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Art with a Capital "F"

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What happened with the subprime fiasco -- selling to hopeful buyers with irretrievably bad credit -- is happening to that Business we call Show. Hell, it's already happened. I'm just handsome and slow.

When, in the documentary Hearts of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola mused about a future where every kid had a camera and could make a movie without being hamstrung by studio red tape, prescient as his vision was, he surely could not have wished for the reality which has transpired.

Through startling advances in video technology which reduces camera size and increases ease of use and equipment portability, legions of would-be filmmakers are flooding the market (read: internet) like a tsunami in a below-sea level bazaar. By increasing accessibility to virtually all important aspects of production (but mostly in creative areas), the lack of specialization (in my bitter, honest opinion) is causing an overall drop in content quality as the quantity steadily rises. And what happened to our economy is sure to happen in our media and arts culture.

Now anyone with a camera or keyboard can express themselves and call it art. Art, that is, with a capital "f."

I am in no way saying people should not have access to cool gizmos or be denied the opportunity to obtain the tools which would allow them freer artistic expression. Nor, am I implying that aspiring artists should stay the hell away because there's only room for me and my cool beret-wearing, cigarette smoking friends! Never. That would be narrow minded and narcissistic. And it might scare off potential employers.

But combined with the public's infatuation with All Things Celebrity and the consequent misunderstanding of its toxic nature, making films (or television shows or pop music) as a means to achieving celebrity status, genres which have traditionally required years of study and specialization no longer do. As the quality bar is lowered more and more, well meaning Arteests don't bother to study in their respective fields, preferring to merely arm themselves with a cool, teeny camera and have at it.

And the market, suitably massaged for a decade or so, receives them with open, highly absorbent arms.

Art, like commerce, driving or handguns, requires (again in my bitter, honest opinion) expertise in the form of study, a reverence for history and great care and courage when exercised. One might have thought or hoped that the ingenuity which went into the creation of technologically advanced equipment would have bled into the users of said equipment, or at least kept up with society's steady advancements in educating the masses.

But in a media culture where electronic harmonizers make even the most imperfectly pitchy of pop stars perfectly pitched, cats batting balls of yarn around get a larger audience than The Hurt Locker and crackpot nutjob right wing bloggers sit in chairs formerly filled by the likes William F. Buckley, ease of use should not be as easy as obtaining dubious lines of credit. Some folks should just not venture in until they've sussed it out.

We can recover from a market crash. We can never recover from a cultural one.