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Friday, November 28, 2014

REAL MEN COOK XXVI: Popcorn Grits

There is a show on PBS put out by Anthony Bourdain in which he examines some of the world's top chefs, learning their influences, interests, inspirations, and what makes them cook.  Its a bit uneven with the best of the show in the first season, but it was fascinating viewing on Netflix.
One of the recipes that was on there I haven't made but would like to try some time (with margarine instead of butter).  Its a pretty simple recipe that although being fussy and time consuming is something anyone could try at home.  
And it has very few ingredients:
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Butter or margarine; butter gives best results, I expect
  • Water
  • Salt
Hardware required:
  • Wire Strainer
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Another Strainer
Now, Chef Patterson cooked the popcorn very old fashioned style on the stove in oil, but I recommend my Home Microwave Popcorn recipe just for simplicity's sake.  You'll want at least one bag's worth, probably 2 would be ideal for a breakfast.  Pop it up and set the popcorn aside.
Warm up several cups of water and several spoonfuls of butter (if you want exact measurements, use 3 cups water and a quarter cup butter) in a saucepan.  You don't want boiling, just hot.
Toss some popcorn into the water; how much depends on your sauce pan but you want just enough that the popcorn will soften and become soggy.  Strain out the popcorn, saving the liquid.  Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and warm again, repeating this process until you've got all the popcorn a nasty soggy mass.  Stay with me.  When you've done all the popcorn leave the liquid in the bowl you strained it into and set it aside.
Now get a strainer out, not the wire mesh kind but a more sturdy one with bigger holes if you have it. toss a handful of soggy popcorn into the strainer and use a large spoon to mash it through the holes in the strainer.  once all you have left is hulls and seeds, discard that out and start with a new batch until you've mushed all of the popcorn through.
Now I'm reasonably sure you can store the remaining guck for a few days in the refrigerator in a closed container.  I find old margarine containers are good for storing leftovers etc.  But you want to eat now.
Toss the strained guck into your sauce pan with a cup of the water/butter liquid.  By now enough corn starch and flavor will be part of the liquid to add to the popcorn.  Cook this until you get a texture something like thick grits.  Because that's what you just made: grits.
But these grits taste like popcorn, so they are even better.  And usually grits takes like 8 hours to prepare from corn kernels, but this took a half hour or less.
Salt and eat.
Again I've not attempted this so I don't have any insider tips, but I watched the chef prep them while talking to another chef and it went pretty smoothly.  And it sounds delicious.  You make this for the family and they're going to think you're a culinary deity.
*This is part of the Real Men Cook series.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

INSIDE THE HINDENBURG

"Oh the humanity!"

*UPDATE: A couple of corrections, courtesy some very helpful commenters!
Most people know of the Hindenburg from a Led Zeppelin album cover or the famous radio broadcast.  I suspect that the immediacy and that reporter's horrified, genuine shock at what he saw ended the entire idea of airships, which is a real shame because they are wonderful craft.
These days airships are starting to build interest and momentum again, which I hope takes off.  People think of air travel as expensive, uncomfortable, but fast.  They should change their thinking to be more like cruise ships for zeppelins.  Not very fast, but incredibly scenic and luxurious.
The Hindenburg was big.  As in, vastly enormous.  Bigger than you think.  It was much, much bigger than even the biggest planes ever built, by several times.  The Hindenburg was 135 feet across, or half a football field. You could have a picnic on the top and not worry about falling off.
As you can see from size comparison, modern passenger jets are dwarfed by the Hindenburg.  At 245 feet long, it was longer than the White House Capitol Building:
It held 50 passengers and had a top speed of almost 90 miles an hour.  With separate gas envelopes totaling over seven million square cubic feet, it had enough lift to move more than 250 tons.  If you've seen how big the Goodyear Blimp is well...

The Hindenburg cruised in pretty good luxury.  But pictures of the interior are not as impressive as you'd initially think.  A lot of the interior was very simply built, and weight saving measures were used everywhere.


As you can see the interior bulkheads were light and simple.  The chairs and walls remind me of my junior high school in the 70s.  It actually doesn't look nearly as classy as I expect.  I was thinking more like the beautiful dining area of the zeppelin in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I like the images on the walls though.



Some of the interior shows the weight saving.  That ladder, for example is light weight and the folding luggage holder.


In any case, its fascinating to me to glimpse almost 100 years in the past and see inside the doomed airship.

Monday, November 24, 2014

PAT NOVAK FUN

"I rent boats and do anything else that goes with a weak will and a strong stomach."

Before Dragnet, before everyone knew him, Jack Webb did several other radio shows.  The best of them was called Pat Novak for Hire, about a boat owner and general odd jobs guy who kept getting involved in various pulpy adventures.
What set this show apart was the writing, which was noire hard boiled writing at its absolute best.  The primary writer Richard L. Breen who went on to write such films as State Fair, Niagra, and PT 109.  And his work was poetry.  The interaction between Novak and his nemesis on the police force Lieutanant Hellman is classic and usually hilarious, and the philosophical monologues and musings of drunken ex-doctor Jocko Madigan is unique to the show.
So not feeling really on top of my game I'm going to give you some quotes from the show's all-too-brief 1946-47 run.
Every show starts with a grim and often bitter intro by Pat Novak about how hardcore his life and the world he moves through is.  This is San Francisco back before the hippies, the toughest place in America and one of the roughest places in the world.
"Around here a set of morals won't cause any more stir than Mother's Day in an orphanage. Maybe that's not good, but that's the way it is. And it wouldn't do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else's."
"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It's tough on your windpipe, but you don't go hungry."
"Pat Novak, for hire. It's about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are 'til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can't waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper's will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it's a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison."
Almost all of these are worth listening to and as hardboiled as a fifteen year egg.
Then there were the descriptions.
"He stood at the door for a minute, and then he walked out. You got a funny feeling that he didn't walk into the night, that he was big enough to wrap it around his shoulders and take it with him."
"I watched her as she turned and walked out the door. She was wearing a flowered print dress, and as she walked, the roses kept getting mixed up with the daisies. She walked with a nice friendly movement, like the trap door on a gallows."
"Hellmann rolled him out onto the linoleum--a dapper little guy, except for a piece of cord around his throat, tied in a funny knot. He was deader than a broken drum. Somebody had pulled too hard on that piece of cord. The veins were standing out in his forehead, and his face looked like a roadmap lying around there on the floor."
"The reception committee didn't help much. They were sharks in dark, all three of them, with rolls of loose oily fat where there necks should have been, and small pig eyes that squinted through the cigar smoke rolling out of wide nostrils."
"He was about the size of a golf bag with arms. If he had a cigar box, he could see over a pool table."
And then there were the moments, where Pat Novak had to say something for the audience when he really didn't want to.
"He slipped out of my arms and stopped paying taxes." 
"He couldn't have made it with a prayer book in both hands. He slid down to the floor and trembled for a moment and then flattened out like a leaf in a pool of water. Just before he died, he grabbed his side, as if he didn't like the way it hurt, and then he didn't care. I rolled him on his back and let him look at the ceiling. His eyes were open, and he looked surprised, like a guy who didn't figure on a change in the weather. There was a scar that ran across his forehead and dug deep into his hairline. And he was lying there with a bunch of pink gum showing, as if he was trying to pick up a few bucks with a toothpaste ad."
Novak wasn't fond of Hellman, despite the fact that the Inspector wasn't such a bad guy.  After a few episodes you notice that he's smarter than he seems, and uses Novak to solve his cases.
"I crossed over and knocked at the door. The guy that opened it had a face like three pounds of warm putty. It was moist and pink, and you got the idea they put the color in with a spray gun. And if his heart was made of the same stuff, they drained the oil out first."
"Hellmann, you ought to rent an idiot. The heavy thinking's too much for you."
"You couldn't strike oil in a filling station."
"I can't wait that long, Hellmann. You couldn't find a tractor on the back porch. I'd hang if I waited for your boys."
"He was a tough, hard cop, with a heart big enough to hide behind a piece of birdseed."
Here's a sample exchange between them; Imagine Hellman's voice as read by Raymond Burr, because that's who played him. And he played him plenty tough.
Novak: There's a gal up there, but that's all.
Hellman: Does she wear suspenders?
Novak: What?
Hellman: Then take my word, it's a man.
Novak: And you're gonna tell me he's dead, Hellmann.
Hellman: No, I'm not gonna tell you he's dead, Novak. He may be a soft breather.
And then there just were the lines, like poetry written in bullets, with a wreath of cigarette smoke around them.
"Father, you better be on call when I catch up to the guy. He's gonna have a lot of praying to do."
 "For some reason, I felt like a man in quicksand complaining about his height."
 "His head was over to one side, and his body was twisted over the other away, as if he couldn't make up his mind which direction to die in."
 "I tried to follow the conversation, but it was like trying to put a smoke ring in your pocket."
 "I didn't have any leads. There wasn't anything I could do but sit on my hands. It was like taking your niece to a nightclub."
If you want to listen to some shows, there are a few on Youtube, and most of the broadcast run on various Old time Radio sites such as Dumb.com.  Here's one show on Youtube to enjoy:


Friday, November 21, 2014

THE PRINCIPLE OF REVERSAL

"A spanking! A spanking!"
-The Nuns of Castle Anthrax

In the early 1970s, there was an effective principle that feminists would use to try to get people to rethink their presumptions and behavior.  They said that people should reverse the genders in their stories and treatment.  For example this ad:
Now, feminists said, reverse them.  Have the woman in the bed smug and arrogant, and have the man kneeling servile and cringing before the man, showing her its a woman's world.  How's that seem to you now?  Or take this scene from Goldfinger:
James, say hello to Felicity. (Hello!) Felicity, say hello to James. (Hello James) James say goodbye to Felicity.  Woman talk (smacks James on the hind end).
Its a pretty effective tool and  its something I try use in general life: how would I feel if it were reversed?  How would I react, is it just or reasonable still?  This did actually get men to stop and reconsider their behavior and attitudes, because they hadn't ever thought it through before.  They were just behaving how everyone did and didn't consider it at all.
These days, the reversal is nearly complete.  Feminists are the ones that are doing the mindless ill-considered hammering and they would benefit significantly from using this little tool.  There has been some truly ridiculous stuff in the news lately, but one I want to draw attention to first is a bit obscure.  It has to do with a college urinal.  Cathy Young writes at Minding the Campus:
[Michael] he waxes enthusiastic about “rape awareness” measures that treat all men as potential rapists–such as “splash guards” on a college’s public urinals with the slogan, “You hold the power to stop rape in your hand.”
This is a real thing.  As Mrs Young notes:
imagine proposing that 'You are looking at someone who can stop terrorism' be inscribed on bathroom mirrors at a campus Islamic center
This is one of those ideas that seems great in the planning room while surrounded by like-thinking folks but in practice is at best really tacky and insulting.  The presumption that all men are rapists is standard among the really angry feminist crowd, but extending that to official college campus equipment is nearly criminal.
And of course, there's the whole shirt fiasco.  A scientist is lead on a team of engineers and designers that managed to land a craft on top of a comet to test it out - a truly astonishing feat of engineering - and what happens?  His Hawaiian shirt is attacked by the bitter, humorless left.
Now, apply the principle above to this.  How would the women react if a woman did something this amazing and world-class in science, and the guys in the audience... fixated on her clothing?  This is such an obvious, no-brainer its hard to imagine how someone could possibly not think through more carefully but again, sometimes you can get locked so much into a culture you don't even have the beginning tools to consider what you're doing.  So isolated, so surrounded by like-thinking people who reinforce your worldview that it never occurs to you to question what you say or do.
This graphic does a good job of illustrating the basic problem of approach here:

These are the same sort of women that hounded Chancellor Summers from Harvard for daring to suggest that maybe there are fewer women in sciences and math because... brace yourselves... maybe fewer women are interested in these fields?  Inconceivable!
Everyone that works in an office knows that women can hang shirtless hunky men in their cubical but men cannot put anything remotely resembling a beautiful woman up without being attacked for objectifying women, creating a hostile workplace, and facing potential dismissal and at best going through sensitivity training designed to crush individuality and enforce a certain leftist ideology.
The truth is, the feminists involved in this fiasco that crushed the engineer's spirit so badly he was weeping openly on camera apologizing for wearing a celebratory shirt a woman made for him are not very popular these days.  Feminism in general has waned in power and influence largely because they accomplished their goals.  When your movement wins, people tend to pat you on the back and move on.
And this group of unpleasant sorts represents a very unattractive side of the left these days; the kind of people who want to restrict your drink sizes, change your child's lunches, take candy out of their hands, prevent you from doing anything fun at all because its potentially harmful/sexist/bigoted/bad for the environment etc.
People use words such as "puritanical" and there's some historical validity to this claim, but the truth is, these sorts of people have always been with us, and shift from political or religious group to another without regard to the group.  They aren't about the religion, they are about control and power.  They are about making everyone else do what they wish and stop doing what they don't like.
These are the book burners, the witch dunkers, the people who ban trans fats in restaurants, the kind of people who ban smoking in bars and demand first base coaches wear helmets in baseball like a retarded kid who you're afraid will bash his head.
And almost all of them these days are on the left, because that's where the power is.  That's where they have the greatest ability to enforce their will on others.  They know best, you are inferior and stupid and wrong.
And these kind of people should never, ever be given the power to implement their will, because in the end it always leads down the road to Katyn Forest, The Killing Fields, The Disappeared, and Auschwitz.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BLEG TWICE

I have a couple of requests today I want to offer.  I know this is a tough time of year, and despite the news reports, most people are doing badly in the economy but if you can possibly help, please do.
The first person who could use some help is my cousin Kevin. He was clearing tree branches away from the house and fell off the ladder, breaking his neck.  He lived, but was almost paralyzed and has to spend three months at least immobilized in bed.  Always an active, energetic guy, this is driving him nuts, but he has a bigger problem.
He didn't have much in the way of health insurance, and is self employed as a concert promoter - he's done some pretty big shows and has been successful but he's far from wealthy and is making much less money now that he's not out there with his contacts and personality.  So he could use some help with the bills, if possible.

The second is Gerard Vanderleun, who runs American Digest.  His blog is a great one with plenty of interesting and thoughtful posts, analysis, poetry, and some profoundly deep thinking, as well as a sidebar that is packed with fun and thought-provoking bits.  He's in a bit of a jam and could use some help as well:
My recent move seems to have drained my never-too-overwhelming reserves. Hence, after eleven years, I thought I might pass the hat among my readers for the first time. I'm new to this "Donate" business but I am informed that Paypal's Donation button here should work. Let me know if it doesn't and I'll work to fix it. To paraphrase Chicago politicians, "If you feel the need to donate, donate early and donate often."
Just wanted to pass along some needs, if you can at all help.

Friday, November 14, 2014

UNDER - RATED (clap clap clapclapclap)

"Your time will be gauged along with a rating of one to ten on your style, which will be judged solely by me and my vast expertise of skiing technique."

I got into a discussion last night with some people online about the movie To Live and Die in LA with William Peterson (now better known for his run on CSI).  Directed by William Friedkin, it has a heavy Michael Mann feel to it, and while this film is not very well know it is a very, very good crime drama.
TLADILA is one of those stories that doesn't go anywhere you expect but has a very satisfying and reasonable story arc, and was very well acted and shot.  It has some of the most shocking and amazing sequences and events I've ever seen in a movie, and introduced me (and millions of others) to bunji jumping before it was really known anywhere.
Evidently, the film makers brought in a convicted counterfeiter as a consultant and actually made counterfeit money, some of which evidently got into circulation and the treasury department picked it up.
But it got me thinking about other underrated films, classics that people missed and really ought to see.  Like The Hidden, a 1987 sci fi gem featuring a young Claudia Christian (from Babylon 5) as a stripper turned alien death machine.  This is a film that was very low budget but worked very well probably in part because it didn't have a large budget. Kyle MacLachlan starred in it, a very early role for the block of wood.
Better Off Dead is such a favorite I forget a lot of people have never even heard of this film. Its one of the best teen comedies of all times, and while its pretty 80s dated it still holds up for raw humor.  John Cusack was at his best in this kind of role, and the whole film is just a bundle of surreal events and absolute hilarity.  Trivia in this movie: Lane's mom is played by Kim Darby, the girl from True Grit!
The Long Kiss Goodnight was a very solid, interesting action movie (and used the "my spouse is a spy??" bit before True Lies)  but never got much attention largely because the previous Geena Davis attempt was the godawful pirate movie Cutthroat Island.  When that terrible, budget busting disaster bombed, people just figured this movie would be more of the same, which is too bad.
Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is certainly in the running for the longest title contest in film history, but its also one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.  Done before the Wayans brothers totally lost their way, this spoofs every "hard hitting inner city" gang movie ever made, and in the process actually has better and more effective social commentary than the serious films ever did.  Often crude and foul, but always hilarious, this film was a great time.
Ang Lee's Hulk gets a lot of grief for the CGI dogs, which I agree were pretty weak.  But the overall film was very powerful, and the slow reveal of Bruce Banner's pain was incredibly well crafted storytelling.  Nick Nolte steals the film as the amoral, demented scientist father who ends up a cross between the Absorbing Man and Zaxx and the Hulk does some amazing Hulky stuff.  Its a lot better than people say, but the problem is they got a thoughtful story rather than Hulk smashing, so they were disappointed by expectations.
Last Action Hero is starting to get some second looks, because after all this time people can finally detatch from what they expected from Arnold and what they got.  Its a hilarious send up of Arnie's earlier over-the-top action films with touching and thoughtful themes that are actually quite well handled.  Its just a ton of fun and I could never figure out the hate it received.
The Batman Adventures animated series surprised everyone with how well done, interesting, and well-crafted it was.  This style of animation has spawned a whole industry of comics, games, TV shows and more.  And one thing that came out of it was a series of films that didn't get nearly the attention they deserved Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was one such film, a terrific moody and emotional piece that explored an unknown part of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City's past (lets just say Batman wasn't Gotham City's first masked vigilante).
Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers' first film together and its an independent classic but little known to non film buffs.  Its a great noire film with terrific performances from some major but lesser known talents.  A dark, bloody film of crime gone wrong and the efforts to break out of it, this is classic Coen Brothers writing done on a shoestring budget.
There was a horror film put out in the late 80s with the usual brat pack suspects called Flatliners that got a lot of attention but had a pretty weak story.  It was a decent film but not nearly as good as a film that came out about the same taime called Jacob's Ladder which scared the crap out of me.  The overall film is as confusing as it needs to be with shockingly dark and frightening imagery as someone tries to figure out what the hell is going on, almost literally.  I won't give away what is actually happening because in part that's never 100% clear but its a great, spooky film.  Of course, I haven't seen this since Tim Robbins lost his mind during the Bush administration and became so indelibly obnoxious, so perhaps it might not be as enjoyable now.
The Tailor of Panama is a spy movie Pierce Brosnan made while making Bond movies which is a pretty amazing boldness on his part.  Its also a little-known film that was very well done and was largely ignored by the public.  A much more realistic and well-crafted story about spying than the Bond films, and a great example of how good an actor Brosnan really is, but gets little credit for.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film everyone should see.  Just about the first movie Robert Downey jr made after he turned his life around, and the last movie Val Kilmer did before he put on the weight and stopped caring about being a matinee idol, its a hilarious but gripping detective movie.  It doesn't go the way you expect it to, and Downey plays very much against type but does an amazing job of it in the process.
Another lost gem was the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling in one of the most underplayed, understated performances ever.  Its such a quiet, almost soothing movie with real excitement in it that it kind of defies category or explanation.  You just have to watch it to see.  I think again this film confused viewers by being thoughtful and emotionally compelling rather than exciting violence and Fast & Furious driving.
And finally Alien3 which was a much better film than people came away thinking, but it was simply hated by critics and a lot of viewers.  I think the problem is that they went into it expecting Aliens part two and got an atmospheric tragedy instead. Again a victim of mistaken expectations, this was a really enjoyable film and it showed how the basic concept of the predatory alien could be done in so many different ways, like a film school experiment.
I looked at some lists of underrated movies in the past and kept running into films that I remember being very well received and praised, such as Open Range, Miller's Crossing, and Copland, so its tough to decide what really belongs on a list like this or not.  I'm sure commenters have a few thoughts on the matter as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LEGAL WEED

"Universities must have policies in line with the federal Drug Free Schools law or risk losing federal financial aid for its students"

Voters in Oregon have passed a legalized marijuana law.  It really was just a matter of time, given that pot is one of the state's largest cash crops (off the books) and the general trend of society.  The actual legalization doesn't take place until next year, but people are already celebrating by smoking since the state's attorney general has announced they won't be busting anyone for weed that's legal under the upcoming law.
The biggest reason for the shift is that Colorado made huge tax dollars off of pot sales (although I strongly suspect that will taper off dramatically over time), but years of weed being popularized and used publicly without any consequence played their part as well.
When I was in school, drugs were looked down on as being used by losers.  Weed was the stuff your annoying trashy older brother and sister used, the old hippies you wish would just go away.  It was in the 90s that rappers brought it back into the public eye as being "cool" again, and after a while it seemed police just didn't care if you had a few joints on you, unless they really needed a reason to pick you up.
I'm conflicted on this one.  On one hand, doing stupid stuff to yourself has to be permitted in a free society and the federal drug laws are unconstitutional (the constitution gives no power to the federal government to regulate drugs within state borders).  On the other hand, smoking pot is bad not just to the person involved but to others around them.
Cops are very opposed to legalizing any drugs because they have a hard enough time handling drunk drivers without making more stoned drivers hit the road.  As I wrote about a while back, pot actually can make you a bad driver, but unlike alcohol, there is no useable, reliable field sobriety test for weed.  Stinking of bale isn't enough of an indication.  And it really does stink.
And there's a deleterious effect on productivity for most users.  As the ZMan writes:
I’m OK with the repairman sucking on a cancer stick while he repairs the lift. Nicotine helps concentration. The same repairman doing bong hits before working on the lift is probably about to kill a bunch of people. Of course, he probably called out of work so he can play video games and eat chips all day, but that’s another story.
The thing is, it varies.  Chemicals never affect two different people the exact same way.  In fact, they can vary from day to day on the same person.  Both marijuana and alcohol are depressants, but we all know at least one person that gets more violent and aggressive while drunk.  Certainly reducing inhibitions in some people is a very bad idea.  We've seen example after example of mass shooters and serial killers being pot users and that's no coincidence.
So pot won't necessarily result in someone doing poor, sloppy, inattentive, or sluggish work.  It probably will, because that's its typical effect on human beings, and almost certainly will with the great majority of people, but it won't always.
Smoking pot is a stupid, stupid thing to do.  Its a very nasty carcinogen and its bad for your brain, as studies have shown conclusively.  It tends to make you more lazy and less productive, effectively removing you from being a useful member of society, particularly as while every pot smoker claims they can control it and only use it once in a while, its rare that is true.
But at the same time, being no benefit to society is not a punishable negative.  its not something society should take action against.  Certainly its not something that society should take an effort to assist in or compensate for: if you are too worthless and stoned to get a job, I don't think anyone else should be compelled to pay for your rent or even food. 
But liberty has to include the freedom to do stupid self destructive stuff.  If you want to eat lousy food, or too much, or smoke, or skydive, or jam metal spikes through your skin or distort and stain your skin by being stabbed thousands of times with dyed needles, that's your problem.
What the long-term effects of legal pot will be is anybody's guess.  I can see it being overall a negative, but how much of one is unclear.  Its likely that the more states that make weed legal, the less tourism countries like the Netherlands will get - and not propping up their ridiculous economic system will only benefit the world by showing how untenable it is.
One of the great myths of legal drugs is that it will reduce drug-related crime.  But drug-related crimes are generally caused by people who need their drug and will break the law to feed that need.  And the more someone is under the control of a drug, the less under control of themselves they are - and the less productive and likely they are to have money to pay for drugs.  So more people using drugs means a greater likelihood of drug related crime, not less.  Especially as government shops overcharge grossly, encouraging smuggling and illegal sales that legalization was supposed to end.
The problem is that legal pot changes a lot of things that aren't immediately obvious.  Businesses need to add pot to their rules and guides just like alcohol.  You can't come to work drunk and expect to keep your job - you can't come to work stoned, either.  Even a little buzz will annoy employers.
And its not just businesses.  Seattle University recently suspended students for selling pot brownies on campus.  Now I always understood that marijuana tasted awful, but apparently there are ways to cook it that reduce that nasty flavor.  But the problem is, these "medical" brownies were being sold all over campus, and its not permissible in the college to sell drugs of any kind.
Plus, colleges and universities rely on significant amounts of federal funding and eligibility for grants and other student financing.  By violating federal drug laws, they risk losing that all and money is truly the bottom line for these organizations.
And this is what it comes down to right now: just because its legal, doesn't mean you ought to be doing it.  You can legally strip naked but that doesn't mean you can do so in the line at McDonald's.  Its a matter of when and where, of learning limits and boundaries.
But in the modern era, the concept of "appropriate" is considered a horrible tyranny and some brutal oppression.  And societal limits are seen not as a structure to maintain a polite coherent culture, but targets to rip down and mock.  So a change like this, which might have found out its reasonable limits in time decades past now is likely to be very a real problem.
We'll see how it turns out over time.  But I'm not sanguine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

INJUSTICE PROJECT

"Once they convinced Simon it was for his own good, he was all in."

In 1999, a man was set free from death row by the confession of another man for his crimes.  This and the storm of publicity around it from the Innocence Project ended up ending the death penalty in Illinois.
The confession was to the Innocence Project, and was taped and given to police who investigated and the man ended up in prison.  Strangely, despite the confession, he claimed innocence all the time in prison.
And it turns out that perhaps he really was innocent, because he was recently set free after 15 years in prison.  The man, named Alstory Simon, was set free from a 37 year sentence after a Cook County state's attorney investigated the case and the Innocence Project its self.
Innocence Project is a coalition of lawyers and activists working to end the death penalty.  They are convinced that lots of people who didn't commit the crime at all are on death row, despite it being one of the most legally difficult cases to prove; a death penalty sentence is extremely challenging to achieve.
The Innocence Project claims it has set many people free who were wrongly convicted, and that this proves that the death penalty is evil and should be stopped.  After all, they argue, if someone is dead then they can't be set free from an unjust conviction were they actually innocent.
But the Cook County investigation is throwing some doubt on the project and its tactics.  Jim Stingle writes in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
The investigation by the Innocence Project, she said, "involved a series of alarming tactics that were not only coercive and absolutely unacceptable by law enforcement standards, they were potentially in violation of Mr. Simon's constitutionally protected rights."
...
But that neat and clean narrative unraveled with the discovery of how the confession by Simon was obtained. Protess discovered that Green's mother had mentioned Simon was with Green and Hillard at the park the day of the murders, so Protess went after Simon in an effort to clear Porter.
Members of the Innocence Project showed up at his house posing as cops.  They told him that they knew he was the real murderer, and he needed to confess if he wanted to avoid the death penalty.
Now, lets stop right here. If you're a cop, you already know what's coming, but think about it: what leverage did this group use to get a confession?  What is going to get a hardened criminal not that concerned about jail time to confess, saving the state time and money, and maybe even give up fellow criminals?  A penalty worse than the one he's comfortable with.
So by their very actions, this group showed the value of the death penalty as a potential threat.  The irony is thick in this story.
But we go on.  The fake cops then showed him a video of his ex-wife implicating him for the crime (she later recanted on her death bed in 2005), and another video of a supposed witness to the crime.  Except that witness turned out to be an actor.  So they pressured him into confessing to something based on an embittered woman's anger and an actor.
They coached Simon through a videotaped confession, promising him a light sentence and money from book and movie deals on the case. Simon, admittedly on a three-day crack cocaine bender, struggled to understand what was going on.
Oh, but it gets worse.  They set Simon up with a lawyer, for free.  Except that lawyer was a friend to the victims of the crime.  Further, that lawyer - Jack Rimland - was in on the fix and part of the Innocence Project effort.
Basically they railroaded a stoned guy who didn't know much of what was going on to confess to a crime he never committed, using lies and deception, violating his civil rights and foisting an attorney hostile to his cause on him, to set a guilty man free.  And they did it for a "higher cause" of ending the death penalty.
This is what I call "ethical pragmatism" where the end justifies the means.  What they were trying to achieve was considered so holy and righteous that anything they did to reach that goal was thereby sanctified.  It wasn't wrong to lie and frame an man innocent of this crime and set a murderer free, because the goal was so lofty and just.
The man behind it (David Protess) has been suspended at Northwestern University (he is a professor of journalism) but is the president of the Chicago Innocence Project chapter.
Perhaps this is the only case where the Innocence Project distorted the system and lied, cheated, and violated human rights to get their job done.  Perhaps every other time they were perfectly ethical and just in their actions and Protess was just an exception in his zeal and drive for personal status, or something.
I have no doubt that many, perhaps most if not nearly all of the cases the Innocence Project has managed to overturn have been valid and proper justice.  I am sure that many innocent people have been put in prison through history - we can all think of at least a few (such as Corrie Ten Boom for instance).
But like a dirty cop, this casts doubt on every case the Project has been involved in.  It makes you wonder about all the people they've set free.  The fact that a reporter, several students, and a professor were so willing to utterly ruin and frame a black man to achieve their goals makes me wonder about the entire Innocence Project.
Certainly a valuable project would be to dig closer into all their work so far.  Because they've demonstrated at least once that the Project is willing to do anything and ruin anyone to accomplish their goals.

Friday, November 07, 2014

SCOUTING KINDLE

"None of the books grabbed my attention, but I did notice that the general writing quality was much better than some of the covers led me to expect."

Amazon continues to work on new ways to find, market and sell books.  The boom in independent publishing has been largely through Amazon, and they encourage that strongly as it costs them little and brings in plenty of money each year.
One recent effort is the Kindle Scout program, which tries to combine ebooks, crowdsourcing, and Amazon.  In essence, Amazon wants to be a publisher.  Here's the pitch:
Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.
Now, that's a lot better than what you get from traditional publishing (50% is far better than the usual contract, particularly as you won't have to peel off any to the agent).  What they are looking for is a fully prepared book with edited, formatted, and completed internal content and a finished cover, so you can't submit your manuscript hoping for publication like a regular publishing house.  The book has to be basically done.
If accepted, the book is put up for preview and voted on by people.  The books that win get examined by the Kindle board and winners get a contract while voters get a free copy of that book.  Amazon offers several benefits, but as Victoria Strauss notes at Writers Beware, the benefits should be examined closely:
  • Amazon provides no editing, copy editing, proofreading, or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it.
  • Submissions are exclusive for 45 days from the date you submit your manuscript. No shopping your ms. elsewhere during that time.
  • Submitted manuscripts must meet content and eligibility guidelines. Currently, only Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy are eligible.
  • Crowdsourcing? Not so much. Authors are encouraged to mobilize their networks for voting (which kind of undermines the notion that manuscripts will rise to the top on merit--a perennial problem of crowdsourced ventures, along with the potential for gaming the system). Mere vote numbers, however, don't determine what gets published. Per the FAQ, "Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication."
  • If you're attracted by the promise of "featured Amazon marketing", here's what it actually consists of: "Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions." Key word here: "eligible." In other words, no promises.  
  • If you're not selected for publication, you must request removal of your work from the Kindle Scout site. Otherwise, your campaign page will remain online.
  • By submitting, you agree in advance to the terms of the Kindle Press publishing agreement. These terms are not negotiable. So before you submit, be sure you're comfortable with them. (If Amazon chooses not to publish your ms., you're automatically released).
This is mostly fine print clarification; the main things to keep in mind is that you only get published if the Kindle Staff thinks so, no matter who wins, and even if you get it, you are only eligible for marketing through targeted email and promotions.  Its likely they will push your book as it benefits them to do so, but there's no guarantee and no way of knowing how much or how often it gets pushed.
Still this isn't a bad system, and with the contract you're at least guaranteed 1500 in sales (probably broken up into several years rather than a single check, if like usual).  The process is fast - 45 days is their promised turnaround, which is much, much quicker than a traditional publisher.  However you have to factor in the time it takes to prepare, layout, perfect, and edit your manuscript, plus the time to get a cover finished - all of which the publisher usually does for you.
Kindle Scout also has tools to help you with outreach and publicity for yourself, such as a Q&A section with suggested questions you can pick through to answer, and a "thank you" note form that is sent automatically to anyone who votes for you - and they suggest contact information and blogs, etc that you can add to it.
You can view the current crop of trending higher vote choices at the Kindle Scout site.  Some of them seem to be quality, some look like they're being pushed up by someone with lots of friends or a great outreach.
The big thing that would cause me to hesitate is that I can get 70% royalties by going on my own, and that if the book does really well, Kindle will renew your contract and keep you.  The reason I say this is because their FAQ says
If a book doesn't earn $25,000 in royalties during an author’s initial 5-year contract term, or any 5-year renewal term after that, the author can choose to stop publishing with us
In other words, we own you 5 years at least, and longer if you're making good money.  So if you want to move to self-publishing at that point, they will probably not let you if you have a good seller.  However, if your book is doing poorly, then you can get the rights back without any cost or argument:
After two years, rights for any format or language that remains unpublished, or all rights to any book that earns less than $500 in total royalties in the preceding 12-month period, can be reverted upon request — no questions asked.
And that is much better than the usual contracts that publishers will offer.  Further, Kindle only owns the e-book rights, so you as the author own all other rights, including films, TV, print, and audio books.  And royalties, if any, are paid monthly, whereas some publishers will only pay quarterly or yearly.
The biggest concerns for me are twofold.  First, you probably haven't heard of Kindle Scout.  Its been out a while but isn't getting much notice; that means its not a very powerful publicity platform.  Second, once it does become popular and well-used, that's going to only increase the noise to signal ratio.  What I mean is looking through a few books to find one you like is one thing, looking through 150 fantasy novel previews to find one you like is another entirely.  How hard are people really going to strive to find a book to vote for?  It seems like the promoted (hot, or trending) books and books with a really cool cover are the ones that will get noticed, not necessarily quality.
Overall it seems like an interesting experiment, and I am tempted to try it out.  If I can get a nice cover ready for Life Unworthy, I'm strongly tempted to give this a shot.  The advance would be very welcome, and 20% lower royalties is a small price to pay for the increased visibility and marketing that a Kindle Scout book gets over simply being epublished.
The biggest hurdle for me is getting a cover done.  Just affording the cover is the main issue, since I have a clear concept of the design.  But its something to think about.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

THE WAR ON...

"Women and their Uncle Tims have declared a war on men - believe it. This catcall business, along with the focus on getting rid of sports, videogames and unsupervised sex for college men, is just another weapon in their arsenal for soon making it illegal to exhibit any stereotypical male traits. Fight back."
-Instawife Helen Smith

One of the most false and ridiculous themes of politics in the last few years was the Democrat "war on women" push that they used to win in 2012.  The idea was that anyone who at any time and any place suggested that any restrictions on abortion, birth control, or anything remotely related to women was "at war" with women, trying to destroy or defeat them.  You don't want to publically fund abortions and birth control?  HATER!!
Over time the term became somewhat of a joke to many people, and it would be thrown around for any circumstance and situation to laugh at it.  Didn't care for her song?  War on women!  But with this last election, the war appears to have been won by women, with a good half dozen or more female candidates being elected to congress over guys.  The youngest senator ever is a woman, for example (and a Republican), the first Korean and Vietnamese in US congress; both women (and Republicans).
In truth, as I've noted in the past on this blog regarding boys, the war is not on women at all.  To any extent there was a war it happened in the late 60s and early 70s, and the women won.
Where there are assaults on anyone by gender these days, its on men.  And that's for a reason.  Maetenloch on Ace of Spades makes this point:
Currently there's almost nothing popular among men that isn't under siege by the usual PC scolds who want to control, restrict or just outright eliminate it. Enjoy car racing? Well guess what - that's racist and sexist. So how about building ships in bottles you say - surely that's got to be totally PC-safe? Nope, it turns out it's racist. Bird watching? Also racist. Wood working? Probably sexist but then the PC police have not focused on it. Yet.
This is not an exaggeration.  Look at everything men traditionally and culturally are like and enjoy doing in America.  Hunting, fishing, football, baseball, beer, barbecues, fast cars, anything involving competition or risk, on and on it goes.  Manly behavior such as keeping emotions to yourself and fighting against bad guys: brutal, thuggish, repressive, evil.  All of it is under continuous attack and condemnation by the usual suspects.
This kind of thing is much more a "war" on a gender than thinking maybe the public shouldn't have to pay for Sandra Fluke's birth control, because it is targeting a gender specifically and deliberately.  This activity isn't based on economic theories or cultural ideas, its based on a desire to shift and control gender.
For many on the left, men are representative of all that is wrong.  Masculinity is about rape, brutality, and oppression, they say.  Everything traditionally male is what makes for corruption, greed, tyranny, racism and all the other bad stuff they rail against.  This is their line of thinking.  So eliminating those aspects of our society would be all good: if people would just be more like women, it would all be wonderful.  Listen to your inner woman, the Jungian archetype within you, and stop being so male!
Anything bad that women do, well its the fault of men and their oppressive phallocracy.  If they would pack up their rape culture and learn to be more feminine well then women would not have problems either.
It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

It's a shame that all the blame is on us women
It's not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that's ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame
-Kitty Wells, "It Wasnt God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels"

See, opposing paying for birth control isn't a war on women or their gender.  It has nothing to do with femininty or women as a people.  Nobody says that birth control shouldn't be funded because women need to change or that there's an innate problem with female reproductive systems.  Opposition to abortion has nothing to do with gender; if anything its at least 51% pro-female because its about saving the lives of babies.
A War on Women would look like what's being done to men, it would be opposition to culturally feminine things, attacks on traditional female delights and interests, and not simply out of a desire for change but out of a hostility toward women as women.  It would be an antipathy toward women because of a belief that their gender is evil and they need to be more like men.
Just like the war against men in our culture.  The truth is, the "war on women" being decried is almost always the winning side trying to stop the losers from fighting back.  How dare you stop me from beating on you, oppressor!
As I noted above, the "war on women" theme seems to have run out of gas. Its only brought up by really radical cranks these days or by people mocking it, and for good reason.  It barely had any support to begin with and was pushed to such ridiculous, absurd extremes that people just had enough of it.  You won't fund my tampons?  War on women!  Ads by Democrats pretending that if their Republican opponent won, tampons would be banned and disappear were run.
And while that might appeal to the womyn's studies prof at Berkeley, I doubt they won many converts with that kind of thing.  Look around you and see how men are acting.  All those beards are not just a wild fashion statement, they're a flagrantly masculine defiance to the culture.  These people aren't huge Duck Dynasty fans, they just think its cool to have a beard and its manly.  And women seem to really like the beards lately too.
That will change, but inevitably, no matter how the culture shifts, men will rebel and defy the rules and the feminist mandates.  Because that's part of what it means to be a man.  Men and women both will at times question the authorities and what is established, but its almost always the men who do something about it, even as minor as growing a mountain man beard.
And women usually love them for it.  Except for the Sandra Flukes and Pajama Boys of a given society.  And judging by last night, right now nobody's listening to them anyway.

Monday, November 03, 2014

RETRO WATN: The Wisdom of Elders

This is from a while back, in 2010. I keep almost writing this piece again because I keep running into the same myth: that its hypocrisy to teach your children to be better than yourself and avoid your mistakes and youthful foolishness.  Then I remember I already wrote it.
"Express yourself, don't repress yourself"
-Madonna, "Human Nature"

Some fun has been had at the expense of pop singer Madonna lately based on her US Magazine interview. In it she said about her daughter Lourdes:
"If anything, I wish she'd dress more conservatively, How's that for irony?"
This coming from a woman who spent her career as a nude model, dressing provocatively, pushing sex, and engaging in various racy and provocative acts to promote her career is a bit much for many people to swallow.

It is true that of any woman alive, Madonna probably has the least room to talk about how someone should dress more conservatively and be less visually provocative, what with her cone bras and faux lesbian kisses and so on. And she still promotes her image as a sexual creature, despite her advanced age, trying to look as physically attractive - and young - as possible.

Despite the fat target for accusations, of hypocrisy I have a different approach to this. One of the more difficult things to teach young people is wisdom, because it is very difficult to learn without time and experience. Wisdom most often is the aggregated lifetime of experiences, failures, mistakes, and pain which teaches that which few other things can. Gaining wisdom is a treasure beyond anything monetary, yet it is even more difficult to achieve than a fortune.

Telling young people not to do certain things can be difficult because sometimes the warnings cannot be given with tangible, rational explanation. For example, telling people to not eat crappy food can be very difficult to explain why. Young people can eat pretty much anything with almost no ill effect - what they don't understand is that the habits learned through this and the incremental damage done over time that causes trouble later. Other things like "act like a lady" or "read a book" are even harder to impress upon youth.

Older people have done things and gone through things which have taught them what may otherwise be impossible or at least very difficult to learn. They want to impart that wisdom and experience and spare younger people those pains.

When a parent smokes pot and finds out what a bad idea that was, them telling their kids not to smoke pot doesn't make them a hypocrite, it makes them wise. They've done something bad or self destructive and want to spare their kids that experience. Its like the fool who was badly burned telling other fools not to stick their hand in the fire. That's not hypocrisy or being mean to the others, it is sharing wisdom learned through pain that you'd spare them from going through.

In a culture where maturity, age, and experience is treated with reverence and honor, children are brought up to be more willing to take older people at their word. When the revered elder says "don't dress like a trashy slut" in such a culture, then the girls are more willing to listen and obey. In such a culture, then tradition can take on a power and significance it ought not - with tradition overwriting logic and reason, not to mention change - but rejecting tradition and the wisdom of elders has its own cost and dangers as well.

With the 1960s and the hippie revolution, young people rejected trusting elders and tradition completely and determined that history would teach them nothing. With this rejection came a series of foolish mistakes which are repeated over and over because the young are taught to reject the old, and the old are taught that youth is superior and they are obsolete and irrelevant. The results are not hard to see all around us.

Yet those youth grow up eventually and find out in time the things their parents wanted them to learn without the painful experience of failure and difficulty. They did things they ought not to have done, found out from personal experience why, and now understand what they rejected or ignored in the past. Madonna lived a trashy, slutty life (and to some degree still tries to), but she wants her daughter to not be as she was. This could be called hypocrisy - especially since she hasn't changed much - but it also could be called wisdom. There's a reason most older people tend to become more conservative, and it isn't fear or obsolescence, nor even clinging to a mythical golden past. Its experience and wisdom.

The older you get, the more you understand how well-seeming and idealistic schemes are not what they seem to be. You learn more about human nature, about consequences, about long-term effects, and about why some things will not work. You see the failures of past schemes and experience the disaster an idea you had resulted in. So you move away from the childish things of youth and grow older and wiser, maturing intellectually as well as physically. Usually. Some never do - typically those surrounded by leftist thought and input, isolated from the world and its consequences, and continually reinforced by like thinkers. Others fear change or reversing their positions even when they know they are wrong, or want what they believed to be true so badly they are willing to suspend reason to cling to it.

Madonna's past taught her what a bad idea it is for a young girl to dress and act like she did. Social conservatives share this outlook - often from personal experience, but not always. Many rely on older, wiser people from the past who know not trends and cultural shifts, but ancient, millennia-old truths and realities about ethics and the human soul which are true regardless of technology and culture. The things which seem so restrictive and cruel (no abortion, no promiscuous sex, lay off drugs, chastity, reverence, care in speech and thought, etc) in the end are a source of liberation, not because of greater overall freedom but because of the better life for everyone as a whole that results.

The Bodhisattva told Buddha that he had a great thing, that he was ultimately right... but that he personally wouldn't be following those tenets until everyone else did, because it was so personally costly. Sure, rejecting greed and comfort and personal ambition at the cost of others is very fine, but only once there isn't someone else to stomp all over you when you give it up. Living a life of virtue and ethical purity is very costly for most people. You tend to lose to the people who cheat, who steal, who crush others, and who care for nothing but themselves. You are passed up for promotions, you are outsold by other people, you lose your love to a sleazy lothario - or because she wanted you to be more sleazy. In a thousand ways you pay a price for living a better life, which causes a great deal of pain and self questioning.

Buddha's answer was to treat life as an illusion and shrug at hardship because ultimately none of it was real. But the truth is, real life is real, and everyone sane deep down knows this. We aren't spirits drifting around as part of some greater universal consciousness, we are real physical creatures and life hurts. The easy answer to this is to stop trying to do what is right, to stop fighting and give in, to be like the others who seem so happy and successful. Girls like guys who treat them like trash, I'll be one of those guys. Brad got two promotions and a huge salary by being a lying, backstabbing sleaze, OK I can do that too. LaQueesha dresses like a prostitute and has the hottest, richest guys all over her all the time buying her stuff, well I can slut it up as good as her.

Wisdom, however, teaches us that there is a better way. That the pains we experience for being good are nothing compared to the ultimate pains of a life lived less virtuously. Few are the people who die old and wicked who are glad they did. Typically such people have deep regrets, and almost always they express them. In raw practical terms, being used like a piece of meat for each man's pleasure in exchange for status and gifts ends up making a woman feel incredibly awful and cheap, and can result in lethal, disfiguring diseases. In raw practical terms, you can get away with ripping off customers and stabbing people in the back in business for a while, but eventually the customers figure out your products are lousy, your prices are too high, and nobody will deal with you any longer except the IRS and the FEC.

A more humble, virtuous life may cost you many of the things and status you desire in youth, but in your old age you'll not care so much about those things and avoid the regrets, consequences, and shame which getting all those things can so often cost you. And there's more to this world than is dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio. There's a life beyond this one which has far greater significance and reality than we can now possibly imagine. C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce tried to express that with grass blades so hard and sharp they cut people from this world who tried to walk on them. They were so much more real than our life that they were like knives. The future holds more than old age and money, and how you face that future is more important than how happy you are now.

Its just not easy to get people to understand that, often, until its too late.

YOU CAN'T WIN

"Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?"

I don't hit on girls, not in public or in private.  I never have, I'm not a flirt, I'm not aggressive or even timid with women.  I'm distantly respectful and if necessary friendly and polite.  I try to treat women all the same no matter who they are, and figure the really pretty ones get tired of guys hitting on them anyway.
A Left leaning activist group called Hollaback put out a video that got 15 million hits in one week on YouTube.  The video is of a woman walking through New York City and being hit on by guys.  She's young, attractive, and has large breasts, wearing tight clothes, and in ten hours of filming she got hit on by just over 100 guys in a city with just over eight million people living in it.
If it sounds like I'm downplaying the awful experiences this woman is supposed to have suffered, its because I am.  In ten hours of work they only caught a handful of really offensive or rude comments, in a gigantic city packed with people.
And many women would consider this not so bad, since they like having attention from men and often dress just to attain such attention.  Its perhaps uncharitable and unfeeling, but the old saw goes: its flirting if he's handsome and rich, its sexual harassment if he's not.  Many of these guys aren't being offensive at all, just trying to draw her attention; attention she'd likely welcome from a really good looking, wealthy fellow.
I wouldn't care for the comments, and like to disappear in a crowd but then I am more of an introvert, too.  The thing is, she walked around for half a day in order to record these comments and despite being an attempt to portray the alleged misery of attractive, stacked girls having to deal with guys hitting on them, its not being hailed as a great effort by the left.
Why?  Because almost exclusively the guys hitting on her are Puerto Rican, black and other minorities.  And that drove the offense takers off the rails.  Charles C.W. Cooke writes:
“The fact that the video chooses to showcase the experience of a white woman experiencing harassment almost exclusively at the hands of black and Latino men,” Brooklyn Magazine’s Kristin Iverson proposed earlier this week, “is a pretty clear indication of who the audience for this video is supposed to be, namely, those who seek to protect and defend innocent white women, aka the already existing societal power structure.” This theme was picked up in more explicit terms elsewhere, the less direct references to the “power structure” quickly giving way to overt accusations of white supremacy. “Thousands of satisfied racists are sharing that viral catcalling video,” griped Lindy West at the Daily Dot, lamenting that its creators had imposed “manipulative, specific, politicized constraints on the issue of street harassment” and thereby permitted “the bulk of the audience to divorce themselves from the problem.” Yesterday, the Root’s Dion Rabouin dispensed with euphemism entirely, confirming that “some of the video’s intentional choices seem to play on the Birth of a Nation trope that white women simply aren’t safe from sex-crazed black and brown men.”
The problem is that women are lower on the leftist identity politics scale than blacks.  So the proposed travails of the woman in this video are lower than the perceived attack on a more protected identity group, and off we go.
The thing is, the group went all through NYC, according to their statement.  They filmed all across the city and this is who hit on her.  They filmed for 10 hours in all sorts of neighborhoods and boroughs.  This isn't unrepresentative, its exactly representative.
Some writers suggested that these men hit on her because white oppression compelled them to “This kind of harassment can be a way marginalized groups talk back to the white gentrifiers taking over their neighborhoods.”  In other words: the bitch had it coming.
Another demanded it be redone with a transexual black, for "universalization."  Yeah send RuPaul out there and see the reactions.
At least one feminist declared that this could be "the last straw" for a girl, unable to bear up under the strain of male attraction and interest.  Tiffany Jenkins writes:
Speak for yourself, Kate. This is the sort of thing that was said about women in the past to keep them in their place: that they are too fragile, sensitive and weak for the workplace, or for the political sphere, that they may faint at any moment, that they need a chaperone. Give your sisters a break. We are stronger than you think. We can tell guys to “back off”. And it is incredible that it’s necessary to make these points in the 21st century.
Frustrated with the combined approach of victimization ("we're weak!") and oppressive censorship, Miss Jenkins announces that she's trashed her feminist card and wants nothing to do with the modern movement.
Its interesting how the video producers presented this, they said "she's not wearing provocative clothing or responding to guys" so its all on them.  But she's not exactly wearing super modest clothes either:
And it would be interesting and more useful for them to show what happens when a girl who dresses more modestly or covers up does the same thing, or even a less attractive, or older woman.  See the point isn't "she has it coming, the slut" but rather "she's getting what she advertises for."
I understand that's a subtle difference, but it works the same way for anything.  If you wear a Red Sox jacket and hat in New York City, you'll get a different reaction than if you wear Yankees gear.  The point is that people will respond to you in part based on your apparel and appearance.  And the picked and dressed a girl in a manner that's going to attract guys.
Its true she's not dressed like a Times Square hooker, and that's a good thing, but she's not exactly dressed in a manner designed to keep guys from hitting on her, either.  And it would have been informative and useful to show the difference - if any - based on how she was clothed.
Of course the legion of perpetually offended found offense at the creators for saying she deliberately was not provocative:
The clear implication here is that Roberts is just an innocent woman who doesn’t deserve these catcalls, thus suggesting that there are some women who, because of the way they dress or because of the way they respond, could be thought to be asking for it.
In other words: no matter how you do it, you did it wrong.  The obvious conclusion that, maybe, some women are dressing and acting in a manner that invites and requests reactions from men is simply dismissed before the discussion begins, a priori.  Women can act and dress any way they wish and men cannot respond any way except how the woman wants them to, at that moment, or they're wrong, brutes, sexist oppressors.
The man wearing the pack with the disguised camera ahead of her was the target of shaming as well:
“It is made clear that Roberts has a boyfriend who is filming her because he too wants to protect her from . . . whom exactly? Oh, multitudes of anonymous black and Latino men? How gallant of him. How evocative of countless other examples of men wanting to protect the safety of white women.”
Again, the behavior of the people involved is not the problem, its the problem of you for noticing.  These are protected identity groups they cannot be wrong, so the white guy in the mix must be ultimately to blame.
And behind it all, this video was put out by a group whose purpose was to try to get support for a law criminalizing catcalling and hitting on women in public.  The group is called Hollaback and their mission statement includes the words "most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against."  Violence.  Hitting on a hot girl is violent, according to this group, and should have the full penalty of law to stop it.
Now, to me, it just seems like people should not be rude.  I have to ask these guys has this ever worked for you?  Did any of the women you yell at and hit on stop, walk up to you, and give you their phone number or start flirting with you?  Does this behavior ever, ever succeed?  Because I'm highly skeptical unless she was an actual working girl.  You know, a real hooker.
It just doesn't hurt anyone to be polite, considerate, and respectful to everyone, even really hot women.  And I suspect, but don't have hard evidence, that this is a lesson white guys for the most part have learned.  In fact, I can't find it but I read a piece not long ago where a woman was lamenting that guys have learned this lesson and she kind of missed being hit on by construction workers.  Ya just can't win.
But if this video shows that culturally, blacks and hispanics are more likely to hit on a woman than white guys, maybe that's not an oppressive racist hit on these guys, but a cultural nod to whites?  Or is that simply so inconcievable?
Yeah I know.  It is inconceivable, or at least not allowed into the leftist worldview.