Selfies. Leonardo da Vinci produced one of the first, in 1512, followed by Rembrandt, who did dozens of self-portraits.
Perhaps Norman Rockwell's self-portrait, which shows him painting his selfie by looking in a mirror, did the most to lead the way to modern selfies, since it clearly delineates his own derrière.
"You want selfies? What about Picasso?" asked public radio's John Rabe the other day, before snapping a selfie of us hanging out at Dodger Stadium.
Technology has made selfies easier, and they are the talk of any major event now. Where once people were reluctant to be in photos, they now pile like puppies into the shot. Seems the more photos we're in, the more we exist. Imagine if Descartes had had an iPhone. "I click, therefore I am."
No one, it seems, is exempt from selfies. Even the pope has been in one, as has our president. Earlier this year, the world was all a-Twitter when Ellen DeGeneres set up a selfie at the Oscars.
For selfies, that was a middle-aged milestone. Me, I thought such pandering to the audience was a little sad. Like watching your old man pull on bell bottoms in 1976.
Of course, fads are usually over the exact moment Mom and Dad buy in. (Most new things never withstand the scrutiny of a middle-aged cocktail party, but some crazes slip through.) Facebook quit being cool when the moms took over, and it'll soon be that way with selfies. Next time you're at the Hollywood Bowl, or Ravinia or a concert in Central Park, just look at how many 60-year-olds are crowding around for selfies.
"Check the gate," as they say on movie sets. Time to move on.
But for now, selfies still rule, and that has consequences.
As Einstein purportedly once warned: "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."
Idiots? In the 1920s, teenagers swallowed goldfish, and in the '70s, they slipped out of their britches and streaked down the street buck-naked.
As with that, this selfie craze seems like empty calories, playful and harmless, a lark, the bubbles atop a beer.
More troubling, perhaps, is that warning of a lack of human interaction, the inability to be in the moment, whether at a concert or on a family trip to the Grand Canyon. Human beings aren't always the main event. Sometimes we should be satisfied with our tiny condo in the cosmos. As Einstein might've put it: Me=MC squared.
Indeed, technological lust is the newest form of smut. I fear it every time I see teenagers staring lovingly into their cellphones the way they once stared — moonstruck — into each other's eyes.
Yep, though predating even the Renaissance, self-portraits are alive like never before, and our personal preoccupation appears to be growing at the speed of light. Meanwhile, half of moms and daughters say they don't like how they look in a selfie, a survey by KidsHealth.org and Discovery Girls magazine just found.
"Technology has definitely led to an increase in people's self-awareness," agrees Dr. Michael Salzhauer, a Miami plastic surgeon. "Every single patient who comes in, they bring out their phone and start going through photos.
"It used to be I'd hold up a mirror and ask them what they don't like about themselves. Now they pull out their phones," says Salzhauer, who says cosmetic surgery is on the rise from coast to coast.
"I turn away about 20% of the patients who come in," he says. "They'll come in based on one bad picture.
"I'll take extra time with those patients, and even take pictures of those patients to show them, 'Hey, sometimes it's just bad shadows.'"
Here's the thing, kids: You think Da Vinci had some work done before his selfie? Do you think Rockwell had a tummy tuck or a Brazilian butt lift? Probably not.
Take another look at those world-famous images. They endure because of the humanity they capture, not the perfection.