By Zachary Klein

Last week I began thinking about today’s column and knew I didn’t want to spew another tirade about the state of the country, world, or my own politics. Not that there wasn’t plenty to rage about given the past few weeks, but hell, it’s the holiday season and I didn’t want to play Grinch.

It’s that strange time of year where the holidays have put an end to the normal part of 2014 and the new year has yet to begin. So here are flashes of the flotsam and jetsam that are floating through my head.

Sony and The Interview. After all the stories and interviews with Sony executives, I began to wonder whether they hacked themselves. No way would they ever get the audience and ticket sales for that crappy movie had they gone the traditional route. Now? A lotta people are going to make a fortune. If I were North Korea and gonna hack, I would have gone after their financial passwords and bank accounts. You know they need the money.

Level playing field. If, after all the newspaper articles, television talking heads, incarceration statistics, grand juries, and the number of gunned down Black men and boys, I hear the term LPF again, I really might choke myself. Or, at the least, smash my head against a wall. There’s only so much bullshit I can tolerate and that one is used up.

Tim Burton. How can a guy who is as talented and creative as Burton turn out a snoozer like Big Eyes? Let’s hope he learns from this loser. Mr. Burton should stick to weird and crazy which he does very, very, well and stay the hell away from straight.

And speaking of movies:

Foxcatcher. I knew Steve Carell was in it before I went and, while I’ve seen The Office countless times, I didn’t recognize him playing John du Pont until a quarter of the way through. Either Carell was absolutely terrific or I’m starting to lose it. I’m going with the former—a way to feel good about both of us.

The Hobbit. How the hell many of them are there?

Tavis Smiley and David Ritz. Not a film but finished their book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year and, while learning a large amount of information I hadn’t known, the most important “take away” was the regeneration of my belief and commitment to non-violence as the only meaningful agent of change. I won’t publicly “marry” non-violence in front of a congregation the way King actually did (“I take thee…”), but I’m not about to change my mind. Begin with blood, end with blood.

Holiday habits. For the first time in at least thirty years the tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the usual assortment of suspects went south for a variety of good reasons. And will probably never be the way it was. (Yeah, I hear Streisand in my head, too). As completely legitimate as it is, and while we were a significant part of its demise because of new family constellations, I still hate it. Call me a stick in the mud.

Binge TV. If you know me you know I love television. It’s kept me company virtually my entire life. To survive my addiction, I don’t hold its programming near to the standards I do with other art forms. But now there’s a new twist thanks to “on demand” cable and Netflix. It’s possible to watch an entire series one after another until its conclusion. Or, in the case of this past week’s Marco Polo (Netflix) until the season’s end. The show? A poor man’s Rome which wasn’t at all rich. So what? I can’t fuck like a bunny anymore and I’m too fat to binge eat, drink, or smoke. So, unless we’re going out, I’m a telly camper.

Facebook. Yep. There’s an enormous amount of criticism, most incredibly well deserved. Nonetheless, I’ve met people who I honestly consider good friends through this medium and am grateful. Believe me, if I had the opportunity, I’d go drinking with all. I love the idea of “one world” and while we’re light years away from even visualizing that, FB is a small step. How else could I have connected with people from different cities, countries and race who I’ll never meet but care for any way. Yeah, it’s a strange new reality and I don’t have a clue whether it’s a good strange, but it makes me happy.

So speaking of happiness:

Matt Jacob reboot. Matt’s move to Polis Books has publically begun. Polis is reissuing the first three books of my Matt Jacob novels individually and in a set during February and publishing the new book of the series in March. Made for a hectic week of working with BoismierJohnDesign (the great people who created and maintain my website) swapping out the old covers for new and placing the first chapter of Ties That Blind on its own page. Got it done and felt pretty damn good working with both companies.

Family. Two new granddaughters at the same time! Two new additions to those I already adore and love. I plan to enjoy every moment of their lives as long as I’m around. And frankly, I’m hoping for at least twenty.

So there it is, folks. A small piece of my head and without a rant. (Well, maybe there was a mini one tucked in there.)

Happy New Year and may it bring peace to all.

“The difference between what we do, and what we are capable of doing, would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi


When reviewing last week’s post, I noticed part of a sentence that read “the dystopian violence depicted in movies and television, either a reflection of what is or a harbinger of what’s to come” and began to think about art and the media.  It also made me think about the large number of people I know who believe that violence in movies, television, and video games (they rarely talk about it in regard to books or plays, which I find curious) reflects and adds to the violence in our country.

Yet according to the New York Times, it turns out that the number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year to what appears to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years.  (

And Time Magazine reports that,from 1993 to 2010, the violent crime victimization rate decreased 70 percent. “This means the human dimension of this turnaround is extraordinary: had the rate remained unchanged, an additional 170,000 Americans would have been murdered in the years since 1992. That’s more U.S. lives than were lost in combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq—combined. In a single year, 2008, lower crime rates meant 40,000 fewer rapes, 380,000 fewer robberies, half a million fewer aggravated assaults and 1.6 million fewer burglaries than we would have seen if rates had remained at peak levels.” (,9171,1963761,00.html).

Both articles say that the reasons for this plunge are unclear and suggest a number of possible explanations.  But bottom line is bottom line.  Violent crime is down not up during a period of time when the reverse should be true according to those who believe current movies, TV, and video games lead to more a more violent culture.  It just ain’t so.

I grew up with cartoons that were not at all shy about violence.  Tom and Jerry, The Roadrunner, Mighty Mouse and all those episodes where Porky Pig tried to blow away the wabbit.  Grew up with comic books that had no qualms about blood and gore either–Superman, Batman and a whole lot more.  Try Zap Comics on for size.

Our culture has never been lacking in the media’s artistic expression of violence.  Dime store pulp books with hacked female bodies, True Crime magazines with bloody, bodacious blondes on the cover, black and white movies that stirred the same emotional fear and repulsion as do today’s “slice and dice” like Psycho, 13 Women (1932), and Peeping Tom (1960). Some of those “classics” were even able to engender some serious ugly without spilling a drop of blood. Think Cagney mashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark’s face in The Public Enemy.  Different presentations than today’s cinema, but the same feelings provoked in those who watched them.

Or consider detective fiction, a wonderfully American genre of writing. (I’m biased. Duh.)  Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett is regarded as one of best.  That book leaves dead bodies all over the place.

Or think literary fiction.  Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  Not for those with gentle stomachs.

Violence is everywhere we look. Genre fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, graphic novels, and, of course, movies.

I’m not a horror movie fan.  Never saw any of the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and never will.  But Raging Bull is often listed in “best of the generation” lists.  As are a couple of The Godfathers, Taxi Driver, Casino, and, of course, Pulp Fiction.  Certainly the spaghetti westerns and all the great westerns were locked and loaded.  And while it’s true that there’s a distinction between a single shot to the heart rather than a spray from an automatic rifle, I’m not sure I could pick the more chilling.  Or the more “realistic.”

The list of great books and great movies is filled with those that contain bone-chilling violence. And while I can’t say much about video games because I don’t know anything about them, the inescapable fact is that we are living in a country with the lowest violent crime rate in the past forty years.  Not exactly a ringing condemnation of those who do play them—at least as far as violence is concerned.

So I’ll say it again: I don’t believe that today’s media and art forms generate more violence within our population despite its increasingly graphic detail.

In fact, it’s my speculation that violence exhibited in all our different media probably helps reduce it in the “real world.”  We live in a nation born of violence, a nation whose history has spilled blood by the barrelful.  Against Native Americans, Blacks, Irish, Italians (who suffered biggest mass lynching in U.S. history) and I’m just skimming the surface of domestic.  We go international and it’s off the charts.

Violence is simply sewn into the fabric and nature of our culture.  I wish it weren’t so, but we are who we are.  The only question is how and where that violence manifests itself.  And if it can live within us without our acting it out.  This, I think, is the way that violence in media and art ameliorates rather than promulgates.  It is, and has always been, a way for that part of our cultural identity to express itself without inflicting any actual harm.  Violence in the media and in art is the pressure cooker’s release valve.

I’m not denigrating those who recoil at what they might read or see, or make decisions about where to draw their personal lines.  Those individual decisions are healthy.  Hell, I spend a fair amount of time in the movie theater covering my own eyes.  But they are individual decisions, and to argue that we are a more violent society because of our books, movies, games, and art is flat out wrong.