Recently on this site (see ‘The Stones of Constantine‘) I wrote about the way the culture, in books and movies, shuns original creation and plunders known properties from our shared past for inspiration instead, churning out new versions and remakes of everything from The Brady Bunch to Total Recall.
And I compared this activity to the way, in the later Roman Empire, the constructors of newer buildings and monuments had to complete them by using pieces pried off from older ones, since by their day the knowledge of how to execute the kind of architectural detail they wanted had died out.
A symptom of creative decadence in both cases, I suggested.
But really, just to be the Devil’s advocate here, isn’t the practice of re-imagining older literary and dramatic properties something that has always been going on?
Like the alchemical Dragon, devouring its own tail and eternally nourishing itself, don’t we derive creation from destruction? And isn’t that the way we make new gold out of old straw?
Shakespeare picked up his plots from other sources. Painters often re-do the pictures of other painters. The same songs are covered by different singers through the years. And so it goes.
The lack of creativity in the later Roman architects does imply decadence.
But maybe not– maybe they just wanted to recycle artistic and structural tropes that had become traditional.
The problem is that they had to do it that way. Their stonecutters no longer had the skill to copy the earlier forms.
The problem was, and is, a loss of creativity across the board.
It’s possible, of course, to put too much of a premium on originality for its own sake. The later Roman builders were inspired by the earlier ones. But then, what inspired the early ones?
They must have done what the best artists always do– make it up as they go along.
The problem of creative recycling is in what gets recycled.
And one of our problems is that we too have a disconnect with the sources of what we seek. That which is culturally shared among us is not literature, not David Copperfied or even the Bible.
It is the most infimal kind of crap, is what it is. It’s Scooby-Doo, or Bewitched, or, Lord help us, The Brady Bunch. We have people in the entertainment industry who are very skilled at interpreting this stuff– the problem isn’t with them; it’s with
the material they’re given to work with.
And why? Whoops, time to blame the Republicans again. They have a visceral suspicion and dislike of learning and educated people. They keep in the saddle by deliberately fostering an anti-intellectual climate where monetary gain is the only good. And their policies continually broaden this base.
We are reaping the consequences.
The other night I caught some of an old movie, Mogambo. A potboiler from 1953, it features a story in African locations. Actually it mostly features Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner emoting in front of process screens of lions and crocs,
intercut with location footage.
Certainly no great picture. But…
I heard Ava Gardner lightly use the phrase, “like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.”
Ava, or the scriptwriter, was casually quoting the 19th Psalm from the King James Bible.
In 1953, the Bible was part of the shared literary background. That throwaway quotation would have been recognized as a matter of course.
Today, fatuously self-satisfied in our dangerous ignorance, no one makes or recognizes a literary quotation. Even conservative Bible-thumpers actually don’t actually read the Bible all that much.
In fact, if there’s any book that today’s younger people comfortably refer back to, it would seem to be The Cat in the Hat. You see the costume at parties and raves.
We’re never dumber than when we think ourselves smart. We’re never more ignorant than when we assume that we’re wise.
[Stones of Constantine image via Shutterstock.com]
Joni Ernst accused of involvement in ‘dark money’ re-election scheme: report
According to a report from the Associated Press, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been accused of illegally working with an outside group to help her re-election prospects in a tough 2020 fight with Donald Trump on the ballot.
According to AP: "An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law."
"Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign," the report continued. "And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her."
What makes Christmas movies so popular
If you are one of those people who will settle in this evening with a hot cup of apple cider to watch a holiday movie, you are not alone. Holiday movies have become firmly embedded in Americans’ winter celebrations.
The New York Times reports a massive increase in new holiday movies this year. Disney, Netflix, Lifetime and Hallmark are now in direct competition for viewers’ attention, with both new releases and reruns of the classics.
Mike Pompeo under increasing scrutiny as as Trump impeachment ramps up: report
On Saturday, WVAS Radio's Scott Simon profiled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and how the impeachment investigation is shaping his political situation.
"As the impeachment inquiry against President Trump continues its march through Congress, questions are churning around his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo," wrote Simon. "For example, did he know, as witnesses testified before House investigators, that President Trump sought political favors from Ukraine in exchange for millions in U.S. assistance? Why did he take days to reveal he was on the now infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy? And does he believe allies of the president who — despite the findings of the intelligence community — claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election?"