The New Dark Age
A fellow tenant in my building dropped by last night. He had known the previous occupant of my new apartment, and he wanted to see what I had done with the place. After the grand tour, we sat and talked for a while. I showed him a cool record I got through Ebay. It's a 12-inch one-sided 78 of Caruso
singing a Handel piece commonly known simply as "Largo," but it's actually an aria, "Ombra Mai Fu" from the oratorio Xerxes
My parents visited me last weekend for the same reason as my guest last night - to see the new place. I played that record for them, too. And my mother said that when she was a schoolgirl, someone would play that piece, Handel's "Largo," on a piano, and all the students would march to class. This would have been the 1930's. My mother had never known the piece had words.
Last night I told my guest that story. He responded by saying we have entered a new Dark Age. I am of a mind to agree with him. Every day I deal with people who are students in graduate school, graduate school
, mind you, and they are culturally illiterate. I had to show a guy late last week how to use the catalogue.
When that Caruso record shipped, I asked the seller to send it here, to work, because I was concerned about it being damaged. The girl in the mailroom asked what it was. I told her it was a 12-inch 78 of Enrico Caruso singing the aria "Ombra Mai Fu" from the Handel oratorio Xerxes
. She said, "I didn't understand a word you just said."
A few years ago I was skimming through a book about the 1939 World's Fair
. The book stated that all the signs and descriptions on the exhibits were very verbose by today's standards, because the average sixth-grader in 1939 had a vocabulary four times the size of the average vocabulary of a sixth-grader in the 1990's.
And it's only getting worse.