"Poor thing. He didn't know."

I chuckled about this all weekend:

“Go back to 2012, and Mitt Romney showed up at the N.A.A.C.P. after he secured the nomination because he had to,” said Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist. She went on to describe her first encounter with Mr. Romney in 2012, an awkward one that, to her, summed up the party’s problems. “He came up to me and said, ‘Hi, Gwen,’ ” she recalled, meaning Gwen Ifill, the PBS journalist, who is also black. “Poor thing. He didn’t know.”

From an altogether great New York Times piece on Republican outreach to African Americans.

Give Frank Miller a Rest

Abraham Riesman pleads with Hollywood to turn to other writers for Batman stories:

There's nothing inherently wrong with Miller's twin Batman epics. But there is something creatively bankrupt about studios focusing on them so monomaniacally. As Miller himself once said, "There are 50 different ways to do Batman and they all work." Our fate is sealed for Batman v. Superman, but we have to imagine a better future. If an ambitious filmmaker wants to make a truly innovative Batman movie, he or she needs to put Frank's hard-boiled sagas back on the shelf. Luckily, there are more than enough other Bat-tales to devour.

Like Riesman, I'm a little tired of the brooding, dark Batman, both because it's boring and because it misrepresents the long history of the character. Batman has been wacky for as long as he's been brooding, and the best Batman stories emphasize his core humanity. Which is why, if I were hiring writers for a new Batman movie, my first choices would be Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, who all but defined the character with Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League, giving us a serious but humane Batman who fought street crime, supervillains, and cosmic gods. It was great.

Why the Hulk should be an Asian guy

Arthur Chu argues that the particulars of the Asian American experience lend themselves well to the characters of Bruce Banner and the Hulk:

A community that basically, for the past few generations, has been taught by white people and has taught itself to let itself be walked on—to shrug off provocations like Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gamely letting Tony Stark prick him with a pin—is not a healthy community.

When that bubble bursts, it may burst in the form of hashtag activists like Suey Park who, yes, loudly and intentionally overreact, in an attempt to take back some dignity and agency after what feels like a lifetime of underreacting.

Can I also say that The Daily Beast made a great choice in giving Chu a regular column. He's great.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

The New York Times gives a dispatch from the rescue:

The closest village was Grabovo, a small coal-mining town whose residents had been among the first to see the plane. Oleg Georgievich, 40, a miner who is also fighting with the insurgency here, said he had heard noises shortly after 4 p.m. and thought the town was being bombed. Aircraft have been flying over daily, he said, and have bombed neighboring villages on a number of occasions.

He heard a sound like a whistle, then walked onto to his balcony on the fifth floor and saw something falling from the sky. He later understood it was part of the plane’s fuselage. Then he saw something strange, things that looked like pieces of cloth coming fast toward the earth. They were bodies, many with their clothing torn off.

Just awful.

Your Child and Marx

Mallory Ortberg gives a primer on how to talk to your baby about Marxism:

BABY: want book
ME: that is the rankest consumerism
BABY: book
ME: oh you want to be a subject? you want to just be a subject that consumes blindly?
BABY: book
ME: sure
fine you realize you’re resisting literally nothing right now
BABY: want green book

This is a sequel to "How to talk to babies about gender theory." I'd love to see a "How to talk to babies about deontological ethics" or "How to talk to babies about liberation theology."

The Earliest Drafts of Sonic the Hedgehog

As far as video game mascots go, this early draft of Sonic the Hedgehog sounds horrifying:

The fax machine stopped sputtering, and Kalinske picked up the sketch. “Ah,” he said, trying not to sound repulsed. “Very interesting.” Kalinske stared at the drawing, trying to see in it what Nakayama saw, but it was no use. The hedgehog looked villainous and crude, complete with sharp fangs, a spiked collar, an electric guitar, and a human girlfriend whose cleavage made Barbie’s chest look flat. “I assume this is his girlfriend?"

Brazil's Secret History of Confederate Immigrants

Honestly the most bizarre thing I've read in a long time:

The three of them sat there, in white wicker chairs with a small daisy pattern on the plumped cushions, three pairs of hands folded neatly on their laps, eyes like saucers, each of them looking at me like I was from Mars.

“Yaw jus en tahm fer hour afta-noon ahced-tee pahty,” Judith said with a hiccup of a giggle, waving her right hand towards a fourth wicker chair as though the festivities could now begin.

As they stared at me, I realized that it wasn't just what came out of their mouths that made the three of them so bizarre. It struck me that Jim, Judith and Mrs. MacKnight had fair, white, almost albino complexions — totally wrong for Brazilian skin, which mostly runs from honey to ebony.

Nazi Hipsters?

Speaking of Hitler, in Germany, a new generation of neo-Nazis are blending racism, anti-Semitism, and hyper-nationalist furor with the aethestics of American hipsters, from skinny jeans and facial hair to veganism and beyond:

Over the past year, partly because of leaders like Schroeder and partly because of the unstoppable globalization of youth culture, the hipsterification of the German neo-Nazi scene has begun to gain steam. This winter, the German media came up with a new term, "nipster," to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There's even a vegan Nazi cooking show. "If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream," Schroeder explains, "then I see it as the future of the movement."

The most visible of these "Nipsters," Patrick Schroeder, also has a healthy persecution complex:

Martin is not his real name, but he’s already lost his job twice because of his politics, and is worried about jeopardizing his newest position. Both men are complaining about the repression they face on the job market as neo-Nazis — since finishing his training as a salesman, Schroeder has only worked for companies tied to the scene. “We’re the new Jews in Germany,” he says, “except we don’t wear stars.”

There is a lot to...unpack in a neo-Nazi comparing himself to the Jews he thinks weren't really exterminated.

"Explaining Hitler," Revisited

In the new afterward to his book 1998 Explaining Hitler, Ron Rosenbaum responds to and elaborates on the current conversations in Hitler studies. It's a fascinating, with plenty to chew on. I wanted to highlight this paragraph, which has stuck with me since I read it:

Another way of dematerializing Hitler’s crime, another development, another means of “cultural processing” I had not anticipated when I wrote this book, is the rapid growth of what might be called the “Feel-Good Holocaust Genre.” These are films (and books) that may not have you leaving the movie theater humming the tunes, so to speak, but which “lift the spirit,” demonstrate the noble side of human nature in the face of evil. Do we need these demonstrations if they end up giving us the message that Hitler shouldn’t disturb our faith in human nature? That Holocaust stories should somehow make us think better of our fellow human beings? Hitler should disturb our faith in human nature. If he doesn’t, he’s not Hitler, or you’ve erased and effaced him and made his holocaust serve as a convenient excuse for your self-congratulatory, self-serving “humanity.

Actresses Too Young to Play Mothers

A good look at an annoying Hollywood double-standard:

Here’s how rough Hollywood can be on older women: In the new comedy Tammy, Susan Sarandon is cast as Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother, despite the fact that only 24 years separate them in age. This isn’t the first time an actress has seemed way too young to sire her screen kin (in one classic case, Anne Bancroft was only eight years older than her The Graduate screen-daughter Katharine Ross), and it’s not even the most egregious example in Tammy, where McCarthy also cast the 11-years-older Allison Janney as her mother. This sort of thing happens all the time to actresses — once they reach a certain age, it's like they're filed away in a folder simply marked "old" — and it’s a problem their male counterparts rarely have to contend with.

The most egregious example is Alexander, where a 28-year-old Angelina Jolie was cast to play mother to a 27-year-old Colin Farrell. Word?

Weekend Photos: Fourth of July

Since I wrote about a part of my Fourth of July experience, I figured I would post a few photos from the weekend, which—overall—was pretty good. As always, all of my photos are available on my Flickr page.

Why are rotisserie chickens so cheap?

Ever wondered why grocery store rotisserie chickens are so cheap? Here's your answer:

[M]uch like hunters who strive to use every part of the animal, grocery stores attempt to sell every modicum of fresh food they stock. Produce past its prime is chopped up for the salad bar; meat that's overdue for sale is cooked up and sold hot. Some mega-grocers like Costco have dedicated rotisserie chicken programs, but employees report that standard supermarkets routinely pop unsold chickens from the butcher into the ol' rotisserie oven.

As an aside, the author says she tried to roast a chicken at home, and it came out alright: "I took it home, rubbed it in butter and herbs, shoved a lemon half up its butt, and roasted it low and slow for the majority of the day. It turned out okay."

Low and slow? There's her problem. Low and slow is appropriate for tough cuts. But chickens aren't a tough cut, and if you're cooking at home—and as long as they're in the 3 to 4 pound range—they do best with high heat.

Want to roast a chicken? Here's what you should do. Place a roasting pan or large cast iron skillet in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Remove the giblets and anything inside. Dry it, remove the wings (if you want, to use for stock), and cover with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put a lemon inside with half a garlic bulb and some rosemary stalks.

Once the oven and the pan are hot, place the chicken breast side up and cook for 50 minutes. Because the chicken is hitting a hot pan, it will cook more evenly—the legs and thighs don't have to warm up.

Remove, let sit for 15 minutes, and care. It'll be juicy, flavorful, and much better than anything you get from the supermarket.

The Texas Republican Platform is Insane

"Controversial" doesn't even begin to describe the document, which calls for nullification of federal laws, full repeal of the 17th Amendment, an end to statistical Census sampling, opposition to "Sharia law," and an investigation into Benghazi. It's easy to make fun of, until you realize Texas is one of the largest and most important states in the Union.

In any case, here are a few excerpts, in case you want to worry for the future of America. On "Benghazi":

We call for Congress to act, as President Obama has dismissed the IRS targeting of specific political groups and individuals, which calls into question the President’s and the Department of Justice’s commitment to citizens constitutional rights; and we call for Congress to act on the Benghazi cover up and the failure to protect American citizens 8 including United States military personnel by the Obama Administration; and we call for Congressional investigations into other federal agencies.

On LGBT Americans and "reparative" therapy:

Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.

On vaccination:

All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.

On science eduation:

We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.

There's so much more than this. Take a look, if you're interested in reading.

San Francisco Must Change

Great, great essay on why San Francisco must build or die:

A Byzantine system of regulations and zoning laws that permits only one or two family homes in the majority of the city contributes to a chronic shortfall in the production of housing units while the population has continued to increase in recent decades. By 2011 the city’s economy was roaring back from recession and added over 36,000 jobs. All those people needed places to live,15 yet less than 300 units were added to the market.16

The resulting shortage has done a number on housing prices. Small one-bedroom apartments near the Twitter headquarters at Civic Center, or mid-Market as it is now being called, are renting for $4,400 a month. Not that long ago, this was one of the last neighborhoods in San Francisco where one could find an apartment for under $1,000, and now high-rise residential towers are leased out before construction has even been finished for prices that were unthinkable five years ago. The median price on a two-bedroom home is hovering near $1 million, making San Francisco the most expensive city in the United States. [...]

Caution is warranted when considering construction projects in such a beautiful place. But the current state of permitting regulations for building and the glacial pace of infrastructure projects in San Francisco benefit very few people and risk turning it into a caricature of its former self for tourists and residents rich enough to live in a fantasy, not a living city.

Given its current direction, Washington D.C. is poised to become the San Francisco of the East Coast in ten years, and not in a good way.

Dating, Children, and Black Culture

The latest entry in Gawker’s series on interracial dating is the most interesting one, as it grapples clearly with one facet of interracial dating: Family. And specifically, starting a new one:

I know that many white people also grapple with the Negro Problem, and have an acute understanding of the myriad ways that being black affects people’s lived experiences. But there’s a tangibility divide between sympathy and empathy. This matters to me in some parts of my life and not in others. For some reason, it matters to me in dating.

I date black men in part because I’d like for my partner to understand the perpetual contradiction of the black experience. The older I get the more important this is to me, as my children, once nebulous balls of brain fuzz, inch closer to reality. I want my children to have the experience of being black in America, and because of my skin color, their chances diminish significantly if I don’t marry someone black.

Not surprisingly, this angered a few of the commenters, who wondered why race or “skin color” should have anything to do with who you marry and have children with. And it shouldn’t. Which is why it’s good that the author doesn’t disagree.

What’s important to understand about black culture—and what’s lost in a racial dialogue that equates race with skin color[1]—is that membership has less to do with what you look like and more to do with your experience of American racism. This is’t precise, obviously, but broadly, “black people” are those whose ancestors formed the bottom of the American racial hierarchy, and who as a result are linked to the racist oppression of the past and present. “Blackness,” put simply, is marked by skin color but defined by common experience. It’s the difference between an African immigrant—who might resist the bond to black Americans—and her child, who might embrace it, having been raised in the hierarchy.

What the author wants, it seems, is a partner who has the black experience and can pass it on to their children. She doesn’t want visibly black children for the sake of their phenotypical blackness, she wants them because she wants to guarantee a connection to a culture that defines her and millions of other Americans.

  1. One thing I will stress here, and always, is that “racism” isn’t just treating someone differently because of their skin color. “Racism” is assigning value and hierarchies to skin color, and thus groups, for the sake of oppression. Affirmative action is differential treatment. Redlining is racism.  ↩

Killing Them Softly with Satire

Mallory Ortberg: "I’m Sick And Tired Of All These Hip Young Adults Bringing Their Aging Parents To My Favorite Bars."

I get it: his hands are shaking, when they were once the sturdiest force on earth. But guess what, pal? Not all of us choose to have parents who grow old and die. And frankly, we don’t appreciate being forced to support your lifestyle choices. That’s not what I signed up for when I moved to New York City. When I’m out with my friends, I don’t want to have to watch my language because some random word might jolt your foggy-eyed mother back into the present for a few lucid, anguished moments. Just because we’re in the “greater walker zone” of Park Slope doesn’t mean your dad can park his tennis-ball-capped cane on my barstool.

Conservatives Say the Poor Have it Easy

You should definitely spend your July 4th weekend reading my latest column for Slate:

Republicans abandoned this talk after 2012, all but repudiating the Romney approach, which leaned on an agenda of plutocratic policies and class resentment and suffered as a result. But the basic idea—that some number of Americans were lazy "takers" addicted to welfare and entitlements—never subsided. You can see it in the anger over Thad Cochran's win in the Mississippi Senate primary—with opponents furious over his appeal to so-called "moochers"—and in the backlash to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act; conservatives demanded women "pay for their own birth control," as if insurance coverage were an unearned benefit.

Also, I'll be on vacation for the next week. This place will get updates—since, you know, it's easy—but I won't have any new stuff at Slate until the 17th.