Friday, February 25, 2011

Why Larry King Sucks

I wrote a letter to Larry King on this website. I hope he reads it! Or, I hope his assistant reads it to him. Read more!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Complaining About How There's no Good Men Sucks

Hey, did you think that the well of “20-somethings-represent-a-whole-new-paradigm-for-adulthood-and-the-way-we-live” newspaper articles was empty after that long sorta-expose the New York Times did last year? Well, the Wall Street Journal doesn’t think so—they just published this long piece by Kay Hymowitz that at this moment has 47,000 Facebook likes and 1,100 comments. Hymowitz talks about all the stuff the Times article talks about (young people are undergoing extended periods of adolescence and not getting married, buying a house, and/or starting a career right after college, etc.) but adds her own little twist—in an endearing combination of feminism and reactionary traditionalism, she complains that this “pre-adulthood” is hurting women, because all the men are too immature to be long-term relationship material. Or as she puts it:
Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor's degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

Still, for these women, one key question won't go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers—a gender gap neatly crystallized by the director Judd Apatow in his hit 2007 movie "Knocked Up."

The immature, Apatow-movie-watching, maladroit geek in me wants to snark back with something like, “Where have all the good men gone, Kay? Away from you as fast as fucking possible, that’s for sure!” Then I’d high-five my grubby slacker buddy and we’d go right back to playing Left 4 Dead, snacking on salty, chemically-flavored chips, and periodically taking bong hits.

But you know what? I’m a fucking adult, so let’s actually talk about Hymowitz’s ideas. Perhaps because it’s is adapted from her book, the article is sort of confusing: after telling us about the dangerously low supply of good men in America, she backs away and discusses the formation of “pre-adulthood” in a gender-neutral way. It takes longer to get a good, stable job in today’s market—you have to go to college, and probably bounce around a few jobs before you have something you can properly call a “career.” People’s age at the time of their first marriage has been rising steadily since the 70s. And the media—oh, those bastards!—are encouraging our young men to remain barely-sentient towers of meat who giggle at fart jokes. Hymowitz blames the lack of good dating options for heterosexual women on Maxim, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Spike TV, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Steve Carell, and Seth Rogen.

As much as I like the idea of a bunch of frat-humor outlets teaming up with Hollywood and advertisers to keep men dumb and single so they have disposable income to spend on body spray and fancy booze and video games, I think it’s probably more likely that being a grubby guffawing boor makes you read Maxim and watch Adam Sandler movies than the other way around.

To deal with the other pieces of Hymowitz’s narrative: people aren’t getting married as much as they were in the 50s and 60s, and that’s probably a good thing. Women couldn’t earn as much as men, so it made sense for them to land a fella and become housewives as soon as possible. Now that women can have careers, they do have careers and don’t get married so young. Another explanation for the marriage age rising, courtesy of Matt Yglesias: “Maybe this number just bounces around over time and it’s always been the case that some people are sometimes frustrated with some members of the opposite sex.”

Anecdotally, I would say that there are plenty of 20-somethings who follow the guidelines given to them by the trend pieces. But an upper class of shiftless layabouts who aren’t employed at anything in particular is nothing new. Remember the dandies or whatever in England, or wherever the dandies were? (They were probably invented by trend article writers too.) Remember Baudelaire, a prominent proto-pre-adult?

Hymowitz probably wouldn’t consider Baudelaire marriage material, what with the syphilis and the drug addiction and all. But he doesn’t match the description of the archetypal pre-adult man that she uses in her concluding paragraph: “Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does.”

Nor does that description match anyone I’ve ever met, except for maybe my dorm neighbor my freshman year, who would literally lie in bed eating candy and playing video games. Even the men I know who have moved back home with their parents, or are unemployed for long periods of time, or are chronically single, aren’t the kind of shiftless hedonists of the sort that Hymowitz is convinced are replacing the “good men,” Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style.

I’m not a woman, or an old person, but weren’t good men always hard to find? Wasn’t that the whole point of the saying, “A good man is hard to find”? Now that women can become successful for themselves and don’t need to latch onto a man—anything with a penis and a paycheck—for the sake of long-term security, they can take their time and pick out a man to share a life and a house and chromosomes with. Picking out a romantic partner can be pretty complicated, especially when you have high standards, and especially when you have to find someone who will love you back. That’s tricky! Maybe you’ll like someone and they won’t like you, or someone will like you and you’ll be in a relationship, or you’ll really like each other but one of you has to move across the country—both of you being hard-charging professional types—and thus, leaves the other behind. Love is complicated, as pop music has taught me. It’s complicated and hard, and you don’t have to invent bullshit pop-sociological reasons for why the guys who are around you are losers.

Where Have all the Good Men Gone? [WSJ]

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Fashion Week Sucks: An Event Diary

There’s a girl dressed in all black checking names off a list when you walk in. If your name is on the list you get to go to the second floor in a tiny elevator. You can ask, but you are not allowed to go up the stairs. A woman in a fur coat tells the girl she’s with something called Fitz, with a z, and spells it out. Other girls dressed in black hurry out of the door and onto the dark street on some kind of important errand.

Upstairs, the elevator opens into a small, softly lit room. People are gradually filling it up, waiting for something to happen and getting complimentary vodka drinks mixed by two more girls in black. They carefully combine ice, juice, tonic, and a certain brand of vodka on a table at one end of the room, while a movie in black and white is projected onto the curtains behind them. All of the people working at this event are wearing all black and all are conventionally pretty young women. Many of the women and men spilling from the tiny elevator in bunches are conventionally pretty; some have foreign accents. There’s an animal skull on the wall. It’s impossible to tell what movie is playing because it’s on mute and the folds of the curtain distort the image.

The people are not watching the movie. They are mostly talking about the places they have been, the people they know who aren’t here. Introductions are made over the generic thumping dance music floating in from somewhere. “I actually tweeted you,” a man with long blond hair says to an older woman with impeccably painted red nails. Conversational clusters form. If you aren’t part of a cluster, you stand against the wall with your drink and look around at the other clusterless people. Or you get out your phone and stare at its blue glow—many people are doing that. “I’ve been to a few parties here,” a stylish young man tells his cluster of other stylish young men. “There were all these guys coming out of the bathroom together.”

Everyone in the increasingly crowded room is stylish. It’s unclear who is waiting in line to get another drink and who is trapped by the crush of people. A nervous-looking guy in a zebra-striped shirt keeps going back to the vodka table. Whatever is supposed to happen hasn’t started happening yet. The black-clad vodka girls use a new cup for every drink until they run out of cups. “Who does your color?” says someone waiting for a drink to someone else.

The elevator doors open, deposit more people, and close. This keeps happening. A woman makes a distressed noise and starts hitting the closing door like a prisoner pleading with her jailer. “Her boyfriend,” someone says knowingly. Finally the doors open and she stumbles in. Someone asks about if there’s a bathroom here or what and no one knows.

A signal has been made; knowledge of the next stage of this event passes through the crowd. A door opens and people press towards it in an orderly but eager fashion, like children queuing for a mall Santa. There are complimentary cans of ice tea on a table near the door but no one takes them. The generic dance music gets louder as the people surge into the next room. This is where the event will take place.

The center of the new room is occupied by a narrow raised platform covered in brown construction paper. There are chairs to either side labeled with numbers and letters, and if you have a seat assignment you sit down, elbow-to-elbow with the other seated people. Is a chair a sign of status? The others stand, crowding each other all the way back to the wall. A pretty girl in black is sitting at a podium doing something on a computer; maybe she’s controlling the music. Everyone is getting out cameras and cell phones with cameras in them. A video camera on a tripod is set at the foot of the platform.

More pretty girls in black come and take the construction paper away, and the narrow black platform shines like a freshly polished shoe. People type words into their phones, bring up menus, communicate over social networking platforms.. A man walks across the platform, leaving footprints of dust. The crowd grumbles at him—“He just did that?”—and the people nearest the platform wipe off the footprints with napkins and sleeves.

A hidden door slides open at the head of the platform and smoke or fog from an unseen machine comes billowing out. The music gets louder, more urgent, and everyone sits forward in their chairs, preparing their cameras. Without an introduction, a man strides down the platform wearing a full-length coat that looks like it’s made out of furry intestines. Gasps are heard. He stops for a split second at the foot of the platform then turns and walks away. Another man takes his place immediately, wearing a waist-length version of the same coat, then he goes back into the foggy opening.

Men are walking down the platform one by one, in a very organized way. Some of them wear makeup, one has a black mask on. They all look very similar; if they weren’t all dressed differently you might think they were the same man. Everyone takes photos of the men all the time, but they don’t stop to pose. They look like they want to get this over with as fast as possible. One wears a jacket with feathers, another has no shirt, another wears a shirt that exposes his stomach. “Look at the footwear!” someone says.

It is over faster than you would think. At the end all the men come out at once in a single-file line, walking up and down the platform as a group to the crowd’s applause. It’s like they’re proving that they all are different men, like they are displaying the end result of a complicated magic trick. A man in all black, like a stagehand, appears out of the fog and there is more applause. No one makes a speech or explains anything. There is nothing to explain, or it’s like that quote about jazz, if you have to ask you’ll never know. Everyone here knows.

The rush to get out the door begins. Some people push through the crowd searching for the vodka table, wondering if it’s still open for business. Others are talking about other places to go, upcoming events, past events this has reminded them of. The phones come out again. The elevator doors open and close, taking people downstairs now instead of up. Outside the street is lit up with headlights and neon. Some guys are standing at a closed loading dock smoking weed. Plastic bags are carried over the sidewalk by the wind. Women pull the collars of their fur coats up, their high heels clacking on the pavement.

(Image ripped off from Oakazine)
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Valentine's Day Sucks

Science has yet to discover anything less original than a single person whining about how tough they have it on Valentine’s Day. “All those couples are giving each other gifts and slurping pasta romantically and then going to bedrooms to have sex as a couple, and I’m all alone and I’m just going to get drunk and watch TV in my underwear—my gross, staying-at-home-alone underwear, not the sexy underwear the Valentine’s couples are wearing—and then masturbate and feel awful about myself! Wahh! It’s so hard being single in the city!” Jesus, calm down, imaginary straw-man single person I just invented. There’s nothing wrong with masturbating and watching television. Do you know how many of those couples would rather not have the stress of having to have a romantic time out on a night mandated by a greeting card company?

The more thoughtful single people know that no one wants to hear them whining, so they acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is bad for couples too. That argument works like this: Romance that’s forcibly squeezed into a specific date isn’t romantic—it’s not spontaneous, and what’s more, the traditional Valentine’s Day trappings are pathetically unoriginal. Flowers, roses, chocolates, a red tablecloth? Bleh. I remember last Valentine’s Day, when I was coupled, standing in line at a chocolate shop, buying the same heart-shaped box of chocolates that a dozen other men--UPS workers, businessmen, and deli clerks--were also standing in line to buy. The alternative is to spend days thinking about, planning, and executing some grand, romantic-comedy-esque gesture, something involving her favorite album and a skywriter and dirt from the first park you ever had sex in—and who has time for that?

Some people actually like Valentine’s Day, though, and that should be respected. Maybe they don’t have a lot of time for romance, and maybe it’s nice for them to have a day set aside to eat chocolate, dress up for your partner for once, eat a good meal, and have some sex. Doesn’t that sound nice? Who honestly scoffs at that for being “unoriginal”? Especially if you’re in a long-term coupling situation, where you don’t do that stuff ordinarily, and especially if you’ve got kids and can’t do that stuff ordinarily.

The real problem with Valentine’s Day is that it’s the only secular holiday that actively excludes people. Are you really good at Valentine’s Day? Do you give great gifts and love trading smoky glances over candlelight? Well, you better have a significant other when February 14 comes around, or you can’t celebrate. You’re out in the cold with the other single people, going to some awful “ironic” Valentine’s Day event where the other singles reek of loneliness and cheap perfume. “We don’t care that we’re single!” the single people at these events will tell each other nervously over too many drinks. “Haha! We’re self-actualized individuals who know that happiness comes from an inner sense of accomplishment, not validation from a romantic life partner who will end up leaving us, just like everyone in our life to this point has left us! Haha!” I heard about a speed-dating event scheduled for February 13th, which depressed me immensely. If you are single the day before Valentine’s Day, for God’s sake, just keep being single. Have some pride, or at least pretend you do.

Single people have to ignore Valentine’s Day. We have no other choice. Banding together in groups and making a big deal out of our singledom just reminds us, and the world, that okay, maybe we do kind of care that we never wake up to someone holding us and even if chocolates are terribly played out it might be nice, once in a while, for someone else to buy us some. That sometimes we go home and drink wine straight out of the bottle because what really is the point of a glass when we are all alone, anyway? Just about the only thing that will make us feel better is blogging about how awful Valentine’s Day is. Aren’t all bloggers single?

To end on a moderately up note, Andre 3000’s “Happy Valentine’s Day” is a good song. But we are trying to ignore Valentine’s Day, so:
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Internet Porn Sucks

Here's a link to a letter I wrote to online pornography. One of many money shots that are included in it:
Oh, she’s sucking his dick? That’s nice, I guess, even though he’s having kind of a hard time keeping it up, probably because he did a bunch of coke before they started shooting. How long does this go on for? Jesus, five whole minutes of this monotonous dick-sucking? Now what? Oh, she’s gotten on top of him—great, a long shot of her rubbery labia bouncing up and down on his smooth balls without the distraction of being able to see either of their faces. Yeah, this is hot.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How, Exactly, Super Bowl XLV Will Suck: A Preview

The Super Bowl is a gleaming structure of unnecessary media. The Super Bowl exists to sell ad space. The Super Bowl is a secular feastday. The Super Bowl is a softcore orgy. The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of commercials. The Super Bowl is an oxymoron: mandatory entertainment. The Super Bowl is a paean to consumption, and an opportunity for everyone to consume. The Super Bowl celebrates the worst in music. The Super Bowl is, stripped of the fireworks and graphics and the overlong halftime show and the “buzzed-about” commercials and the week of parties attended by Hawaiian-shirted sportswriters and drunken corporate VPs looking for cocaine and underage prostitutes—at the bottom of the bottomless pit filled with shiny things and men with white teeth selling us cars, the Super Bowl is a football game, which is a problem.

The NFL schedule’s greatest strength is in excess. Every week there are way too many games for anyone to watch. You literally can’t watch them all, even if you plant yourself in front of your 55-inch 1080p flatscreen all Sunday, even if you have other, smaller flatscreens placed strategically around your living room playing different games. During football season, our Sundays runneth over with huge men hurting each other and doing amazing things in pursuit of a ball. Even if the Bills-Raiders contest is lousy, there are always other games, or you can turn to the Red Zone channel—brought to you by Old Spice or some shit—and watch touchdown after touchdown until your pupils dilate.

The Super Bowl reveals that a single football game is rarely interesting. There are long stretches when the ball is being spotted or when a challenge flag has been thrown where we’re watching the greatest athletes in the world stand around and sweat in their pads. Normally, we’d flip over to another game, but we can’t on Super Bowl Sunday. If the game is sloppy or one-sided, we’ll be stuck sitting glassy-eyed in front of the screen, drinking our Coors-the-official-sponsor-of-the-NFL beers and waiting for the commercials to come on. What are we going to do, not watch?

Then there’s the problem of the necessary media narrative. During the season, sportswriters have 32 teams to write about, and an abundance of stories. Most of them involve the Cowboys or Brett Favre, and teams like the Steelers and Packers—apart from a few injuries and rape allegations, mostly drama-free—are ignored until they are the only teams left to talk about, at which point the sportswriters have to figure out how to make the teams sound important. It’s not enough to say, “These are a bunch of men contractually obligated to play together, who have been talented, lucky, and well-coached enough to beat all the other teams. Some of them are concussed, some of them are not exactly Rhodes Scholars even without the concussions, and some of them you would not want to see walk into your bar, especially if you were a young woman. Now they will compete against each other for your amusement.” That’s accurate, but not dramatic enough for the news cycle.

So here are the narratives from today’s position coaches are underrated; Donald Driver has gone through some shit and is now a Christian with a stable family; the Packers’ offense is very good; Clay Matthews has long hair. (That last one was written by Rick Reilly, who is literally running on fumes at this point, by which I mean he carries around a sock filled with paint he huffs from every five minutes.) I haven’t seen the inevitable article about the grand traditions and legends of both teams, but I’m sure some plucky, overweight scribe is typing that article out as you read this. Ben Roethlisberger might be written about in a serious, sort-of-sympathetic way—he will apologize for past behavior, pledge to be more mature and to face his demons. “I want to just focus on football now,” he’ll say. The sentence, “Forced himself upon a young woman in a bathroom stall while his entourage stood guard” will not appear.

(Oh wait, the sympathy for Big Ben has already begun, even before reporters ask him questions! “No matter what he says, it'll be a grueling day for the big guy.” Well, at least he won’t be sexually assaulted.)

After the narrative, human-interest stories have been exhausted, it’ll be time for the ritual of predictions. Will the Packers high-octane offense triumph over Troy Polamalu and the savage Pittsburgh defense? Will Big Ben’s precision passes evade the gloves of Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson? The ex-athletes, sportswriters, and other men in suits on television will opine on these and other topics, then finish with something along the lines of, “In the end, though, I think Green Bay just has too many weapons on offense, and an underrated defense that’s going to stand up to Big Ben.”

They will say this extremely seriously, and then someone else will disagree with equal seriousness, like they are discussing unrest in the Arab world. Then the game will ultimately be decided by a botched call, an inadvertent hand wrapped around a facemask, a long pass just out of reach of a receiver, a flubbed snap, a missed tackle that turns a 10-yard rush into a touchdown. It will be a great game, or it will be an interminable blowout. Either way, confetti will rain down at the end, and the winning quarterback will be praised for overcoming adversity, whether it's Aaron Rodgers's concussions or Roethlisberger’s rape allegations. Trophies will be hoisted, rings will be awarded. A city in the middle of the country will be filled with honking horns and cries of ecstasy. No matter who wins, someone in an oversized Packers jersey will be weeping somewhere. We’ll all sit in a television haze, bloated and bleary. Glee will come on. The winning players, some still dazed from headshots, will be spraying champagne on each other like giant drunken children. Dallas will be flooded with prostitutes, drug dealers, and middle-aged fans roaming the streets. Sportswriters will file copy and head to the bar. Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Green Bay 17
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