American Sniper and the Exploitation of Chris Kyle

american_sniper_stillI tweeted a couple of days ago that “I like my war movies to examine the way humans are used and exploited by their governments, not to be examples of such.”

There’s been a lot of controversy about American Sniper, and I think rightly so. What’s being sold to Americans as the real-life story of a great war hero is largely fictionalized and distorted, a movie that elects to glamorize war when war was what destroyed its hero*. The thing is, a lot of the controversy has taken the form of character assassination against Chris Kyle, and I think that’s wrong. Whether he lied about events in his life, whether he was less than honest about his book proceeds, Chris Kyle is not what’s wrong with American Sniper.

Kyle was human, he had good and bad to him, and did good and bad things, the way any real-life human does. Where people should take issue is with the movie, largely because of what it’s doing with Kyle.

* An aside here: What’s most disappointing to me is that Unforgiven, Eastwood’s best movie, is perhaps the most brilliant film ever made about the way violence and killing destroy a man’s soul. One has to wonder whether William Munny would think Chris Kyle was a hero. I’m pretty confident I know his answer. [Read more…]

Car: Impounded

LIC ParkingOn Saturday, my car was impounded.

Well, actually that’s not quite true. The car was impounded on Monday, the 5th, but I only noticed it on Saturday the 10th because that was the first time I wanted to use it. This being New York City, I mostly rely on trains and only use the car when necessary. On Saturday I was on my way to sub in net for an ice hockey team at Chelsea Piers, and my goalie gear was waiting for me in the back seat. Or so I thought–in fact it was 16 miles away, in an impound lot that had already closed for the weekend. [Read more…]

The Cosby Conspiracy

Just read this piece by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. at The Root. I basically agree, and I recommend you read it, but I will say this:

It’s pretty obvious that Bill Cosby is guilty. The man’s a serial rapist. That said, there are definitely a lot of people who seem WAY too pleased to be able to take down a prominent black celebrity and historical figure.

In reply to Crockett’s rhetorical question, Who is “they,” it’s not outrageous to think the answer might be “white America.”

Long Island City on a Snowy Morning

Long Island City Snowy Morning

 

Google does this thing it calls “Auto Awesome” when you sync your phone photos with Google Plus. Once in a while, you get a little surprise message that some cyborg somewhere has gussied up your photo with an elaborate Instagrammafication. Usually I think it’s nifty but unnecessary. In this case, however, I have to agree with the name. The original photo is below, and it’s nice enough–but that filter above is, well… [Read more…]

I Chose Not to Draw Mohammed. Here’s Why.

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As someone who draws political cartoons, I wanted to show support and solidarity after the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo. I didn’t have time to draw a real cartoon, so I grabbed a pen and scrawled a quick message in my remedial (and poorly conjugated) French: Cowards, you fear our pens, but we refuse to fear your guns.

But I thought I should draw something. This is, after all, about cartooning. My first idea was a little sketch of the Prophet Mohammed, thumbing his nose or sticking his tongue out at the extremists who killed in his name. That felt like an appropriate way to honor the spirit and courage of the slain satirists at Charlie Hebdo.

As you can see, I ultimately thought better of that, and went with a simple candle. Why? [Read more…]

It’s About Time Someone Called Out “Blue Bloods”

Blue Bloods on CBS
A few years ago
, when I was still living in Philly, I slept most weekends at my parents’ house, visiting friends around the town where I grew up. I’d get home Friday evening and find my mom and dad tuned in to Blue Bloods a new CBS show starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as members of a multi-generational family of white New York City cops.

While I never watched an episode from beginning to end, it didn’t take long to pick up on the show’s dynamic: The heroes, white male police officers, spent each episode protecting society from criminals, who were almost always minorities. Not only that, but they were played by actors cast according to the most stereotypical ethnicity for their crime. Car thieves were invariably black or Latino; a mugger, drug dealer, or liquor store robber would be black; chop-shop owners might be Asian or Mexican. [Read more…]

2014: The Rest of Things

Popular consensus seems to be that 2014 was just the worst. We had ISIS, Russia invading Ukraine, Ebola, Police assassinations, Gamergate, disappearing airplanes, the GOP taking over Congress and most of the states, and assorted other horribleness. I certainly can’t argue with any of that, but it also strikes me that things seem worse because of the way our culture is evolving: There’s always something terrible happening somewhere, and we now have more ways than ever to bring those terrible things into our homes.

To illustrate, take Slate’s fabulous “Year of Outrage.” It’s a great piece, and outrage has certainly become the steam that fills the Internet’s tangled tubes, but their methodology presumes a new outrage each day, whether that outrage consists of millions of raised voices, or just a few hundred. I’m not sure whether the core problem is that Internet though-leaders are constantly manufacturing outrage, or that readers sign on not wondering “what’s happening in the world today,” but, “what should I be angry about today?”

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I doubt it’s healthy for any human psyche for the individual to rate his or her quality of life based on everything that’s happening worldwide. So while I sympathize with the families of those harmed by all the horribleness, I have to say that 2014 was a pretty good year for Yours Truly. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of the year’s highlights–all positive–in no particular order. [Read more…]

2014 Blog Wrapup

I went a little crazy experimenting with a lot of different channels in 2014, and it ended up being the quietest year around here since 2010. I suspect these two things may be related. I’m not going to lie: a 67% drop in traffic incites a little panic in me, but I have to remind myself that I blog for my own enjoyment, and not for commercial gain.

My Top 5 Posts

  1. Breaking Bad Outside the US
  2. The Myth of the Brown Recluse Spider Bite
  3. True Detective Finale / Will the Yellow King Return?
  4. The demons within the walls
  5. In case you’d like to debate about yesterday’s cartoon

Of my top five posts in 2014, only two were written in 2014. Two are tied in with the Breaking Bad cartoon that went viral last September, and one (the fourth) is my perennial traffic-driver. This is the first year it’s been overtaken by anything other than the Breaking Bad cartoon, which is interesting (to me, at least).

Overall

I had a little over 28,000 visitors in 2014, or about 77 folks a day who stopped by this site. Last year, that number was closer to 234 visitors per day, or about 85,000 visitors in total.

In truth, my blog traffic has generally been dropping over the last seven years. I think this is a general trend across blogs as an “industry,” as online communication moves more toward centralized services like Tumblr, Facebook, etc. I’ve also made decisions in the last few years that have cost me traffic–removing my early attempts to mimic Gawker and Perez with photos of half-naked celebrities (which were great for traffic, incidentally) and then purging my site of photos whose copyrights were questionable.

2013 was my biggest year, thanks to that Breaking Bad comic that went viral. Before that, my biggest year was 2009, before I moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted blog, and before I decided to commit myself to quality content and a sense of basic decency. Last year, 77% of my traffic came in September, the month I published that cartoon. Take out the top month of each year (September 2013 and March 2014) and 2014 was actually a bigger by almost 20 percent.

Is there a bottom line here, or any kind of theme? Not really. As I said, this blog is something I keep because I want to, not because I’m looking for traffic. Ultimately, my hope is this becomes a place to connect with people who are interested in my writing. We made some progress on that front in 2014… but that’s for another post.