"The perfect world is made up of so much should."

Roxane Gay on Janay Rice, domestic violence, and our national cycle of indifference:

We do not live in a perfect world. We live in this ugly mess of a world, where Janay Palmer wasn't really believed until we bore witness to incontrovertible evidence — the repulsive image of her being knocked out with a single blow by an NFL athlete. Even with such brutal evidence, Ray Rice still has his defenders, and he will likely get third and fourth and fifth chances. For women in far less visible relationships, the imperfect world is even more unfathomable. I am here, writing from this imperfect world about yet another terrible thing that happens to women, knowing these words will not make a difference.

"The social & moral bankrupcy suggested by this fact is of the bitterest, most terrifying kind."

It's hard to write about racism—about the problems faced by blacks and other minorities—without a certain kind of response from a certain kind of writer: White people are poor too. Why don't you write about them.

James Baldwin had this problem too, and his response—I think—is perfect:

People are continually pointing out to me the wretchedness of white people in order to console me for the wretchedness of blacks. But an itemized account of the American failure does not console me and it should not console anyone else. That hundreds of thousands of white people are living, in effect, no better than the “niggers” is not a fact to be regarded with complacency. The social and moral bankruptcy suggested by this fact is of the bitterest, most terrifying kind.


"Free Stuff"

On Twitter, Jessica Valenti asked if any countries provide free or subsidized tampons or pads. In response, a crowd of angry men denounced her as a "cunt" and a "slut" who just wanted free stuff.

Nonsense slut-shaming aside (do these people not understand that women menstruate regardless of their sexual activity?), the reason this was a stupid response—and the reason Valenti's was a reasonable question—is that affordable access to feminine supplies is a human rights issue.

For poor and rural women in places around the world, menstruation can mean isolation and stigma. Without a way to absorb bleeding, women on their periods are shunned from schools and jobs, and stigmatized as unclean. Tampons and pads are a necessity, but they're often out of reach and unaffordable. Instead, women use rags and newspapers, which risks infection, especially since the stigma attached to menstruation also extends to cleaning mentstral products in nearby rivers or streams.

Per Valenti's question, free and subsidized tampons and pads would be a huge boon to women and girls around the world, saving lives and expanding women's autonomy. Even in the United States, feminine products are expensive.(Seriously, if you're a straight guy who has never bought tampons for a partner, go to the store and see how much they cost. It's bananas.) Something as simple as making them tax-exempt (like other medical necessities) would benefit millions of low-income women.

Asking about tampons and pads isn't about "free stuff," it's about helping women, protecting health, and saving lives.

Let's Do the 'Jerry Lewis'

A great look at a "lost track" from Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boy's second record and arguably one of the best hip-hop albums ever made:

"Capitol higher-ups expected the Beasties to deliver a hit. Their A&R man, Tim Carr, had presented the Boys with the so-called “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” memo, which made the comparative case that the Rolling Stones were pigeonholed as a novelty blues band until they created their crossfire hurricane hit in 1968.

Capitol was saying – pleading – that the Beasties could make a new smash single without compromising their integrity. Their plea fell on deaf ears. Which is, probably, a good thing. If Capitol execs had ever heard “The Jerry Lewis,” they would’ve immediately opened a new Swiss bank account. Had “The Jerry Lewis” been released as Paul’s Boutique’s first single ahead of the under-performing “Hey Ladies,” Beastie Boys would likely have been permanently pegged as novelty knuckleheads, never to go on their long, strange journey."

"DOOM, not to be confused with nobody"

Eric Thurm on heteronymity in Kierkegaard and MF DOOM is a great read:

Each of Doom’s characters is also a way of showing off the full range of his musical talent — the Metal Face, Viktor Vaughn, and King Geedorah characters all have distinct syntaxes, flows, and levels of vulgarity, and are tied to different elements of hip-hop. The Metal Face name appears on albums that Doom has both produced and written himself — the closest thing to a pure expression of himself — while King Geedorah is primarily a behind the scenes producer, executing a “script” over the course of Take Me To Your Leader in accordance with the “voice-throw trick” the character uses to control Doom, and Viktor Vaughn raps and promotes himself (including on a series of tracks representing an open mic night), but leaves the beat making to outside producers woven into the narrative as his friends.

The eternal recurrence of "black pathology" arguments

There's very little new in American politics, and that's especially true in our debates over racial inequality. For example, here's the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley in an editorial from July 31, 2014:

People often lament the quality of black leadership in America today, but in some ways it's a sign of progress. If blacks were still facing legitimate civil rights issues—like legal racial discrimination and voter disenfranchisement—that would attract the best and brightest of black America to the cause. But serious people like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King and others fought and won those battles a half-century ago. What we have left today as civil-rights leaders are second- and third-tier types striving for relevance in an era when the biggest barrier to black progress is no longer white racism but black anti-social behavior and counterproductive attitudes toward work, school, marriage and so forth.

And here's conservative economist George Stigler, as quoted by Geoffrey Kabaservice in Rule and Ruin, in the December 1965 issue of New Guard, the official publication of Young Americans for Freedom:

[C]onservative economist and later Nobel Prize winner George Stigler claimed that the basic problem of the black American was that “on average he lacks a desire to improve himself, and lacks a willingness to discipline himself to this end.” The African-American male’s lack of employment owed not to discrimination but to “his own inferiority as a worker.” Residential segregation existed because “the Negro family is, on average, a loose, morally lax group, and brings with its presence a rapid rise in crime and vandalism.” Equality for African-Americans would arrive only when they imitated the virtues of an earlier generation of Jewish immigrants: “a veneration and irrepressible desire for learning; frugality; and respect for the civilization of the western world.”

It's fine if conservatives oppose color-conscious policy. But I think it's time for new arguments.

The more things change...

I'll have a lot to say on the book when I'm finished, but for now, I wanted to share these excerpts from Geoffrey Kabaservice's Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, which stands as a treasure trove of information on an earlier, less ideologically rigid iteration of the GOP.

Here's the first, from George Romney in response to Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's drive to purge moderates from the party:

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”

It's fair to say that, in the Republican Party at least, this has come to fruition.

The second comes from a Republican judge unconvinced the party should spend time appealing to black Americans:

An Indianapolis judge spoke for many conservative Republicans who believed that it would be impossible to “out-promise” Democrats on rights and benefits for minorities, and that therefore “the more of these people who are pressured into registering and voting, the greater our party will suffer.”

Change a few words, and you have a version of Mitt Romney's statement after his presidential loss, which he blamed on "extraordinary gifts" from President Obama to his "key supporters."

The more things change, and all of that.

"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.