JF Ptak Science Books (Archive Post 1303, expanded)
“There’s nothing so perfect as imperfection.”–Somebody.
“The great unconquerables in the geography of human thoughts and ideas are the bad ones.”–Nobody.
[The captions for the images in this pamphlet are mostly facetious--the author/s were conservationists of sorts, interested in the landscape and visual culture of their state. They tried to make their case in some instances with sarcasm.]
Bad ideas don’t so much go away as they get recycled. They can be replaced by good ideas or bad, but the ”original” bad ideas seem to linger on and on. They are perhaps the indomitable inheritance of society, real and imagined.
Bad human-produced landscapes are an outgrowth of bad ideas, calamities large and small that come and go, the old replaced by something new that is good or bad or indifferent. With the landscape, the original landscape itself--apart from the idea that brought it about--is generally lost forever once it has been replaced. There is no Bad Idea Spirit that brings it back whole again, unlike the generic Bad Idea, which can live on and on, unencumbered by history, like a Greek play or some deeper mythology.
Theoretically society is supposed to learn from recognized bad ideas, so as to not repeat them etc., which is one reason why we keep track of them, in the vain hope that someday someone somewhere in the history of our future will kill particular bad ideas off one by one.
In the meantime we can dwell on what we have, though with the removed bad idea landscape, it is more difficult. That’s why it is important every now and then to familiarize ourselves with them when the opportunity arises, which is just what happened with this innocuous-sounding pamphlet, The Roadsides of California, a Survey1 (1932) Its not like it’s Pandora’s box–we can open this one and just a few, limited baddies come out, and fall limply to the floor. But what we see is interesting, a slice of our memory of the horizon–a part of our “progress” that we’ve tried to excise–and what we can see now are the removed and forgotten things.
1. This is actually an interesting pamphlet, an early attempt at removing the quickly generated ugliness that was cluttering new roads for the explosion of automobile travelers. As quickly as cars were made in the new decade of the automobile, billboards and roadside attractions followed. This pamphlet identified this phenomenon as a problem.