On Finding Out.
I found out this week that scientists – always that universal collective of scientists, as if they all live in one big laboratory – discovered our brain simultaneously constructs two memories, one short term and one long term, in separate parts of the brain. They don’t say whether these are identical memories of an event, and I’m not sure whether one is more or less detailed than the other. Anyway, I believe they experimented with mice and extrapolated to human brains.
Presumably, short term memories get erased? And are long term memories less reliable; maybe they get revised, embellished, refined, as life brings new experiences and knowledge?
My grandad bought me the weekly magazine Finding Out “The modern magazine for young people everywhere”. Characteristically this is something he always did for me, and, I think, for himself. After Finding Out, we collected Knowledge, Everyman, and a monthly publication on Birds of the world. Eventually Mum, in characteristical form, would decide unilaterally to chuck them all away just to clear space. You don’t know what you got til it’s gone, as Joni Mitchell sang. Initial anger and disappointment gives way to a sense of my own stupidity in taking things too much for granted.
Finding Out had a broad scope but mainly covered knowledge of a transient nature, namely science, technology, and history; it is probably mostly out of date now. It would be great to browse through a few editions though, simply for nostalgia and curiosity.
There are several things in this magazine which stayed with me: the implausible artists’ impressions of the skylines of other planets (like some interplanetary holiday brochure); the origins of common surnames; the hazardous chemistry experiments (like manufacturing lead oxide by burning roof flashing with a parrafin blow-lamp); legendary beasts; and the signature illustrations (no photographs) which characterised the publication.
Angus McBride was one prominent illustrator on the magazine. His series of “beasts” had made a lasting impression on me (though I wasn’t aware of who the artist was until today). The back page of each edition was dedicated to one beast, a full page detailed illustration accompanied with a description of the beast and its cultural placement. I loved these artistic illustrations and was fascinated by the mythology.
I don’t remember how it came about but I spoke to my primary teacher about these and she suggested I bring them in for subjects for an art lesson. After a little discussion, each of us chose a beast to paint that afternoon. I chose the Maero and my artistic rival – whose name, I think, was Justin – chose the Hippocampi (featuring Neptune). He found the sea waves difficult and ended up attempting what I now realise to be a sort of impressionist representation of their movement, and becoming slightly overworked. The impromptu classroom jury was unaminous and cruel, and he lost his crown on that occasion, something I quietly revelled in. But profoundly I knew he was the better artist for trying and experimenting. I know he left the school before the rest of us did; no doubt his family moved around. I wonder what became of him, whether unlike me, he persued art further and possibly took it up professionally.
Here are some of those McBride beasts I remember clearly and fondly (there are others but you’ll have to google them).
From top-bottom, left-right, Minotaur | Leshy | John Bunyan & Babe | Chinese Dragon | Bunyip | Midgard Serpent | Domovoi | Gnomes | Gryphons | Maero | Werewolf | White Buffalo | Tokoloshe