Los Angeles

Resume Running Red Lights, LA

Found on Flickr (taken by puck90)

Good news, Los Angeles! Those automated cameras at certain intersections will no longer flicker that annoying white flash to let you know you just ran a red light and can expect to get a nice present in the mail. So if you’re looking for photographic evidence that you were driving somewhere at a specific time, you’re just going to have to ask someone to use their camera phone or something. Maybe they’ll even take a more flattering picture, and for free.

The 32 red light cameras throughout the city have documented an average of 45,000 traffic violations each year. The downside is they were also more expensive than the revenue they generated, and the tickets issued from those pictures were difficult to enforce (“That’s not my blurry, pixelated face! That’s not even my car! Plus I was in Denver that weekend and have a friend who can back me up.”) and caused an increase in rear-end collisions (some drivers slammed on their breaks hoping it was the car in front of them that got caught, much to the chagrin of the car behind them). Fortunately that’s all behind us now. We’re once again able to run red lights to our heart’s content! Let’s go forth and endanger people’s lives, everyone!

Better news: If you have an outstanding ticket from a red light camera, throw that sucker away! The city is no longer collecting money from them. See? Procrastinating pays off!

(Just be careful. There are still cities around LA proper that have cameras just waiting to get us.)

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This Weekend is a Two’fer of Comedy

1 show down, 2 to go for March.

This weekend, we’re performing both Saturday and Sunday nights! That’s two times the funny! Can the universe survive?

Saturday night, we reunite with the improv group The Callbacks for our Tag Team Comedy night. That’s at the Mary Pickford Studio, near downtown Culver City, at 8 PM. Tickets are $7.

Then, on Sunday night, we’re doing a reprise of our Family Friendly Show with Jump Start. Our show with them this past Saturday night went so well, we’re doing it again in their neck of the woods. Yes, the Magic Meathands are hitting Hermosa Beach! So bring the kids, bring the grown-up kids, bring everyone to the 2nd Story Theater. The show is 6:30 to 8:30 PM and tickets are $10 ($5 for 12 and under).

The above was cross-posted on the Magic Meathands blog. I’ve been a member of the Magic Meathands for over 3 years, performing over 150 shows of improvised comedy. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, give yourself a treat and catch one of our shows.

NOTE: I will be at WonderCon on Saturday, so unfortunately I won’t be in Tag Team Comedy show. But I’ll be with the Meathands on the Sunday show in Hermosa Beach. I hope to see you there.

Your Post-Labor Day Reward

Congratulations on making it through Labor Day! That was real tough on all of us. I think we could all use a little something to make it worth it.

How about a comedy show?

This Saturday night, I’ll be performing with the Magic Meathands to give you a full hour of completely made-up sillies. No script, just your suggestions and whatever our unbalanced minds can come up with. And right before us is the Beach Cities improv troupe Jump Start, so that means you get 2 full hours of comedy.

And I think we all know that you deserve it after Labor Day.

Tickets: $7
Where: Mary Pickford Studio, 8885 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles 90034
When: Saturday, September 10, 8 PM

More details.

Comics influence Los Angeles Metro’s new Expo Line artwork

Comics are all around us and you may not even realize it. Here’s one example.

The light rail Expo Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City (and eventually all the way to Santa Monica) is creeping closer and closer to its official opening (after over a year delay). This week, Los Angeles Metro unveiled the featured artists whose work will be displayed at each station. Metro’s Expo public arts program has dedicated .5% of its construction budget to commissioning the creation of original art. Over 200 artists submitted proposals. Of the nine chosen, three either directly or indirectly reference or draw inspiration from sequential art, showing how even the fine arts are embracing the amazing language and aesthetics of comic books.

Loteria by Jose Lozano

Lotería by Jose Lozano (LA Metro)

José Lozano‘s Lotería is featured at the La Brea Station. While the concept is based on a Mexican card game, the visuals took inspiration from Mexican comic books that Lozano saw in his childhood.

From José’s artist statement:

“LA Metro Lotería depicts scenes, people, objects and situations having to do with the Metro riding experience. The color and style of the cards are reminiscent of Mexican comic books from my youth and the Sunday comics. I want to create something visually interesting and poetic from what seems to be mundane and ordinary.”

While Lozano has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, his first seven years were spent in Juárez, México, with his mother. Mexican comic books, cinema, fotonovelas and other cultural touchstones made a big impact on him and continue to influence his work.

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez (LA Metro)

Samuel Rodriguez uses white silhouettes of bicycles to break up his images like panels in a comic book. His work is at the Jefferson/USC Station.

Samuel Rodriguez weaves a visual narrative that includes fragments of building facades, vintage rail cars, realistically rendered human figures, and fictional characters. These illustrations are representative of images that may wander into the mind of the waiting traveler. Each art panel is visually divided by the silhouette of bike frames, resembling the layout of a comic book.

In fact Rodriguez’s graphic design company Shorty Fatz first began in 2002 with xeroxed mini-comics, or “ghetto funny pages”.

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos (LA Metro)

Ronald J. Llanos considers himself a visual journalist. He uses a loose sketch style to capture people he observes while people-watching, and then fleshes them out to create a documentation of the urban environment. This art at the Western Station was done by him capturing the people in the vicinity. So if you live in that area, maybe you’ll see yourself.

Ronald Llanos is a collector of images. He sketches while people watching at a café or navigating the city. Often, these character drawings reappear in self-published ‘zines.’ For Western Station, Llanos proposes to develop a visual narrative that spans the two station platforms like the open pages of a book.

That creation of a narrative and his use of self-published zines are very much in the spirit of comic books. In fact, his style reminds me of the fantastic Italian comics illustrator and graphic novelist Gipi. Even the subtitle of the name of his project, “Visual Essay,” could be considered a form or type of graphic novel. And comic book journalism is a growing field, as this excellent interactive comic by Dan Archer explains.

The Expo Line has been in the works since 2006 and most of the artists have been working on these projects for about three years. Nearly all of the Phase 1 stations had the art installed earlier this summer but the real unveiling won’t happen until the Expo Line officially launches later this year or possibly early next year. Metro says the Expo Line is approximately 90% completed and currently undergoing train testing for the next several months.

(via Curbed LA)

Tag Team Comedy to Deliver Clothesline of Comedy this Saturday Night

The Magic Meathands (with me!) is teaming up with Darwin’s A Team, an improv comedy group from Victorville’s High Desert Center for the Arts, for a full night of improvised comedy at our new spacious location, the Mary Pickford Studio in West LA, this Saturday night at 8 PM for only $7.

Come out and have yourself a good laugh. Don’t believe me? Check out what people are saying about us on our Magic Meathands Facebook page:

“I enjoyed last night’s show very much. You exploded onto the stage and the energy never let up. Brilliant performance!” -Nick

“So much fun.” -Kathy

“Great show last night at your new location” -Peter

What more proof do you need?!

Comedy Improv Show with Jump Start & The Magic Meathands

It’s a double duo improv night of fun and family friendly comedy! The Magic Meathands (with me!) are joined by the South Bay improv group Jump Start! This Saturday night at our NEW LOCATION!

Mary Pickford Studio
8885 Venice Blvd Suite 102
Los Angeles, CA 90034

When: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Time: 8:00- 10:00 p.m. Show
Cost: $ 7.00 at the door

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Banjo Playing and Speedo Wearing

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul (click to see what I got)

Those two things didn’t happen at the same time but they were two of the most memorable moments of Comic-Con for me this year.

As the comic fates would have it, I was only able to attend one day of Comic-Con this year. Dreading the annual 3-hour drive down to San Diego, I decided instead to ride Amtrak’s Surfliner train down to San Diego from LA’s Union Station to spend the day, and then head back that same night. It ended up being a great way to get around the inevitably terrible traffic and parking headaches. I got to relax, enjoy the spectacular view of the California coast, check out Comic-Con’s app (much improved over last year) to mark panels I might want to see, waste time on Facebook without feeling guilty, take a nap or two, and on the way back I got to read some of the awesome graphic novels I bought. It was dreamy. I will almost surely be doing this from now on (until Comic-Con finally moves up to LA to make it more convenient for me).

Because I only had one day, I wasn’t able to do everything (impossible even if you’re every minute of the day). There were a few people I couldn’t connect with (sorry, Kristian and Brandon!), some publisher tables I never got to (sorry, Boom!, Archaia and IDW!), and some panels I missed (ThunderCats nooo…). Another day probably would’ve done it for what I wanted to do. But I bought a (very heavy!) ton of graphic novels, got to hang out with Scott Shaw! and share a laugh with Sergio Aragonés, and got to experience two things that really stood out as unique and made me absolutely happy that the world of comics exists.

© Eric Drooker, http://drooker.com

© Eric Drooker

The first was artist Eric Drooker‘s panel. Here’s how Comic-Con’s program described it:

Visual artist and Comic-Con special guest Eric Drooker will project hundreds of his magical images and explore how his early years as a street artist in New York City inspired his award-winning graphic novels Flood! and Blood Song. He’ll discuss the process of designing the animation for the recent hit film Howl, starring James Franco, and how he adapted it for the new book, Howl: A Graphic Novel. Best known for his numerous cover paintings for The New Yorker, Drooker will tell hilarious-but-true stories of how he wound up getting published.

A pretty straightforward description. Drooker is a fantastic artist and storyteller, so hearing him talk about his process and history sounded great. It turned out to be so much more than that. He did talk quite a bit about his work and his background, but Eric Drooker also happens to be a talented musician. Over the projected slideshow of his artwork, which has a haunted quality evocative of woodcuts from the 1910s and ’20s, Drooker played his banjo or harmonica and occasionally sang. Like his art, the music he created seemed to harken back a century. There was something incredibly powerful, moving and intimate about seeing and hearing two different forms of art that he had created and was creating live right before us. It seemed like such a personal expression. Here he was expressing himself to us on multiple levels, visually and sonically, and with such immediacy. I guess the easy description is that he created a soundtrack for his own art, but it felt deeper yet more transcendent than simple accompaniment. It was beautiful.

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face from Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 3

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 3

The second event was a tad sillier but a great example of how comics can take back some of the main spotlight from Hollywood at Comic-Con. I was standing near the Fantagraphics booth when this growling voice bellowed out over the conversations and white noise of the convention floor. In stalked a large hairy man covered in fake blood and wearing nothing but a speedo. He immediately started yelling at people around him, threatening them, cursing at them, mocking them. Now this is Comic-Con, so while there was some confusion, it didn’t take long to figure it out. The bloody man started pacing like a caged tiger behind Johnny Ryan, who was quietly signing copies of his new graphic novel Prison Pit 3. Johnny Ryan is a hilarious cartoonist but he is most definitely not for children. Crass and abrasive, his punchlines are more like blunt objects of comedy that shock and delight at their willful disregard for… everything. He released the third in his Prison Pit series of graphic novels at this year’s Comic-Con. It’s basically a trilogy of absolute violence and gore done on such a deliriously excessive level far beyond the parodying done on The Itchy & Scratchy Show from Matt Groening’s The Simpsons. As a promotional stunt, Johnny Ryan and his publisher Fantagraphics had performance artist Ajax Wood (aka Ardent Vein) done up to look like the main character in Prison Pit, Cannibal F***face. Everything Wood yelled was dialogue from Prison Pit 3. Some of the other exhibitors were mildly annoyed at the disruption, but I think it was a great promotional bit. Now maybe this example scared off more people than it drew in, but it certainly fit into the spirit of Johnny Ryan’s work, which itself isn’t exactly mainstream (although he regularly contributes to Vice Magazine). So it’s actually a pretty accurate marketing stunt. If that kind of spectacle is something that amuses you or draws you in, you’ll probably like Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit 3. Personally, I would’ve given him a few assistants (maybe with fliers) and had him skulk around the convention floor a little bit before sticking him behind the Fantagraphics booth. But it was great. It got people’s attention. Usually at Comic-Con, all of the really flashy stuff is from Hollywood. Publishers and artists would do well to remember that comics are worth some creative pomp and circumstance too. Comics should be the main spectacle of Comic-Con.

The common thread between these two events is that the artists found a way to add performance art to their work. The two had different goals and purposes (one was a panel, one was a book signing) but people in comics are creative enough to come up with more ways to add a level of performance to their art for public appearances like conventions. When they meld so perfectly with the artist and their work, like these two did, it adds a new level of experience and awareness for fans. And it brings back some of that unorthodox spirit that comics have had in the past that make them so memorable.