Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hard drive in my head filling up

Last night I could not remember the word “artichoke.” Such a simple thing, yet I could not remember. When I have moments like this (also called a “senior moment”), rather than check myself into an Alzheimer’s care facility* I remember what my doctor told me: “Everyone has moments like that. Our brains are like computer hard drives. They get filled up, and sometimes the memory process is slowed down.”

Artichoke. You already know what it is. I am showing it so I can refer back to it if need be.

What brought it on was watching the Utah Utes play football against the Oregon Ducks. The Oregon uniforms reminded me of artichokes. I had a few frustrating moments trying to think of the name of the “variety of a species of thistle, cultivated as food,” (Wikipedia) and then finally asked my wife. She looked at me as she often does at such moments, in amazement, but came up with the answer. So now I can remember artichoke.

What is also funny is that memory is so selective. We can remember some things with near crystal clarity, and others, even things we should remember, we come up empty when trying to think of them.

I have “forgotten” whole parts of my life. In the 1990s when my therapist asked me to recount a memory from my childhood I went blank. I told her, “I know I have it in there somewhere, but I can’t make it come out.” When I went home I had an uncomfortable evening trying to retrieve the memory, and actually it did not come back fully to me for several weeks. So my head hard drive has been full up for quite a long time. Decades, even.

But in one of those interesting things about memory, one recollection came clearly, and was sparked by a cartoon in the September 28, 2015 New Yorker.

Artist: Michael Crawford. Copyright © 2015 The New Yorker.

I recognized the cartoon as being inspired by the cover of an old detective magazine, one I have in my collection. It is in storage, yet I was able to go into the basement and remember the box it was in.

 Special Detective magazine, Oct-Nov 1951.

Apparently my internal hard drive has glitches when trying to recall some life events and the names of everyday foodstuffs, but no problems recalling a cover of a magazine I have had stored in a box for about twenty years (at least).

Beyond that connection, it makes me wonder where the cartoonist saw the magazine. The Internet?

*My mother spent the last four years of her life in such a place. What losing a parent to Alzheimer’s does is doom one to looking at every little failure of memory or cognition and worry that one is afflicted with dementia.


Kirk said...

I don't know if it's still the case, but at one time The New Yorker had writers other than the cartoonists themselves come up with many of the captions. Not every cartoon, and if the artist could think of a good joke on their own, that was great (as it meant only paying one person) but if someone had a unique style but wasn't all that funny, or they were usually funny but maybe going through a dry spell, then the magazine would assign a collaborator. Even Charles Addams, who comedic style would seem to have been uniquely his own, occasionally had captions written by others. I bring all this up because you got me wondering now if it's the cartoonist who knew about the 64-year old magazine cover, or some writer who would have had to then bring the cover to the cartoonist's attention. Even though this particular cartoon has everything in place, it lacks the overall luridness of the cover, as if the cartoonist didn't necessarily get the joke he had to illustrate.

Imagine if Addams were still alive. That cartoon would have been right up his alley.

Postino said...

Kirk, I agree. Addams would have done a great job in making the cartoon very dark, but funny. In its own way, I think this joke is pretty good, and I admire Crawford (if he wrote his own caption, and I'm assuming he did) that he could take a pretty straight illustration and caption it in such a humorous way. I also like his drawing.

Like you, I have heard that some New Yorker cartoonists used writers. Peter Arno used jokes from other people. I also remember reading that Carl Rose, an excellent illustrator and cartoonist, came in with a cartoon that the editor thought was too well drawn, so he paid Rose for the joke and handed the art chores to James Thurber. It is the famous drawing of a sword fight, where one man has sliced another man's head off, and is shouting "Touché!" Thurber's crude yet appealing cartooning style mitigated the gruesome joke.