Thu, Aug

Talking Statues

MAILANDER MUSINGS - In Baroque-era Rome, the pundits of the day would affix notes and cartoons to statues. If you wanted news, opinion, satire on the news of the day, you walked to the right piazza and read the day's scribble on one or many of these "talking statues." (Pictured is Pasquino, the most famous of Rome’s ‘talking statues’.)

After Pasquino came printing, and because of the ability to reproduce text we have had a long sweep in which there existed both history and newspapers. History was for people who believed in long narratives--it evolved along with another now quaint notion: the book.

(For the longest damn time, most people had one book, but reproduction mercifully made variety possible). Stories told in books are also histories--to wit, high stories. Newspapers were for people who couldn't get their news of the day directly from the city's resident lords and duchesses.

Now it is all these years later, and the notion of the newspaper is fading away. This is probably not due to the fact that the economics of storytelling is failing so much as the fact that people who were trained to tell stories a certain way are no longer very relevant to our lives.

We used to care what our City Council did to our City and especially our civic space. But in a city of transitory renters, those who care about how the city handles traffic lights, pot-holes and sharrows are no longer vested enough in civic life to care so much about whether the City hands a square mile of priceless civic acreage--which could be used for arts, culture, recreation, or even housing our disappearing middle class--over to a certain developer who wants to use it to build a commercially trite pro football stadium, even one without tailgating opportunities--even though we already have not one but two such stadia in easy transit distance that do let the broader public tailgate their Saturdays and Sundays should they choose.

As a matter of fact, we care so little that our declining former fishwrap-of-record itself actually actively endorsed [link] this surrendering of civic title to narrow, out-of-town commercial interests, hoping to get in the developer's good graces too, hoping that a new development in town might pay for some more ads that would artificially extend the fishwrap's life--now so obviously at end of lifecycle--a little longer still.

But while the notion of the newspaper is mercifully ending, the notion of reproduction as the controlling principle of communication still reigns. [link]

This blog post will be reproduced on about three hundred screens today, and maybe a few dozen more times down the road. There are some blog posts, some media posts that will be reproduced on hundreds of thousands of screens.

Your job as the reader, however, remains akin to the baroque era Roman--you're going to note the talking statues with the scribblings that interest you most, that inform the way you live most consistently.

Happy hunting for the pasquinades that remain most relevant to your life.

(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He blogs at street-hassle.blogspot.com where this column first appeared.) –cw

Tags: City Council, newspapers, blog, renters,

Vol 9 Issue 64
Pub: Aug 12, 2011