Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Link To Comics: Platypus Nostalgia/The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXVI

The Legend of Zelda had a formative influence on me as a child, as it did so many children in my generation. My first encounter with the franchise was the original Nintendo game with its simple, yet wonderfully evocative 8-bit graphics. The second title frankly baffled me at that age, but when the third title, A Link to the Past, came out I was primed and ready to go. My first exposure to the game must have been at a friend's sleep-over birthday party. Watching Link run out into the rainy night in the wee hours of the morning captured my imagination and has held it captive ever since.

That said, it was a while before I got my own Super Nintendo and a chance to actually play the game. What I had to tide me over through that time was the comic series based on the game by Shotaro Ishinomori. It ran in episodes for twelve months in Nintendo Power Magazine. The somber ending was a little ahead of where I was at at the time (childhood illness left me rather sensitive), but I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought a copy of the whole as soon as it became available.

Now, over the years, that copy and all my weighty collection of Nintendo Power Magazines were lost. I don't think I looked at it for almost twenty years. Well, here I am sick again (various stomach issues this time) and Viz comics released in May a new edition of the comic.

Returning to a childhood treasure is always a bit nerve-wracking. Some things simply don't hold up -they were never meant to. It may be a verdict on how well our childhood was spent if we consider how many of the things we dedicated our young lives to could interest us or win our appreciation at any level as adults. I was glad then to see that Shotaro Ishinomori's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past still holds up. In fact, I feel in a better place to appreciate it for what it is (simple, enchanting, light entertainment) than I was as a child. Shotaro Ishinomori preserves the feel of the game while adapting it into a story that works in the comic book medium. He is able to mix drama and light-heartedness in just the right proportions for this sort of story. The opening layouts for each chapter are suitably dramatic, and quite beautiful, and Shotaro deftly handles the short space allotted to each chapter without making the parts feel too condensed or the whole feel incoherent. The presentation of Ganon is perhaps a little weak (though his back story given by the enchanted tree is haunting) but that is an artifact of the game, The artist wisely makes up for this by choosing to center the story around Link learning that being a hero means not working alone, not taking all the credit, and not getting the girl. The Japanese wisdom is definitely appreciated at my age.  All in all, the book was eminently worth the eleven or so dollars I paid for it and held up under three readings in quick succession. Here's looking forward to it holding up under many more.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trying to be Carson: Creative Platypus

I spent an hour last night and about fifteen minutes this morning on my first endeavor to clean and polish our modest collection of family silver. Somewhere in the afterlife my Irish ancestors are very disappointed...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXXII

Poor Josiah Shelton has proved a bit of a puzzle for me in recent days. The only note I can find on him exists in The Families of James Shelton of McMinn County, Tennessee and his Father Roderick Shelton Buncombe County, North Carolina and their Antecedents by Arthur Paul Shelton. Arthur Paul Shelton lists Josiah Shelton as the son of Samuel Shelton and Abigail Nichols Shelton and says that he was rumored to be a Revolutionary War veteran (interesting because the Sheltons of Ripton were Loyalists who refused to take up arms for either side). It gives his deathdate as 19 March 1777, cause of death as Smallpox, and says that he was buried in Southford (which now seems to be a part of Southbury and very close to Josiah's place of residence in Ripton which is now called Shelton). The stone in the picture, however, resides at Long Hill Burial Ground in Shelton CT. The stone itself makes no bones about the fact that it is a grave marker and not a memorial tablet: here lies the body.

Not only the location of his body, but the date of his death is also interesting. The colonial army saw action in nearby Danbury Connecticut in April of 1777. According to Elizabeth A. Fenn's Pox Americana, the American troops in action near Danbury were exposed to Variola and infect the towns of Southington and Middletown in central Connecticut. All of this happened a month after Josiah's death. If his deathdate on the stone was in April or May, I would have assumed that he contracted the disease in the action around Danbury and died in Southington which ended up being confused with Southford (about 20 miles away by road). There is more tantalizing information on the other side of March. Fenn also notes that in February of 1777 Governor Trumbull set up a system of inspection and quarantine for troops returning from the failed attack on Quebec where Smallpox had ravaged the army (Benedict Arnold of New Haven Connecticut was one of the commanders of the ill fated attack and he was accompanied by members of the Welles and Nichols family that had branches in Josiah Shelton's hometown of Ripton). It takes about a month to die from Variola, so the question is: was Josiah Shelton one of Benedict Arnold's troops who died under quarantine at an unspecified location or did he contract the disease in camp from returning soldiers who escaped inspection and quarantine? The saddest part of the story is that Connecticut troops began to be inoculated en mass in the summer months of 1777. Fenn quotes Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Plumb Martin that he was inoculated along with four hundred Connecticut troops, all of who survived the process. Had Josiah remained uninfected for another month or two he could have been immunized courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Alas, How easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long.
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
-George MacDonald, Phantastes

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXXI

Our little stories are all part of larger stories.

This is the grave of Josiah Shelton. He died in 1777 of the Smallpox. The flag by his grave indicates that he was a military veteran. Smallpox decimated the Continental Army on several occasions. These incidents were part of a massive outbreak that racked the North American continent from 1775 until 1782 killing over 100,000 people including Josiah Shelton of Ripton (now Shelton) Connecticut.

I came across Josiah's grave last summer while I was looking up other members of the Shelton family. This summer, I picked up the book Pox Americana by Elizabeth A. Fenn about the massive Variola outbreak at the end of the 18th century. As I was reading, the odd note "died of the smallpox" on Josiah's grave came back to mind. A quick look back at the photo confirmed that he died in 1777, during the early years of the epidemic. Given that smallpox was killing so many in the army, the odd note on his grave about his cause of death now makes sense. His parents, Samuel and Abigail, had no idea of the continent sweeping force of this particular Variola outbreak; they only knew that a terrible disease had taken their son away. If they had know the larger pattern, would it have made a difference.

Where can Wisdom be found, and what is the place of Understanding? ... Death says "I have heard tell of it"

-The Book of Job