Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Professor Oblivion

You naturally have your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker, but certain professions become passé. Remember the old-fashioned knife sharpeners and the strange apparatuses they sometimes wheeled around on wooden carts. Then there’s the case of the critic, once a vibrant part of the intellectual life of the nation, but now relegated to a relatively minor position in the culture, primarily due to the death of newsprint. And what about those critics who have a second career as clowns—earning their pay by jumping up and down and bilging out tendentious nonsense rather than rendering judgments in a spirit of equanimity? Remember the humiliating fate of Professor Rath played by Emil Jannings in Von Sternberg’s Blue AngelThese are the creatures who have replaced the Edmund Wilsons, Mary McCarthys  and Elizabeth Hardwicks of another age. Sometimes its modernity that's responsible for the disappearance of certain vocations. For instance, self-service resulted in the disappearance of the elevator man who was a familiar figure in the metropolitan landscape from the 20’s right through the early 60’s. And what about blacksmiths? The need for horseshoes continues to dwindle now that horse drawn carriages are under attack--at least in New York. You can still get an operator if you are willing to wait, but now most phone companies depend on computer generated voices that in turn produce a simulated response. Similarly few receptionists are there to greet you anywhere and don’t expect to find information booths, another obsolete item. Just follow the prompts. In a few years Amazon will have finally killed off the last of the retail stores. Books, like home runs, are going going gone and that means there will be no need for printers, binders or paper for that matter. And then there’s Tom Lehrer’s "The Old Dope Peddler"who's still doing a thriving business in Fentanyl.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.