Tuesday, September 28, 2010

See You Next Tuesday (Bishop Eddie Long)

In an effort to have a more regular posting schedule on the blog, and to give it some structure, I've decided to start at least one regular themed column.  What subject matter has no shortage of new material?  People who are idiots and scumbags.  So I thought it would be fun to provide the loser link of the week, and my boyfriend suggested the genius name "See You Next Tuesday" to introduce it.  (If you don't know why this is genius, ask your nearest 8th grader.) 

So, today is your first See You Next Tuesday post, which, fittingly, will premiere on Tuesdays.  And to start I thought I'd go for a cheap shot at a guy who's made a lot of news lately:

Bishop Eddie Long

This Baptist "Bishop" has been accused by four men of sexually abusing them when they were young boys.  (And to think, people used to say his self-appointed "Bishop" title was ill-fitting. Zing!)  Now, we all know that being "accused" doesn't necessarily make you guilty (in the South, we call that getting "Richard Jewelled"), but B.E. Long is an attractive villain.  First, he's the leader of a 22,000 member mega-church that functions more like a corporation than a congregation.  Second, he's extravagant – he lives in a million dollar home, drives a Bentley, hangs out with T.I., and owns a series of alive-looking hair pieces. 

And third, Long is a long-time outspoken anti-homosexual.  He led a high profile anti-gay march through the Atlanta streets in an effort to "get back into the [bigoted, gay-bashing] conversation of the nation."  This is the clincher – we (myself personally and the media generally) love a good solid homosexual hypocrite, even when they do unfairly link homosexuality to perversion and pedophilia.  And now we've got the Black Ted Haggard.  Jackpot!

If you want to hear a serious, thought-provoking, religion-and-race focused discussion of Long's predicament, read this article over at Slate by one of my favorite, favorite writers, Christopher Hitchens.

If you want to hear a bunch of jokes about Long, stay right here.  First, there's the fact that Long "allegedly sent his accusers numerous photos of himself including at least several of him wearing spandex and workout clothes." 

Hot. He's totally ready for MySpace with this pic.
Second, there's the fact that every single detail of his story (see any of the above links) is straight out of The Onion.  The lawyer for the Plaintiffs is named BJ Bernstein.  The celibacy training group for young boys run by the Bishop is called "Long Fellows Youth Academy."  And the Wall Street Journal quoted a proud parishioner, defender of the Bishop, and parent of a Long Fellow teen as saying, "There are areas where boys can relate to men. Bishop Long filled a lot of voids."

But the very best joke I heard came from Long's wishy-washy denial speech where he claimed, "I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet. " (No comment on how the guru of an international mega-church is the "David" in this situation.)  The website one line headline summarized the story this way: 
The preacher, accused of sexual misconduct with men, identified with David. Ironically, David and Goliath is this story of a young man getting his rocks off on another man.  
 That's all folks! See you next Tuesday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Defense of Men (and Smart Women)

This article called "Does this Law Degree Make My Ass Look Fat," has been making the rounds of internet law blogs (blawgs). Written by "Legal Tease," a regular columnist on the female-run lawyer blog "Sweet Hot Justice," it laments the particular plight of Biglaw lady-lawyers trying to get a date.  Legal Tease accuses men of being "afraid of" successful female lawyers.  Then she appeals to these same men by explaining "We're not really that together," and informs them that the lonely hot-shot litigator they rejected "cries herself to sleep at night."

This article been popular enough to be featured on Above the Law and receive some fervent, lauding commentary from TechnoLawyer.  It's well-written, funny, and clever.  But you know what?  I call bullshit.

As a young, female, recent law grad, I may have felt that my education hindered me in the job market (young lawyers have it rough these days what's wrong with a nice technical school anyway?), but I've never felt it hindered me in the dating world.  I have certainly never found that saying “I’m an attorney” – or, more accurately from my "dating" days, “I’m in law school” – operated as a turn-off. 

In fact, most intelligent, ambitious, successful guys I know complain more about their inability to meet motivated, opinionated, educated women than their inability to find someone hot and stupid.  The guys I know don't pine for bimbos, or date them (at least not for very long).  And the older the guys get, the more they desire a put-together anti-gold-digger who brings more than her Marc Jacobs clutch to the table. (Nothing against Marc Jacobs I have one and it's adorable.)

Sure, there are some chauvinistic, ridiculous, 80s-Manhattan-type guys who prefer arm candy to life partners, but my experience has been that those tools are the exception, not the rule.  I contend that men do want intelligent women.  Men want women capable of making meaningful conversation, making their own money, and making their men proud at work events.  But apparently I'm in the un-embittered minority.

Legal Tease is part of “Biglaw,” the nickname given to giant national and international law firms with $150k starting salaries (pre-recession?) and floors upon floors of nameless suited associates.  What it takes to be a Biglaw associate is great grades, graduation from a top law school, and the motivation and desire to work all the time.  What it often doesn’t allow, however, is any semblance of a work-life balance.  I think this lifestyle, more than superficial jerks with antiquated double standards, is the source of singledom among young female professionals.

Does that mean women shouldn't choose a fast-paced, high-paying career if they want a husband?  Of course not.  But it does mean that we should be prepared to make some sacrifices to have it the same sacrifices that men do and stop blaming guys when we go home to a Lean Cuisine and our DVR.  (Fall shows start back this week, ladies!)

Equilibrium may be temporarily difficult for young women, but eventually it's the key to a satisfying, non-digitally recorded social life.  One commentator asks, “Why aren't fortitude, ambition, and guile more appealing traits than, say…spending a precious (and potentially billable) hour blow-drying your hair to get prettied up for a suitor?”  My question is: why can’t you do both?  Can't there be some balance between your ruthless ambition and your ability to (literally) let your hair down?  Femininity doesn’t have to die at the hands of feminism.  And before you say that my response, too, is the kind of backtracking double standard that kept women at home for so long, let me point out that women want the same qualities in a mate: women want attractive men who dress well, are in good shape, and look professional, too.  And yet somehow this commentator begrudges and disdains the idea that physical aesthetics could be important to anyone.  Guess what: showing up to work with blow-dried hair isn't just going to get you points with that cute Public Defender, it's also going to get you points with the Judge, the jury, and your clients who see that you value your professional appearance.

Legal Tease and subsequent commentators cite “aggressiveness” as date-killer. Men “hear 'litigator' and think 'bitch',” says one.  Look, if a guy is such an insecure tool that he can't handle an impressive, outspoken woman, then put away the blindfold and handcuffs because he just missed out on the closed-door benefits of an "aggressive" girlfriend.  But I really, sincerely disbelieve that most gentlemen, upon approaching an attractive young woman, would take the phrase "I'm a litigator" to signal anything other than "I'm self-sufficient, worth talking to, and a huge baller."

The problem may lie on the other end of that conversation does Lady Litigator think Sir Tax Attorney is impressive?  Or does she need another dirty martini and for him to stop saying the word "hotchpot" every three minutes?  Professional young women inevitably have higher standards than their bimbo equivalents: it might be enough for Bambi that her boyfriend is a “lawyer,” whatever that means.  But Lady Litigator may think “so he’s a lawyer, so what, I can’t believe he agreed with Scalia in Lawrence v. Texas.”

So yes, Lady Litigator has a smaller pool of acceptable mates. And yes, it’s because she’s a hardworking professional.  But no, it’s NOT because eligible males disdain her feminism, her work ethic, or her intellectual prowess.  And, in my personal opinion: Legal Tease, arguing that you're actually an insecure mess on the inside is not how you're going to win your case. Or get a boyfriend.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mad Men - The Suitcase

As fans gear up for a new "Mad Men" tonight, I wanted to take a look back at last week's episode.  Season 4 has been a vivid, rejuvenated season all along, and Episode 7: The Suitcase may have been the best episode of "Mad Men" yet.  It was structured like a Tennessee Williams play –  one room, two characters, too much booze, and the sloppy purging of pent-up fear, frustration and family secrets.  If the genius of "Mad Men’s" first season was Betty Draper’s passive aggressiveness, her quietude, then the genius of this season has been Peggy’s outspokenness, her fearlessness, and her boiling, ball-fisted self-confidence. 

Set against the backdrop of a famous fight (Cassius Clay [aka, Muhammad Ali] v. Sonny Liston, a much-debated underdog victory), the episode features Don and Peggy finally coming to blows. The juxtaposition is not subtle, but neither are their personalities. Don insults Peggy's work and demands she stay late; it's Peggy's birthday and she's still pissed about Don getting an award for a campaign that was her idea. From there, the night explodes.

What I think was so impressive and lingering about this episode was how utterly satisfying it was.  This is the fight we wanted Betty to have with Don, when instead she calmly and levelly told him she was leaving him.  This is the fight we wanted Peggy to have with Pete, when instead she crawled into a corner and quietly gave birth. Even when Betty broke down, it was alone and silent, during the middle of the day. And even when Peggy told Pete the truth, it was shameful and apologetic, as if she were in the wrong.

But Sunday night, the fists came out.  For the first time, a woman on the show behaves like a peer, not a victim; and maybe for the first time ever, someone really challenges Don Draper, and really holds him accountable for his behavior.  Fueled by Peggy's resentment and Don's loneliness, this fight was a long time coming, and undoubtedly signals a major turning point in their relationship. As Vulture put it,
“Peggy has risen so high, and Don has fallen so far, that maybe they're now meeting in the messy middle. After all they do have so much in common: They're both discreet, kinky, witty, smart, unsentimental, and often ruthlessly critical. They know each other’s secrets, and they both obsessively love the same thing: work.” 
This is the dynamic that's kept them circling each other since the first season, that's propelled them toward each other even though some unseen force kept them from getting too close.  Now, we're all waiting to see what the morning after will look like.

Vulture interpreted this dance as the overtures of a romance, citing the marriage of real life “Draper Daniels” to his “little giant” wife, a successful advertising co-worker. But I disagree. Don recognizes in Peggy something he's only ever found before in Anna, (seemingly) the only woman in his life  he didn't have a romantic relationship with. Don and Peggy have shared a deep intimacy, but it's familial and respectful, not sexual. Don's series of unsatisfying sexual encounters have been an increasingly desperate attempt to find true acceptance and create depth (neither of which he ever had with Betty). I think he's found what he was looking for in Peggy, and not a moment too soon. 

At the end of the episode, Don says the only person on earth who really knew him just died. "That's not true," Peggy responds.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Worst Twilight Trailer Yet

This news story might be the best thing to ever come out of the Twilight franchise. (If you disagree, you might want to check out 10 Reasons Why I Hate Twilight on CraveOnline.)  Taylor Lautner, whom I would previously have called the least annoying of all the annoying super-kids in Twilight, ordered a custom-made R.V. to be delivered to the set of his new movie.  When McMahon R.V. didn't delivered his trailer in time, Lautner resorted to the kind of behavior typical of an American teenage movie-star: he sued McMahon for breach of contract and, of course, emotional distress.

What makes this story interesting is McMahon's response. He challenged Lautner to a push-up contest.
"We at McMahon's understand that people are afraid of werewolves and vampires," [said] McMahon. "My guys aren't."
Zing! Unsurprisingly, Lautner refused the contest, prompting rumors that his muscles are actually just painted on. (Those rumors started here.) I'm picturing something like The Situation's Back Abs:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Flight vs. Invisibility

You've already decided, haven't you?

My high school friends used to play a game we loosely called "Vs." (not to be confused with the short-lived Greg Proops show on Comedy Central).  I think it started as a mockery of the phrase "there are two kinds of people in this world...," because we realized that when forced to answer a binary question, of COURSE there are two kinds of people in this world.  We had a long list of "___ vs. ___" that varied from the personality-defining to the punny. 

The most memorable (by virtue of me still remembering it) was "Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter vs. Epstein-Barr Syndrome." (The credit for that gem goes to my friend Matt Sailor, whom I'd call a genius if I didn't think he'd like it so much.)  Not all of the "vs." were that esoteric, but they did spawn some great debates, usually on small pieces of notebook paper in Mr. Pemble's chemistry class.

So, of course we debated the most fundamental "vs." question after "Ninjas vs. Pirates" and "Vampires vs. Zombies:" Flight vs. Invisibility.  My gut instinct for years was invisibility.  But I've changed my mind.

John Hodgeman
Last night I was listening to a This American Life episode about superpowers. (I know what you're thinking: best Saturday night ever!)  John Hodgeman, author, Daily Show contributor, and the guy who plays the "P.C." in those Mac. vs. P.C. commercials, polled a group of people about their preferred superpower. 

Their answers were largely gender-divided, with men picking flight and women picking invisibility.  But his radio piece went further than that.  Hodgeman and his interviewees began to consider how the potential uses of the superpowers reflected on the personality of the picker (say that three times fast).  Invisibility is a sneaky power, used to hear what your friends say behind your back, steal sweaters, and spy on naked ladies.  It's potentially alienating, and, if your friends are anything like the Real Housewives, depressing.

Flight, on the other hand, is heroic, unabashed, egotistical.  It can get you to your destination faster, and it can also get you noticed. One interviewee commented that he picked flight because "there would definitely be flight groupies...So there's gonna be just like, 'oh yeah, I just slept with a flying dude.'"  No comment on how flight would effect the walk of shame.

Even before the episode delved into a Freudian analysis of what your superpower says about your shame and ego and your Daddy issues, I started to consider how deceitful and unsatisfying invisibility would be.  Sure there are perks sneaking into movies and onto airplanes but everyone would eventually use it to spy on people they love, and it's easy to see how your superpower could be super-bad for your relationships (see what I did there?).

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
On the other hand, I say now I'd pick flight, but I can't even make myself walk .2 miles to the Marta station by my house, so I don't know what makes me think I'd strap a flight helmet on my blow-dried hair and fly myself to work.  Especially in the rain.  And where do I put my coffee?  And Morning Edition is on... I think I'm just gonna drive today.  So, listen to the episode for free here (it's only 13 minutes, starts exactly at 6:00), and weigh in in the comments.