Get Off the Monk's Lawn

It's like the 90's all over again, but with worse writing. I mean the 1990's. But I could just as well mean the 1890's or the 1490's. It will ever be chic to lament the speed of technology, the loss of contemplation, and the narcissism of the latest crop of young adults.

It's the film lament that is insufferable now. In the 1990's it was merely a boutique complaint that digital video was going to ruin filmmaking. But the proliferation of phone cameras and services like Instagram have ratcheted up the wailing.  

This title from the Guardian says it all: "Our 'Kodak moments' – and creativity – are gone." It's almost all horseshit. The only half decent/accurate line was pointed out to me on Facebook (thank you to Tom Dempster ):

"Volume [of cultural production] may be up, but creativity is down – and at the risk of shocking the army of selfie shooters, I have to tell you that this is by design. Our supposed acts of creativity are just another node in corporate production" (Farago).

The creative impulse co-opted by captialism? UNPOSSIBLE. I may swoon. Hey, nice headshot there. Is that a "selfie"? No, because that's not what why the selfie manifests itself culturally, but that writer is too busy to actually look into the phenomenon because I guess he and Joel Stein are busy thinking up new ways to insult Millenials to get pageviews and sell paper magazines. (Interesting view on the selfie by John Roderick and Merlin Mann in episode 79 of Roderick on the Line. That's a podcast. You know, the thing that obviates and surpasses terrestrial radio?)

So. Film. Lament it if you will. But it's not dead. It's still being made, just not that much by Kodak. It's still being used, just not that much for "snapshots." Film is not dead, it will not die. It will not die because it is an art medium. Just because film's day has passed as a default communication medium has no bearing on its value as an art medium. I could go on about film's value as a deliberative material, but I won't because much of it was said far better in the 15th century by monk Johannes Trithemius in his De laude scriptorum manualium  (In Praise of Scribes) written in 1492.

FOURTEEN NINETY-TWO. Lamenting the printing press. Perhaps the most important piece of technology since, oh I don't know, FIRE? But Trethemius makes a good case about the importance of deliberating on what you're transcribing, knowing the material in a truly deep way. But then, Trithemius loses it and writes: "He who ceases from zeal for writing because of printing is no true lover of the Scriptures." (Quote from The Abbot Trithemius, Brann, 1981)

Dammit, Johannes. You had me then you lost me, because now you sound exactly like every doofus from the 1990's who was falling over themselves condemning works of cinema that didn't properly genuflect to film. Still, I'll forgive him. He was a monk in the 15th century about to be downsized. But that horrible, horrible Guardian piece is no better than the article "Nature's Revenge on Genius" published in the journal Nature in 1889. Electricity is screwing everything up. The telephone will destroy us all. Not a single citation (other than the Bible) or study. No research at all, just making crap up based on his personal dislikes.

I'll repeat and extend: a medium's demise as a default communication medium has no bearing on its value as an art medium. Also, to conflate the demise of film as a default communication medium with the economic collapse of Kodak is to completely misunderstand (and fail to research) how comprehensively incompetent that company's C-levels have been beginning in the late 1980's. But, that is another story.

So, creativity will always be fine. Young people will always piss off morons. And journalism, it seems, will always be in decline.