Digitally drawn for print. Completed with production artwork background.
A selection of work created for the 2020 New York State Assembly primary and general elections.
Based on my dad’s truck.
See the full album on Flickr.
Sunday morning, I tweeted something along the lines of “It’s not 1984. Get over it, nerds.”
It was the morning after seeing Ghostbusters. It was the morning after sitting with three other people, laughing at a movie at all the times the movie wanted us to laugh. It was the morning before going to see it again, and laughing at all the same parts. It was about twelve hours before I sat and watched Bill Murray get slimed, and laughed at all the parts I’ve laughed at for years.
It’s no secret that there is some controversy around this movie. There’s going to be some controversy any time someone touches a beloved piece of art and does something different with it. Especially when it’s something nerds like.
Normally, my use of “nerds” is as much a term of endearment as it is an insult. I’ve been to my share of comic cons. I’ve even been in costume for some of them. But behind all of the people laughing and enjoying whatever sci-fi-superhero-fantasy-zombie-Deadpool-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t-understand thing they like, there’s this toxic group who thinks you should only have fun the way they want you to. These are the people who, for decades, have been shunned for liking nerdy things, and now that the stories and characters they love have become pop culture icons and are setting box office records, they want to make everyone else feel as bad as they, as a group, did for a long time.
And that’s where the problem of women comes in. I hate to resort to stereotypes, but this is a group that doesn’t have a lot of experience with women, aside from their mothers. Women who like these nerdy things have been labeled “fake geek girls” because, for some reason, they aren’t allowed to read and enjoy comic books without it being a veiled attempt at attracting male attention. They aren’t allowed to play video games, and they certainly aren’t allowed to star in sci-fi or fantasy movies if they aren’t going to fall into the classic damsel-in-distress role. And if they do star in them, they deserve to have their every word and every action, on-screen and off, scrutinized for the slightest hint of hypocrisy. And when you find that one thread sticking out, it needs to be pulled as hard as it can, until the whole thing just refuses to unravel and you have no choice but to give in and threaten to murder and rape them.
I may have gotten a little off track there. This was about Ghostbusters, right?
Paul Feig and Katie Dippold have written a new movie. It takes a concept that was very successful – a group of people catching ghosts – and puts a whole bunch of stuff in it. This is not a remake of 1984’s movie. This is not an eraser that wipes the existence of that movie away. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones have brought to life four new, unique characters that are not simply re-named clones of Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore.
There are missteps in this movie. There are also great successes. It is not wrong to reject it, and it is not wrong to embrace it. You are not sexist for objecting to rebooting an existing franchise. You are not sexist for wanting a real sequel to the earlier films. You are not sexist for not liking this movie, and you are not sexist for simply being uninterested.
You are sexist for panning it because “women can’t be funny.” You are sexist for slamming it because “Ghostbusters aren’t women.” You are sexist for helping to hold up a society where men and women are at odds with each other over the roles our ancestors decided for us.
In a week when people are being shot in the streets, hateful rhetoric is spewing from the mouths of our elected leaders, and – remember that bit about people being shot in the streets? – the most divisive thing I do should not be watching a comedy.
If your childhood has been ruined by a group of women hunting ghosts in a fictional version of Manhattan, you should put some energy into making your life better instead of making someone else’s worse. Because the only thing that has aged worse than the original Ghostbusters‘ special effects is the crying children of 1984 that are crying adults today.
For my regular reader, please indulge this stream of personal feelings in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, the attacks on police officers in Dallas, and locally, the apparently-unrelated murders and subsequent burning of two people.
I’d like to promise it won’t happen again.
This week has me down. I have a compulsion to make jokes, but today, it feels inappropriate. When David Letterman left TV, I wrote a little story. It was rambling; it was personal; it was not terribly dissimilar from what I’m writing now. The theater is represented by the masks of comedy and tragedy. From the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, Dave was an example, to me, that it is okay to “turn off” and not be funny. He did it when he returned from his heart surgery, to thank his medical team. He did it when he went public with a blackmail attempt and revealed his own affair. He did it on September 17, 2001, when The Late Show was the first late-night show to return to air after the terrorist attacks the previous week.
We, as human beings, deserve better than what we are given, and what we are giving to others.
That night, he expressed a frustration very much like I feel today. The Late Show, and Late Night before it, mocked New York, just as I mock Rochester, the city that I love. Dave was speaking about one specific set of tragedies, but in the fifteen years since, then, his message can apply to any one of the horrible events that have happened. His call for us to be courageous should not limited to the times when we face the unknown evils that lay before us, as the city of New York, the United States, and the world were in September 2001, but in the face of a known evil that we face every day. We, as human beings, deserve better than what we are given, and what we are giving to others.
This isn’t the worst photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s certainly the worst I’ve ever shared on this site.
But it’s still kind of beautiful. A tiny orange dot on the display of my camera, too small to see through the viewfinder, is an entire planet. It’s over 40 million miles away, but we’ve sent things there – multiple times. Someday, not that long from now, we’re going to send a human being, willing to sacrifice their own life on a one-way trip to an orange desert.
Standing in the middle of South Union Street in Rochester, NY, a tiny red dot made me feel small.
(For photography nerds, I used a 500mm lens with a 2x converter. For space nerds, please don’t tell me I actually shot the top of a water tower or something.)
After his breakthrough performance in “The Force Awakens,” a documentary crew follows Kylo Ren as he prepares to fulfill his destiny and receive the Chancellor’s Award.
I submitted this short for the 2016 Star Wars Fan Film Awards. Sound effects and music were provided by Lucasfilm (per contest rules), with the exception of the Force effect, which I created by slowing and down-pitching a purring cat, the same technique as the sound designer for The Force Awakens.
A match-up between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz has seen little discussion this primary season. With neither being their party’s frontrunner, the odds of these two facing off in the general election are slim. It is my pleasure, then, to pit these two candidates against each other.
Following last weekend’s onslaught of campaigning from Clinton, Kasich, and Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont visited the Bill Gray’s Iceplex at Monroe Community College Tuesday morning. Scheduled to begin at 10am, I was met with thousands of people patiently waiting to enter the arena when I arrived around 6:15. When doors opened around 7:00, the arena floor and bleachers quickly filled. After a short two-hour wait, local musician Teagan Ward performed, her assignment being to “warm up” a crowd that was already quite warm. After short speeches from local organizer Tim Ellis (who those in the rave scene will better know as DJ Dynamic) and former Texas Department of Agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower, the main event began.
Until last Tuesday, the loudest experience of my life was witnessing the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a room with 2000 Star Wars fans. Bernie Sanders topped that, easily. Not because the senator has been known to speak loudly, but because of the screams from 6800 Sanders supporters the moment he appeared on stage. His speech was standard. At this point, the campaigns are finely-tuned machines, navigating over speed bumps and potholes, making their points and speeding on to the next stop.
After four high-energy rallies, it was nice to have a little break on Wednesday and Thursday. That break was only slightly interrupted by the Ted Cruz rally on Friday. I stood in line, where people were more interested in mocking the religious conspiracy theory newsletter being passed out than anything else. We filed inside, with no security check, and took our seats. This may have been the only campaign event actually called a “rally,” but almost every one of the 1500 people admitted was sitting.
A few years ago, I attended a panel with Adam West and Burt Ward, stars of the classic Batman TV series. Scheduled to begin at 3:00, our heroes arrived around 3:20. After fighting crime and questions for less than half an hour, the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder quickly departed once again. Ted Cruz, apparently, is Batman. The event was scheduled to begin at 7:30. At 7:49, local media reported on Twitter than Cruz was arriving at MCC (the event was held in the same location as Hillary Clinton’s, one week earlier). A few minute before 8:00, a highlight reel of Cruz’s primary performances was introduced by two students. Finally, Senator Cruz made his grand entrance, embracing the two young presenters in awkward hugs. His speech was surprisingly compelling. He made jokes and was met with laughter. He criticized Trump, he criticized the radical socialist running in the Democratic race, he even criticized Bernie Sanders, in a twist straight out of late-night television.
Cruz’s message was punctuated by religious imagery. His policies seem to be guided by what God wants, and his final statement was a pledge to return this country to “Judeo-Christian values.” His crowd, likely conditioned by regular church attendance, was very willing to frequently stand to applaud, and then sit back down. Though his religious message may alienate those who are not members of his particular faith, it was apparently welcome news to his supporters.
There was a stark contrast between these two events. The crowd at the Sanders event was passionate, overwhelmingly in favor of a Bernie Sanders presidency. Three days a a few thousand feet later, the crowd for Ted Cruz was… present. Standing in line, many people were there just for an evening of entertainment. Some were drawn to Cruz for his religious message, others because he “isn’t Trump.” Though I’m sure Sanders has drawn some supporters for the similar reason of not being Hillary Clinton, police turned more people away from his weekday morning event than Cruz drew to his Friday night rally.
After five rallies from five candidates, the voters of the Rochester area should be itching to vote on Tuesday. Unlike most years, we have a real opportunity to shape the direction of the candidate selection. If nothing else, it will mean these candidates can leave us alone and pretend that New York’s northern border is Yonkers, as we like it.
For the first time in my lifetime, New York’s primary actually matters, and all eyes are on us. Just over a week before the election, my favorite city (or its suburbs, anyway) is hosting four of the five major candidates. Hillary Clinton visited Monroe Community College on Friday, John Kasich in Greece on Saturday, and Donald Trump in Gates on Sunday. With a Bernie Sanders appearance Tuesday morning at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex and an as-yet-unscheduled appearance from Ted Cruz in the coming days, it is an exciting time to be a Rochesterian with an interest in politics, or a guy who wants to sell t-shirts and scream horribly sexist things into a crowd.
I am no stranger to big events. From the streets of Manhattan to the Anaheim convention center, I’ve spent dozens of hours waiting in line. Usually that line has a Star Wars actor or a famous TV couch at the end of it, but I guess a political candidate in one of various stages of desperation is line-worthy. The weekend’s brisk spring, with delightful winds to keep the crowd from overheating in the harsh 35-degree temperatures, did little to discourage the crowd. Clinton attracted several thousand people to MCC’s gymnasium. Monroe County Republican Party chair Bill Reilich brought John Kasich to the Greece Community and Senior Center, conveniently attached to the town hall, where Reilich serves as town supervisor. Donald Trump appeared at JetSmart Aviation, next to the Greater Rochester International Airport, likely so he could get in and out before the area’s rural residents try to adopt him.
The events themselves aren’t that different. Clinton and Kasich both delivered broad speeches that were hard to disagree with, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on. Kasich’s strength or weakness, depending on whether you are a supporter or not, was in the question and answer session. It is far easier to compare these two “traditional” politicians than it is to compare them to Trump.
Now, my intention when I started this article was to present the facts and not let my own beliefs color the narrative. The description of Clinton’s and Kasich’s rallies, and anything not dealing with Donald Trump, was mostly written at the counter of a diner while I ate a humungous cheeseburger (listed on the menu as a “slider”). Trump’s event looked like it was held in a hangar, but it felt like an alternate reality. While his supporters ate up every word of what he said, the rest, and there were many, exercised every ounce of self-control they possessed to stop themselves from shouting out. Some were not successful. By the third sentence, Trump had already removed one person from the audience.
I lost most of my phone’s battery to Twitter, dominated by local media providing almost line-by-line coverage. Trump’s constant attacks on the media were far from the events I saw unfold online. His claims that the media wouldn’t admit to the size of the crowd were punctuated by local media showing the size of the crowd and the people who couldn’t make it to the event. Trump’s campaign has been accused of playing on the fear of his supporters, but it appeared to me that he was afraid they would figure his game out. His hype man, Pastor Mark Burns, told the crowd that Trump would be landing his plane (a plane the audience seemed to be obsessed with) “any minute.” That minute, according to the Twitter feeds of every local news outlet, actually occurred fifteen minutes earlier, because Trump was sitting in a media room holding an interview at the time. Regardless of how anyone feels about Trump’s policies, his campaign events had more in common with a magic show than the events held earlier this weekend.
But let’s start at the beginning again. Bill Reilich was notably absent from this event, after introducing John Kasich the day before. Our first speaker was Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman and, to borrow a phrase from Trump, a loser. That is, after all, what happened when he ran against Andrew Cuomo to become governor of New York. He spewed attacks at the press. He went after Governor Cuomo. He accused “the government” of trying to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination, overlooking the fact that it is the Republican party, if any group, that is working against Trump. Pastor Burns continued on a similar path, blaming the media and the establishment for any perceived roadblocks the Trump campaign is facing. That was a recurring theme in the speech given by Donald himself. The rules are unfair. The media is unfair. The fact that there are still other candidates running against him is unfair. Trump did compare his apparent struggle to Bernie Sanders, who he said is being treated by the Democrats and the media much the same way. The Trump campaign apparently only bought $15 worth of music for their pre-rally playlist, as it repeated many times. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (an example of good American jobs being outsourced to foreigners) was a staple, though if Trump has ever heard it, the message bounced off the top of his majestic hair.
Even the crowd at Trump’s event was very different than at the others. Supporters of Kasich and Clinton were friendly and polite. Trump’s crowd, complaining about how the current generaton “has no respect,” had no problem pushing people out of their way for a better view or turning to present a rude gesture to the news cameras. Evidently, “entitlement” is not limited only to social programs when talking about politics. I will give them a small amount of credit, however. When a man in an electric wheelchair tried to navigate through the crowd and one brave soul dressed as Marty McFly decided to make a stand to stop that injustice from happening, he was quickly turned against by Trump supporters and opponents alike.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (an example of good American jobs being outsourced to foreigners) was a staple, though if Trump has ever heard it, the message bounced off the top of his majestic hair.
Looking back on happier times, the Kasich and Clinton events were very positive. While their specific plans were different, each presented a vision for a better future in a great country. Kasich played big on his past in Congress and as Governor of Ohio, and spent a great deal of time talking about his family. Clinton herself skipped over much of her political past to talk about issues, and mentioned only once, at the end of her speech, her young granddaughter. Perhaps it is because the Clinton family has been in the national public eye for nearly 25 years, but it appeared as a stark contrast between the Republican and Democratic identities. Hillary Clinton appeared genuinely pleased to see Blake Moore, president of MCC’s student government, leading a group of students so interested in the system. John Kasich was sincerely grateful for the support he received, drawing attention to the call from his opponent to drop out.
In the end, did these events sway anyone to a new candidate? Likely not. They are designed to reinforce support among the people who are already in their camp. It provided the people of our community with an uncommon opportunity to feel as if these candidates are aware of a part of the state north of Westchester County, and a small army of officers from local, county, and state police agencies to earn a little overtime pay. It will be seen if these events repeat four years from now, or if Rochester crumbles into a post-apocalyptic hell-scape. Really, it wouldn’t be much different than how some candidates described it this weekend.
“We are Kardashians. And in this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting; it’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.”
Perhaps the funniest, intentionally unintentional, not-funny line in the history of television, it provides a brief pause from the drama. The People v. OJ Simpson has been on FX for over a month, but tonight, I decided to give it a try. I am old enough to remember the trial, but not so old that I understood it. OJ is unlike any other crime drama I’ve seen. CSI has its cheese. The Killing had a darkness. OJ is the opposite of every other show, because we have known the ending for twenty years.
Three episodes in, Cuba Gooding, Jr., despite his head size, plays an OJ Simpson that we sympathize with. We feel his pain, we understand his hurt. But in the back of our minds, we know that this is the man who has all but admitted to the crime. David Schwimmer comes across much the same way. As Robert Kardashian, he is torn apart watching his friend spiral, never sure if he is guilty or not. Meanwhile, he plays father to his children, whose names today are plastered on everything but credit cards. John Travolta is horrible, in the best possible way, as Bob Shapiro.
A wedge is driven in my brain while watching. I am angry that Shapiro neglects his client, trying to save his own reputation. On the other side, Johnny Cochran, played by Courtney B. Vance, comes across as a sympathetic, almost altruistic figure. An hour into the series, I cannot wait for Cochran to take over the defense. (Is it a spoiler, two decades after the fact?)
The prosecution, lead by Sara Paulson’s Marcia Clark, is the antagonist, if you can call a man who has allegedly murdered two people a protagonist. On one hand, they are made out as cocksure and arrogant, and the other shows them, and the Los Angeles Police Department, as stumbling and incompetent.
Unexpected additions to the cast include Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Nathan Lane, far from the comedies that made them famous. For a few more weeks, watch this drama unfold, for a second time, Tuesdays at 10, and catch up through FX NOW. Join me next week, when I review another show everyone but me has already seen.