Scholarly Pursuits

Eye like two reed.
Eye like two reed.
Do you remember the good old days? When kids went to school to learn the 3 R’s; reading, writing and arithmetic? When kids learned why they were called the 3 R’s when only one word actually began with that letter? And, then, once they survived the education gauntlet they went forth and attempted to become productive members of society? Well, those days are gone my friend. Back on November 3rd of last year I wrote about how students in Georgia could take a college level course on the life and times of Lady GaGa.

I almost wish I was making this stuff up.

Not to be outdone, The University of Dundee, in Scotland, is offering a course on the history of comic books.

In the Central Lowlands of Scotland, the University of Dundee is to become the first university in the United Kingdom to provide degrees in comic studies. The university has said that courses for its comic studies subject within the English section will commence in September 2011.

The city of Dundee is known to be the headquarters for D. C. Thomson & Co., a publishing company whose works include various comic books, such as The Beano, The Broons, The Dandy and Oor Wullie. Dr. Chris Murray, a leading British authority on comic books, will be leading the comic studies programme. “This is a very exciting time for comics scholarship, and I am delighted to be able to offer this postgraduate course on comics,” he explained. “This is a unique opportunity to give this important medium the attention it deserves, and to allow those with an interest in comics to study it in detail.”

Those organising courses for the degree believe that comic books now appeal to adults as well as children due to their impact in the areas of politics, art and literature, as well as aspects of popular culture. Amongst the program will be the examinations of comics of an autobiographical nature and similarities with the culture of comic books on an international scale. Students who complete the Master of Letters learning program – running either full-time for a year and two-years if done part-time – will be eligible for a Doctor of Philosophy in comic studies.

Dr. Murray has also noted: “Employability is an important consideration for any postgraduate programme, and it lies at the heart of what we aim to do with this course. There will be practical advice on publishing and developing a career as a comics scholar, writer or artist, and we hope to arrange work placements for students. Comics and graphic novels are becoming an increasingly important form of literature, art and field of study, and it is our intention that our graduates are at the forefront either as researchers, writers, artists or filling other roles within the industry.”

I will be the first to admit that I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid. Had I attempted to write a book report on the exciting adventures of Batman I would have gotten a quick visit to the principal’s office and then been granted some private time at home so that I could rethink my woeful future.

Nevertheless, comics have been an integral part of modern culture. From the film noir revelations of Road to Perdition to the horrific autobiography of Maus, the comic art form has been a means for great artists to tell incredible stories. In context with their real world counterparts, Perdition in a film class, Maus in a history course, they can be a great way for students to grasp nuances they might otherwise miss. But separated from any context they just become pretty pictures.

Of course, let’s say your wunderkind actually completes the gauntlet and goes to law school and earns his degree. You are probably too proud to realize that your glorious child has used this knowledge to amass the world’s largest porn collection.

A New York physician with a doctorate in sexuality said his pornography collection has 350,000 items dating as far back as the 13th century.

Clifford Scheiner, 61, a former emergency room doctor who now operates a mail-order erotic book business, said his collection of pornographic books, films and photos includes 13th century manuscripts in addition to every issue of Playboy magazine ever published, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

“It is certainly one of the largest collections of erotology and sexology in the world,” Scheiner said.

Scheiner said he started collecting pornography and erotica in the 1960s.

“I became interested because of the mystery involved,” he said. “To hear people talk about it — nobody bought it, nobody sold it, nobody owned it, nobody printed it, nobody illustrated it and nobody bound it, but the books were there and that intrigued me.

“I taught myself to recognize most of the dirty words in most of the languages that use the Roman alphabet. I don’t have huge language skills, but I get a pretty good idea of what is going on.”

Scheiner said he has probably spent about $1 million on his collection.

“But that is over a 30-year period, so actually it’s like $30,000 a year,” he said. “That isn’t a whole lot.”

Let’s face it, you know people who don’t earn $30.000 in a year and, if they did, they certainly wouldn’t spend it all on porn. Not even 13th century porn. Heck, not even the cool Pompeii porn that makes some folks so happy.

Speaking of porn, Director Michael Bay, creator of the most expensive “B” movies ever made, recently wrote a letter to film projectionists demanding, politely, that they use a far more expensive projection technique than most theaters will allow so that his 3D epic, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, can be accredited with the artistic merit he claims it will so richly deserve. His letter contained such lines as “We’re all in this together” and “Let’s make the audience believe again.”

Much to his chagrin, The Projectionists Guild of America East, responded. Here are a couple of excerpts, the entire letter is viewable via the link above.

“If we’re all in this together, how about throwing us a bone and making a movie with recognizably human characters, plotting that wasn’t put together by a developmentally challenged robot that once read a Robert McKee book, and that doesn’t resemble a two-and-a-half-hour beer commercial?”

-AND-

“I’m kidding. I would never tell you how to do your job. So stop telling us how to do ours.”

Well, you can see their point. They have to watch this drek hundreds of times.

Oh, why did I liken this to porn? Well, porn’s all about titillation and self gratification without any intellectual stimulation. This fulfills all those requirements easily. Also, side note, the movie is over 2 1/2 hours long, making it longer than 2001: A Space Odyssey and less thought provoking than that film’s closing credits.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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