April Photo Update

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Abraham and Adam Harvey - Photo taken by Becca Riker on 26 April 2011.

Abraham turned the buck­et in­to a hat on his own. Photo by Becca Riker.

Idiots and Angels by Bill Plympton

Friday, 15 April 2011

Bill Plympton Autograph & Sketch

I went to the Cleveland Cinematheque last night to watch Bill Plympton’s most re­cent an­i­mat­ed fea­ture: Idiots and Angels (2008). Mr. Plympton was in at­ten­dance and was kind enough to do free au­to­graphs and sketch­es for those who asked. (I asked.)

Before the fea­ture, Bill in­tro­duced us to this short he made with stu­dents in an an­i­ma­tion class he taught. It’s called The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger (2010). I’ve al­ways been very im­pressed at Plympton’s abil­i­ty to tell a sto­ry in great depth, with no di­a­logue. This one is no ex­cep­tion. Here’s a clip.

Next up was the fea­ture; Idiots and Angels. The whole thing was drawn in #2 pen­cil, so it has great depth and de­tail. The artis­tic style and a large chunk of the plot de­vice re­mind­ed me very much of Koji Yamamura’s Atama Yama (2002). The en­tire short is avail­able on YouTube, but em­bed­ding has been dis­abled, so you’ll just have to click through. It is def­i­nite­ly worth it. After you’ve watched it, take a look at the trail­er for Idiots and Angels, right here:

Atama Yama is a sto­ry about a self­ish, an­ti-so­cial man who has a cher­ry tree grow out of his head. Idiots and Angels is a sto­ry about a self­ish, an­ti-so­cial man who has wings grow out of his back. That’s pret­ty much where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end. In Atama Yama the an­ti­so­cial man comes to no good end; the moral be­ing that so­ci­ety is a greater good than an in­di­vid­ual. The op­po­site is the case in Idiots and Angels; where no char­ac­ter is par­tic­u­lar­ly lik­able, the in­di­vid­ual ris­es above an (on­ly some­what ex­ag­ger­at­ed) an­ti­so­cial so­ci­ety. I found it in­ter­est­ing to com­pare how two dif­fer­ent cul­tures dif­fer in their ex­po­si­tion when start­ing out with the same el­e­ments.

Idiots and Angels was good, but not great. I felt that the ex­po­si­tion dragged at some points and that the edit­ing shift at the end de­railed the sto­ry for a good 5 – 10 min­utes. The art, sound de­sign & mu­sic was all su­perb, and Plympton was a com­plete­ly per­son­able and gra­cious guy.

Ignorance & Agnosticism

Sunday, 3 April 2011

There isn’t a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the root mean­ings of ig­no­rant and ag­nos­tic; but there is a vast dif­fer­ence in their mod­ern con­no­ta­tions. Ignorance is es­sen­tial­ly the re­sult of hold­ing a point of view due to lack of facts or a rea­son­able thought process. For the most part, it is a pas­sive sit­u­a­tion. We are, by na­ture, ig­no­rant. At some point in our de­vel­op­ment as peo­ple, we reach a place where we have a choice to re­main ig­no­rant or to ed­u­cate our­selves on a giv­en top­ic. Since ed­u­ca­tion is al­ways a dif­fi­cult task, it’s of­ten eas­i­er to re­main ig­no­rant, and mask that ig­no­rance by ac­cept­ing what­ev­er po­si­tion ap­peals most unique­ly to our­selves and then sound­ing au­thor­i­ta­tive about it.

Agnosticism is a bit of a dif­fer­ent beast. I can see two ways of defin­ing ag­nos­ti­cism, but they both have the same re­sult. The first an­gle is the re­sult of hav­ing plen­ty of facts about a cer­tain top­ic, but when ap­ply­ing rea­son to those facts, there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to meet the stan­dards of rea­son set by the mind try­ing to make that judg­ment call. The re­sult is ab­sten­tion from mak­ing a de­ci­sion. The sec­ond an­gle is a bit broad­er in its ap­pli­ca­tion and ef­fects. It prob­a­bly shouldn’t even be called ag­nos­ti­cism, but I can’t think of an­oth­er word that fits. It is a gen­er­al prin­ci­ple of which any fact-gath­er­ing and sub­se­quent de­ci­sion is a spe­cif­ic case.

What I’m try­ing to say is that once some­one has cho­sen to ed­u­cate them­selves, and if they do so ag­nos­ti­cal­ly (gath­er­ing facts but mak­ing no judg­ment), at some point it is pos­si­ble to be ag­nos­tic about any top­ic on which you are ig­no­rant. Once you’ve come to the con­clu­sion that you’re ag­nos­tic about a few things, you can start to as­sume ag­nos­ti­cism about any top­ic in­stead of ig­no­rance.

Here’s a spe­cif­ic case:

I went to the shoot­ing range with some cowork­ers to­day. I hadn’t used a firearm in over 20 years, and through­out my life those clos­est to me have had ig­no­rant views re­gard­ing firearms. Guns are bad, full stop. I could have cho­sen to ac­cept that for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but my knowl­edge didn’t meet the stan­dard for me to make that de­ci­sion. So, I re­mained ag­nos­tic about guns. I need­ed more in­for­ma­tion, so I went to the shoot­ing range with my cowork­ers and learned more. I’m still ag­nos­tic right now, or rather, I still haven’t ful­ly thought through my feel­ings on the mat­ter.

By rec­og­niz­ing my ig­no­rance, I was able to turn it in­to ag­nos­ti­cism. I will make no judg­ment un­til I feel that I know enough to do so.

Agnosticism is ba­si­cal­ly the stance of open-mind­ed­ness. It is ca­pa­ble of see­ing both sides and none, is sym­pa­thet­ic, em­pa­thet­ic and the in­her­ent­ly most re­spect­ful po­si­tion to take on a top­ic where one is not an ex­pert. It is hard to be an ag­nos­tic though; es­pe­cial­ly in re­gards to re­li­gion. You get caught be­tween the mys­tics (like my­self and oth­er be­liev­ers) and the skep­tics. So it goes for re­li­gion, and so it goes for any oth­er top­ic.

Fidelity to your own stan­dard of truth is hard to hold on to when you’re a big hair­less mon­key that like to con­vince and be con­vinced with all the oth­er hair­less mon­keys in your world.