VidFest Presentation

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    This is a loosely chronological survey of my work from my teenage fanzine artwork to screenshots of The Matrix Online, for which I wrote story continuity over the first few years of its existence. SF illustration, movie storyboards, advertising art and plenty of Concrete and other comics work included. It was part of my talk with Mark Verheiden, then a Battlestar Galactica writer/producer, to Vidfest 2007 in Vancouver BC.

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October 29, 2008


ron harris

Jeez, how many times did Toth tear up pages? The more stories I hear about him, the clearer it becomes that my youthful picture of Toth as the gallant victim of a crushing System was romantic poppycock. Toth seems to have been a complex and flawed individual whose main enemy was himself. Of course that description could fit many of us...but most of us aren't as talented or as skilled!


No offense taken, bob - and I'm very glad you enjoy the blog. Perhaps you'll usrdentand better if I explain the choice in greater detail...This is the one piece of original art by Toth that I own. I have it framed and hanging above my desk so I can look up from my work at any time for a burst of inspiration.Though at first glance it doesn't look like much, it has some really lovely bits. I encourage you to go to my Flickr set and click on its "All sizes" tab. The third panel is especially nice but the scene in the window in the last panel is also really great.It was not very expensive. It was listed as being inked by Vinnie Colletta (not an inker I'm ever glad to see on just about anybody), but after reading a Dick Giordano article somewhere... I forget (in CBA?) and seeing another page from the same story, I was delighted to discover I owned a Toth page inked by a very good inker!It may not be the most exceptional work Toth ever did but it has special meaning for me and so I felt it would be most appropriate to share it at this time with the TI readers.


Whoops. Open mouth, insert foot. Well, there's no such thing as bad Toth--just good Toth you like to one derege or another. Thank you for sharing a piece from your collection, and congratulations to you on the purchase. If I'm not sounding too absurd, I've often thought that Dick Giordano's work (which I admire) looks a bit like "good Colletta." The inking of the bottom panel looked like Dick's to me, while some of the faces earlier on seemed more like Vince, leaving me to fudge it in my initial comment. I'll take a closer look, and thanks for your enlightening, and temperate reply.


Review by Shannon B Davis for Rating: My birthday gift was The Mole People Life in the Tunnels betneah New York City. Both subterranean landscapes and alternative societies have always fascinated me, and this book contains both. New York City has some of the largest and most inhabited underground spaces of any city in the United States, and the homeless population is more visible there than some other cities. The book changed how I thought about the homeless. I avoided contact with them because they can be unpredictable. I pretended I didn't see them, thinking soup kitchens and shelters would help them. Although the book reinforces that homelessness is often a choice, it taught me that the homeless are not much different from me.It's amazing how much space there is belowground. So many abandoned tunnels for trains, gas lines, and water. One can still wire electricity, and some abandoned subway stations still have working bathrooms. Cubbies built to house maintenance workers now house the homeless. One community got water from a broken pipe where they showered and washed their clothes. Another even had a microwave. One wonders if any of them have Internet access.I found it interesting that many tunnel-dwellers did not want to return to the surface, or to a normal life. They are the ultimate outsiders, and they have idealist views of their own lifestyle, while believing the surface is not for them. They are invisible, outcasts, on the surface world. Life is not better there. Underground they have a family and a purpose. Men who couldn't find work and provide for the family on the surface world can be productive members of society betneah the ground. It amazed me how much they helped one another, forming communities where each person had their role. Of course, there were the loners and the drug addicts and the alcoholics, but others went down for ideological reasons.Close to the surface, many people still held normal jobs above ground, and one child still attended school. With rents so high, people resort to this you can't work minimum wage and have an apartment in Manhattan. Close to the surface, there is less community and more of a transient population. The police have a higher presence, an outreach program that sometimes helps and sometimes hinders the homeless. Many inhabitants report being beaten by the officers, while the officers say that they endanger themselves daily trying to help these people.So often, the inhabitants would say that they believed life was better for them underground. One self-styled mayor told Jennifer that undergrounders were superior people to whom the human spirit was more valuable than material comforts. The leaders of these communities were usually quite educated, sometimes with degrees. This particular man had a library that he had brought down over the years. A schoolteacher and a nurse lived in his community, both trained in the aboveground world, but choosing to live and work belowground. Appointed runners fetched supplies from the surface. Another common phrase is these people need me. I'm needed down here. In the anonymous surface world, many people are not successful and end up alone and nameless. Below, they can be someone. In some ways, it is a utopia. Free from a society where they don't fit in, they no longer pay taxes or follow rules and they can live a more authentic life, where survival is a day-to day struggle, but they can feel as if they are really contributing. Most of the interviewees were living under ground actively. I wonder if those who have left tell a different story. An exotic dancer often has an idealized view of her role, but after she has left the profession, her opinions are more jaded. Maybe people idealize their own lives,in order to mentally survive hardship. Yet, I was impressed by their ethics. As an atheist myself, I too believe we must find our moral compass on the inside. The more idealistic communities talked about the human morality and human religion , ethics like honesty and compassion. Without rules and laws, these people generally act out of their own hearts to care for their neighbors. They care for people that most of us would turn away from in disgust crack addicts, AIDS-infected people, and the mentally unstable.Of course, there are crazy and drug-addled people. The writer encountered one man called the Dark Angel that everyone, from the police to the tunnel-dwellers feared. He lived alone in the tunnel, and few would come near him. He believed that he was evil's incarnation on earth. There are bands of roving teenagers, and gang-members who plan their assassinations and drug deals betneah the ground. It's a haven for those who do not want to be seen, some of whom are bad people. Rarely was the writer without a guide for her own safety.Even ensconced in the surface world of professional jobs and rat-free air-conditioned apartments, we can see why these people chose to leave all that for a life underground, without laws and structure. They survive better than one would expect. It allows people to start over, or even to start for the first time. For some people, it is the best option they have, and reading about the rapes and thefts at surface-world shelters, one understands why they would flee to deeper and deeper bowels of the earth.Jennifer Toth did a brave thing, and her compassion and courage impressed me. She entered their world, nearly unbiased, and she kept in touch with her subjects. Her book, though scholarly, is not the least bit boring. She writes with a personal style and a first-person perspective, and her landscapes are hard to forget. She communicates that the mole people are more human than their name implies, sometimes more human than those of us above.

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