very rich and rich, young and not sornyoung, but mostly American—who haverncome here “to study art” (if they went torna private school) or “to leam about art” (ifrnthey are pretty girls, as a few of them are).rnNone of these people, as far as I havernbeen able to determine, is aware that thernelusive reality of which they seek to acquirerna traveler’s knowledge, as thoughrnart were a fact of geography and educationrna discounted railway pass, is a culturalrnpromontory that runs through thernexpanse of skill, such as that of a nonpareilrnbarber, and the depth of luxury,rnsuch as the pleasure of being shaved inrnbed.rnIt is a truism tending toward banalityrnthat, during the centuries that made Florencernwhat it was, art was craft. Thernartist’s divine gift was but a fanciful wayrnof invoicing the artisan’s rare skill, anotherrnway of counting the cost of—and payingrnfor—the frescoed ceiling, the familyrnportrait with the angels, the inlaid commode,rnthe marble putti in the ancestralrnchapel. Of course, this form of accountingrnis older than the Renaissance, as witnessrnthe origin of the word “talent” in thernGreco-Roman monetary unit, but it wasrnhere in Florence that the system wasrnproperly modernized and streamlined.rnHere Orcagna, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti,rnDonatello, Uccello, Gozzoli, Verrochio,rnPollaiuolo, Ghirlandaio all started out asrnapprentice goldsmiths. Here you couldrnget your mistress painted snacking on almondrnmacaroons with the head of Johnrnthe Baptist in the foreground, and payrnwith a credit card.rnWhich brings us round to the equallyrnvenerable and corollary truism, this onernconcerning indulgence, dissolution, andrnall manner of unspeakable sumptuousnessrnand naked luxury. Take a city of toprninformation-age entrepreneurs withrnhardly an ethical scruple between them,rnadd innumerable Talenhs and Buontalentisrnin place of the sad little Ms. Guice,rnand instead of a sniveling article in arnConde Nast publication you get one ofrnthe longest chapters of Western civilization,rnsay, 1246 (Santa Maria Novella begun)rnto 1580 (Palazzo Uffizi completed).rnIt is obviously true that, in those days,rneven as art was craft, profligacy was aesthetics,rnmore was more, and “simplicity,”rnin the words of the Russian proverb,rn”worse than theft.” Which did notrnmean, however, that everybody simplyrngot drunk every night and made merryrnby leafing through pornographic magazines.rnFor not only isn’t luxury necessarilyrnenfeebling, it isn’t always a precursorrnof debauchery. Besides, how surely dornthe ways of austerity lead to vigor? Andrnhow good a safeguard against bestiality isrndiscomfort?rnEvery great truism can only benefitrnfrom a timely and judicious inversion,rnand it occurs to me that, as the Americanrnboys and girls arrive in Florence to leamrnabout art, they ought to be told that theyrnare barking up the wrong tiee. Becausernin the closing years of the 20th century,rncraft—not art—is art. Painters, poets,rnplaywrights, philosophers are now arndime a dozen, thanks to the universal systemrnof liberal education, while the skillsrnof a professional barber, an accomplishedrnbaker, or a distinguished restaurateurrnare now as rare, as valuable, and asrnimperiled by the scruples of those whornwould not be known as sybarites as therntalents of artists and writers in the darkest,rnhardest, meanest, least civilized or indulgentrnages. Those who have no sympathyrnfor the decline of such skills, and no willrnto save them through individual acts ofrnpationage at the risk of being themselvesrnconsidered decadent, can never acquirernthe knowledge of the genesis and procreationrnof talent known as the Renaissance,rnfor which they have come here.rnBut instead of sympathy, passivity. Insteadrnof absorption, blinkered, slavishrndiligence. Instead of Florence, a bottiernof Goke and three stiaws. And finally Irnbegin to dream of addressing these bejeanedrnSavonarolas, these top information-rnage entrepreneurs of the future,rnthrough a megaphone from the AmolfornTower down to the Piazza della Signoria.rnYou want to learn about art, boys andrngirls? Then pationize an expensive barber,rnfor God’s sake! Buy a pink crocodilernsuit, have a master furrier make you anrnopera cloak trimmed in sable, have freshrnmillefoglie in bed every morning. Tryrnnot to order pizza by the slice! Whornknows, perhaps the day will come whenrnsomebody suggests that you should get arnGulfstream, and you will answer thatrnyou’ve decided to get a valet instead, anrnold Florentine who is simply the Machi-rnThe Carolina Computer Initiativernby Harold McCurdyrn”The computer initiative requires all incoming freshmen beginning in thernyear 2000 to have an IBM compatible laptop computer”rn—The Daily Tar HeelrnThe former UNC, now IBM University,rnHas lately decreedrnThat every freshman by the year 2000 must have a laptoprnTo be degreed.rnIt won’t be necessary to attend on-campus classes.rnBut, so as to sellrnEnough IBM compatibles, it will be necessaryrnFor enrollment to swell.rnOnce registered and correctiy laptopped, studentsrnCan choose to go homernOr over the whole intemetted planetrnAt liberty roam.rnOn campus, in big buildings with big computers.rnThere will be spacernFor grant-swinging intemetted researchersrnTo interface,rnTo interface and at a safe distancernConfer degreesrnOn never-seen, but IBM-authenticated,rnShortchanged AB’s.rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn