Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bear-ly Legal

Like the title? That should get me a couple of hits from the illiterate pedophile crowd who surf Google for their smut. But as another famous bear would say, “Wocka, wocka, wocka!”

Today’s strip is a bit of a departure for Room 19 Comics. Normally, I try to keep it somewhat grounded in “real life”, but I decided to see how the absurd would work. About the only thing that has any basis in reality is that I remember that this skit killed my friend Ryan and me when we were younger. I think we must’ve quoted this skit for an entire summer. And the funny thing was, it wasn’t a front of the show skit. If I remember correctly, this was one of the latter skits. And if you know your Saturday Night Live history, that’s the graveyard shift where they put the crap.

However, it was during the Hartman-Carvey run of the late 80s, early 90s when SNL was appointment TV again, so maybe being at the end of those shows isn’t as bad as being at the end of this cast’s shows.

Saturday Night Live? Bears? Absurdist comedy? You had me at the title, check it out here: www.room19comics.com

The main point of this strip is that Eddie gets attacked by a bear. I think that’s pretty damn funny. There are a couple of little things to look for in this strip: Eddie is wearing a Chicago Cubs shirt, check out the bear’s nose in the first panel and the look of confusion in his eyes in the second panel. Also, check out the Jimmy Fallon slam. That guy just sucks, BTW.

In the second panel, I originally had Kurt agreeing with Eddie that it sounded like a funny concept for a skit, but right before I scanned the drawing, I decided to change it to him thinking that it sucked. After he sees his buddy get mauled, he thought it was funny. I think that this is a universal reaction that we’d all have to seeing our friend fight a bear.

Other than that, that’s pretty much it. There isn’t a lot of complicated layers in this week’s strip (not that there usually is) but this week’s is pretty regular. I will say this, I enjoyed drawing the bear … aside from dogs, bears are my favorite animal and I’ve wanted to do a bear strip since I saw “Grizzly Man” a few weeks ago. Matching this desire with the SNL skit, I think that it worked out pretty well.

I sold my car yesterday. I’m torn about it because on the one hand, I got a pretty good deal and we need the cash, but on the other hand it was the first car that I bought myself and I’ve done my best to take care of it properly. A lot of blood, sweat and money has gone into my ride and now I’m selling it. I think that I felt this way after I sold the Prelude, and I know that I’ll get over it.

My car had been languishing on Craig’s List for about three months before I got a great idea last Wednesday. I decided to scrap the first paragraph and talk like a pirate. Here’s what I wrote:

“Avast ye, mateys. This vessel be originally priced at $7,500, it is now slashed by $1,000! Ye landlubbers will love the terrific condition of the automobile, the reason why I be selling is that me wench can't drive stick and we can only afford the pieces of eight for one automobile in Brookline. Please take this off my hooks ... I'm practically begging you.

Ok. I needed to get a little creative as this has been sitting on Craig's List for a few weeks and it's time to shove off. In all seriousness, this is a terrific car and has had zero problems. It'd be perfect for the first time driver, a college student or practically anyone. And if you buy it, I promise not to use my pirate voice.”

Within 24 hours, I got five serious offers. Incredible. If I had known about this earlier, I would’ve done everything in a pirate voice: looked for a job, tried to get a better loan for the house, dated. I think that I could’ve really made quite a healthy living off this.

Anyway, the guy who bought the car is going to turn around and sell it to a kid for a couple hundred dollars more that what I sold to him for. I guess his job is to troll Craig’s List and find cars for people. I can’t tell whether that’s a good gig or not. Seems like a lot of work for not a lot of money, but if you’re motivated and good at keep your own schedule, then I bet you could do real well.

Class is almost over. I have two weeks and then I’m done. I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I am about this. I have zero motivation and I just want to get this project done. After I come from Chicago, I’m going to start advertising my services again for a freelance web designer. Maybe I’ll use the old pirate voice.

Two cool things happened this weekend, one we went up to Archie and Jenn’s place this weekend with Reddish. Just a real good time, as we got to hang out with the Kane family. They live in a pretty nice place 20 miles north west of Concord, so it’s definitely in the sticks. But they seem to have a real happy life without the trappings of living in the big city. There are times when I think that would be an awesome way to go, but there is a part of me that might miss being able to walk out the door, walk three blocks and buy a book. It’s all a trade-off, I guess.

Their kids are really cool too. Travis and Kelsey are three and a year, respectively, and are probably some of the most well-behaved kids I’ve ever seen. Knowing Archie, he’s probably scared them into being good. Actually, Arch seems like a pretty good dad quite a long way from the days in our dorm room where him and I would play drinking solitaire with a half a bottle of Wild Turkey while listening to Jane’s Addiction.

I can’t remember what the second cool thing was, but if I remember, I’ll tell you about it on Friday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Can A Book Be Pop Culture?

Note: if you’re hear for the previous entry, roll past this one … and then come back to read it.

For this entry, yes it can be. Every few months I try to post a few book reviews of things that I’ve read since my last book reviews. This edition’s is a bit more eclectic than the last one as there really is no common thread between the three books. Maybe there is, I guess you could say that history is the common thread, but that sort of ruins my point, so forget I ever said that.

The first book on this tour was one that I picked up while in San Antonio. You might think that it would be a book about the Old West or injuns. Well, you’d be wrong. It’s called, “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling” by Ross King. Across from the hotel I was staying at was a really cool exhibit on the Vatican. It had a bunch of the old treasures, Popeware and other relics. This book was in the gift shop.

I have to say, I was a little hesitant about reading it because I bought it on a whim as a memento of the exhibition, but overall it was a more than decent book. It was about exactly what the title suggests, Michelangelo and Pope Julius II. To put it simply, Julius was a dick, as was Michelangelo. This wasn’t very surprising as both of them were at the tops in their fields and got there by doing things their way.

Michelangelo didn’t really feel like doing the Sistine Chapel, he’d rather have sculpted Julius’ tomb—which he thought would cement his legacy and Julius was constantly telling him what to paint … and more importantly, how to paint it. It would’ve been a pretty quick book if that’s what the entire thing was about, good thing that King decided to have equal parts Michelangelo and equal parts Julius.

Julius was a bad motherfucker and during his day, Popes weren’t the docile peace-keepers that they are now. They were corrupt, many of them had a ton of children and would bribe and extort, and were almost warrior kings. Julius was no exception, there were a couple of instances during the painting of the ceiling where Julius led the Holy Roman army against the French and kicked their asses. Of course, he needed the help of the Swiss (which screwed him over a couple of times), the English and the Spanish.

For some reasons, Julius kept the Swiss around and later had Michelangelo design their uniforms. Look at these freaking things:

I guess Julius got his revenge.

BTW, when the ceiling was unveiled it was a huge hit … everyone thought it was awesome. And here’s another thing, Michelangelo did not paint the entire thing by himself, he had a bunch of apprentices that helped him, he was paid very well for the time (he paid his helpers shit) and they did not paint on their backs. Anyone who tells you that is retarded.

This next book was something along the lines of reading about the time you lost your virginity: it was awkward, scary, really messy and you’d rather not see any evidence of it again. The book is called “The Bad Guys Won” and was written by Jeff Pearlman.

As you may remember, Pearlman is the Sports Illustrated writer who made John Rocker a household name back in the late 90s. It was him who wrote the story about Rocker and the wacky things he said about gays, New York City, etc. Pearlman isn’t a one-trick pony though and is actually a pretty good writer, though in this book he went way overboard in the overwriting department and forced a lot of “cute” similes. It would’ve been a much stronger book if he cut down on them and just wrote it straight.

As you can tell by the book cover, this book is about the New York Mets … in particular the 1986 New York Mets. You might remember them, they were a team that beat some other team from the northeast in a silly little tournament called the World Series. I can’t remember the whole course of events, but if you go here you will:

RBI Madness

The above is sort of one of those things that you watch after you’ve seen “Faith Rewarded” and the entire 11-disc 2004 Red Sox MLB playoffs.

Despite the obvious “pinnacle” of the book, it was a decent read. As much as I hate that the Mets broke my Sox cherry, it was going to be done by one team sooner or later, I have to admit that they seem like a pretty fun group. Pearlman does an excellent job of getting a bunch of the stories from that year and pulling no punches. There is one story about shortstop Rafael Santana that is really hilarious, I’m not going to spoil it, but you’ll never look at the guy the same way again.

Another thing that I liked about it is that Pearlman didn’t just interview the stars like Gooden, Strawberry, Hernandez and Carter. He talked to just about everyone including guys like backup catcher Ed Hearn, reliever Doug Sisk and supersub Kevin Mitchell. Another great part of the book is the way that it traces the end of the supposed dynasty and the mistakes that the Mets brass made.

Whether you like the Mets or not, and I certainly am not a big fan of them, this is a terrific book, made especially more interesting for me as it was the year that I really started to follow baseball and collect baseball cards. That’s the one thing that constantly ran through my head as I was reading this book, an off-color story would be told about someone, I’d recall their 1986 Topps baseball card and think, “I wonder if Lenny Dykstra knew that he would lose $20,000 on a poker game when this picture was being taken?”

Basically, I’ve always viewed my baseball card collection as a representation of my innocence. When I was younger, I thought that these guys were gods (maybe not Marc Sullivan), but it turns out that they were just regular, flawed human beings, just like everyone else. Does that discolor my view of that time? No. That’s just the way I was back then and I’m sure my son will be the same way when he gets into cards. To add a point, it’s not like after reading this book my eyes were suddenly open as to the debauchery that occurs in major league clubhouses, I knew that … this only reminded me of when I didn’t.

Did you know that there was a huge influenza pandemic in 1918? I had no idea until I read “The Great Influenza” by John Barry. No, it’s not Jon Barry the journeyman basketball player, it’s another dude.

This was a well-researched book, let me say that straight up. Apparently it took Barry seven years to write this thing and it completely shows. He obviously took his time and scoured every corner of this country for any mention of this pandemic in any newspaper, journal or magazine. It must’ve have been easy.

That’s not to say that I loved it. I liked it, I’m glad I read it, but probably won’t read it again. The reason? The way I look at it, this book was broken up into three distinct parts: the doctors/researchers/medical institutions, the politicians and the biology of the disease.

The biology was the least amount of the three and I basically skipped over that part. I’ve never been a big science guy and the parts of science that I liked did not have to do with biology. I found it to be a tremendous bore.

Of the other two parts, I found the politician reaction to the disease to be the most fascinating. Since we were in the midst of World War I, any bad news was considered criminal. This included newspapers writing about the disease and how it’s wiping out scores of military personnel and moving into the big cities and destroying them too. Thus, by the time the word got out it was almost too late.

Because of this shroud against “anti-Americanism” people were more scared and confused than if the government just gave them the new straight. The death toll rose so high in cities such as Philadelphia (where their city government’s workings made Tammany Hall look like Romper Room), Boston, New York that there was literally no place to bury the dead. Much like when the plague slammed the Middle Ages, there were death carts being pulled through the cities stacked high with bodies.

Even President Woodrow Wilson was affected by the disease, which in turn impacted his four nations (England, France, Italy and the US) meeting at the end of World War I. He was so weak from influenza that he gave into the French delegate’s wishes of making Germany completely and totally culpable for WWI. This plunged Germany into a gigantic tailspin of depression that was only rescued by the Nazi party. If Wilson had been more healthy, maybe he wouldn’t have given into the wishes of the French of things would’ve been different.

The parts about the doctors and researchers, while interesting and essential, tended to drag a bit. Maybe it’s because I was able to relate to the “normal” folks who were terrified and got the disease and was fascinated by the what ifs of the end of the war, but I was not as interested in the medical aspects.

That’s not to say that it entirely sucked, there were a bunch of interesting anecdotes and these men were heroes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Running on Empty … I Ran … Running with the Devil … Run’s House

There are a million songs with the word “run” in them and I picked a few that happened to run through my brain. As many of you long-time readers know, Wednesdays are usually reserved for me to crab about my strip, point out what I think is funny or explain why a joke didn’t work. This week, we’re going to change things up a bit, this week, we’re going to lead off with a pretty special event that occurred on Monday: my wife, Alyson Magrane, completed her first Boston Marathon in a little over five hours, 5:14 to be exact.

You won’t find a more proud person than me, it’s hard for me to even begin to describe the amount of pride that I feel towards her, she’s my hero. Overdramatic? I don’t care, the odds that she, and all runners actually, have to overcome to finish the race are pretty large. I never knew how much a person had to shuffle around their life in order to run. Saturdays became all about the long runs, which meant that Friday night she was in bed early as well as Saturday night. And it wasn’t just a one-day thing, Sunday she was hurting but she got right back to her routine on Monday.

And since we live in Boston, it’s not exactly San Diego, which meant that a majority of her runs came in the outside … in January and February … in complete darkness. Think that it sucks to train in San Diego? How about wearing eight layers of clothes and hoping that your sweat doesn’t freeze to your face or that some jerk that’s going too fast in his Miata doesn’t hit some black ice and takes you at the kneecaps.

Unlike training for a fall marathon, like the Marine Corps in Washington or New York, you have no idea what you’re going to get when it comes to marathon day in April. It could be hot as August, cold as February, rainy as October, windy as March … you have no clue. Luckily, she had perfect weather yesterday.

Did she want to quit? Of course she did, putting plans on the backburner or not being able to have a glass of wine or some sort of fattening food while everyone else (including her husband) isn’t easy. And it’s not easy to leave a warm home and run by yourself through the streets of Brighton and Allston while your husband is reading the paper and watching football. But she did it. And for that, she has all my respect. When she first saw me yesterday in Wellesley (about mile 16), with tears in her eyes telling me how much she hurt, it was all I could do to pick her up in my arms and carry her back to our house. But she persevered and made it to the end. I’ll never forget that.

So here’s to you number 21264, take a few days off and no matter what happens, you can always say that you’re a marathoner.

Ok. Now for the real reason that you’re here; comics. Poorly drawn, crudely written web comics. This week’s episode revolves around blissful ignorance and a look into the future. In the first panel, Eddie talks about going home and talking to his older brother. Being a good guy, his older brother gives him some words of wisdom that both he and Kurt shoot down.

Want to check it out: www.room19comics.com

The same thing happened to me, and since I didn’t have an older brother it came from my friend Brownie’s brother, Greg. While we were still in school, Greg must’ve been in a melancholy mood and started going on about women and how lucky we were to be in college. He basically said, there will never be another time in your life that you’re literally going to be surrounded by girls that are all in the same social, class, intelligence and age spheres than you are in right now. In the real world, there are going to be chicks from everywhere and you actually have to work hard to make conversation and ultimately get laid.

In college he said, more than half of the battle is won … you have such a large pooled of shared experiences, it should be a piece of cake to talk to a woman and get some rap going. As the rap extends, you move the conversation elsewhere and there you go. In a bar or some other meeting place you have to set up the parameters of the conversation: is she your age, does she make way more or way less than you, is she from around here, etc. This is time consuming and if it takes too long and proves fruitless, you’re going home alone. In college you can skip that part.

Of course, we ignored him and after a couple of months outside of school and in the bar scene, he proved to be 100% right. BTW, the line that Eddie says in the last panel is a direct ripoff of Ralph Wiggum’s quote when he’s trying to win over Lisa Simpson. Now that guy was a lothario.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Third and Final Part of What I Watch

For the true-believers of 19 Thoughts, Friday just couldn’t get here quick enough, eh? The last part of What I Watch (WIW to the hep cats) is about to begin. Everyone have your scorecards and TV Guides? Good. Let’s, as a priest I used to know was fond of saying, procerd.

I don’t watch much of anything on Tuesday. Aly’s got me into “American Idol”, but I’m usually flicking between that and the Red Sox and a bunch of time, I’m reading or doing other stuff. There’s not a lot to like about AI: it’s full of product placement, it rewards the hopelessly talentless, it has made Ryan Seacrest and the completely unsoulful Randy Jackson stars (Jackson was the bassist in JOURNEY for Christ’s Sakes and he talks like an extra from the UPN … Seacrest is a modern day Dick Clark, except more vanilla), has brought Paul Abdul back into our living rooms and completely exploits and rips off the “talent” it whores out every night.

That being said, it’s like watching a train wreck. I know that this analogy is completely clich├ęd, but it’s true. Every week these people totally embarrass themselves and the only person who tells them they suck, Simon (who is a class-A prick) gets booed. It’s a microcosm of America: people get rewarded for sucking and when they are told they stink, the person who tells them that gets heckled and is labeled as the “bad guy”. I don’t know, this culture we’re in loves to coddle its crap, from its entertainers to its president. I think that’s a huge problem that we’re facing and somewhere along the line we just lost our way.

Ok. I’m off my soapbox.

So I sort of watch that, which means I sort of watch it on Wednesday nights too. After I take a shower to wash the slime of AI off, (and I have to remind myself to watch the show ironically), I settle in for a nice night of “South Park”. In the early part of this century, I thought that SP had completely lost their fast ball and was going to be this century’s version of “Ren and Stimpy”, brilliant in its originality, but ultimately a flame out.

I was just sick of the over saturation of the brand (and I fell for it when it first came out) and I thought the focus was on the merchandising rather than the writing. Then after a year or so of railing against the Comedy Central machine (and especially creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker), I started to watch it again after my buddy Brad Parker told me that it had gotten better. I’m glad I did because for the past few years, it has rebounded quite nicely. We’re in the midst of the newest season and I can honestly say that now that “Arrested Development” is off the air, there is no better show that constantly satirizes American culture like South Park does.

And not only does the show nail the foibles of modern life, but it gets it right in such a way that it genuinely makes you reflect on what’s going on in this oddly shaped country. The other good thing is that both Parker and Stone are playing with F-You money, so they rip everything the same. From Scientology to Christianity to Comedy Central, it’s rip fucking city. I like that. Equal opportunity offenders.

We need that and you know why? Because of shows like “American Idol”. We need people to say, “You know what? You suck and here’s why” and not just have a bunch of whiny complaints, but some real pointed barbs that make us think that we can do better that a C+ is not a good grade, that just because you can stretch a note out like Reed Richards, it does not make you Aretha Franklin. Yes, mindless entertainment does have it’s purpose, but it doesn’t have to crawl into every single show, movie, story and song.

Yes, there are a lot of idiots in this place, don’t pander to them. Focus on the intelligencia and hope that the morons can keep up. Is that too damn hard to do? Fuck, how did I get on this soap box again?

Speaking of morons, my Thursday night begins with as it has since 2000, with “Survivor”. Quite frankly, this seasons sucks (this has to be a record for the most times I’ve used the word “sucks” and I should probably thinking of buying a Thesaurus) and even after 10 weeks, I’m not sure if I can tell you all of the castaways’ names. I can give you a general description of them:

- Old crazy Hawaiian guy
- Old guy with the immunity idol
- Crazy young chick
- Chick with big cans and the Sox hat
- Older chick who’s the immunity idol dude’s side kick
- Quiet, big black woman
- Bat-shit insane guy
- Jeff Probst

I think that’s it, but to be honest with you I think I’m missing a pretty boy in there. In any event, these dudes are not sticking with me. Last week I watched the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes. The rest of the time I was channel surfing or getting into an argument with my lovely wife (which was quickly resolved).

The problem isn’t the game itself, it constantly changes and updates itself to be tougher and more unpredictable than the previous season, it’s just the cast. After ten seasons (I think) we’ve had about 150 different cast members who do the same exact thing year after year after year. If you don’t have a person who’s a true original, despite being a total scumbag Johnny Fairplay was brilliant, than the show is not going to work. And it doesn’t matter if that person is a “good” guy or a “bad” guy.

Charisma is the oil in this show’s engine and they are in bad need of an oil change.

The last two shows are my favorite hour of television each week. First we start off with “My Name is Earl” starring Jason Lee. It’s like a mini-morality each week without being totally preachy. And although the running theme of the show is karma, the overall “Golden Rule” of just being a good person is universal.

The thing is, this is a show that can be a one-trick pony: Earl has to right a wrong, he does it, hilarity ensues. Yet it’s not. Each week the show manages to stay different and with Randy and Crabman in the scenes, you know that it’s going to be funny. Jamie Pressley is a chick I can’t figure out though, I mean she’s legitimately hot, but there is something to her that doesn’t make her a complete knock out. I can’t figure out what it is, though someone once said she looked like a lizard, but I’m not sure. She has a very weird dynamic to her.

After Earl, it’s “The Office”. I love this show. Absolutely love it, and Aly does too which is weird because both of our senses of humor don’t always jibe. I’ve never gotten into the British version of the show, but I hear it’s just as hilarious. In this case, I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t go into the show with research because I’d be forever comparing it with the original.

What makes this show so great? Let’s start off with the casting, Steve Carell is perfect as Mike, the incompetent office manager of Dunder Mifflin. He brings enough edge to the guy that just when you think that he’s the most detestable human being on the planet, he does something human to make you think, “Hey, he’s not so bad.” Just a top-notch job.

Full disclosure right now, I am using the names of the characters because I don’t feel like looking up their real names (I know, a C+ is not a good grade, but I’m fucking starving).

Jim and Pam are among the best things on the show, but it could also sink the show. They play the pseudo office couple that you just hope gets together and live happily ever after. The one problem is Pam is engaged, yet it’s obvious that she is not happy with this situation and likes Jim. I am begging the writers of the show, literally begging them not to do a Ross/Rachel, Sam/Diane, Wilber/Mr. Ed thing and have them fuck or get married or whatever. It will destroy the show. Just kill it. Don’t do it. I have a feeling that they’re smart enough not to do it, but when the networks start making demands, they might have to.

The background characters are pretty awesome too. Just a tremendous ensemble show that hasn’t been seen since the heyday of “Newsradio”. Hopefully NBC won’t fuck around with this.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Listen Homeboys Don’t Mean to Bust Your Bubble

"But girlies of the world ain’t nothin’ but trouble.
So the next time a girl gives you some play,
Just remember my rhyme and stay the hell away."

Thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for the inspiration for this Blog title. There will be no thanks to Ice Cream Tee who provided the B-side “Guys Ain’t Nothin’ But Trouble” on side-B of the seminal DJJ and TFP album, “Rock Tha House”. She was a sucker MC who sucked.

If Will Smith never married Jada Pinkett and if this rhyme was juxtaposed with some of his notorious scenes from “Six Degrees of Separation” (which was actually a really good movie), Big Willy Style could take on a whole new meaning. But enough about him, let’s talk about the subject that brings us together on this beautiful April day, Room 19 Comics.

This week’s strip brings to light one of the best day of the year, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Gone are the threats of snow, the cold and the long dreary nights of nothing to watch at 7:05. Baseball is back, and when your team is a bonafide contender like the Sox are, then all is right with the world.

Want to check it out, click here: www.room19comics.com

Much like Eddie, I too have a ritual that I perform before every season opener. It’s called Hot Dog Day, and it’s basically what it sounds. I spend the entire day before OD reading the Globe Baseball Preview, the Sports Illustrated preview, I boil up three Fenway Franks, slather on some Goulden’s mustard, get a bag of chips and wash them all down with a couple of beers. I usually eat the food while watching the premiere of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. I never let anything get in the way of this day, some times friends ask me to go to a bar to watch the game, but I never waver.

Kind of geeky? Definitely. But, that’s the way I am about baseball, especially the beginning of the season where the anticipation is often more fun than the season itself. It’s not just the games (which admittedly is a huge portion), but it’s all about what new parks are you going to see this year, where are you going for your vacation, it’s just the whole summer vibe. That’s why people (especially in the Northeast) look forward to baseball and Opening Day.

Like I was beginning to say, Eddie has entire day mapped out. He’s got his dogs, his brews and a seat in front of the tube. All of a sudden the phone rings and it’s a woman (nine times out of ten, I have found this to be true) and she chews his ear off for the entire game. An exaggeration, most definitely, but it has happened before … we’ve all lived it.

The few things that I like about this strip are: technically it’s a much better strip than the first few ones that I did. Look at the spacing between the panels and the straight, dark lines separating them. It’s a small, nit-picky thing, but shitty fundamentals can ruin the strip. If anything, this has come a long way since the beginning.

I am really partial to the second panel. Originally I was going to have Kurt yell out that Eddie has a phone call, but I feel that this works much better. It gives it a more comic-y type feel, especially with the word “Ring” leaving the panel. I also like the banal conversation in the background of Ed. He looks nervous in the third panel (I think that he knows where this is headed) and by the fourth looks completely worn out and disappointed.

Is this strip sexist? Yeah. It probably is, but I think that it’s still pretty funny and the art is some of the best that I’ve done in a while.

Aside from this week’s strip, it’s been pretty boring around Casa Magrane, though it’s going to get busy in a hurry. Aly has the marathon on Monday, and you have no idea about how proud of her I am. I can’t believe that someone I am so close with is going to do this. And I know that 20,000 plus run this thing each year, but it’s a completely different experience when someone you live with is doing it.

Hell, Nick and Debbie have done probably about 20 marathons combined, quick aside – if you’re in Copley or East Boston look for this billboard:

That’s Nick proposing to Debbie last year at the end of the marathon. Adidas has used it for their advertisements promoting the race this year. To continue with my point, those two have done it tons of times and I knew how much work it took, but I didn’t really know. Aly has opened my eyes to the amount of work and preparation, it’s not just the running either, that it takes to do this thing. Getting up early, going to bed early, eating correctly, busted up feet and ankles, the ever present smell of Icy-Hot and Tiger Balm, the mountains of sweaty and smelly clothes … there’s a lot of stuff here that you don’t think about.

And Aly has gone through it all. I am more proud of her than I could even imagine. I can’t wait to see her on Monday at the finish line. It’s going to be awesome.

BTW, do you think in some Scandinavian countries, the term “Finish Line” is changed? Norwegian Line in Norway, Sweedish Line in Sweeden, German Line in Denmark (the Dutch are pussies). Ok, bad Seinfeld-era joke.

In addition to the marathon; I’ve got a huge project in school that I’m finishing up, a freelance web site job, thoughts about completely redoing the Room 19 Comics site, regular work and the comic strip. It’s a lot. But it’s nothing compared to running 26.2 miles. I just have to remember that.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Belated Part Two of What I Watch

So, the last time we were talking about TV, I was writing about what I watched on Sunday night. There were a few shows that I failed to mention.

One is “King of the Hill”, which has been renewed for its 11th season. That ties the show with “Married … With Children” as the second longest running program on FOX. That blows me away, mainly because I thought when it was first introduced FOX was just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by getting the guy who wrote “Bevis and Butthead” to do a show for them.

And when I watched the first episode, I thought it was country-fried version of Anderson, the slow-witted neighbor that B and B used to torment. Turns out I was completely wrong. You don’t see the kind of sustained character growth that occurs in KOTH in many sitcoms, much less cartoon ones, but this show has it in spades. And the good thing about it is, it’s not cheesy character growth either.

For example, in “The Simpsons” one can argue that Homer has actually devolved over the years instead of evolving. Not so with the KOTH characters, they have done something that is extremely difficult to quantify, but it’s there. Namely they’ve changed without changing. What I mean by that is that the characters are recognizable from the first season to the tenth, but they aren’t stagnant.

One example is Bobby. From the first couple of seasons he was a fat, lazy kid with no real motivation. Now he is still fat and sort of lazy, but he has a motivation. He sort of found himself and his calling in life. I know that it sounds really dopey to be waxing philosophical about a show such as this, but I really feel that it is the subtleties and nuances of this program that makes it special and has kept it going for more than a decade.

And another thing about this show is that even though it is set in a boring, Walmartesque town that could be anywhere in the Red States, all of the problems and plots are handled with a certain amount of gravity that while it doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t short change the audience either. The writers care about these characters and in turn, the audience does too.

I just started watching this other show, which is why I didn’t really talk about it in the previous entry. The show is called “Big Love” and it’s on after “The Sopranos” on HBO. Aly was the one that got me into this program and for awhile I wasn’t really liking it. There are too many characters, too many over-the-top plots, too much crap going on and Bill Paxton’s naked ass.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically about a dude with three wives living in Utah. One of his father-in-laws is the head of a polygamous Mormon cult (that HBO is very careful to say aren’t typical Mormons) that hides in the Utah desert, his wives constantly bicker with each other over trivial jealousies and he owns a chain of Home Depot-like stores (in which his FIL is trying to take a 20% tithe). He also has a gang of kids, one of which I think that one of Paxton’s wife has a crush on and another is the really dumb chick from “Mean Girls” (so that’s not too bad). Oh yeah, George Costanza’s mother-in-law plays Paxton’s whacked-out mom, so that’s funny just to see her.

There’s a lot of shit going on and I think the first couple of episodes were done at a frantic pace because they had to set the groundwork for the upcoming season. Since then, it has slowed down a bit and the plots are beginning to unfold at a more leisurely pace. And since that has occurred, it has been a more enjoyable show to follow. Though there aren’t a lot of characters I’m rooting for, or that I particularly like, I’m going to continue to watch.

The only show that I watch on Mondays, is by far one of the best show on television right now. “24”. If you aren’t watching this show, then you are missing out big time on what has proven to be a weekly mini-movie. I was reading some comments on the show and someone hit the nail right on the head when they wrote that we (as an audience) sometimes take the effects for granted week in and week out. For example, last week an entire gas plant exploded. When was the last you saw that on television? That’s like the last scene of a summer block buster. And on “24” it was 15th hour.

Yes, the twists can be cheesy and there are some plot holes that you can drive a Mack truck through, but it’s an enjoyable show made even more so by the commitment of the actors. While easy to camp up and make kitschy, each actor plays their role with such sincerity and believability, that as a viewer, you have to take it seriously.

And Kiefer Sutherland is Jack Bauer for now until the day he dies, that’s all there is to it. And Mary Lynn Rajskub is going to be Chloe, Louis Lombardi is going to be Edgar and Dennis Haybert has shed his Pedro Serano character from “Major Leagues” and will always be the greatest President of all time, David Palmer.

Each week I am on the edge of my seat wondering what the hell is going to happen next and each week, the show delivers. Eventually, it’s going to wane … I know that, but for now, it’s a hell of a ride. And there are plans to release a “24” movie in 2008. Maybe I’ll start waiting in line now.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Urine Love

Just like the RATT song, and you read that right, buck-o, I made a pun on a RATT song. The one good thing about this title is that maybe more people will immediately go to the comic strip site when they start Googling things like “Water Sports” or “Yellow Punishment”. As I was telling my good buddy Ryan the other day, I need more degenerates on this site.

Anyway, this week’s strip is actually a pet peeve of mine. Not to go Jerry Seinfeld on you, but what’s the deal with these people. Women, you’re lucky, you never have to worry about this type of crap. You go into your little stalls and you do your business in peace. Men have to worry about these asswipes that get all Chatty Charlie on you the minute you pull out the L’il General.

Why? Why are you bothering me with the most mundane, boring conversations while I’m trying to pee. And look at the verb in the last sentence, trying. Sure, after about six or seven beers, the flood gates are open, but that’s not always happening. And the diatribes against Johnny Damon, ain’t making it any easier.

If you are new to the Blog and have zero clue what I’m talking about, you can check out my comic strip here: www.room19comics.com

As far as the general art of this week’s strip, I think that it came out pretty good. In the first panel, I had a bit of a problem with Eddie’s perspective. I think that I made the lower part of his body a little big for the top portion. But other than that, I think that it works. The weird thing is, Kurt usually is the easiest character for me to draw, but this week it took me a few times per figure to get him the way that I wanted. I have no idea why, maybe it was because I haven’t drawn him in a few weeks.

Like the last comic with Eddie and the gang, the second panel is a dream sequence … or in this case a flashback. I had a bit more detail in the background of this panel, but it didn’t look right for the feel of this strip. Other than the hippo on Kurt’s shirt, which was inspired by Hungry, Hungry Hippos. I’m sure you can figure out just about everything else in the strip.

Sorry for the short entry, but I really feel like shit right now. If I have time on Friday, I’ll post a new entry.