The idea of history as a picture of the no longer there

In this image, Google Maps has followed its standard practice and blurred out identifying information, such as the license number on the truck in the foreground and the address on the ambulance in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant. The address of the restaurant itself is 1180 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

But to music history, all there is in the image is a different building which once was tagged with the same geocoordinates.  Demolished now, blurred out in its entirety and absorbed into the idea of history,  that building was the home of Territorial Sporting Arms: the enterprise where Mark Chapman bought the pistol with which he killed John Lennon.

Hero: how to synthesize

As of September 28, 2013, the prose of Wikipedia’s article “Rudolf Berthold” pants with a breath smelling of nineteenth-century hygiene.

Throughout the summer of 1918 Berthold continued flying, increasingly relying on morphine for pain relief. Such was his strength of will he also taught himself to write with his left hand.

The image that comes to mind is less a picture than an idea, less an idea than a corpus of prose. Since the day of publication of A Farewell to Arms, at the latest, it hasn’t been possible to understand the phrase “Such was his strength of will” as anything but a phrase from a textbook. “Such was his strength of will” is language attempting to stand alone, without the aid of image.

Charles W. Sanders, Sanders' school Speaker, 1857

But look at the image on its own terms, with its explanatory language (“Unser erfolgreicher Kampf-Flieger”) reduced to a remainder left flatfooted at the bottom.

San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, catalog number 10_0017272

Then follow the image’s hinted command, open Photoshop, and use the Dodge control on the eyes.

You must. Such was the image’s strength of will. And now you cannot stop seeing.

Usage note: the phrasal verb “get through to”

1. Get through to denotes communication, but its originating metaphor connotes forcing, piercing, penetrating. To get through to is one way of communicating; to be gotten through to is another. The difference is a bloody matter of the difference between prey and predator.

2. The communication channel of getting through to is fear. In fear of being gotten through to, some people calm their pounding hearts by remembering that they believe in their gun and their Bible. Others choose to mask their susceptibility to communication behind deflecting layers of irony. The warehouse full of Basquiats, check; the Russian passport, check.

3. Getting through to can also be thought of as a speech act like voting or naming: a way of doing things with words. Under the control of speech-act technologists like Frank Luntz and Roger Ailes, language is a symbol system used by the people with the Basquiats to get through to people whose symbols are at pre-ironic stages of development.

R. H. Beck, "Preparing for the trail," Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, Photoshopped.
R. H. Beck, “Preparing for the trail,” Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, Photoshopped.