Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cartoony Cosmik Debris


Recently I was at my son's high school football game when the skies opened up and it poured. Some helpful soul turned to me, gestured to a stack of orange plastic, and asked, "you want a poncho?"

I laughed out loud. This question reminded me instantly of the Frank Zappa song, Cosmik Debris, in which the narrator skeptically asks, "Now is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?"

Truly, a question for the ages.

The ever insightful Mr. Flynn offered an earnest response to my last post on certain somewhat tiresome, essentialist definitions of cartoon.

His final statement reads thusly: But "cartoon" and "animation" are two slightly different beasts. They overlap when you speak of "cartoony animation."

Bob is correct, of course. But the specific word choices suggest the poverty of discourse in this arena. Can you imagine a serious argument about, say, the postwar novel being articulated in this fashion? Is a novelly novel analogous to a cartoony cartoon?

I am not tweaking my colleague Mr. Flynn, but rather our underdeveloped vocabularies.

Perhaps you find my recent emphasis on diction exhausting. But holy cow, we ought to be able to bring some rigor to a conversation about the visual and narrative conventions of these fields, no? Are the alternatives opaque academic jargon and sophomoric jargon?

Now is this a real discipline or a Sears discipline?

Image: Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Freak Out!, album cover art, 1966. For the record, Cosmik Debris appears on Apostrophe ('), 1974. I recommend it.

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