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An Open Letter to HBO

I was recently contacted by somebody named Raimy R. (last name truncated to protect people) at a @bltomato.com email address who claims they are an HBO representative . The email basically asked me to pimp out and market their newest show to "my community", to spend my own money to market something they make money off of at the expense of people who actually care.

That is right, am multi million dollar media company is coming to me and asking me to DONATE to their profit margins at the expense of the RLSH community. They feel that after over 10 years of being in the RLSH community I am "legit" enough to use for their own ends, and they want me to burn my reputation to help them make a few bucks without even being able to further my own causes, like helping children or single mothers.

To be succinct, this angers me.

So I sent bltomato back the following:

I'm not sure how to respond to this.

I guess the best way is with blunt honesty, so out of tough love I'm just going to say it.

I'm not going to pimp your show for you.

It helps nobody for me to help pimp out a media giants overpriced and creatively derivative products. Nobody on the street has a warm bed or a warm meal because you decide to get on the superhero bandwagon after it has already left the station, even if you choose to act as if its something new and different when really, you just want to make money off the people who actually give a damn. No kids get warm cloths, and nobody starving an inner city ghetto is saved from the "thug life" of violence and abuse.

My causes, my love for humanity, is not forwarded by your stupid TV show, so why the hell are you spamming me and asking me to market it for you, for free?

I think that sums up my feelings. In the end, they could have donated money to charity or a good cause and used their reach and power for something good. It would have marketed the show better, given them a tax break,and helped prove them as "real". But instead their greed got in the way of doing the right thing.

Any self proclaimed RLSH who I see working with them on this new series will seriously damage their own respectability.

You would think that a big company owned by Time-Warner would have the money to fund a few water wells to keep kids healthy in Africa (http://www.water.org), Help a single mother pay the water bill (http://modestneeds.org), or help a foster kid keep warm next winter ( http://www.treehouse4kids.org/ ) but I guess things are worse than the stock price ( http://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NYSE:TWX ) suggests.

Of all the many different wonderful and fantastical devices that the big screen and all the different blockbuster movies on Super Heroes have have put in the public eye as the big "tools of the trade" that Super Heroes have on our utility belt, the two I get asked about the most are the "grappling hooks" and "smoke bombs".

People new to the RLSH community - often people with no experience or skills - will often make the incorrect assumption that these tools are OK to use and should be carried around as part of the standard gear "that all RLSH must carry to be legit".

This is incorrect. In fact the opposite is more true.  If I see a guy claiming to be a RLSH who uses smoke bombs I'm going to treat him as at best , a noob with no real world experience, or at worse, a poser who is looking for attention.

I can however understand why people would feel this way.  It is not hard to get the vision in your mind of Batman or other well known Super Heroes just oozing cool as they extend their arm and shoot a grappling hook into the depths of the dark skyline above them, the soft "clink" as it hits telling them to test the line with a soft pull before optionally speaking "the catch phrase" and then silently and quickly fading into the darkness above, all while a small smoke bomb obscures the view so it looks like they just vanished into thin air.

The problem is, it doesn't work like that in real life.   As somebody who has experience with both of these tools and as anybody who has actually tried this can confirm, both of these tools are just not practical and will usually get in your way and make it harder to do good works.  And as somebody who actually does go out and fight crime I can say that in general these two items are more trouble then they are worth.

Despite the fact that I have been doing this RLSH thing since 1999 I find it odd that people still think I am being "lame", "uncool" or even "a stick in the mud" when I attempt to give them the benefit of my experience and explain for the 9001th time why these two items are usually not even functional, and are in general not even considered legal to use.

The mythography of the grappling gun or smoke bomb is so ingrained in the american culture of "cool super hero tools" that you just cant get it out of many peoples heads.

Sadly, due to this fact a lot of people would win a Darwin Award if not for the advice I post here, so it is my hope that in this blog post I can better explain the issues involved, as well as provide a resource I can point to in the future for the people in the community who want to learn and do good.

First Item: The Grappling Hook

You see multiple versions of this in the movies or available to buy online. From really expensive to suspiciously cheap, a lot of smart retailers have learned that even if its not practical or even legal to use, they can still sell them to inexperienced people who have more money then brains and make a fast buck.   This ranges from buying the hook and everything separately, to half finished kits - sold that way to help mitigate any legal liability the company has when you hurt yourself - that require expensive to buy one-use gas cartridges to function.

A fast google search finds a lot of "ninja gear" packages when you type in "grappling hook". Basically, since most people are uncreative and generally ignorant enough that they do not have the skills or experience to tell how bad quality these "kits" are, a large market exists for pre-packaged "You want to be a ninja? Buy our stuff and you will be a ninja." tool-sets.   Most people doing this usually have no idea what the Ninja (Shinobi) really are, and even more people somehow along the way forget that Ninjutsu is actualy an entire education system that teaches its students much more then fightings skills, as even meteorology (The study of weather patterns) is taught.. but that is a different subject.

Looking at the kits I find in Google the breaking strengths of each hook varies wildly. You know why? Because they the sellers often do not know themselves.  Here is a direct quote from the marketing used by one of the suppliers:
Most grappling hooks are large, heavy, bulky, and risky to use because the breaking strength of the metal is largely unknown.

.. and every single one I can find online in a fast search now is from 1.5 to 3 pounds, or about as much as a half gallon of milk. So what happens when you are 100 feet up in the air - lets just say you are in shape enough to be able to do it - and the hook breaks? Looking at item comments on Amazon, I find that many such items that are sold to the inexperienced people who buy them break easily, and there are many stories of people falling or worse. Look it up yourself if you do not trust me.

OK so what about line? Rope is surprisingly cheap, but good rope that will take the weight of a large muscled guy, body armor, and the rest weights about 8 pounds. About as much as a full gallon of Milk. Would you carry a gallon of milk with you on patrol on your belt, on the off chance that you may need it?

But wait. Lets say you do not mind walking around with a gallon and a half of milk worth of climbing equipment gear on the off chance you "might" need it. Lets say you are very physically fit and have no problem scaling a smooth un-knotted rope while wearing full ballistics armor and all your other gear.  So how do you actually USE it without breaking the law or damaging somebody else's property?

We all know that breaking other peoples stuff is illegal. If you break somebodies window, or crash into a persons car, you will usually end up paying a huge fine and possibly even going to jail as such acts are considered vandalism or even theft in the wrong situation. The same is true of peoples houses or commercial buildings, the building just costs more to buy or repair.

The biggest issue I have seen that keeps people from understand this issue is that people do not understand how a grappling hook actually works, and as such they do not understand that to function the hook must damage the property it is being used on in order to get a secure enough hold on the building that the person attempting to climb up has a good enough anchor to do so.

In order to function, the grappling hook has to "catch" on 2 (or of they lucky, more) of its hooks. These hooks dig into the stone (or whatever the buildings is made of) and sink into it with "teeth" in order to get a anchor. To work, this has to at least scratch up or otherwise damage the building.   In fact if the grappling hook catches the wrong thing, its entirely possible that the brick of a building will be pulled to the side enough that the very top pf the wall where it catches will break and come tumbling down on top of the person who attempted to climb. That really depends on how old the wall is, but do you really want to risk it?

A Real Life Super Hero would never damage somebodies home or property, so this alone makes grappling hooks just not worth the trouble. Add the rest of the issues I have discussed, and they become impractical to carry on your nightly patrol long before the issue is legality comes up. And yet because of the damage they do to property Grappling Hooks are illegal to actually use in most countries of the world, and for this reason and the fact that using them damages others property they are antithetical to the spirit of altruism and good works that a true Real Life Super Hero has.

Bottom Line: If you want to be a real life super hero, show others how cool and experienced you are by not even trying to use a graping hook.

Second Item: The Smoke Bomb
Smoke Bombs may look cool, but they are actually pretty toxic and can create great harm to innocent lives if the smoke is breathed in. While many will debate about exactly HOW TOXIC the smoke of different types is, the fact is we all agree that smoke is toxic and breathing smoke of any type is bad for you.

If you think smoke is good for you, or otherwise don't think I am right, feel free to go ahead and ask a fire fighter or doctor - somebody who actually goes to training classes to learn about smoke/etc - what his or her opinion is.

Still think Smoke Bombs are a good idea? Let me ask you this: What happens if one night you use a smoke bomb to get away from a bunch of thugs you don't have the experience or training to otherwise deal with directly.. and a baby on the other side of the window above where this all happens breaths in the toxic fumes and dies? They can not get away because statistically they are in a crib, possibly asleep. You would have murdered the baby. The same goes with peoples well loved pets (Birds are well known to be sensitive to smoke, and older pets of any type can not move as fast as they once did) the elderly or disabled (who may not be mobile at all), or anybody with a breathing problem, has weak lungs, or just cant get out of the way of the smoke. You could end up killing an innocent person or animal without meaning to.

Since I'm going to assume you want to fire smoke bombs at night, what about the people who are sleeping soundly and may not be able to wake before they suffocate to death because of your desire to "be cool" and use smoke bombs?

Tell me, would the crying mother who just lost her baby to smoke inhalation because you used a smoke bomb think you were cool?

But lets say you get really lucky and nobody gets hurt. Smoke bombs are also considered illegal under many local laws, and can be considered illegal anywhere in the united states if you do a strict reading of the laws, so you may get lucky and just be charged with a misdemeanor.  It goes on your criminal record, you have to go to court, you pay a fine, and then when the police look at you claiming to be the good guy they can print out your criminal record and tell you "no, your not your a criminal, its right here on your criminal record".

A Real Life Super Hero would never knowingly harm innocent lives, so this alone makes smoke bombs not something you want to use as they are antithetical to the spirit of altruism and good works that a true Real Life Super Hero has.   Add to it the other issues I have discussed, and they become not only impractical to carry on your nightly patrol, but actively harmful to YOU and your efforts to be seen as the good guy or do good deeds.

Bottom Line: Smoke bombs are not practical, not worth the risk to innocent lives, and are often considered illegal anyway so they are not something a real Real Life Super Hero would ever actually use.

So you want to be a Real Life Super Hero?

For about the third time in as many days I have been asked, either directly or indirectly, for tips on how to get started being a Real Life Super Hero. Thing is, the first time you write something its good that you took the time, the second time you write it its even better , but the third time? You have post it somewhere public so you can just point to it and save everybody time.

So My Advice?

1. Be honest, and Never claim to do things you have not.
- Being honest is a core ethical value shared by pretty much every super hero in the comics, with rare exception. You can't be a hero if you do not act like one, and if people can't trust you how are they going to take you seriously?
2. Be open about your past mistakes, and how you learned from them.
- Part of being a hero is having the humility to admit that you are only human, make mistakes, and don't know everything. But part of growing up and improving yourself is that you can look at the mistakes you have made in your life - even if it was only yesterday - and improve yourself from the experience.
3. If you have a criminal history, dont try to hide it as it WILL limit you and what you can do.
- The police will treat you differently, people will feel differently about you because of the bad things you have done. Yes, it will be hard, but you can not truly find redemption if you run away from your past or the fears you have about the mistakes you have made. This is also tied into being honest as explained above.
4. Expect to be scrutinized.
- By putting on a super hero uniform and going out into public, you are effectively letting people have the option of thinking that you are saying that you are better then the people who do nothing to help the homeless, fight crime, or do charity work. You may be more humble then that, but the fact is some people will think it anyway. If you don a mask and cape you must have a thick skin. The public tends to react to things they don't understand with fear, anger and aggression. You may be laughed at, questioned, heckled, pointed at, insulted, harassed, or even threatened. You must be prepared for this and be able to handle the situation with compassion and composure. You must represent yourself and the community to the best of your abilities. This is of the utmost importance.
5. If you get media attention, use it for good instead of pimping out pictures of yourself shirtless.
- A true RLSH does good deeds to help people, not get media attention. The media attention and the rest of it simply follows as part of good karma, its not something a real RLSH should set sights on as a marker of success or ask for. If you do only care about the media attention and act like a young Hollywood starlet when it comes, people will know pretty quickly that your just in it for the attention. Instead, Use any media attention you are lucky enough to get to do good deeds and bring awareness to charities that need it. Be sure that when your 15 seconds of fame come, you don't squander it trying to look more important then others.
6. Have respect for other real heroes like the Police, Fire Fighters, Medics, Military Veterans, etc.
- You may be out in your uniform doing your thing, but at one time - or even right now - so were they. The rare few people who join public service do so out of the same desires to serve and do good in the world as the ones that made you spend hours figuring out what colors your uniform/persona would be, only they chose to not be worried about being shot at, waking up at odd hours, traveling to other countries, dodging through traffic, dodging bullets, or running into burning buildings full time for terrible pay and lousy hours. A true Hero would never disrespect that.
7. Wear Kevlar or other protection (like goldflex) to protect yourself from casual gunshot wounds.
- Yes it happens. The world is a dangerous place and you can get shot, stabbed, or worse just walking down the street in broad daylight so don't expect your night time escapades to be any safer. Protect yourself, or when the time comes it will impossible for you to protect others; you don't want to live with that sort of regret.
8. Read your local laws, understand them, then follow them.
- You can only be a good citizen if you work within the rules your community and local society have established, or else you risk becoming looked down as an outsider by a majority of your society, unable to help themselves or others despite good intentions.
9. Do good deeds.
- This is abstract and it should be. If you are not sure what to do in a given situation, think of your favorite super hero from the comics and ask "What would they do in this situation"? Emulate the heroes you look up in thought, and more importantly, in ACTION. This could be in any number of ways, but just DO something, even if you feel you have to create a new Super Hero persona to do it.
10. Do not try to misrepresent yourself, who you are, or your motivations.
- Its in your best interest to be honest and humble, or else you invite people to look deeper as they find that your stories have gaps, or worse that they conflict or otherwise do not add up. This goes back to the honesty issue as explained above because lying may make you seem cooler in the short term, but eventually you slip up, gaps are seen in your stories, and people will start to call you out. Its your best interest to always tell the truth, not to mention its what a real hero does naturally. Using false bravado is also not humble, and a Hero is Humble. I have seen way too many younger men step up to be RLSH over the years only to have their lack of humility, low self esteem, or false bravado be their downfall, while the more respected members of the community are usually the most humble but capable. The humility of several of the more Sr. RLSH community members come to mind as a perfect example of this, as they are widely respected in the community partly because of it.
11. Get into some form of Martial Arts or self defense training.
- It will improve your overall health and allow you to be more capable as a person in a crisis. Really, there are so many benefits its not even possible for me to list them all here. Find a martial arts studio/dojo/dojang/etc that fits your lifestyle and join. Don't get tripped up is stupid fears about "coolness", or worry about Style A verses Style B, or if C is better then D or if A is Better then C in situation X. Just do it, and as you learn and grow in your knowledge and your experienced and everything improves, you will learn more and start to realize what the gaps in your knowledge really are, and at that point you can then start thinking and re-prioritizing what works best for you. The important thing is to start.
12. Respect your Elders, as they probably have a lot to teach you and that is in your best interest.
- Something they tell you could save a life, or even your own life. I grew up with my grandfather teaching me all sorts of things about life, most of the time just by being there, and living in Seattle has really opened my mind to the sad reality I have found that the Asian cultural value of respecting age and wisdom is actually sadly lacking in most other parts of the western world. We in the western part off the world (Or eastern, if you are in Asia) are too fast to throw out things in our lives simply because they are old, and that as sad as it is also includes people. Learn what you can from the people who have walked the path you are choosing, are thinking of choosing, or have chosen, and maybe you will not have to make some of the mistakes they made in order to gain that same knowledge and wisdom you could be getting without the associated pain or regret.
13. Educate yourself in skills that will be useful.
- While martial arts will help you train your body and maintain proper nutrition, the fact is the mind needs to be nourished as well. Train yourself in negotiation with a focus on conflict resolution, make sure you get some basic first aid training, learn goal making, study criminal education, or even food prep. Most of the skills we call "superhero skills" in these modern times are really just mostly a mix of Medical, Law Enforcement, Covert/Overt Intelligencer, or Military Training. The goal is to continually expand your skill set so that that you can in turn use these skills to serve others and your community.
14. Join TheRLSH.net's forums at http://www.therlsh.net and start networking with others in the community. Being a "lone wolf" hurts your legitimacy and makes you look like an outcast, so network and show others that yes you do have friends who do this as well.

tldr: Don't BS anybody, learn what you can every day to continually improve your skills, be respectful, do good, be honest, be humble, get into martial arts, value the wisdom of experience, learn skills that will help you.

Oh, and Hello From Seattle.

Movies and other things that are not real.

I just had the opportunity to watch the movie "Kick Ass" for the first time; I have just been too slammed to keep up on my movie queue, doing real things in the real world.

While the movie was entertaining and a good waste of time, the fact is while it got a lot of the sublime things - putting on a uniform goes not grant you +10 to jumping between buildings for example - correct, the main character did so many things wrong it just sort of ruined the movie for me.

I admit I'm biased here: Everybody knows that it is hard to watch a movie about something you actually DO and not pick out the flaws. I just found too many actual flaws in both "kick-ass"'s actions and in the actions of Hit Girl/Big Daddy to really enjoy it, I felt like the movie makers did no research at all, or worse that the movie was carefully constructed to send the wrong message. Either way, its clear that the this is an action movie, based on standard action fare, with the hero stuff slapped on to bring people who read comics into the theater. In short, it was just marketing.

In the end, it was hard to watch this movie and not wish I could talk directly to the people involved and tell them what they got wrong; I look at the mistakes made and I really worry that it sends the wrong message. Its not like I have a problem helping a movie producer get things right.

So if you are looking at this movie as a biography or how-to on for to be a RLSH, don't. Its not worth it. There is just too much fail in the movie for it to be worth your time.

Enough is Enough.

If you know me, or if you otherwise respect what I try to do as a RLSH.. please get the word out. Let people know this happened, that it needs to stop. I want to help change things so things like this never happen again, and I need your support. Tell Everybody, please.



Move your money..

I found this and thought I should share:

Forums Up

Due to popular demand I have provided a self hosted forum on the website for people to shoot the breeze, chat with each other, or let me know about a charity or do-gooding event. Its hosted on my hosts server as a 'real' forum, so it should be decent in speed and be at least usable.

I also don't expect too much traffic as I will not be promoting it like other forums choose to promote themselves; But it seemed remiss to at least not mention it here.



Patrol / Life balance

Lately my morning patrols have been very quiet.

My schedule is such that I get up to do my morning patrols early enough that usually even the sun has still not raised for the day, so most of the people I find out and about in the early morning hour are either still waking up to go to an early work shift, or just getting home from a late one. The rougher crowd is usually still passed out from the night before, although there are some exceptions who simply stayed up... so either way it is often best not to get too relaxed while on patrol.

I'm thinking about doing more night patrols on top of these morning ones, life permitting. The problem of course is that I have a life just like any other mere mortal, despite the fact I seem to be one of %3 of humanity who has the genetic mutation in my DEC2 gene to only need 6 hours of sleep. Lets face it, I am only human and that means I know I cannot let my desire to patrol or do charity work of any kind stop me from being a productive member of the greater society of my local area, because once somebody - anybody, no matter who they are or how much they care - starts having trouble hanging on to a job or stops being able to provide for themselves because they burn out, they run the risk of putting their greater mission of doing good works and making the world a better place.. in danger.

And that of course is a big issue. Many other, much greater, men than I have struggled with being merely human while also seeking to do great deeds to help make a better world while also simply trying to live life. Some ended up making the world worse, some simply failed, some did great things we don't remember, and others did great things that we will never forget. I think of some of them and have to admit I'm not unique, nor am I "special" in any way that gives me a big advantage. But I want to try to help anyway, and in the end I can only hope that many of them may have felt the same way.

Fighting crime one streetlamp at a time.

I just fought crime from the comfort of my living room couch. You can as well.

Often drug dealers love working under broken street lights. They don't like the light because like all criminals, they do not like attracting attention to the things they do out of the fear of getting caught. Suffice to say, bright light only makes this attempt to hide from both themselves and the community harder, so such deals if done out in the open public are done in the dark if possible.

Street lights of course are the main form of illumination at night in the city, so often they will come under attack to provide a dark place for criminals to do crime. You can fight this in your community by simply letting the right people at your local electric company know that the street lamp is out, and they will send somebody out to fix it. If it happens again, report it again so it can be fixed again. Sooner or later, the darker elements of the community will move on.. or better, get caught and arrested.

My areas Electric Power Company has a website page dedicated to reporting lights that are broken at http://www.pse.com/insidePSE/contactus/Pages/streetlight.aspx , so for me it was as simple as walking to the street lamps to get the numbers for the 4 street lamps I found in the problem area while scouting it out, and then filling out a form to report them. Not a hard thing to do at all. Call up your power companies contact number and see if you have the same resources at your fingertips.

It may not seem like much, but keeping track of the street lamps in your community and making sure they are not broken can be a powerful force to help provide the light of justice and safety to your neighborhood. And even if your community does not have drug dealer problems, at least drivers will be able to see pets in the road or kids playing in the street better at night.

Either way, you could save a life.