WUFT- North Central Florida Collectors Share Stories at Museum’s Collectors Day

Note: This article was initially published on the WUFT site on 1/24/17. 

Link: http://www.wuft.org/news/2017/01/24/north-central-florida-collectors-share-stories-at-museums-collectors-day/

 

Two hundred collectors gathered for the 38th annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Although collections vastly differed, all were bound together by a common thread: a story.

Myena Kerns—Teddy Bear Collector

Myena Kerns said her teddy bear collection stemmed from a childhood love.

“I had a teddy bear when I was a child,” she said. “It was my companion growing up and all through my life.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Unlike most collectors, Kerns doesn’t acquire new items through purchases or donations— she creates her own.

“They’re fun to make,” she said. “Each one has a distinct personality and each one of them looks different.”

The Newberry resident — who said she takes bear individuality to heart — pointed to a brown bear sporting a bright red bow tie sitting high on a large pile of stuffed animals.

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

“This is considered our baby,” she said. “His name is Wellington. He wears baby clothes.”

Although Kerns has been collecting since her childhood, the first bear she made was a gift.

“I made stuffed toys for my children and grandchildren, and it just evolved from that,” she said.

Jennifer Lewis — Spatula Collector

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Spatula collector Jennifer Lewis said her 28-year spatula collecting journey began as a joke.

She said middle school friend gave her a spatula for Christmas, a riff on their shared love for the ‘Spatula City’ commercial in the “Weird Al” Yankovic film “UHF.”

“That started it as a silly thing, but then I really started to notice them everywhere,” she said.

The Gainesville native said some of her favorite spatulas — out of a collection just shy of 2,000 items — were Florida Gator themed but she has grown particularly fond of a spatula she calls “the gnarly and big one, with the bull.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

When asked about the total value of her collection, she said value is decided individually.

Mark Shelton — Superhero Mask Collector

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Mark Shelton said his mask collection stemmed from the bond he shares with his son.

“I’ve liked superheroes since I was a little kid, but now I’ve got an 8-year-old son,” he said. “When I started getting costumes for him for Halloween, he liked them so much [that] he wanted them for Christmas.”

Holiday gifts for his son sparked their regular mask-collecting excursions, Shelton said.

Shelton’s collection not only allows him and his son to become their favorite superheroes but other characters, too.

“So far the number one that the kids love is the Ash Ketchum over there,” he said, pointing to a plastic mask of a cartoon character from “Pokémon.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Shelton said his son continues to inspire him to collect everyday.

“We both enjoy superheroes and going out and finding new masks,” he said. “This is what we like to do.”

Shelton’s son isn’t the only force driving his hobby, he said.

“I do it just to bring joy to people and watch the kids smile after they put them on.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Miriam Elliott — The Beatles Memorabilia Collector

Self-proclaimed “Beatlemaniac” Miriam Elliott said she has been collecting merchandise from The Beatles  since she was a teenager.

“I would use my meager babysitting money,” Elliott said, laughing.

Her love for the band was ignited when she saw them play in Jacksonville in 1964 at the Gator Bowl.

“That’s been a thread throughout my entire life, it’s a big influence to who I am as a person,” she said. “The fact that I’m involved in peace and justice activism — a lot of that was the direction they led me in.”

Although Elliott said she has always loved buying The Beatles items, she didn’t realize she was a collector until she came to Collectors Day for the first time.

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

“One of the collectors said to me, ‘Do you collect anything?’ I said no, but then I thought for a minute. I said, ‘I do have a box full of Beatles stuff.’”

That conversation prompted her to organize and actively add to her collection, she said.

Elliott has now been presenting her passion project at Collectors Day for 33 years, making hers one of the longest running collections featured at the show.

While her collection is impressive, she said she doesn’t just come to Collectors Day to show off her assemblage.

“Among the collectors who know each other, year to year, we find things for each other and pass them on,” she said. “It’s a nice camaraderie.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

When asked about her favorite item in her collection, she pointed down to the necklace she was wearing that featured a discolored Beatles logo written atop a miniature brown book.

“The gold lettering has worn off because I used to wear this to school and handled it a lot,” she said.

Opening the book revealed it was an accordion filled with photos of the The Beatles’ faces.

“I was able to look at the lads between classes, because I got them right here close to my heart,” she said.

As she stood over a frame encasing her first Beatles concert ticket, Elliott said “People would describe collectors as being obsessive, or bordering on hoarding. But it’s really a passion. Each person here has a passion for whatever it is that they’re exhibiting.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
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Spirited Away is a Reality Show

As someone who grew up with Spirited Away, and hails it as a flawless masterpiece, naturally I am obsessed with getting other people into the film. Throughout my execution of this mission, I have noticed one common thread: everyone feels that the ending was anticlimactic. At first, I just dismissed my inability to see this problem as mere childhood bias. After all, I had seen the movie so many times that I have probably become desensitized to any flaws it may have.

However, after seeing the movie on the big screen with my roommate while living in D.C., something finally clicked. My roommate loved the film, up until the ending, as most seem to do. However, he explained his issue not just as one of anticlimacticness, but of a lack of payoff. He saw the driving force of the movie as Chihiro’s mission to return her parents to human form and return to the mortal world. If you did have to give the movie a simple synopsis for the sake of a magazine review or IMDB page, that is essentially what should be said. However, I also believe there is a huge misconception based on that very synopsis.

Spirited Away is not an epic fantasy story; it is a reality show. The fantasy adventure premise is merely a vehicle to transport you to a world. Once you are settled in this world, the movie is not about this central conflict. It is about Chihiro, a young immature girl, learning to adapt to a new environment, and mature into a responsible and strong individual.

It is, for this very reason, that the plot of saving her parents is somewhat abandoned for the second and third acts of the film, only to be quickly resolved in the last five minutes. The movie is not about that story, it is about a story of personal growth in a unique setting. But the conflict did get you invested in Chihiro and the characters that inhabit this world, didn’t it?

Reality shows are about people’s lives, individuals adapting to new situations and dealing with their own personal growth. Although person vs. person conflicts are present, they are often artificially inserted to get you more invested. Sound familiar? Hayao Miyazaki inserted an almost artificial fantasy conflict to get you into your seat, and then pushed it to the side to make room for the real Spirited Away.

It is also for this reason that there is no central antagonist in the story. Yubaba, the witchy owner of the bath house, may seem like an obvious candidate to point fingers at. Those assumptions would be misguided. What did Yubaba ever do to harm our protagonist? Yubaba didn’t turn Chihiro’s parents into pigs, her parents did that out of their own selfishness. Yubaba didn’t refuse to give Chihiro her parent’s back. Chihiro never asked for that directly, Haku told her to just ask for a job in the bath house instead. Rather than simply turning Chihiro into an animal, she decided to allow her to work. Yubaba was just a greedy, but overall redeemable person, using a bad situation to profit. Despite being a spirit, she was just being human.

That’s the core of Spirited Away to me, a story about people. Through Chihiro’s eyes, it’s a peak into a world that has been static for a long time, and will continue to be static after she leaves. Chihiro isn’t some epic fantasy heroine that is going to change the status quo of some fantasy world. She’s just a girl, thrown into a rough situation and learning to mature from it. Spirited Away is not a fantasy adventure, but a reality show peering into a fantasy world through the eyes of an outsider.

The Smash Pros: The Art of Long-Form Comedy

In my opinion, long-form comedy is the most satisfying form of comedy out there. Although I do love stand-up and short videos, to me, the pinnacle of the genre comes in the form of the the long game. The core of the artform of comedy is jokes: setup and punchline in that order. However, I believe that, if executed properly, a long joke can serve as the best the genre has to offer.

As explaining this with simple vocabulary is a bit of a challenge, I will use a case study. Garrett’s Response to the Falsely Made Poorly Played Stream is one of my favorite pieces of comedy of all time. This excerpt from internet comedy group Mega64’s 2013 MLK Day stream is essentially a 41 minute joke. Despite its mammoth length, it still manages to follow the comedic formula we have all become accustomed to. The setup to the joke is purposely made to be excruciatingly lengthy. This makes the punchline, which encompaces the last 5-10 minutes of the video, even more rewarding. If you are a fan of Mega64, or of good comedy in general, I would highly recommend checking out this masterpiece.

For a few years, this video remained in my consciousness as the cream of the crop when it comes to long-form comedy. When explaining that style of humor to others, that was the video I would always recommend. However, I recently discovered a series that not only is the best piece of long-form comedy ever made, but is one of the best written pieces of media. This is the YouTube mockumentary The Smash Pros.

A spoof of The Smash Brothers (a popular documentary that examines the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee community), The Smash Pros is far from a simple derivative parody. It’s very hard to explain The Smash Pros to someone who hasn’t seen it. Saying it’s a mockumentary of a sub-par documentary about the competitive Melee scene doesn’t do the series the justice it deserves. I guess the best way to describe it would be that it takes a simple comedic premise, and develops an entire world, with its own rules, unforgettable characters, and flawless execution of long-form humor.

The first two episodes of The Smash Pros are admittedly very difficult to get through upon first viewing. The constant barrage of information that the writers throw at you may seem overwhelming at first. When I tried to watch the series for the first time, I dropped it after episode 2. I thought I just didn’t get it; I wasn’t a hardcore smasher. However, I urge you to push through. The Smash Pros is a series that needs to be consumed from start to finish before any judgement is passed. Upon completion, you will realise that a majority of this barrage is actually the setup points for the massive, climactic punchline that is Episode 5: The Grand Finale.

One of the key aspects I must point out is that, no matter how absurd they may seem, The Smash Pros universe is bound by rules. In what is probably one of the greatest climaxes and conclusions in writing history, The Grand Finale sees the slow collapse of this rule system. In the epicenter of this collapse is the genius payoff to the massive joke that is The Smash Pros. Although the comedic formula is the same, the setup and punchline is extended over an entire show. It gives the viewer an illusion of feeling lost; maybe they just don’t get it. But, if the viewer is patient enough to stick with it to the end, they realize that that they were supposed to feel lost; they were still in the setup. Their minds will hopefully be just as blown during the payoff as mine was, leading to one of the most satisfying and rewarding punchlines in the history of comedy.

The only series I can say comes close to this radical extension of the humor formula is Curb Your Enthusiasm. Curb enters the long-form comedy fray via its seasonal arcs. However, even then, these arcs are not present in every season. Furthermore, not every episode within a season weaves into the setup and payoff based narrative of said arcs.

Please be patient with The Smash Pros. Don’t make the same mistake I did upon my first viewing. Just power through, and you will be rewarded for your loyalty with one of the greatest pieces of comedy in history. Stay tuned for some more in-depth Smash Pros analysis in the near future. I have so much more to talk about, and I hope you’ll stick with me as I do so.

Moana and Wind Waker: Perfecting the Polynesian Ocean Explorer Aesthetic

May as well cash in on the Moana hype train for a second time. There is a particular aesthetic in media that I have become increasingly fond of over the years. This is that of the Polynesian ocean explorer. Today I am going to be explaining this aesthetic, as well as why I appreciate it, through two pieces of media that perfect it. These are Moana and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Moana takes a very direct approach with regards to implementing this aesthetic. After all, the movie is literally about a Polynesian girl who wants to explore the ocean. Every single trait of the aesthetic is there: island inhabiting tribes, personified sea life, traditional Polynesian fashion. However, the element that stands out to me the most is the exploration of the ocean itself.

Despite being from entirely different mediums, both Moana and Wind Waker perfectly portray the vastness of the oceans at hand. In both instances, the audience knows the true constraints of the body of water. In Moana, it is limited to the confines of Earth’s Oceania region. In Wind Waker, it is bound to the grid-based world map that the player is given early in the game. Despite these literal constraints, the writing manages to make the oceans seem endless.

The idea of Moana’s deep-seated calling for ocean exploration is presented very early in the film. This already gives the sea a sense of vastness, as she is truly unaware of its constraints. She has never left her island; she has no perspective as to the true size of the body of water. To her, it may as well be infinite. This cleverly ingrained theme is only amplified when she actually begins to explore the ocean with Maui. Together, they encounter many unique characters, islands, and magical entities. The feeling that you can come across almost anything only supports this illusion of oceanic endlessness.

Wind Waker, while extremely different, flaunts the very same aesthetic in a similar manner. Before comparing the game directly to Moana, I must explain the context of Wind Waker as a part of a media franchise. The Legend of Zelda, a video game series produced by Nintendo, is one of the most well known high fantasy sagas of all time. The series typically takes place in a somewhat generic high fantasy world known as Hyrule, which always has the typical geographical tropes. A volcanic mountain region, an aquatic lake/river region, a mystical forest region, and a harsh desert region can be seen in almost every game in the series, regardless of where it lands on the timeline. However, aside from minor strides in Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker was the first game in the franchise to truly turn this world upside down. During the time between Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker (the two games directly next to each other on the series’ timeline) the world of Hyrule was flooded by the gods. Wind Waker is the first game in the series to take place in the ocean that is the aftermath of this very flood. There is no longer a main continent, only small islands formed over the peaks of what used to be traditional Hylian landmarks. Now, rather than exploring a vast landmass on horseback, you are sailing across a massive ocean on a small boat.

Although Wind Waker naturally borrows many elements from its franchise predecessors, it manages to use this oceanic atmosphere to its advantage. It seamlessly blends the traditional European fantasy concepts that defined the series with a Polynesian ocean explorer aesthetic. Link, rather than living in a farming village or forest haven, now lives on a small tribal island. The attire of the villagers is influenced heavily by Polynesian style. Once you leave your village, you sail to many islands and come across a plethora of unique creatures, but this aesthetic still remains. In fact, many of the staple characters and enemies of the series get an oceanic makeover. The Kokiri get a re-imagining that feels like it stepped straight out of Polynesian mythology. The Zora race is replaced by the Rito, a group of anthropomorphic bird people that live in a society that is literally that of a Polynesian tribe. Bokoblins, rather than running around Hyrule as bandits, now patrol the seas from rafts and watch towers as pirates. Even the main antagonist of the saga, Ganondorf, now looks somewhat like a tribal chief.

However, what Wind Waker succeeds at the best with regards to this aesthetic brings me back to what Moana did so well. Despite there only being a limited number of original characters and creatures, as well as only 49 small islands to visit, the world of the flood still manages to feel massive and unexplored. This aesthetic doesn’t even wear down the more times you complete the game. With each playthrough you manage to notice new things. Whether it be a hilarious character you never talked to before, or a secret area on an island you thought you knew by heart, the world of Wind Waker still manages to feel endless after all these years. Although the second and final game to take place in the flood era of Hylian history, Phantom Hourglass, does not succeed in implementing this aesthetic successfully, we will always have the endless appeal of Wind Waker. This replayability is one of the main reasons why it is, and probably always will be, my favorite video game of all time.

This is also why I would love to see Moana sequels in the near future. There is just so much of this world still left to be explored. I would love to see new islands, meet new characters, and face new threats with Moana and Maui, as long as the movies continue to be as well written as the first.

How Moana Messed Me Up

When I think about movies I want to see in theaters, I place them in one of three categories. There’s the top tier- movies I must see in theaters, maybe even opening night. Then comes middle tier- movies I would like to see in theaters, but will take my time to see. Finally, at the bottom tier comes movies I will see if invited or if bored with a friend.

Despite being a new Disney animated feature, Moana fell into the third tier for me. I really don’t know why it did, I’m usually the first one out the door when it comes to Disney Studios and Pixar films. I think it may have just been a sheer lack of someone to convince me to see it. The last day before my good friend Zack (go check out his YouTube channel 123zc1, it’s well worth your time) and I left for the semester, we had a few hours to kill. We made a last minute decision to finally see Moana, and boy was that decision well made.

Moana is not the best Disney film by any means. Movies like The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame take that position. However, it is by far the one I’ve personally connected with the most, making it my hands down favorite. I can definitely say that Zack felt very similarly, but at a stronger level, as he was crying throughout most of the movie.

I’m entering a crossroads in my life that has put me in existential disarray. I will be graduating college, and entering the “real world” this year. I know that I will have to get a 9-5 job, and probably live with my parents until I can save up enough to leave Florida. Although not thrilled, I have come to terms with this seemingly inevitable future. This is the path for someone with a passion that does not lead directly to a sustainable career. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a driving passion in my life. Since a very young age, I have always wanted to be an author. Writing fictional stories is my calling. My characters live in my mind like real friends and family, becoming fully realized even before they are put to paper. Having written my first novel last year, I can tell you firsthand that there is nothing more thrilling and satisfying then acting upon your passion.

I can’t talk about the experience of seeing Moana at this time in my life without talking about the accompanying short film. Inner Workings follows the story of a man who is living the exact path I face. The moral of the short is that you have to include little things in your 9-5 office life that make you happy, or else you’ll be miserable. However, I’ve had some influences in my life over the past year that have made this short mean a bit more to me. The Pro Crastinators are a group of YouTube content creators that have served as my main creative influence and entertainment source over the past year or so. Each member serves as a shining beacon of success from abandoning the normal path, and focusing their entire lives on their creative passions. Whether it be anime analysis, writing/drawing comics, or documenting their slow path towards insanity on video, they have embraced their true purpose, and abandoned their ties to the typical life structure that society enforces. In other words, they are a very hedonistic, but intelligent bunch. They would take Inner Workings, and throw it in the trash. I can’t say whether the Pro Crastinators are the angel or the devil on my shoulder. What I can say is that Inner Workings falls right alongside with the ideals of my parents, grandparents, and mentors/advisors, who all believe that a stable 9-5 job is the way to go. Just add a few small things that give you joy and you’re good to go.

If Inner Workings represents the ideals of my family, Moana is the mindset of the Pro Crastintors. The very meaning behind the entire plot of the film is to ignore what society deems to be the correct life path, and follow the passion you have in your heart. Moana has a deep-seated desire to explore the ocean. However, her entire family and village swears by never leaving the island they inhabit, and fulfilling the traditional life path that they have all taken. The only human character who encourages Moana to act on her passion is her grandmother. Gramma Tala is to Moana what Jesse Wood is to me: the voice on one of my shoulders telling me to screw society and follow my passion for writing fiction. While the ocean in the film is a literal entity that calls to Moana from inside her heart, it is clearly symbolic of her internal passion.

I would like you to read the following lyrics. They are to one of the climatic songs of the film, I Am Moana. The first stanza is the ghost of Moana’s grandmother singing to her (I believe this ghost not to literally be present, but in her head). The second stanza is of Moana herself responding. I believe these words perfectly reflect the entire point of Moana as a work of art, and hope you agree:

 

I know a girl from an island

She stands apart from the crowd

She loves the sea and her people

She makes her whole family proud

Sometimes the world seems against you

The journey may leave a scar

But scars can heal and reveal just

Where you are

The people you love will change you

The things you have learned will guide you

And nothing on earth can silence

The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper

Moana, you’ve come so far

Moana, listen

Do you know who you are?

 

Who am I?

I am a girl who loves my island

I’m the girl who loves the sea

It calls me

I am the daughter of the village chief

We are descended from voyagers

Who found their way across the world

They call me

I’ve delivered us to where we are

I have journeyed farther

I am everything I’ve learned and more

Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me

It’s like the tide; always falling and rising

I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me

That come what may

I know the way

I am Moana!

 

I just need to replace all the specifics of the lyrics with things about me, and this song becomes about me. That’s the beauty of Moana as a piece of cinema. The film is made for self insert; you can’t help yourself but look at everything metaphorically. You can replace the plot elements, setting, specific passions, and characters with things that apply to you, and the story still works. Moana is the story of a girl following the voice inside her heart, and embracing her true passion. That’s the most inspiring thing imaginable to me, and that’s why this movie messed me up.