Thursday, February 22, 2007

SKY MASTERS and Jacob Bronowski

Today, Mark Evanier reminds us to use common sense when buying animation cels and original art. And not even the people who sell these cels know what they're selling. My story:

I once saw a couple of SKY MASTERS originals for sale. This was in one of those animation galleries that seemed to be all over Midtown Manhattan in the 1990s. I'd never seen an original SKY MASTERS, and this looked like a Sunday original, so I was looking at this pretty closely. It was in one of those little plastic sleeves, so I was able to actually hold the blessed thing close. Since I'm near-sighted, I take off my glasses. This sometimes looks like a theatrical gesture, but the truth is that I can see better close up without them. (Like Stan Goldberg, I take off my glasses to draw.)

Anyway, so there I am in some animation gallery -- nothing but framed cels and Disney posters -- and I'm looking at this wonderful newspaper comic strip original, minding my own business. The owner sees me, and, looking up from her desk in the back of the place, announces "That's a storyboard."

Being a cartoon nerd and defender of truth, I correct her. "No, this is a newspaper comic strip from the 1950s, penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by either Wally Wood or Dick Ayers."

"No. It's a storyboard. It's a storyboard for a movie or something. That's how a storyboard looks," says the owner. And she proceeds to explain, as if to a slow witted product of first cousins, what exactly a storyboard is.

When I point out that storyboards NEVER look like this, with a logo and date and the name of a syndicate, she informs me what a storyboard is ONE MORE TIME. Slower, this time. And louder. Oh Lord. A true believer. She would not listen to me.

There is a fundamental, sometimes tragic, difference, as Bronowski points out, between knowledge and certainty. ("All knowledge — all information between human beings — can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. And that is true whether the exchange is in science, or in literature, or in religion, or in politics, or in any form of thought that aspires to dogma. It's a major tragedy of my lifetime and yours that scientists were refining, to the most exquisite precision, the Principle of Tolerance—and turning their backs on the fact that all around them, tolerance was crashing to the ground beyond repair, between knowledge and certainty." — Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man).

I put the SKY MASTERS down, put my glasses back on, and leave the store, emitting a Charlie Brown *SIGH.*

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