Friday, November 04, 2005

Very Odds and One Sad End

First off, a belated farewell to a fine artist. The last week in October, my amigo Tim Truman noted the passing of his good friend Keith Parkinson, D&D artist extraordinaire. I met Keith a couple of times in the 1980s during my comic conventions daze, and his work was key to the gaming and D&D realm for at least two decades. Alex Ness posted a succinct eulogy to Kevin at,
  • here.

  • But for an abundant tour of Keith's work, check out his own gallery at
  • Keith Parkinson's website.

  • Keith succumbed to leukemia at the age of 47, a sobering reality for those of us his age. Keith, like Tim, was among the many artists whose work elevated TSR's D&D line in the 1980s, and Keith expanded his horizons throughout the 1990s to lend his distinctive vision and leave a major mark on the entirity of fantasy and imaginative art. Here's to Keith, his family, and his friends.

    It's been some time since I posted much about my ongoing work at and relations with the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is going great guns (that is, the CCS as well as my work). Last night Marj and I attended the CCS celebration of New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren, which was well attended (more asses than seats, as they say, with no slight intended) and a successful fund-raiser for the school. Ed was a charmer, as were his cartoons. A trio of Ed's single-panel cartoons that were offered up, sans captions, for an on-the-spot captioning contest yielded some laughs from the captions suggested by those in attendance (including yours truly, who won a prize for one of my multiple entries for one Koren cartoon). Big fun, all and all, and a lively testimonial to the ongoing and growing health and vitality of the CCS. Kudos to co-founders James Sturm and Michelle Ollie, whose labors reward us all.

    BTW, Alan David Doane's engaging Kochalkaholic site offers a fresh take on the Center for Cartoon Studies via an interview with CCS student and cartoonist Josie Whitmore, which awaits you where
  • Josie tells all!

  • For my own humble part in all this, I can say that my ongoing comics history class "Survey of the Drawn Story" is making headway; we've just wrapped up the 1950s Kefauver hearings and comics code coverage (a staple of my old Journeys Into Fear slideshow/lecture) and an extensive overview of Harvey Kurtzman's seminal body of work, particular attention being given to his pre-Mad evolution to prep this week's reading of the Mad archives in the library (you have nooooo idea what a kick it is to assign the reading of Mad after years of having copies of the zine ripped from my hands in school!). As we move into the Silver Age, European comics (which we have been tracing all along, including Herge's 1929 creation of TinTin and tracing of that series to WW2), formative precursors of the graphic novel form (again, an evolution we've been tracing since our first session in September), and the early rumblings of the underground, I'll be able to bring in guest speakers as time and scheduling permit.

    Relevent to the above, tonight I'll be introducing and moderating an opening-night animation panel at the White River Independent Film Fest at the CCS. Details on this evening, and the entire weekend of cinema feasting, are available
  • here.
  • Hope to see some of you there!

    The evening kicks off with a screening of The Man Who Planted Trees (1987), an exquisite and moving half-hour Academy Award winning short helmed by Quebec-based animator extraordinaire Frederic Back. It's a lovely work, as are Back's previous animated jewels All Nothing(1981) and the celebratory Crac! (1982) (which is among my favorite animated shorts of all time).

    This is a tough act to follow, but two Vermont animators rise to the occasion with their most recent efforts. Robert John Wurzburg and Meredith Holch are the creative souls whose work will be screened afterword, and discussed thereafter in a lively Q&A session. Wurzburg's Dogsharks offers a preview of a planned series adapting stories from the popular Dogsharks book series for young readers, while Holch's No Place Like Home uses animated figures and landscapes rendered on translucent tissue paper to illustrate (as the program states) "voices of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Bosnia, and Tibet as they describe the realities of resettling in Vermont. Their experiences are then contrasted with eye-opening facts about the U.S. policy toward asylum seekers who arrive on their own rather than through official refugee resettlement programs." I'm screening the latter this morning after signing off on this post -- soooo, hope to see some of you tonight, and off to work I go!

    That said, I must add one thing:

    My three-part October blog on Religion and Paleontological comics has spawned a lively thread some of you might find interesting over on The Comics Journal discussion board (link below). Among the participants are Clan Apis creator Jay Hosler, who is most visible countering articulate (which doesn't per se mean I find them persuasive) pro-Intelligent Design posts from Jesse-Hamm, who is presenting the arguments of prominent ID authors like Phillip Johnson and molecular biologist and biochemist Michael Behe (writer of Darwin's Black Box, which I read portions of after Peter Laird asked me what I thought about ID, and did not find particularly engaging, in part for reasons Jay verbalizes). Both Jesse and Jay have elevated this thread considerably with their back-and-forth exchanges; like Jay, I'd also recommend anyone interested track down and read Robert Pennock's book Tower of Babel. Pennock was recently a guest on Fresh Air, which made for a lively 40 minutes of listening. His book offers the most expansive, yet concise, overview of the Creationist and ID background, histories, and issues.

    For what it's worth, among the threads many posts, Allen Rubinstein's sums up my own concerns when he writes, "The whole impetus for the political fight against evolution in classrooms... is that some people are offended that kids are being told something different in schools than they hear in church. There wouldn't be an "Intelligent Design" movement without a group of people being attached to the scientific theory that one guy named Adam was formed out of clay and a lady named Eve was created out of a rib in Adam's side (Test that one, egghead!). They wouldn't give a crap what science had to say otherwise. If evolution has its flaws (or more accurately, aspects it hasn't worked out yet), it's still the best working set of ideas we've got at this point. Its existence is hardly a reason to simply "disprove" it out of hand unless there's an agenda behind the effort. I see a lot of fear in this." Agreed.

    My own comment (posted this morn) summarizes my current response to the exchange I've had with Jim Pinkoski on the likely-unread-by-most comments exchange on this very blog, following my comments on one of Jim's many comics, all of which is archived
  • here.

  • Responding to Jesse's TCJ thread post, "...ID doesn't invoke a creator God. ID infers a designer, who may or may not have belonged to the natural order. Many ID theorists believe in God, as do many evolutionary theorists, but theism is not a point either group relies on science to establish...", I reply:

    No, but I doubt ID intends to evoke an image of a designer closer to Cthulhu than the anthropomorphised patriarchal humanoid Judeo-Christian archetype.

    Still, as an lifelong amateur nature-lover, it's tough to equate the latter with the myriad parasitic lifeforms that we unknowingly interact with daily. Once one is acquainted with the fascinating life cycles of, say, fungal forms that infect invertebrates and complete their life cycle by mysteriously driving their host to assume the mating position in death atop the highest possible vegetation (a reed, a stalk, etc.) to ensure the fungus perpetuating its own as soon as an unwary fellow invertebrate obeys its instinct to couple and copulate, that cozy image of a divine, all-loving patriarch with a big white beard who sits in heaven and loves us all becomes a might -- uh, less benign.

    If you insist upon not only ID's focal goal -- acknowledgement of a designer -- to follow that with the insistence that we all agree upon the nature (or, as some do, even the gender) of that designer most certainly enters the realm of theology, not science.

    Evolutionary theory seeks to explore and articulate a mechanism of observable change in nature and lifeforms, ancient (e.g., the fossil record) and contemporary -- not its source.

    Furthermore, the undermining of geology in some Creationist and ID texts (a reading of which I never represented as definitive) further corrodes either having any coherent value as a science. If you drive a car or use plastics in your home, you're utterly dependent on a science that is inherently incompatible with a literalist interpretation of Genesis or its absurd intepretation of geological time.

    I'm all for those who derive comfort and guidance from faith in their lives. But your form of faith may not, and most likely never will, be my own.

    ID most certainly "invokes" a specific form and faith associated with its belief in a designer. ID implicitly and explicitly adheres to the belief that said designer "made us" in "His" image, thus affixing an article of faith to its mysterious core: the designer.

    To imply or state otherwise is at best sleight of hand that won't stand up to even the most rudimentary associative scrutiny, and at worst deceptive and deceitful, which is contrary to one of the commandments, is it not?

    If you're so inclined, catch up on the conversation over
  • here.