Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Alex Toth

One of the greats of comics died over the weekend, supposedly while sitting at his drawing board. For an artist, that's a pretty awesome way to leave this world, but awesome is a word that always described Alexander Toth.

I think I first became aware of Toth in the 60s watching Saturday morning cartoons. I never really paid much attention to the artwork in cartoons until Johnny Quest came out and the artist who designed the series actually signed the show; his signature actually appeared at the end of each episode. No, it wasn't Alex Toth, it was the late, great Doug Wildey, but Wildey's signature in a box got me to start reading the credits of other shows and one name showed up over and over: Alex Toth.

From Space Ghost to Space Angel, from Birdman to Hot Wheels, Toth was everywhere. The Hanna-Barbera non-funny animal style was Alex Toth's style. Clean distinctive characters created using the minimum number of lines required, that was Alex Toth.

Oddly I never noticed that the same guy was drawing comics for DC. His comic work at that time was much more mainstream, much more detailed than his cartoon work; until he did the comic book for Hot Wheels.

I remember really loving the Hot Wheels comic book and not knowing why. I eventually figured out that it was because of Toth. After that book died, Toth was doing all sorts of work for DC, from war stories to horror to super hero. His Black Canary was an amazing piece of minimalist work, as was his Black Hood work for Red Circle Comics. I never grew tired of Alex's work, but there never seemed to be enough of it. He worked so sporadically that each story became a mini-event all on its own.

Toth was one of the greats of comic art and the industry is diminished by his loss. Thank you Alex for all the wonderful years of amazing artwork; thank you for being such a large part of my childhood. We will miss you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Matter of Trust

I don't know how many people out there get the Candorville comic strip in their local newspaper (for that matter how many people out there even read a local newspaper?), but Candorville has quietly gotten more and more political over time. Today's strip is extremely timely and deals with a matter of trust and the outrageous serial lying of the Bush administration.

For those who don't care to follow the link:

First Panel:

Lamont Brown sitting watching his TV.

Caption: 2004

TV: We're not spying on anyone's phone calls without a warrant. Trust us.

Second Panel:

Lamont Brown sitting watching his TV.

Caption: 2005

TV: OK. We're spying on calls without getting a warrant, but it's only a few terrorist suspects. Trust us.

Third Panel:

Lamont Brown sitting watching his TV.

Caption: 2006

TV: OK. We're spying on every single phone call made by almost everyone in America, but we're not listening to the calls.

Fourth Panel:

Lamont Brown sitting watching his TV.

TV: Trust us.

Candorville creator Darrin Bell can be followed through his Candorville.com website. With Boondocks on hiatus, Candorville is doing a great job of picking up the slack.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Wall Blow Me Down!

Let me see if I have this straight: It was wrong for Israel to build a wall between their country and the Palestinian areas to keep suicide bombers out, but it is OK to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep gardeners and lettuce pickers out? My god the so called leadership of this country is surely messed up!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Do the Limbo!

How low can you go?

So, the latest polls put Bush's approval rating at 29%. Using our previous formula where we start with his approval rating of 90% (that was right after he swore he wouldn't politicize the thousands of Americans killed on 9/11 and then posed in front of the American flag at ground zero politicizing the death of thousands of Americans), and remembering that those of us in the 10% who saw the sham of Bush's 9/11 rhetoric and didn't approved of this jerk-off back then, have not changed our minds, we can once again do some math:

90% believed the bullshit
-29% still believe the bullshit
61% have seen the light

61% of Americans now know they were wrong, they were duped. That's an even sadder number than before, but I think this president has the ability to go even lower. Given that the 29% poll was taken before we learned that the NSA has amassed the world's largest database of every phone call made for the past five years by 200 million Americans, I'm sure we are going to soon be looking at Nixon-type approval ratings.

We may soon get to the "angry villagers carrying torches storm the castle (White House)" phase. God I'd love to watch that on TV. Of course, Fox News won't be covering it; there'll be a coed gone missing somewhere that will be a much more pressing story.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

CSI Yie Yie Yie Yie!

How can one show be so bad? So bad that you, and everyone you know who watches it, only do so to make fun of it? No, I am not talking about Thursday night’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the excellent William Peterson/Marg Helgenberger show that started the flood of forensics shows which now dominate the TV landscape. I am referring to its first sibling, CSI: Miami, the train wreck masquerading as a cop show; you know, the most watched show on Monday nights?

I'm not going to mince words or beat around the bush here, I'm going to be upfront and perfectly candid about by opinion of this show; in a nutshell, CSI: Miami is one of the worst shows on TV. That said, I never miss it.

From the absolutely cheesy unrealistic pastel-lit sets, to the golden-orange filter they shoot most of the exterior scenes with, to the wooden acting, the "my aren't we so hip you want to puke" bogus plot devices, David Caruso's refusal to look at anyone he is talking with and his OCD-like glasses on-glasses off routine and "chop it in half" reading of sentences ("And Frank, divorce...can be murder", "It's a drive-by...Miami style", etc.), to the horrid excuse for writing, this show is a disaster from beginning to end.

Well, from shortly after beginning to end, 'cause the show does have one thing going for it, and that's a dynamite credits sequence complements of The Who. Every episode starts out with a crime being committed and David Caruso as Lieutenant Horatio Kane and one or more members of his posse (Emily Procter as Calleigh Duquesne, Adam Rodriguez as Eric Delko, Khandi Alexander as Dr. Alexx Woods,Jonathan Togo as Ryan Wolfe or Rex Linn as Detective Frank Tripp) showing up at the scene to supposedly investigate it. I say supposedly, because there is never much real investigation happening on this show. As the opening sequence comes to a close, Caruso will stare off into space as he talks to one of his people, then turn to the camera and either put his sunglasses on or take them off. This is usually done in the pause he inserts into his sentences. Like, "It's not an accident..." (puts on glasses), "...It's murder." And then Roger Daltry screams! It's his scream from near the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and it is the beginning of a killer montage sequence that contains the credits. It ends with Pete Townshend slamming out one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock history, the song's end.

Masterful credits on a masterless show.

I've already hit on most of Caruso's odd antics, but he also sports one of the creepiest smiles I've ever seen. Another Caruso quirk is he has this strange way of standing in profile so that it looks like he is falling over when he isn't, like in the bizarre picture to my left. He also likes to stand in a three-quarter view with his hands on his hips, pushing his coat back and then switch forward legs and do it again; it's hard to explain but even harder to watch with a straight face. Once every show he seems compelled to say to someone, "Here's what were going to do, were going to..." whatever. It is all so annoying.

Emily Procter's Calleigh is about as wooden as they come. Her emotions show only as quick snapping barbs. It's almost as if she has removed herself from the show emotionally and is only there for the paycheck. Given the quality of writing, that might be a smart move on her part. She plays a charmless southern belle with an alcoholic father and zero love life, who some seasons comes off as a gun nut and others as just a soulless, sexless automaton.

Adam Rodriquez used to not bother me so much. In the early seasons he was always paired with the excellent Rory Cochrane as Tim "Speed" Speedle and he worked well as the straight man for Cochrane's droll humor. Rodriquez is a strange one; it's hard to tell sometimes what emotion he is trying to project. This might be just bad acting, or it might be that he is as confused by what his character is asked to do as the rest of us are. His main function in the show seems to be getting laid by women who end up dead, getting busted for drugs, providing a sister for Horatio to sleep with, and getting pissed off at the other team members.

If any member of the Miami team is going to drive you up a wall it's Dr. Alexx Wood played by Khandi Alexander (who I remember liking in News Radio). Every CSI has to have someone chopping up the bodies and that's Khandi's role here. Actually her real purpose seems to be to add "heart" to the show. She calls nearly every body on her slab "baby girl" or "baby boy" and whines and moans over their loss of life. The first writer to add this to her personality must have thought they were adding some much needed compassion to the show, but now, like Caruso's OCD-antics, it seems like something tacked on to a one-dimensional character; it sounds phony and trite and it's just annoying as hell.

Jonathan Togo as Ryan Wolfe was added to the show when Rory Cochrane smartly begged to be cut loose (The departure of Rory, to my left, may have been when the series "jumped the shark," or it may have been that Rory saw the shark before any of the rest of us did). Wolfe was a patrolman who used CSI to get off the street, only, like most of the characters here, he still carries a gun and uses it. On the real CSI, the one in Las Vegas, there is always a clear distinction between police and CSI; CSI are not cops, they are scientific investigators. In Miami, with the exception of Dr. Wood, everyone carries a gun and acts exactly like a cop. I have a feeling the writers don't really know what CSI stands for.

Rex Linn plays Detective Frank Tripp and is not really a permanent member of the cast (he doesn't appear in the show's splashy intro), though his part is getting bigger each season. He at least is supposed to be a cop, so I don't mind seeing him with a gun. Tripp is one of those right-wing, law and order types, who live in a black and white world. The writers seem to be mellowing him this season, smoothing off some of his rougher edges and it's helped, but not much. I still wince at most of the lines he reads.

As annoying as the cast of characters is, the real problem with this show is the writing. It sucks. No, really!

On the real CSI people sometimes confess at the end of the show, or they don't. Sometimes after gathering evidence throughout the hour the suspect is told something to the effect of, "You don't have to tell us you did it, the evidence tells us you did." On Miami, they rarely have any real evidence.

I remember one episode where a woman was questioned about a dead body on a boat. She was connected through phone records and when confronted said something like, "Well sure we called the guy. We are looking to buy a boat and we answered his boat ad in the paper. He was asking too much so we dropped it." Calleigh then mentions that they found lipstick on a glass on the boat and the color looks the same as the lipstick the woman is wearing. This is pretty thin stuff folks, the color seems to be the same? Does the woman tell the CSI to stuff it? Does she ask for a lawyer? Does she say there are thousands of different colors of lipstick on the market? No, she says, "OK, we went to the boat and my boyfriend killed the guy." Say what????

If this were an isolated incident I might, might I say, let it pass, but it isn't an isolated incident. Week after week the suspects confess at the drop of a hat. The writers have to have them do this because this group of CSIs is completely lacking in any skill at crime investigation and if people don't just admit they did it, no one is ever going to get caught.

All of this said, I never miss it because when the train begins to crash, I can't help but watch it!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The More Things Change...

Well, you know how the saying goes. A few items ago I shared some pictures from many, many years back of a costume party I held at the first house I ever lived at after moving out of my parents house. At the time I shared the picture above of my partner Baron Mrkva and his girlfriend (now wife) , Kelley. Well over the years Baron and I have kept in contact, but not in real close contact and we have let so many years pass since we last got together, that neither of us remember how many years ago that was. Pretty piss-poor for good friends and once business partners. Well, we got together this past weekend.

I have season tickets to the Los Angeles Avengers Arena Football League team and this weekend they played their next to last game of the season at the Staples Center. I had been wanting to get together with Baron for a long time and this seemed like a good enough excuse. We could drink expensive beer ($10 a glass), eat expensive hot dogs ($4.75 a pop) and watch the Avengers play that unique game of indoor football that the Arena League has been showcasing for 20 years.

Baron is a graphic artist and does advertise- ments, sales literature, direct mail, packaging, displays, videos, multi- media and websites, or so the brochure he left with me says. It's a really nice piece of work. In it, to make his different points about selling, Baron takes on a number of persona: himself, a mad scientists, the Godfather and finally, this guy a little above and to my left.

There may be some gray streaking the long hair and there may be more wrinkles than in the past, but ol' Baron still makes a pretty good raging barbarian.

I tell ya, some people never change!