Saturday, September 22, 2012

Riding on the Expo

Last Saturday, Amy and I spent a day at Comikaze Expo, the two-year-old convention that Stan Lee bought (along with Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson) as one of the many entrepreneurial ventures the 90-year-old comics icon has on his plate. Since the event was held at Los Angeles's Convention Center, and the MTA's Expo line runs from Culver City to a station a block away from the Center, we decided as an experiment to take the train. Or rather, the light rail.

I'm not a stranger to trains. I've taken the Amtrak Surfliner between L.A. and San Diego or Santa Barbara several times over the last 23 years. When I lived in San Francisco in the late '80s, I relied on the Metro trollies and BART to get around. I've ridden San Diego's trollies, Seattle's light rail, and the JR Rail system in Japan (including the Shinkansen bullet train and the terrific railway within Tokyo). I've found urban trains far superior to busses in regard to smooth rides, reliability, frequency, and speed.

And we found all of those positive aspects to be true of the Expo line. We had some delay starting out (because we didn't look at a schedule before we came, the train left just before we got up to the platform and we had to wait 15 minutes for the next one to leave), and we had to wait for a while going back before our train showed up; but the time on the train was pleasant. Likely we benefited from using the train on a Saturday: A recent article stated that there were 18,000 boardings of the line a day during weekdays, a testament to its popularity. In any event, we were able to get seats both ways. And although the trip did not take any less time than a normal Saturday trip from the westside to the Convention Center, we had the advantage of avoiding the stress of traffic and (perhaps more important) the hassle of negotiating the streets around the Center during a popular event, and of getting parking.

Will we take the train to future events? Probably, at least some of the time. We can foresee occasions that the convenience of using our own vehicle, and setting our own arrival and leaving times, will outweigh the benefits of the train. But at least we have the option.

Now, someday, we should try the L.A. subway.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Disappearing Childhood

One of the inevitable side-effects of growing older is that the creators of works that defined or shaped your childhood disappear. Recently, two artists who were instrumental in my childhood left us.

In mid-August, Joe Kubert passed away. Although his career in comics spanned nearly 70 years, one of the highlights of his time in comics was his two decades of work on DC's war comics. At the time I was reading them, the early '70's, Kubert was editing them, along with drawing covers for several titles (particularly "Our Army at War," featuring Sgt. Rock) and frequently drawing stories. Since I read and enjoyed war comics long before I started reading superhero comics, Kubert's approach to the genra -- one that focused on the individuals fighting the war, and those caught up in the battles, with frequent closeups of faces with haunted eyes -- helped shaped my appreciation for comics.

I previously blogged about Kubert's work here and here

Hal David, who passed away this past weekend at the age of 95, was a lyricist whose name I didn't know as a kid, but whose songs were everpresent. It's easy to put down his collaborations with Burt Bacharach as elevator music or easy-listening fodder. But the truth is that songs such as "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "This Guy," "Walk on By," "What the World Needs Now," etc. became hits, and remain in the mind decades after they were first recorded, because they seem to bypass the intellect and grab the emotions. Like a cartoonist's drawing that conveys so much because the lines are so clear and simple, the seeming artlessness of the lyrics amounted to art.

The creators of your childhood pass away. But the effects of their work upon you remain.