right to sell a realistic and apparently homogeneous photograph of which the head belongs to one person and the body to another. The decision certainly sounds very queer. Sketches, drawings, coloured pictures, would not, of course, come into the question; they are obviously fictitious, and therefore cannot be anything more than insults. But a photograph can be made to look as if it were the complete representation of an actual person who at some time stood as though before the camera. That is the whole point of a photograph; it is the only reason that anybody wants a photograph. And it certainly seems alarming to say that this thing which professes to be realistic can be made up lawfully of any combination of heads and arms and legs. There is nothing to prevent my drawing a picture of Dr. Clifford with a devil's tail, or Mr. Blatchford with donkey's ears, or the late Sir Wilfrid Lawson as a crawling serpent, after the simple manner of the more popular valentines - that is, there is nothing to prevent me, except my own feelings of respect for all those three persons. But is it also true that I can exhibit in my shop-window a row of ordinary photographs of ordinary bishops, putting among them a convincing photograph of Dr. Clifford in full Roman canonicals and inscribed with the words, "The Growth of Ritual among Nonconformists"? Can I really exhibit a photograph headed in large letters "The Conversion of a Sceptic, " and exhibiting a fine view of the interior of Westminster Abbey, with a figure kneeling with clasped hands, upon which figure I have arbitrarily placed the head of Mr. Blatchford? Should I have been within my rights if in the lifetime of Sir Wilfrid Lawson I had exhibited a photograph of him sprawling across the bar of a pot-house and drinking the health of the barmaid in hot Scotch? In all these cases it seems to me that a photograph would come under something of the nature of libel, because a photograph, by its own photographic nature, claims to be a real scene.
[GKC ILN Feb 23, 1907 CW27:402-4]


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