tempora cum causis (2)

Ancient. In the Greco-Roman world there is a persistent idea that the people of the past were better than those who are alive today and that, as time passes, humanity only continues to degrade more and more. Hesiod’s metallic ages of mankind is an early (and very famous) example of this. A passage of Horace which expresses this idea nicely and particularly cynically is Odes 3.6.45-58 (here comes the Loeb):

damnosa quid non imminuit dies?
aetas parentum peior auis tulit
nos nequiores, mox daturos
progeniem vitiosiorem.

Iniquitous time! What does it not impair? Our fathers’ age, worse than our grandfathers’, gave birth to us, an inferior breed, who will in due course produce still more degenerate offspring.”

The Romans were deeply invested in the idea that an individual was a living reinstantiation of his forebears (a classic example of this is the Barberini Togatus statue). Yet, no one, no matter how hard they try, can be an exact “copy” of a precursor. Simply by being a distinct iteration, we introduce differences, breaking points. Such breakages with a recursive path are, in the Roman formulation, an opportunity for corruption to take place. Like so many who are alive today, I find these cracks in the iterative veneer to be the space where creativity and originality live. And I’m wondering, too, whether it is the case that in 2019 the youngest generation is, in reality, worse than those who have come before.

Modern. Steven Universe is so beautifully written and touching that there is a good chance I’ll get misty-eyed as I watch. The training montage between Connie and Pearl and the song Do It for Her always makes me cry, for some reason. There is so much to love about Steven Universe: the concerted recuperation of the colour pink, the secret behind Garnet (no spoilers), Sadie’s journey to self-acceptance, and, of course, Stevonnie — an experience. When the Steven Universe movie came out, I held off on watching it at first because I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind, emotionally speaking. Animation has always held the power to elicit deep emotions from its audience, even if at times there has been a perception that it is childish or superficial (“it’s just a cartoon” — same thing goes for video games). But especially now, with so many examples of emotionally complex and affecting animation flooding the market, we can break with that perception. Recently, I did watch the Steven Universe movie (The Tale of Steven). One of the standout moments for me was the reappearance of Opal and her duet with the Steven-Greg fusion (Steg), included below. I hadn’t realized that Opal was voiced by Aimee Mann! And Steg in the movie is voiced by her bandmate, Ted Leo. The creator of Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar, has said that Aimee Mann’s It’s Not (from the album Lost in Space) is her favourite song of all time; there’s a video (I also include it below) of her covering It’s Not, and introducing her performance with: “it’s probably the reason I like to do comics and stories about space, and also it keeps having new meaning for me now; it starts to feel like it’s about television animation.”

Internet.

Excerpt. Jia Tolentino 2019: 14: “The self is not a fixed, organic thing, but a dramatic effect that emerges from a performance. This effect can be believed or disbelieved at will. Online — assuming you buy this framework — the system metastasizes into a wreck. The presentation of self in everyday internet still corresponds to Goffman’s playacting metaphor: there are stages, there is an audience. But the internet adds a host of other, nightmarish metaphorical structures: the mirror, the echo, the panopticon.”

Jia Tolentino illustrated by Joanna Neborsky, from Jacqueline Rose’s review of Trick Mirror.

Jia Tolentino; illustration by Joanna Neborsky

Daily life. Austin started painting again, and now our shed is an art studio!

IMG_8289