Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics

This hefty brick of a paperback, edited by Paul Gravett, is like a warning tossed through the plate glass window complacency of all those skinny, over-priced little graphic "novels" that offer a lot of overblown pretentious artwork and precious little actual plot.
You want story? This collections offers a virtual who's who tour of crime comics from the forties to the present, offering samples of everything from Will Eisner's The Spirit to Collins' and Beatty's Ms. Tree. The earliest selection is a dry run of Spillane's Mike Hammer ("Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death" from 1942) and winds its way to the present, offering mostly complete stories (or story arcs, in the case of strips) of such familiar classics as Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond's Secret Agent X-9
Sure, even clocking in at close to 500 pages, there are some glaring omissions (No Dick Tracy? No Slam Bradley? No Johnny Dynamite or 100 Bullets?), but the spattering of off-beat choices and outright rarities they offer instead (a 87th Street Precinct tale from 1962, a 1975 Alack Sinner vignette, a 1948 Simon-Kirby short) more than make up for it.
Please, please, please may this be an annual collection.
BONUS RANT: This is real deal crime -- not some dubious "noir" homage featuring some musclebound, spandexed doofus with a fedora slapped on his noggin, like Marvel's recent X Men Noir. Hell, the only spandex in evidence is worn by Charles Burns' El Borbah, the Mexican professional wresler turned private eye. And that's supposed to be a joke.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It wasn't supposed to happen. Snow? In the Antelope Valley? The High Desert?
In my six years here, we've had snow actly once, the first winter I was here. I looked out the sliding glass door one overcast wintry afternoona and saw a light dusting of snow on a plant. This homesick Montrealer was so excited I phoned D.L. at work to break the news: THERE WAS SNOW IN PALMDALE!!!
Unfortunately, by the time I got through to her, the snow had melted. 
And that was about it. In the years since, we've had more murders than snowflakes in Palmdale.
Until yesterday, when I woke up to an honest-to-goodness snowfall. At seven in the morning it was heavy enough that it looked like it might actually last. On the three-mile drive to work, though, the yahoos were already out in force. I had the pleasure of watching some moron in a humongous 4X4 SUV slip, slide, skid and fishtail his way through a red light right in front of me. And by four in the afternoon, Palmdale was a winter wonderland -- at least for errant Canadians pining for home.
For at least some other Palmdale residents, it was probably more like the fall of Saigon. The motels were jammed with stranded travelers, and the local B&N was hosting more than one gang of refugees from the storm, slurping hot chocolate, thumbing through magazines and balefully staring out the glass front of the store, watching the snow bury their cars and -- for many of them -- any real chance of getting home.
Me, I was loving it. But the giddiness took a knock on the drive home. The four or five lanes were reduced to two almost viable lanes, one in each direction, delineated by tire ruts of those who had gone before. Bad, I thought, but I've seen worse.
What I didn't count on was the fact that folks here don't know how to drive in snow.  Yes, there were nuts on those ruts.
Make my life easier, fellow citizens of Palmdale. If you don't have to go somewhere, stay home. Enjoy the snow. Talk to your kids. Make love to your wife. Eat a nice meal. Be a Montrealer. But if you really have to drive in snow, please follow these rules, and we'll all get along better.
It's just snow, dammit! Stop admiring the view and concentrate on your driving. And forget the play-by-play. Shove that damn cellphone up your ass.
  • That turn lane in the middle of the road? It's for turning left, OFF the road. NOT merging onto the road. And  just because you're driving some overgrown 4X4 assholemobile does NOT give you the right of way, no matter how many McCain/Palin bumper stickers you have on your back bumper. Just because you voted for someone in Alaska does NOT mean you know how to drive in snow. 
  • Speaking of which, most of those gigantic 4X4s, particularly the jacked-up ones with oversized tires, are lousy in the snow. Because they're so high, they're more likely to skid and because they're heavy, they take longer to stop. And it doesn't help that it gives these yahoos a false sense of security and safety. Somebody should read the accident stats to these idiots. (By the way, I'm not saying everyone driving one of these overgrown, mid-life crisiscowboy  skateboards is an asshole, but it is rather striking how many idiots seem to drive them).
  • Driving faster on ice and snow does NOT give you better traction. Relax -- we ALL want to get home.
  • Proceeding slowly, and slowing down to a stop is better than racing to the next red light and jamming on the brakes. Be particularly careful at intersections -- slow down for ALL of them. Even when you have a green light. When the snow falls, so does the IQ of many a driver.
  • If you get stuck, DON'T floor it. That just turns the packed snow under your tires into ice. Instead, gear down and try going in reverse. Rock your way out.
  • Yes, the snow's lovely. But clear off your entire car or truck before driving -- not just a small circle on the windshield. Clear it off completely, as well as the back window, the sides, the lights (front and rear) and clean off the damn roof. The guy behind you doesn't want your snow collection to suddenly be dumped in front of him -- or on his windshield. If you can't clean the snow off your own vehicle (or you're just a lazy lard ass), you're driving the wrong one, and you shouldn't be on the road. And what's with the geezers hauling a full load of snow in the beds of their pickups? Do they think God needs help with snow delivery? He seems to be doing fine, so far.
  • Fill up the tank before you go on a long drive. The added weight will give you extra traction, and walking down the road on a stormy night, when visibility is down to about two inches, while clutching a gas can, is not all the fun it's cracked up to be.
  • It's winter, it's cold. Wear appropriate clothing -- it doesn't matter if they have heat where you're going. You may never get there.  Keep mitts, gloves, scarves and a hat in the car. Maybe a warm blanket and sweater too. And that scraper will come in a lot handier in your car than on the workbench in your garage.
  • If you get stuck in a snowbank, don't count on running the engine to keep warm indefinitely. Unless you're a member of a species that has learned to breathe carbon monoxide.
So, uh, anyway, happy motorvating, folks. And yes, that's a Joshua tree up there.

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