The Stones of Constantine

By Hal Robins
Monday, April 2, 2012 16:15 EDT
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Arch of Constantine, via Shutterstock.com
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In the days of the later Roman Empire, when much of the skill to create sculptures and bas-reliefs in the original, classical style had been lost, the builders of that time used to construct their monuments using stuff –ornaments, statues and carvings– removed from earlier buildings.

They would transfer these to the buildings they were working on. It was easier that way.

And historians cite this pilfering of the more able past to demonstrate the creative decadence of the later Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

But, if strip-mining the past is all that decadent, we’ve got a major outbreak of decadence right here on Planet America.

What else can you call re-making not just every generally famous movie (The Birds, Barbarella, A Star is Born– yet again– and Robocop), but re-making what seems like every cornball, infimal TV show (Lost In Space, The Beverly Hillbillies, 21 Jump St.) as a movie?

Our authors do it too– pulling characters and literary tropes out of context (the novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter– about to be, yes, a Tim Burton-produced movie! –comes to mind).

Not to be a fuddy-duddy, but I’m supposing our downgrading of education is behind this, as it underlies so much else that is distasteful.

Inadequately educated minds tend not to accept original things or even to believe in the legitimacy of invention. They stick with the familiar.

As the number of people actually engaged with literature contracts, the arena of ideas and books is also diminished.

And, more and more, popular culture shies away from anything novel.

We’re left with a cycle of ever-diminishing re-dos, each one with less excuse for being than the one before it.

Just sayin.’

[Arch of Constantine image via Shutterstock.com.]

Hal Robins
Hal Robins
Hal Robins is a renowned underground comic artist and his work has appeared in Last Gasp’s Weirdo, Salon Magazine’s Dark Hotel and many other publications. For decades he has been the co-host of KPFA-Pacifica Radio's “Puzzling Evidence” program. Reverend Hal is the Master of Church Secrets for The Church of the SubGenius. As Dr. Howland Owll, he has served as MC for many unique San Francisco events, and is the principle of The Ask Dr. Hal Show, still currently running both as a live staged event and in-studio on Radio Valencia (radiovalencia.fm) Friday evenings. Hal contributed his unique vocal talents to the award-winning interactive game Half-Life.
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