Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ludi Famis

We are lucky to have discovered and then developed, in sequence, electric power, cameras, film, television, computers, and finally digital recording of sounds and images. For this reason our circus games are altogether virtual. We are enabled to let our decaying imagination soar, if that’s the word, and produce exciting spectacles in which hundreds, thousands virtually die in various horrible ways—but no one actually does, not in the circus, anyway; the arrow thumps into the bared chest with a sound you wouldn’t actually hear; the shaft trembles nicely from the force that supposedly sent it to kill; blood spatters effectively in all directions—but it’s all pure illusion. Death, of course, may still cause the young to succumb to mishaps, like taking a bath, because “a history of drug abuse” lurks in the immediate past. But such deaths also enable us to have soulful retrospectives into the life of the celebrity. Unlike the backward Romans, who had to use real people to enact their combats in the ludi circenses, not least actually dying, our enactors are capable of flying and of physical achievements impossible in what was once admired as “real life”—meaning violence, vulgarity, drunkenness, bar fights, and broken noses.

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